Full Text of the Oral Statement by Sultan Shahin, Editor, New Age Islam
Uniited Nations Human Rights Council, 21st session, Geneva – 10 — 28 September 2012
Agenda item 3: Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief. On behalf of: World Environment and Resources Council (WERC)
14 September 2012
Despite all efforts by the civil society, Islamophobia in the West is on the increase, partly fuelled by continuing terrorist attacks, exclusivist attitudes and xenophobia among Muslims and mistreatment of religious and sectarian minorities in the Islamic world on spurious grounds like blasphemy.
Last year we had to suffer the killings of 77 innocent people in Norway. Now comes a report from Finish Intelligence, warning us that Islamophobic extremist groups exist with agendas and ideologies akin to those of the Norwegian mass murderer. SUPO has found that there is an “ideological preparedness to commit violent acts” and that the manifestos of these groups are specifically focussed on Islam as a culture.”
While the civil society and governments in the West must refrain from strengthening Jihadis, installing them in power in place of secular Muslim governments, and protecting the ideological founts of Jihadism in Saudi Arabia, we Muslims too need to introspect. What are we as people and our governments in the Islamic world doing to fuel this growing fear of Islam? If news emanating from Islamic countries consistently tells a tale of hatred and killing and forced conversion, how can it NOT lead to growing Islamophobia in the world?
While several Muslim countries like Egypt, Libya, Iran and Iraq are constant sources of such bad news, the worst case scenario is in Pakistan. Christian, Hindu, Shia, Ahmadi, all religious and sectarian minorities, are facing atrocities. Hapless Hindus have even begun to leave the country following a wave of abductions and forced conversions. Pakistan’s National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP) has foundthat hate content has grown further in school text books.
Deliberate misinterpretation of selected portions of Islamic scriptures and their propagation to foment hatred against all minorities has grown manifold. Mainstream Muslims who see Islam as a blessing to mankind have no option but to rise against this misuse of Islam by exclusivist Wahhabi terrorist groups supported by Pakistan Army’s intelligence agency, the infamous ISI.
Indeed Muslims everywhere must oppose the exclusivist-literalist interpretation of the Holy Quran that claims that all its verses are of universal application regardless of context.
Any number of modern Quran exegetes have studied the holy scripture and found that there is nothing in it that stops Muslims from co-existing peacefully with other non-Muslim communities either as a minority themselves or in a Muslim-majority country. But much of the present-day problem emanates from the Wahhabi doctrine of exclusivism that is promoted in Islamic societies around the world by a massive injection of Saudi petrodollars. This is based on the following and similar fatwas by Shaikh Muhammad bin Abdul Wahhab who said: “Even if the Muslims abstain from Shirk (polytheism) and are Muwahhid (believer in oneness of God), their Faith cannot be perfect unless they have enmity and hatred in their action and speech against non-Muslims. (Majmua Al-Rasael Wal-Masael Al-Najdiah 4/291)
A Qur’anic verse that followers of Shaikh Abdul Wahhab quote profusely and out of context and want to be considered as of universal application says: (V-28) Surah Al-Imran, “Let not the believers take the disbelievers as Auliya (supporters, helpers) instead of the believers, and whoever does this will never be helped by Allah in any way, except if you indeed fear a danger from them. And Allah warns you against Himself (His punishment), and to Allah is the final return.”
Also repeatedly cited is the following verse: “Fight against those who believe not in Allah, nor in the Last Day, nor forbid that which has been forbidden by Allah and His messenger and those who acknowledge not the religion of truth among the people of the Scripture until they pay the Jizyah with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued. “(Surah At-Taubah, V-29)
These and similar other militant, exclusivist verses guided Muslims in Islam’s infancy when the newly born religion, under attack from all sides, needed extra protection even to merely survive. Muslims were allowed to defend themselves with arms 13 years after Qur’anic revelations started but only when they were left with no option. Their interaction with non-Muslims, too, was naturally restricted under these conditions, particularly as enemies were infiltrating their spies among Muslims who were later called hypocrites by Quran itself. Even then they were told in the Quran to defend not only their own religious freedom but religious freedom per se, religious freedom of all religious communities. God wanted His worship to continue not only in mosques, but also in churches, synagogues, monasteries, temples, everywhere. Here are the exact words of God from the Holy Quran translated in English:
“And had it not been that Allah checks one set of people with another, the monasteries and churches, the synagogues and the mosques, in which His praise is abundantly celebrated would have been utterly destroyed.” (Holy Quran 22:40)
That was 1400 years ago. In the desert of Arabia, under very hostile conditions, Islam grew and developed so fast that even agnostics like India’s first prime minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru have called it a miracle. But some Muslims have always wanted to live in those times and fight those same battles over and over again. These groups have existed and survived under various names. When they first appeared in the time of fourth caliph Hazrat Ali, the first and second generation of Salafi Muslims called them seceders from Islam (Khawarij). But today’s so-called Salafi Wahhabi Muslims (who claim to follow the salaf or the first generations of Islam) consider them their ideal and follow their policies. Saudi-funded madrasa textbooks promote this infantile exclusivism of the Khwarij and Wahhabis among Muslims around the world. It is this ideological grooming that created 9/11 terrorists, 16 out of 19 of which were Saudis and three Egyptians, who killed nearly 3, 000 Americans in New York. It is this ideological grooming that has led to Al-Qaeda-allied terrorists killing the American Ambassador to Libya and other diplomats on the 11th anniversary of 9/11 in Ben Ghazi a couple of days ago. But under inexplicable American protection, Saudis have continued to export their ideology to far corners of the world and have succeeded to a considerable extent in radicalising the world Muslim community.
