Monday, October 8, 2012

Innocence Of Muslims: Voices Of Sanity And Reason Needed

By Firoz Bakht Ahmed
Till these lines going to the press, 30 Muslims have lost their lives in protests against the absurd film Innocence of Muslims. As a devout Muslim myself, I plead with Muslims all over the world that they must, at any cost, not lose their lives and leave the matter to God , today and even after as they’ll always be, till the world lives, be hurt like that. Undoubtedly, it is a stupid film clip put on YouTube and translated into Arabic that has, obviously triggered heartburn and violence. It’s not the first time that the Prophet Mohammed and Islam have been demeaned. Prophet had himself prophesied that Islam will be put down and he will be debased, however, Muslims must never react to that. Best to ignore such issues that they die their natural death rather than being framed. Muslims should not allow themselves to be exploited by radical and reactionary groups to ferment anti-Western feelings. The problem with us Muslims is that without having read the holy Quran, without having truly followed the Prophet and Islam, we are ready to lay or take lives if someone is critical. We forget that both Islam and the Prophet invite dissent. That’s how it has spread through the Sufi saints. Mark Twain quite genuinely once wrote, “It is by the grace of God that in our country, we have those three unspeakably precious things: freedom of speech, freedom of conscience and the prudence never to use them.” Muslims should not react but respond patiently depicting tolerance and sabr (patience), two of the umpteen positive aspects of Islam in spite of the fact that the manner in which the film was made, gave credence to the suggestion that the point of this exercise was not defending freedom of expression but offending Muslims. Blasphemy is common place as it’s a global fact. Christians have become accustomed to artists’ offending their religious symbols. They can protest — cut off public funding but the right of the individual to say or depict offensive messages or symbols is not denied. M. F. Hussain, the famed Indian artist drew a nude pose of deity Saraswati but no death sentence was announced, rather Hindus tolerated and more than that — ignored the best treatment to such things. No protest took or no death sentence was announced to Hussain! Let’s be objective. The non-Muslims ask about the community’s response regarding another blasphemy that occurred on September 11, 2001 when fanatics murdered thousands of innocents. “So where were the Muslim protests and boycotts of Saudi Arabia or Afghanistan after that horrifying event? Since 9/11, mosques have been bombed in Iraq and Pakistan by terrorists in the name of jehad. Where were the protests condemning attacks on holiest of shrines?” questions Andrew Sullivan in Time. This is a common grudge that is often heard by non-Muslims whenever there’s a terrorist attack on innocents. Nevertheless, this doesn’t justify the demonizing of the Prophet as two wrongs never make a right. The film, Innocence of Muslims is harmful as it tends to misinform, mislead, generalize and characterize about the Prophet and Muslims on the whole as violent and sexually pervert (as had also been in the case of Danish cartoons). Both sides including the makers of the said film disparaging Prophet Mohammed and reacting Muslims have exaggerated showing not clash of civilizations but fundamentalisms and orthodoxies. If it’s a fact that Prophet Mohammed’s picture is strictly prohibited, Muslims must open heartedly understand that there is an old tradition in the secular Western society to make fun of everything. Besides, Prophet himself has borne such attacks throughout rather sportingly when he propagated Islam. Not only this, he had strictly refused his followers to be violent if he were demeaned or attacked. He asked them to be tolerant and patient. Simultaneously the West too should be sensible not to insult Prophet. The community must introspect as to what’s lacking in their attitude that time and again the Muslims in India and globally, are at pangs the way the media ill portrays them pertaining to issues like — Danish cartoons, triple talaq, family planning, jehad, position of women, Vande Mataram, Muslim identity etc. Truth is that the problem lies with us as we are not able to explain to them comprehensively and lucidly the concepts of Islam that are all astoundingly modern and practicable. When we don’t educate ourselves about Islam, how can we instruct others? Muslims should articulate their response to these provocations and outline a peaceful and intellectual course of action to be undertaken in protest of this blasphemy. To react emotionally is excessive. Islam never asks to react to the extent that one lays down one’s life. Sanctity of life must be above every issue be it Babri mosque, Taslima, Rushdie, cartoons, a blasphemous film or any other issue. We have to calm down. Moreover, in the Quran, it has clearly been mentioned that there will always be non-believers trying to off track the ummah but it is not for the Muslims to take revenge or even react but to leave it to Allah. At the same time, secular fundamentalism and orthodoxy too must be reined in that we see in some Western societies. France, supposedly the champion of freedom of expression, by prohibiting the hijab (veil), wearing a turban, skull cap or applying a bindi (decorative spot applied on forehead by Hindu women), has joined hands with what it castigates — zealous jehad. Is this French jehad? The range of reactions to the film among Muslims and non-Muslims simultaneously served as a reminder of the gaping wedge that still exists between the West and much of the Islamic world. This gap should be lessened as much as possible. What is of paramount importance is that along with the right to expression is also attached the duty of not to ignore others’ rights. This applies as much to Jyllands-Posten as to the protesters who are burning and trampling US flags. It’s on record that Muslims have never portrayed Jesus or any other deity like that as Islam asks its followers to respects all faiths. It has been seen that time and again, the Western media has been cajoling and provoking Muslims on such issues. The film disgracing the Prophet, hurt not only the religious sentiments of Muslims but the soul of freedom of expression, fraternity, secularism and civil society. In the given situation, a moderate Muslim is pushed to the fringes. If he speaks up for the protestors, he would be branded as a fundamentalist and if he sides with the freedom of expression, he would be declared a heretic by a fatwa or more so, done to death. The film seems to be a part of the conspiracy to malign Islam and Muslims as they are on a fast track of anti-terrorism movement. Moreover after the innovation of websites and other communicative organs, since Islam happens to be the most propagated and popular religion in the Western world, diatribes like this have been common to undermine the faith. Prophet Mohammed himself used to be very calm and composed in such situations. He never criticized people but through magnanimity, a trait of his character, he used to win his opponents’ hearts. He always advised people cater to the voice of sanity. He was beset with enemies for most of his missionary life but he faced all persecution and tortures with a smiling face, and never complained; he carried out his duties undeterred. But despite that I am completely against banning of these newspapers. Muslims have the right not to read these newspapers but they don’t need to shut them down and we certainly don’t need to indulge in arson and kill people. The film, despite knowing the seriousness and consequences of the subject of deprecating the prophet, wanted to provoke a reaction. That reaction has been provoked. But along with the right to speech should also be clubbed the right to conscience as all the adherents of various faiths have an unwritten consensus to mutually respect each other’s faith.

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