A nineteenth century British army officer named Raverty, fighting in Afghanistan once published an article in the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Bengal. This is where he tells the story of a sage named Shashi in Sind, in the reign of King Rai Bhalit in North West India. One night Shashi invented a wonderful new game. The next morning he took it to the king, who marveled at it and asked what reward he wanted. Shashi said that he merely requested that one grain of wheat be placed on the first square of the chess board, two on the second, four on the third, eight on-the fourth, and so on, until all 64 squares had been filled. The king readily agreed to this request.
We all know the end of that story. The King went bankrupt and had to negotiate parts of his kingdom for Shashi because of his great invention of the game of chess.
It is more ironic that, in the present situation of events, that the land where chess was invented, is now the focus of world attention as in a real-world form of a chess game between two nations. We ponder at how President Bush is going to plan his gambit on terrorism starting with Afghanistan. Will it be a Catalan opening where the Taliban Queen Osama will be unable to hide? Or will it be the famous Sicilian defense in the form of Aerial bombardments from Uzbekistan and infantry attacks from the flanks through the Northern Alliance on Kandahar? While we all wait nervously to see the outcome, if at all, there is a clear outcome, I’m more concerned right now to write about a topic that no one, especially few Muslim from my community, seems to be daring to tread.
Before I amble, let me make a few points clear for my readers. These are to understand the psychological circumstances that motivates me to write an article that many might view as highly controversial after the very tragic World Trade Center attack.
I’m a Muslim who has my roots traced in a pre-dominantly Muslim country that is now known as Bangladesh and was once known for a while as East Pakistan until 1971. 30 years ago, my parents saw the re-birth of their country as a sovereign nation after a bloody nine month war with a marauding and plundering Muslim army from Pakistan that left 1.7 million people dead. I strongly detest the quick and easy exit that many Muslims take by pointing fingers of blame at the US, Israel or the this bogey-man term called the Christian West at any misfortune that befalls their nation. I personally experienced the 1986 US bombing of Tripoli by the USAF F-111s and like my parents at that time, have lived a segment of my life in extreme fear, anxiety and confusion. Very recently, in my adult four years in India, I personally recall the memories of the Babri Mosque demolition and the ensuing Hindu-Muslim riots that once again instilled some amount of fear.
A few days after the WTC collapse, a certain Mr. Masood from Yale University published an article in two scholarly magazines where he lamented that the Muslim community of the US had not done enough to solve the terrorism problem that has manifested itself in the world on Tuesday 11th. While I have not read Mr. Masood article and only heard allusions in TV channels and discussion forums, I cannot agree any more than Mr. Masood himself.
To me the WTC collapse is not just a collapse of a 110 storey building, it is also a total collapse of our own innocence and a by-product of our complacency as a Muslim community in America. It is a collapse of the Muslim community ineffectual command over containing and actively resisting the evil elements that have hijacked us and our beloved religion in the first place a few decades ago. The collapse is a further demonstration to our detractors who believe in the Theory of the Clash of Civilizations by Huntington.
A few segments of the Muslim and non-Muslim intelligentsia have been arguing ever since the WTC collapse by referring to US foreign policy, Israel illegal occupation of Palestine, the total crippling of a nation called Iraq and its people. Some are even going further back in history by referring to the dropping of Fat Man and Little Boy over Japan that cost 40 times more innocent lives in a single day than the terrorist attacks did on Sept 11.
Yes, I would agree to a certain extent about each and every allusion they are making.
Yes, the US does have a foreign policy guided by self-interests and not just by goodwill or morality. Yes, the State of Israel, a nation that should actually be more sympathetic to resisting crimes against humanity, has been committing its very own on Palestinians since the six day war of 1967. Yes, there may be not much psychological differences between Osama Bin Laden, Mughniyeh, the Taliban and Moshe Dayan, Ariel Sharon or Yitzak Shamir (who had a price on his head by the British Government for personally plotting the murder of Count Folke Bernadotte, a UN mediator for Palestine). Yes, Timothy McVeigh was never labeled by the Jewish and Western Media as a Ultra-white Christian supremacist terrorists on a rank similar to that usually reserved for the PLO, HAMAS or Hizbollah terrorists. Yes, few American tears were shed when 100,000 innocent Japanese perished the first day of the Atomic explosion in Hiroshima, and a further 500,000 that perished in the ensu! ing radio-active fall out. Yes, the American people have no eye to see the pain and hardship of the Iraqi people or the Palestinian children and are now devastated sick of the event that took place in their own backyard. Yes, Osama is a creation of the CIA as much as Saddam Military machine is of the West condescendance.
