“Pride is an established conviction of
one’s own paramount worth in some particular respect,
while vanity is the desire of rousing such a conviction in others,
and it is generally accompanied by the secret hope of ultimately
coming to the same conviction oneself.”
May 13, 1969 – it was either too far back in my memory or there was nothing significant happening in Port Dickson back then for me to remember anything (most likely the latter).
It is an event repeatedly resurrected by our UMNO/BN hoods to scare the people into submission to “gods” which walk the corridors of power, and consequently handing them power on a silver platter.
Yes- there was no other purpose for the dastardly events of May 13, (which incidentally UMNO holds as their crowning glory) other that FEAR.
While the people are willing to stop looking under their beds for ghosts which may lurk there- UMNO would not relent … and so, they resurrect it again and again. They want it- they need it.
Now that all PERKASA’s sabre-rattling isn’t working (and the people have pretty much gotten over it), they have to do something to imprint in deeper into their psyche- so this time they engage the pathetic FINAS to come up which something on the silver screen to servfe their purpose.
Just like any other political game- they will play their “Good cop, Bad cop” game; and that’s where Mazlan- son of the famed Father (Dato’ Harun- apparently a “central figure” in the event) comes into the picture.
“Umno veteran Datuk Mazlan Harun wants the public
to lay to rest the ghost of a 1969 racial bloodbath
— that could threaten the country’s unity
in the run-up to national polls due next year.
The son of the then Selangor mentri besar,
opened up to The Malaysian Insider in an exclusive interview last week
over reports of an incident at his father’s home ……”
I don’t know Dato’ Harun personally, although I did treat him once during his illness in his winter years- and he seemed like a pretty cool guy. I’m serious. However, “reading between the lines” and listening to the “unofficial versions” of May 13, gives a different picture of him- and UMNO.
So, despite all UMNO’s propaganda that May 13 was a “racial” thingie, I’m inclined to believe that it was just the “politics of the capitalist sociopaths”. (Whatever mask, beard, robe or skullcap they wear- most ruthless politicians are “capitalist sociopaths” anyway).
Through and through, it was purely about power and money- whitewashed with “affirmative action” of racial privileges/supremacy, which ultimately manifested itself through 40yrs of the brain-numbing, racially divisive, apartheid policies of the NEP (New Economic Piracy). All these policies of course, came into full bloom in the era of the other central figure of May 13- none other than our beloved Proton Car Toon, Mr. Madey.
Be that as it may- not only are Malaysians willing to put it behind them and move forward, I believe that Malaysians are also willing to forgive the perpetrators of that massacre, for the sake of the future generations. So, just as Mazlan says, we all want to bury May 13 as well.
However, I also believe that it cannot be buried in a shallow grave of lies and propaganda.
Not now, not ever.
The only way to “bury” May 13, 1969- is to declassify all documents, and have a truth & reconciliation commission. If the brutal Apartheid regime of South Africa can do for their decades of abuse- so can UMNO, for one incident.
There is no need to punish those (alive or dead) who were responsible & are willing to admit their faults- for the truth is of greater value for the nation.
Sweeping it under the carpet thru spin, silence or gag orders will only let it fester in the hearts and minds of the young ones thru stories, lies, myths and speculation- which is what UMNO wants, so that it can hold the nation at ransom (aka blackmail).
Anyways- even if UMNO insists on playing the same old tired game of fear, I’m pretty much convinced that they wouldn’t want it to happen themselves (after all, it is they who stand to lose the most with the collapse of the economy).
Moreover- I seriously doubt that my Malay brothers buy their hogwash and believe that it is the non-Malays who have (or will rob them of their money/dignity).
They too know who’s playing the wayang/silat…..
Although it was Gerakan which had officially apologized for the conduct of their party members (Al-Mukmin, Hatta (2005). “Keranamu UMNO”, p. 104. Abadi Publishing House) during the party rally, it is not known why UMNO buries this fact- and pins the blame squarely on DAP.
There is nothing more subversive than the alternative narrative. A parallel version of the Godhra incident and riots sabotaged the re-election of the NDA government four years ago. A subaltern variation of the police operation at Batla House, near the Jamia Milia Islamia University on 19 September, is undermining the credibility of the Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi government today. It cannot undermine the credibility of home minister Shivraj Patil because he has none.
The first doubts began to circulate even while Patil, wearing a very self-satisfied expression on his face, began to congratulate himself in front of television cameras for delivering bullet-justice to two young men living in a small apartment of this building. He had, he said, personally supervised the encounter, presumably without taking any break whatsoever for fresh laundry.
Ironically, doubt needs the support of evidence. If it is mere partisan belligerence, it will last no longer than a puff of acrid smoke. Some things did not quite add up in the official story. It was, to use a phrase familiar from the Sherlock Holmes oeuvre, the dog that did not bark that raised the first question. You rarely slip on hard concrete; it is generally the banana skin that turns a measured tread into a painful fall. The Rashomon effect, where the same event induces sharply different perspectives, can make for intriguing fiction; in real life, it can rip up communication lines carefully planted by a government trying to sell a fable.
