Islamism, Iconoclasm & Idols

The practise of iconoclasm is one of the most striking features of hardline Islamism. An Egyptian Salafi Sheik by the name of Murgan Salem believes that it is necessary for the Egyptian Government to destroy all the pyramids, statues of ancient pharaohs and all other antiquities which are generally associated with universal heritage. The reasoning which this Sheikh renders is that this move will help in curbing idolatry and in destroying the remnants of Paganism in Islamic Egypt.

Murgan Salem also justifies the sacrilegious act of destruction of the Great Buddha Statue in Afghanistan by Islamist militants. He believes that by destroying the statue, the Islamists did great service to Allah and Islam because this statue was held in high reverence and worshipped by 800 million Buddhists based in different parts of the world. Since the statue has now been destroyed, people would no longer be able to insult Allah by worshipping objects other than him. It’s indeed a tragedy that Islamists view Prophet Muhammad’s cleansing of the Kaaba as an act of unilateral iconoclasm and choose to disregard the Quranic commandment of safeguarding churches, synagogues, mosques, cloisters and all those places where God’s name is invoked (22:39).

The Pyramids of Giza located on the outskirts of the Egyptian city of Cairo. (Reuters)

The Pyramids of Giza located on the outskirts of the Egyptian city of Cairo. (Reuters)

The practise of Islamism has a deep connect with the history of Muslim civilization. When the Muslim armies were shuttling between the three continents of Asia, Africa and Europe; countless places of worship were razed to the ground as a result of Islamic zealotry. The worst sufferer was possibly the Indian Civilization which saw wide scale destruction of its temples by plunderers like Mahmud of Ghazni who desecrated temples and carried away all the wealth to develop his own kingdom and to utilize the loot money to sponsor raids against fellow Muslim kingdoms. The world has come a long way since then with the enactment of universal human rights and other revolutionary measures promoting egalitarianism but what continues to bind Islamism and iconoclasm are history books which are written with such bias that they carry on with their praise of desecrators.

The challenge before the Islamic civilization lies in accepting the misdeeds of its forefathers. At the turn of millennium, even the Vatican issued an apology regarding the dastardly acts which the Church carried out in the name of Christ. The secular activists in the Arab world have to take up the mantle of taming the hateful ideology of men like Murgan Salem and others who want to destroy heterogeneous character of the world and replace it with a sickening and radicalized interpretation of the Sharia where religion is more of a curse than blessing.

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Democracy & Islam

Any system of governance where government formation, law making and decision making corroborates consultation with consensus is Islamic. In the contemporary scenario, democracy is the most apt example of such a proactive system of citizenry consensus and consultative governance and therefore, it’s most compatible with Islam.

Tomorrow a more enhanced system of such governance may be available at our disposal. Something like a bigger version of the system of self governance as enunciated under the paradigm of three-tier Panhayati Raj System in India. Democracy is one system of governance which is in consonance with Islamic principles but tomorrow, as I stated earlier, we may have an even better system whose Quranic acceptability will be higher simply because it’ll provide the electorate with greater force of articulation so we can say that democracy is permissible by Islam but it doesn’t command any monopolistic permissibility. It’s true that many of the countries in which Muslims are in majority happen to be undemocratic where human rights are painfully bulldozed but that’s not the intrinsic Islamic way of governance. In monarchies and dictatorships, there is unilateral decision making and hence, they can be ruled as un-Islamic simple because of the fact that the mandate of the people is not ascertained before swinging into action and that bluntly violates the Islamic teaching of managing affairs via consultation and consensus.

Right Wing Fanaticism be it Hindu or Muslim is a Threat to Society

India happens to be among the most communally sensitive countries in the world. Communal tensions, rioting and curfews are not new terms for Indian citizens who have become acquainted with warring in the name of religion. Combating communalism is one of the biggest challenges faced by India and for this purpose all communities need to come together and solve their internal feuds and conflicts. Right wing fanaticism be it Hindu, Muslim, Sikh or Christian is a threat to society.

People have every right to talk on behalf of the majority as well as the minority, it is their prerogative to toil for them but neither the majority groups nor the minority groups have the jurisdiction to torture or try to terminate the other faction. The very idea of converting India into a Hindu Rashtra or an Islamic state is contrary to the principle of secularism as enshrined in the Constitution. This era has to be the age of co-existence and tolerance where religious fanaticism is pushed from the forefront to the backburner and is eventually made defunct.

Religious fanaticism in India is a byproduct of a feeling of insecurity and disillusionment among both the communities of Hindus and Muslims. It all began with the Partition of India which was marred by bloodshed and violence. The Muslim community of India became impoverished and economically fractured only after a few years of independence. There were four primary reasons for the socio-economic downfall of the Muslims. The first one was the abolition of the Zamindari system. It broke the spine of wealthy Muslim Zamindars residing in North India especially in Uttar Pradesh. The second reason was the decline of Urdu as a language of communication. Urdu was no longer being used for official purposes or for transacting business. The language was discarded and it took a toll on the competence of working Muslims. The factors stated above led to a sort of backwardness among Muslims. Under the Imperial Government, Muslims used to get reservations in jobs but now there were no reservations. Muslims had lost the ability to compete because of their backwardness and hence they lost out on jobs. Fourthly, the worldwide anti-Islam bandwagon further dampened the spirit of the Mohammedan clan. Frequent communal tussles with Hindus worsened the situation. In the midst of all this, political players realized the impoverished state as well as the electoral significance of the Muslims of India. No substantial work was done to liberate them from the vicious circle of social and economic backwardness but dozens of promises were made to woo them and to get their votes. The ‘Muslim’ agenda soon began to dominate the national political scene of India.

