By Karmanye Thadani
At the very outset, I would appeal to readers to think impartially, rather than reject outright what doesn’t sound like music to their ears. Also, I ought to clarify that I am far from being an Islamophobe, and I have written a book addressing and dispelling anti-Muslim prejudices in the Indian context. I may also mention that I am not a camp-follower of the BJP or any other political party for that matter. Nor am I an uncritical admirer of the Israeli state, and I believe that like the Pakistani state, being a country created in the name of a religion and a product of a partition of a country, it has again, like the Pakistani state (please note that I am not, in the least, making any negative generalization about the Pakistani populace), emerged as a big human rights violator in the name of religious identity. I must also clarify that Islamism is a totalitarian ideology of imposing supposedly Islamic values and having a contemptuous attitude towards those regarded as “enemies of Islam”, and cannot be equated with the religion Islam per se (indeed, there are similar totalitarian movements in all major religious groupings across the globe), nor can the adherents of the ideology of Islamism, referred to as Islamists, be equated with Muslims in general.
I do not support a lot of the propaganda one hears about Israel and Jews. Not too long ago, an employee of my brother’s, who happens to be an Indian Muslim, told me that he had given a friend of his, also an Indian Muslim, a DVD of the movie Schindler’s List on the genocide of the Jews by the Nazis, and his friend was disappointed with him for having shared with him a movie that showcased the plight of the Jews who, in his (my brother’s employee’s friend’s) opinion, ought to be hated. To cite another anecdote, again not too long ago, an Indian Muslim friend of mine who is a law student intending to specialize in human rights overseas told me that some people in her family (comprising well-to-do lawyers, and hence, educated people with considerable exposure) found her keen interest in the Holocaust surprising, and she rightly complained that it was hypocritical on the part of such Muslims to complain of being stereotyped for the wrongdoings of some but themselves doing the same for other religious groupings. Then, I recall a conversation I had with another Indian Muslim friend, who is a doctor, and she told me that the Israelis use lethal weaponry, while the Palestinians just pelt stones. I pointed out to her that there are Palestinians who also engage in suicide bombings killing innocent civilians, a fundamental fact that cannot be glossed over.
But these anecdotes did not come as a surprise to me, for I recall that after the Gaza Flotilla incident in 2010 (in which Israeli commandos attacked peace activists of diverse faiths and nationalities traveling to Gaza), in the Orkut community ‘Indian Muslims’, some of the worst expletives were used for the Jews, and I saw several Indian Muslims doing the same even in other relatively peaceful times in Orkut communities and Facebook groups specifically dealing with the Israel-Palestine conflict, to the extent of praising Hitler (little do they realize that were it not for Hitler’s barbarianism, Israel would have perhaps never come into being). I was simply disgusted when I saw this video of an Indian MP Asaduddin Owaisi spewing venom against Jews as a collectivity (not to be confused with his brother Akbaruddin Owaisi who allegedly outraged Hindu religious sentiments), saying that they had “always been enemies of Islam” and endorsing the jihad in Palestine, without clearly specifying what he meant by jihad in this context. I see this as being hate speech as much as the alleged hate speech delivered by Varun Gandhi in Pilibhit, also given that India has a Jewish minority, which has produced illustrious personalities like writers Nissim Ezekiel, Shiela Rohekar and Esther David (who were not Zionist) and Major Generals Jacob and Samson in the Indian Army, and indeed, like elsewhere across the globe, there are vehemently anti-Zionist Jews in India as well. It also disheartened me to learn that a Muslim MLA in Bihar from the RJD objected to the visit of an Israeli ambassador to Bihar and the signing of several agreements between the governments of Bihar and Israel, which would help in promoting economic development for the Bihari people (irrespective of religion), though I am quite sure that there would have been no such opposition from that Bihari Muslim politician had the Iraqi ambassador visited Bihar during Saddam’s tenure and such deals been signed, the genocide of the Kurds (who were Muslims) notwithstanding, or had the Sri Lankan ambassador paid a visit to Bihar, in spite of the genocide of the Tamils. Many Muslims protested against the Israeli premier’s visit to India in 2003. Several Indian Muslim leaders have also said that India must take into consideration “Muslim opinion” in the context of its relationship with Israel (as though Indian Muslim opinion on this issue is uniform or that all Indian Muslims even have an opinion on this issue, when it actually isn’t the case, and indeed, nothing I say in this article should suggest any negative stereotyping of Muslims in India or globally). Some Muslim clerics in Kerala asked Muslims to not cheer for Western countries friendly with Israel in football matches. There happens to be this Orkut community of Indian Jews asserting that they are Indians first that mentions posters saying “Yahudi ko maro, shaheed ho jaao” (kill a Jew and become a martyr) are put up in many Muslim areas in India but at the same time, clarifies that not all Indian Muslims are to be stereotyped for this.
