Saturday, November 3, 2007

Ideology of Intolerance

[By Sadia Dehlvi]

Muslims must not succumb to the rhetoric of rage and discourse of anger

Yes, the Muslim world is facing oppression and injustice but Muslims can no longer escape the fact that we have enemies within the community. The Glasgow attack and the Lal Masjid horror are recent examples of extremism and terror. Clearly there is a crisis of ignorance, leadership and faith. Muslims must acknowledge that there is a radical fringe which needs to be identified and rejected. We cannot allow the pulpits of our mosques or the institutions of learning to be seized for the discourse of anger and the rhetoric of rage. It has become imperative to understand the root of militancy which is hijacking the glorious tradition of spiritual quest and scholarship in Islam to one of terror.

Prophet Mohammad said, ”Beware of extremism in your religion”. This ideology of extremism stems form relegeous outfits like Tablighi Jamaat whose recruits are operative world over. Tablighi Jamaat was founded by Deobandi cleric Maulana Mohammad Ilyas Kandhalawi in 1920. The Jamaat e Islami, Ahle Hadis and Salafis share similar views.

Islam in the subcontinent is the legacy of the Sufis and Wahabism is an import from Saudia Arabia which seek inspiration from Ibne Wahab who died in 1786ad. Unfortunately its followers are unaware of the political and religious activities of its founder and become victims of the mission rhetoric “purify and spread Islam” which allows emotion to rule over knowledge.

The Wahabis reject the historical traditional Islamic belief that spiritual chains of Sufi orders (silsilas) are linkages to Prophet Mohammad. Ibn Taymiyya a fourteenth century scholar remains the primary source for Wahabi ideology who was barred from teaching and jailed several times in Damascus for issuing heretical fatwas . Taymmiya’s life was spared because he publicly repented amidst seven hundred scholars. He slandered the Caliphs Ali and Osman, discredited Sufi scholars like Ibn Arabi and Imam Ghazali preaching that visiting the prophets shrine was sin. Inspired by Taymiyyas forgotten teachings Abd al Wahab of Nejd in East Arabia saw himself as a reformer and preached that Muslims who sought intercession to God through Prophet Mohammad and the Sufis are polytheists who practice shirk (innovation).

Ibn Wahabs initial devotees were largely Bedouins and he declared those who did not believe in his teachings as unbelievers. He told them “ It is halal (permissible)to kill and plunder Muslims who make mediators of the prophet and auliyas( Sufis) with a view to attain closeness to Allah.” The Bedouins used the verdict to justify the loot the of Haj pilgrims. Ibn Wahab taught it was sinful to build tombs over graves and said ”If I could I would demolish the Prophets shrine.” He did not believe that waqf foundations were Islamic and pronounced that salaries to Qazis were unlawful bribes. Ibn Wahab burnt original Sufi manuscripts including copies of the world famous Muslim prayer manual “Dalail ul Khairaat” by the 15th century Moroccan Sufi scholar Jazuli because along with salutations and blessings to Prophet its narrative included an eloquent portrait of the Prophets shrine. His followers plundered and desecrated the tomb of Prophets grandson Imam Hussain in Karbala.
Wahabi orthodoxy was a minor current in the Muslim world till promoted by the Al Saud dynasty that came into power in 1924. The house of Saud established matrimonial alliances with Ibn Wahabs family furthering his strident teachings to justify their take over of the holy cities and establish the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The royals ran bulldozers over the remnants of all meditation cells and the early Sufis tombs along with the adjoining mosques. The historical tombs of the Prophets family and his companions at Jannat ul Maali and Jannat ul Baqi, the sacred graveyards of Mecca and Madina were razed to the ground.
Mecca and Medina are now managed by Wahabis and their control has robbed pilgrims of the right to express devotion in a manner of their choice. Constant patrol of the Mutawwas (religious police) ensures that pilgrims don’t caress the exteriors of the prophets shrine or offer salutations and blessing on him. At Medina turning towards the Prophets tomb for supplication (dua) is met with harsh reactions and pilgrims are forcibly turned around to face the direction of the Kaaba. Women are allowed in the compound but are subject to severe restrictions of time and space.

Through well funded outreach organizations the Wahabis spread their version of Islam where listening to music, celebrating annual birth anniversary of the Prophet (milad e nabi) and death anniversaries of the Sufis (urs) are unlawful in Islam.

