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Roots Of Rage~I

Muslim scholars insist that nothing in Islam is incompatible with technological advances or industrial development. In the days of the caliphs, Islam led the world in scientific and intellectual discoveries. What Muslims object to are the evils associated with modernization. The breakdown of the family structure, the lowering of moral standards, and the appeal of easygoing secular lifestyles. At the same time, Muslims are demanding the positive best of the West, such as schools, hospitals, income avenues and technology.

Moin Qazi | New Delhi |

The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history.

~ George Orwell

A lot of ink, an infinite number of film reels, and a frantic churn of harsh tones against Islam have fixated Muslims as a monolith. There is a cottage industry of authors who keep burning the midnight to ensure that the flashlights on the so-called bad Muslims keep glowing.

These are churned out by a well-oiled Islamophobia machine that is constantly manipulating the already flawed image of what a Muslim is, of what Islam is. They are attacking the identity of Muslims, which is so diverse that it cannot possibly fit into a box. At no stage in modern Indian history have Muslims been put to such a hard test.

Every action of theirs was viewed through a suspicious lens and even good work was viewed in a negative light or was deftly airbrushed. The mainstream narrative continues to be orchestrated to pigeonhole the entire community into stereotypical templates ~ that of fanatical, undisciplined, conspiratorial and unpatriotic Muslims.

The right-wing media has already labelled Muslims into two categories: good Muslims and bad Muslims. Covid-19 has helped these religious anthropologists get over even that inconvenient distinction.

Now all Muslims are being straight-jacketed into a standard singular identity ~ that all Muslims are bad. Nobody wants to hear anything good about Muslims. Ears have grown deaf to sentiments that extol Muslims for their good work.

The struggle exists because the West has mastered the problem of reconciling religion and freedom, while several Middle Eastern nations have not. The story of that mastery and that failure occupies several centuries of human history, in which one dominant culture, the world of Islam, was displaced by a new culture, that of the West.

Islam was a vast empire stretching from western Africa into India. An empire that valued learning, prized scholars, maintained great libraries and preserved the works of many ancient writers. But within three centuries, this greatest civilisation on the face of the earth was in retreat, and the West was rising to produce a civilisation renowned for its commitment to personal liberty, scientific expertise, political democracy, and free markets.

By the time of the death of the Prophet Mohammed in 632 most of the tribes of the Arabian Peninsula had united under the banner of Islam, some out of faith, others from expediency. But few people outside Arabia knew who Muslims were or were worried about the threat they might pose.

The world of Islam was once the foremost military and economic power of its kind, and the leader in the arts and sciences of civilisation. Christian Europe was seen as barbaric and remote. Then all changed “suddenly.” It was downhill from then on, and this is where the Muslim world finds itself.

Muslims centred their identity upon the duality of religion and politics embodied in the ummah (community of believers) until the twilight of the last Islamic caliphate, the Ottoman empire (1290-1924).

The ummah prided itself on the totality of Islam and its human achievements. It was timeless, representing Muslims’ past and future, and spatially also leaving no boundaries, stretching across the known world. It was neither a government nor a theocracy, but a congregation of faith. From the Crusades of the eleventh century to the Turkish expansion of the fifteenth century to the colonial era in the early twentieth century, Islam and the West have often battled militarily. This tension has existed for hundreds of years, during which, there have been many periods of peace and even harmony. Until the 1950s, for example, Jews and Christians lived peaceably under Muslim rule. Bernard Lewis, the pre-eminent historian of Islam, has argued that for much of history religious minorities did better under Muslim rulers than they did under Christian ones.

Muslim scholars insist that nothing in Islam is incompatible with technological advances or industrial development. In the days of the caliphs, Islam led the world in scientific and intellectual discoveries.

What Muslims object to are the evils associated with modernisation. The breakdown of the family structure, the lowering of moral standards, and the appeal of easygoing secular lifestyles. At the same time, Muslims are demanding the positive best of the West, such as schools, hospitals, income avenues and technology.

Several scholars and organisations are trying to articulate proper responses to enable Muslim women to adapt to alien situations without being submerged in the currents of the new civilisation.

At first, the Muslim response to Western civilisation was one of admiration and emulation – immense respect for the achievements of the West, and a desire to imitate and adopt them.

This desire arose from a keen and growing awareness of the weakness, poverty, and backwardness of the Islamic world as compared with the advancing West. Muslim writers observed and described the wealth and power of the West, its science and technology and its forms of government.

For a time the secret of Western success was seen to lie in two achievements: economic advancement and especially industry; political institutions and especially freedom.

Several generations of reformers and modernisers tried to adapt these and introduce them to their own countries, in the hope that they would thereby be able to achieve equality with the West and perhaps restore their lost superiority.

In our own time, this mood of admiration and emulation has, among many Muslims, given way to one of hostility and rejection. In part, this mood is surely due to a feeling of humiliation ~ a growing awareness, among the heirs of an old, proud, and long dominant civilisation, of having been overtaken, overborne and overwhelmed by those whom they regarded as their inferiors.

 

(The writer is an author, researcher and development professional. He can be reached at [email protected])