Chanting the mantra of humanity does not help in dispelling misconceptions about a collectivity of people, as I have realized from my experience of engaging with Islamophobic Hindus, but a clear, coordinated attempt at dispelling prejudices, which led me to write the book that I have mentioned right at the outset of this article, can actually help if the person is open-minded enough. Hence, I would attempt to do the same here, but without delving into ludicrous conspiracy theories about 9/11 and the likes being Zionist plots, and in that context, I would just post a video of an enlightened Pakistani journalist, and in any case, there is much literature contradicting those theories. Muslim readers would do well to note that there are baseless conspiracy theories against them as well, such as the Kaba being a Shiva temple owing to the black stone vaguely resembling a Shiv-ling, and believing something only because it sounds like music to your ears does not help solve problems! To label, without any basis, all Jews outspoken in favour of tolerance to Muslims or vice versa as having some hidden agenda or being sponsored by vested interests is similar to making such a generalization for all Muslims who condemn terrorism.
Thus, at the very outset, let us examine Asaduddin Owaisi’s claim of Jews always having been enemies of Islam. But Islamic theology provides no room for hate-mongering or violence against any religious grouping as a collectivity, least of all Jews (please see this article-http://theindianeconomist.com/antisemitism-rooted-islamic-theology/). In fact, the role model for every practising Muslim, Prophet Muhammad, demonstrated on several occasions how hatred can be fought by way of humanitarian affection, and if someone suggests that I, as a non-Muslim, should not take interest in Islam, then how does he/she expect non-Muslims to not misunderstand his/her religion?
In this context, I recall reading a newspaper report following the ghastly 26/11 Mumbai attacks (Nariman House, a Jewish locality, was also targeted in the same), in which Jews from Mumbai were quoted as saying that they had enjoyed excellent relations with the local Muslims for centuries, and that in a recently opened Jewish school, many Muslim parents had admitted their children as they would get halal food. Indeed, the Muslims of Mumbai impressed not only the local Jews but the world at large by refusing to bury the bodies of the terrorists, and Thomas Friedman, an American Jewish public intellectual, wrote a column praising the Muslims of Mumbai, and he has written very many columns opposing human rights violations by the Israeli state machinery and opposing Islamophobia, even supporting the demand for a mosque at Ground Zero, though as a well-wisher of Muslims, I do not support that idea owing to the polarization it can create in the American society, including possibly, violent backlashes against innocent Muslims.
It may also be noted that there are several Hadiths that necessitate La Ilaha Ilallah (the belief in one formless God) as a prerequisite for going to heaven, but do not mention accepting the prophethood of Muhammad as being a necessary prerequisite. You can see many such Hadiths here – http://www.sunnah.org/aqida/forty_hadith_merits_tahlil.htm#_ftn1, and going by that logic, devout Jews would most definitely qualify to go to heaven as per Islamic theology.
Thus, Islamic theology provides no room for hate-mongering or violence against innocent Jews. In fact, the role model for every practising Muslim, Prophet Muhammad, demonstrated how hatred can be fought against by way of humanitarian affection by enquiring about the health of an old woman (who was not Muslim) throwing garbage at him daily. Hatred can never drive out hatred.
I know there would indeed be some Muslims who would argue that I should not talk about Islam, being a non-Muslim, but the question is – if no non-Muslim were to have taken interest in Islam, then how would non-Muslims embrace it (though I personally have no such intentions) or at least not misunderstand it?
However, moving beyond theology, let us examine some of the stereotypes that exist about Jews. All Jews are not elite businessmen controlling the economies of their respective countries. Many of them are not that well off and are into other vocations. Even in Israel, for instance, there are Jews who are doctors, teachers, labourers, taxi drivers and the likes. Furthermore, while it is true that historically, many of the rich money-lenders in Europe were Jews, it is because the Catholic Church had prohibited usury then, and since Christians then were extremely intolerant of the Jews, blaming successive generations of theirs for the crucifixion of Christ (even though ironically, the New Testament of the Bible accords the Jews a special status of being “God’s chosen people”), the Jews had no other way to survive but for becoming money-lenders so that they could be allowed to survive, and though Deuteronomy 23:19 in the Old Testament of the Bible, which the Jews believe in, explicitly mentions that usury is barred for “brothers”, the brotherhood was taken to mean fellow Jews, which meant they could lend money to Christians.
