Why Muslims are Partly Themselves Responsible for the Negative Global Image

Islam-Lashes-1024x535Raza Habib Raja

Right now the global spotlight is on extremist Muslims due to a string of incidences from Paris to Belgium.  Due to these barbaric acts perpetuated by these extremists, Muslims in general are also facing a lot of backlash, some of which is excessive. However, whereas we as Muslims are correct to complain that it is unfair to bracket ordinary Muslims with the extremists, but at the same time we need to understand that our negative reputation is not merely due to fringe organizations like ISIS but also due to our behavior in general. I am not trying to equate extremist organizations like ISIS with normal and moderate Muslims here but pointing that there are issues (though of different sort) with the latter also.

We have to realize that the world is judging our religion and us not by what is contained in the religious scripture but by the way we behave in all matters concerning religion. I am not justifying outright xenophobia and racism here, but indicating that we also share the responsibility of our bad reputation in the world due to our actions. There are problems in many areas and being defensive and in denial is not going to help us.

For example, it is true that moderate Muslims are not indulging in terrorism. But at the same time, I have seen many of us either attribute terrorism to nonsensical conspiracy theories or give apologetic defense. When many of us do that then we should not expect the world to consider Islam as a religion of peace, because it simply won’t. It is hard to imagine the world doing so when some of the so called ‘moderate” Muslims fail to condemn extremist acts, give apologetic defense to terrorism or weave nonsensical conspiracy theories to shift the blame.This kind of behavior is deeply problematic as it hinders introspection, gives the extremists soft support and allows them to thrive.

I have also witnessed some cheering those who have killed others in the name of blasphemy. It is also true that many Muslims also support state-sanctioned harsh punishments for people accused of blasphemy as well as apostasy. In fact several Muslim countries have harsh laws outlawing both. Often our rationale is that blasphemy is deeply offensive and apostasy is a sin, therefore state sanctioned capital punishment or even murder is justified. Supporting the death penalty for those accused of blasphemy or apostasy or cheering murderers who kill the accused and yet expecting that world will have a good opinion about us is downright nonsensical.

Since we find blasphemy deeply offensive, then we should remember that real blasphemy with respect to our prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is caused by those who kill in his name and also by those who celebrate such killings. If blasphemy means disrespect to the name of the prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) then we should use our common sense and understand that harsh punishments and violence in his name are actually maligning his name.

We have to realize that punishments for blasphemy and apostasy, do not belong to the modern world. In fact some Islamic Scholars have stated thatthey do not even belong to Islam. If we insist on having them, then we should not complain that the world has a negative perception about us and our religion.

Likewise, many of us react violently whenever our religious ideals and symbols are satirized. What we do not realize, however, is that West is no longer trapped in medieval times and has moved forward. It is common in their culture to criticize as well as satirize religion and they often subject their own religion to it. This is why showing violent reaction to cartoons is not going to be acceptable to them as they rightly perceive it as a threat to their freedom of expression. The more we react violently or endorse violence or even show lack of remorse or condemnation when there is an excessive reaction, the more world will judge Islam negatively. The more some of us threaten free speech, the more the media will indulge in such speech in order to protect its rights and freedom.

Another huge and in fact perhaps the biggest issue is the treatment of women. No matter what spin I give, the fact is that in most Muslim countries women are treated as second-class citizens. In the Gender Gap Index, which ranks countries with respect to gender parity, Muslim countries are right at the bottom. Out of 142 countries which have been ranked in 2014, 27 Muslim countries are placed from 90 to 142 and these include so called “liberal” countries like Turkey (127) and Indonesia (97).

The assertion by Reza Aslan that in Indonesia and Turkey, women have full rightsbecomes laughable when subjected to empirical evaluation. There is only one Muslim country in the top 50, which is Kazakhstan and I am sure this is because of its communist legacy! And yes, my own country Pakistan ranks at a shameful 141st position with only Yemen, another Islamic country, below it. Moreover, the legal code in many Muslim countries is pitted against women and supportive of the patriarchal structure. Why should we expect the world to consider Islam as an equitable religion in the light of all the above facts?

Another issue is the condition of minorities. The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom in its latest report highlighted 27 countries for particularly vicious treatment of religious minorities of which 11 are strong Muslim-majority states. If minorities living in Muslim majority countries often live in fear and if the advent of democracy in Muslim countries, like Egypt, ended up actually endangering the lives and properties of non-Muslims, then we should not expect the world to consider Islam as a tolerant religion. Eventually the benchmark of tolerance is the way minorities are treated.

Now we can try to deflect the realities and find excuses and call those Muslims who point out our problems as “sellouts” or “panderers of the West” but will it change the situation? Eventually we have to indulge in deep and honest introspection and understand that there is some basis behind the global negative opinion about us. Being in denial and constantly complaining about xenophobia is not going to take us anywhere. Yes, no doubt xenophobia exists, but our own actions also need correction.

  • BJK

    I recently watched a C-SPAN interview of a holocaust survivor who managed to make a life for herself despite tremendous odds. Her parting advice to everyone was: “education, education, education!”

  • Nuree

    Usual run of the mill article, which we have read and heard many many times. Not targeting the actual source of the problem.

  • Arzu

    CM Bhai… Dekh teray bihar ki halat kya ho gayee bhagwan !!..
    This is what happens when you choose laloos and sons in the name of secularism . Intelligent biharis like you wisely move out and enjoy DARU & BEEF while the poor of bihar are trying to carry the burden of secularism & sabhayata ….
    Sorry for digression .. RHR

  • RHR

    Arzu Bhai

    I am sure soon he will answer!

