Colombo Telegraph

Paris 2015 & Islamophobia

By Izeth Hussain

Izeth Hussain

My basic purpose in this article is to counter the possible, or rather probable, increase of Islamophobia in Sri Lanka as a consequence of the horrors perpetrated by the IS in Paris on November 13. It is something on which every Muslim should declare his position, and should do so unequivocally. Mine is that it was a manifestation of savagery. It was not a lapse into savagery but the manifestation of the savagery of an essentially savage movement that has perverted Islam to find a transcendental justification for its drive for power, savage power. I refer to Wahabism in its pristine militant form. What happened in Paris was not a manifestation of Islam but of anti-Islam. This is what Wahab wrote in the eighteenth century about those who rejected the tenets of Wahabism: “Those who do not conform to this view should be killed, their wives and daughters should be violated, and their possessions confiscated”. The IS has been putting that injunction into practice. It is impossible to reconcile that with Islam. Wahabism in its pristine militant form is anti-Islamic There is much kinship between the three Abrahamic religions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, which is why they could co-exist peacefully in harmony in Spain for several centuries under Muslim rule. It should not be altogether surprising if a group of perverted Muslims backslide into Judaism, and that seems to be precisely what has happened in the case of the IS – as pointed out by a brilliant poster put out by Muslim Outreach.

I must now make some clarifications which should help in enlisting the support of decent Sri Lankans in checking our indecent Islamophobes – with whom our last Government was in joyful cahoots. Because Mecca was the birthplace of the Prophet and is the center of Islam there could be a widespread misconception that Wahabism, which is the state religion of Saudi Arabia, is orthodox Islam in all its pristine purity. Actually Wahabism was concocted in the eighteenth century by Abdul Wahab, drawing his inspiration from the thirteenth century theologian ibn Taymiyya who represented a backward puritanical strand in Islam. The important point is that ever since its inception Wahabism has been regarded by the wider Islamic world as an aberration. It will surprise the reader that in Saudi Arabia itself no more that forty per cent avow themselves as Wahabis, and as for the Saudi ruling class they are world notorious for their sybaritic life-style which is miles removed from Wahabism. In the wider Islamic world Wahabism remains a minority cult despite all the billions of dollars spent by the Saudi Government to propagate it. The mainstream Islam of today, what I would call liberal Islam, had its origin in the reform movement started by Jamaldin el- Afghani, and it is the form of Islam most widely current, certainly far more than aberrant Wahabism.

I am not underestimating the appeal and power of Islamic fundamentalism, of Wahabism and its clones such as the IS, among some segments of the Islamic world. At this point I am only concerned with bringing out data that will help us to corral and quarantine and keep the Islamophobes in their place. The above data serve to show that it is preposterous to judge mainstream Muslims by the aberrant form of Wahabism, and even more preposterous to judge them by the murderous idiocy of Wahabism in its extreme militant form that is the IS. How preposterous it all is is shown by the fact that the IS wants to exterminate not only the Shias and other non-Sunni Muslims but also all the orthodox Sunni Muslims who don’t subscribe to the IS tenets and abide by them. The plain incontrovertible fact is that the horrors of Paris 2015 should be ascribed to the IS, not other Muslims.

Dealing with Islamophobes requires that we bring to their notice that irrationality, fanaticism, intolerance, violence, murderousness are not integral to Islam. Do we judge Islam by the Taliban’s destruction of the Bamiyan statues or by the long centuries during which orthodox Islam held sway in Afghanistan under strict Sharia laws and the Bamiyan statues were left unmolested? Do we judge Islam by the shameful intolerance shown towards non-Muslims in several Muslim countries or by the facts about Muslim Spain brought out in the following extract from Karen Armstrong’s Battle for God: “In the Islamic state, the three religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam had been able to live together in relative harmony for over six hundred years. The Jews in particular had enjoyed a cultural and spiritual renaissance in Spain, and they were not subject to the pogroms that were the lot of the Jewish people in the rest of Europe”. Is man’s inhumanity to man confined only to the Muslims? After the Christians gained their ascendancy in Spain the Jews were given the option of emigration or conversion to Christianity. A substantial proportion converted but their Christianity was regarded as suspect and they were called Marranos (pigs). 13,000 of them were killed during the first twelve years of the Inquisition. Have any Muslims of today matched that performance? Some inescapable facts should be borne in mind. Islam bred a great civilisation, one of the seminal civilisations of the world and the history of Europe cannot be written without taking count of the contribution of Islamic civilisation, as Christopher Dawson does in The Making of Europe. And the history of Western philosophy cannot be written without a section on the Islamic contribution.

I will now make some observations on the significance of Islamic fundamentalism in an international perspective. The world of Islam stretching from North Africa right across Asia to Indonesia and above that to the Central Asian republics can be seen as the soft underbelly of Europe, or in an alternative metaphor, used by Ortega y Gasset in the pre-War years, as the great Islamic magma that is waiting to erupt. Because of unalterable geographical facts Europe could come to feel more threatened by a cohesive Islamic world than by China, Russia, or India. Therefore a strategy was required to contain the world of Islam, and one way of doing that would be to keep Muslims in as backward a condition as possible for as long as possible. An excellent instrument for that purpose would be Wahabism with all its fanatical and retrograde resistance to the liberal trends of modernity. Perhaps it is no accident therefore that the greatest friends of Saudi Arabia have been the US and Britain. Perhaps it is no accident either that 80% of the Islamic Establishment in the US is controlled by the Wahabis. But the best-laid plans of mice and men can be suddenly blown high. My point is that what the IS represents is not Wahabism in its mild form that is spreading in Sri Lanka as well, but in its pristine violent horrifying form. Obviously the prime objective of the IS would be to take over Saudi Arabia to serve as the headquarters of a full-fledged Islamic Caliphate. It could be that a rough beast is slouching towards Mecca to be born.

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