Further, let us explore the creation of Israel and the human rights violations committed by elements in the Israeli state machinery and see whether these have the consent of the entire Jewish community globally. Speaking of the creation of Israel, many Jews, including those living in Palestine, had opposed its creation strongly, including Albert Einstein (have a look at the letter written by Einstein and several other eminent American Jews). Einstein had said-
“I should much rather see reasonable agreement with the Arabs on the basis of living together in peace than the creation of a Jewish state. My awareness of the essential nature of Judaism resists the idea of a Jewish state with borders, an army, and a measure of temporal power, no matter how modest.”
Erich Fromm, a Jewish social psychologist, went to the extent of saying the following-
“The claim of the Jews to the Land of Israel cannot be a realistic political claim. If all nations would suddenly claim territories in which their forefathers lived two thousand years ago, this world would be a madhouse.”
Israel has a thriving civil society that fights for the rights of Palestinians. To quote from an article–
“Rabbi Ascherman — 50, tall, lean and bearded with mournful eyes (if central casting ever needed a Prophet Jeremiah type, he’d be it) — grew up in Erie, Pennsylvania. He fell in love with Israel on a brief visit between high school and college and moved here in 1994. At Rabbis for Human Rights, he presides over 20 staff members and hundreds of volunteers who sometimes serve as human shields to protect Palestinians — even if that means getting arrested or beaten.
I watched the ugly side of Israel collide with its more noble version, as Rabbi Ascherman and I visited a rural area in the northern West Bank where Jewish settlers have taken over land that Palestinian farmers say is theirs.”
“Rabbis for Human Rights has helped Palestinians recover some land through lawsuits in Israeli courts. And Rabbi Ascherman and other Jewish activists escort such farmers to protect them.”
“Rabbis for Human Rights has had strong support from North American Jews, and some American children participate in the classic Zionist gesture — planting a tree for Israel — by sending money so that the rabbis can replant an olive tree for a Palestinian whose grove was uprooted by settlers.
Not everyone finds Rabbi Ascherman inspiring. He gets death threats, and hard-line Israelis see him as a naïve traitor.”
“The most cogent critiques of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians invariably come from Israel’s own human rights organisations. The most lucid unraveling of Israel’s founding mythology comes from Israeli historians. The deepest critiques of Israel’s historical claims come from Israeli archaeologists (one archaeological organisation, Emek Shaveh, offers alternative historical tours so that visitors can get a fuller picture). This more noble Israel, refusing to retreat from its values even in times of fear and stress, is a model for the world.”
Indeed, many Israeli writers have condemned the wrongdoings of their own government.
There are Israeli Jewish playwrights who have tried to sensitize people to the Palestinian narrative through their plays. There are strongly anti-Zionist, religious Jews who want to undo the creation of Israel, have the Palestinian refugees return and live as Palestinian citizens (have a look at article 1, article 2 and article 3), though I do not believe this is a practical proposition. There is a group of Jewish women called ‘Women in Black’ protesting against human rights violations in the occupied Palestinian territories, and as one of their members, following the noble tenets of Judaism puts it – “I couldn’t be a Jew and not get involved with Women in Black.” A Swedish activist of Israeli origin declared after being attacked aboard the Gaza Flotilla – “We promise that we will go again and again to Gaza, until Gaza and Palestine are free.” There are also more moderate Zionists criticizing hard-line Zionist positions and praising Islam as a beautiful religion and hard-line Zionists are annoyed with the space the liberals have come to occupy (just like communal Hindus despise tolerant Hindus calling them “pseudo-secular” or even “sickular”), these ‘liberals’ including some Jews who go to the extent of being biased in favour of the Arabs! There have been several instances of Jews and Muslims saving lives of people of the other religious grouping in the spirit of humanity, which lies at the heart of all religions (speaking specifically of Islam, verse 5:32 of the Quran cited above makes it clear that saving the life of any innocent human being amounts to saving the entire humanity) and of Jews having built mosques for Muslims.
A liberal Canadian Muslim intellectual of Pakistani origin, Tarek Fatah, has, in his acclaimed book The Jew is Not My Enemy highlighted another devastating impact anti-Semitism has had on the Islamic world by deepening the sectarian divide among Muslims. While Islamists have targeted Fatah alleging that he denigrates Islam and stereotypes Muslims in a negative fashion, these are false allegations. Fatah defended Islam from the vile attacks made on it by ex-Muslim Wafa Sultan (here’s an article by an Islam-basher criticizing Fatah for the same), and far from stereotyping all Muslims in a negative fashion, Fatah has clearly stated-
“Unfortunately, whereas the religious right in Islam is well funded and well organised, the liberal secular Muslim is too busy leading a 9-to-5 life, paying his mortgage and providing for his family and thus has no time or resources to challenge the Islamist extremists.”