  • Arzu

    RHR bhai.. now that u r in US long enough..write something on Trumpism … can he do a Modi their…i do not know much about the election process of US .. though in support my fellow RW organised a havan puja at jantar mantar yesterday.. you are invited for the next puja ..:-)

  • Nuree

    Nagpur, Apr 26: The important meeting of national executive committee of Muslim Rashtriya Manch (MRM) concluded recently in Nagpur on a very positive note. The meeting began on April 16 with an inspiring inaugural address by Senior RSS functionary and MRM Patron Indresh Kumar. During its three-day deliberations, the MRM national executive took various decisions on plans and programs aimed at improving the condition of Muslims in India.
    MRM National Conveners Mohd. Afzal, Abu Bakar Naqvi, Prod Shahid Akhtar, Latif Magdum, Girish Juyal, Gani Bhai Qureshi, Dr. Asif Ali, Maulana Suhaib Qasmi, Maulana Kaukab Mujtaba, Dr. Hemant Gupta, Dr. Rajeev Shrivastava, Abbas Ali Bohra, Reshma Hussain, Shahnaz Afzal, Najneen Ansari, and others attended the meeting.
    The meeting unanimously decided to observe Shabbe Barat to clean the mortuaries and pray for those who sacrificed their lives for the freedom of the motherland. Similarly, it was also decided to organise Iftar parties and plant saplings during the holy month of Ramzan, to distribute the heavenly plant of Rehan (Tulsi) in each household, and to collect and distribute food grains to the poor and deprived sections of the society.
    The most important decision taken at the meeting was to institute a cell to generate awareness amongst the youth to stay away from the terrorist ideology of the ISIS and other terrorist organisations.

    Explaining the idea of this cell, Indresh Kumar said that ISIS and other terrorist organisations are targeting the youth. But the MRM will start an awareness campaign to awaken the youth to the dangers in joining such organisations. The MRM intends to set up “Don’t Join ISIS’ cell for this purpose, he added. This cell would provide counselling to the Muslim youths to shun such terrorist organizations, he said.
    The MRM National Executive passed a resolution underlining the importance of modern education in the Madarsas. It was also decided to hold a national level convention of Madarsa teachers in Delhi to deliberate on ways and means to impart modern education to the students in Madarsas including the use of modern technology, skill development, patriotism, and other aspects along with the religious education.
    The MRM had organised reciting of ‘Ayat-e-Karima’ to ward off terrorism, violence, hatred, and riots from the country. This was decided in the Varanasi meeting of the national executive in January this year. Accordingly such programs were organised at 1851 places all over the country in which 76000 Muslims participated at recited the ‘Ayat-e-Karima’ for 7.27 crore times. This is a record in itself.
    Similarly, the MRM activists unfurled the national flag at 3000 places on January 26Republic Day program including 1500 Madarsas. The MRM has set up a trust in the memory of martyr Ashfaq Ullah who sacrificed his life for the freedom of the country. The “Shaheed Ashfaq Ullah Khan Memorial Trust” is catering to the educational needs of the Muslim youths and students.
    Similarly, the ‘Anaj Bank’ experiment of Varanasi is being extended to other areas to provide food grains to the poor and needy persons.
    On the concluding day of the meeting, the delegates paid a visit to dargah of Tajuddin Baba in Tajbag where they offered chadar under the leadership of Indresh Kumar and other office-bearers of the MRM.

    The most remarkable visit was to the Dr. Hedgewar memorial in Reshambag. The delegates shouted slogans like ‘Bharat Mata ki Jay’, ‘Vande Mataram’, ‘Madare Vatan Hindustan Zindabd’, ‘Aadhi Roti Khayange-Bachhon ko Padhayanege’, ‘Talim Zindagi ke Liye- Zindagi Vatan ke Liye’ etc. They were received by RSS Nagpur Mahanagar Sanghchalak Rajesh Loya, Ravindra Bokare, Ramesh Pasari, Adv Raman Senad and Ajay Jaltade. Indresh Kumar explained to them what RSS is and what type of activities it is engaged in.
    The third spot of the visit was Dr. Ambedkar’s Deekshabhumi where he had embraced Buddhism in 1956. This was the first occasion in the history of Deekshabhumi that Muslims in such a large numbers visited the place. The Memorial Committee President endorsed this fact with humility.
    This was, in the history of independent India and the RSS, probably the first occasion for the Muslims drawn from all over the country to visit the RSS premises and pay homage to its founder Dr. Hedgewar and his immediate successor Sri Golwalkar Guruji. The calm and serene atmosphere, and simplicity of the premises impressed the visiting delegates. This visit is sure to have a lasting impact and effect on the minds of these delegates.
    The concluding session of the meeting was addressed by North Nagpur BJP MLA Dr. Milind Mane who lauded the efforts of MRM to forge unity of all Indians and put up a united fight against terrorism.
    Indresh Kumar, in his concluding address, touched the issues of modernising madrassa education, anti-terrorism awareness campaign, women’s education, small families, triple talaq, and other such issues.

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  • MOhanRRRR

    Minority Educational Scholarships – In Kashmir, Muslims who form 69% of population, are reserved 717 of 753 scholarships for “minority” Muslims students. 22 for Sikhs 12 for Budhists and 2 for Christians.

  • MOhanRRRR

    So the SC bench which struck down MCOCA on Col Purohit and Sadhvi Pragya included a Muslim Judge. Hope that prevents charges of bias

  • RHR

    Arzu Bhai I have written on this topic on Huff Post