Muslim societies must come up with more effective measures to fight the scourge of extremism
By Aijaz Zaka Syed
Relatives carry the casket of a victim, who was killed in a bomb blast, for the funeral in Quetta May 23, 2013. The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the bomb that killed 11 security personnel and two civilians in the city of Quetta. Sixteen people were wounded in the attack in the capital of Baluchistan province, and the death toll could rise, police said.
Some of my Pakistani friends had been offended when some time ago in an emotional piece I had the temerity to suggest that some of the greatest crimes against Islam and its followers have been committed in the land that was earned in the name of the faith. It was a situation of, in Parveen Shakirâ€™s words, â€œBaat toe sach hai magar baat hai ruswai kiâ€ (although this is the truth, itâ€™s not good for our reputation).
Aijaz Zaka Syed
With the twin terror strikes in Pakistan this week, another senseless, totally absurd atrocity has been added to the long roll of crimes perpetrated in the name of Islam against the Muslims by fellow Muslims.
At least 25 people, including 14 female university students, four nurses, a medical officer and the deputy commissioner of Quetta, were killed on Saturday when a bomb tore through a bus, followed by a suicide attack and a bloody gun battle in the Bolan Medical College hospital, where the injured students were taken for treatment. The authorities reveal that the first attack targeting the students of the regionâ€™s only all-women university was carried out by a female suicide bomber and has proudly been claimed by the banned Lashkar-i-Jhangvi,.
The Quetta terror strike was apparently aimed at strengthening the hands of Pakistanâ€™s new leader, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who has gone against the established traditions to confront the United States and his own Army, warning in no uncertain terms that the dance of death in Pakistanâ€™s skies must end.
With all those Lashkars, Jaishes and defenders of faith though, Pakistan hardly needs the services of Uncle Sam or assorted Indian and Zionist conspirators and saboteurs. Of course, this isnâ€™t the first such attack and, rest assured, it will not be the last one. This conflict has already claimed more than 48,000 lives in the past few years, suggests a report by South Asia Terrorism Portal and Institute for Conflict Management.
In the past few years Pakistan has witnessed so much of mindless violence and splurging of innocent blood in its streets, mosques, schools and hospitals that the issue now evokes little more than helpless resignation and revulsion. After a point, death becomes a dull, daily routine and lost lives mere statistics.
But indifference and aversion cannot wish away this menace, this deep sickness that has crept into Muslim lands in the past few years. Convenient and convoluted interpretations and spin cannot treat this deadly disease.
What sort of people send a young woman to blow herself up with other totally innocent, unsuspecting fellow women on the way to college with stars and dreams in their eyes? What kind of religion do they believe in and where and how they came up with this morbid, sick interpretation of the faith? No religion sanctions killing of innocent people, especially women and children, least of all Islam. The faith I know and believe in along with more than 1.6 billion people sternly warns its followers against targeting of innocents including animals and plants even during a conflict.
What kind of holy war is this that drives people to turn on fellow believers and what divine goals do these holy warriors hope to achieve? Do they really think God will reward them for snuffing out the beautiful lives that He created? Would He shower His blessings on them for spilling the blood and guts of His children in the prime of life? Can there be a greater atrocity and outrage against the faith that so many believers led by the Prophet himself, peace be upon him, sacrificed so much to spread and strengthen?
Islam was sent down as a blessing for the whole of humanity, demolishing all false distinctions of birth, colour, gender and social status. Who would have thought that Muslims would be killed for believing in it by fellow Muslims? According to a much quoted Hadith, the Prophet is said to have warned of a period when his followers notwithstanding their extraordinary numbers would find themselves under siege everywhere. Who would have known that the Muslims would end up their own worst enemies and of their own kind?
And this isnâ€™t a problem that is confined to Pakistan. From the killing fields of Afghanistan, Iraq and Yemen to the battlefronts of Syria, Lebanon and Turkey, it is the same sickening story of the faithful being slaughtered at the hands of fellow travellers.
Groups like Al-Qaeda and Tahreek-i-Taliban that seemingly came into being to avenge the Western crimes and injustices against the faithful have killed more of their own people–an infinite number moreâ€”than their intended enemy. Indeed, more believers have died at the hands of their brethren than all the recent Western wars put together may have.
Remember the decade-long disastrous war between Iran and Iraq at the turn of the last century? Millions perished in the pointless clash, not to mention the mutual destruction of the two oil-producing nations under the benign gaze of the West and the rest. In Syria, what began as a peopleâ€™s uprising against the long night of the Bathist tyranny has turned into a bitter, endless civil war claiming nearly 100,000 lives.
Clearly, we have a serious problem in our midst and the sooner we confronted it the better for everyone. We can go on deluding ourselves that all is well and that this is all part of a grand conspiracy to malign Islam and Muslims and do nothing. We can stand and stare while the world around us unravels and more and more impressionable minds are claimed by violent extremism with fingers inevitably being pointed at our faith.
Alternately, we could start fighting back confronting the dark forces in our midst. The enemy within now threatens our very identity and the sweet name of the faith that continues to conquer hearts and minds against all odds. This is the only way forward if we believe in Islamâ€™s humane teachings and care for the future of our succeeding generations.
This is not a tiny fringe that we confront anymore. What we are staring at is an extraordinary ideological and existential challenge, the kind Muslim societies have never encountered in their eventful history. This calls for an equally extraordinary response from governments, Muslim scholars, intellectuals and everyone who is concerned over this mayhem and murder in our name. Mere condemnations and denouncements from the pulpit will not do. It is time for more effective measures to fight the scourge and present the real face and spirit of Islam–not just before the world but for the sake of our own. This is the real jihad right now.
â€¢ Aijaz Zaka Syed is a commentator on the Middle East and South Asian affairs. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org