Perceptive commentators, including liberal Muslims, have at long last started questioning the conventional wisdom that certain ?misguided? youth are indulging in Islamic terror and that Western foreign policy and economic and educational backwardness are propelling Muslims on the path of fundamentalism and terror. Noted scholar and commentator, Hasan Suroor has put the issue in perspective by asking the community to realize that Islamist terrorists are not simply ?misguided? individuals acting on a whim but that they are people ?who know what they are doing and they are doing it deliberately in the name of Islam?. However perverted their interpretation, he argues, it remains an interpretation of Islam and it is not enough to condemn their actions or accuse them of hijacking Islam without doing anything about it. Other liberal writers too have cautioned the Muslim community to wake up to the dangers that these extremist elements pose to the community and the society at large. A prominent European Muslim scholar, Zaiduddin Sardar, argues that it is for the Muslims to have some honest introspection and trace the roots of Islamic terrorism. He argues that Islamists are nourished by an Islamic tradition that is ?intrinsically inhuman and violent in its rhetoric, thought and practice?. This places a unique burden on Muslims as they try to make sense of what their co-religionists are doing in the name of Islam. He significantly points out that because he is a Muslim, he believes it is his responsibility to ?critically examine? the tradition that sustains terrorists who act in the name of Islam.
It goes to the credit of Suroor that he made an earnest effort to kick-start a public debate into the factors that breed Islamist extremism and terror. He laments that the community is in perpetual denial and it tends to paint itself as the victim and blames ?others? instead of looking inwards. The Muslim community, he says, has betrayed an unwillingness to acknowledge either the scale of the problem or its nature and traces this mindset to ?the fear of making the community or Islam look bad?. This attitude, he argues, has created a strange silence around issues that ?lie at the heart of the Islamist debate?. The Muslims argument about ?external factors? – plight of Muslims in Palestine and Iraq and educational and economic backwardness of the community because of racial or religious discrimination – are not based on ground realities. Suroor is pained that instead of doing some honest introspection, the community has talked itself into a ?default position? in regard to the growing Islamic fundamentalism. The perception that Muslims refuse to admit the extent of their own responsibility in dealing with it, he says, is no longer confined to ?right-wing Muslim bashers? and that even liberal position is shifting.
It is not for nothing that people all over the world are deeply concerned about the happenings within the Muslim community and look at them with suspicion. Several reformed extremists have shocked the world with their inside stories. Their vivid descriptions of goings on within the community under the garb of religious education and the manner in which certain terror outfits are brainwashing educated and well off Muslims turning them into terrorists are revealing. One of them, Ed Hussain, in his recent book ?The Islamist? has told his harrowing journey to ?hell and back?. He joined Hizb-ut-Tahrir (HuT) – a radical Muslim outfit banned in several countries – via a religious organisation, Jammat-e-Islami in London. Hussain says HuT leaders? self-assurance, their fine oratory and extraordinary organisational skills made the outfit an instant hit with the British Muslim youth looking for a purpose in life. Soon, British campuses were teeming with Hizb supporters and contrary to the view that it is it only socially or culturally alienated Muslims who tend to gravitate towards extremism, they included the cream of British born Muslims – educated and successful professionals – who had no apparent reasons to be alienated.
British Muslims, whose parents had sent them to universities for education, returned as dogmatic zealots linked to a network of speakers spreading venom across Britain, the former extremists aver. He confesses that the Hizb conned him into believing that it had a clear-cut vision and blueprint to achieve its aim, namely establishment of a caliphate. Ed rose to be a member of the HuT'ssecret cell structure but soon realised that behind the mask, it was essentially a gang of ?swaggering thugs? who knew nothing of Islam but were using it to achieve political power. Their strong arm tactics against ?kafirs?, their total rejection of democracy which they think is anti-Islam because of its Greek roots and their belief in violence as a legitimate means to seek their bizarre goal of establishing caliphate began to worry him. The tipping point came when a Hut vigilante knifed a black Christian youth to death simply because he was bullying his Muslim college mates. Another reformed British extremist, Hasan Bhatt, says he used to laugh in celebration whenever people on TV proclaimed that sole cause of Islamic terror was Western foreign policy. Intellectuals fail to recognise the role of Islamic ideology that preaches a separatist message of ?Islamic supremacy? and seeks to establish a ?puritanical caliphate?. Butt too was an activist of the HuT that is notorious for recruiting jehadis in mosques and university campuses. While admitting that he was enraged by the plight of fellow Muslims across the globe, Bhatt insists that what drove him and many of his peers to plot acts of terror within Britain and abroad was a sense that they were fighting for the creation of a revolutionary state that would eventually bring Islamic justice to the world.
Nearer home, most Indian Muslims are still in denial. They argue that the community shouldn'tbe blamed for the violent acts of certain ?misguided youth?. Terrorists, they say, has no religion and in any case, all terrorists are not Muslims. They refer to ULFA, Naxals and LTTE that are no less vicious and dangerous and angrily ask why they are not described as Hindu terrorists. The simple answer is that neither of these banned terrorist outfits claim that they are in the business of terror to establish Hindu supremacy or that they are inspired by Hindu religion to indulge in violence. ULFA and LTTE are essentially separatist movements and all the three are politically inspired with no religious overtones. Evading the real issue will not do. To begin with, let the community have an intense and open debate to identify the pernicious roots of the jehadi ideology and its philosophy of establishing a Dar-ul-Islam by violent means. Anger or despair can'tbe the motivation for terror for a Muslim from an upper middle class family in a democratic society against a country that is host to his ambitions. A serious and sincere effort will have to be made to demystify Islam and take it out of the hate-mongers.