Indeed, Fatah has been a very vocal critic of Hindu communalism in India and how it has taken the lives of innocent Muslims and Christians.
Now, coming back to what he has to say about anti-Semitism deepening the sectarian divide among Muslims. Fatah, referring to the 20th century Islamist ideologue Syed Qutub, says–
“In 1951, Qutb wrote an essay that clearly defined his view of the Jewish world. Titled “Our Fight against the Jews”, the essay was later included in a collection published in Saudi Arabia in 1970. The Saudi booklet bore the same title as Qutb’s essay and was widely circulated in the Arab world, where it became the defining text of the Islamist view of Jews.
The 1970 Saudi version linked Qutb’s work with the discredited Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Qutb’s essay is pockmarked with footnotes by the Saudi Editor, who used The Protocols to prove Qutb’s allegations against the Jews. For the editor, as for many contemporary Islamic authors, The Protocols were confirmation of anti-Jewish ideas rooted in Islamic tradition.
In his essay, Qutb not only dwelled on the nature of the Jew and the supposed Jewish goal of destroying Islam, he presented a simple answer to this challenge: Muslims must defeat the Jews. He wrote, ‘The Jews will be satisfied only with the destruction of this religion (Islam).’ He depicted Jews as the inevitable enemies of Islam and the creation of the state of Israel as the manifestation of Jewish revenge against Muslims for their humiliation in Medina fourteen centuries earlier.
Qutb insists that if Muslims returned to ‘proper’ Islam (as interpreted by him), the Ummah, the Muslim Community, would triumph. The problem with that argument is that Hamas has taken that route but has not succeeded any more than the secular Palestinians of Fatah or the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine [PELP]. In fact, by following the guidelines of Qutb and his followers, such as the late Sheikh Yasin and the exiled Khalid Meshaal, the Muslims of Gaza are today worse off than their compatriots in the West Bank.
If Muslims were to take Sayyid Qutb’s essay as a guide to understand Jews(and many Islamists do), he or she would be hard pressed not to view world history as one endless battle that can be won only by completely annihilating the Jewish people. Repeatedly, Qutb depicts Jews as the eternal enemy of Islam, with whom Muslims are locked in a divinely ordained battle to the end. The essay leads to four conclusions:
1. The Jews have opposed Islam as enemies of the Prophet from the moment the ‘Islamic state’ was established in Medina.
2. It was the Jews who were instrumental in creating the Shia Sunni divide in Islam.
3. The Jews will only be satisfied once the religion of Islam has been destroyed.
4. The war between Muslims and Jews has been raging for fourteen centuries and will continue in all corners of the earth.
Among Qutb’s many allegations against the Jews, the one that is most dangerous and that has done tremendous damage within Islam is the charge that the Shia-Sunni divide is the result of a Jewish conspiracy and that Shia Muslims are a product of Jewish machinations, and thus their fifth column inside Islamdom.
Qutb also writes about how the Jews conspired to sow dissension among the factions vying for power after the death of Prophet Muhammad, discord that led to the murder of the third caliph, Usman bin Affan, by a rioting mob. He writes in the essay that the man who incited the people and set them loose to kill caliph Usman was Jewish.
Sayyid Qutb is prone to lie with a sense of self-righteousness that is the hallmark of most Islamists. The person he accuses of being the Jew who incited the killing of Usman and of fomenting the schism in Islam was a man named Abdullah ibn Safa. By all accounts he was a Yemeni Jew who had converted to Islam. So what? All the Muslims involved in this first civil war of Islam—the Muslims backing Usman and those opposing him—were not born in Islam. Some, like Caliph Usman, were former pagans, while others had come to Islam from Christianity, Judaism and Zoroastrianism. To use the Jewish ancestry of Abdullah ibn Safa (who the Shias, besides, claim is a fictitious character) as a sign of Jewish deviousness, when other converted Jews were supporting Usman, is unadulterated Judeophobia that has gone unchallenged for centuries. Qutb’s essay epitomizes the Islamist traditions of passing the buck to the kuffar. No matter how badly we Muslims bungle our diplomacy, there is always the Jew to blame for the mess we create. One could argue that if a Jew can be blamed for the murder of Caliph Usman, then a Jew can also be blamed for the Darfur Genocide or the Muslim-on-Muslim slaughter in Pakistan.
