Islamic Perspectives

Muslims and world peace

The November 2015 attackers of Paris were aged between 25-28 years. In 2001 they were 11-14 year boys and were surely not terrorists. So, what all went into their mind during these 14 years of 21st century that should not have gone there in the first place? Had they been happy from within vis-à-vis the net world treatment to Islam and Muslims, would they still have turned terrorists?

It goes without saying that irrespective of any of these considerations every terrorist deserves to be meted out the sternest punishment.

Simultaneously, in the interest of longer-term world peace, it would be useful to ponder if a terrorist was peeved because if dozens of Muslims are brutally killed it doesn’t warrant the attention of the world media and, at times, it is passed off as collateral damage. But if one Westerner is killed it becomes major news and a topic fit for TV discussions across the globe. Thus, there is a hierarchy of sorrow; one group’s sorrow matter, the other’s does not.

In India, it is common to see RSS volunteers wielding lathi (bamboo stick used as weapon) are taking rounds in various localities and some persons feel happy to see that. Yet, the question arises in many other minds as to against whom they take these rounds. Also, if one group of citizens - all owing allegiance to same faith - are showing off their muscle power then why it is bad if followers of another faith do likewise. Similar questions arise at the international level, too.

We are aware that more than 99 per cent of the world population, including the 1.7 billion Muslims, are nice people. But a minuscule number of them, many of them Muslims, have of late been going astray and trying to take law in their hands. That’s definitely a scourge of the society in our world today, and must be dealt with harshly. But must we exhaust all our resources on post-mortem only? Shouldn’t Harvard, Cornell, Yale, Oxford, Cambridge and other universities carry out systematic, dispassionate research, identify the issues that may bother the potential terrorists now or in future, and based thereupon shouldn’t world statesmen take broad-scale preemptive measures to ensure that all of the upcoming youth remain satisfactorily on the right path?

In April 2005 the Indian government appointed the Prime Minister’s High Level Committee to write a report on the social, economic and educational status of the Muslim community of India. It was chaired by retired Chief Justice of Delhi High Court’s Rajender Sachar, and comprised nationally acclaimed experts in sociology, education, planning, economics, administration and statistics. The Committee submitted its report in November 2006; it is treated as the 21st century’s authentic reference book on the subject. It found the Muslim community lagging behind all others in almost every parameter. Some remedial affirmative action has been taken by the Central and state governments based on the Committee’s recommendations.

Later in 2014, during his maiden speech delivered in Parliament after taking over as prime minister, Mr Narendra Modi reaffirmed that Muslims are backward in economic and other fields and he too vowed to take remedial measures to ameliorate the community’s plight; Indian Muslims felt reassured. The world needs to take a lesson from India and adopt this model.

In the context of the post-San Bertrandino anti-Muslim reactions, President Obama rightly cautioned on 12 December 2015, in his weekly White House address, that prejudice and discrimination help ISIS and “it undermines our national security.” Muslims should not be judged based on the “twisted interpretation of Islam” used by ISIS to justify violence, he added.

Earlier on 16 November - at his press conference at Antalya, Turkey - Obama had emphasised that “the overwhelming majority of victims of terrorism over the last several years, and certainly the overwhelming majority of victims of ISIS, were themselves Muslims. ISIL does not represent Islam. It is not representative in any way of the attitudes of the preponderant majority of Muslims. This is something that’s been emphasised by Muslim leaders -- whether it’s President Erdogan, the President of Indonesia or the President of Malaysia -- countries that are majority Muslim, but have shown themselves to be tolerant and to work to be inclusive in their political processes.And so to the degree that anyone would equate the terrible actions that took place in Paris with the views of Islam, those kinds of stereotypes are counterproductive. They’re wrong. They will lead, I think, to greater recruitment into terrorist organisations over time if this becomes somehow defined as a Muslim problem as opposed to a terrorist problem.”

Thus, in addition to sternly dealing with acts of terrorism it is high time to study and objectively analyse the Muslim psyche emanating out of the community’s perception of its grievances and to identify areas of possible intervention by individual nations as well as the international community to address the relevant issues. That would also facilitate and strengthen the work of Muslim leaders and intellectuals in pushing the terrorists to the wall.

Dr Syed Zafar Mahmood is president