The first question, followed by two photographs, began to dilute the triumphalism of the Delhi police even during the early phase of its self-glorification. The authorities noted, with satisfaction, that two ‘terrorists’ had been killed. They added that two had escaped from the rented urban cage where they lived, which was all they could afford. The deaths were explicable; the escape was not. The building had only one entrance, and hence only one exit. It was surrounded by policemen. How could the two escape?
When the murmur became a buzz, the police attempted damage control with a weak suggestion. The two could have escaped through the roof, hopping across rooftops. But it was daytime. The roofline was surely as closely monitored as the roadline. Neighbourhood eyes were tense and alert. Had anyone seen this acrobatic, even melodramatic, form of flight?
Two pictures propped up two ends of a growing conviction of foul play. One showed Inspector Mohan Chand Sharma, who lost his life, walking towards something, presumably the car that would take him to hospital, supported by two colleagues (one in a tie, the other in a T-shirt). His gunshot wound was obvious. There was a heavy patch of blood on the upper part of one arm, and only a faint discoloring on the lower front of his bush shirt, near the abdomen. Police had said that Sharma had died from a bullet in the stomach. The picture proved that the bullet had not hit the stomach, and that Sharma was able to come down four flights albeit with help. A bullet in the stomach would have left him a stretcher case, and caused far more blood loss, particularly through the exit wound.
The official story changed. The self-acclamation had been blared over media, the change was released discreetly, through a plant that said that he died of a heart attack caused by blood loss.
The questions multiplied: was Sharma hit by what is known in military parlance as ‘friendly fire’?
The police would have been far more comfortable about their theories if some intrepid photographer had not snapped Sharma. The second picture, however, was part of their public relations offensive. It showed three suspects, Zia ur Rahman, Saqib Nishad and Mohammad Shakeel. As is usual in the case of suspects being put on display, their faces were covered with cloth: the police are gracious enough to disguise the identity of suspects for they cannot be deemed guilty until a court has passed judgment. But there was significant departure from normal practice. These three had been shrouded by Arab-style headdresses (made famous by Yasser Arafat, and now a staple of Arab identity in countless TV images) instead of the anonymous black cloth used by police.
Who had decided that these three suspects should be given an “Arab” identity? Was this a not-so-subliminal message to even the densest in the audience about the nature of the “enemy”, that the headdress was a signature of “Islamic terrorism”? Did this brilliant idea emerge from the home minister, now the hands-on commander, or did it emerge from somewhere lower down the food chain?
Indian Muslims did not need to open a political dictionary to gauge the meaning of this forced symbolism? They knew that it was an attempt to stigmatize the whole community and link terrorism in India with an international conspiracy, with an implied hint at Osama bin Laden, the most famous Arab terrorist.
If the purpose of the UPA government’s officialdom was to intensify fear of Muslims among non-Muslims, then it succeeded. Indian Muslims are used to being fearful – of riots, police prejudice and arbitrary authority. They have learnt to temper their response with realism. They believed in the government of Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi, if only because they reassured themselves that they had been primarily responsible, through intense electoral mobilization, in adding the crucial 20 odd seats to the Congress that enabled it to become the largest single party in the last general elections. That perception has been shifting slowly, almost reluctantly, because Muslims had no other national political anchor. The Jamia incident has become a wake-up call. The growing perception is that the UPA government has deliberately killed innocent men to satiate the demand for action against terrorism.
Is that the truth? I have no idea, because the truth is privy only to those who control the guns – on either side of the divide. But this much I do know. In public life, perception becomes the operative truth.
y Syed Ali Mujtaba
There are many secular minded persons hailing the landmark judgment of Special Court judge, Jyotsana Yagnik in the Naroda Patiya case of the post-Godhra riots in Gujarat. The lady judge in a bold judgment convicted 32 persons including some high profile people like former BJP minister, Maya Kodnani and Bajrang Dal leader Babu Bajrangi.
No wonder, she is being applauded by the Gujarat riot victims for scripting the story of their great fight back. However, judge, Jyotsana Yagnik is not the only character in this amazing story.
On 28 February 2002, ninety-seven persons were killed in Naroda Patiya, in the outskirts of Ahmadabad. This was one the biggest massacre of Muslims during post Godhara riots in Gujarat. It followed the protest call given by the BJP government after train fire tragedy in which 97 Hindu lost their lives near Godhra railway station.
The mysterious fire was blamed on the Muslims and in a retaliatory move; a well organized progrom was launched in different places of Gujarat. In this innocent Muslims were attacked, Muslim women were raped, houses burnt and this mayhem continued for weeks. The law enforcing agencies remained mute spectators to such blood and gore obviously following the instructions from ‘above’. According to one estimate more than 2,500 Muslims lost their lives in the post Godhara riots.
Call it conscience, courage, honesty, humanity or sense of duty, many social activists, lawyers, journalists and actors came out in open to seek justice for the Gujarat riot victims. They were joined by some upright officers who worked in the police and administration making it an incredible story of fight for justice.
In a hostile atmosphere when section of bureaucracy, society and officials spew hate against the Muslims, social activists braved threats on their lives to side with the victims, lawyers’ came forward to file cases for them, journalists risked their lives to do sting operation to nail the culprits, serving officers risked their career to disobey the orders and some openly spoke about the perpetrators of the crime.
