Month: December 2015

Unveiling the Hijab: a Socio-historical Overview

Does Qur’an mandate a specific dress code for Muslim women?

Hijab has been a topic of much debate and controversy both within and outside the Muslim world. In Islamic countries where a Shariah (Islamic) Law is enforced, women are required to follow a strict dress code. There are also many countries where millions of Muslims live and where women are not obliged to follow the Shariah dictates, yet many of them are forced into a strict dress code owing to social compulsions. Many women, however, do tend to wear a certain type of outfit as a matter of personal choice, believing that they are mandated or required to do so by the Holy Qur’an and that they might go to hell if they show their hair or their body to a stranger (mahram). Here, it is important to distinguish between cultural practices and the tenets of Islam, which are not really, strictly defined anywhere.

Critics argue that hijab (interpreted as a dress code) is a symbol of oppression. Some western countries have even imposed a ban on its use. But many people claim that it is a matter of personal choice. Both of these statements are true and false depending on various factors. Advocates of hijab will claim that it is mandated by Qur’an for Muslim women to wear a piece of cloth over their head and cover their body in a certain way – a position unattested by historical evidence. Many Muslim women are forced to wear hijab against their will because of the legal repercussions in countries where hijab is enforced by law, or because of the constant pestering by family or by the self-appointed moral police in the society. Many women, however, wear hijab as a fashion statement or style, or simply under peer pressure. In a recent trend, some young Muslim women in western societies have resorted to donning headscarves over sexy western outfits as a political statement against racism and Islamophobia.

Many people erroneously associate the wearing or not wearing of hijab with the oppression or emancipation of women (respectively). But not wearing hijab does not automatically entail women’s emancipation. There are educated hijab-wearing Muslim women who are able to integrate seamlessly in different cultures, work in public spaces in mixed gatherings, and take no gender-driven nonsense. And there are hijab-less (Muslim and non-Muslim) women who are victims of gender-discrimination, domestic violence and constant abuse at the hands of their male partners but do not have the guts to stand up for their rights regardless of where they live. As far as women’s rights are concerned, sexual objectification of women is no better than the obsessive urge to protect women into invisibility. Gender-based discrimination is not limited to clothing; it is expressed in a number of different ways.

Often the distinction between the tenets of Islam and cultural customs is lost when we are faced with a world of ignorance and misinformation. Socio-historically speaking, there are a number of contexts to the use of a head covering. In many societies, a headgear (e.g., a scarf, a turban, a cap, or a hat), was used by both men and women simply as a protection against extreme temperatures, viz., heat, cold, or other climatic changes. In a number of cultures, however, since head was considered to be the most important and perhaps sacred part of the body, a special headgear was used to cover or adorn it. You couldn’t imagine a bride or a groom without a special headgear at the wedding ceremony. In many cases, headgear was a mark of one’s social class, an indication of a privileged social background. Thus, in many societies men and women of higher social status would (partly or completely) cover their head in formal situations or in public. These include members of royal families, religious figures (e.g., priests and nuns), etc. Often people of lower status would follow suit in their quest for upper social mobility and acceptance in the elite classes. This trend is still in practice in many societies where a certain type of headgear is symbolic of one’s status rather than a religious binding. Often adorned with decorative trinkets, a headgear in such a situation has little to do with the concept of morality or women’s oppression and more with social superiority. Pulling a person’s headgear off could be the most disdainful and disrespectful of an act one could commit against anyone irrespective of gender.

The concept of a face veil, such as, naqāb, burqa, or ghoonghat in the Middle East or South Asia, as also observed in the conservative western societies of the yore where women would draw a net under a hat over their face, could be viewed as a special extension of the headgear. Historically, women have often been concealed in closed-door cabins and carried over by male escorts from place to place (c.f. pālki in northern India, or zāmpān in Kashmir). In a socio-cultural context, such a covering could be perceived as an extreme form of protection of the sacredness of a woman of higher social status where the rest of the world is barred from even looking at her. But the same does not apply to women of lower status who were often taken as “slave girls” or concubines by men of higher status. In a purely religious context, however, it could be experienced as an extreme form of protection of morality where a woman must completely conceal herself lest she should attract attention in a sexual way. Thus, whereas man is some sort of a powerless character incapable and absolved of being in charge of his own chastity, a woman is entitled with an extraordinary power to seduce or corrupt a man, and must, therefore, be disempowered.

