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Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Losing context in a troubled world

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The world over, violence or threats of violence, seems to be the path of choice some Muslims have taken to express themselves.

Walski wants to make this very clear - Islam is not about violence. Nor does Islam advocate aggression. It is a religion of peace. Unfortunately, it is beautiful religion that has been made very ugly by those "Muslims" who are bent on doing attrocious things in God's name.

There are enemies of Islam, that much is true. There are those who would misinterpret portions of the Quran to illustrate how Islam promotes violence. Walski doesn't deny the existence of such people. But looking at the world around him, Walski sometimes believes that some Muslims themselves have become Islams worst enemy - the way they behave, and the way violence is nonchalantly used to express themselves. The value of life, it seems, becomes secondary to fervor.

It is always easier to blame others, rather than to be introspective and analyze one's shortcomings. That, after all, is part human nature. An ugly part, but a part of what makes us humans, nevertheless.

In some cases, Muslims are even willing to kill each other in pursuit of laying claim that one group is more "Islamic" than the other. This news report just came in this evening (via Al-Jazeerah):

Image hosting by PhotobucketYet more mayhem in an Islamic land

Somalia, of course, has been a civil-war wonderland since around 1969, and at present doesn't really have a government to speak of (Wikipedia has a rather good low-down on the country). And the power struggle continues until this day. The country is predominantly Muslim, by the way.

The alleged perpretrators of the bomb blast, according to the news report, are fighters loyal to the Islamic Court Union (ICU), whom have recently taken over the capital Mogadishu, and is reported to be gaining support. The current interim President, the target of the attack, has no power to speak of. The blast is reported to have killed several people (6 according to Reuters, 8 by CNN's count), but the President and some members of his government within the motorcade, have been reported to survive the incident unscathed.

Somalia is also where an Italian nun was gunned down a few days ago, suspected to be as a result of Pope Benedict's remarks which sparked a worldwide furor.

Meanwhile in London, a lawyer and known vocal extremist, has called for the execution of the Pope. Anjem Choudary was quoted to have said "The Muslims take their religion very seriously and non-Muslims must appreciate that and that must also understand that there may be serious consequences if you insult Islam and the prophet." This is the same person supposedly involved with inciting violence during the Danish cartoons protests some months back.

Two examples, just within the span of 24 hours. Walski could probably quote numerous other examples, but it would be pointless, really. The fact is that many Muslims believe the way they carry themselves, in the name of Islam, is beyond reproach. And whatever is done in the name of Islam, no matter how heinous, cannot be challenged.

It is this sort of mindset that is the bane of Islam today. The press and media, of course, laps it all up because sensationalism sells.
(more criticism and thoughts in the full post)

One might argue that this negative portrayal is a concerted effort by the West and West-controlled media to paint a negative picture of Islam. Perhaps there is some truth to this. But don't forget that the news media of today thrives on sensationalism and controversy. Minus the death threats, Choudary would be nothing more than just an irate Muslim, not quite worth reporting.

The old adage applies, however: there never is smoke without fire.

And those Muslims who choose to act violently or threaten and incite violence, in the name of Islam, aren't doing Islam any favors by acting in the manner they do either. All they're achieving is giving credence to the accusations that Islam is a violent religion.

Walski believes that there are many factors contributing to this sort of bad behavior. For one thing, the opinion that a more hardline Islam is the "true" Islam seems to have currency within some quarters. Like any other scripture, certain verses in the Quran could be interpreted in various ways, some even interpreted as inciting violence, if taken out of context.

But like any book, these excerpts must be taken within the context of the underlying and over-riding themes - peace, justice and peity to God alone.

The Quran is not unique in this respect - any scripture taken out of context of the underlying message can be distorted to ends suited to a cause du jour. Those who prescribe portions of scripture to fit a certain cause, often tend to deviate from the true teachings of that scripture and religion.

Many attrocities in the history of man have been justified on the basis of religion. Both Christianity and Islam, for example, have been guilty, at some points in time, for using their respective religions as the basis of persecution and morally wrong acts of man.

And in today's age of rationality, it is the concept of context that appears to be missing from the mindset of those who choose religion as a means to rally their brethren into a frenzy of hate. This visible phenomenon that beseiges Islam today, is not unique to Islam, although it is visibly prevalent in current times within the Islamic community.

One area that has become totally beyond reproach, concerns the prophet Muhammad.

No one will deny that Muhammad was a great man, chosen by God to deliver HIS final revelation to mankind. But even the Quran itself will atest, that in the final analysis, Muhammad was just a mere mortal, like you and I - flesh and blood. Muslims, in fact, should revere all of God's prophets, and the Quran tells us specifically that there is no distinction in rank between them (surah 2 verse 136, and surah 3 verse 84).

But the kind of reverence that most Muslims give Muhammad today, in certain instances, goes beyond that which is due to another great mortal. It has almost become borderline deification, where Muhammad has become a person who was, in his lifetime, totally infallible and sinless.

The Quran, in fact relates an instance where Muhammad is admonished by God, for concealing a particular revelation, in fear of offending his people:

Image hosting by PhotobucketSurah Al-Ahzab (surah 33), verse 37

(Yusof Ali translation) Behold! Thou didst say to one who had received the grace of Allah and thy favour: "Retain thou (in wedlock) thy wife, and fear Allah." But thou didst hide in thy heart that which Allah was about to make manifest: thou didst fear the people, but it is more fitting that thou shouldst fear Allah. Then when Zaid had dissolved (his marriage) with her, with the necessary (formality), We joined her in marriage to thee: in order that (in future) there may be no difficulty to the Believers in (the matter of) marriage with the wives of their adopted sons, when the latter have dissolved with the necessary (formality) (their marriage) with them. And Allah's command must be fulfilled.

In other words, Muhammad made a boo-boo. But these days, to even suggest that Muhammad was not infallible will probably attract the ire of many Muslims, despite what the Quran has to say.

And perhaps it is within this context that it can be understood why any mention of Muhammad in a way even the slightest bit uncomplementary, evokes such wrath from (most) Muslims the world over.

For those Muslims who choose violence as a means towards an end, though, perhaps it is time to reassess the true context of Islam and what it means to be a Muslim.

Because when context is lost, meaning tends to get obscured....