Asghar Ali Engineer
(Secular Perspective, October 16-31, 2001)
Osama Bin Laden allegedly organised attack on World Trade Centre in New York and on Pentagon and the President Bush is bombing Afghanistan if not to win, at least to vindicate his and his nations honour. Prof. Huntington may not be right about his hypothesis of clash of civilisation but here at least there is clash of terror. What Osama and his network al-Qaeeda allegedly did to America Mr. Bush is doing much more in retaliation. Not only to them but also to whole country which has not only given refuge to him but is also protecting him which is of course an unpardonable sin in the eyes of President Bush.
President Bushs rage knows no limits. We are in know of medieval doctrine eye for an eye and nose for a nose. And Mahatma Gandhi, an apostle of peace and non-violence had said that if every one wants an eye for eye the world would be full of blind people. But Mr. Bush wants not only an eye for eye but many more human corpses. And this is happening at the very outset of the twenty-first century. The question arises is our claim to civilisation, western or eastern justified? Is it clashing of civilisations or clash of terrors? The Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi even went on to say that the attack on World Trade Centre in New York has proved that the Western civilisation is superior and that Islam has failed to come to terms with modernity.
The problem is, there is high degree of prejudice among western rulers as well as academics against Islam. It is not an academic like Huntington alone or politician like the Italian Prime Minister who hold such views. The kind of applaud Huntingtons dubious hypothesis like clash of civilasations got in the western world shows widespread prejudice against Islam in the western world since the period of crusades. Even Mr. Bush used the word crusade when talking of revenge against the Ladens act of terror. The otherwise sober British weekly The Economist quotes Huntington with approval in its issue of September 22-28.
The image of jihad, of violence, of fanaticism, has stuck to not only Muslims but also to Islam. The most powerful media of the world, which is partly controlled by Zionists keeps on projecting this image of Islam and Muslims. This debate has been further invigorated now due to these terrorist attacks on New York towers. One RSS man wrote to me that Muslim mullas keep on inciting Muslims on jihad. Do Hindu priests incite anyone to fight. I do not wish to enter into argument with that friend here but would only like to draw his and others attention to a very significant fatwa issued by a panel of very prominent Islamic scholars headed by Allama Yusuf Qardawi justifying war against terrorism.
Yusuf Qardawi, needless to say, is highly respected Arab scholar who is also respected world wide, particularly in the Middle East. He is the leading Islamic jurist (faqih) whose voice is heard with great respect. It is also important to note that this fatwa has been issued in response to a question by Abdul Rashid Muhammad who is a Muslim chaplain in the US Army. Today there are hundreds of Muslims in the US Army and the US Government had to appoint a Muslim chaplain to cater to religious and spiritual needs of these Muslim soldiers.
These soldiers might have been ill at ease in fighting the war in Afghanistan against their co-religionists and hence the question. The fatwa originally issued in Arabic has been translated in English also. This fatwa also assumes greater importance as Yusuf Qardawi is not known to be pro-American in his views. He is quite an independent person who is not even patronised by any Arab Government. The fatwa says, We find it necessary to apprehend the true perpetrators of these crimes, as well as those who aid and abet them through incitement, financing or other support.
The fatwa further continues, They must be brought to justice in an impartial court of law and punish them appropriately, so that it could act as deterrent to them and to others like them who easily slay the lives of innocents and destroy properties and terrorise people. Hence it is duty of all Muslims to participate in this effort with all possible means. The fatwa also says, that all Muslims ought to be united against all those who terrorise innocents. It also notes that the US military action may also result in the death of innocent people but the Muslim soldiers, according to this fatwa must perform their duty despite their feeling of unease. (See Asian Age, 13th October)
Thus let alone entire Muslim community even all Islamic jurists and `ulama are not united in their approach to this highly controversial problem. But here our academics and politicians homogenise entire community and label them with jihadi mentality and fanaticism. I would also like to emphasise that in this complex world religion is but one factor as far as human behaviour is concerned.
