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   Conferences / The Thirteenth General Conference : Renewal in Islamic Thought
 
MODERN & PROGRESSIVE CONCEPTS IN ISLAM

MODERN & PROGRESSIVE CONCEPTS IN ISLAM
Senator Sayed Iqba1 Haider
Former Federal Minister For Law, Justice & Parliamentary
Affairs & Human Rights
Attorney General of Pakistan
I feel honoured and privileged to be present here. I am grateful to
the Honourable Minister of Awqaf for extending his kind invitation to
participate in this Conference and for the warm hospitality extended to
me. I wish to compliment the Government to Egypt and particularly the
Minister of Awqaf for realizing the gravity of the challenges faced by the
Muslim Ummah, particularly in the distorted image and perception that
are being purposefully created by the opponents of Muslims. The
convening of this conference at this crucial juncture gives an opportunity
for profound reflection and lends greater importance to our
deliberations.
The Muslim Ummah as a whole is suffering immensely on account of the
adverse perception of Islam in the West as an aggressive and intolerant
religion. The unpleasant fact is that militant extremist orthodox groups
of Muslims, constituting only a tiny minority of the billion or so Muslims
around the world, have been set up as a standard by the non- Muslims to
tarnish the image of the entire Ummah with the same brush. I feel
confident that this Conference studded by distinguished intellectuals and
leaders of public opinion from different Muslim countries shall help us to
identify the challenges faced by the Muslim Ummah and to reach a
consensus on drawing, a joint strategy to successful such challenges
Dr. Mahathir, the Prime Minister of Malaysia, while addressing the
27th Islamic Conference of Foreign Ministers in Koala Lumpur Malaysia
in June last year succinctly and eloquently identified the strategy of our
adversaries when he said, Believe me, our detractors and enemies are not
concerned as to how goods or bad Muslims we are. To them, we are all
Muslims, their enemies and potential terrorists and they will do their very best
to weaken us and in many instances destroy us. They will directly or indirectly
support the violent extremists among us and the orthodox who reject the
knowledge and skills with which to defend ourselves. The punch line in the
speech of Dr. Mahathir, explains the seeming paradox in the Western
policy towards the Muslim world. On the one hand the West creates
injustice-situations and, when these tragedies trigger a militant backlash
from the oppressed Muslims, the West promptly brands them militant
fundamentalists and begins a ruthless crackdown against them That,
naturally, fuels the fire. Palestine, Kashmir and Afghanistan being old
tragedies, the plight of Muslims in Bosnia and upsurge of Muslim
militancy in post- Suharto and post-East Timor Indonesia are the latest
examples.
This twin strategy of our adversaries of Both Provoking and
punishing the Muslim is one of the most serious threats and challenges
to the Muslim Ummah. It is high time that we draw a joint strategy to
meet this challenge. Unless immediate remedial steps are taken, I feel
that the Muslims may suffer irreparable loss in the rapidly changing
world as the era of the industrial age is overtaken by the era of
Information Technology. We can, and must, repulse such threats and
challenges successfully. First of all, we have to persuade the Islamic
world to come to terms with the basics of the modern times.
Unfortunately, even at the advent of the third millennium, an intolerant
orthodoxy has trapped Muslim intellect into a Medieval Mindset and
stifled its spirit of inquiry and has ever, done so since the middle ages.
The orthodox condemns knowledge science, and technology as secular
and reject the same in favour of their brand of Islamic learning. This
has resulted in an unending spate of, Drain of the Best Brains from the
Muslim countries to the West" which is deriving all the benefits from
their skills. The exodus of technocrats, skilled and semi-skilled labour
from Pakistan to the Western countries, is a matter of grave concern for
us.
