Sunday, September 05, 2004

The Shadowed Koran

In his mammoth work 'In the shadow of the Koran', Sayyid Qutb developed a theme of jihadist action, essentially protesting the seperation of state and religion in modern societies, that has become the cancer of the Muslim world. Rogue (terrorist) cells) are eating away at the very bases of the Muslim faith and the Immans and leaders seem incapable of affecting either a cure or a non-regressive treatment. Many have seemed to espouse this concept and echo sentiments of hatred and vitriol themselves, an easy pathway to ego-driven politicised power.

Compare for a moment two other major religious institutions in the modern world. The one, the Roman Catholic Christian institution and the other the Bhuddist tradition of Tibet..

In the last decade we have seen the cancer of child abuse discredit those in authority within the Roman Catholic Church, to such an extent that it is inconceivably difficult to even persuade young men to becomepriests. Almost weekly we read of yet new abuse accusations within this institution on a world wide basis.This 'cancer' has eroded the moral authority of this institution and has revealed itself in dramatically falling attendances and finances in Catholic churches. Furthermore, the authority once wielded by this financially powerful institution has suffered irreperable damage, mortal damage, not because of the actions of a few perverted priests but because of the 'sins of ommission and commission' by those in a superior position whose moral,ethical and religious standing should have been such as to commend 'their faith' to the public. The opposite has occurred, for such was their own lack of these qualities that society,in general, has overtaken them in it's standards. Their opinions, dictates and instructions have lost all authority for their standards did not measure up to the standards of those outside this 'kabal'.

China occupied Tibet. During the initial period of 'transition' it was decided to remove 'the opium' of 'religion' from the people of Tibet and free them into a philosophy of communist restrictions instead.Monastries were destroyed, horrific brutalising acts were forced upon peace-loving, non-violent monks and religious students. The whole apparatus of religious rituals was effectively removed from the public's legal participation. The then leader of Tibet's Bhuddists, the 14th Dalai Lama speaks only of bringing Love, Compassion and Understanding. As far as I am aware he has never spoken with hatred or anger against the communists who caused such mayhem in his own country. As a result of his actions, the Bhuddist faith has grown in respect throughout the world. This singer sang a loving song.

Compare also the methology by which 350 million Indians 'escorted' a dominant imperialist power out of it's country. I am with Ghandi when he said 'an eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind'. I am also with him when he said' I am Muslim, Hindu,Christian, Jew, Bhuddist'. To those who truly know the supremacy of the One God's lovingness, there are only dialects of faith in the One God. Dialects, naturally, owe their existence to regional cultural causes and traditions.

The totality of horror that is Beslan marks, in my opinion, the crucial 'litmus test' for the Faith of Islam. The noble insights of The Prophet Mohammed are in serious danger of being substituted, hijacked, held hostage, by an extreme ' jihadist terrorist' dialect that is - in effect - re-writing the Koran in the minds of muslim youth!

Where, in Beslan, did we see the Prophet Mohammed's injunctions against harming non-combatants honoured? Where, in Beslan, did we see the Muslim concepts of tolerance, of compassion of 'brotherly love'? I have personally been the grateful recipient of many expressions of these concepts throughout my life. Though not strictly a 'muslim' I have always been afforded respect for my 'faith' and treated with kindness and consideration by almost every single muslim with whom I have become acquainted. It has been my life experience (and I'm almost 60) that, though often misunderstood and misinterpreted by others, the muslims with whom I have had contact are decent, moral, ethical and highly family-motivated people.When I visited the oldest mosque in New Delhi, for the purpose of prayer and meditation (even if not with a muslim dialect), I was greeted as a 'prince' and escorted around this wonderful testament of faith by one of the top leaders whose graciousness and tolerance were a testimony to his faith. I came as an ordinary westerner and was afforded gracious (traditional) hospitality. I made this visit to show 'solidarity of faith' following the 9/11 tragedy. I felt it important to make my own personal statement that I did not hold all Muslims responsible for the actions of a disinformed few who represented religious extremity.

Which of these mainstream muslims cannot cry tears of shame in their heart when they see terrorists claiming Islamic authority for actions such as Beslan? How is it possible that a faith so deeply characterised by it's sense of family values could possibly condone such an atrocity against children?

