Muslims faced with too many enemies

Thursday 13 November 2003, by Daya VARMA

The opening remark on the occasion of CERAS (French acronym for South Asia Center) conference on Democratic Rights of Women in Pakistan on October 27, 1995, noted: "In recent years the governments of the West and the Western media have launched a systematic attack on Muslims." This state of affairs is more obvious today than it was eight years ago.

Since then US has waged wars on Afghanistan and Iraq. Hindu fundamentalists have been ruling India now for more than four years and targeting India’s 150 million Muslims physically, socially, culturally and politically - the anti-Muslim pogrom of March 2002 in Gujarat being the most blatant expression of this policy. There is no let up in the anti-Palestinian activities of Israel. The 1995 Conference only indicated but did not emphasize that a key factor in the ability of the West, Israel and India’s Sangh Parivar to humiliate Muslims is the Enemy Within. In other words, the rulers in most of the Islamic countries and Muslim religious leaders are not only in the forefront of suppressing Muslims but also are the reasons why others are able to persist in their anti-Muslim activities. There must be a reason why the outgoing Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad’s remark that Jews rule the world by proxy received world-wide condemnation but repeated use of the term "Islamic terrorists" is quite acceptable.

In an article "Facts on Ummah" (The News International, October 26, 2003, on SACW dispatch), Farrukh Saleem gives extensive data, which reveal that not only the rulers of Islamic countries repress their own people in the most ruthless way but also help alien forces to carry on their anti-Muslim crusade. Of the fifty-six member states of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC), twenty-two are authoritarian regimes, and 15 percent are monarchies so that at least 70 percent are authoritarian or totalitarian regimes or have restricted democratic practices; of the 1.3 billion Muslims more than 800 million continue to be absolutely illiterate; there are only 230 scientists per one million Muslims and less than 600 universities for 1.3 billion people, while India has 8,407 and the US with a population less than 300 universities and the US 5,758. The author of the article says: "We are trapped in a vicious cycle of illiteracy, poverty and violence" and supports Salman Rushdie view that "the world of Islam must take on board the secularist-humanist principles on which the modern is based, and without which Muslim countries’ freedom will remain a distant dream."

No one can accurately say to what extent the practices of autocratic rules of many of the Islamic countries are abhorred by its people. There clearly is a mounting opposition to clerical establishment in Iran, while there is a reversal of the trend in Pakistan.

While reviewing "Islam and Democracy" by Fatima Mernissi, Professor Hassan N. Gardezi emphasizes the authors conclusion that suppression of Sufi tradition and in turn democracy; this, the book argues, was the weapon used by post-colonial rulers of Islamic countries to consolidate their power. The Muslim regimes "frightened alike by rationalism and by idea of democratic participation" are neither able to protect Islam nor Muslims," while the fundamentalism of their allies and opponents "lowers intelligence to the level of emotional, visceral reflexes. And any drop in intelligence bears within it the germs of decay." This crucial article obviously calls for a secular state. The book argues that: "The Saudi monarchy is the natural epicenter of all the fears and

phobias that afflict the despots who rule the world of Islam. From its oil resources flow the billions of dollars that have created the "petro-Wahabism, whose pillar is the veiled woman." As the core of Islamic fundamentalism, it is promoted around the world to fight back equality, freedom of thought, rationalism and humanism, the working principles of democracy, and thereby blocks all avenues for the majority of Muslims to live peaceful and productive lives in the modern age.

Dr. Iffat Idris of Pakistan writes that: "Accusing outside forces is a convenient way of deflecting attention (and criticism) from the authorities’ clear failings."

The Muslim question in India is peculiar to India’s history, politics and culture. Because the foundation of modern India was laid during the Moghul period, which coincides with resurgence of Sufi culture, Muslims envisioned their future and prosperity within an overall Indian framework. Even the Muslim League primarily raised political and not religious demands and did not succeed in winning the support of overwhelming majority of Indian Muslims. The problem of Indian Muslims is not so much linked to dominance of any short of religious fanaticism but rather the absence of a political formation which could represent their interests. Because of this and the absence of a genuine mainstream national secular Party, they stand as the most vulnerable section of the Indian society, made worse with the rise of Sangh Parivar. In this sense, the analysis of Farrukh Saleem Fatima Mernissi that Muslims are to blame themselves for their plight, largely true in the global context, does not apply to India.

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