Syed Qutb’s Jew-hatred has had dreadful consequences in the Muslim communities where Shia and Sunni Muslims peacefully coexisted for centuries on the Indian subcontinent, where the descendents of the Prophet Muhammad took refuge among Hindu kingdoms as they were hunted down by the Umayyad Arab caliphate in Damascus. Today, the anti-Semitism spread by Islamists like Qutb and their Saudi sponsors has mutated into hatred of the Shias, since it is hard to find a single Jew in all of Pakistan. Among the slanderous myths that have come from The Protocols and been tweaked to apply to Shia Muslims are the following-
1. Shia slaughter young Sunni Children and use their blood and meat during the feast offerings at the time of Ashura to commemorate the martyrdom of Imam Hussain.
2. Shias inject their semen into food they serve to Sunnis.
3. Shias disembowel their dead seniors, extract a clear liquid, and use it in the preparation of food to be served to other Muslims during the holy month of Muharram.
4. During the celebration of Nawroz (when Shias in Pakistan and Iran gather to read Sufi prayers), Shia Muslims indulge in incestuous orgies.
These are some of the lies being propagated by Sunni Islamist groups, such as Sipah-e-Sahaba, that are allied to the Taliban and Al Qaeda, where the teachings of Sayyid Qutb are introduced by the so-called Arab Afghans who come to Pakistan and Afghanistan armed with The Protocols, Milestone, and Qutb’s essay ‘Our Fight against the Jews’. When they can’t find any Jews to blame, the next best thing for them to target is Shia Muslims.”
Speaking of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion or The Protocols of the Meetings of the Learned Elders of Zion Fatah refers to, it is an antisemitic hoax purporting to describe a Jewish plan for global domination It was first published in Russia in 1903, translated into multiple languages, and disseminated internationally in the early part of the 20th century, source material for the forgery consisting jointly of Dialogue aux enfers entre Machiavel et Montesquieu or Dialogue in Hell Between Machiavelli and Montesquieu, an 1864 political satire by Maurice Jolyand a chapter from Biarritz, an 1868 novel by the antisemitic German novelist Hermann Goedsche, which had been translated into Russian in 1872.
Adolf Hitler and the Nazis publicized the text as though it were a valid document, although it had already been exposed as fraudulent. After the Nazi Party came to power in 1933, it ordered the text to be studied in German classrooms. The historian Norman Cohn suggested that Hitler used the Protocols as his primary justification for initiating the Holocaust—his ‘warrant for genocide’.
The Protocols purports to document the minutes of a late 19th-century meeting of Jewish leaders discussing their goal of global Jewish hegemony by subverting the morals of Gentiles, and by controlling the press and the world’s economies. It is still widely available today and even now sometimes presented as a genuine document, whether on the Internet or in print in numerous languages.
In fact, historically speaking, several Arab Muslim rulers like Salahadin, Umar and Suleiman were very tolerant to the Jews, even giving them positions of power, and so were the Arab kings who ruled over Spain. Even today, interestingly, in Iran, for example, which is a vociferous critic of Israel, Jewish citizens of Iran are given complete religious freedom, and they run their own hospitals, libraries, religious schools and even a newspaper, and a seat is reserved for them in the Israeli parliament, and they also have a history of contributions to the Iranian army. Many of them are proud Iranians refusing to migrate to Israel, even rejecting monetary incentives by the Israeli government. Iranian Jews have also come out on the streets protesting against human rights violations by the Israeli state machinery (just as Indian Muslims have often publicly protested against wrong actions by elements in the Pakistani state machinery). Ayotullah Khomeni, in spite of his extremist outlook, had rightly declared that Iranian Jews ought not to be seen as extension of Israel. To know more about this, please have a look at these videos- (video1 and video2). However, I do condemn the anti-Israel hate-mongering by very many (though not all) Iranian politicians.
