Terror in Allah’s Name: When will we talk to the "enemy"?
One of the interviewees told the BBC, “I begged him to let at least the babies leave” and he (the militant) said “pray to Allah, pray to Allah”. To me, a believer, that one statement represents a deep crisis, a crisis that means the glorious name of Allah ta’ala can be abused by anyone, anywhere in the world for purposes as diverse as secession from Russia, establishment of theocracy in Pakistan and the removal of occupation forces from Iraq.
Islamophobes revel in pointing out events such as Beslan and the killing of hostages in
Another manner of approaching the crisis is by examining “root causes” of this rage in the name of Islam. This is usually well-intentioned and takes a far more scholarly approach. However, in this essay, I am not interested in examining “root causes”. I believe men and women more talented than myself have and will continue to engage in that kind of work. I want to focus on what ordinary Muslims like you and me, who do not have a lot of power and who live in countries around the world should approach this issue. I do not pretend to know all the answers. I am only tracing the broad contours of a possible conversation here.
I am troubled when I meet Muslims who love the victim talk. Mind you, when I say this I am not referring to Muslims who have actually suffered oppression, rather
Needless to say, the exact social, political and economic reasons why say, a middle class British Pakistani Muslim man feels victimized will differ from why a Muslim engineering student in Kerala feels she is a victim. But, the common denominator is the feeling of disempowerment as a Muslim. Now why is recognizing victim talk as a problem important? Believing you are a victim of other people’s wrongful deeds is in a perverse sense an easy thing because you do not have to take responsibility. It is perverse precisely because the “victim” is actually depriving himself or herself of human agency, something all individuals, including the homeless man at the underground station near my work place, are blessed with in varying degrees. Taking responsibility and holding yourself accountable are very difficult things to do. As I try to explain below, we should replace the sense of victimhood, with a constructive engagement with the challenge of terrorism in the name of Islam.
Another approach among Muslims today is to disengage from the issue completely. The thinking that animates this sense of disengagement is as follows: “I am not personally responsible for the acts of some Muslim men who decided to fly passenger planes into the Pentagon and the
In referring to the “victim” mentality and the sense of disengagement, I have traced positions taken by Muslims today that lie at two extremes. I admit that there are of course various other ways in which each of us try to deal with complex challenge thrown up by terrorism in the name of Islam. The next question then is, how should we engage ourselves positively with this challenge? It is now well understood in Muslim circles, especially in
“You may be astonished to learn that I continue to receive letters charging me that I have compromised the interests of Hindus by acting as a friend of Muslims. How can I convince the people by mere words, if the last sixty years of my public life have failed to demonstrate that by trying to befriend the Muslims, I have only proved myself a true Hindu, and have rightly served Hindus and Hinduism. The essence of true religious teaching is that one should serve and befriend all. This I learnt in my mother’s lap. You may refuse to call me a Hindu. I know no defence except to quote a line from Iqbal’s song, Mazhab nahin sikatha aapas me bair rakhna meaning ‘religion does not teach us to bear ill will towards one another.’ It is easy enough to be friendly to one’s friends. But to befriend the one who regards himself as your enemy is the quintessence of true religion. The other is mere business.” (emphasis mine).
While on the topic of Gandhiji, my mind goes back to the state where he was born in 1869,
But, there is one question often asked by right wing commentators and politicians in
Allah knows best.
[i] The literal meaning of “Kar Sevak” is a person who performs voluntary services in a place of worship. However, in
[ii] Samaj Sevak is a Hindi word for social activist