Islam and Pluralism
The issue is no longer as inflammable for the Muslim youth who say preventing fresh unrest is more important.
… But 60 years since that suit was filed, and 18 years after the mosque’s demolition, the inflammatory issue seems to have lost some of its fire. Muslims once thought the mosque was a metaphor for Indian secularism and its rebuilding alone could restore their faith in their nation. Today, the debate has little meaning for many among them, or at least the younger generation.
“Me and my Muslim friends may have together discussed this subject once in my entire life,” says Shabbir. “I think it is pointless to shed blood over one mosque when there are so many other mosques around the country. It had anyway been locked for decades before the demolition. What happened was grossly unjust, but we have to move on.”-- Saif Shahin
The political history of the Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid conflict is of recent vintage. However, the legal cases go back to 1885.
What are the key issues involved in the consolidated Ayodhya title suits to be decided by the Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court on September 24? How are the political movements built around the dispute different from the civil suits, the earliest of which dates back to 1885?
While there is much folklore around centuries-long battles fought over the Ramjanmabhoomi and the Babri Masjid, the dispute's violent political history culminating in the destruction of the Babri Masjid is of very recent vintage. On December 6, 1992, the Masjid was brutally brought down by Ram kar sevaks in the presence of a stellar cast of Bharatiya Janata Party leaders, among whom was Lal Krishna Advani. -- Vidya Subrahmaniam & J. Venkatesan
Respected Pastor Terry Jones, I have read your worldwide call for the burning of the Quran on this coming 11th of September. Your message stated that you are a pastor of one of the churches in Florida in the United States of America. As an Arab Catholic priest from Damascus (Syria), I wondered what would be your objective, as an American pastor, for such a call? I wondered, and I ask you: What are your responsibilities as a pastor? Are you really a Christian pastor serving God in a church in America? Or are you merely a layperson from America who is pretending to be in the service of Christ? Did you give in to your nationalism (Americanism) rather than giving in to your Christianity? What is your aim with that call? -- Father Elias Zahlawi (a Syrian Catholic priest)
Urdu columnist Zafar Anwar Shakarpuri regards the trend of Inter-Religious Marriages as an epidemic that has already enveloped metro cities and small towns in India and is now spreading towards villages, as village Muslim girls too are eloping with their Hindu boyfriends. He is extremely alarmed at the trend and seeks God’s blessings in warding off this "evil." New Age Islam is publishing his article in original Urdu along with a translation in English by Arman Neyazi.
The state does not interfere with the beliefs of its citizens and each individual is free to practise his/her faith. What the state has done, instead, is to ensure that no religious community is involved in politics. Politicisation of religion is considered the major threat to the Singapore model of religious pluralism. The state monitors and regulates religious freedom on the realistic assumption that religious harmony cannot be taken for granted. It has to be maintained through a diverse range of government inputs including pre-emptive measures to see to it that social cohesion and harmony are not jeopardised. -- Ishtiaq Ahmed
The thrust of Tariq Ramadan’s presentation was a plea for rethinking fundamental categories in both secular as well as Muslim/Islamic thought. Dwelling on the latter, he argued that ‘reform’ (for which he used the terms islah and ihya) in Muslim/Islamic thought on the question of the religious ‘other’ is an indispensable necessity, although many might balk at this. While the Islamic texts could not be changed or ‘reformed’, what could, he said, were our understandings of them on certain matters. This is because religious understandings are a human product and so can change in response to changing social and historical contexts. Religious traditions, he noted, are a ‘moving reality’ and one’s understanding of one’s tradition is—or should be—also dynamic and open to being transformed with shifts in time and context. -- Yoginder Sikand
… Hailing from this background, as Jammu and Kashmiris do, it seems strange that Pakistan thinks it will succeed in foisting on them leaders like Syed Ali Shah Geelani of Jamaat-e-Islami through the terrorist instrument of Hizbul Mujaheden who says that all Muslims must strive for and live in an Islamic state alone. The octogenarian leader of Kashmir’s separatist movement says: Our goal is azadi baraa-e-Islam (freedom for Islam). Indeed in Geelani's perverse mind, Muslims can only live in an Islamic state. "It's as difficult for a Muslim to live in a non-Muslim society as it is for a fish to live in a desert," he wrote some time ago in his prison memoir Rudad-e-Qaf, thus stirring up a debate on Islam’s compatibility with other faiths.