This widespread antisemitism, which Muslim reformer Bassam Tibi describes as “a contamination of Islam” exists owing to a flawed narrative of global Muslim victimhood, which in turn, bases itself on the concept of a Muslim ummah or a global Muslim fraternity. In this connection, again, I would like to draw the attention of Muslim friends to the Quran. Those time and again talking of a Muslim ummah cite the following verse of the Quran-
“The believers are to live as nothing else but brothers.” (49:10)
However, in this process of heavily emphasizing a global pan-Muslim identity, such Muslims are providing an anachronistic interpretation. During Prophet Muhammad’s lifetime, Islam was largely confined to the Arab world and Muslims were under threat, since Islam had emerged as a challenge to the existing social order; thus, in that context, the emphasis on a religion-based fraternity meant something else. However, with the passage of time, and especially now with the rise of nation-states (accommodating people of multiple religions) with a defined sovereignty that ought to be respected and global human rights activism (there were people of diverse faiths and nationalities, including people of Israeli origin, aboard the Gaza Flotilla), the concept hardly remains relevant in the same form, though a general spiritual affinity can be understandable. In fact, the fundamental message in the Quran is one of humanism. The following verse illustrates this spirit-
“O mankind, indeed we have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted.” (49:13)
The above verse, while emphasizing human unity, also acknowledges nature’s law of diversity that makes the world beautiful, explaining the multiplicity of nations and tribes. This verse makes it clear that embracing Islam should not come in the way of being loyal to your nation, even if the majority there isn’t of Muslims, nor does embracing Islam imply a need to culturally delink yourself from one’s country. In fact, Prophet Muhammad reportedly even explicitly stated that a true Muslim must love his country (Hub al-Watan e min al-Iman). In fact, the term ummah appears in the Quran only twice and has been used to refer to nations, without any religious connotation, and it was also used in the constitution of Medina drafted by Prophet Muhammad to connote a nation where Muslims and non-Muslims coexisted harmoniously. In this connection, I’d like to quote an excerpt from Tariq Ramadan’s book The Messenger – The Meanings of the Life of Muhammad’-
“Abdullah ibn Judan, the chief of the Taym tribe and a member of one of the two great alliances of Meccan tribes (known as the People of the Perfume), decided to invite to his home all those who wanted to put an end to the conflicts and establish a pact of honor and justice that would bind the tribes beyond alliances based merely on tribal, political, or commercial interests.
Chiefs and members of numerous tribe this pledged that it was their collective duty to intervene in conflicts and side with the oppressed against the oppressors, whoever they might be and whatever alliances might link them to other tribes. This alliance, known as hilf al-fudul (the Pact of the Virtuous), was special in that it placed respect for the principles of justice and support of the oppressed above all other considerations of kinship or power. Young Muhammad, like Abu Bakr, who was to become his lifelong friend, took part in that historic meeting.
Long after Revelation has begun, Muhammad was to remember the terms of that pact and say: ‘I was present in Abdullah ibn Judan’s house when a pact was concluded, so excellent that I would not exchange my part in it even for a herd of red camels; and if now, in Islam, I was asked to take part in it, I would be glad to accept.’ Not only did the Prophet stress the excellence of the terms of the pact as opposed to the perverted tribal alliances prevailing at the time, but he added that even as the bearer of the message of Islam-even as a Muslim-he still accepted its substance and would not hesitate to participate again. That statement is of particular significance for Muslims, and at least three major teachings can be derived from it. We have seen that the Prophet had been advised to make good use of his past, but here the reflection goes even further: Muhammad acknowledges a pact that was established before the beginning of Revelation and which pledges to defend justice imperatively and to oppose the oppression of those who were destitute and powerless. This implies acknowledging that the act of laying out those principles is prior to and transcends belonging to Islam, because in fact Islam and its message came to confirm the substance of a treaty that human conscience had already independently formulated. Here, the Prophet clearly acknowledges the validity of a principle of justice and defense of the oppressed stipulated in a pact of the pre-Islamic era.”
“From the very start, the Prophet did not conceive the content of his message as the expression of pure otherness versus what the Arabs or the other societies of his time were producing. Islam does not establish a closed universe of reference but rather relies on a set of universal principles that can coincide with the fundamentals and values of other beliefs and religious traditions (those produced by a polytheistic society such as that of Mecca at the time). Islam is a message of justice that entails resisting oppression and protecting the dignity of the oppressed and the poor, and Muslims must recognize the moral value of a law or contract stipulating the requirement, whoever its authors and whatever the society, Muslim or not. Far from building an allegiance to Islam in which recognition and loyalty are exclusive to the community of faith, the Prophet strove to develop the believer’s conscience through adherence to principles transcending closed allegiances in the name of a primary loyalty to universal principles themselves. The last message brings nothing new to the affirmation of the principles of human dignity, justice, and equality: it merely recalls and confirms them. As regards moral values, the same intuition is present when the Prophet speaks of the qualities of individuals before and in Islam: ‘The best among you [as to their human and moral qualities] during the era before Islam [al-jahiliyyah] are the best in Islam, provided they understand it [Islam].’ The moral value of a human being reaches far beyond belonging to a particular universe of reference; within Islam, it requires added knowledge and understanding in order to grasp properly what Islam confirms (the principle of justice) and what it demands should be reformed (all forms of idol worship).”