Be it for Muslims or non Muslim, the Wahabi ideology is rooted in the politics of extremism and terror negating the Quranic message of peace and brotherhood. “Islam is a religion of peace” is reduced to a mere cliché. Muslims have to become good communicators of that Quranic and prophetic message by reclaiming their lost intellectual heritage and reviving academic discourse on the rightful traditions of Islam.

…….and who saves the life of one, it shall be as if he had saved the life of mankind..
The Quran 5:32

BJP: The Politics of Intolerance

Can we Indian allow ourselves to become victims of communalism?

[By Sadia Dehlvi]

Each time the Hindutva genie threatens to emerge from the bottle, tormenting images of hatred, persecution and violence come to the fore. The controversial BJP election CD contains narrative and visuals of terrorism, cow slaughter, of Muslim men delighting over deceiving innocent Hindu girls into marriage and producing a litter (pillas) of thirty five from five marriages. Along with chants of Jai Sri Ram, the mission statement is to save the Hindu Dharma from the Islamisation of India with a resolve to rid the country of traitors. The kind of nationalism it perpetuates is rooted in resentment against Muslim rule and Muslims whom they view as settler colonisers. The evident goal of Hindutva is to institutionalize the notion of the Hindu Rashtra. The toxic content of the CD simultaneously seeks to induce a paranoia of insecurity amongst the majority and appeals to the most banal emotive instincts of an illiterate electorate.

In a 1961 address to the AICC, Nehru held that communalism of the majority is far more dangerous than the communalism of the minority. Not condoning the latter he stated, “ When minority communities are communal you can see that and understand it. But the communalism of a majority is apt to be taken for nationalism”. In portraying themselves as the sole nationalists, the strength of Hindutva has been effectual in sidelining the nationalism of Nehru, Gandhi and Ambedkar.

If Muslim appeasement myths were true, the social and political realities of the minority would speak differently. The painful truth is that the story of Indian Muslims has been scripted by the broader Hindutva agenda. With minority rights remaining on the outside of integrated development policies, Muslims today are sitting on the edge of the Indian frame. If communal agendas continue unchecked and secular tempers not developed, India’s largest single minority will fall out of the picture completely.

The spiritual tenets of Hinduism are peaceful and celebrate diversity and inclusion whereas Hindutva is a warped nationalist ideology rooted in the politics of intolerance. One would like to believe that brand Hindutva of the BJP has exhausted itself and the electorate has learned to choose development over the politics of intolerance. The sheer knowledge that parties flaunting divisive agendas remain a vital force striving for Central authority is terrifying.

It is equally disheartening and worrisome that instead of a renewed pledge to secularism, Rahul Gandhi testifies that his family was responsible for the break up of Pakistan. When young leaders whom you would have thought had their heart in the right place need to address jingoistic national chauvinism one must acknowledge the deep rot in our political system and raise serious questions. Whatever the political necessity of the moment we can not allow space for the creation of Muslim demons or Hindu triumphs. Hindu Muslim unity, the defining factor of Indian secularism is under grave threat. Constant vigilance is required if we are genuine about putting brakes on the acceleration of religious divides.

Does the Congress need the malice of the BJP to hand out its own ideas of secularism? Is the prescription of banning political parties good enough or will they emerge stronger with new identities? Narsimha Rao dismissed four state governments after the Babri Masjid tragedy that eventually led the perpetuators of the crime to victory at the Centre.
The privileged positions of power were exploited in the frenzied and psychopathic violence of the Gujrat riots of 2002. The savagery left intense scars on the Muslim psyche and India’s largest religious minority negotiated its existence among society and state with a wounded spirit.

When the BJP was in power, a camouflaged Hindutva furthered its agenda through various cultural and educational organizations. Strident Hinduism gained respectability in media, academia and the film world with sworn secularists discovering concealed virtues in the party. The damage is not irreparable but the internecine conflict between secular forces makes the restoration process messy and complex.

Can we, the people of India allow ourselves to be continuously bitten by the lurking venomous snake or can we collectively strive to crush its head forever. The change can be brought only through judicial, bureaucratic and parliamentary resolves. The question is that does any political party have the genuine will, integrity or the strategy to mobilize the masses against such rapturous forces? Secularism is not just about giving a fair deal to the Muslims but a democracatic idealology for an empowerment for all backward classes. If constitutional ideals are to succeed, someone has to take the lead in organizing secular forces and allowing for cherished values to become immune to the clashes of power. Ideologically, culturally and intellectually, the resistance to communalism has to be fought on a war footing or else we will succumb to its malignancy. History will then see India as a failed secular state.