Fortunately some Islamic scholars and thinkers around the world are actively engaged in countering this growing menace to the extent they can within their severely limited resources. Countering an ideology being spread with the entire might of the oil superpower, under the protection of the sole superpower of the world, is not easy. But they are engaged in this intellectual Jihad nevertheless.
Among the arguments put forward by Islamic scholars favouring close interaction among all peoples of the world, Indian scholar Waris Mazhari points to the matrimonial relationship allowed by Quran among peoples of the book. He explains: “The present explanation of close interaction and intimacy (Mawalat) is unacceptable to human intellect and nature because Muslims are allowed to marry in the families of Ahl-e-Kitab. This has been in practice since the age of Sahaba-e-Karam (ra, companions of the Prophet) till date. The emotional bond with our mothers and wives is bound to be deep within us. But in the light of these ideas, can Islam prohibit Muslims to have emotional relationship with their wives and mothers and maintain just courtesy? Can a happy matrimonial life be possible in the present situation? The answer is a flat “no” as Islam being a natural religion cannot deny the natural phenomena of life. (4 Feb 2012 NewAgeIslam.Com)
“The hard reality is that – the concerning Aayats on close interaction and intimacy (Mawalat) in Qur’an neither addresses the entire Muslim community nor the entire non-Muslim community. In reality, the Muslims and the non-Muslims who are addressed here are particular groups who have some discord among themselves or are at war which is being fought with purely Islamic norms for safeguarding Kalma-e-Tauheed and not for the benefits and advantages of the community.”
The well-regarded Islamic scholar Maulana Ameen Ahsan Islahi also said (as quoted by Mazhari in the same article on NewAgeIslam.com): “Close interaction with infidels (Kuffar) is prohibited only if they are at war with Muslims, otherwise there is no restriction in peace time, (Tadabbur Qur’an 2/412). He asserts explaining Ayat 28 of Surah Al-Imran, “having close interaction with infidels is not permissible for Muslims, but there is the condition of “Min doon Al-Mumeneen” which means the close interaction that is against the welfare and interest of Muslims is prohibited, (Page 67). He further explains: “Actually, the Muslims addressed in concerning Ayats are the Hypocrites (Munafaqeen) who were involved in the conspiracy of Jews of Medina and Kuffar (infidels) of Makkah against the true Muslims. After the war of survival of Muslims when Islam was submerged in problems, the close interaction with the concerned groups was totally banned. Surah Al-Muntahanah is the best example for it. The discussion is further extended in an elaborate manner in Ayats 8 and 9 as follows (4 Feb 2012 NewAgeIslam.Com):
“Allah does not forbid you to deal justly and kindly with those who fought not against you on account of religion nor drove you out of your homes. Verily, Allah loves those who deal with equity”. (Surah Al-Mumtahanah V-8)
“It is only as regards those who fought against you on account of religion, and have driven you out of your homes, and helped to drive you out, that Allah forbids you to befriend them. And whosoever will befriend them, then such are the Zalimun (wrong-doers – those who disobey Allah)”. (Surah Al-Mumtahanah V-9)
Mazhari comments: “That is why Maulana Ameen Ahsan Islahi expresses his opinion in regard to the concerning Ayats, “The prohibition of close interaction and intimacy (Mawalat) is not against all the infidels (Kuffar), but it is for those only who waged a war against you (Muslims) in the matters of Deen-e-Ilahi and banished you (Muslims) from your country (Tadabbur Qur’an 8/334).”
