Religion was created by wise men for reforming human behaviour, but the same religion which has reformed human beings has also created unwise men spewing venom against others. The stark naked truth that religion has been responsible for killing more people than all killed in the two world wars put together is a proof. This happens as all religions suffer from an imaginary superiority complex which makes one religion look down upon the other leading to constant friction in the multi religious societies. This friction becomes more acute when politics starts to feed on it and the money power starts dictating religious activity. The friction becomes very dangerous when the feeling of one religion overwhelming the other demographically takes root with lack of free end frank interaction between various religious groups.
With this backdrop let us now see how Islam as a religion and Muslims have fared around the world as per the dominant perceptions one could understand. Islam being the fast growing religion after Christianity, there are many theories are under circulation that Islam as a religion is in turmoil, crisis, has become political and is in trouble. But let us have a holistic view on this issue.
The mushrooming of anti-Islamic right wing organisations website which stands at more than 500 in the western world seriously underlines the narrative on Islam which has gained currency across the globe over a period of time, more so after 9/11. If we see the contents of these websites it will be clear that some of the verses in Koran which are contextual in nature are misused to project Islam in bad light. Muslims throughout the world are being projected as a community which does value the views of other community. They are projected as one who love to follow archaic sharia law irrespective of the country they live, ghettoise themselves, multiply very fast to overtake the other community demographically. It is also pointed out that they do not believe in gender equality ,encourage polygamy, not interested in development and believe in converting nonbelievers. It is also frequently highlighted that many Muslims dream of the Caliphate rule over the world with their out dated Shariat laws, follow Koran which has many blood curling verses against the non-believers and carry out jihadi attack on nonbelievers as well as moderate Islamists to enjoy 72 virgins in the heaven. They are believed to take pride in exhibiting their Arabian culture irrespective of the country they live or take refuge and see modern western culture as an evil.
In addition to this if we see the speeches of the right wing politicians of the west and east it will always have a common thread woven on those perceptions in all their narratives. This is now being compounded by liberal Islamist who believe in self-criticism without having overall view of the issue. The aggressive misuse of social media for systematically spreading wrong message highlighting all deviant behaviour of fundamentalist , seeding illogical history about Islamic rulers with a devious intention to show the entire community in bad sprit and of late spreading the concept of non-existent love Jihad has added fuel to the fire of hatred against the religion .Whether such perceptions are right or wrong can be debated endlessly, but issue is that stereo typing of Islam off late has gained currency in many parts of the liberal world fuelling Islamophobic eco system around the world.
The western world also strongly believes that thirty five percent of Muslim population in the world follow Salafism which will endanger secular societies. It will not be out of place to mention here that there is no distinct dividing line between the belief of Islamaphobes and the fundamentalists as both believe in violence, despotism and gender inequality effectively contributing to the cycle of vilification of Islam. Islamophobes highlighting some of the text in Koran to prove that Islam is for violence, despotism and gender in equality needs logical counter narratives. If these narratives are not countered thru healthy dialogue the outcome may not change the ground reality.
Noted author Karen Armstrong rightly points out that if we see the evolution of all religions, every faith has been plagued by the distorting effects of liberalism, puritanism and fundamentalism at some stage of history. This point stands proved by the Saudi Arabia which is now exporting puritan form of Islam with less tolerance to other religion. The constant encouragement by the Saudi Arabia to spread the virulently puritan and fundamental form of Salafism throughout the world with their money power further driving the wedge between Muslims and rest of the world. It is also noticed when any community feels overwhelmed by the fear of the majority community, it gets into a shell of self-pity and take solace in their pure form of religion which further widens the space of communication between the communities leading to aggressive stance against each other .
The required forceful counter or clarification in its most powerful form is not forth coming for many reasons embedded in the religion. There are more than 72 sects in Islam who are never united and are busy proving their superiority against each other. Unlike the church, Islam does not have a papal system which guides their followers universally on contentious issues. We have the system of imams/mullahs of various sects issuing Fatwas on issues which sometimes even contradict the teachings of Quran and Prophet trivialising serious contentious issues. The Islamic society does not constantly clarify the contextual text in Koran with reference to vilified interpretation of the vested. It also never condemns in a loud and unequivocal terms the acts of Islamist killing both Muslims and non-Muslims in hundreds by suicide bombing and explosions, public beheading , making non-Muslims suspect the intentions of the Islamic world. The frequent killing of the Muslim brethren by the Muslims in the Arab word adds on to the suspicion that of Islam is for violence Example Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Pakistan, Libya, Tunisia, Sudan, Turkey, Egypt, etc. Lack of democracy in many Muslim majority countries where human rights are casualty with stringent non Islamic blasphemy law (which is non-existent in the Islamic teachings) adds to the issue. The list is unending. Time has come for the Muslims of the world to have an introspective thinking to reach out to the other communities to remove the wrong perception about Islam.