Thus, Hijab becomes a symbol of oppression when it is associated with morality, when a woman’s character is evaluated by the society on the basis of whether or not she covers her head (besides her body) in a piece of cloth. It becomes a symbol of cruelty against women when they are punished – either physically or psychologically – should they violate the practice. In the most bizarre cases, some people will argue that the hijab “protects women against lustful men” – a claim that is not supported by any empirical evidence. Many Muslims, especially the menfolk, will argue that the Qur’an makes hijab mandatory for women. Little girls are tortured into believing that they will go to hell and that their bodies will be covered with snakes as they burn in hell fire if they do not “cover”. Such radical positions are based on ignorance and misinterpretation of certain verses of Qur’an and are rubbished by many scholars and experts of Islamic thought.

Historically, the term hijab is not found in the Qur’an or Hadith in the context of dress code or women’s hair. The word hijab, as it is used in the Qur’an, means a ‘screen’, ‘partition’, or ‘barrier’. It appears in a total of about five instances in the text. In a loose sense, it is closer in interpretation to a ‘curtain’ than anything else. The word is used to mean a ‘screen’ or ‘barrier’ in a number of instances, e.g., between Muslims and non-Muslims (Chapter 7 Al-A’raf: verse 46, and Chapter 41 Ha-Mim: verse 5), between Maryam and her family (when she “withdrew” from them and conceived Jesus; Chapter 19 Maryam: verses 16-17), and between the wives of the Prophet and the nāmahram male visitors of the family (Chapter 33 Al-Ahzab: verse 53). It is also used to refer to a ‘veil’ or ‘screen’ from behind which “Allah could speak to a human” (Chapter 42 Ash-Shura: verse 51).

The words that do refer to ‘(type of) covering’ and ‘headdress’ are jalabib (Singular jilbab) and khumur (respectively), independently used at two separate instances in the Qur’an. The words are pre-Islamic; while khumur was used by both Arab men and women as a headgear (to protect the head from weather and dust/sand), jilbab was probably only used by women to cover the body. The occurrence of jalabib is found here (Chapter 33 Al-Ahzab: verse 59):

“O Prophet! Say to your wives and your daughters and the women of the faithful to draw their jalabib close around them; it is more suitable that they should be known (recognized) and not harmed (annoyed). And Allah is ever forgiving, and most merciful.”

If we pay attention to the words “known (recognized)” and “harmed (annoyed)”, it is very clear from the verse cited above that being “known (recognized)” is “more suitable” (than not being known (recognized)). Therefore, a face veil or naqab is simply out of the question as far as the Qur’an is concerned. Further, women are advised to cover their body so men are unable to (physically) harm them (i.e., touch or grab on their naked bodies). There is no mention of hair or hell-fire in this verse or the adjacent verses. Both men and women are advised to “reduce their gaze (or cast down their glances) and guard their private parts” (Chapter 24 Al-Nur: 30-31). Women are further advised (not necessarily mandated) to “draw their khumur over their bosoms” and “not display their zinat (beauty/adornment)” to strangers (i.e., men other than their “husbands, fathers, fathers-in-law, sons, husband’s sons, nephews, male attendants having no physical desires, and children”) (24:31).

