Extremism and Islam
By: Mohmad Saleem Shiekh
George Bernard Shaw once said – “Islam is the best religion but Muslims are the worst followers”. Many practicing Muslims may find it offensive and may even try to produce counter arguments. However, taking the last couple of decades into consideration, the famous quote by Shaw must again be examined in the light of incidents like 9/11, 26/11, numerous Kabul attacks and the recent beheading in Paris. Every time there is a violent activity across any part of the globe involving murder of innocents, the name of religion Islam finds its way into the narrative. In fact, any act of terrorism is taken synonymously with Muslims and in the process the name of Islam is maligned. This has necessitated the debate – Is there anything wrong with Islam?
Nothing is perfect in this world. Everything has some engrained flaws with it. As clerics point out that scriptures associated with Islam are so diverse in nature that people with vested interests misinterpret it to suit their own needs which may be violent in nature.
However, there is no problem with religion Islam; neither is it exceptional and antithetical to the modernity. If there is any flaw, it is those liberal principles that fail to accommodate the difference and distinctiveness this religion carries. Liberal polities tend to define every phenomenon from a particular prism fitting to their exigencies. Moreover, subsequently, compromise the social existence of those entities who slightly differ with their approach. Liberal approach, despite the fact, embark upon accommodation of difference and diversity, at the same time behave uneasily when it comes to Islam. The prime example being the disquiet of French secularism with Islam spearheading islamophobia. In the United States Muslims were cornered after 9/11 incident and were deemed unfit for society and were obligated to prove themselves fit and committed to American values. In the Indian system, though not purely liberal, Muslims have always suffered a lack of acceptance as credible citizens and have been obligated to position their loyalty and patriotism. However, this a much broader debate and is beyond the scope of this article and numerous writers have done detailed research about it.
Nevertheless, one cannot ignore the intricacies and interconnectedness between the constructed and enforced “othering” of Muslims throughout the world. There are numerous examples which show that they were marked as odd one out. One of the most striking reasons that need to be highlighted is the lack of knowledge about religion and subsequent falling into narratives and vested political campaigns spearheaded by different political entrepreneurs and their media houses. Secondly, the defensive mentality that Muslims have inculcated following incidents like 9/11 and the rise of extremist groups who predominantly associate themselves with religion. The incidents like the Paris beheading adds to it, leaving Muslims at the receiving end.
Therefore Muslims need to practice tolerance, which they do, along with being conscious and articulate about the narratives and the structures of oppression as was done by Prophet (PBUH) while bringing world out from the darkness and introduced it to the dawn of civility. Quran commands you (Muslims) to strive towards seeking knowledge and spread peace and justice. Prophetic teachings further command that ‘violence’ is not the answer, and neither is the hatred.
- The writer is a PhD Fellow, JMI.