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Extremism and Counter-extremism…. Whatever happened to moderation? Part III

In extremism and counter-extremism, Islam on February 25, 2009 at 5:04 pm

Linked to Part I and Part II

Extremism in people’s reaction?

To be extreme means “to be very far in any direction”, to be “farthest from the centre or middle”, and “exceeding the bounds of moderation”.  I recognize extremism in the views of people when they begin with the example of  a  limited group of people and make a sweeping generalization that Islam is a terrorist religion. They ignore the everyday example of the masses of Muslim peoples who form a significant community in a number of non-Muslim countries today. As an example I refer you to a google search using some of the keywords from the terrorism drama and to read some of the postings and comments on blogs and other sites which allow comments. One blog proudly announces as its tagline “know islam, know terror; no islam no terror”.

Apart from the evidence in the authentic sources of Islam cited above, past surveys have  explicitly established that Muslims do not support violence. For instance, surveys in 2006 established that the consensus of the world’s  Muslim population (whether resident in Muslim or non-Muslim countires).  Interestingly, most of the country-wise figures reported are actually higher than the opinions of Americans regarding the issue: A contemporary survey by the University of Maryland’s Program on International Public Attitudes found that 46% of Americans believed that bombing and attacks that were intentionally aimed at civilians were ‘never justified’.

A Gallup poll of Londoners similarly found that the number of Muslim Londoners who renounced violence (81%) was higher than London’s general population (72%). In the same survey, 82% of the Muslims expressed respect for other religions as compared to 54% of the general public. The renown Gallup poll, by the name of Who Speaks for Islam?, found that religiously extremist views were only 7% across the total population surveyed. Contrast with this finding from a poll of Americans by  The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) that nearly “one-in-four Americans believes that Islam is a religion of hatred and violence”. This despite the fact that 60% of the sample acknowledged not being knowledgeable about the religion.

A concept of moderation

My inspiration for this series of posts has been a piece of writing by Mr. Khalid Baig. Khalid Baig has been a columnist for the monthly Impact International in South Africa. His columns were published in book form titled First Things First and the piece I’m referring to is one of his republished columns ‘What does Islam teach about justice?’. Below I quote extracts from his column which serve to illustrate the concept of moderation I wish to highlight here.

There is one word that captures the essence of all Islamic laws and all Islamic teachings; one word that describes the overriding value that permeates all Islamic values. Justice. The Qur’an says:

We sent aforetime our messengers with clear Signs and sent down with them the Book and the Balance, so that mankind may stand forth in justice. [Al-Hadeed, ayah 25]

Then:

Under normal circumstances many people can be just. But Islam commands its followers to be just even in the face of strong conflicting emotions. In dealing with other human beings, two major impediments to justice are love and hatred. See how the Qur’an teaches us to overcome the first impediment when we are dealing with out closest relatives or even ourselves.

You who believe, stand our firmly for justice, as witness to Allah, even though it is against yourself, your parents and near relatives; whether it concerns a rich or a poor man, Allah (stands) closer to them both. Do not follow any passion so that you may deal justly. If you swerve about or turn aside Allah is still informed about whatever you do. [An-Nisa, aya 135]

Then, turning to that other impediment, hatred…

Here again Qur’an commands:

You who believe, stand out firmly for Allah, as witnesses to fair dealing, and let not the hatred of others to you make you swerve to wrong and depart from justice. Be just: that is next to Piety: and fear Allah. For Allah is well-acquainted with all that you do. [Al-Ma’idah, aya 8]

Finally:

Justice does require retribution and Islam does call for “an eye for an eye.” But it does not mean an innocent eye for an innocent eye; it means the eye of the perpetrator for the eye of the victim. It is amazing how those who call the latter as barbaric, actually rally for the former when a real crisis develops.

He wrote these lines many years before the world know terrorism as it knows since 9/11. Yet how aptly this last line applies to the cases of USA and Israel reviewed in the Part II of this post.

This world is full of the lore of terrorism today and the issue is real. Yet, has the world been JUST and MODERATE in its own reactions?

Judge for yourself.

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Extremism and Counter-extremism…. Whatever happened to moderation? Part II

In extremism and counter-extremism, Islam on February 25, 2009 at 4:40 pm

Linked to Part I.

How come the foremost reactions to extremism are often extremist?

The reasons for counter-extremists being as much extreme  as the so-called extremists are primarily the same as in the case of the latter: unjust and indiscriminate killing! You could even  skip reading this section as the facts reported below that I use as my example are well-known.

1. The US War on Terror

The US War on Terror waged in Iraq, Afghanistan and in the northern areas of Pakistan, is also guilty of a considerable wastage of innocent civilian life. In a report released in late 2007 by the British poll group Opinion Research Business (ORB), over one million Iraqi civilians have died between March 2003 and August 2007.  An earlier study by Dr. Les Roberts estimated the number of civilian deaths between January 1, 2002 and March 18 2003 at over 100,000. A research published in Lancet in October 2006 had concluded that at least a third of such killings were attributable to direct action by US. forces.The losses encompass Iraqi children, parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, cab drivers, clerics, schoolteachers, factory workers, policemen, poets, healthcare workers, day care providers, construction workers, babysitters, musicians, bakers, restaurant workers and many more, the ORB stated. The rate of civilian death is estimated to be above 10,000 per month.