In this context it is very important to draw one’s attention to the type of clothing that Arab women wore during the Prophet’s time in the early 7th century Arabia. In absence of properly stitched clothing, the idea of “drawing the khumur over the bosom” or the “jilbab around the body” is to cover a woman’s nakedness as opposed to wrapping herself in an all-concealing (black) shroud or the modern-day abaya – a word that does not appear in the Qur’an. The word hijab as a ‘screen’ is used in the Qur’an to cater to the sense of privacy in a society where it was very common for male visitors to show up any time uninvited and violate the private space of the hosts, especially women (and more specifically the women of the Prophet’s household in the context of the Qur’anic verses; See Chapter 24; 27-29 where men are advised to “not enter houses other than their own without permission”, to “go back” when asked, and not linger around unnecessarily). During those times, houses had very little privacy, with no separate compartments. There were no covered toilets and no specific means of sanitation. With utter disregard for women’s personal space, menfolk would often indulge in socially undesirable activities and harass women. Oftentimes, during the night, when womenfolk of the Prophet’s tribe went out to relieve themselves (away from the household), they would be attacked by men of other tribes. Furthermore, in the absence of modern facilities and sanitary napkins, menstruating women, had to be temporarily “screened” (separated) from the rest of the people with limited interaction with the public. Thus, for instance, when they hesitated to come out even after his invitation one day, the Prophet advised the screened (menstruating) women that they could have themselves “covered” by jalabib and participate in the upcoming Eid elebrations; one of the (screened) women who did not possess a jilbab, was asked to “borrow one from a companion.” (Sahih Bukhari, Book 8, #347).

Here I would like to make a note of an account of the 13th century Arab women in Tarikh-al-Mustabsir by Ibn-al-Mujawir, a Persian traveler to Mecca. The upper class womenfolk of the sacred city, Mujawir notes, “wear bonnets” (perhaps akin to khumur). In an account of the poor women in a town about two miles from the sacred city, Mujawir writes: “the woman takes two pieces of leather and stitches them together, cuts a round hole in it and puts it on. When she walks, the whole of her body can be seen, above and below” (quoted from Sardar 2014: 157). In such a context, going backwards to the 7th century Arabia when fewer women would know how to stitch clothes in absence of the modern tools, it makes perfect sense to have to “draw” the jalabib “around the bodies” or the khumur “over the bosoms” to cover the nakedness. Note also that none of these verses indicates the use of both khumur and jilbab at the same time.

To conclude, the primary question that I wanted to delve into in this article was whether or not the Qur’an mandates any specific dress code for Muslim women and whether they are entitled to wear layers and layers of certain type of clothing as a religious binding. As revealed by the available historical evidence, it turns out that that is not the case. The recommendations in the Qur’an are clearly contextualized and ought not to be interpreted in the extreme sense as a strict dress code observed in the modern day, as many people would erroneously tend to believe or argue. The imposition of hijab in its more recent connotation as a strict religious dress code for Muslim women is an innovation; it seems to be an outcome of the puritanical canonization of the Islamic tenets that occurred centuries after the death of the Prophet.

© Sadaf Munshi, December 28, 2015.

Traditionalist Islam and the death of inductive intellect

One of the characteristic features of most reverential legends is that they obfuscate more than they reveal about religious personalities. When the Prophet of Islam returned to Mecca, his point of origin, in January 630 and consummated what Ziauddin Sardar (a scholar/writer/critic specializing in Muslim thought, in his seminal work “Mecca: The Sacred City”, 2014) calls “the moral heart of his mission”, his most important message at this moment of his most complete triumph was the assertion that peaceful coexistence is not only possible but the essential basis for doing good, for enacting ways for justice and equity as living realities for all. There are obvious references, which clearly indicate the necessity of such coexistence among people of different communities, more specifically, Muslims, Jews, Sabians, Christians, Zoroastrians (“Magians”), and polytheists as mentioned in the Qur’an (Cf. Qur’an 2:62, 5:69 and 22:17).

At its inception, the idea of “Islam” (literally ‘submission’) was a call for justice, a protest of inequity. It was a demand for inclusiveness, for unity and equality for all under the umbrella of one god. Aside from the politics of the times, the original community founded by Muhammad in Medina was a multi-religious community comprising Muslims, Jews, Christians, and polytheists. It was this kind of heterodoxy that thrived in some of Islam’s greatest cities, such as, Baghdad, Damascus, Cairo, Marrakesh, Cordoba and Tehran for long. Yet, ironically, the city of Mecca, the very “portal of paradise”, was to be closed to all but Muslims. This was a particular legacy of the Umayyad dynasty, which receives little mention by religious scholars of Islam – a legacy, which, in effect, led to a certain closing of the Muslim mind.