They can start by vehemently practising some of the most relevant teachings of Prophet Mohamed They should first reposition education as an agent of change for them. It is irony that the community which revers the prophet Mohamed in all their prayers have forgotten whatever he had said about the importance of education. To quote his thoughts reflected in Hadith “Education is compulsory for every member of Islam., Seek knowledge from cradle to grave , acquire knowledge and impart it to others , one who treads the path in search of knowledge has his path to Paradise made easy by god ,a father gives his child nothing better than education, Knowledge from whom no benefit is derived is like a treasure out of which nothing is spent in the cause of god and finally god, angles and all those who are in heaven and earth call down blessings in those who instil others with beneficial knowledge “ unquote. Had the community followed what Prophet had preached on importance of education with purpose right from the beginning, Muslims of the world would not been facing the present situation.
Instead of constructing beautiful massive mosques in the Arab world and taking pride in it, they should construct educational institutes of excellence and bring back the glory of the Islamic golden age of 11th century where scientific education was the core of Islamic teachings. The community should give primacy to education to all and skill development for the adult illiterate thru their own initiative. Blaming political parties for keeping them underdeveloped will always give them an excuse not have a hard look at their own strength and resources within their own control .They should not feel overwhelmed and fear the majority whatever be the provocation, no doubt such provocations are equally and seriously condemnable.
Now at the global level the community should reach out to other religions by following what prophet had told in the Hadith. He had made it very clear that “there is no compulsion in the religion, to you be your religion and to me be mine and beware whoever is cruel and hard on non -Muslim community or curtail their rights or burden them with more that they can bear and take anything from them against their free will I will complain against the person on the day of judgement. Similarly while treating with others he has clearly said, respect and honour all human beings irrespective of religion colour, race, sex, profession, property etc., be merciful to all on earth, help each other in goodness and piety and do not help each other in sin and aggression “. If all the Muslims in the world follow the preaching’s of prophet and follow it in letter and spirit to appreciate the feelings of the other religions ,there would be no a room for misunderstanding about Islam. This will overcome any demographic insecurities seeded in the society by vested interest.
As a responsible citizen the community should follow what Prophet had instructed the Muslims to follow wherever they are. “Uphold the responsibility as the citizen of the nation, communicate with non-Muslims in a cordial manner which would encourage them to know about the religion, should fight for non-muslins in need , be helpful , respectful, compassionate , not to interfere in their internal affairs and be grateful to them asper the tents of Islam . Following the instructions of the Prophet will help the Muslims to encourage harmonious co-existence to create an environment of contribution and integrating effectively with rest of the country instead of creating burrows away from other communities.
In addition to following the above three important preaching’s of the Prophet the community should take the outreach to the other communities to the other level. Muslims should invite the other community to mosques for an intellectual interaction on Islam based on the preaching’s of prophet and permit non- Muslims to visit their holy shrines to see to themselves the Islamic way of reaching out to almighty. The exact meaning of Namaz should be explained in the proper perspective that whatever we pray we pray in praise of almighty, recognise his omnipresence and communicate directly with almighty. Some of the beautiful sayings of the prophet encouraging communal amity should be should be widely publicised on the walls of the Mosque and in Islamic websites. The contextual verses in the Quran which is always highlighted by the non-Muslim should be clarified and made clear that Islam is the religion for peace and brother hood .There an urgent need to have authentic website on Islam for the benefit of the knowledge of other communities. They should convert the mosques as study centres for education of the community, shelter all the communities in their mosques during natural calamities, have a kitchen to feed the poor in each mosques with Zakat Money and make them centres of charity for the community irrespective of religion. In Chennai during recent cyclone some of the mosques were opened up for displaced people irrespective of religion.
Thus unity among all sects of Islam to reposition education in the community, following the three important preaching’s of prophet on education, religious tolerance and brother hood and carry out community outreach on a mission mode is the need of the hour when the world looks at Islam with suspicion. This in the long run will not give the likes of right wings and self-flogging Islamic liberals space to create further suspicion on the Muslims of the world. It will also go a long way to help in the integration of the Muslims properly with rest of the world and to create an environment of contribution to the prosperity of the world and live harmoniously as ever. Once the Muslims start extending their hand, the majority also need to take the responsibility of extending their other hand for creating an amazing world of AMITY by toning down the deliberate misrepresentation of Islam as a bad religion. After all we need two hands to clap for the Global Amity.
However, finally one should always remember that Religion is following the messenger, Spirituality is following the message. In spirituality no one can sit at the head of it as it is a round table .Hence spirituality is a sure shot next level gate way to permanent global Amity. This permanent global amity in turn can be made irreversible by the human beings becoming Omniest which will be the final stage of global amity
Dr K. Saleem Ali IPS (rtd) Former Member NDMA, DGP Tripura and Special director CBI.