This is something unimaginable in the annals of independent Indian history as all those on the forefront of this great fight are non –Muslims. Their valiant efforts deserve a salute. But for them, like many other cases of communal violence in India, this one too could have become a case of justice denied.
Social activists Teesta Setalvad has became a symbol of this amazing story. She braced all odds and painstakingly collected evidences to fight the court battle seeking justice for the riot victims. Her efforts literally set up a fight between David and the Goliath. The strong judgment in the Naroda Patiya case could not have been possible, without her and others determination to take the cudgels against the might of the state and the society in large.
In this amazing story, Harsh Mander, a Sikh, is another hero. He left the coveted job of an IAS officer, in wake of Gujarat riots. This courageous officer openly criticized his colleagues of not doing what was expected from them during the communal pogrom. It is not an easy job to take such a moralistic stand for a serving officer. Since then Mander is relentlessly fighting for relief and rehabilitation of the riot victims.
Mukul Sinha, of Jan Sangharsh Manch activists is another character of this story. He painstakingly collected vital evidences, scanning thousands of pages of documents and producing them in the court as records, so that the culprits could be brought to justice. He did this with great courage ignoring even the threats to his life.
Actor Nandita Das, also a social activist, at various forums openly spoke about Gujtat’s officers’ laxity; their complicity and the role of politicians’ in perpetrating the riots for days together. Her movie “Firaaq” graphically depicts the pain and agony of the victims of the post Godhra riots.
Tehelka journalist Ashish Khetan, whose sting operation ‘kalank’ established the role of Babu Bajrangi and others in the post Godhara riots is exceptional piece of journalism. The extra-judicial confessions recorded by Khetan on camera proved to be corroborating evidence against the Bajrang Dal-VHP leaders who had given a go-ahead to the anti Muslim program.
Criticizing the perpetrators of riots from outside is a easy, but to speak for the victims being the part of the ‘system’ requires extra ordinary courage. The intelligence chief, RB Sreekumar is one such person who got disgusted with the state apparatus that drove him to fight for the justice of riot victims.
The figure of deaths in Gujarat could have been much higher except for some prompt action by some men in uniform. IPS officer Rahul Sharma who showed exemplary courage ordering firing on the mob of rioters on way to burn a Madarsa in Bhavnagar that housed 300 children. Sharma later came up with revelation of politicians’- rioter’s nexus and for this Gujarat government acted against him and issued a chargesheet.
There are other officers who also didn’t budge despite pressure and ensure that violence was controlled in their areas. V K Gupta, Manoj Shashidhar, Narasimha Komar, Vivek Srivastava, M D Antani, Upendra Singh, Keshav Kumar and other are to name a few.
IPS officer, Sanjeev Bhatt is the shining star of this amazing story who listened to the call of his conscious. He risked his career naming Chief Minister Narendra Modi for complicity in Gujarat riots. It really requires an extraordinary courage to speak up so boldly and Bhatt has become a symbol of this courage. FIRs were filed against him and he was arrested for challenging the most powerful person in the state.
The names mentioned here are just some cues to give an indication about the nature of this fight. There are many unsung hero who deserve equal praise. Their combined efforts have resulted in Supreme Court monitoring the cases, constituting the SIT, rapping government, and taking other important steps.
The other riot cases in Gujarat have on the judgment stage, prominent being Gulbarga housing society case. It is expected that just like Naroda Patiya case, the judgment in other cases may too indict some high and mighty people of Gujarat.
Even though the SIT has absolved the Chief Minister Narender Modi, of role in Gujarat riots, the forthcoming judgment may spill some beans. Modi remains evasive, even though being called ‘merchant of death’ in popular discourse. It’s likely that some crucial evidence may filter in such cases that may become the clinching evidence to nail the ‘big fish.’
Indian secular traditions many a times has withstood such storm and each time it has emerged stronger. The fight for justice of Gujarat victim is the story of India’s glorious secular tradition. It is the acts of such heroic deeds that have instilled the faith of the Muslim community in the Indian democracy. All those who are part in this great fight back deserve a heartfelt gratitude from every Muslim of this country.
Each religion, as it has come to be humanly, historically and conventionally understood, is premised on the notion that those who claim to follow it have a special access to the Ultimate (called by various names), and that others, often defined as ‘disbelievers’, are in varying manifest error. Such dominant understandings of religion are premised on the existence of sharp boundaries between insiders and outsiders, between the ‘chosen’ and the ‘damned’.
One of the functions of conventional religious discourse is precisely to reinforce such boundaries, brainwashing members of each community into imagining they alone possess tickets to heaven and that the rest of humanity are doomed to never-ending damnation in hell precisely because they are not members of this club of the elect. Such communal-supremacist understandings of religion are, to put it mildly, hardly conducive to inter-community peace and harmony. They are, and have been throughout history, a principal cause for unending strife (physical or otherwise) between religionists of all stripes.
Science has been defined as, “a continuing effort to discover and increase human knowledge and understanding through disciplined research. Using controlled methods, scientists collect observable evidence of natural or social phenomena, record measurable data relating to the observations, and analyze this information to construct theoretical explanations of how things work.”
