Since the late 70s, Islam and Muslims have occupied the public and intellectual discourse worldwide. While Muslims regard their faith as a panacea for all problems, others consider Islam a source of all evil. Who are the others, and why do Muslims feel Islam offers hope for the future?
Five influential groups are active against Islam and Muslims in one or the other way. They are Right-wing evangelists, Israeli Zionists, liberal intellectuals, Hindu nationalists, and Chinese communists. The number of people associated with these groups is over 2 billion, nearly one-third of the world population. Each has constructed its narrative against Islam and Muslims.
Right-wing Christians identify Islam as anti-Christ. They await the establishment of the Kingdom of God under the leadership of Jesus after the destruction of all other existing faiths. To them, Islam is from Lucifer, its Prophet was false, and its scriptures were the outcome of wrong reading of the Bible.
Israeli Zionists see Islam as a threat to their survival. In their view, Muslims would never accept the state of Israel as a legitimate entity and would continue to denounce its existence. Their presence in the West is a source of anti-Semitism, and without marginalizing them, Israel would live in a state of uncertainty.
Liberal intellectuals are allergic to a living faith. They can accept a dormant and passive faith. Since Muslims claim that their religion offers hope for the future, they fear a totalitarian society with little freedom and despotic rules.
Hindu nationalists regard Muslims as an enemy of India and view Islam as a brutal ideology that challenges the thousands-of-year-old ethos and norms of Hindus. They blame Islam for changing the demographic profile of India by luring millions of the so-called lower caste people to their egalitarian concept of society. They have developed a narrative that describes Muslims as wild, violent hedonists, iconoclasts who destroyed their temples, killed their priestly class, and raped their women.
The Chinese communists see Muslims as the only religious group intending to keep its religious identity in a nation that does not believe in religion. In their view, Islam is the major obstacle in creating a homogenous subdued communist society with all powers in the hands of party officials.
Sometimes these groups alight with each other, and sometimes, they go individually against Islam and Muslims. For instance, Hindu nationalists have developed strong ties with white supremacist-led Christian evangelicals and Israeli Zionists. While Chinese communists and liberal intellectuals often act individually.
The attacks launched by these five groups are intense, and despite the rhetoric, the Muslim response is weak and ineffective. Muslims are divided, and the internal conflicts are so fierce that they are willing to kill each other, even in the slightest differences of opinion. The Shia-Sunni discord, internal factional differences, and ethnic and linguistic differences make Islam irrelevant to their claim that their God-revealed religion offers a solution to all the world’s problems. How can a faith offer hope when it cannot motivate its adherents to follow divine guidance in solving their internal problems?
The Muslim society cannot claim that it has overcome racism, exploitation, deception, lust, greed, misleading others, and a sense of supremacy. Like any other nation, one can find rampant corruption and hypocrisy in its leaders and adherents.
One of the main difficulties in agreeing on a shared understanding of Islam is its religious literature comprising questionable narrations wrongly attributed to Prophet Muhammad and the illogical interpretation of the Quran, the primary source of guidance to Muslims.
For instance, the issue of the age of Ayesha to Prophet Muhammad is part of Muslim literature, suggesting that the 53-year-old God’s messenger married a six-year-old baby. Not many scholars of the past critically examined the story and looked at it from the perspective of divine guidance that says that girls must be mature and consent before marriage. Similarly, Muslim theologians have ignored their relevance, timing, and situation in interpreting many Quranic verses. For instance, the verses regarding slavery are seen as a justification of the institution, while the divine writ is about its total abolition.
Additionally, Muslims have focussed on symbolic Islamic identities such as hijab, beard, and hand-slaughtered animals while ignoring the cardinal divine principle of serving humanity and helping the marginalized in a just society.
Growing a beard, wearing a hijab, or eating zabeeha (hand-slaughtered meat) does not help the weaker and neglected population regain its stolen identity. A community that fails to serve humanity cannot effectively face an onslaught against its interests.
If Muslims want to deal with these antagonistic groups, they must change their thinking style and realize that they are not the only religious community that shares the planet earth in a plural world. If they believe their faith has a divine origin, they must prove it in their character by respecting all creations and proving that they care for every soul. Unfortunately, the current Muslim leadership, religious and political, cannot motivate Muslims for this task as they are the source of corruption in faith. Muslim individuals have to take responsibility of playing a constructive role in society by cooperating with what is good and avoiding what is wrong.