There are hundreds of millions of Muslims living in non-Muslim majority countries, in peace and prosperity. But Kashmiri leader’s words can only give solace to those in many of these countries who are seeking to foment Islamophobia. Clearly if Muslims cannot co-exist with people of other faiths, then they would want to convert others to their faith or create trouble in some other way. This is clearly absurd and Muslims have no problem co-existing in multi-religious, plural societies. But Pakistan is prepared to go to any extent to extend its borders on either side. It is prepared to have and indeed succeeded for a time in having a Talibani state in its west to give itself what it called strategic depth. It also sees no harm in seeking to create another Talibani society on its east, and hope to control it in some way.
Of course, it doesn’t matter to the strategists in Rawalpindi’s military headquarters what the impact of its support to Talibanism will be on the Muslim world at large or on Kashmiris. It says it supports self-determination for Kashmir. But what about self determination for the Kashmiris under its own occupation ? Or the Baluchis or Pashtoons or Sindhis, for that matter, who all deserve self-determination?
Obviously Pakistan is hardly interested in self-determination for Kashmiris or any other people. This morally bankrupt state is playing another and a very dangerous game. …
Let us hope that at least now the international community comes to realise that rather than helping it in the war on terror, Pakistan’s real agenda is to create Islamist radical states on both its eastern and western flanks. Let us beware that this policy of encouraging Islamic radicalism and exclusivism is also fuelling Islamophobia around the world. As for Kashmiris, it wold be best for them to focus again on their Kashmiriyat, the gift of Sufis and Rishis, the mystics of the land. Kashmir is too diverse, too multicultural, a land, to imagine turning into a Talibanised state. Clearly Kashmiri people on the Indian side of the Line of control have by and large realised this already and turned away from Pakistan-inspired secessionism and Islamic fanaticism. In the last several elections at both state and central level, they participated enthusiastically and have had their own freely elected governments in the state ad representatives in the central cabinet as well. It is this trend that has probably unnerved Pakistani military strategists into restarting support for cross border terrorism after a brief lull. But hey are apparently finding it very difficult now that Kashmiris have had a taste of what lies on the other side of the border. -- Sultan Shahin, editor, New Age Islam, speaking in Geneva at a seminar on self-determination issues in South Asia, in side-event organized by Inter-Faith International during UN Human Rights Council’s June 2010 session.
Examples of the misused Qur'anic verses include, for example: "Let not the Believers take for allies or helpers Unbelievers rather than Believers" (3:28) and "O ye who believe! Take not the Jews and the Christians for your allies. They are but allies to each other. And he amongst you that turns to them [for alliance] is of them" (5:51).These verses should be seen as providing the necessary support for the survival and cohesion of an early vulnerable community of Muslims–the Prophet Muhammad and his followers who arrived as refugees in Medina–in a potentially hostile environment. In other words, the Qur'an was advising a particular community of Muslims in 7th century Arabia to be wary of entering blindly into political alliances. And indeed they were betrayed at that time by some of their Jewish allies. In fact, these verses were revealed in particular because some Muslims, for personal gain, were keen to establish or keep alliances with non-Muslims at the expense of their co-religionists and the newly formed state. These verses therefore were instructing these early Muslims to be self-reliant and to not depend upon others' protection in order to establish a strong, lasting community. -- Maher Y. Abu-Munshar
He added, “It symbolises communal harmony and brotherhood which are the hallmark of the glorious pluralistic ethos of Kashmir.” The chief minister, while reiterating Kashmir was incomplete without pandits, said a multifaceted programme for their return is already in place and that the government has introduced new initiatives to facilitate their return which include earmarking of posts in the government departments and construction of transit accommodation in the towns of Budgam, Mattan and other places. -- Yusuf Jameel
Had Islam not been central to the creation of Pakistan, Zaid Hamid and Hamid Gul would not have been able to invoke it for garnering support for a Muslim caliphate and they would not have been the darlings of our middle and upper class educated youth, we would not have had the Objectives Resolution as a guiding principle of our constitutions, Ziaul Haq would never have been able to pass retrogressive laws against women and minorities, our intelligence agencies and army would not have been suspected of links with the various jaishes and lashkars — not to speak of their well-documented grooming of the Taliban, our public schools would not have been a tool of retrogressive propaganda and we would not have had tens of thousands of religious seminaries, many of which produce violent jihadists. -- Ilyas Akbar Khan
As against power, the Sufis for ages carried on a dialogue with the people of other religious groups, with Jews, Christians, and Hindus in India. While kings and sultans grabbed power causing so much bloodshed, the Sufis followed the Islamic civilisation’s values and pursued the unity of people — Muslims as well as non-Muslims. Ibn Arabi even went to the extent of saying “My Sharia and din is love”.
