Muslims under seige

Islam means peace and the message has spread peacefully throughout the world

Tajamul Hussain
Srinagar, Publish Date: Jun 22 2018 12:05AM | Updated Date: Jun 22 2018 12:05AM
Muslims under seigeRepresentational Pic

Almost immediately following September 11, 2001 attacks, the western world has attempted to create a misunderstanding of Islam. It started with the evangelist, Franklin Graham, the spiritual adviser to George Bush, to publicly call Islam an evil and wicked religion. The intemperate, but popular conservative columnist Ann Coulter even proposed that the west invades Muslim countries,  kills their leaders and converts them to Christianity. In the prisons of Iraq and Afghanistan Muslim prisoners were forced to eat pork, drink liquor, and be blasphemous towards the Prophet Muhammad (SAW). The western media didn’t even hesitate to lampoon the persona of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW).  

 

For Huntington, Islam has, from start, been a religion of sword that glorifies military virtue. Prophet Muhammad (SAW) himself is remembered as a hard fighter and a skilful military commander. The doctrines of Islam, dictate war against unbelievers. The Quran and other statements of Muslim beliefs contain few prohibitions on violence and a concept of non-violence is absent from Muslim doctrine and practice. In support of the disinformation campaign against Islam, the western mass media presents Muslim world as stereotyped, aggressive, destructive, lawless, terrorists, uncivilized fanatic, and fundamentalists, archaic, anachronistic and hence be wiped off from the earth. The most governments in Muslim nations are seen today as unrepresentative, undemocratic, and evasive about the needs and demands of the community. The disappearance of traditional Islamic polity and the emergence in its place of undemocratic elites, who have arguably neither the sanction of popular will nor the ballast of success to keep them afloat, have all turned out to be the blessing in disguise for the enemies to malign Islam.

With the rise of the west, and to a large extent similar to the emergence of the Arab Muslims as a major world power in the 7th century, the former reduced Islam as quickly and permanently into a department bloc. The western colonists exposed Muslims to their contempt often to be appalled by what they could only see as the backwardness, inefficiency, fatalism and corruption. Muslims assume that the westerners are inherently and racially superior and their culture has always been progressive. They, however, lack the historical perspective to see that a few centuries earlier Europe and many other countries elsewhere had been just as backward. Bewildered by the hostility and rage that Muslims often feel for their culture, westerners, fail to appreciate that the Muslim response isn’t bizarre and eccentric. The Islamic world was so widespread and strategically placed that it’s the first to be subjected in a concerted systematic manner to the colonization process in the Middle East, India, Arabia, Malaya and a significant part of Africa. 

Imagine a Muslim world that from 8th to18th century was the leading player in the global affairs, indeed which some have called an ‘Islamic-world- system’. Francis Robinson suggested conceiving of medieval Europe as a third-world civilization living cheek-by-jowl with the first-world civilization of Islam. This was a first-world civilization which was seen to embrace much of the known world which was rich, advanced and disturbing in its arrogant presumption of superiority. Given this long and not always harmonious relationship, we need to remind ourselves that it carries with it much baggage. The legacies go back no more than 200 years. It’s only over this period that Muslims have taken the west seriously. Legacies are a mixture of admiration for the western achievement, fear of the western power, resentment at Muslim subordination to western power, and a serious questioning of whether the western model of progress is the right one for them. This last issue lays right at the heart of Muslim discourses about their present and future.

The failure of Crusades made Islam, frightening, in a new way because the Muslim victory had threatened the integrity of Christendom; the very thought of Islam had evoked a terrible dread that God might have deserted His people (Christians). In 1453 AD, this terror was compounded when Ottomans conquered Byzantium and brought Islam to the very gates of Europe. Without the rampart of Christian Byzantium, the people of Christendom seemed more vulnerable than ever. It seemed as though the old medieval nightmare was about to come true. Islam was about to swallow up poor little Europe. Islam now posed a threat and evoked a fear that was too dreadful to be voiced aloud. For over a hundred years the frontiers of Europe grappled with the Ottomans. After the crusading period, therefore, Jews and Muslim were both objects of irrational dread; both were seen to be capable of destroying Europe. They couldn’t be seen as normal foreigners or ordinary military enemies but were synonymous with ‘evil’ itself.

The vast and unparalleled success of the Muslim arms shook the faith of the Christians that came under their rule and saw in this conquest the hand of God. Defeat and even more than defeat, submission in conquered lands encouraged Christian diatribe against the person of Prophet Muhammad (SAW) Muslims always ask one question to which they find no adequate answer; if they could show respect for Jesus why couldn’t Christians extend a similar courtesy to their prophet. As a Christian author writes ‘but of any organized attempt to force the acceptance of Islam on the non-Muslim population or of any systematic persecution intended to stamp out the Christian religion, we hear nothing. Had the caliphs chosen to adopt either course of action they might have swept away Christianity as easily as Ferdinand and Isabella drove Islam out of Spain? The very survival of these churches and temples elsewhere to the present day is a strong proof of the generally tolerant attitude of Muslim governments towards them’.

Islam, according to Mani Shankar Aiyer, spread because it carried a revolutionary message—the message of equality between human beings at least in the eyes of God, if not in the eyes of kings and nawabs. Hindu India watched in astonishment and disbelief as slaves and sultan washed in the same pool and bowed together with no priestly intermediary between the petitioner and his Lord. Allah could be approached directly in the language of the petitioner and His blessings were for all, high or low.  

 

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