Monday, July 09, 2007

Muslims: From passionate lovers to 'persecuted' lot

Just when UK police had arrested Muslim professionals on suspicion of involvement in terror plot, a medieval Muslim emperor's monument of love was chosen as one of the seven wonders of the world.

Shahjehan's gift to the world, Taj Mahal, is the greatest celebration of love in human history.

It's something that makes a Muslim feel proud. But when young Muslim professionals turn radical, it must send the community in introspective mode.

Of course, it is just a couple of Indian Muslims who have been caught, and though charges are yet to be proved, but the fact is that we can't ignore this trend. Also, we need to get out of persecution complex and get introspective.

The world is worried. Why young, educated Muslims who have apparently everything going for them, are so overcome with rage that they not only put their lives at stake but also bring ignominy for their family (and qaum) for life.

It hurts to see the elderly parents of Kafeel in the twilight of their life, facing the tough questions, and social disgrace. Why can't they get passionate about some other thing--love, literature or learning. I remember six to seven years ago, during an informal chat, a friend said that Muslim men are the greatest lovers and the most sensitive ones.

I was quite surprised to hear the statement.

The friend said that all great lovers in history have been Muslims: Laila Majnu, Shirin Farhad, Heer Ranjha, Sohni Mahiwal, Sassi Punno, Salim Anarkali, Azra Wamiq, Shahjehan Mumtaz or so many others. But where are such lovers today?

I keep telling myself that it is a temporary phase. The LTTE that perfected the art of modern suicide bombings and has conducted nearly 173 such strikes, the highest in modern history, is not Muslim, and has targeted people and shrines in a predominantly Buddhist country. Its cadre comes mostly from Hindus. So is it Hindu terrorism?

Or Basque and Irish militants, Christian terrorists? There have been terror outfits belonging to other religions and sub-sects. It is equally true though that LTTE doesn't wear its religion on its sleeve. On the other hand it is also true that Muslims are readily branded as terrorists.

Yes, the geopolitics of the contemporary world and the targeting of Muslim nations for decades by US-UK along with the issue of Palestine, have led to a sense of persecution amongst Muslims but still this doesn't justify the madness we see in Iraq. Shrines are being bombed and hundreds in killed in fidayeen attacks.

Muslims feel angry when Islam is associated with fundamentalism and terror. They do feel that why the death of millions of innocents in Iraq fails to shake the world. But the fact is that everybody has grievances and we must understand that the world doesn't exactly feel the way Muslims feel. And this sense of perpetual persecution would not lead the community anywhere.

Why we don't get to hear good news from Muslim nations? Fifty years ago there was hope that countries like Egypt, Turkey and Pakistan, could emerge as modern Islamic nations. But the entire Muslim world has failed to establish even a single university that could have attracted the students from West. In Egypt, a teenaged blogger is arrested just because he wrote a post against government. Isn't it ridiculous!

Surely the Muslim world is in a state of transition. Agreed, monarchies of middle-east have deprived their citizens of their democratic rights and these kings were put in place by the vested interests of Western nations in the aftermath of Second World War. Islam doesn't have institutionalised clergy but exactly the opposite is happening.

A prestigious seminary in North India says co-education is un-Islamic (India), Don't they have a better thing to say? And another seminary in neighbouring country lets the girl students do moral policing. While a teenaged girl is shot in Afghanistan for attending a school. All such depressing news reports coming in just a week. We don't have a progressive leadership, and also there is no statesmen emerging out of Muslim world.

Is there any such political leader or personality that commands respect across the Muslim world? Someone who could put sense in the head of the fighting Shias, Sunnis in Iraq or the Fatah and Hamas cadres. (Of course, ordinary Muslims have begun speaking up, loudly, especially in Europe and America and that's a healthy sign).

There were hopes from Malaysian Mahathir Muhammad that he could be a statesman, the kind of which we need in today's world. My rant is getting longer and longer though I wish to write on another issue: the syndrome of judging your fellow co-religionists' 'purity of faith' apart from judging people on sectarian and religious scale. But that's for later.

Meer Ali Muttaqi had told his son 'betaa ishq karo, yahi jilaata hai aur yahi jalaataa hai' (My son, do fall in love). And the teenaged son Mir Taqi Meer became one of the greatest bards of the world in eighteenth century.

Ishq-e-Majazi (love for God's creation, human beauty that evokes love) or Ishq-e-Haqiqi (real love or love for God). Whatever. But there can't be any path to God that passes through violence, killings and destruction.

* [Though it was not a UNESCO-sponsored exercise, still 100 million votes do matter.]