There may not be many others like me, yet. But, it’s a matter of time.
What makes me one, you may wonder. In the wake of recent upheaval, chaos, destruction of human lives unleashed by terrorist groups like ISIS, Boko Haram (also Al Qaeda and many others in the past), there has been a lot of conversation in the media about Islam, and how Muslims need to take cognizance of the reality, reform, and perhaps, apologize.
Until a few moons ago, I felt bad, remorseful each time one of these terror groups struck havoc ‘in the name of Islam’. I felt uneasy at the thought of how in the name of the very ideologies I follow, innocent lives were being destroyed. The same principles and belief system that I have incorporated in my life was being misunderstood, misinterpreted and outrageously misused. How — that was beyond my comprehension. Every time I read about a blast or a shootout in the news, my heart shuddered. Reading all the comments from people around the world, that was full of belittling, disparaging hate-speech, I thought it would be only appropriate for me to condemn the violence, and apologize — for it was done in the name of the religion I follow.
Islam — version 1.0
No matter what people conspire in the name of Islam in however different ways — good or bad — there will always be only one, true version of Islam. The one that is born out of peace, compassion, empathy. People who are hell bent on creating differences, or serving their personal agenda, will always find a way to cherry-pick verses from the Holy Quran that are self-serving, selective, and are often quoted out of context. No, Islam is not a pacifistic faith. It does allow military action in a certain limited context, and unfortunately a few Muslims take it out of context. But, there are billions whose interpretation of the Quran makes them peace-loving, law abiding citizens. The world right now seems to be oblivious to the existence of those peaceful Muslims.
Give it a thought — if Islam indeed was a war-like, violent religion, wouldn’t all one and a half billion of us be like that? Wouldn’t you be scared of going to work where you have to share your cubicle, or seat on a bus with a violent Muslim? Islamophobes are. Quite interestingly, the interpretation of Quran for the Islamophobes and the Terrorists are strikingly similar — both believe Islam to be a violent religion.
Doing the math
Let’s do some quick math. CNNs National Security Analyst, in 2014, pegged the number of terrorists in the world at 1,06,000. Let’s assume ALL are Muslims, and in the two years that followed, the number has gone up to 2,00,000. It hasn’t — but for the sake of easy calculation, let’s say it has. Even at this exaggerated a figure, terrorists make up only 0.0125% of the entire Muslim population (1.6 billion). That’s a tiny fraction of violent, blood-shedding Muslims.
Do you honestly hold 99.9875% Muslims responsible for the acts of 0.0125%?
It’s like saying 1 ml of Milk mixed in 10 litres of Water makes it a Dairy Product.
ISIS — there’s nothing Islamic about it
ISIS has been said to be one of the most brutal, ruthless, cruel terrorist groups of recent times. That’s right! And going by the figures out in the open, it is guilty of slaughtering, bombing thousands of innocents; and reports suggest, most of who have died at the hands of ISIS have been Muslims. Yes, Muslims are the biggest victims of ISIS.
What’s beyond me is why they’re called extremist Muslims, since nothing they do finds basis in the tenets of Islam. If anything, they’re made up of ex-Muslims. The acts that they’re guilty of, takes them out of the fold of Islam. This is an argument difficult to have with someone who has not studied Islam well enough. So, I’ll leave it at this — ISIS is an enemy of Islam.
This tweet by @DMogahed sums it up well.
Reformation of Islam
Every Tom, Dick and Harry is demanding that Muslims should consider bringing in reforms in Islam. I don’t blame them for not understanding Islam correctly, knowing that there are even a few Muslims who don’t. If one reads up authentic Islamic literature with complete understanding and a non-prejudiced mind, one may end up wondering if reforms, the way they see it, are needed at all. Having said this, there are certain things that have rightfully changed with time, with better understanding of the religion. This, however, does not mean we go on changing anything and everything based on our whims and fancies. If by reading a few out-of-context Quranic verses you think Islam needs to reform, then I have no words for you. Nada. Zilch. Zero.
If not reformation, is banning the likes of Dr. Zakir Naik the solution?
Recently, Dr. Zakir Naik, a well-known Indian Islamic scholar, was in the news. There are some who believe Dr. Zakir Naik influenced and inspired the vehement acts of terror that materialized in the #DhakaAttack. I disagree. Dr. Zakir Naik has been advocating universal brotherhood since I first remember watching his lectures, more than a decade ago. He talks passionately about ‘coming to common terms with the people of other faith’ rather than discriminating, let alone killing them. I can fairly say I was highly influenced by Dr. Zakir Naik back in the day; but that did not make me violent — not one bit. Peaceful? Yes. Compassionate about other faiths? Yes. Mindful of my religion? Yes. Violent? NO.
This begs the question — wherein lies the panacea then?
It is a known fact that people who get brainwashed into joining the likes of ISIS are none but Muslims. One would say education is the problem. But, no. We have seen many professionally qualified engineers, highly educated Ph. D holding Muslims who have fallen into the trap. Then education, or the lack of it, doesn’t seem to be the problem.
The problem is lack of religious knowledge. The Muslim leaders, youth, knowledge centres, need to feed the future generation with the correct interpretation of Islam. A dialogue needs to be initiated by Ulemas to make sure the Imams and others at the ground level impart knowledge about not just the technicalities of the religion but also spread the message of peace and compassion. Muslim parents need to teach their children what Islam truly is; the compassion, kindness, justice, charity, peace that it talks about — before the likes of ISIS approach them with a gross, gruesome interpretation of Islam.
Anyone with an atom’s weight of faith and belief in Islam, will never partake in such horrifying acts of terror. I refuse to believe ISIS (or any terrorist organization for that matter) functions on anything but political agenda. I refuse to believe ISIS themselves, or their sympathizers, are Muslims.
Today marks the end of the month of Ramadan — a month of mercy and forgiveness for Muslims across the world. I pray from the bottom of my heart for world peace, brotherhood among people of all faiths (and atheists), and harmony.
Witnessing these acts of terror, I feel tragic and a part of me is dilapidated each time. But, I can’t apologize for the acts of men who share no mutual space with what I follow or who I am. I refuse to be an apologetic Muslim.
There may not be many others like me, yet. But, it’s a matter of time.