Based upon this definition, physicians, engineers, chemists, physicists, pharmacists, sociologists, biologists, and many other professionals who utilize the scientific method are called scientists. Unfortunately, many Muslims among the scientific community lead a double life. In their professional life they are true believers in science, but, when it comes to their religious lives, they passionately reject many well-established scientific theories such as theories related astronomy and its application for moon-sighting, the theory of evolution and its applications. They have a truth tell in the mosques and another for their external professional lives. The old Latin expressions, “contra evidential credo (I believe despite the evidence)” and credo quia evidentia (I believe because of evidence),” most accurately differentiate their dual lives. Moreover, almost all mosques and Islamic centers even in the West are impervious fortresses against any fresh ideas including new approach to the interpretations of the Qur’an.
As most physicians (and people working in other in all other scientific fields) know, what they learned during formal education is but a basis onto which new knowledge is added as they progress though their professional lives. Once, more advanced remedies and methodologies are discovered, one does not apply the same remedies and solutions learned during formal education. Yet, how do the Muslim scientists fare regarding new knowledge within the context of religion?
Many Muslim scientists, relentlessly question the validity of scientific opinions in scientific environments and but at the same times passively accept old and worn out, commentaries, tafsir, of the Qur’an as the absolute truth. Such intellectual lethargy and dishonesty is exhibited all across the community of Muslim scientists despite the fact that many of the commentaries written in the past, some in a very remote past, conflict with current scientific knowledge that Muslim scientists use in their daily professional life. It is an amusing contradiction that many of our Muslim scientists (oxymoronic term) accept science at one level but reject it on another. Why don’t they apply the same intellectual curiosity to their faith as they enthusiastically apply in other dominions of knowledge?
In order to reconcile this contradiction, many Muslim scientists cite the evolving nature of scientific theories. It is a fact that “science has truth with proof but without certainty.” It must be noted, though, that the science-rejecting Muslim scientists accept religious truth with certainty but without proof. Their self-protective alleged reasons for it are that the scientific theories are not absolute, that the human intellect is not reliable, and the religious truth is absolute.
Their rationalization is internally incoherent. They forget that humans must utilize their intellect to determine whether the Hindu Geetha, or Jewish Torah or Christian Gospel, or Muslim Qur’an or all of them are to be acknowledged as holy books from God. If science-rejecting Muslim scientists have determined that intellect cannot be considered a reliable human faculty for decision-making, then why should anyone accept their point of view in matters relating to any human affairs or their certainty about any specific holy book? Candidly speaking, these Muslim scientists must accept argument that Muslim faith is blind and they reject the following verse (8:22):
“The worst animals before God are the deaf, the dumb, and those who do not use their reason.”
At the time of birth, babies have only instincts and reflexes. They show their need by crying and attaching to those who feed them and comfort them. Mothers became the center of their universe. As babies get older their world-view evolves, though still focused primarily on their mothers. Gradually this restricted view matures and broadens by adding family, friends, community, and the natural world. A world-picture is an echo of the underlining system of thought by which we process and harmonize our recurring experiences that we label as “facts.” Generally, a fact is defined as something that is true, something that actually exists, or something having objective reality that can be verified according to an established standard of evaluation. The more closely any particular fact is linked to the core of one’s world-picture, the greater its subjective meaning and importance to us.
In other words, everything that is in harmony with our world-picture appears to us as truth. This interconnection between world-picture and truth can create profound positive as well as negative impact in any community, particularly in religious communities. The significances and outcome of the interconnection between world-picture and truth are illustrated by the history of Muslims. The arrival of religion of Islam transformed ordinary Arab life of 14th century into one of the most advanced civilization in less than two hundred years. George Sarton, previously the professor of History of Science at Harvard University, most elegantly describes this miracle of transformation
“Briefest enumeration of the Arabic contributions to knowledge would be too long to be inserted here…The creation of a new civilization of international and encyclopaedic magnitude within less than two centuries is something that we describe, but cannot explain…Indeed the superiority of Muslim culture, say in the eleventh century, was so great that we can understand their intellectual pride. It is easy to imagine their doctors speaking of western barbarians almost in the same spirit as ours do of the ‘Orientals.’ If there had been some ferocious eugenists among the Moslems they might have suggested some means breeding out all the western Christians and Greeks because of their hopeless backwardness. At that time Muslim pride would have been more conceivable because they almost reached their climax, and pride is never as great as when the fall is near. On the contrary only a few Christians were then aware of their inferiority; that awareness did not come upon them until much later—by the middle of thirteenth century.” [Ref: George Sarton: “The History of Science and The New Humanism.” Page 87-90].
The story of Muslims that Professor Sarton described happened when free speech and difference of opinion were the core of Islamic community’s values and spirit. It is at a time, in fact over two centuries before Roger bacon (The west claims Bacon as the father of scientific method), al-Biruni wrote in Vestiges of the Past (Athar-ul-Baqiya): “We must clear our minds . . . from all causes that blind people to the truth–old custom, party, spirit, personal rivalry or passion, the desire for influence.” It was the time when Muslims and the religion of Islam celebrated and practiced science and scientific method proudly. That was the world-picture and the truth then. What was the result? In The Making of Humanity, British historian Robert Briffault gives the answer: while Europe wallowed in ignorance and barbarism, Muslim cities constituted “centers of civilization and intellectual activity.”
