How far should liberal societies tolerate the intolerant?
The above question was asked by the Economist of England. Mr. Irfan Husain, one of the respected columnists of one of Pakistan’s premier English Dailies, reproduced it at the end of his recently written weekly column “Liberalism and tolerance” with a desire to find out if anybody has a definitive answer to the Economist’s most vexing question.
Irfan incorporated the Economist’s question in his article with a specific purpose and it is the backlash against Muslims and Islam in the West and in some other non-Muslim countries of the world. Like world’s other concerned citizens who want to see the backlash against Muslims and their faith stopped, but do not know how, Irfan made a commendable effort at finding out the causes that make Muslims the object of backlash in the western and some other societies. After noting that Muslims have, of late, gone through a behavioral change, he observed that xenophobia and blind anti-western sentiments have not only blinded most of the Muslims, their outrage at how some westerners and other non-Muslims view and treat them have also been preventing them from realizing where their own prejudices have already taken or are likely to take them to in the days to come.
Concurring with Irfan’s observation, I will attempt to point out some of the prime causes that are responsible for the treatment Muslims have started receiving from most of the non-Muslim people of the world.
Contrary to the general perception, Muslims are a group of people who are generally normal and peace-loving. Like the believers of other faiths, they get married; raise families and lead normal lives. They live in communities and interact with their fellow members in the same manner in which all normal and civil people are expected to behave, but the sign of ‘normalcy’ in most of the Muslims disappears when they are faced with issues that pertain to their religion as well as when the application of its doctrines in their lives surfaces.
Tolerance in the Muslims takes a back seat when the question of following Islam by their family members arises. When cajolement fails, they very often force them to make Islam an important part of their lives. They are known for making their kids of four to five years old to read and learn the Quran when they are supposed to be playing with their toys. They turn their female kids of same age group into women by making them to follow all those Islamic rules, which are supposed to be followed only by the grown up Muslim women.
Reluctance on the part of their children to follow what they are asked to follow turns their parents and peers into dictators. In their dictatorial capacity, they force their children into their obedience. Very often, they torture their children into knowing and following Islam.
Muslims have never been kind to the critics of their faith and its myriad doctrines. They fly into a rage when someone says, for example, that the Prophet of their faith was fond of women. They turn violent when they are told that what their Prophet had done with infant Aisha was equal to a pedophilic act.
Unlike the followers of Judaism and Christianity- two other major religions of the world- Muslims believe that every word of the Quran came from none but from their Allah. This belief makes the Quran extraordinarily sacred to them. Following the teaching of their religion, Muslims dedicate themselves to upholding the sacredness of the Quran even it is likely to cost them their own lives.
While adopting belligerent postures towards those who believe that each and every word of the Quran is not from Allah, Muslims do not feel any qualm in discarding the Quran in order to uphold their belief. This is deducible from their rigid unwillingness to take lesson from the content of the following verse:
“Lo! We inspire thee as We inspired Noah and the prophets after him, as We inspired Abraham and Ishmael and Isaac and Jacob and the tribes, and Jesus and Job and Jonah and Aaron and Solomon, and as We imparted unto David the Psalms” (4:163, as translated by Mohammed Mermaduke Pickthall).
The following verse explains the above content:
“Say (O Muhammad, to mankind): Who is an enemy to Gabriel! For he it is who hath revealed (this Scripture) to thy heart by Allah’s leave, confirming that which was (revealed) before it, and a guidance and glad tidings to believers;” (2:97-as translated by Pickthall).
The speaker of the above verses is Allah. He makes it clear that He sent His inspirations to Muhammad, through angel Gabriel, to his heart (the ancient Arabs believed that their ‘hearts,’ and not their minds, were the depository of their intelligence, hence Allah’s decision to use this word in His message to Muhammad).
Giving inspirations through heart does not mean that the angel Gabriel actually spoke to the Prophet of Islam. He simply inspired him on Allah’s behalf. After receiving inspirations in his heart, Muhammad relayed them to his followers in his own words.
The following example will make the point clearer.
Very often, Architects receive inspirations from nature and their surroundings. They then put down those inspirations on paper. They use signs, drawings and words to express their inspirations, even though no words were involved when they received them from nature and their surroundings.
Muslims do not want to understand this simple fact. Instead, they insist that each and every word of the Quran is from Allah. This is a very contentious issue, which they cannot substantiate either logically or with palpable proof. Failure to do so not only makes them highly agitated, their aggressive approach to the contestants of their belief also turns them into an undesirable elements.
Before the occurrence of the events of September 11, the people of the West did not pay much attention to the Muslims’ bigotry and their extreme obsession with their religious beliefs. They have now come to realize that Muslims are a different species. They have also come to understand that Muslims would not mind to sacrifice their own lives should such an extreme action be necessary for them to defend their beliefs.
The realization of realities has been forcing the Westerners and the other people of the industrialized nations to take actions to safeguard their own lives and properties from the destructive actions of the Muslims. For securing themselves, they have to be weary of the Muslims’ presence in their midst. They have to make sure that they are not going to be attacked again by those Muslims who have been living in their neighborhoods.
After what has happened so far in Australia, Spain and Indonesia etc., no sensible person should believe that the hugely panic-stricken people of the West and the other people of the industrialized nations are going to be as liberal and tolerant as they had been towards the Muslims in the past. This attitude of theirs has already begun to take its root. Only an observant person can feel its presence in almost all the societies of the West. And the Muslims have already begun paying a high price for their religious bigotry and intolerance even though a large number of them do not deserve the treatment they are being subjected to by many suspecting people of the West.
After all, it is not possible for each and every person of the West to find out who is a bad Muslim and who is not. Therefore, even the best among them have started feeling the heat of their hosts’ stare and unwelcoming attitude.
Can anyone in his right mind blame the people of the West for their changed attitude towards the Muslims?
December 3, 2004
Mohammad Asghar writes from USA.
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