When Baghdad was a center of Muslim thought and learning in the 8th and 9th centuries, Mecca turned into a haven for anti-rationalists. This was partly due to the influence of the Kharijites, the puritans obsessed with the idea of keeping the religion “pure” and uncorrupted by what they called bid’ah (‘innovation’, or ‘foreign thought and ideas’). This view expressed itself in the form of an utter distaste for philosophy which was perceived as a product of human reasoning, and, therefore, as bad as “associating partners with God”. Under this view, taqlid (‘imitation’) of the Prophet’s companions, their successors, and the successors of the successors, was to become the norm. The latter, as would be expected, was likely to suffer an enormous misinterpretation, and that is what happened.

In continued tension with the idea of taqlid was the notion of Ijtehad – the principle of movement, which gave birth to inductive intellect in Islam. Here, in order to achieve full consciousness one must finally be thrown back on one’s own resources. Ironically, under the most traditionalist and regressive views of Islam, this beautiful concept of Ijtehad is condemned as “heresy” and “innovation”, and has been more or less completely ignored by the modern Muslim world, with some exceptions which are often debarred from claiming the faith by the traditionalists.

Note that it was during the 9th century that the old idea that “only what was stored in memory was truly known” was replaced by a new emphasis on writing down hadith and legal judgments. And it was now that the traditions of the Prophet were being compiled, collected and canonized by various scholars. Consequently, the degree and extent of the authenticity of some of these compilations is rather questionable (Recall that the holy Qur’an itself was revealed in disjointed verses and chapters over a period of twenty-two years, i.e., between 610 and 632 C.E. The Prophet recited the verses to his companions who, in turn, were instructed to memorize them. The verses were “collected” later on and compiled and organized in the form of the chapters of the manuscript that we see today).

What was sacrificed in the exercise of the canonization of the hadith was the idea of complete authority in legislation. Hence, the significance of change and continued reinterpretation of the Islamic Law was gradually erased from its history, giving way to the ever-strengthening radical ideologies, which are not only primitive in their nature but also extremely regressive and anti-humanitarian. Until and unless the notion of Ijtehad is reclaimed, the Muslim communities across the world are highly vulnerable to radical ideology and, hence, susceptible to intellectual degradation.

© Sadaf Munshi. Dec. 10, 2015. (Updated on Dec. 27, 2015).

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(Ref. Ziauddin Sardar. 2014. “Mecca: The Sacred City”. Bloomsbury, India.)

 

 

Let Me Be Clear

 

Insanity is trying the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
                                                                                                                            (Albert Einstein)

Senior separatist leader Syed Ali Geelani in an interview that was published in Rising Kashmir blamed the people of Kashmir for “failing their leadership” and applauded the youth for once again taking up guns“for their rights”. The two statements generated a lot of heated debate between the critics on the one hand and the devoted supporters of the octogenarian on the other. Note that, the support group exhibits the same kind of hero worship as was expressed by the hundreds of thousands of supporters of Jenab Shaikh Muhammad Abdullah many years ago, whose fate after his demise is not unknown to many a Kashmiri. Many articles appeared in several dailies of Kashmir in relation to the interview – both by people differing with his views and by the supporting lobby against the criticism. In fact, I also wrote a quick response to the interview in which I attempted to highlight some of the drawbacks of the separatist movement and hurdles in the path of a resolution. Today, I would like to present my responses to some of the objections made by the supporters of Mr. Geelani against the criticism:

One of the predominant positions justifying his allegation of “people failing the leadership” (honestly, that sounds funny, if not very awkward) refers to the “fickle-mindedness” of the people of Kashmir in having participated in the elections and chosen “bijli, pani, sadak” over azadi (whatever that means) in response to calls for the election boycott. That is a brazen lie. It is not the fickle-mindedness of the common people, but the lack of insight on part of the so-called leadership, particularly Mr. Geelani, that was a major setback to having achieved some kind of solution to the conflict. And I have explained that at great length in a number of articles published from time to time.