On the other hand, current Muslims have a different the world-picture and the truth. We reject science and scientific method in mosques and in Muslim communities even by Muslims trained in science. Our traditional scholars parrot uncritically what they heard from the schools with almost no academic freedom for dissensions. So, the “truth or tafsir” reverberating all across Muslim world from the Muslim scholars and Imams whose world-picture is stuck in the past and who have very limited knowledge of science of natural world, distort the meaning of the Qur’an when the Qur’an is meant to be timeless and ever-relevant.
I do not have to describe the negative impact of interconnection between world picture and truth on the contemporary Muslims all across the world including US. Currently, there is not much creative and critical thinking among Muslims. Experimental science is almost non-existent among them. A large segment of Muslim population lives in poverty, and even if they get the food it is produced in foreign lands with modern technology. Muslims blow up mosques and other places of worships almost every day. Totalitarian rulers are scared of their own people and seek outside help constantly to preserve and protect their reign over the people. Muslim extremists run amok blowing themselves talking innocent bystanders.
According to George Sarton, Christians in the Middle Ages were not even aware of their state of inferiority over Muslims (“On the contrary only a few Christians were then aware of their inferiority; that awareness did not come upon them until much later—by the middle of thirteenth century.”). Unfortunately, the role has reversed in the twenty first century. Muslims at large are unaware of their inferiority in scientific field and in other fields of knowledge.
We, Muslims, have to ask, what do we expect from the future generation of Muslims, when they hear about the unreliability of science in the mosques and from their parents trained in science? The answer is clearly written in the following true story. The most recent list of the semifinalists of “2011 Intel Science Talent Search” in USA is a reflection of the Muslim community’s attitude towards science. There are 56 Indians and many more Chinese in the august group of future scientific leaders. To no surprise, even though US Muslim population is much larger than Indians there is not a single Muslim among the Intel Science Talent Search list. Similarly, we meet many Indian and Chinese scholars as guest lecturers in national scientific meetings, but Muslim scientists are conspicuously absent except a rare one here and there among scholars. Why?
Human progress occurs in places where there is an unrestricted welcoming conduit for new ideas. Unfortunately, Muslim leaders and scholars across America feel intimidated by science so that they avoid any honest discussion of science or new ideas or inferences in the community. Productive scientists who invent new technology or discover new laws or propose new theories are all critical thinkers. They think abnormally, i.e., question the soundness widely accepted concepts, theories, and facts. Most Islamic centers, Imams, and Muslim scholars, even 99.9 % Muslims at large discourage critical thinking.
I have listed here the major characteristics of critical thinkers in black print and what happens in Islamic center, Muslim communities, and homes in pink for easy comparison. Critical thinkers are skeptical [Islamic centers generally do not allow skeptical enquiries], open-minded [Islamic centers are not open-minded], respect evidence [Islamic centers do not respect scientific or other evidences except what Imams preach] and reasoning [reasoning is rejected if it contradicts Imams’ reasoning], look at different points of view [Islamic centers do not promote looking at different point of view], and will change positions when reason leads them to do so [Imams and the Islamic centers, and its leadership never allow to change position when reason leads to do so]. This is true with most Muslims parents also.
When children grow up in an environment where critical thinking is not appreciated and generally discouraged, they grow up with a fear to think critically (i.e., out of the box thinking) and become non-productive in scientific research.
Contemporary Islam is an organized religion that indoctrinates its members who listen passively and uncritically religious dogmas to religious scholars who are trained in places where free speech does not exist. Most religious scholars have very little or no training in the field of science.
On the other hand, Hindu religion is not an organized religion especially in America. They generally do not send their children to temples to be indoctrinated. Their children are not daily or weekly exposed, as Muslims children do, to an environment that suppresses critical thinking. So, non-Muslim Indian students have less fear to think out of box and to become a critical thinker. It is true with Chinese American students also because of their ancestral the Confucius philosophy. This is one of the major reasons many Indian and Chinese high school students, not one Muslim student, in the lists such as Intel Talent Search finalists and also the reason for the absence of Muslim scientists among scholarly panels in scientific meetings. So, as long as the current attitude of isolationism exists among US Muslims, I am very pessimistic about future of Muslim community at large.
How then do science-oriented Muslims best respond to science-rejecting Muslims’ who rally on the points that science is always evolving and confirmed scientific observations could be proved wrong in the future? Should one reject the Qur’an if further scientific discoveries replace the present paradigm with a new one? Definitely not! If the Qur’an is the divine book in human vernacular, “the universe is a “written scroll” (Qur’an 21:104) in the material medium or vernacular of the natural world.
The Qur’anic verses are called by Allah, ayath. The phenomena of the material world, Allah similarly refers to as ayath:
“And in the earth are signs [ayath] for those who have firm faith, and in your own selves. Do you not discern?” (Qur’an 51:20-21).
These two books, one the Qur’an and the other the book of nature come from the same divine source and so one divine revelation cannot contradict the other. In other words, God, unlike most Muslims, speaks same truth in and out of mosques. According to the Qur’an, God provides humans with ample evidence in the universe to serve as proof of His existence. If God told humans one thing in the Qur’an and gave the evidence for another in His book of Universe, this would do the opposite of proving His existence. So, an occasional contradiction has nothing to do with these two divine books but all to do with the meaning extracted from the two books. As this meaning can be distorted by our subjective world-view, it is vitally important that Muslims must always seek the most objective meaning that is relevant to any particular point in human history.