The situation has been not less inhuman in Afghanistan. The Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA) documents various instances of killing of innocent Afghanis in bombs or helicopter strikes or in face-to-face encounters by US soldiers. A panel of eminent judges and lawyers, organized by the International Commission of Jurists, recently reminded us all that the U.S. War on Terror had caused “immense damage in the last seven years to a previously shared international consensus on the framework underlying both human rights and humanitarian law” (read here). Even certain “governments in other parts of the world are justifying their own wrongdoing by comparisons with the United States”!

While there’s talk of ‘change’ in Obama’s policy towards Iraq and Afghanistan, the tribal areas of Pakistan continue to suffer in the name of this War on Terror. One of the earliest missile strikes by the US was in June 2004 killing Nek Mohammad a Taliban leader who had recently signed a peace deal with the Government of Pakistan (Refer here). In the second week of January, 2006, a missile strike had killed 18 civilians of which five were children (Refer here). A missile strike in a religious school in Bajaur on  30th October, 2006 had killed 83 individuals, most of them students (Refer here).  On 8 September 2008, 23 people were killed in another such strike including 8  children in North Waziristan (Refer here).

There had been hopes that Obama’s alleged change of policy would be reflected in Pakistan. So far they have been answered with four attacks with a total death toll of 50 (refer here) and with the express permission by Obama to CIA for further extrajudicial killings (Refer here).

2. Gaza War

Israel’s recent bloody assault on the highly vulnerable Gaza strip had been done with the pretext of ending for good the firing of rockets by Hamas. On the other hand, the rockets had been stimulated when the Israel-Gazan cease-fire ended on December 19 when Israeli commandos raided a tunnel and killed a group of Hamas fighters. According to an analyst, Dennis Rahkonen, who writes for the Online Journal, “they’re little more than slingshots against Israel’s incredible military might, and they’re used out of desperation by Palestinians who’ve never been accorded the democratic space within which to gain redress of their eminently just grievances”. The missiles can’t even crack the pavement on which they may chance to fall, as the following picture shows:

the truth behind hamas rockets

the truth behind hamas rockets

Over a span of eight years, Hamas has allegedly fired more than 8,ooo of these rockets leading to a total death toll of 20 deaths! (read here). The Israely army killed more than thirteen hundred Palestinians, shamelessly attacking points on the exposed Gaza strip that were saturated with civilian population – a story there’s no need to retell.

Read the final Part III  here.

Possibly related in this blog:

Protest on the Israel Day of Science

Extremism and Counter-extremism…. Whatever happened to moderation? Part I

In extremism and counter-extremism, Islam on February 25, 2009 at 4:26 pm

Extremism is a word which truly dominates the world’s political scene today. While  extremism  increasingly  refers to terrorists who use the name of Islam, the reactions to extremism are also extreme if you examine closely. Among governments and societies, the attitudes, the policies and the actions of a majority of those who fight terrorism are no less extreme  as the so called terrorists. Reminds me of the swing of a pendulum which can be either to the left OR to the right, but it will be a SWING any way, as extreme as you push it, only the direction will be different. To be extreme is to far from the centre or the middle, to exceed the bounds of moderation.  So if we sincerely wish to oppose extremism, what shall we rely on? Of course, moderation.

There! I have laid out my thesis. Now let’s develop it more logically…

How come terrorism is  simply that and NOT “Islamic”

We need no reminders that all forms of terrorism are extremist, but we DO need a set of well-rounded arguments that such acts are NOT Islamic even if the perpetuators associate the pure name of Islam.

Here are some:

  1. Terrorists inflict harm and violence upon innocent civilians and non-combatants. On the other hand, Quran states in Ayah 126, Surah Nahal: “If you punish, let your punishment be proportionate to the punishment you received. But if you are patient, it is better for the patient.”  Thus where the central theme of terrorism is intolerance, the counsel of Quran is patience.
  2. Terrorists are indiscriminate in their killing, playing with and ridiculing the sanctity of human life. On the other hand Quran equates illegal killing of ANY individual with killing off the whole humanity; while saving a life is tantamount to saving the human race (Ayah 32, Sura Maida). Also: “The recompense for he who kills a believer deliberately is Gehenna (Hell), he is eternal there. Allah will be angry with him and will curse him and prepare for him a great punishment.” (Ayah 93, Sura An-Nisa). The Islamic law of Qisas is not just for when a Muslim is killed, it holds as much for unjust killing of non-Muslims in a Muslim state.
  3. Terrorists have repeatedly employed suicide-bombers often luring them with promises of “instantaneous admission into Heaven”. The reality is that  suicide is clearly despised according to  several Ahadith (sayings of the Prophet Mohammed Sallalahu Alaihi Wa Alehi Wassallam) with the promise of variously defined punishments in Hell [E.g.: No.s 445, 446, Bukhari Volume 2, Book 23]. In one, a hadith-e-qudsi, Allah says “My slave has caused death on himself hurriedly, so I forbid Paradise for him” [No. 445]. In another, the Prophet warned that “if somebody commits suicide with anything in this world, he will be tortured with that very thing on the Day of Resurrection.” [Bukhari, Volume 8, Book 73, No. 73].

Read Part II here.

Read Part III here.

Possibly related in this blog:

On the Sharia deal in Pakistan