A Cardinal Mistake

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The West needs an antagonist state as a scapegoat. After the demise of the Soviet Union the ‘evil’ empire Islam has been conveniently made to fit that role. It seems that the West is not interested in differentiating between the aggressive militant Islamic groups and mainstream Islam.

There is now a strong undercurrent of anti-Muslim feelings in the West. In spite of the West’s claims of championing the cause of human rights, the Muslims as a community in the West are being made a victim of institutionalized discrimination.

Through a selective manipulation of capital, trade and technology and selective imposition of armed conflicts, the West now maintains almost a complete hold on the economies of Muslim countries to keep them in a state of economic, political and cultural dependence. The West propagates dubious economic precepts under attractive names with the objective of destabilizing the Muslim countries and to ensure that these countries never attain self-sufficiency in respect of modern technology and capital and be able to compete with the West either politically or economically.

In a nutshell, the West simply distrusts the Muslims because it finds the love for religion still alive even in the hearts of secular-minded Muslims. Above all, what makes the West more fearful is the zeal for martyrdom among many Muslims. This is so because a Western man can kill others for his religion but is not ready to sacrifice his own life for his faith.

Islamic movements in several Muslim countries are making ‘jehad’ to eliminate the legacy of colonial rule, feudal exploitation, bureaucratic corruption and economic mismanagement. While the citizens want to see their countries free, independent and sovereign in true sense, the leadership there is totally dependent on the West for their economic and political survival. Culturally, Muslim countries are falling prey to aggressive westernization, which, in turn, evokes a violent reaction from the Muslim fundamentalists. With the passage of time, Western education has become commercialized and even more entrenched than before and is polarizing the Muslim societies.

On the other hand, the Muslims are not anti-West per se; they are against the West, if at all, for its support to the decadence of the social system and the tyrannical regimes in their countries. However, many in the West firmly believe that citizens in Muslim societies are violence-prone, backward-looking and irrational beings. And enlightened Muslims see the West as the main source of all of their deprivations and backwardness. The West seems panicked over the resurgence of Islam and is actively engaged in devising strategies either for containment of the so-called fundamentalism or an eventual clash with it. In view of this state of affairs, the Muslims in general find little hope of a peaceful reconciliation with the West and, in certain cases, this is driving even moderate Muslims towards militancy.

In their response to the Western challenge, a large section of Muslim societies is seeking refuge in the past. Some of them emphasize a rigid observance of outward forms. Being totally absorbed in self-righteous methods of salvation and being totally unconcerned with the socio-economic ideals of their faith, they routinely make Islam irrelevant to the modern times. The others are making a total reversion to the past and adopt militancy as a route of seeking salvation, inculcating a culture of violence in their societies. All these responses are resulting in the rise of an angry generation which condemns the world but does nothing about it. Islamic scholars, the ulema, have made a cardinal mistake of politicizing Islam rather than devoting their lives to the education and training of Muslims.

The need of the time is for an enlightened, egalitarian and just system that provides for a passionate attachment with the past and a dynamic leap towards the future, making Islam a message of eternal progress rather than of eternal backwardness. In this context an attempt may be made at making synthesis of the thoughts of Shah Wali Ullah and Iqbal, which may provide a common meeting ground both for the conservative and progressive forces of Islam. No Islamic movement can hope to deliver which is not committed to the provision of justice, eradication of poverty and meeting basic human needs of all. A central objective of Islam is to establish a socio-political system based on tawhid (monotheism), which requires elimination of tyranny and oppression and opening the doors of equal opportunity for all.

Mr. Sajjad Haider is the editor-in-chief of the daily Kashmir Observer.

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