As such when we encounter contradictions between the two divine books, the meaning and the world-picture, that we have artificially created, are at fault for the conflict between the two divine books. Therefore, Muslims must go back and re-read the two books in order to reconcile the contradictory meanings and their world-picture arising from their previous reading of the books. Such repeated experimentation, until the resolution of the conflict, is demanded by the Qur’an:
“He created seven heavens in layers. You do not see any discordance in the creation of the All-beneficent. Look again! Do you see any flaw? Look again, once more. Your look, return to you, humbled and weary.” (67:3-4).
Therefore, the Qur’an and the science demand repeated experimentation. When the meaning of the two divine books comes together without conflict, the genuine truth become visible.
Finally, we, Muslims, talk today about `Qur’anic truth’ as the truest kind of truth, the kind we swear by, the kind we feel in our bones to be true, the last truth of all that we are not willing to give up. It is that kind of truth which has to be unraveled and restated harmoniously from both divine books. We shall not be afraid to tell the truth as it appears to us. Indeed, if we truly believe in God, we should recognize that Allah gave us the brains to conduct scientific research. Not to do so — not to use the marvelous gift of intelligence with which He has blessed us — would not only be impolite, it would express a heinous ingratitude to God. The Qur’an cautions the consequence of the squandering of divine gift offered to humanity in verse:
Behold! In the creation of heavens and the earth, and alternations of night and day,–There are indeed Signs for men of understanding,–Men who celebrate the praise of God, standing, sitting, and lying down on their sides, and contemplating the (wonders of) creation in the heavens and the earth: ‘Our Lord! Not for naught hast Thou created (all) this! Glory to Thee! Give us salvation from the penalty of fire.’ (3:190-191)
If the Muslims want to participate and contribute in the ongoing scientific advancement they need to change their current mindset. They need to transform mosques and Islamic centers into centers of intellectual discourse. Muslims have to take fear out of their mind in confronting opposing point of views and ideas and re-define their world-picture integrating scientific method. Muslims need to re-read the divine books, the Qur’an and the Universe, so that there is no conflict in the meaning of the verses from the two books.
Most people are in the colleges to have job to make money. There is nothing wrong with it. Whatever may be the field or job that a person is in, he/she must find out what research is going on in their field of study and try to find out the most advanced research going in that the field. They must persevere to reach next higher level of truth in every branch of basic sciences, humanities, and spirituality.
Every Muslim must try to associate with most revered thinkers in their field of interest. Steven Chu was trained as young man at Bell Laboratories. While he was working there, he was assigned to a team 20 elite physicists for a project. Out of these 20 young physicists, their association with brilliant minds led 7 of them to receive Nobel Prize. This is a beautiful example of spectacular rise due to the association with brilliant passionate truth seekers. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y-7gWsoXtUw
So, from Kinder Garden to University and also in their professional life, Muslims must try to surround themselves with the people who have a passion for the truth in the material and spiritual world in order to succeed in this world and the Hereafter. Finally, Muslims must always bear in mind that “. . . Verily Allah never will change the condition of people unless they change it themselves.” (Quran 13:11) and so prayers without human action are worthless.
This is not, of course, to say that religion, or, to be more precise, the Ultimate, cannot be sought to be understood in more expansive ways that are respectful of people of other faiths (or of no faith at all). But the point is that it rarely isn’t by the religionists, who, in their dangerous delusion, firmly believe their own humanly- constructed notions of religion to represent the Ultimate. To put it bluntly, although they would hate to recognise it, by making claims about who enjoys God’s grace and who does not, who is going to heaven and who is not and so on, the religionists claim to know the mind of God. That, of course, is the height of arrogance and blasphemy as far as I am concerned, for God is, ultimately, The Unknowable.
The intensity of communal supremacism in religious discourse differs in the case of different religious traditions and within each as well, depending on how they are interpreted. Some strands of Brahminical Hinduism, for instance, are premised on the notion that the Brahmins are not just God’s chosen people but, more than that, are virtual ‘gods on earth’ (bhu devatas). On the other hand, non-Brahmin ‘Hindus’ are regarded, simply on account of their birth, as inferior in varying degrees, with the so-called Untouchables being considered not just non-human but as the very epitome of every conceivable devilish quality. Non-Hindus are treated as virtually outside the pale of humanity, as polluting cow-slaying mlecchas and so on. Christian evangelists, for their part, fervently believe that non-Christians as well as Christians who understand Christianity differently from them will be thrown into Hell simply because they do not accept their particular and peculiar understanding of the status of Jesus. Orthodox Jews are convinced that they are God’s chosen people, and, hence, must dominate over the rest of humanity. For their part, most ‘Muslims’ imagine that all non-Muslims are ‘disbelieving infidels’, who will be dumped into eternal Hell by a vengeful God simply because they do not believe in the prophethood of Muhammad, pray in Arabic or venerate the Kaaba in Mecca.
In short, the religionists are firmly convinced that they know the mind of God, for it is on that basis that they claim that members of their fold are God’s elect and that all others are definitely out of God’s favour. This, to me, is a supreme act of blasphemous arrogance and represents, as I earlier said, the claim to know the mind of God, who is, ultimately, The Unknowable. Such religionists arrogate to themselves the role of God although they often do not recognise this.
