3 - 9 December 2008
Issue No. 925
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875
No time to hide
How long will extremists speak on behalf of Muslims, asks Aijaz Zaka Syed*
Watching with me on television the terror nightmare unfold in Mumbai over the
past three days, my children have repeatedly asked me: "Who are these
terrorists and why are they doing this?" Every time I wished I could offer them
a convincing answer.
What could I tell them? For one, I was equally clueless why these individuals
had taken over India's financial and cultural capital and were targeting people
who had nothing to do with them and had done nothing to harm them. Second, I
was too ashamed to tell them these individuals were ostensibly Muslims and came
from a country that was created in the name of Islam.
A distraught friend who has devoted her life to speaking and fighting on behalf
of Arabs and Muslims wrote a few days ago, "I've had it with the Arabs and
Muslims and Islamic militancy. Forgive me, but I am throwing in the towel."
I couldn't write back to her but understood her pain. She grew up in Mumbai and
is understandably upset.
My friend went on to say: "The Muslims and Islam have a problem and only they
can solve it. If they do not, the whole world will turn against them."
If this is how our most loyal friends feel, imagine the sentiments and
reactions of the rest of the world. Can you blame the world if it's turning
against Muslims? What do you expect when not a single day passes without the
name of our faith being dragged through the mud by fellow believers around the
How many innocents have to die in the name of Islam before Muslim leaders and
countries take effective action to deal with the lunatics out to destroy us all
with their nihilistic cult?
I know that Muslim leaders, including those in the highest echelons of power,
have lately started speaking out against extremists. Darul Uloom Deoband in
India, one of the oldest and most respected centres of learning in the Muslim
world, issued a fatwa against terrorism at a large gathering of Islamic
scholars and leaders in June. Last month, nearly 5,000 scholars backed the
edict at a huge congregation in Hyderabad.
The Organisation of the Islamic Conference and Saudi Arabia, the leader of the
Arab-Islamic world, have of late been equally vehement in condemning repulsive
acts of violence targeting innocents. Eminent Muslim intellectuals and
journalists like Tariq Ramadan, a grandson of Muslim Brotherhood founder Hassan
El-Banna, and India's M J Akbar and numerous others have repeatedly protested
against this distortion of Islamic teachings and spirit.
These calls of conscience on behalf of mainstream Islam have, however, proved
to be voices in the wilderness. Clearly, we need to do more to be heard by the
world and to stop this shameful victimisation of innocent people in the name of
The great irony of the Mumbai attacks is the killing of Anti-Terrorism Squad
Chief Hemant Karkare and his colleagues. Karkare, a brave and decorated officer
investigating the Malegaon blasts and other recent terror attacks that he
established to be the handiwork of Hindu extremists, not Muslim groups like
SIMI (Students Islamic Movement of India), was killed by terrorists outside
Cama Hospital Wednesday night. Obviously, Muslims do not know who their real
friends and enemies are.
And, pray, why is India increasingly being singled out for this savagery? What
do they think this country is, a Hindu country or an anti-Muslim nation?
Do the ignorant ones repeatedly being sent out on so-called jihad know that
this great country is home to the world's largest Muslim population? Almost
twice the size of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan! India's greatest superstar
is a Muslim, not to mention countless achievers in other fields. Why are our
friends across the border bent on destroying the whole world and themselves? Is
this what Islam and the noble prophet teaches and stands for?
It's all very well for us to say Islam has nothing to do with extremism and
terrorism. We can go on deluding ourselves that these psychopaths do not
represent us. However, the world finds it hard to accept this line of argument
because it sees extremists increasingly assert themselves and take centre-
stage while mainstream Islam remains silent.
The great religion that preaches and celebrates universal brotherhood, equality
and peace and justice for all has been hijacked by a demented, minuscule
minority. And, as my friend says, only Muslims can solve this problem. Only
Muslims can confront these anarchists in their midst. Only they can get their
faith freed from the clutches of extremism. This is no time to hide. It's time
to stand up and speak out. For the terrorists will continue to speak on our
behalf, until we do. This is no time for silence. Enough is enough!
* The writer is opinion editor at Khaleej Times , Dubai.