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Good Muslim, bad Muslim, not Muslim

Good Muslim, bad Muslim, not Muslim

Author: Razi Azmi
Publication: Daily Times
Date: October 21, 2004
URL: http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=story_21-10-2004_pg3_2

It is an irony that those who conceived and wrote the books now disown the products of their teachings as 'bad Muslims' or 'not Muslims'. Whether they do so sincerely or out of political expediency is a moot point. It seems that some pupils who learn their lessons too well may become an embarrassment for their masters!

According to a news report, a book of condolence for Kenneth Bigley, the British hostage who was beheaded in Iraq by the Tawhid wal Jihad led by Abu Musab Al Zarqawi, has been stolen from the main mosque in Birmingham, Britain's second largest city with a very large Pakistani population. Along with the condolence book, a photograph of the slain 62-year-old engineer, candles and some sympathy cards were also taken. Earlier this year, a book of condolence for victims of the Madrid train bombings was stolen from the same mosque. Mohammed Naseem, chairman of the mosque, referred to the thieves as "sick people", hastening to add that "we don't know who's done it and I can't put a motive on it".

Unless Mr Naseem likes to leave open the possibility that Christians and Jews conspired to have the condolence books stolen so as to put the blame on innocent Muslims, it shouldn't be too hard to guess who did it and with what motive. My humble guess is that those who stole the condolence books are young Muslims, most probably in their late teens or twenties, who have grown up attending congregational prayers in the very mosque of which Mr Naseem is now chairman. As such, at an impressionable age, they were exposed to the fiery and eloquent sermons of the mosque imam heaping scorn on the "decadent West" and showering contempt on Christians, Jews and kafirs, blaming them for the Muslims' "global misery" and preaching confrontation and jihad for liberation.

In their homes, too, these young men would have been fed a similar diet of contempt for the society in which they live, by their parents, uncles, aunts and their friends. The numbers of the young men who are willing to steal, kill and die for the cause may be small, but they live, operate and flourish in a vast pool of sympathetic and catalytic opinion steadfastly held by their elders.

For reasons of political expediency, "good Muslims" like Mr Naseem now casually refer to these young men saturated with disdain for non- Muslims as "bad Muslims". The definition of Muslim has now been stretched to such an extent to suit convenience that one wonders what it means. On the one hand, our language is laced with inclusive references to the ever-growing Ummah and the 'Muslim world', and on the other, Muslims are instantly labelled "bad Muslims" or "not Muslims" at the slightest shock or embarrassment. For instance, whenever a roadside bomb or a suicide bombing results in the deaths of innocent civilians, particularly but not necessarily Muslims, one is told that the perpetrators are "not Muslims", the argument being that "no Muslim can do this". This logic conveniently exonerates the Ummah and obviates any need for introspection or self-critique.

Speaking the same language of strife and friction, the fanatics refer to the Muslim leaders friendly to the West as infidels. One such "infidel" or "bad Muslim", Egypt's Minister of Religious Endowments Mahmoud Hamdi Zaqzouq, recently declared that the Muslim call to prayer from Cairo's 4,000 mosques is out of control and hence in dire need of reform. "There are loudspeakers that shake the world", the minister protested. "Everyone hears them. Everyday I receive bitter complaints from people about the loudspeakers, but when I ask them to register official complaints, they say they fear others will accuse them of being infidels."

Yes, Minister, something is fundamentally wrong with the world of Muslims, more than you are willing to concede. At the root of this is their worldview, which divides nations into believers and infidels, Muslims and non-Muslims, the chosen and the misguided, the blessed and the accursed, the virtuous and the decadent.

This worldview is acquired in schools and in homes. Instead of inculcating in our children and youth a sense of inter-religious harmony, tolerance and respect, our textbooks teach contempt for others and preach holy war. According to a much-discussed SDPI report on the subject, in Pakistani textbooks the word Hindu rarely appears in a sentence without being preceded by such adjectives as "conniving" or "manipulative". Class VIII students may be excused for believing that there is a separate world called "the Muslim world", for their social studies book has chapters titled "Mountains of the Muslim world" and "Seas of the Muslim world". Muhammad bin Qasim, who died over a thousand years before Pakistan was created, is declared in our textbooks to be "the first Pakistani citizen" by virtue of the fact that he was the first Arab-Muslim invader of "Hindu India".

Our ideological mentors in Saudi Arabia are doing even better. They state explicitly and directly what we suggest indirectly and by implication. A lesson for six-year-olds reads: "All religions other than Islam are false". A note for teachers says they should "ensure" they explain this point. The book forms part of the kingdom's revised curriculum - supposedly cleaned up after complaints from the West. One textbook had urged teenagers not to befriend Christians or Jews: "Emulation of the infidels leads to loving them, glorifying them and raising their status in the eyes of the Muslim, and that is forbidden". Small wonder that 15 of the 19 hijackers of 9/11 were Saudis. One can imagine the lessons being imparted in the thousands of madrassas that dot our land!

Albert Einstein said that "the only thing that interferes with my learning is my education". Muslims have become incapable of learning in the broader and nobler sense, learning tolerance and respect for others whose beliefs are different from their own, because they are educated to believe that those who do not conform to their faith are deviants at best and infidels at worst, condemned to perdition by God.

A well-known Western journalist Paul McGeough, visiting Abu Musab Al Zarqawi's hometown in Jordan, found that the inhabitants take pride in Al Zarqawi. A man outside the mosque told McGeough that "we pray for him, because he is one of us". In other words, these "good Muslims" are praying for another who has made them proud by his actions - striking fear in the hearts of "Christians and Jews" by his unprecedented butchery.

After all, Al Zarqawi is only giving vent to the venom instilled through the very textbooks that were supposed to make him a "good Muslim", which is how he is still regarded by others who have grown up reading the same lessons. It is an irony that those who conceived and wrote these books now disown the products of their teachings as "bad Muslims" or "not Muslims". Whether they do so sincerely or out of political expediency is a moot point. It seems that some pupils who learn their lessons too well may become an embarrassment for their masters!

The author, a former academic with a doctorate in modern history, is now a freelance writer and columnist
 


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