For several years now, I have been wrestling with what I now consider to be these enormously degrading understandings about the religious ‘other’ with regard to the Ultimate because I realise both how central these are in conventional religious discourse and their lethal capacity to generate hatred and conflict. I am convinced that unless these horrific understandings of the religious ‘other’ are completely deconstructed and done away with, peace and harmony in our world will remain an impossible dream. I am, at the same time, however, quite convinced that the Ultimate can indeed be sought to be understood (always in a limited way) in a much more expansive and embracing fashion, but this is something that I will not broach here.
wo recent media reports about activists associated with the Tablighi Jamaat, considered to be the largest so-called ‘Islamic’ movement in the world, prompted me to pen these lines while also providing me much food for thought on the horrific ways in which the religionists generally (and this transcends religious labels) imagine themselves and the ‘other’ in relation to the Ultimate. The first of these is a statement by the captain of the Pakistani cricket-team, Shahid Afridi, an ardent Tablighi activist, issued on his return to his country following the trouncing of his team at the Mohali match. In a news report titled ‘Afridi slams Indian media’, the Daily Times, Lahore, reveals that in an interview aired on the Pakistani TV channel Samaa, the bitter Afridi declared, “If I have to tell the truth, Indians cannot have the kind of hearts that Pakistani Muslims have. They cannot have the big and clean hearts that Allah has given to Pakistanis.”
The second, equally gut-wrenching, report, hosted on a Pakistani website, bears the revealing title ‘Convert or Go to Hell: Tablighis tell non-Muslim Patients at Government Hospitals’. It highlights the tragic tale of Christian patients in a government-run hospital in Karachi being hounded by Tablighi missionaries on their death-beds, who exhort them to recite the Muslim creed. If they do so, they assure them, they would soon be transported to paradise. If they refuse, they are told that God would throw them into hell, where they will rot forever. “Brother, you must denounce your infidel ways. Kalma parhein (recite the kalma),” the report quotes the Tablighis as instructing the hapless Christians. “Become a Muslim, and God will forgive you all your transgressions against him. Die a Muslim!” A female relative of one such patient who politely requested the Tablighis to leave him alone (she dare not have told them to lay off and shut up, of course, for fear of being accused of blaspheming Islam), was bluntly told, “Do not interfere in God’s work.”
According to this report, such scenes are routine in Karachi’s hospitals, where ‘Islamic’ activists ”stalk the hallways of emergency wards, hoping to earn sawaab (religious merit) by converting non-Muslims on their deathbeds.”
These two reports clearly reveal my point about the central place and role of demeaning notions of the religious ‘other’ in conventional religious discourses generally. They indicate several aspects of a certain mentality, of a particular way of understanding the self and the ‘other’ in relation to the Ultimate that are integral to the ways in which not just Tablighis and other ‘Muslims’ but, indeed, almost all other religionists, convinced about the inherent superiority of their own belief- and ritual-systems, understand the world. And this, I am convinced, is rooted in the religionists’ claims of knowing the mind of God.
Take Afridi’s statement to begin with. Like several other members in the Pakistani cricket team, Afridi is a hardened Tablighi missionary. Like his fellow Tablighis, he makes it a point to sport his religion, like a label or badge, in public, thinking this a divinely-decreed duty. Hence the spectacle of the entire Pakistani cricket team praying ba-jamaat on the Mohali cricket pitch that spectators were regaled with (despite which, of course, Allah turned down their fervent duas for victory). When Afridi says, ‘If I have to tell the truth, Indians cannot have the kind of hearts that Pakistani Muslims have’, and elaborates on this point by adding, ‘They cannot have the big and clean hearts that Allah has given to Pakistanis’, he makes several theological claims, all of which, besides being utterly ridiculous Quranically-speaking, also thoroughly demean Allah, whose name he ‘piously’ invokes. But Afridi can hardly be blamed for his madness, for he only articulates what his Tablighi Jamaat cult, in turn echoing widely-shared beliefs shared by many other ‘Muslims’, actually insists is authentic ‘Islamic’ truth. That these claims has no Quranic sanction, I am convinced, is another point, but I will not discuss that here.
To understand Afridi’s theological claims more clearly, it should be stated that his use of the terms ‘Pakistanis’ and ‘Indians’ may be taken to represent or be synonymous with ‘Muslims’ and ‘Hindus’ respectively. When Afridi suggests that Allah has given Pakistanis/’Muslims’ ‘big and clean hearts’ and adds that He has these denied to Indians/Hindus, he clearly indicates that the God of his imagination is the God of ‘Muslims’ alone or that this God is fiercely pro-‘Muslim’ and fanatically anti-non-Muslim. Non-Muslims or Indians/Hindus, Afridi seems to believe, have small and unclean hearts precisely because God has willed this to be so. That, to my mind, is, in effect, is a heinous accusation against God, an act of deadly blasphemy, rather than the praise of God that Afridi and his ilk stupidly imagine it to be. But of course it would be too much to expect Afridi to be hauled up for violating Pakistan’s brutal anti-blasphemy laws for such a preposterous claim about Allah because in the minds of the mullahs and their cronies, this statement, far from being blasphemous, is a reiteration, even celebration, of one of the most cherished beliefs—that their mere fact of being ‘Muslim’ (in the conventional sense) means that ‘Muslims’ have a special closeness to God which non-Muslims allegedly completely lack. ‘Muslims’ are God’s chosen people, and non-Muslims are his enemies, the mullahs are convinced.
