Monday, December 8, 2008

Battle For The Muslim Mind


Your powerful sentence is the highlight of the article "By identifying the terror attacks as "un-Islamic", the clerics undermine the religious legitimacy that the terrorists seek to bring to their violent acts." Furthermore, the denial of burial space for the terrorists by Indian Muslims sends a very strong signal to the terrorists that upon their death, ugliness will be meted out to them and not the houris. They will realize that they have been duped and hopefully the recruitment to terrorism will dwindle.

Mike Ghouse

Battle For The Mind
9 Dec 2008, 0012 hrs IST,

Post-Mumbai terror strikes, most of the talk has been about improved security and ways of hitting terror camps within Pakistan. But we often forget that the battle against terror must be won in the mind too. It is in this context that the unequivocal condemnation of the Mumbai terror by prominent imams in Delhi and Mumbai is important. And well before the Mumbai carnage happened, a gathering of some 6,000 Islamic clerics in Hyderabad endorsed a fatwa against terror issued by the influential Deoband seminary.

What effect, you might ask, would the Deoband fatwa and the imams have on those who inflict terror in the name of Islam? Possibly not much. Those who have been indoctrinated into taking up arms in the name of martyrdom and a place in paradise would probably continue doing terrible deeds. But the actions of the clerics are not academic exercises either. By identifying the terror attacks as "un-Islamic", the clerics undermine the religious legitimacy that the terrorists seek to bring to their violent acts.

In a larger context, the proclamations by the clerics and the Deoband school are very much a part of the process of interpretation of Islamic law and canons, which have been going on since centuries. It's a common error to regard Islamic law as unchanging and cast in stone. Though the Quran, the sunna (the practice of the Prophet) and the hadiths (sayings of the Prophet) are the primary sources of Islamic law, there is also a place for ijma (consensus), qiyas (analogical thinking) and ijtihad (systematic original thinking).

Ever since Islam was founded, change has been a part of the religion. And this continues to be so. Just a few weeks ago, lawyers, religious scholars, judges, journalists and activists gathered at Salzburg a not-so-unlikely place considering the Ottomans had once reached the gates of Vienna to debate and discuss if there was a common ground between Islamic and international law. There were no simple answers at the Salzburg Global Seminar but the consensus was that in many areas Islamic law was compatible with international law and covenants such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The gatherings in Hyderabad or Salzburg must be seen in this context of reinterpreting tenets of Islam, perhaps the most controversial being jihad. Jihad which in Arabic means "righteous struggle" or "striving" can be looked at in several ways. There are many Islamic scholars who believe that the greater jihad is the inner or spiritual struggle. These interpretations, of course, cut no ice with the terror groups such as the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) or the "army of the pure" which orchestrated the Mumbai terror.

It is no secret that jihadi terrorism has emanated from radical and backward-looking strains of Islam such as Wahhabism and Salafism. It's also no secret that the dominance of these hardline ideologies can be traced to Saudi backing and money. This has resulted in the mushrooming of mosques and madrassas across the world that preach an ideology of hate. LeT is known to have received Saudi funds and, of course, Pakistani patronage. Undoubtedly there are some in India who are also receptive to this ideology.

This is where Islamic clerics figures of authority for many Muslims could play a crucial role. If they interpret Islam as being patently against terror and violence, it is bound to have an effect on believers. And if the majority of Muslims subscribe to that view, it makes it that much more difficult for the purveyors of terror to gain acceptability.

A long-term solution to countering the ideology of hate must involve liberal interpretations of Islam. India, and indeed South Asia, could be one of the poles of this transformation. It is often forgotten that nearly half of the world's Muslims live in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. And contrary to what many people think, an overwhelming majority of ordinary Muslims in South Asia we must not, of course, confuse them with governments reject the ideologies of hate and violence. That's why international relations scholar Vali Nasr said during a recent visit to India that South Asia "matters to the Muslim world in real terms much more than the Arab world".