For decades people of Kashmir diligently and devotedly followed the anti-people hadtal calls and the boycotts, no matter how unsuccessful they were in achieving any political objectives – this, even at the cost of their personal freedoms, hoping for a solution. Recall that it was only after the failure of the separatist leadership to forge a joint alliance in 2008, which led to the population feeling deceived and disowned. And it was then that the people overwhelmingly participated in the upcoming elections later that year. For those who cannot remember, it was a statement by Mr Geelani, in front of tens of thousands of people gathered at Eidgah after the Amarnath land row, in which he decided to first settle his personal agenda of claiming the “one-and-only leader of Kashmir” role at a decisive moment when India was literally at its knees. This blatant disregard for the political differences that have existed from the very outset of the “separatist” movement (or prior to that) is not naïve but utterly foolish on part of a person who claims a leadership role.

Recall that it was also, Mr. Geelani who stood in the way of Parvez Musharraf’s four-point formula in 2007. The formula (which proposed a gradual withdrawal of troops, self-governance, no changes to the region’s borders and a joint supervision mechanism) was not only a doable solution but also well received by a majority of stakeholders. Unfortunately, it was outright rejected by the one and only Mr. Geelani in favor of his rigid and unchangeable demand for self-determination citing UN Resolutions.

Now here is the problem: under the UN resolutions, there are only two options available for the people of Jammu & Kashmir – either India or Pakistan, and no third option. Given the multi-religious, multi-ethnic composition of the region, it is practically impossible to arrive at a bloodless solution should there be a plebiscite; the gory history of the Partition is a testimony to the fact that the two-nation theory was an ultimate failure.

Although I completely agree that the people of Jammu & Kashmir have a right to choose their destiny, I have some reservations. I feel that a proposal for plebiscite is inherently defective in our context. It is good only for a region with considerable homogeneity in terms of its population make-up. Keeping the demographic realities and the uneven political aspirations of the different groups within the region into consideration, a proposal for self-determination is bound to lead to new disgruntled populations, and hence, a continuous political destabilization in the region. In this sense, therefore, Geelani’s rigid position on self-determination should not be treated as a “commitment to the cause” but as an inability to see through the imminent fallout of the proposal. That Mr. Geelani is unwilling to budge an inch from his political position is, in reality, not his strength, but a stark weakness. His grudges with the moderate factions of the separatist leadership, therefore, are ill founded.

Furthermore, it is not only unfortunate but also outrageously irresponsible on part of the senior leader to say that it was “good” that the Kashmiri youth were again taking up arms. As a responsible human being and a mother, I completely disagree and strongly condemn such irresponsible statements that could lead to the loss of more innocent lives. It is not good on any counts to use violent means in pursuit of human rights and justice unless in certain extremely unique and exceptional circumstances such as a civil war, etc., where violence is thrust upon people and is the only way to defend innocent lives. Every single human life is precious and we have no reason to lose more lives to mindless violence.

Finally, my criticism of Mr. Geelani does not amount to opposing a political solution or undermining the efforts of those who are perhaps honestly working towards peace, but to only highlight the drawbacks of a particular position so that a consensus towards achievable political goals can be built and eventually worked upon. There is no solution to Kashmir conflict except on the negotiating table but that cannot be done unless we involve representatives from all the different factions of the stakeholders capable of forging a strong alliance. In this exercise, the role of the Indian and Pakistani establishments in addressing one of the very important aspects of the conflict – the people-to-people contact – is paramount to peace making efforts in the region. Making borders irrelevant is not only a positive step in this direction but the need of the hour.

© Sadaf Munshi
Dec. 17. 2015.

(Published in the daily Rising Kashmir: http://www.risingkashmir.com/article/let-me-be-clear/ )

Where Did We Fail?