It is both sad and ironic that as Muslims we are the followers of a
faith which began with the divine command to "Read" and that Islam
exhort its followers to learn, listen, see, think, reason, reflect on the
unknown, and develop through Ijtihad. In practice, however, in complete
disregard of these divine commands, many Muslim countries the dictates
of the narrow minded semi-literate Mullas who keep coming up with
Fatwahs against every scientific invention, so much so that in their
opinion even photography, television, music, and education for women
are not permissible in Islam. Instead of shunning modern science,
technology, economy, and knowledge, we must embrace them through
consensus and concerted efforts to bring Muslims at par with the
modern world in all fields.
Simultaneously, we have to make every effort to correct and
change the perception that the world holds about us and we must refute
the propaganda against the Muslims by both our words and deeds. Just
as most of us make little effort to understand the essence of other faiths
and indeed of our own religion, ordinary Europeans and Americans
gain, their knowledge not through our religious books but from print
electronic media, and images. The Muslim is, as a whole, being portrayed
as a bearded fundamentalist, Klashnikov-carring, violent, and intolerant
human being. Muslims are generally lumped together and seen as
militant fundamentalists who deserve to be labeled Terrorists This
composite image inspires both fear and loathing in" the West.
As against this vile and hostile propaganda of the adversaries of the
Muslims, the irrefutable truth is that Islam is the religion of peace, love
and tolerance. The Holy Ouran begins in the name of Allah who is
Rahman and Rahemm These words are generally translated as
beneficent and merciful. He is Rabbul Aalamin, which means Lord as
well as Nourisher and Developer of all creatures in every realm of
existence. Islam is the only religion which, recognizes and respects all the
messengers of God and the divine holy books they brought. Islam in
essence is, therefore, the most broadminded, liberal and tolerant
religions. It would not be an exaggeration if I say that in comparison
with other religions, Islam is more secular in essence, as Islam recognizes
and respects other religions particularly those with a holy book of Allah.
In Islam we recognize Allah as Rabbul Alamin and do not confine him
as Rabbul Muslimin. In my humble view secularism, is not un-Islamic.
The dictionary meaning of secular is Not monastic, not theocratic not
cleric. To translate secular as La-deeni is a dishonest distortion of the
real meaning and import of this word. There is no room for a Church or
Pope or Emperor in the religious and political system of Islam. An
Islamic state and a secular state are both obliged to give freedom of
religion to all their citizens. Secularism only, implies that the state should
have nothing to do with a citizen's faith except that he or she is allowed
to profess it freely. In this sense Islam promotes a secular society. Islam
strictly prohibits the use of force or compulsion. Even to the Prophet
(p.b.u.h.) Ouran instructs: "but if they turn away we have not sent thee as a
warder over men. Thy duty is only to deliver the message" (Sura 42 Aya 48).
This concept is further elaborated thus at the end of our holy book:
Unto you your religion and unto me my religion.
It is the message of respect and tolerance for others, which is a
unique characteristic of Islam that we are proud of. Tolerance means to
endure willingly the difference of beliefs and opinions without
necessarily having to accept them and to put up with and forbear the
difference of opinions or faiths. Tolerance gives birth to the universality
of the mind, the spirit of love and accommodation, and peaceful
coexistence.
Instead of preaching and promoting this spirit of Islam, many of
the orthodox, narrow- minded groups of Muslims, who constitute a tiny
minority, lend support to the propaganda that Muslims are violent,
intolerant, and jihadis, and by implication Islam is seen as the root cause
of violence, terrorism, and backwardness. The militant jihadi groups
consciously or unconsciously ignore the reality that by their aggressive
sermons, verbosity, and militancy they may unwittingly be serving the
cause of the enemies of Islam against whom they profess to have
launched their jihad. I have to state painfully that such orthodox jihidi
groups have made the noble cause of jihad ignoble.
