An interesting article on Christian Science monitor catches the mood of thinking minded sensible people on the issue of terrorism. The author quotes the surprise findings of surveys revealing public attitude towards terrorism. A few points rose in the brief article reflecting on the survey results from countries like Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nigeria, Indonesia and United States deserve more attention and space.
It has been asserted, validly in my view, that Muslims are no more supportive of terrorism than any other communities of religious and other groups. Terrorism steams out of misguided ideology energised by anger, mistrust and ignorance. Those that seek to kill innocent people indiscriminately do so out of their evil desires. Such actions as unfolded in various terrorist attacks in NY, London and other places are utterly condemned by all people from all socio-religious groups and rightly so. Unfortunately however, some powerful quarters of western political establishments have continued to wrongly accuse Muslims directly and indirectly of not going far enough in condemning such attacks. Many of them go as far as blaming Muslims for harbouring and supporting terrorism. These powerful elements of our political establishments, ideologues of a kind, and their allies in Muslim lands created their own brand of ‘war on terror’ which is equally divisive. At the core of the current strategies adapted by Washington, and to some extent London, lies an unholy desire to pick a fight with wider Muslims societies all around the world to impose ‘western values’ on Muslims world over. This strategy is either fuelled by an arrogant worldview of certain leaders and thinkers who view their ways of life to be so superior that it deserves to be imposed upon others, or that their understanding of Muslims and Islam is so shallow and misinformed that they totally fail to understand the very nature of Islam and Muslims thus adapt policies that instead of befriending Muslims, it offends them. As a result, in what should have been a relatively simple criminal matter in which everyone would sign up to, their policies antagonises Muslims and convinces many of a hidden agenda to subjugate global Muslim communities thus increase sympathisers to Al-Qaeda likes.
The war on terror in the main has been used both in the west and in the East as a powerful weapon to silence Muslim groups which has been fighting for equality, social justice, freedom, democracy and reform. These groups, though in some ways may be different from prevalent western political establishments, are groups that deserve our support rather than being condemned. The puppets, dictators and corrupt rouge elements occupying power in most Muslim lands are enemies of civility, justice and freedom and deserve to be opposed. West, in its support for these governments, lost its moral credibility and only ignited the feelings among many Muslims that they are the subject of a world wide witch hunt.
Islam is a global religion with a very active and clear socio-political and economic vision. As such, many Muslims feel that it is their obligation demanded by their faith to work towards bringing about a society in which their values are appreciated and established in the political apparatus of the state. This, however disliked by many, is a legitimate desire that any groups of whatever ideology can and should hold for so long as they do not seek to impose upon others by force. Westerners feel their ways of life is the superior and they have the right to think in that way, similarly, Christians, Jewish and all other believers of various faiths feel the same regarding their faiths and it is their right which we should respect. Why should than the Muslims be different? The current trend in the global struggle against extremism seems to deny this right to Muslims and seek to silence all political movements, peaceful popular organised, which find its inspiration in Islam.
Of course, the shallow and rather one sided media coverage, the ability of the Neo-Conservatives and their allies world over to twist and spin truth and mobilise public opinion using powerful propaganda tool means today Islam and systems inspired by Islam has been demonised to the extent that the moment a westerner hears of Islamic State, Islamic System, they instantly feel frightened and imagine of some back dated draconian ways of life which has nothing to offer to modern progressive societies whereas in reality nothing can be far from truth. The issue of equality, freedom of speech, freedom of belief, justice and fairness are the fundamental principles that underpin any Islamic system. For centuries, when Islam was firmly rooted in the political, social and economic life of Muslims, they went on to make extremely valuable contribution in enlightening our world through scientific discoveries, mathematical excellence and development of various humanities disciplines. History, astronomy, medicine and mathematics are only but a few of the areas in which Muslims contributed enormously. Today the Muslim world is in disarray, political-socio-economic condition of Muslims is dire. There are good reasons to suggest that at the heart of this direness of Muslims is the legacy of colonial rule and a planned and carefully orchestrated strategy of decapitating Muslims in the colonial error which continues to date in many shapes and forms. And it is not only Muslims who suffers from this utterly despicable condition of the Muslim communities; the non-Muslims alike suffer from it. When Islam dominated the lives of Muslims, non-Muslims were flourishing in the Muslim world with dignity, honour, safety and security. Classic example was the decadent Ottoman Empire in which many westerners fleeing from persecution at home found refuge; Jewish enjoyed relatively better life and a lot of influence. For Islam guarantees freedom for all religious groups and forbids any kind of biasness towards them by the Muslims.
Cutting things short, it is suffice to say that the current strategy to support puppets, marginalising islamically inspired political and social movements is a wrong strategy which in long term will continue to strain the relationship between Muslims and the wider world. This strategy is also doomed to be failure for it fails to recognise the rights of Muslims to be heard and valued. TO Muslims it is not the guarantee of economic prosperity, technological advancement and political authority that means most, though they are very important. What matters to Muslims most is their faith and the integrity of their faith. Let therefore the Muslim community decide for themselves as to what they want, what kind of ways of life they want. Let us not mix up a mere criminal issue with wider aspiration of Muslims to see their ways of life glorious and flourishing. Terrorism is a criminal matter which must be dealt with as such. In the process we should attack the justification of Al-Qaeda type groups for this kind of attacks and not get into a petty propaganda assault to condemn their stated objective of bringing about Islamic state. For every Muslim wants to see Islam prevail at all level of social strata. It is not the desire to see Islam being established politically which is wrong; it is the mean in which one seeks to establish Islam as the political force we should be concerned about. Only than and than alone will we be able to truly confront terrorism in all its evil shapes and forms.
This article was first published on The Daily Star, leading English daily in Bangladesh, on 8th July 2007.