Sunday, 1 June 2014

S.O.S: Letting off some steam

Introducing Speak Out Sunday (or S.O.S) to voice opinions that might be different than your average Jane Doe's. You can contribute to the discussion by commenting or posting responses on your blog and leaving a link in the comments. 
Oh and don't worry, flash fiction and poetry will soon resume, (hopefully next week). Until then...

 Letting off some steam
Religion is a response to revelation, and different people respond to revelation differently.”
-John Green
This article, in its entirety, stems from two things. The above mentioned quote and my personal dissatisfaction (which I am sure is echoed by millions) of the inherent stereotypes that emerge from my religious belief.
The purpose of writing this article is not to explain Islam. There are people who can do that task infinitely better. The purpose of this article is to examine the prevalent ideology that associates Muslims to a monolithic people, where all one billion of us are answerable for the crimes of handful. I said Muslims and not Islam because Islam is monolithic. It's principles are articulated in the Holy Quran and are supplemented by the ahadith. It is us, the followers, whose varying interpretations is the root of all the trouble. The religion teaches us peace, I can assure you of that and so can countless other scholars. But we can't ignore the constant bombardment of verified and unverified news that accuse our religion for the problems of the world. Because there are people out there who claim to be pure Muslims and who capture, murder, torture in the name of Islam. Because there are people out there who profess a love for Allah and in lieu of that love, demean, devastate and destroy the lives of others. But at the same time, there are us Muslims, present in various stratas of a fragmented society, who live an ordinary life, trying to wrap our head around the fact that our every move is being publicly scrutinized. That there are some people who attest that they are fighting for us, for our rights and our freedom, even though we have never asked for a war and they have never consulted us about the same. It is us who live a life of constant fear. It is us who are discriminated every day. It is us who are tagged as terrorists, the only evidence being our recitation of the shahada. It is us who have to endure the public denigration of our religion. It is us who suffer for the crimes of others. And it is their understanding of Islam that is unanimously considered the only one. And so I ask you a question. What is it that validates their interpretation of Islam? What is it that legitimizes their definition and negates ours? Is it because they manage to make it to the headlines every day? Or is it because the rest of us, consciously or unconsciously, keep out of them?
We can continue to harp about the true principles of Islam. We can write article after article enunciating our beliefs. Or we can act. Open up counter organisations, orphanages, NGOs, relief camps and schools. The bottom line is, we have to fight for the true identity of our religion. We have to transform the image of jihad from murdering innocents to saving millions.
The internet already overflows with arguments against terrorist outfits. A curious person is free to research and form his own conclusions. But the masses, who either don't have the time or the energy to expend on this long (and confusing) process, whose only source of enlightenment is the media, would forever remain ignorant of this other and significant fraction of us. There are many muslims who have done and try to do great deeds for the world. But they have failed to garner attention for the simple reason that the rest of us find faults in them. Astagfirullah, we shout, she claims she knows about her deen! Look at her make-up infested face. He will guide us to the right path? His clothes are western. You have only read the translation of Quran and that permits you to question the scholars? Exile him. He is not a Muslim. And so it proceeds. From what you wear, to the fact that you choose to converse in English can bring the wrath of the community upon you. Instead of praising the deeds said person has done, we chide, rebuke and humiliate him or her for the slightest of flaws.*If we can not stand together, we have lost the right to blame 'external forces' for driving us apart. We have to realize that if we want respect for our religion and for ourselves, we first have to learn to respect others. And I am not talking only about Muslims, but the people at large. We need to 'agree to disagree' with those of differing opinions. We need to stop threatening people with hell fire and respect their choices.* After all, we are no one to judge. If we are desirous of gaining honour, we should be ready to honour too.
So this entire rant boils down to one thing. And it is a solemn cry to all the people of this world. Learn to respect. And also research before forming an opinion. Debate instead of argue and love instead of hate. Maybe its not too late yet.

*P.S. I am not advocating a society where we stay mum to those who promote inherently wrong beliefs (read: justifying stealing, murder or rape)(oh and bombs). I envision a society where baseless allegations are replaced by an intelligent discourse, where a different opinion is met by an engaging discussion and not the “you-will-go-to-hell” phrase that thrives in both the cyber and the real world.


  1. It infuriates me that the media consciously chooses to bury the truth, projecting a skewed version of a religion whose very name stands for peace. But as a community, we do need to introspect and be cohesive, instead of picking on irrelevant details and giving in to paranoia. It's high time we focused on weeding out blind faith, superstition, illiteracy and a host of other issues that are of pressing concern.

    Thank you so much for this well-reasoned, beautiful post. It made for a thought-provoking read.

    1. Thanks for the comment! I believe that the selling-out of media is one of those inexplicable phenomenons that everyone knows about but no one can prove. In such a situation we can either keep screaming 'it's a conspiracy' or actually work to rebuild an image.
      I agree that progress lies beyond a reef of ignorance and arrogance. It's a long way to go but I hope we make it.

  2. Unfortunately history follows the same path, it is not merely modern media and westernisation that narrows peoples views. When travelling you learn so much about the cultures of the past and how it came to present. I recently visited Spain where Muslims, Christians and Jews lived together in harmony for centuries leaving behind evidence of a beautiful community, until things like greed and power caused massacres and war. Humanity will always use belief to justify and reason, sometimes to seek peace in life, sometimes to place blame for their own shortcomings on others. It's easier to blame a group you don't understand without bothering to check whether they hold the same values.

    1. Humans are always the problem, eh?
      I totally second you on your point about research. Every story has two sides and we seldom get to see the second one (at least in this case). Research goes both ways. Not only for excavating the second side of the story, it is essential for the members of a community itself to NOT give in to blind beliefs but ask questions and satisfy doubts.
      Thanks for the comment! :)

  3. "Learn to respect." That's so true. We should do that for all people, no matter who they are and what they believe.


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