By Auwal Sani Anwar
From Orlando to Surakarta, Paris to Baghdad, and Dakha to Monguno, terror in the name of Islam has seized the world. Thousands of people are dead while many in hospitals, with cut limbs and in horrible pains, are wondering whether surviving was really worth celebrating. As more than a billion strong Muslims all over the world are confused, disturbed and frustrated by the unfolding murderous acts of some misguided Muslim individuals and groups, the rest of the world is becoming terrified of having Muslims as neighbours and friends in most parts of the world. It has to be a difficult time for all.
It is a fact that most of the dead and wounded are Muslims. But when your brother is gunned down by an ‘Allahu Akbar’- shouting man or when a young girl clad in hijab enters a shopping mall and detonates a bomb that consumes your bosom friend, it is difficult to expect you to start reading the Qur’an just to know whether their acts where actually sanctioned by Islam or not. You won’t have time for that. Indeed if I place myself in non-Muslim shoes, I will see that the terrorist acts of the recent past were committed by people of as varied social status as possible that are claiming to be doing it in the name of Islam. You find in the suspects the rich and the poor, the literate and the illiterate, the male and the female and young and the old – all of them claiming Islam. If the common denominator is Islam, why should I be expected to blame anything else? This is what we Muslims need to factor in when rationalizing reactions from non-Muslims.
Ordinarily, even a rudimentary knowledge of Islamic scripture, history and philosophy tells you that the most valuable of God’s creation is human life. The Prophet of Islam had never raised his weapon or instructed anyone to raise his weapon except in self-defence. The rule of law is sacrosanct – no one is allowed to take the law into his own hands. But when some Muslims lynched a non-Muslim lady in Kano for allegedly desecrating their Muslim ways, which non-Muslim would listen to you when you try to exonerate the faith? There is a popular Hausa saying – ‘Dan kuka shi ke jawowa uwarsa jifa.’ In other words, it is what we do while being Muslims (or claiming Islam) that will tell the world what Islam is all about. Considering the kinds of Muslims we are today, that is so unfair on Islam. It is grossly unfair on a religion that is founded on the principles of peace, tolerance, literacy and kindness. Who would listen to that now?
This is why I think we Muslims have a lot of work to do. And we needed to start yesterday. But before you think I am too naïve or ignorant of the roles of non-Muslim individuals and nations in generating, contributing to and sustaining the negative narrative against Islam, I assure you I read a lot about that. I know that not only Islam, but also all monotheistic religions are now fare game to the ungodly world. However, I am also aware that no false flag operation will succeed without the active participation of the target or its appendages. There is a legitimate claim that Farouk Abdulmutallab may have been a victim of a false flag operation, but clearly he actually thought he was doing something for Islam. Even his father alluded to that. Most of the suspects arrested in various churches and mosques bombings in Nigeria are Muslims. So even if we accept that there are puppeteers somewhere else, it is clear that there are some Muslims at least amongst the puppets.
No doubt Islam is facing threats both internally and externally. But it is the internal that we must focus on first so as to put our house in order. I believe if we focus all our energy in looking inwards and paying attention to what is happening in our homes and in our localities, we can nip a lot of these dangers in the bud. We must first know what our children and other dependants are being taught in Islamiyya schools. Who are their teachers? Where did the teachers study? This is because these things normally start with small bits that you may innocently ignore at your own peril. Recently, my six-year old child met me listening to a Phil Collins song called ‘Both Sides’. It is fine song that talks about the need to hear both sides of any story before you reach any conclusion. She looked at me disapprovingly and said, ‘Our teacher said music is haram (prohibited) to listen to. ‘Really?’ I asked. That was when I found myself struggling to explain concepts like context, content, school of thought, etc, to a six year old! She’s not even old enough to be instructed to pray, for God’s sake.
But when the following week this same girl came to tell me that we should not celebrate birthdays again because their teacher said it was also haram, I had to act immediately. Now if I were not close to my children, there is every chance that one teacher out there would quietly indoctrinate my children with some rigid or wrong interpretations of Islamic principles. Before you know it, your children would be looking at you as a godless individual that doesn’t deserve their time. And that would be only the beginning.
That is why I say we need to be paying close attention to what is being taught to members of our household, neighbours and relations. Going to the mosque is necessary not only to pray but also to personally assess what is being shared and contribute to it. We must pay attention to preaching during Ramadhan in public and on radios and televisions. We must do this because there are verses in the Holy Qur’an that can easily be misquoted, misinterpreted and misused by evil people to create disaffection, promote hatred and foment trouble within Islam and between Muslims and others. We all MUST endeavour to know these verses, the context in which they were revealed and the correct interpretation so we can educate our families and associates. Some of the exploitable verses include Q: 2:191, 2:216, 2:217-218, 2:244, 48:29, 47:4, 33:23, 9:5, 9:29, 9:91, 8:12-13, 5:33, 5:51, 5:54, 4:76, 4:89 and 4:95. It is our duty to ensure that nobody within the house of Islam gives it a bad name ever again. This is something that we as individuals must do to help this religion survive this internal attack.
We must disarm these agents of madness with real knowledge. By now, it must be very clear to one and all that no amount of arms and ammunition will completely defeat people that base their attacks on ideology. You must use the correct ideology to defeat them. This war must be fought from within. Knowledge would prevent them from having new recruits. Who knows, perhaps even some of them may eventually accept the correct interpretation and mend their ways.
It is a very difficult time for Muslims in Iraq and Syria, non-Muslims in Europe and America, Muslims and non-Muslims in Nigeria and Islam and other religions all over the world. May God both guide and protect us to do the right thing.