Kanwar Khuldune Shahid’s article “Don’t Blame Taliban” appeared in Pakistan Today on Friday, 12 October. My blog is a brief response to what he has written. It is important that his article too be read if the discussion on the subject is to be fully appreciated.
The good thing about the author is that he hasn’t spared any punches while commenting on Islam. It’s far better talking to someone who is frank even if a little rude in criticizing your point of view than talking to someone whose inner feelings are different from what are expressed.
The interesting fact though is that the author has survived despite writing the article because it was written in English. Had it been expressed in Urdu, published in an Urdu newspaper, not only the author, but Arif Nizami Sahib and the building of Pakistan Today would have ceased to exist by now. So let’s thank our God for enabling humans to communicate in languages other than Urdu and let’s avail this opportunity to exchange our views and be more available for understanding them.
The article alleges that the original Islam is barbaric and that those who try to present an understanding which paints a moderate picture of it are hypocrite liars. The tone of the author disappoints me slightly, because it is only when one is prepared to listen to the other view that a meaningful dialogue is possible. While presenting my understanding, I am hoping that behind the anger-ridden article is an honest, truth-seeking man who is willing to listen to the other view with an open mind.
The article has criticized the message of Islam on two counts in particular: the part of the message that desires from the believer that non-believers be considered a despicable lot who are worthy of being hated and killed and the other one that requires punishments stipulated in the Shari’ah to be meted out on the happening of certain crimes. He considers those punishments and the laws relevant to women barbaric, anachronistic, and unworthy of the modern times.
Since both criticisms are important and need more detailed treatment, I would refer to links to two of my more detailed articles relevant to these issues. However, I will briefly respond to them in this blog too to make it a somewhat complete, even though brief, response. The fact is that Kanwar’s understanding of Islam is based on an incorrect interpretation of the message of Islam. One can only call another person a hypocrite if one knows that he is deliberately claiming to believe in something that he realizes from inside to be wrong.
As for the allegation that Islam expects believers to despise and kill non-believers, the fact is that Qur’an clearly mentions such instructions to be applicable for a certain group of people of the prophet’s era who were declared criminals by God. They were the ones who had been delivered God’s message most effectively by the messenger of God and after the clarity had reached beyond doubt, God sent His direct instructions directly to His messenger to get them killed. Several earlier nations were meted out with similar punishments through natural calamities. God chose to punish some of the criminals belonging to this category through the swords of His messengers’ companions. The Qur’an has described the law most clearly that caused them to be killed. One needs to read the Qur’an with unbiased objectivity to know that is written in the text. If someone has already made up his mind, whether he is a narrow-minded religious extremist or an equally biased opponent of him, he can’t be shown what is clearly written there. The Qur’an repeatedly mentions that its message is only relevant to those who want to know. See for a more detailed treatment of the topic
As for the punishments for certain criminals, indeed Islam stands to punish people who are found guilty of committing certain crimes after the crimes have been fully ascertained and they are deemed unworthy of any concession. It is indeed a debate that Muslims must continue to have with others, in particular the Western intellectuals, that if an individual is proved to be an undisputed criminal whose existence is a threat to the society, should he be sympathized with or be delivered an exemplary punishment so that others are deterred from committing it and saved from the evil effects of it. One needs to ask as to what was the purpose of launching such a massive campaign after 9/11 against terrorists who after all were humans worthy of being sympathized with? Why wasn’t it decided by the western intellectuals that they deserved to be cured psychologically so that they could be reformed to become normal citizens of the society? Why wasn’t a team of expert psychologists and psychiatrists sent to Afghanistan instead of an army of killers? Why aren’t written messages of psychological treatment being distributed through drones instead of bombs getting hurled at the criminals, in the process killing many innocent people as well? Indeed Islam mentions clear punishments as a part of its universal message for those who create mischief on earth, the murderers, thieves, fornicators, and those who make false allegations against innocent people. See for a detailed description of where Islam agrees with human rights movement and where it doesn’t:
I have observed an unfortunate tendency among some critics of Islam that they don’t want to know any interpretation other than the crude, extremist one so that their punches could effectively land on the vulnerable parts of the enemy’s body. It seems as, quite the same way as the extremist Muslims do, they too have already made up their minds that there is only acceptable version of Islam, which is the crude version of it presented by the Taliban-like people. Their firm decision doesn’t allow them to listen to any other interpretation. In the process they end up behaving just like the closed-minded Taliban, although taking the debate on Islam in the very opposite direction. I sincerely hope that Kanwar Khuldune Shahid is not one of them.
As a result of the highly unreasonable picture of Islam that emerges, the only solution such critics of Islam present is that this outdated religion should be scrapped. They don’t realize that they are unwittingly planning for not just elimination of Islam but human civilization as well. If they imagine the events that would follow after their anti-Islam campaign would unfold fully, they would see that it would not just be Islam’s but the entire humanity’s future that would be at stake. Muslims will never leave Islam nor tolerate its open condemnation and rejection. We have seen enough in the recent times to know that truth. However, Muslims can always be convinced to understand and practice the true, soft version of their faith. The fact of the matter is that it is not Islam but the faulty, extremist, and narrow-minded interpretation of it which is at the heart of the problem. And if the proposers of the anti-Islam ideology and the opponents of it are not going to give way to an attitude of openness and dialogue and as a consequence to new ideas, the problems of this world are going to keep multiplying.
The fact is that Taliban and their sympathizers and the extremists opposing them have presented such a crude, incorrect understanding of Islam that it has become very difficult for the common man to distinguish the correct message from the incorrect version of it. However, for the intelligent, discerning minds it is not difficult to follow the clear line of understanding emerging from the Qur’anic text which presents a picture that is both authentic and convincing. And it has become important now as never before to understand with an open mind what the true Islam is. And at the heart of the possibility of dissemination of the true message of Islam is the idea of a project like the Malala University. See http://blog.khalidzaheer.com/posts/85