Either to burn up your passion, or burn down buildings
“Has another war started?” asked a frightened American lady holed up in Islamabad’s Serena Hotel next to the anti-blasphemy protests last Thursday and Friday. She also saw on television the many fires and street battles raging in most other Pakistani cities. One was amused at her use of the word ‘another’, for she recognized that Pakistan is fighting many wars already, largely started by her country and continuing because of our stupidity and helplessness due to lack of an ideological anchor.
This newspaper’s headline yesterday said it all: “Everything but love” – meaning love for the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) who has repeatedly been blasphemed by western cartoonists and filmmakers under the cover of ‘freedom of expression’. While protesting peacefully against blasphemy is correct, the events of last week were outside the pale of Islam, which means peace. Someone should explain to everyone that all freedoms have natural limits that are crossed when they encroach upon other freedoms, like the right to life. The moment freedom of expression causes heartache to millions it ceases to be a freedom at all and becomes mischief. When it causes death and destruction, it becomes a crime and a calumny. Similarly, when protest descends to death and destruction, the right to protest crosses its limits and ceases to be a freedom. It becomes criminal. Our prime minister is right: sacrilege of all faiths and religions should be made a global crime.
The Prophet (pbuh) would look askance at such protest, especially in his name. He forgave those who abused him because his way was love, moderation and tolerance. He convinced and converted people with discussion and debate, by example.
Muslims should remember the story of the woman who hurled abuse and invective on the Prophet (pbuh) every morning and threw trash on him when he passed under her window. One day she didn’t, so the Prophet (pbuh) went up to her room to inquire why. He found that she was ill and consoled her. She was so touched and ashamed of her behavior that she became a Muslim. That was the way of the Prophet (pbuh): to win with love rather than war unless it was foisted on him.
Politics that feeds on people’s anger and desperation hijacks protest. Criminals intent on looting and mayhem join in, as do an angry and frustrated people who destroy the symbols of power and prosperity that they don’t have. It becomes a free for all. The marches where there were no politicians were all peaceful, but that doesn’t make for ‘good’ television, so we didn’t see them.
‘Iskra’ means ‘spark’ in Russian. It was the name of Lenin’s magazine. All a spark needs is a tinderbox to become a fire. Conversely, all a tinderbox needs is a spark to become a conflagration. It is a symbiotic relationship between spark and tinderbox, like between moth and flame. The Tunisian fruit seller who set himself on fire was the spark that ignited an inferno that is destroying tyrants.
The continuing blasphemy against the Prophet (pbuh) could be the spark that starts a conflagration that brings clerics to power where they are not already. We saw a trailer of it last week as anti-blasphemy protesters set many a fire in cities big and small in the tinderbox of national frustration. Though Muslims take blasphemy very seriously, it could also be the spark that causes pent up frustration and anger to boil over and send everything up in flames. When I say ‘everything’ I mean the iniquitous system and a status quo that favors the few and deprives the many. If the fires don’t abate they become a conflagration that burns everything. The mullah has few votes but a lot of power born of people’s ignorance. You saw the power of the mullah last week. You have been warned.
It is not only about faith and religion; it is also about global and local politics, prejudice and ignorance, stupidity and self-destruction. I once said that Pakistan is full of Muslims but empty of Islam. That is true of all 57 countries that are Muslim majority states. Nearly all are formally Muslims by accident of birth, not by understanding. Most observe the rituals of Islam assiduously, but without understanding. Understanding becomes all the more difficult when 80 percent Muslims are non-Arabic speaking. Not that Arabic speaking Muslims of today understand the Islam or the Quran that is in the Arabic spoken by the Quraish tribe in the time of the Prophet (pbuh), and that, I am told, had seven dialects. If they had been born in some other faith they would have been as ardent about it. It is about human nature and upbringing in a particular milieu.
What to do? Three things: education, more education and then even more education. There is dire need for Muslims to be correctly educated, especially in their own faith, particularly the Quran, and not leave it to clerics and madrassahs. Else they will be educated in dogma and ritual, not Islam, as they are.
There is a need to differentiate between faith and religion. The faith is Islam as given to us in the Quran. What most Muslims follow is organized religion run by mullahs that have become de facto clerics camouflaged as scholars even though Islam recognizes neither church nor clergy precisely because clerics adhering to God’s earlier Messages had mutilated them beyond recognition and lost the faith’s spirit and God’s intent. Thus it was that God gave his final Message to Muhammad (pbuh) through the angel Gabriel in his own words albeit in human language. At the same time, He banned churches and clerics so that His Word could not be mutilated. He did not count on human ingenuity to find ways around His intent. First the scholar became de facto cleric and now the administrator of the mosque masquerades as scholar by virtue of which he has become de facto cleric. If he were a genuine scholar of Islam he would know that that there is no place for clerics in the faith.
Very early on, a caliph-mullah nexus emerged when caliphs seized power instead of being elected. They foisted dynasticism that is not recognized in Islam because it flies in the face of its democratic spirit based on debate and consensus. It is a nexus that exists to this day: then the mullah or qazi issued fatwas or edicts legitimizing usurping caliphs; now the judiciary passes judgments legitimizing usurpers. Then they issued many edicts legitimizing the illegitimate actions of usurpers; today they sugarcoat many of the establishment’s undemocratic actions. De facto scholar-clerics also ‘gifted’ us many different, often self-serving, interpretations of the Quran. Result: Islam got divided into myriad sects, sub-sects, Sharias, movements and schools of thought, each against the other. Muslims are lost because they are divorced from the true spirit of their faith and the intent of God. Proof? Look at the Muslims’ conditions today: they are the most pathetic of all peoples. Compare some 1.5 billion Muslims to some 15 million Jews: see where the Jews stand and where the Muslims are lying prostrate. The former have education and knowledge, wealth and power. The few Muslims that call themselves educated have either studied at western universities and become alienated or been taught local, outdated curricula by rote and brainwashed by mullahs. Some have money because they have oil, money that they have wasted. Instead of making their own global currency, international banks and finance houses in which to keep their money in their own currency, they parked dollars in western banks and purchased western assets and placed themselves at the mercy of western governments. Thus when they don’t do America’s bidding it freezes their accounts and assets and all stooge Muslim rulers can do is bleat. Muslims didn’t encourage their own global media because they are scared of it. None made their own industrial base: at best they have set up western sweatshops for assembly and services and wasted their money in making tasteless clones of western cities and purchasing western weaponry that keeps western economies going. When the time comes to fight, they either lose or ask America and NATO to fly their planes, drive their tanks and defend them.
The rulers we choose or tolerate are from amongst the worst, many an affront to Islam and a negation of its injunctions, like the dynastic, whether elected or otherwise. We are asked to choose from amongst ourselves and from amongst the best, not because someone is from a particular family no matter how odious.
Blaspheming the Prophet – any prophet – is the worst kind of terrorism. But the biggest conspirators against Islam are the Muslims themselves for their ignorance. Islam’s enemies, real or perceived, don’t have to do anything except sit back and let the Muslims destroy themselves.
The writer is a political analyst. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org