Noting the increasing stress and attention being given to the Muslims, the Hindus started feeling insecure and began to consider themselves as ‘second class citizens’ belonging to the majority community. They could not understand as to why the Muslims were being given so much of importance. They considered Muslims as the ones responsible for brutalizing the Hindus during the Mughal rule and for the Partition of India. As per Hindus, their condition in the country was no better and was as pitiful as the state of Muslims. The grief of Hindus accelerated when pseudo-secular leaders dubbed all those chanting for empowerment of Hindus as communal. Some opportunist leaders with political interests realized this grievance of the Hindu community and took up their cause. Their agenda was more of anti-Muslim rather than being Pro-Hindu. They accused the Government of Muslim appeasement but the fact remains that there was no appeasement at all because had there been appeasement, the Muslims in India would not have been in such a sorry state today but the fact that there was too much of pious posturing in favour of Muslims cannot be denied and this is what made the Hindus feel insecure.

The community of Muslims fell from bad to worse days and was further ghettoized. Some young Muslim men became robbers and criminals as they could not get jobs. They went on an evil no holds barred rampage and further deteriorated ties between the two communities. Meanwhile some leaders manufactured the political hot potato of the Ayodhya movement which culminated into the demolition of the Babri Masjid and all of a sudden the BJP assumed prominence and went on to form the Central Government in the coming years. Some Hindus became so emotionally attached with the Ram Mandir issue and were so frustrated of pro-Muslim posturing that they started justifying the demolition of the Babri Mosque. Foreign countries, international organizations and NGO’s condemned the demolition and this further angered the Hindus. Anyhow for Muslims, the demolition of the Babri Masjid followed by rioting was like insult to the injury. Riots broke out all across the country and several innocent human beings lost their lives. By now the Muslims had realized that they had been marginalized.

Some notorious elements within the community earmarked this weak nerve of the Muslims and started a movement in the name of Muslim Resurgence and Islamic Backlash. Their movement was based on vendetta and not reconciliation. These people had vested interests which were those of accumulating power, wealth and dominance. Thus came into being Islamic Terrorism in India. After the demolition of the Babri Masjid, Muslims started fearing for their life and were hesitant to go over to Hindu areas and work with them. There were serial bomb blasts in Mumbai which were planned and conducted by a Muslim group. 257 lost their lives. The Muslims of India began to sympathize with these terrorists because these attacks somehow helped the Muslims in gathering back courage and now the message was clear, if Hindus can kill Muslims then Muslims can also indulge in return of favour. Muslims were so hateful of Hindus that now they started openly supporting Pakistan during Indo-Pak cricket ties. The Hindus saw this as anti-national and their viewpoint regarding Muslims was even more poisoned. Fanatic Hindus wanted all Muslims to be sent to Pakistan and also held the perception that each one of them happened to be terrorists. Religious constraints stopped the Muslims from reciting Vande Mataram and this gave Hindus another opportunity to question their nationalism notwithstanding the fact that in Islam, followers are not supposed to worship any other thing apart from God. The term Vande Matram means that, ‘I worship the Goddess’ & Islam doesn’t allow Muslims to make such claims. Both the communities were at fault and they were nurturing a great amount of fanaticism within themselves. While the Hindus justified the Babri Masjid demolition as necessary action in the name of Lord Ram, Muslims started justifying the serial bombing in Mumbai as retaliatory action to the Babri Masjid demolition and the riots which followed.

The chaos continued and so did the communal tensions. Whenever Muslims were killed in rioting by fanatic Hindus, Muslim terrorists would retort by means of bomb attacks. Soon Hindu fanatic groups which till now had resorted to mob violence, converted themselves into full fledged terror groups identical to the Muslim ones. While Muslims targeted crowded streets and temples, Hindus started targeting Mosques and other places. The truth is that India faces a threat from both fanatic Hindu and Muslim groups. On the national scene today, there is no political party advocating a uniform Islamic law for India but there is a hardcore Hindu party advocating the conversion of India into a Hindu Rashtra amd it is being actively supported by other saffron groups. This is the reason why Muslims are sympathized with abd are seen as a lot which has been overly oppressed and deviously discriminated. The Hindus also need to be consoled. Tyrannical Muslim rulers who invaded India during the yesteryears demolished some Hindu temples and slaughtered innocent Hindus. They forcibly converted some of them into Islam and even ridiculed their religious beliefs. The communalization process began prior to the Partition only when Muslim rulers behaved barbarically with Hindus. The British utilized this historical loophole to dismantle the ties between Hindus and Muslims. Past wrongdoings cannot be undone and so it is better for Hindus to forgive and forget their Muslim brethren. Hindus don’t hold Christians responsible for the oppression meted out towards them by the British and so they should not blame the current crop of Muslims for the mistreatment which they received from many Muslims rulers, looters and invaders like Mahmud of Ghazni and Nadir Shah. We need to defy the ideology of sick religious outfits to establish a peaceful India which is the penultimate ingredient for its success. Muslims sympathizing with terrorists are wrong and so are Hindus supporting the rioters who loot and kill Muslims. Muslims cheering for Pakistan during cricket matches is unjustified and so is the ideology of Hindu Rashtra which is actively supported by hardcore Hindus. If certain Muslim fanatics are providing safe havens to Muslim terrorists inside mosques then the Sangh Parivar and several Hindu ashrams are also shielding Hindu rioters. All these practices and perceptions are unjust and they need to be discarded.