In this context, Islamic scholar and Quran exegete Muhammad Yunus ((Co-author, Jointly with Ashfaque Ullah Syed, Essential Message of Islam, Amana Publications, USA, 2009.) quotes the following renditions of the relevant Qur’anic verses, including those (5:48, 49:13) dating from the concluding phase of the revelation in his study of Islam and Pluralism for Islamic Website NewAgeIslam.com. He says these verses speak for themselves:
“Every religious community (literally everyone) has a mode of worshipping God (literally, a goal to which he turns): so vie (with one another) in goodness, (and remember,) wherever you may be, God will bring you all together. Indeed God is Capable of everything” (2:148). [The interpretive translation is in agreement with those of most classical commentators including Ibn Kathir as noted by Muhammad Assad]
“We have revealed to you this divine Writ (Kitab) setting forth the truth, confirming (whatever) remains of the divine writ (sent earlier), and determining what is true in it. Therefore, judge between them by what God has revealed, and do not follow their whims after what has come to you of truth. For each of you We have made a (different) code (shari‘ah), and an open way (of action) (minhaj). If God so pleased, He would have made you (all) into one (religious) community. Therefore vie (with one another) in goodness (so that) He may test you by what He has given you. (Remember, you) all will (eventually) return to God, and He will tell you in what you differed” (5:48).
“O People! We have created you as male and female, and made you into races and religious communities (lit., ‘tribes) for you to get to know each other. The noblest among you near God are those of you who are the most heedful (morally upright). Indeed God is All-Knowing and Informed” (49:13).
To conclude I would just like to remind ourselves through this august forum what Prophet Mohammad (saw) said in his last sermon:
“All of mankind is from Adam and Eve (Hawwa), an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab, nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; a white has no superiority over a black nor does a black have any superiority over a white, EXCEPT BY PIETY AND GOOD DEEDS. Do not therefore do injustice to yourselves. Remember one day you will meet Allah and answer for your deeds. So beware: do not stray from the path of righteousness after I am gone.”
As one can see, the Prophet did not say a Muslim has any superiority over a non-Muslim. For him superiority was entirely a matter of “PIETY AND GOOD DEEDS”. That is all. Let us remember that and fight the growing power of the pernicious ideology of Islam-supremacism. This even renders us unfit to live as a worthy component of the present-day globalised multicultural world. We mainstream Muslims have always been a peaceful community but few trust our ability to live peacefully and coexist with others today. And they have good reasons to mistrust us now.
Let us rise to fight the injustices being done to non-Muslims in Islamic societies. We will only be performing our religious duty by doing so. But this will also strengthen our voice when we call for justice to Muslims living as minorities in non-Muslim majority countries. We recently raised our voice on behalf of Rohingya Muslims in Burma who are facing massive atrocities. But or voice fell flat on the world conscience mainly because we do not have the wherewithal to ride a high moral horse with the way we treat our own non-Muslim minorities, particularly in those countries which claim to be Islamic.
Thus one Jihad that we do have to engage in, at least at the intellectual level, which is also a higher form of Jihad, is to fight for the rights of non-Muslim minorities in Islamic countries like Pakistan and Saudi Arabia which claim to be Islamic states. We must call for non-Muslim workers in Saudi Arabia, for instance, to be allowed to be built their worship houses. We must be united in calling for the repeal of the infamous Blasphemy laws in Pakistan. Some in the present government of Pakistan also want that but dare not speak out any more after the killing of two top leaders on this account.
Instead of railing against growing Islamophobia in the West, and weaving conspiracy theories, we must start feeling ashamed that anyone would find reason to fear Islam, and God knows, people today do have reasons to fear Islam. Indeed moderate, mainstream Muslims have more reasons to fear this version of Islam than even non-Muslims. The only difference is that non-Muslims take Islam and all Muslims as one; they cannot differentiate between Muslims and Islamists or Jihadists. For them we are all one. So they find reason to fear all Muslims and Islam as a religion, not a certain interpretation of this religion. We may know better but that doesn’t help.
God had sent Islam to the world as a blessing; it is we Muslims who have turned it into an object of fear. America and the West in general may have their own strategic reasons to strengthen Jihadism despite 9/11, but this is essentially a war within Islam and we have to fight our own war with our own limited resources. We have always defeated Kharjiites and Jihadis throughout history and there is every reason for us to hope that we will do so again despite the heavy odds.