Thus, Muslims in their respective countries, following their religious edicts, should be humanistic nationalists of their respective countries devoted to the truth. To defend the wrong actions of Muslims is not in line with Islam. Prophet Muhammad himself said that Muslims must stop fellow Muslims from oppressing anyone, Muslim or non-Muslim. To quote the relevant Hadith (Shahi Bukhari, Volume 3, Book 43, Hadith Number 624)-
“Narated By Anas : Allah’s Apostle said, ‘Help your brother, whether he is an oppressor or he is an oppressed one.’ People asked, ‘O Allah’s Apostle! It is all right to help him if he is oppressed, but how should we help him if he is an oppressor?’ The Prophet said, ‘By preventing him from oppressing others’.”
Thus, Pakistani Muslims, for example, while being loyal to their country, ought to be vocal against those in their country who resort to terrorism against innocent Indians (including Muslims, for bombs and bullets don’t differentiate on the basis of religion, and indeed, Indian Muslims have been victims of attacks by Pakistani terrorists), Afghans (most of whom are Muslims) and non-Muslims in their own country, other than human rights violations by their security personnel in Balochistan and the erstwhile East Pakistan, and to their credit, many of them have (I have written an article praising such Pakistani Muslims.
Likewise, Indian Muslims (and Indians of other religions) must condemn human rights violations by the Israeli state machinery but must also condemn human rights violations in the form of terrorist attacks by sections of Palestinians. And, in the spirit of humanism, while opposing human rights violations anywhere and everywhere, also, in the spirit of Indian nationalism, place Indian national interests at the forefront of analyzing India’s foreign policy. If India having economic and strategic relations with Israel helps the cause of our prosperity and security, then our Indian Muslim brothers and sisters should have no objection to the same, and indeed, they too have only to gain. Many Indian Muslims have indeed contributed in a positive way to our national security, like nuclear scientist Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam (who is a son of a Muslim cleric and received madrasa education in his childhood along with regular schooling) and hundreds who have defended India’s frontiers against Pakistan, many even winning gallantry awards. Brigadier Mohammad Usman and Havaldar Abdul Hamid stand out in our military lore.
In fact, speaking of Islam not coming in the way of delinking oneself from one’s race or tribe, it may be mentioned that Pathan (also known as Pashtun or Pakhtun) Muslims possibly have Jewish ancestry, which has even reflected in many of their customs, and in this context, I would request readers to have a look at this article, and this article on an Indian Pathan Muslim who is a lover of Israel and studying there, who alludes to the possibility of this theory being accurate, and here’s a video on him too.
The votaries of global Muslim victimhood portray any conflict between a Muslim and a non-Muslim country as an attack on the Muslim ummah, and cite the US occupation of Iraq for gaining control over oil reserves in the same light, overlooking that Pakistan invaded the sovereign kingdom of Balochistan (and the case in Kashmir is very different) for the same reason, and these very people hardly point out that US neo-imperialism reflected themselves in the Vietnam war too, when Vietnam is not a Muslim-majority country or that Indian military and paramilitary personnel have committed excesses not only in Muslim-majority Kashmir but even Hindu-majority Assam, just as the Pakistani military has committed excesses in Muslim-majority Balochistan and (the erstwhile) East Pakistan. Perhaps no country in the world has a fully clean human rights record, judging by international human rights documents (which also mention access to food, housing and a clean environment as human rights); so, it makes little sense to single out Israel and demonize it. Saudi Arabia is also a US ally and perhaps has the worst human rights record, wrongly justifying the same under the banner of Islam (here’s an article on that by a Muslim), but how often do we hear these Islamists bashing Saudi Arabia, even when it decided to demolish historic mosques (have a look at this article 1 and article 2). This article makes an interesting read in this context. In fact, Israel is a stable democracy, and democracy is a doctrine close to Islamic theology (the concept of shura in the Quran) with some political parties in Israel emphasizing peaceful relations with the Palestinians, and one such political party has indeed even made considerable electoral headway. There are Israeli Jewish journalists ridiculing their own extremist leaders, and peace-loving Israelis are vocal on the social media too!