The list can go on and on
But how long are we going to let our religion be hijacked by a few rogue elements like Osama Bin Laden, who feed on our ignorance of true Islam, and our fear to actively resist them? Can any one of these terorists like Osama, or Mughniyeh or Mullah come up with a single teaching issued by our Prophet that clearly says killing of innocent people (Christians Jews alike in America and elsewhere) is justified? Don’t they wish to see us, the Muslim world, to continue to dangle at the bottom of the World food chain, so that, they can ensure they have enough food to live on for their own glory of martyrdom?
Why don’t have we the eye to see that these people have done nothing to promote the prestige of the Muslim world? Have they done anything to make an improved difference in our per capita income, literacy rate, health index, technological and knowledge contribution to Humanity. Why is that the OIC never convened to condemn the stone-age barbarian acts of the Taliban on women? What did the Muslim nations do when one Muslim nation leader mass murdered its own people in Halabja using chemical weapons? When Indonesian Chinese and Christians were massacred in the name of Jihad under the condoning eyes of the Muslim Military? What did we do when a Muslim nation like Pakistan went on a murdering spree on Bangladesh killing fellow Muslims apparently in the name of protecting Islam?
Two wrongs can never do a thing right, and we should not never even make references to past atrocities of the people now suffering to make a point, or justification as long as the lives that are lost are innocent and had nothing to do with the past atrocities.
Because this is simply not the teaching of Islam.
Mecca was conquered without a single drop of blood by the Holy Prophet (PBUH). Salah-al-din allowed all communities to practice their religions safely in Jerusalem and he didn’t reciprocate the atrocities of the Crusaders. He even treated King Richard the Lion hearted to wellness by risking his own life disguised as a Physician in the Crusader camp. Islam preserved all the archeological heritage as much as possible and it is because of then tolerant Islam policy that the Sphinx and the pyramids still stand in Egypt.
But today, most of the Muslim world is plagued with ignorance, tyranny, poverty and economic hardships – all of these give us nothing to fight with for our causes as we are already so weak. More than half the Muslim population cannot properly read or write. Only one-third of us have proper access to medical care. At least two-fifths of the Muslim humanity go to sleep extremely hungry. Honestly, I think me and the rest of us are allowing ourselves to be exploited by handful of dysfunctional people who claim to bear the torch of Islam and yet have an IQ at least an order lower than ours.
And this is because we do not dare to speak up. We do not dare to actively resist such elements in the way it has been suggested in Islam and by our Prophet (PBUH). Centuries and centuries of colonialism by the West had made us so introverted that our genes for judging people have become dormant. We have become more used to taking orders from our superiors than questioning the status quo to find out if it was right or wrong. And we ourselves are merely continuing the status quo of governance the Imperialist left us with in most of the Muslim nations.
Our Prophet clearly laid out a three-tiered system of resisting evil. First actively resist, if not then verbally resist and even if that difficult then avoid the evil through ostracism.
Now is the time for us to change all that passive attitude. To show the real face of Islam. To prevent any further hijacking of our religion at our own expense. To actively rise up against any ignorant Muslim who has an ugly viewpoint that justifies innocent killings or the mistreatment of women. To make him understand, to argue with him that such ideas would only put us all on a wrong track and militate against the aspirations of our own people.
And this would take a lot of work. A lot of time. It’s a mammoth task.
In having unearthed this perspective, my effort will be vindicated if readers stop to ponder and reassess their responsibilities to the world around them. I’m aware that many of the points I’ve made may make me as much a social pariah as the Taliban is today to the outside world. And I do not claim the right to universal consensus.
And like the way I started this write up I must end it with a very historical true story.
A long time ago, there lived a man in Arabia who was hated very much by an old woman. So much was the hatred, that the old woman would plant painful obstacles on his path every morning on his way to work. These obstacles would sometimes bleed his feet and get him hurt. Year in and year out, this went on and old woman never failed to live up to her hatred with timely precision. One day, the man did not observe any routine obstacles that he was so used to having on his way. Upon suspecting who could have been behind all these years of harassment, he makes a surprise visit to the old woman home, only to find her seriously ill and with no one to take care of. He decides to nurse the old woman to recovery. The old woman is in tears because she cannot believe that a man who she hated so much and made no pretence of hating could actually be caring so much for her well being.
That man, dear readers, was no one but Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
Like I always like say to myself for this girl I love so much yet the love just isn’t mutual.
“She doesn’t have to love me back.”