Enlightened Muslims, please stand up (Babar Ayaz)

Why is it difficult for the Islamic countries to post a barrage of positive messages of love and tolerance to drown the blasphemous and militant propaganda?
In the debate to ban or not to ban Facebook due to the blasphemous postings on it, the most cogent quip came from contemporary columnist Hassan Nisar, he said banning Facebook is like hanging the murder weapon instead of the killer.

Time and again the self-appointed custodians of religious sanctity raise hue and cry and at times resort to violence. My question to the believers is that, if their belief in religion is strong then why are they afraid of some frivolous remarks against it?

History has proved that in spite of all the attacks most religions have continued to grow and most importantly Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world. The only other growing lot is that of non-believers particularly in the western societies.

Religion was fully exploited to get a separate political and economic homeland for the Muslims of India consequently Pakistan is usually in the forefront in building the hysteria on the issue of blasphemy. While the rest of the Muslim world leaders, who represent 1.5 billion people, produce almost 70 percent of the world oil and 40 per cent of other natural resources sit cribbing and sulking.

Most Muslim leaders and the people are worried about rising Islamophobia in the world but they have failed to produce any strategy to counter this hate-wave collectively.

If Al Qaeda and ISIS can use the social media effectively not only to propagate their messages but also to attract recruits – why is it difficult for the Islamic countries to post a barrage of positive messages of love and tolerance so that any blasphemous and militant propaganda is drowned. They have enough money to hire the world’s best scholars and IT experts to use the social media better than the critics of Islam. Back in 2010 OIC made such a pledge but once they dispersed from the conference nothing concrete came out of it. They resolved that there should be a “legal instrument” to crack down on defamation of Islam, but it is unclear what kind of legal action could be taken. One view is that there should be laws as which prohibit anti-Semitic rhetoric. Anti-Semitic laws do not protect Judaism from criticism it can only be invoked when hate speeches are made against the Jews and they are criticised as a race. Muslims are not one race. At the same time laws which prohibit people from criticizing a particular religion or its personalities would mean the ulema who run down other religions in their speeches will have to avoid it. It also means no debate about religions.

The Western world makes movies like “The Last Temptation of Christ,” “Ten Commandments”. Parody of revelation of Ten Commandments, challenges the belief that Christ’s birth was an immaculate conception, Mary was married with Joseph. A number of leading western writers have written and spoken against Christianity and Judaism. But that has not stopped Christianity from having the largest following in the world.

Former Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid had rightly advised: “All too many Muslims fail to grasp Islam, which teaches one to be lenient towards others and to understand their value system, knowing that these are tolerated by Islam as a religion. The essence of Islam is encapsulated in the words, “for you your religion; for me my religion.” That is the essence of tolerance.”

According to Benazir Bhutto, Indian Muslim scholar and writer Maulana Wahiduddin Khan had also endorsed this view of Islamic pluralism: “Muslims mistakenly regard it as their duty to stop any visual depiction of Prophet Mohammed. This is untrue. It is the followers of Islam who are forbidden to do so in order to discourage idolatry. Moreover, Islam forbids imposing its beliefs on people of other faith. Even in Muslim countries Muslims cannot impose their laws and culture on others.”

0ver the last 1400 years there has been a lot of debate on the various issues of Islam in Muslim countries. But the irony is that now if somebody tries to lay emphasis on the essence of the Islamic principles and rituals, many literalist clerics feel threatened and issue a fatwa declaring the rationalists as infidels.

Though the extremists and the militants are in minority, unfortunately, the leadership has been hijacked by these elements particularly after the catalyst event of 9/11. They do not represent the majority of Muslims, but because of their violent methods, they are considered the face of Islam. In this backdrop instead of taking a reactive line, the government should shun the policy of demanding muzzling of dissent. Rise and argue your case with confidence if you think you have case. Do not indulge in theological diatribes; just project the modern Muslim society, love and tolerance among people of different faith and all other good stories which depict us as civilized beings.


The writer is a freelance journalist and author, he can be reached at ayazbabar@gmail.com

(Courtesy- Daily TIMES)