The Quran also lays emphasis on pluralism. According to the Quran, Allah could have created one people but He created diversity and plurality so that He can test us and it is better to cooperate with each other in good deeds (5:48). Thus, rather than fighting, one should cooperate for good deeds the basis on which all civilisations are built. -- Asghar Ali Engineer
On the front page of Syed Shahabuddin’s weekly The Milli Gazette there was a news item written by its editor Zafarul Islam Khan which I felt should have made headline news of every national daily in all our languages and the top news item of our TV channels. I did not see it appear in any other journal and felt saddened that our media had failed to perform its duty. The article was headlined ‘Sikhs rebuild mosque demolished in 1947’. I give a short summary of its contents. There is a village called Sarwarpur around ten kilometres from Samrala town in Punjab. It had a sizeable Muslim population and a mosque with a dome and minarets. In the communal civil strife which accompanied the partition of Punjab in August 1947 most of the Muslim population fled to Pakistan and the mosque was demolished by rampaging mobs of Hindus and Sikhs. -- Khushwant Singh
The earliest usage of the term dhimma is in the Constitution of Medina. Dating from around 622 CE, it regulates the status of the Jewish clans of Medina (in modern Saudi Arabia) after its conquest by the Prophet Muhammad and states that “The dhimma [the pact guaranteeing security and protection] of God is one”. This implies that all the people of Medina - Jews and Muslims alike - were protected by the new Muslim rulers of the city. The document also acknowledges that Jews and Muslims each have their own religion.
On the whole, the document regulates the status of non-Muslims quite vaguely but in a spirit of equality. As such, it echoes the sura (chapters) in the Qur’an in which reference is made to the status of non-Muslims. These sura are also imprecise and general in formulation, though there is one sura which later became the basis for the legal regulation of the status of non-Muslims. According to sura 9:29, Muslims should fight the People of the Book until they willingly pay a special tax (jizya). -- Nushin Arbabzadah
Dargah Naugazi, an impressive grave 18 yards (16.2 metres) long, named after a pir (saint) called Nuh Aleihi Salaam, is located in a narrow lane. Interestingly, Nuh is believed to be Noah and the grave the famous Ark. Another interpretation is that the mound perhaps was built over the remains of the Ark. The shrine, visited by scores of devotees, has no independent custodian. Ram Milan, a devotee who makes an offering every day, says that for him the dargah is no less than a temple. He experiences a lot of mental peace when he visits the dargah. Ram Milan, like most of Ayodhya's residents, is not interested in the background of the pir. And like the rest, he is not the kind who would willingly desecrate a place of worship. -- T.K. Rajalakshmi
Photo: Dargah of Sheesh Paigambar
The Prophet was keen on establishing relations based on respect, equality and justice with non-Muslims, and recommended that they be treated well. He said: "He who hurts [non-Muslims] is my enemy until Judgment Day" and "He who killed a person under a treaty shall never go to heaven." This respect is also reinforced in the hadith (sayings and actions of the Prophet Muhammad) by the Prophet's companion Jaber Ibn Abdellah: "A funeral passed by, and the Prophet stood up in respect. We said to him, 'It is a Jewish man's funeral.' He said: 'If you see a funeral, you shall stand up. Is it not a soul?'" -- Hind Al-Subai Al-Idrisi