This article was inspired by a number of letters which have recently appeared in several Kashmir-based dailies in response to some totally bizarre statements made by Syed Ali Shah Geelani in an interview published in the daily Rising Kashmir in which he blames the people of Kashmir for the failure of the separatist movement while completely absolving the separatist leadership. Shockingly, even after the loss of so many innocent lives in this ding-dong struggle, he does not have any qualms in yet again advocating violence as the means to attain freedom. An utter naivety is revealed in the claim that no unification between various separatist factions was required to achieve any political goals. However, it is heartening to see young minds come forward and question such handicapped ideas. As much as the population of Kashmir is aware of the facts on ground, the leadership ought to be accountable for their own failures. Such criticism and questioning is a sign of the churning necessary for the intellectual growth and progress of a society. I would like to add a few lines so as to give a broader context to the failure of the separatist movement.

There are several reasons why the separatist movement has failed (and if anyone believes to the contrary, I suggest talking to a common man on the street, or an illiterate housewife to get a better idea of the situation). The first and foremost blunders which acted as a great setback in pursuing the cause of “independence” was the use of religion as a mobilizing force for attaining political goals. This was expressed in the form of targeting, isolating and victimizing minorities, including women who were subject to intense public humiliation for not complying with the extremist demands, especially in the 90’s. In fact, women’s role in the “movement” was only relegated to that of portraying them merely as victims of Indian oppression, thus, denying them a platform or visibility in the public arena as equals of men, while at the same time curtailing their individual freedom. Using religion as a political tool, the separatists utterly failed to take the non-Muslim populations of Jammu & Kashmir on board. The outcome of this in the long run was that the very idea of “freedom” became a casualty of radicalization and communalism. That a sizable population of Kashmiris is still living in exile and no serious attempts towards reconciliation and resettlement have been made so far is a testimony to the fact that there is nothing “secular” in the “movement” and that the non-Muslim populations of the state have no stake in it. This is an irreparable damage to the Kashmiri ethos of composite culture and a permanent hurdle in attaining a political solution.

The second major drawback to the “movement” was the fact that hadtals (shutdowns), street protests and stone-pelting became the primary mode of protestation and resistance after the failure of the armed struggle, and this to the extent of exhaustion and fatigue. The same futile exercise, which hardly ever produced any concrete results, was repeated for decades at the cost of the everyday needs of people, impinging on their very basic right to make a living or pursue their individual dreams (Note that such basic needs as water, electricity, healthcare and roads were dismissed as unimportant by the same people who had no qualms in enjoying these facilities themselves over prolonged periods of time in more comfortable housing, receiving better healthcare in other parts of India). That even education was to be sacrificed for the “cause” (when the kith and kin of the privileged lot were getting educated outside Kashmir), besides the banning of artistic and creative activities at the outset of the armed struggle — the very basis of intellectual growth of a society, is beyond one’s imagination, a matter of utter stupidity and lack of vision.

The third factor that contributed to the failure of the separatist movement was the complete absence of a strategy, absence of a concrete agenda. That many of the separatist leaders, just like the mainstream politicians, were more interested in serving their personal agendas, were in pursuit of power rather than the betterment of the society, was indicated by the many different divisions and factions in the separatist lobby which found it impossible to come together and forge a unified, justifiable agenda under the umbrella of one single leadership. On the contrary, more and more stringent divisions and splinter groups made the relevance of the existing leadership unimportant, creating a chaotic situation where people were confused as to which particular faction to follow when. That one of these 26 or more odd member organizations of the Hurriyat Conference, JKLF, has dozens of “leaders” in many different countries, each claiming to be its “founding member” who do not see eye-to-eye against each other, is just one example. Another example is the quashing of opportunities like summer 2008 which had the potential of being a turning point in Kashmir’s recent history.

Despite these revelations in the more recent years, it was in the early 90’s that these drawbacks of the “movement” were apparent and I, a mere young adult female then, like many others, understood that it was an exercise of hollow promises aimed towards political power with little prospects of translating into actual freedom, of creating a path towards the attainment of human rights and justice. It was then that I realized that the “movement” was built on the foundations of sacrificing individual freedoms, intellectual growth and rational thought where freedom of expression became a casualty. And I realized that the freedom struggle was not taking us anywhere because the very means that were employed to attain it were flawed to the core, unjustifiable on various fronts.