Also, Palestinians living in the occupied territories apart, it must be noted that Muslims residing within the borders of Israel have been conferred equal rights as Israeli citizens, and have become army generals, cabinet ministers, Supreme Court judges and the likes, other than being governed by their own personal laws, and with any non-Muslim having complete freedom to embrace Islam as his/her faith. Muslims in Israel, like in India or the United States, enjoy better civil liberties than Muslims in many, if not most or even all, Islamic states do, and in many cases, even better security of life and property (take, for instance, Pakistan, where Shia-Sunni clashes, Sindhi-Mohajir clashes in places like Karachi, secessionist violence in Balochistan, and most importantly, in the current context, terrorist attacks by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan have taken far more lives of innocent Muslims in recent years than Hindu-Muslim clashes in India). In this context, this video of a practising Muslim of Pakistani origin who changed from being antisemetic to being a lover of Israel is a must-watch, and even this news report recounting the experience of an Indian Muslim delegation to Israel is a must-read.
India has condemned human rights violations by the Israeli state machinery time and again, as it well should, but why should it not develop friendly relations with Israel? I have the same attitude towards a section of Indian Tamils that doesn’t want India to have good relations with Sri Lanka owing to the problems of the Sri Lankan Tamils, and as an Indian, I emphasize that Indian Tamils should see themselves as Indians first (have a look at this article of mine), and indeed, I expect even Indian Jews to identify with India rather than Israel as many of them do (and I dislike the fact that some Indian Jews join the Israeli defence forces rather than their Indian counterparts), and for that matter, speaking for myself, as an Indian Hindu, even I identify more with Indians of other faiths rather than Nepalese or Indonesian Hindus or American whites who have embraced Hinduism, for example.
Interestingly, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat said that he had no problem with India having friendly relations with Israel, appreciating India’s commitment to the Palestinian cause. In fact, India supports a pragmatic solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict, which necessitates the creation of an independent Palestine alongside Israel, a solution supported even by many moderate Palestinians, but that will be possible only if a section of Palestinians that is resorting to terrorism gives up that un-Islamic path and Israel can feel secure that Palestinians recognize its right to exist. The creation of Israel was wrong even in my opinion (though there are many others, including those not in the least prejudiced against Muslims and even Muslims themselves who disagree), but undoing it would neither be practically possible nor even fair after so many decades. It would be akin to partition refugees in India and Pakistan going back to their homelands on the other side of the border and trying to reclaim their houses from those currently living there or Red Indians in Canada and the United States wanting to drive out everyone else living in those countries (including very many converts to Islam and Muslim immigrants from across the globe)!
Such a compromise in the larger interest of peace is in line with the tenets of Islam. To quote from an article–
“Sheikh bin Bayyah reminds us that Prophet Mohammed signed the treaty of Hudaibiyah with his oppressors to keep peace in society. When his opponents rejected the first line of the treaty drafted by Muslims, the Prophet erased references to Allah as ‘compassionate and merciful’ in line with demands from Mecca’s non-Muslims. Not content, they then required the Prophet delete mention of ‘Mohammed, the Prophet of God’ – in other words, the Prophet’s entire raison d’être was rejected. The Prophet made the changes, the Hudaibiyah agreement was signed. At what price? The very basis of belief in God’s characteristics and the Prophet’s purpose dismissed – but agreed by the Prophet himself for maintaining wider peace in society. Peace is the first right – once that is secured, other rights can be considered.
The Prophet’s own grandson, Husain, some decades after the Prophet’s death, relinquished his right to the caliphate. Imam Husain sought compromise and peace at the expense of his own rights. So what of today’s Muslims? With erudite interventions throughout the two days from Islam’s highest sources, Sheikh bin Bayyah inspired confidence in mainstream Islam’s correction of extremists. The light of Islamic knowledge can extinguish the darkness of extremism.”
While Prophet Muhammad’s life illustrates this beautifully, let me cite a verse from the Quran to drive home this point-
“And do not make [your oath by] Allah an excuse against being righteous and fearing Allah and making peace among people. And Allah is Hearing and Knowing.” (2:224)
Explaining this verse, Prophet Muhammad said-
“If anyone takes a solemn oath [that he would do or refrain from doing such-and such a thing], and thereupon realizes that something else would be a more righteous course, then let him do that which is more righteous, and let him break his oath and then atone for it.”
Thus, Prophet Muhammad even suggested that compromises could be made on the tenets of Islam for the larger cause of peace and goodwill; here, it’s only a question of recognizing the territorial integrity of a country in existence since decades, and indeed, the Holocaust was among the most terrible events in world history. Once that is done, Israel would have no excuse to hold on to Gaza and West Bank, and non-violent resistance of the Gandhian variety (which has no room for stone-pelting) can help win more international sympathy for the creation of an independent Palestine. Indeed, Mahatma Gandhi, who had opposed the creation of Israel, used to read the Quran in Arabic with understanding and was killed by a Hindu extremist for trying to protect and safeguard Indian Muslims in the wake of the partition, had said that satyagraha is a form of jihad!