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  January 2004

Current Affairs
Challenges to the Muslim Ummah and the way out

The Secretary General of the World Muslim Congress, Raja Muhammad Zafarul Haq has observed that the distorted image of Islam as a faith and the Muslims has deeply poisoned the minds in the western society which finds expression in different ways at different levels. The situation is a collective challenge to the Muslim Ummah, the response has also to be collective, measured and corrective. He was speaking at the conference on Islamic World: Challenges and Opportunities in Tehran, Dec. 22-23, 2003.

The following is the text of the speech of Raja Muhammad Zafarul Haq:

“We are grateful to Islamic Republic of Iran for their persistent and continued efforts for the advancement of common Islamic objectives after the Islamic Revolution fulfilling the prophecy of Poet Dr. Allama Mohammad Iqbal over 70 years back:

If Tehran becomes Geneva of the East may be it changes the fate of whole world.

While evaluating the enormous challenges that face the Muslim World today the mention of challenges and opportunities together is based directly on the words of the Holy Quran “ where there is a challenge or pressure there is also an opportunity and a way out”. There is no doubt it is an eternal truth.

The present challenges are not a creation of a few years or a few decades. They have a long history spread over centuries of vilification, denigration campaign of, projecting the faith of Islam and Muslims in the darkest possible shades. A closer look at the English literature especially the two works known as the “Crescent and the crosses” by Samuel Chew and Byran Porter Smith’s Book titled :”Islam in English Literature” throw ample light on the organized efforts spread over a long period of time. Besides these two compilations there are two other books titled “Islam and the West” by Norman Daniel. These books focus on the distorted image of Islam from the 12th to the 19th century. Later on we have “Europe and the mystique of Islam” by Maxine Rodison. In this analysis the lack of objectivity in the study of Muslims has been underscored. The reader is warned against the swing in the direction of the misrepresented. Seen with this background, the writings of Professor Huntington and the like are only a continuation of Islam phobia recorded during the past several centuries. He has only given a present day dimension to the past efforts.

While the distorted image of Islam as a faith and Muslims has deeply poisoned the minds of literate and illiterate sections of the western society which finds expression in different ways at different levels; some times we see it, in the shape of outright oppression; genocide, expulsions and humiliations and some times a lethal spin or slant in the media affecting the whole Muslim community depicting them as a serious threat to modern/western civilization, justifying pre-emptive or punitive action that the powerful decide to take.

In a liberal society like France, which prides in her democratic values the case of a 13 year old girl who is an exemplary pupil in every way but in one respect her behavior is said to threaten the national peace and cohesion of the French nation by insisting on wearing a head scarf seems outright preposterous; how can the clothing of a school girl becomes enormous symbolic weight, that for 14 years, it has been the touch-stone of debate about the French Constitution, as to how should France integrate its 3.7 million Muslims - the largest Muslim minority in Europe. The end result of this logic - the breeding of a generation of angry Muslims could be catastrophic. It has been commented very rightly that “the tragedy of liberalism is that it does not know its own limits”. Fact is, it neither knows its limits nor does it know its own strength. On the other hand the so-called war against international terrorism is based at best on a selective use of exaggeration, and outright fabrication.

From Europe we have a glimpse of the situation in the Middle East. Recently, the Israeli Prime Minister had no qualms when he openly declared that “the Jews run the US and we are here in America”. Some of American Senators have successfully moved US administration to force sanctions on Syria. This collaboration has brutalized the entire Middle-Eastern region since 1948 and there seems no end to it. Israel’s developing cooperation with India in the field of intelligence and defense further creates a new dimension in raising tensions in South Asia. The illegal occupation of Al Quds and the usurpation of Palestinian lands continues, despite scores of 1J.N. resolutions. Same is the case of Kashmir.

Injustice breeds violence in reaction. International peace is indivisible. Since it is a collective challenge to Muslim Ummah, the response has also to be collective, measured and corrective if we have to avoid the brutal spiral of violence, threatening the whole humanity.

It is the demand of wisdom that we have an objective appraisal of the present global scenario. There is no denying the fact that because of hostile pressures, the general masses of Muslims from Morocco to Indonesia especially the younger generations have a strong realization of their identity. Their thinking is common and their responses are also common. They need guidance, education and empowerment. The gap between the Muslim societies as a whole and the western world is very large. It cannot be bridged within 11 short span of time but first of all there has to be concept clearance, before the future course of action is evolved.

i) Muslims must resolve internal conflicts and dissensions. Out of 19 conflict areas in the world 13 involve Muslim societies. In this respect Saudi Arabia and Iran have a great role to play. We shall have to develop a mechanism for resolving internal conflicts especially at the initial stage whether they are created by foreign factors or they emerge out of lack of imagination of the local sectarian leadership.

ii) There is no escape now from evolving public participatory or democratic dispensation in the member countries of the OIC. There are countries which have taken steps to realize this objective but this process cannot be beneficial if it is too little too late. There should be conscious efforts from the leadership to calibrate and accelerate the process for a healthy, homogenous and the inclusive system of governance, which also ensures justice to all sections of population and fully recognizes their fundamental rights.