, by SOROOR AHMED
In this Section
Use any term, word or expression which may sound even remotely insulting to the Jews, the very next moment you would be accused of being anti-Semitic. You may have to scamper for cover to save yourself from the barrage of verbal bombardment from all sides. In the post-World War-II years there is no dearth of film-makers, writers, artists and journalists, especially in the West, who have to tender apology for even unwittingly hurting the sentiment of the community which wrongly claims that it is the Chosen People of the world.
Take the other case. Call Muslims by whatever name you like – illiterate, ignorant, uncivilized, backward, myopic, narrow-minded, dirty, fool, dim-witted and now even criminal and terrorist – the response from within the community would be quite muted. One or two gentlemen sitting in certain corner of the world may dare to meekly react. In fact, many more number of Muslims may come out to hurl something more insulting to the community than the one cited above.
This muted reaction from the community may compel one to conclude that the community is either insensitive or dead. One is free to throw all sorts of abuses and insult to it. But the moment anyone writes, speaks and sketches anything derogatory against Prophet Muhammad (blessings and peace of Allah be with him), the Qur'an or Islam the same lifeless lot may take to street all over the world. They may write letters to editor, articles – even though most of them may not get published by the bias media – stage protest demonstrations, burn effigies and even move court against the person or persons who indulged in this blasphemous act. True, some of these forms of protest, for example, death threat – more issued for the media consumption and publicity – are unacceptable. But Muslims often raise their voices only against the blatant and crude attack on their Prophet, Faith and Book and not against the subtle, polished, sophisticated intellectual onslaught carried out by many western writers, journalists, academics, or the whole lot of Orientalists.
So even over 1428 years later Muslims do not mind being lampooned, derided, ridiculed, caricatured and pilloried – many times for no reason whatsoever by any Tom, Dick and Harry. In fact, Muslims had to pass through this stage even during the time of the Prophet. The then Jews, Christians, hypocrites and non-believers adopted the same strategy of looking down upon the community rather than countering it on the ideological plains. Even in those days, the moment anyone from the rival camp used to turn his or her heat towards the Prophet, the Faith or the Book the reaction of the Muslims was not as it is used to be when someone attacked the community. But then the reaction of earlier Muslims would be much more matured than today. That the earlier Muslims as such avoided making the issue personalised can be confirmed by one example of Caliph Ali. When he, during a fight, knocked down a pagan wrestler, the latter in a state of retaliation, spat on Ali's face, he immediately gave up the fight stating that actually he was fighting for the sake of Islam and now that the wrestler had made the issue personal he would not take revenge; this would be unjust.
In fact, the Muslim view is that Prophet Muhammad (peace to him), the Qur'an and Islam is for the entire humanity and not only for they themselves. Call this a quality or unique characteristic of the community or disqualification the truth is that this is the reality.
In contrast, there would be a very weak response in the West if any follower of Judaism or Christianity pokes fun at the prophets of Old or New Testaments – not to speak of Prophet Muhammad, Muslims do not indulge in any such activities while they consider them as their own prophets too. Similarly even the most ardent followers of Hindutva may remain mute spectators if Hindu gods or goddesses are abused, insulted, derided or depicted in a poor light. But the moment the Christian or Hindu community or their respective civilization is being targeted for any reason whatsoever even the secularists and non-believers among them may come out in protest against this act.
Today nobody can dare to say that Sikhs, Buddhists, Hindus, Jews or Christians are living in a state of ignorance (jihalat) but without peeping into the performance of one's own community Sardar Khushwant Singh went about using the same expression for Muslims in his Malice column on January 6, 2007 issue of the Hindustan Times. Even, according to modern definition of literacy, Muslims are well ahead of many big communities of the world yet Khushwant chose to utter these words only against Muslims. This time he was not allowed to go scotfree. This correspondent wrote an article in the form of a rejoinder to the Hindustan Times. However, its edit page editor, Manoj Joshi, just sent back the mail stating that his paper was unable to use it. However, the same rejoinder was sent to Milli Gazette which carried it in its February 1-15, 2007 issue. The truth is that this article of Khushwant Singh deserved much stronger condemnation and denunciation. He should have been forced to apologise. And that could have been done without using the force of violence, but the Muslim community leaders failed to take notice of it.
The big question before Prophet Muhammad's followers is should we only react – and that too sometimes very immaturely – to the blasphemous act of someone and keep completely silent when the community is made a butt of ridicule? But then there can be two interpretations of this phenomenon of Muslims. Some would say that it is a great quality that the community seldom reacts when it itself is the victim of all sorts of malicious verbal and literary attacks. On the other hand Muslims – even in this deplorable stage – are still loyal to their Prophet, the Holy Book and Faith. This speaks of its large heartedness and generosity. The community has a great quality of accepting criticism – even if wrongly made.
While the other opinion is that Muslims should not allow anyone to show disrespect towards the community too. The fear of being dubbed as communal or parochial perhaps prevents many Muslims from taking this stand. Whatever be the reason for this response of Muslims the truth is that for them ideology is still dearer than their own identity. On the other hand most non-Muslim communities of the world end up defending their respective communities. Perhaps they have little or nothing to do with their own religious ideology.