By Yosef Jamal
It was in mid October when we witnessed the beheading of French school teacher, Samuel Paty for having shown a cartoon of beloved Prophet (pbuh) after having thoroughly consulted the pupils about the sensitivity of the issue. The parents of the pupil had found out about this incident in class and this whole episode somehow leaked on the internet following which the a muslim immigrant perpetrated the crime. The entire world was shocked and the Muslims around the globe had to hang their heads in shame. This sparked the fire which was the French government and police cracking down heavily on Muslim institutions and charities. The muslims of India were ridiculed and so was their faith. They had to apologise to everyone who was putting such allegations and explain in vain how Islam is not what these people portray it to be. It did not make a difference to anyone. Those who had wrong ideas about Islam still have the same ideas or perhaps even worse. But is it their fault when they see Muslims around the world committing such heinous crimes? The beheading was not an isolated incident. A few days later after the beheading some Muslim immigrants stabbed Austrian citizens in Vienna.
The time to apologise and make desperate efforts to convince people around us that we are not as bad as they think they are, has come again. On 30th December 2020 a mob vandalised the samadhi (shrine) of a Hindu saint and subsequently set it on fire in the Karak district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in Pakistan on Wednesday, locals and police officials confirmed. This was the second attack on the shrine; it was demolished in 1997 and rebuilt in 2015 on orders of the Pakistani Supreme Court.
The author believes in addressing the problem rather than just expressing concern over it.
The problem can be divided into two parts.
Firstly, the Pakistani Muslims are following anything but Islam.
Secondly, illiterate and often mischievous clerics and maulanas.
To address the first problem in the light of the Holy Quran provides an environment where people can fully enjoy freedom of thought and freedom of religion and allows people to live by the faith and values they believe in. According to Islam, everyone has the right to live freely by his beliefs, whatever they may be. Anyone who wants to support a church, a synagogue or a mosque must be free to do so. In this sense, freedom of religion, or freedom of belief, is one of the basic tenets of Islam. There is always freedom of religion wherever the moral values of the Qur’an prevail.
For ‘Muslims’ who like to destroy holy places of others, ‘their entire Islam’ lives and breathes within the parameters of beard, hijab and abusing those from other faiths. These people know the verses of Quran by heart but have never read the meaning of those verses. Such people come from madrassas where young Imams who wish to earn a few bucks teach these kids everything to mug up the verses of Quran but never teach their meaning for many themselves don’t know the meaning. No emphasis is ever laid on developing basics of logic, reasoning or math. This highlights a need for madrassas that follow the principles of modern education and also teach how Quran advocates basic human rights for everyone.
Let’s understand the second problem. The clerics of Islam in pre-modern times used to be well read and educated scholars who were always curious and had scientific temper as well. They were intellectuals who studied and assessed religion sciences and law. Unfortunately the clerics of our time our nowhere close to the given description. It is not their fault actually. Many such Imams come from humble background where the family comes from low socioeconomic background and who send their boys to madrassas hoping he would become a cleric at some mosque and then reap the benefits of the charity funds of the mosque. The girls of these poor families on the other hand are schooled till fourth or fifth standard and then withdrawn from school to learn cooking and housekeeping. After sometimes these Imams start developing political inclinations and begin issuing fatwas which never align with Islam. Recently in Pakistan, Council of Islamic ideology issued a fatwa dictating that ‘Corona se darna nhi hai, ladna hai’ (Don’t fear corona, fight it) is UnIslamic because corona virus has come from God. Clerics of India and all around the world are not so different. Interestingly, they have all the time for such stupid ideas but they never focus on Muslims’ education, health, women empowerment etc. The Imams of our local mosques get an audience of hundreds to thousands Muslim men every Friday. If they wanted they could have been instrumental in motivating the community to strive towards education and to empower their daughters wives and sisters, through their Friday sermon (khutbah) but they never did that. They could have easily helped the community develop tolerance to develop peace and harmony. Instead we are now seeing casteist mindset creeping into Muslims because the clerics never addressed this issue.
If the clerics were true followers of Islam they would have addressed issues of Sunnis oppressing Shias, Ahmediyas, Hindus and Christians but they never spoke a word but instead deepened the wedge between them. It is important to know here that Christians in Pakistan are treated worse than untouchables. A recent report from Times Of India claims that every year, one thousand girls of different faiths are forcefully converted to Islam and then married to men twice or thrice their age. If this doesn’t bring shame on us then our souls have corrupted.
Muslim community maintains good distance from the clerics of the community and read Holy Quran with its correct translation to become a better human being. We also need to work on individual basis to promote on ensure education of our younger generations with special emphasis on the girls in order to empower them and make them independent.
As for now, like always, we will have to apologise for the incident in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in Pakistan and make futile yet desperate attempts to explain people how Islam doesn’t endorse such incidents.
To sum up we can say education and empowerment of the community is the need of the hour.