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Islam and Tolerance (15 Jul 2016 NewAgeIslam.Com)

Death of Debate: Unfortunate That Intolerance Is Considered A Characteristic That the Holy Quran Teaches

By Durdana Najam

July 15, 2016

Islam and intolerance do not go together. Using them together would, however, cast light on the general attitude Muslims have adopted to defend Islam and its integrity. Muslims never tire of saying that Islam preaches tolerance. They even never tire of talking about creating positivity, a clichéd phrase used to defend one’s position and thwart others’ point of view.

During Ramadan, in one of my WhatsApp group, a discussion ensued about Ahmadis in the wake of Hamza Ali Abbasi’s removal from national television, and the subsequent battering of the Ahmadis by mullahs (clergy) representing Islam on different TV channels. A fellow group member defended Ahmadis saying that even if they represent a minority, there should be room to keep the discussion open on issues related to Islam and minorities. Immediately, three groups were formed: one that supported the argument; second that opposed the argument; and third that swerved to either group depending which one gained an upper hand during the discussion.

Interestingly, the outfit defending the exclusion of Ahmadis from the folds of Islam drew out not only the symbolic daggers from the books of history but gnawed at the other with scathing remarks. It had very quickly become a war between the religious and the liberal. Not once did the so-called liberals in the group use the word extremism or “Islamism” to put the opponent on the mat. The word “liberal,” however, was used ad nauseam as a taunt and accusation for those defending the debate surrounding the Ahmadis.

Once formed, this division refused to leave the group, with the result that every other day a fight would erupt between the “defenders” of Islam and the liberals for no other reason than the scathing remark laid at the liberals for whatever they posted in the group. Personal grievances too surfaced, and anyone with a slightest of liberal viewpoint was hacked. Virtually.

One fine evening a fight broke out when a group member, who works in a government organisation, scolded and abused the Urdu-speaking people of Karachi. A veteran journalist from Karachi who knew the pulse of Karachi’s ethnicity mix and its combustion point locked horns with the abuser. But the latter refused to budge. He abused anyone coming his way. Ironically, a few days ago this same person was supporting the finality of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and trashing Ahmadis.

 It boggles one’s mind seeing Muslims separating the persona of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) from his teachings. Even if the necessity of “negating” Ahmadis becomes important, why should the ability to listen to a different point of view with patience and restraining oneself from overshadowing others’ ideology diminish? Can we not maintain individuality without getting into an enmity mode, especially when the argument surrounds religion?

Subsequently, the entire discourse in the group was hijacked by the religious ones; one because many group members with secular liberal ideology left, two, for lack of tolerance every argument would end in accusations surrounding Islam and its self-styled interpretations.

What conclusion does one draw from this debate, which is a reflection of the larger picture we see in society? The stories of the victims of the blasphemy law are one example. Not only is this law misused, which in other words mean we abuse religion when it suits us, but we also indulge in overreaction and take the law into our hand.

 The murder of Salmaan Taseer, the governor of Punjab, was instigated at a private level. The cleric whose sermon inspired the murderer, Mumtaz Qadri, to take Taseer’s life was so blinded by the mere imagery woven around Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) — whose teachings guided Muslims to be at a level where wisdom takes a central role especially for a religious scholar — was thrown to ignorance. Our entire religious discourse revolves around worshiping the name of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) rather than following in his footprints. The whole life of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was an epitome of tolerance, and that too with everyone including the non-believers. Not everyone embraced Islam neither was it required of the scheme of God when Islam was revealed.

It was presented to all and sundry and those convinced followed suit. Swords were raised against those who tried to revert the followers of Muhammad (PBUH) from what was said to be the correct path. Medina was full of hypocrites, and their names were revealed to the prophet, but he never exposed them or had them killed. How could we kill people on mere assumptions?

Ahmadis believe that they have been wrongly designated a non-Muslim minority in Pakistan. Any community would consider itself a victim in the face of such a decision. It is the right of Ahmadis to work on changing the narrative built against them. When debates are stymied, and free speech is restricted to the chosen few the right to influence narrative is exercised by creating a forced space in the public sphere, which at times also brings in myopic and extremist viewpoints. When each group is trying to prove the other wrong, while one group has state’s patronage to take the law into its hands, the result would always be an intolerant and prejudiced society. It is this mosaic that is referred to as a polarised public opinion.

It is a pity that Islam and Muslims are viewed differently today. It is even more unfortunate that intolerance is considered a characteristic that the Holy Quran teaches. From Nigeria to Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, the fire of sectarianism and religious bigotry has provided space to an element like the Islamic State to portray Islam as a religion of intolerance. The division in my WhatsApp group is the reflection of prejudice the country adopts in practising Islam.

Islam and intolerance do not go together, but the ways of the Muslims have made them look like one. Would Pakistan, being the Islamic Republic, take into consideration this trend, and give space to the dissenting voice, and tolerate what is not ideologically Pakistani in its self-defined sphere?

Durdana Najam is a journalist.

Source: dailytimes.com.pk/opinion/15-Jul-16/death-of-debate

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islam-and-tolerance/durdana-najam/death-of-debate--unfortunate-that-intolerance-is-considered-a-characteristic-that-the-holy-quran-teaches/d/107968


  • We must blame our ulema for making Islam a religion of intolerance. In fact the Quran as well as the example of the Prophet clearly define Islam as exactly the opposite, that is as a religion of tolerance, respect for the faiths of others, peaceful co-existence and universal brotherhood.

    By Ghulam Mohiyuddin - 7/15/2016 2:29:24 PM

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