Various factors, particularly human interests play more cardinal role in determining human behaviour than religious beliefs or even political ideologies. It should be noted that not a single Muslim country, except Iraq (for understandable reasons) has supported Afghanistan, in its clash with the USA. Even the OIC countries who take up issues pertaining to Muslim countries have not condemned USA for its attack on Afghanistan although they have urged America to have a fresh look at its policies in the Middle East, particularly towards Palestine. Even Pakistan, the creator of the Taliban regime, ultimately decided to throw its fate with the United States as its political and financial interests lay in that course of action.
Let alone the entire Islamic world even Afghans are not united in their response to the acts of terrorism and the American invasion. It is well known that the Northern Alliance has thrown its lot with America and is actively helping it by launching operations against the Taliban. The Taliban mainly represent only the Pushtun ethnicity, which constitutes just 37 per cent of the Afghan population. The Tajiks, the Hazaras, the Uzbeks and others together constitute majority of Afghans and these ethnic groups are opposed to Talibans and are fighting against each other. Not only this. There are liberal among the Pushtuns who are also vigorously opposed to the fanatical approach of Talibans. I would say even Talibans approach is more strategic than fanatical. Perhaps for them religious fanaticism is the only desparate way of keeping their followers united under their political banner. Thus it is clear that it is not religion alone which is the final determinant one's course of action.
I too hold that terrorism must be stringently fought and punished but not by declaring war against any country. It is equally brutal to punish another set of innocent people. Moreover Afghanistan is no match for American power. America is lowering its own position by taking on an impoverished country like Afghanistan. The Soviet invasion, the civil war and all that has hardly left anything worth fighting against.
If we live in the 21st century and really respect democracy, freedom and human rights we have to promote culture of peace. The US always maintains that these Muslims cannot tolerate our freedom and democracy. But question is, apart from veracity of this approach, is US itself promoting freedom and democracy outside its own country? Who does not love freedom and democracy the Muslim masses or the rulers America supports? US even lifted all democratic bans imposed on Pakistan when General Musharraf had captured power just because it needed Pakistans help in its fight against terrorism. Is it the way to promote freedom and democracy in the world?
Also, the way it attacked Afghanistan violates all norms of democracy and rule of law as well as international behaviour. War against terrorism could have been more effectively fought by winning over peoples of Muslim countries, by persuading them to isolate likes of Osama, boycott them and create a strong public opinion against such highly condemnable acts of terrorism. It could have launched intensive propaganda on these lines. All Muslims are far from unanimous about accepting such terrorist acts as jihad. The moderates are staunchly opposed to even the need for jihad (in the sense of war, though the holy Quran does not use the word jihad for war) in the modern world, let alone condoning individual acts of terrorism as jihad.
The US would have enhanced its appeal by following the path of peace, democracy and international law. It would have not only won tremendous and unqualified sympathy of Muslims throughout the world, it would have greatly served the cause of peace and culture of peace. By declaring war against a weak and impoverished country like Afghanistan it has not only lowered its own dignity it has alienated itself from moderate Muslims. No one would approve if one uses sledge- hammer to kill a fly.
The declaration of war and raining of bombs will not ensure any success against terrorism. It might not only defeat the purpose but would also perhaps spread more terror, particularly against America. Simply dropping food packets along with bombs will hardly ensure any support for it much less endearing it to the people. Also, America can greatly help in promoting culture of peace in twenty-first century by thoroughly revising its policies and shedding its arrogance of power.
It is regrettable that America, which prides itself for values like freedom, democracy and human rights, has killed largest number of innocent people around the world after Second World War. Such behaviour naturally breeds terrorism in certain sections of population. Terrorism can never be fought with terrorism. This violence torn world needs more peace than ever before. America talks of freedom and democracy but freedom and democracy can flourish only if there is peace and justice in the whole world.
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