By Zafarul-Islam Khan
Terrorism and resistance are two different things. Resistance by the people of an occupied country like Palestine, Golan and Iraq today and South Lebanon yesterday, is a sacred and fundamental right and duty in all cultures, old and new, and enjoys sanction even in international law laid down by western countries although this right will be invoked only when a western country will fall under occupation. Palestinians have every right to take recourse to all forms of resistance against the West-backed zionist zealots who have stolen their lands and do not let them live in peace in even the remaining 22 per cent of their historic homeland.
Apart from this there is senseless violence by some Muslims which is justified in various ways, political, religious and historical. This violence has received moral and material support from some wealthy and influential people in Muslim majority societies, especially the Gulf and Pakistan. Insurgencies in places like the Philippines, Pattani, Valley of Kashmir, have no meaning and have no hope of success either. These senseless movements have only succeeded in butchering their own youth and offering local governments a handle to unleash a reign of terror against their innocent Muslim populations.
It is a matter of shame for people in Muslim majority states that when sons of Muslim minorities approach them for help to build modern institutions like colleges, universities, research and media houses and the like, there is no response except for funds meant to build mosques and madrasahs. But if a few insane hotheads form a guerrilla organisation and go begging for funds with concocted tales of persecution they would not be disappointed until very recently. The correct approach should have been to tell these youth to go back to their homelands and make adjustment with their majority communities and governments, join civil society groups working for non-violent change, and live as useful and law-abiding citizens and try to earn respect and rights through hard work and dedicated service to their societies and countries. But, alas, this did not happen.
The Muslim press all over the world was and continues to be agog with stories of Muslim persecution, some purely concocted. When I personally checked some of these cases, including the Valley of Kashmir, they turned out to be incorrect and grossly exaggerated. I do not deny that there is persecution and human rights violation. But rights are denied to Muslims not just because of their religion but because they are the weak, uneducated and poor in their societies. They need to wage a long-term “greater jihad” against their illiteracy and poverty. But this is a long and tiring Jihad which is practiced only by healthy societies like Japan and Germany after the Second World War. Bereft of a long-term vision, some disgruntled Muslim youths take the shorter and easier path of “lesser jihad” and in turn bring ruin and disrepute to their religion and co-religionists and only add new problems. This is not the Islamic path. Indeed this is imitation of leftist movements led by Mao and Che Guevara in the 1950s and ’60s which were lapped up first by Arab communists in the 1970s, a decade later tiny groups of “Islamists” in places like Egypt and Algeria emulated them bringing disrepute to Islam by killing foreign tourists and even slaughtering their own co-relgionists. Algerian terrorists freely, literally, slaughter Muslims who do not share their ideology. Organisations like Takfir wa’l-Hijra which killed the Egyptian Awqaf Minister Shaikh Dahabi in 1977 and Jihad Organisation which killed President Anwar Sadat in 1981 have only brought shame to Islam and pain to millions of law-abiding Egyptian Muslims who are not free now to offer even their basic Islamic duties as a result of this lunacy. Today all mosques in Egypt have been nationalised and imams receive official khutbas (sermons) to deliver, rather recite, on Fridays. Harmless Islamic activities, including freedom of expression, have been severely restricted.
At the present time this lunacy has been hijacked by Osama bin Laden’s Al-Qaidah outfit and tiny scattered groups allied to him. Very recently, Abu Mus’ab Al-Zarqawi [real name: Fadeel Nizar Al-Khalayleh of Jordan], said to be one of Osama group’s ideologues, has issued a statement which justifies killing Shias [who in Salafi belief are not “Muslims”, indeed most Muslims around the world are not “Muslims” in the eyes of these lunatics] and condones killing even innocent Muslims since killing will hasten their entry into Paradise [text in Al-Hayat Arabic newspaper, 12 Feb. 2004]. This perverted and insane logic which justifies murder is behind the senseless criminal acts of mass murder seen last Ashura in Karbala, Baghdad and Quetta.
It is high time Muslim leaders and scholars around the world take a clear and strong stand that these insane elements are galaxies away from the Islamic message of universal peace, compassion and tolerance, that anyone fanning Shia-Sunni hatred is an enemy of Islam and friend of the enemies of Muslims. We totally disown these fanatics, condemn their ideology and their supporters whoever and wherever they may be.
A word is also necessary here about the role of Pakistan in all this since General Ziaul Haque suddenly discovered Islam as a tool of his foreign policy. The general, having hanged a popular and elected leader, was in need of supporters at home and abroad. And just as Sadat had used “Islamists” in Egypt to counter the leftists after his palace coup against Sabri faction in 1971, General Zia used Islamists at home and abroad to legitimise his usurpation of power. Pakistan overnight became the “Chowdhury,” or champion, of Islam all over the world. In a live interview on Aljazeera television on 9 June 1999, I had confronted the Pakistani participant (Abdul Ghaffar Aziz) if Pakistan was the “Chowdhury of Islam”? He tried to dodge the question repeatedly but at the end had to concede that Pakistan is not and cannot be a Chowdhury of Islam.
Slowly “Jihad” became a cottage industry and Pakistan became the home and shelter of Jihadis of all colours from all over the world. The West too for some time played an active role in helping and financing this new industry as long as it was directed against the Soviet Union (Reagan’s “Evil Empire”) in Afghanistan. A lot of planning and petrodollars were involved in this enterprise. Within this congenial atmosphere, where even the state through ISI became a partner in the Jihad industry, a plethora of fanatic armed gangs started operating within Pakistan killing its own Sunnis, Shias, Muhajirs, Pathans and so on. A lot of violent outfits in neighbouring countries were encouraged, financed, armed and trained to operate in Central Asia, in friendly China’s Sinkiang, in enemy India’s Kashmir. This enterprise has brought only shame and disrepute to Islam and Pakistani rulers. After causing the murder of hundreds of thousands of people, Pakistan has now thrown out Arab revolutionaries or surrendered them to the US, abandoned Kashmiris and is shamelessly surrendering Sinkiang rebels to certain death at Chinese hands. This change took place not because Pakistan suddenly realised the futility and un-Islamic nature of this deceitful enterprise but because the world scenario suddenly changed as a result of the American resolve after 9-11, for Pax Americana’s own reasons, not to allow whatever it considers “terrorism” around the world.
Despite Advani’s unfounded claims about “Islamic terrorism” in our own country, Indian Muslims were mature and wise enough not to be lured or provoked into terrorism. Shameful events like the martyrdom of Babri mosque and pogroms in Gujarat did influence some angry Muslim youth but this was so rare that even foreign observers like America’s Mr Haas have confirmed that there was no terrorist trend among Indian Muslims. We have a clear example to offer: father of the Indian nuclear bomb is president of India today while the father of the Pakistani bomb is discredited and disowned by his own masters. World’s largest Muslim minority, which is bigger than the population of Pakistan, has a lesson for all Muslim minorities: shun the suicidal path of violence, adjust with your native societies, learn to live as loyal minorities and try to reach high positions through hard work and sincere service to your home countries and the humanity at large. This will be a great service to Islam which teaches us that “love of homelands is part of faith” as the Prophet, peace be upon him, had said. (The Milli Gazette, 16-31 March 2004).
Dr Zafarul-Islam Khan is Director of The Institute of Islamic & Arab Studies, New Delhi and is editor of The Milli Gazette (Fortnightly Newspaper), Muslim India (Monthly Journal) & Muslim & Arab Perspectives journal. He may be contacted at zi*@zi*.in