Recently, I got back after attending a conference in Aligarh Muslim University on the subject of “Intellectual Crisis of Muslim Ummah: Rethinking Traditional Solutions.” I spoke in a session which had Mr. Rashid Shaz (the organizer of the Conference) in Chair and Mr. Zameeruddin Shah, VC, Maulana Kalb-e-Sadiq, Mr. Mujtaba Farooq, Prof. Ali Naqvi and Prof. Irfan Habib [the eminent Marxist historian] on the dais.
Majority of the talks before me focused on the divisions within the community, and several talks raised issues which could have created a storm had it been a public meeting. There were some speakers who looked hugely pessimistic about the possibility of any unity.
Just before my turn to speak, Prof. Irfan Habib severely criticized Islamic scholars for trying to invoke Islamic principles in matters of science, and suggested that instead of focusing much on religion, moderate path is what mankind should strive for. Every speaker was allotted 3-7 minutes. I was lucky enough to be given seven minutes. I am trying to reproduce below what I managed to speak in the allotted time:
“I apologize, in advance, if some of my assertions hurt some of the personalities seated here. However, I have to speak my mind because, since yesterday, almost all the speakers are talking only about the role of Muslims in world conflicts, blaming, of course, Muslims alone for international violence.
“I will begin with a verse of the Qur’an, “Kitaabal-ladee Anzalnaahu ilaika Litukhrijan Naasi mina Zzulumaati ilan-Noor” which means: ‘This is the Book which has been dispatched to you (O Muhammad!), so that it can bring mankind out of layers of glooms towards light.’
“Ladies and gentlemen, this thing ‘gloom’ is a strange thing. The truth is that darkness is nothing in itself, as it has no entity of its own. Darkness only means the absence of light, and this prevails only when light is either put off or is blocked. Unfortunately, the Ummah cannot see that the whole world today is enveloped in gloom and unless they recognize and understand the nature of this gloom, they would not be able to remove the gloom through the Light which they possess, but are not able to uncover.
“If anyone has the misconception that we are living in a world of science, he is wrong. If anyone thinks ethics have any role, he, too, is wrong, Religion, of course, has little role to play in the current world order. Today’s world is solely a world of economics with economic fundamentalism virtually ruling the world. Thanks to the think-tank of economic fundamentalism, we are living in a world where justice has been sacrificed before the eyes of the Statue of Liberty and where it is easier to be bad than to be good.
“Just before me, there was a remark here that, instead of religion, we should adopt a middle course. I want to stress here that Islam is the Moderate System; all other systems are tilted towards Extremism. Commercializing evil is the hallmark of modern systems.
“Another remark was made by a prominent speaker that a Western scholar who used to talk of Islam as the radicalized religion corrected himself after talking to him and now said that not all, but about 4%, elements within Islam are radical. I want to tell him that he should have told the gentleman that, instead of Islam, it is Westernism which has become totally radicalized today. The West wants to perpetuate its hegemony and does not listen to any other argument and use all its firepower to subdue mankind to its system.
“There has been a lot of talk here about Muslim role in violent extremism. We discuss only the Muslim role and do not have the guts to discuss the Western role. For example, I want to ask a simple question: The persons who executed the blast on Twin Tower on 9/11 perished with the blast. The man who was accused as the mastermind was killed in an isolated operation about 12 years later in Pakistan. Do Muslims, Muslim organizations and other intellectuals and analysts of the world have the courage to ask American government and its people: What for they killed two million people in between the day of the blast and the death of the mastermind? How is America to be made to pay the price of these two million Muslim innocent deaths. Still, it teaches the Muslims the lessons of peace. In almost all violent conflicts, the role of the West and its weaponry can be seen on one side or the other.
“The international players have learnt the art of categorizing violence in a way that suits their designs. Any violence that is linked – or can be made to appear linked – to a religion, particularly Islam, is highlighted, and any which is related to their ideologies or their games is suppressed. Deaths by American War Against Terror involving much greater violence than terrorism itself are ignored, killing of 50 million foetuses every year is ignored because it suits their economic and political strategies. What can be a bigger blot on human rights than that unborn human beings are slaughtered on that massive scale? But nobody can dare challenge them.
“In India, on the occasion of a TV debate, a BJP spokesman said to me that ‘though it is unfortunate, but the truth is that all terrorists in India are Muslims.’ I told him – Mr. Sonkar Shastri – that exactly the opposite is true. Terrorism in India is almost a Hindu monopoly. Out of around 41,000 terrorist-related deaths in India during last 25 years, Muslim outfits are accused only in attacks killing around 1400. Rest 39, 000 have all been caused by people recognized as Hindus in Census, including Naxalites, ULFA terrorists, Bodos, Sikhs. Even at the world level, Tamil terrorists killed more than 150,000 in Sri Lanka.
“What is unfortunate is that Muslim intellectuals have lost the ability to analyze the world situation and have become apologetic and defensive. We always defend the attacks by other analysts, and we do not question them about what they are doing. We cannot challenge the concepts, programmes, policies and indices created by the global forces of hegemony, almost all of which – including the parameters of Human Development Index – can be challenged. For example, they count Life Expectancy after birth – and not after conception – just because they want to hide the scale of the deaths of innocent unborn babies caused by their Sexual Revolution.
“If the Unity of Ummah is to be achieved, it can be achieved only when we recognize the larger aim of Islam, which is meant for true peace of the whole mankind. The need of the time is to apply Islamic principles in all the fields including law, health, economics and sociology. The day it is done, cameras will no longer be used to develop pornography and nuclear energy will no longer be used to make bombs. Sciences and Technology will then signal a truly peaceful world, and this is what we all should work for.