There could be other poles for the reinterpretation of Islam. Turkey, where the AKP party has won elections for the second time running, could provide a testing ground for a confluence of Islam and secular ideologies. The AKP leader and Turkish PM, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has on more than one occasion affirmed his faith in secularism even while arguing for more freedom for Muslims. Indonesia, the largest Muslim nation but also a multi-religious one, could be another pole. Recent reports suggest that the government is serious about cracking down on radical groups such as the Jemaah Islamiah. And Muslim groups, including the Indonesian Ulemas' Council, have said that the three men recently executed for the 2002 Bali bombings must not be treated as martyrs. These are encouraging signs.

It is a truism that terror has no religion. But when that terror emanates from a twisted interpretation of religion, we must acknowledge it instead of justifying it by referring to Kashmir or atrocities against Muslims as some prominent commentators have done. This is precisely the sort of logic employed by LeT ideologues. Such bigots and their followers have no place in civilised society. But they cannot be countered by force alone; their militant ideologies have to be thoroughly discredited. This is where India's 150 million Muslims and clerics could play a significant role.

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quraan burning

Planned Muslim Response to Qur'an Burning by Pastor Jones on September 11 in Mulberry, Florida

August 19, 2013| Dallas, Texas

Mike Ghouse
Text/Talk: (214) 325-1916

Mirza A Beg
(205) 454-8797


We as Muslims plan to respond to pastor Terry Jones' planned burning of 3000 copies of Quran on September 11, 2013 in positive terms.

Our response - we will reclaim the standard of behavior practiced by the Prophet concerning “scurrilous and hostile criticism of the Qur’an” (Muhammad Asad Translation Note 31, verse 41:34). It was "To overcome evil with good is good, and to resist evil by evil is evil." It is also strongly enjoined in the Qur’an in the same verse 41:34, “Good and evil deeds are not equal. Repel evil with what is better; then you will see that one who was once your enemy has become your dearest friend.”

God willing Muslims will follow the divine guidance and pray for the restoration of Goodwill, and on that day many Muslim organizations will go on a “blood drive” to save lives and serve humanity with kindness.

We invite fellow Americans of all faiths, races, and ethnicities to join us to rededicate the pledge, “One nation under God”, and to build a cohesive America where no American has to live in apprehension, discomfort or fear of fellow Americans. This event is a substitute for our 10th Annual Unity Day Celebration ( held in Dallas, but now it will be at Mulberry, Florida.

Unwittingly Pastor Jones has done us a favor by invigorating us by his decision to burn nearly 3000 copies Quran on September 11, 2013. Obviously he is not satisfied by the notoriety he garnered by burning one Qur'an last year.

As Muslims and citizens we honor the free speech guaranteed in our constitution. We have no intentions to criticize, condemn or oppose Pastor Terry Jones' freedom of expression. Instead, we will be donating blood and praying for goodness to permeate in our society.

We plan to follow Jesus Christ (pbuh), a revered prophet in Islam as well as Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) – that of mitigating the conflicts and nurturing good will for the common good of the society.

We hope, this event and the message will remind Muslims elsewhere in the world as well, that violence is not the way. Muslims, who react violently to senseless provocation, should realize that, violence causes more violence, and besmirches the name of the religion that we hold so dear. We believe that Prophet Muhammad was a mercy to the mankind, and we ought to practice what we believe and preach. We must not insult Islam by the negative reactions of a few.

We can only hope it will bring about a change in the attitude of the followers of Pastor Jones, and in the behavior of those Muslims who reacted violently the last time Pastor sought notoriety – We hope this small step towards a bridge to peaceful coexistence would propel us towards building a cohesive society.

Like most Americans a majority of Muslims quietly go about their own business, but it is time to speak up and take positive action instead of negative reaction. May this message of peace and goodwill reverberate and reach many shores.

Lastly, we appreciate the Citizens of Mulberry, Florida, Honorable Mayor George Hatch, City Commissioners, police and Fire Chiefs for handing this situation very well. This will add a ‘feather of peace’ in the City’s reputation. We hope Mulberry will be a catalyst in showing the way in handling conflict with dignity and peace.

We thank the Media for giving value to the work towards peace rather than conflict.


Thank you.


The people in Dallas are making an effort to understand and clean their own hearts first, when we are free from bias, it would be easy to share that with others. Islam teaches us in so many ways to "respect the otherness of others" and it is time we find simple practical ways of doing it.