Even as the macabre scene in the UK was being played out, Islamic extremism was bursting out in Pakistan where the Lal Masjid had become the generator of another group of extremists who want to enforce their version of Islam on other Muslims, whether the latter like it or not. We have had TV clips of burqa clad women coming out of the mosque in droves with sticks and guns to fight the police. The cleric of the mosque was telling the world that he had hundreds of women and children already wearing the bomb belts and ready to blow themselves and others with it if the Pakistan Government tries to storm the mosque.
Is this scene any different from the one in Kashmir we see daily where similar burqua clad women protest and beat their breasts when police or army come to shoot someone by mistake or the victims get caught in cross fire but no protest when the terrorists attack other civilians or eliminate an entire village? New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman wrote recently about this global phenomenon of Islam coming under the grip and influence of terrorism. And why the Muslim leadership is not coming forth to condemn this pervasive culture of violence tinged religious fervour. He suggests two trends are at work: humiliation and atomisation. Once you believe that your religion is the last and most perfect and complete expression of God'smonotheistic message as written down in its holy book, and then the scene is set for the inevitable. As Friedman says: ?To put it another way, young Muslims are raised on the view that Islam is God 3.0, Christianity is God 2.0, Judaism is God 1.0 and Hinduism and all others are God 0.0.?!
Though raised on this diet, young Muslims do not find that despite having God 3.0 with them, the reality every day is that it is people belonging to other versions of God who are ?generally living much more prosperously, powerfully and democratically than those living under Islam. This creates a real dissonance and humiliation.? This explanation may largely fit in the situation in the USA, the UK and the West where other immigrant communities apart from local – largely Christian communities-are somehow more hardworking and more prosperous. But even this logic does not explain the pervasive sympathy for terror among ordinary Muslims in India and Asia generally-for instance, the hold of Islamic extremism in Muslim majority Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia etc.
No doubt terrorists spread the world over belong to various creeds. Tigers in Sri Lanka, Maoists in Nepal and Naxalites in India are mostly Hindus by faith. There are Christian terrorists in various parts of the world. But none of them claims to have been inspired or motivated to kill the innocents by his faith. Only followers of Islam indulge in suicide missions and kill common people on the call of their religion. Why? Is there some things inherently Wrong with Islam?
There are largely unemployed Mexicans living next door to prosperous America. They don'tthrow bombs at or kill Americans or even threaten such action. There are millions of Africans in Africa who are dying of hunger, malnutrition, and disease. They are not saying let us go and kill the Europeans who are their neighbours in another continent though. There are Blacks within America who are ill treated, poor, disease ridden. They also do not manufacture bombs.
Therefore, the ultimate solution to this cult of terror and death (including the suicide squads) lies within Islam itself. The common man and the more rational leaders have to assert themselves within the Islamic framework to eliminate this cancerous growth that has taken root in their religion. Nobody prevents them from believing that theirs is the last word in religion. Many others also believe that their special religion is the last word. Islam has been there for 1400 years now. It lived along with other religions in many continents. There were wars among Muslim nations and with other nations, between kings and caliphs, and victories and defeats were evenly shared. A distorted version of history that is being taught in Islamic circles, however, inculcates a fundamentalist attitude and fans the fires of terror.
What is happening in Turkey is a good illustration. It is the Turks themselves in early 20th century who got rid of the caliph and established a secular state. Now the Islamic extremist wind has penetrated that country and it is about to take over. But a good part of the nation has rose like one man to resist this take over and reaffirm its truly secular tradition.
Islam based leadership that will reject extremism and terror can rise from the grass roots only if the small voices of protest that still prevail within that religion are allowed to grow. Our own native ?secularists? however attack these very forces of reform. Rajiv Gandhi'sCongress led this attack by backing the clergy and enacting the law to deny maintenance to divorced Muslim women. His successors are doing worse things. There is a competitive rush to support any and every conservative and obscurantist Muslim cause like the refusal of the so called progressive forces to condemn the violent demonstrations that followed some Danish cartoonist drawing some cartoon about the Prophet of Islam.
No secularist uttered a word of sympathy for the Muslim woman who fought the attempts of the clergy who was forcing her to marry her father-in-law after he allegedly raped her. No Left-led procession has ever been seen to condemn terrorism and the use of Islam to justify terror. Instead there have been violent demonstrations and threats supported by the Left and some Congressmen in favour of the accused in Parliament attack case. A Congress chief minister even went to the extent of warning that if the death sentence were carried out there would be serious consequences.
Here is an instance where someone found guilty of attacking Parliament with weapons is considered too sacred to suffer for his act. There were hundreds of demonstrations protesting death sentence on Saddam Hussein given by a court in his country after a prolonged judicial process. In all these the Left were the prominent instigators.
In his time Saddam never had a free and transparent judicial process?he simply shot his opponents or gassed them. For the Left he was an acceptable anti-American and Muslim icon. Brinda Karat claims to fight for women'srights. But she did not come out in support of a single Muslim woman who was being denied even basic rights by the Muslim clergy. In the last Assembly elections the Left Front was strongly supporting extremist demand in the Muslim majority district of Malappuram where Islamic extremism was the rallying point for votes.
Pakistan is today sitting on a time bomb, ticking by the hour. She is paying for her past sins of breeding fundamentalism and exporting terrorism to other parts of the world, specially to India. Our ?secularists? have been nourishing the same forces to strengthen their vote bank. It will not be long before chickens come home to roost. But may be it is too late by then.
(The writer can be contacted at [email protected])