The real enemy of Kashmir today (as elsewhere in South Asia) in my view is corruption — corruption in politics and in every other walk of life. Both the separatist movement and the governing bodies of Jammu & Kashmir have helped embolden corruption by creating a culture of laziness and unaccountability. Unless and until we fight corruption in all its forms, we cannot attain real freedom, no matter what the political boundaries or nationalities; it just won’t happen. But corruption cannot be dealt with unless we allow intellectual progress. Though intellectual progress could be obstructed by corruption — a vicious cycle indeed, there is no alternative to it for only intellectual progress can help us grow as a powerful society and provide a pathway to real freedom.

About the author: Dr. Sadaf Munshi is an Associate Professor in the College of Information at the University of North Texas. She can be reached at smunshi2002@yahoo.com.

(Note: This article was originally published on December 10, 2015 in the daily Rising Kashmir and can be accessed at: http://www.risingkashmir.com/article/where-did-we-fail/)

Thinking Out Loud

Overwhelmed at the brutal killings of November 13, 2015 in Paris, at the pointless loss of so many precious and innocent lives, I think no words of condemnation are sufficient to express one’s outrage at this senseless act of cowardice, this barbarity. For the sake of fairness and justice to those large numbers of Muslims who also have been a continued target of terrorist acts at the hands of the very same people, let’s be equally sensitive and humane towards every single human atrocity. For the sake of fairness and justice to all, I think it is important that we differentiate between people who teach violence and hatred from those who are victims of it, irrespective of their religious denominations. I feel using a very broad term “Islamic” or “Muslim” terrorism for this menace, and thus clubbing every Muslim together in one single box is not only irresponsible and insensitive but can have dangerous consequences, as we have seen time and again.

Today, while we are mourning the heinous acts of violence against many innocent (non-Muslim) civilians in Paris, let’s not forget the terror attack in Beirut which happened only hours before the Paris attacks and in which 43 innocent civilians — Muslims of a certain denomination, were killed by people of the same despicable ideology. Let’s not forget the many massacres of Muslim, Christian and other minorities elsewhere in the past by people of the same ideology. Let’s not forget the car bombings in Iraq and Afghanistan killings dozens of innocent people on an almost daily basis. All these things are equally inhuman and equally condemnable.

Today, some of my friends tell me it is the responsibility of “good Muslims” to tell the “bad Muslims” that this is wrong. Indeed good Muslims (you mean sensitive humans?) should stand up and question this mentality, spot the bad guys in their community and do whatever they can do in their own capacity to save their children and youth from falling prey to radical forces, to bring peace and stop violence from happening. Indeed, good Muslims MUST speak up whenever there are indications of young people being driven to radical ideology; and many in fact are doing that. Good Muslims should keep their eyes and ears open when they walk around in their communities, and spot every act of hatred. They should stand up and speak when they listen to hate speeches in religious congregations, object to it, condemn it. That being said, I do not feel that it is the sole responsibility of good Muslims to fight this menace. It is not even practically possible for “good Muslims” to do that given the enormity of the problem and its influence far and wide. In fact “good Muslims” are themselves victims of this ideology; don’t forget the many Muslim writers and poets who lost their lives for opening their mouth, for speaking up. The onus of this responsibility is not only on “good Muslims”. Terrorism and extremism is a very serious and complex problem with many different aspects. It can only be fought by a VERY THOROUGH, well-thought about, long-term plan by the international community. It is EVERYONE’s responsibility to fight this menace TOGETHER, for only then can we get rid of it. It’s not easy and there are no short-cuts.

 

© Sadaf Munshi.

Peace!

Could the wars in the middle east perhaps have been avoided? Is war necessary, or can it even solve political problems? The ongoing wars in the middle east, many supported and funded by world powers, have created more terrorists than we had before. They have generated a flood of refugees, which is deeply alarming especially for the European Union. Will this mess teach the world powers a lesson that there are serious consequences of overthrowing stable governments, no matter how despotic their rulers be, without a solid plan for who takes over after them? With millions of refugees headed in different directions, world powers need to ponder and do some serious re-thinking of their strategic goals. We are really in DEEP SHIT!