Of course, we can argue political points. We can argue aspects of materialism. We can argue that wrongs have been done to many peoples, humiliations, atrocities, 'state sponsored terrorism', we can go on ad infinitum. But these arguments are secular, are of this world and not the higher world of spiritual realities.When children are abused, or slaughtered like animals, in the name of any 'religious justification' or with religious-instutionalised apathy, that religion mortally wounds itself! See Gujarat. See the film 'The Mission'. See the decline of the Catholic Church, even in Ireland! Have the actions of the State of Israelrecommended the Jewish faith to the world? "With God on our side" has been the call of many a politician in this last century, and the call has so often resulted in war. Does that recommend the 'God' they claim? Do we really think that the One God of supreme lovingness solves problems the way that we do???

I cannot bring myself to believe that the ordinary, decent, family-loving muslims that I have known in my lifecan feel anything but distress at actions like World Trade Centre and Beslan. How long before the grim and horrific shadow of Beslan, if unanswered, takes the form of disaffection with their faith? As, in the same way, the black shadow of paedophile abuse within the Catholic church has created mass dissafection when the answers were inadequate.

When the standards of religious institutions fall below the accepted norms of reasonable and humane behaviour in modern societies, the institution loses respect, loses authority, loses!

Thankfully the watershed of Beslan is beginning to create a wave of revulsion that is already stirring the academics, intelligensia, and religious leaders, of Islam into action. David Smith, writing in the English newspaper 'The Observer' (5th Sept 2004) reports as follows:

"While some Islamic fundamentalists in the Middle East have long supported fellow Muslims fighting in Chechnya, such was the barbarity of the hostage takers that few voices spoke in support of the actions in Ossetia. Egypt's leading Muslim cleric, Grand Sheik Mohammed Sayed Tantawi, was quoted as saying during a Friday sermon: 'What is the guilt of those children? Why should they be responsible for your conflict with the government? You are taking Islam as a cover and it is a deceptive cover; those who carry out the kidnappings are criminals, not Muslims.'
......and again:
"Even the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's biggest Islamic group, condemned the bloody siege in Beslan. Its leader, Mohammed Mahdi Akef, said that kidnappings may be justified but killings are not. He added: 'What happened is not jihad [holy war] because Islam obligates us to respect the souls of human beings; it is not about taking them away.'
.......and again:
"Abdulrahman al-Rashed wrote an article in the pan-Arab Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper under the headline: 'The Painful Truth: All World Terrorists are Muslims!' Al-Rashed said that Muslims will not be able to cleanse their image unless 'we admit the scandalous facts... Our terrorist sons are an end-product of our corrupted culture. The picture is humiliating, painful and harsh for all of us.'
His extraordinary critique was echoed by Ahmed Bahgat, an Egyptian Islamist. Writing in the pro-government newspaper, Al-Ahram , he said hostage-takers in Russia and Iraq are only harming Islam. 'If all the enemies of Islam united and decided to harm it... they wouldn't have ruined and harmed its image as much as the sons of Islam have done by their stupidity, miscalculations and misunderstanding.' Horrifying images of the dead and wounded students 'showed Muslims as monsters who are fed by the blood of children and the pain of their families'.

These are not my words, but the words of influential Muslims.

There is much that is beautiful, there is much that is loving, there is much that can still promote harmony, peace and a recognition of our inter-dependence within all the major religions. The Muslim faith is no exception to this. Yet all the major faiths, if not very careful, can fall into a politicised darkness of self-justification for actions that are far from the lovingness of the One God.

Any faith that speaks of the lovingness of the One God of us all, any faith that promotes love in place of hate, any faith that expresses meaningful, action-filled compassion in place of bigotry and callousness... any such faith is worthy of respect in this modern, fragmented and often puzzling world.

How can we not all be children of the One God? Do we really think that this all-powerful, all-loving God needs our self-righteous hate-filled actions in order to solve problems? Or is it just remotely possible that it is the differing beauty of our `'religion dialects', when united in harmonious chorus together, that sing the most beautiful song of thankfulness for the One God's lovingness?
We should all be martyrs for Love rather than messengers of hate.

Beware, Islam. The dark, black, lovingless void of the horror of Beslan is casting a shadow of destructive darkness over the beauty and brightness of your light.

In the humility of love I beg you, speak out now. Let the oftentimes silent voice of the muslim majority - decent, caring, tolerant - speak out now against the deepening of this shadow. Let the voices of your leaders and teachers speak out now - and release the Faith of Islam from the insanity of terrorism that threatens it's destruction. There can be no justification for such horrors as Beslan, nor can any be found, to my knowledge, within the Koran.

"A true disciple feels anothers pain as his own".

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