Monday, August 30, 2010

Another Crusade in the Making?

There is an inherent danger on writing on a subject like Islam when you do not know much about its history. But, as somebody whose land and times are directly influenced by Islam, I still must attempt.

As we see Islam today, everywhere it is in conflict with the others – with non-Muslims with whom the Muslims come into contact. An in-depth study of the Islamic history may explain why this happens, but even without doing so, two major reasons can be assumed.

One, an inherent trait of intolerance that is present in all Semitic religions must have found its way into Islam in the times of the Prophet himself. From the very beginning, it has been perceived as a duty of the Muslim to proselytize and bring the others into its fold – even if that necessitated the use of force.

Two, something that happened later, and happened over and again. In the first half of its history, Islam witnessed at least two golden phases, when science and free thinking flourished. But over time, an urge to go back to the ‘roots’ overtook it – urge to go back to its original, pristine form as is perceived to be revealed to the Prophet. Since Muhammad was declared as the last prophet, all later-day evolutions were considered as deviations and corrupt practices and so were to be rejected.

There are also tolerant streams in Islam, spread from Turkey to Indonesia. We see them in the forms of the Sufis, the Pirs and Fakirs. Interestingly, their influence is more in countries in the periphery and away from the centre (the Arab world -- the birth place of Islam). Unfortunately, the voive of the followers of these softer, accommodating versions is muted and they do not determine the future intercourse of Islam with the rest of the world. Also, though the Shias too do not show much inclination towards tolerance and modern democratic practices, they actively do not go into conflict with the rest of the world. But again, they are a minority.

The majority is the Sunnis, and the strident voice we hear all around is that of the fundamentalist. Not only voice, but the clamour of arms. This stream is gaining in strength ieach passing day. There is no place for pluralism or modern democracy in this version of Islam. I am sure this not to be the real path revealed to the Prophet by the All-compassionate and All-merciful Allah – it cannot be. But, unfortunately, that is how things have taken shape over the ages. The voices of compassion and tolerance are throttled. He who thinks differently cannot speak out of fear. Brainwashing is so absolute that the vast majority in the Muslim world believes 9/11 was a conspiracy by the Jews and similarly 26/11 by the Indians. The duty and goal of Muslims have been defined in very clear terms, and that is, to subdue/convert the non-Muslim world outside its folds (and also the minority sects in Islam) into the Islamic faith and to bring the whole world under Islamic rule.

Sounds incredible? Too fantastic? But there are hordes of people, the soldiers of Jihad, who, from their childhood, have been so indoctrinated in such a belief that they totally believe in the possibility, in the inevitability, in the imminence of this happening.

Ironically, the technological advances of the modern times have helped them. These have produced sophisticated weapons that have come in very handy in the hands of these regressive thinker-soldiers.

If we do a bit of crystal-gazing, the future looks very bleak. The Americans, with their myopic views, have treated the war on terror as a war on the US, and are more than happy in the fact that another attack on their own citizen, on their own soil, so far have either not taken place, or been thwarted. In their complacency, or out of fatigue of fighting a clueless war, they are going to desert Afghanistan soon. Taliban is going to come back in Afghanistan and there mentors/brethren to grow stronger in Pakistan, with all the hidden support they enjoy.

The problem with some vocations like prostitution, militancy, etc, is that you cannot come out of them. You are not accustomed to another form of living and even if you are offered another way, you soon reject that and come back to the old way of life. So, the disincentive to do so must be very strong and extremely punitive. That, unfortunately, is not happening in the present world politics.

In case the fundamentalists seize power back in the Af-Pak region, and partly in Iraq, will they sit back peacefully and restrict themselves to activities within their own countries? Hardly so. This will not satisfy their hunger for Jihad. They will start hatching plots of more attacks against the Western/Hindu/Jew/Christian world outside. Their will be more 9/11’s and 26/11’s. This can be said for certain. That will be the second wave of global terrorism.

If by that time, by a stroke of chance, the US gets a leader more courageous, more farsighted, and less oratorical than Obama, we may see a more focused fight against this menace. Even otherwise, fight the world must, for mere survival. Initially the steps will be tottering, the fights small, localized, half-hearted and indecisive. But a time will come when there must be a very decisive fight, to wipe out this evil of fundamentalism.

I can foresee a protracted, world-war like situation, and if I live another thirty years, maybe some of it I’ll see with my own eyes.