This, of course, is just one instance of a distressingly general phenomenon: the bizarre conviction of the religionists that their own particular religious beliefs, ritual practices and community identities are the only acceptable bases for winning the favour of God, and that all other systems of belief and ritual and membership in any other community are a sure way to Hell. The image of God that such a conviction is premised on is of a brutal, heartless, unforgiving and entirely whimsical dictator, who causes millions of people to be born in families who do not belong to the single supposedly ‘heaven-destined’ community and who despatches them, precisely on that basis and for that very reason, to Hell after they die.
The religionists share a common, unshakable conviction that simply by virtue of their membership, generally by birth, in a particular community (which they consider to be the sole repository of truth), they are, by definition, God’s chosen people. They stupidly imagine that just because they hold on to a particular set of beliefs, adhere to a particular set of rituals and claim to follow one or the other prophet or enlightened sage, God is on their side and will transport them straight to heaven where they will sport in eternal luxury. Contrarily, simply because others adhere to other beliefs, worship in ways different from theirs and follow some other human figure as their religious guides, they are sure that the latter are doomed to endless perdition after death. Such bizarre beliefs reflect the religionists’ audacious claims of knowing the mind and will of God. They promote a suffocating self-righteousness and a visceral contempt for others. In their extreme forms, they create the dangerous delusion of imagining that one’s own religiously-defined community is the sole repository of virtue and that others are bereft of any goodness at all. There is nothing at all lacking in one’s own community, they come to imagine. Conversely, they are convinced that not a whit of goodness is to be found in others. Thus, Afridi seems to imagine that all ‘Muslims’/Pakistanis are good, and that all Hindus/Indians are despicable. In this starkly dualistic view of the world, ‘Muslims’ lack any defects while non-Muslims lack any goodness at all.
Is it any wonder how and why, given the prevalence of such views (which are fairly dominant among ‘Muslims’) people of other faiths should have a low opinion, to put it mildly, of ‘Muslims’ and of Islam? Can they at all be expected to love ‘Muslims’ or to appreciate their faith if ‘Muslims’ are convinced that others are evil, incapable of any good in God’s eyes (no matter how virtuous they might otherwise be), and that just because they follow a different religion and are members of other communities, God will dump them in Hell, there to rot till eternity? Given that most ‘Muslims’ do hold such preposterous views and are even convinced that these are basic articles of ‘Islamic’ belief, one is forced to admit that ‘Muslims’ are themselves primarily responsible for the phenomenon of what is called ‘Islamophobia’, for which they only want to blame others.
Afridi’s frighteningly Manichaean view of the world is echoed by the Tablighi activists who hover around Karachi’s hospitals like vultures waiting for hapless non-Muslim patients to die. They are convinced, being led by their deluded mullahs to believe so, that simply by uttering a phrase in Arabic a non-Muslim can win God’s pleasure and be saved eternal torment in Hell. If such a person declines to utter this phrase and change his communal identity, God will, they are utterly sure, punish him with eternal torment in Hell. A non-Muslims’ sincerity, piety, good deeds and other such virtues, the Tablighis (like many other ‘Muslims’) idiotically imagine, are of no value at all in God’s eyes. Just because a person follows a religion other than what the ‘Muslims’ regard as ‘Islam’, God is bound to punish him in Hell, they are sure.
In other words, there is, so the Tablighis (like most other ‘Muslims’) believe, absolutely no room at all for non-Muslims in heaven, no matter how pious and virtuous they may be. Simply because they approach God differently from how ‘Muslims’ do, using different rituals and liturgical language, and also because they consider Jesus or the Buddha as their human guides, and not Mohammad, God, they believe, will condemn them to never-ceasing torment in Hell. Only those who worship God in Arabic, and in no other language, and regard Mohammad as their guide, and not Jesus or Buddha or any other man of God, can enter heaven, so they have laid down!
Such is the dominant understanding of Islam, unfortunately. It is one that has been invented by the mullahs to bolster ‘Muslim’ communal supremacy and the mullahs’ own vested interests, and is constantly reinforced at every step. I find absolutely no sanction for such ‘Muslim’ communal supremacism in my reading of the Quran, however. Of course, the mullahs and their cronies will vehemently disagree.
The God I want to believe in and love is definitely not the jealous tyrant of the religionists, who casts people into eternal hell simply because they might worship the Ultimate in different ways, using different languages or revering different prophets and wise men and women. My God is not the mean and despicable dictator that the religionists have invented him to be. The Ultimate, for me, is definitely not a bloody maniac who, driven by irrepressible communal prejudice, throws people into never-ending Hell simply because they do not belong to a particular community. Such may be the god of most religionists, of the likes of Afridi and the Tablighis and other such ‘Muslim’ chauvinists, of Brahminical supremacists, and of Zionist Jews and Christian messianists, but He/She/It is definitely not mine.