It is relevant to quote here an internationally renowned Pakistani
scholar, Dr. Eqbal Ahmed, who passed away only two years ago. He had
correctly highlighted the reality: The Muslim fundamentalist parties,
especially the jihadi groups, cannot be called nationalist. They are pan-
Islamists who wish to establish a theocratic state in Pakistan as the first
step toward theocratic states elsewhere. They are part of the generalised
theocratic movement in the Muslim world today. It is a sad reality that
theocrats like Talibans have caused much more destruction of economy,
culture, heritage, and all institutions of Afghanistan than the damage
done by the then Soviet Union during the Afghan war. At the same time
Tailbans have, more than any other enemy of Muslims, ruined the image
of Islam. Their disastrous dictates and activities are not confined to
Afghanistan. We in Pakistan seriously fear Tailbanisation of our society
and unless this process is strictly checked and contained, it may spread
to other neighbouring Muslim countries as well.
On the one hand, we must through concerted efforts eradicate
terrorism in any form and remove the stigma of militancy from the face
of Muslims all over the world. Yet at the same time we have to persuade
the West also to abandon its policy of Provoking & Punishing
Muslims. If the West is sincerely against militancy and terrorism and is
genuinely desirous of peace then it must also honour and accept the basic
human values, equal treatment, and equal rights and status of Muslims,
instead of following the policy of Might is right. The Muslim Ummah
has a very just grievance of receiving the worst deals and sufferings
more particularly in the Arab-Israeli conflict, Kashmir, and Bosnia. If
Muslims are driven out from their homelands through brute use of force
by Israel, and similarly if Kashmiris are denied their right of self
determination by occupation of their homeland by the Indian armed
forces then the world should not forget that Violence breeds Violence.
They cannot blame the violent reaction from the Muslims who are
rightly struggling to recover their homeland and freedom. Defence of the
homeland and territories of the Muslim states is their inalienable right.
This right cannot be compromised.
While Muslim states have no expansionist designs, they at the same
time cannot be unmindful of the hegemonistic ambitions of others. We
cannot be oblivious of the pre-meditated strategy of the West to build
borders of Pakistan, with nuclear weapons. The objective is oblivious,
promote, and empower Israel on the east of Suez and India on the
eastern. It is to ensure hegemony of these two nuclear powers over the
Muslims living in Asia and Africa. In between these two nuclear giants,
Pakistan is the only Muslim state that possesses a nuclear arsenal to
deter aggression. Unlike the other two nuclear powers, Pakistan is being
discriminated against and made to suffer for being a nuclear power.
Such double standards, discrimination, and denial of the basic rights of
the Muslim world, will continue to threaten peace. Peace and
Prejudices cannot coexist. If peace is desired then prejudice has to be
discarded. Is it not prejudicial treatment of Muslims that the West does
not hesitate at all in imposing the most severe and inhuman sanctions
against any Muslim country, may it be Iraq or Afghanistan? Is it not a
fact that despite unprovoked and unwarranted aggression and the most
barbaric atrocities committed by Israel against the Arabs and in
Kashmir by India, no sanctions of any kind against Israel or India have
ever even been suggested by the West, let alone imposed? On the one
hand, the entire West wholeheartedly supported right of self-
determination of the Christian population in East Timour. On the
other, the same right of Muslims constituting a majority in Kashmir is
consistently being ignored and disregarded by the entire west for over
fifty years.
It is these prejudices and double standards against the Muslims that are
the barriers to peace and until these are dismantled there can be no
lasting peace. The words of his Excellency President Hosni Mubarak of
Egypt used in his address to the Emergency Summit of the League of
Arab States held in October last year were indeed a clarion call when
he pleaded that "We look forward to a future where the peoples of the
region live in stability and welfare but we will not by any means be
driven to do so at the expense of the rights of our peoples or the dignity
of our nation or the future of our coming generations. Peace by its very
nature should be exchanged equally among the parties. Co-existence
requires continual action on both sides. It is either co-existence and
stability maintained by mutual respect or continuing tension and
worry". His Excellency had also highlighted the reality that "It should
be understood that even-handed, just, comprehensive, and viable peace
can only be achieved through concerted efforts and will and cannot be
realized unilaterally".
Peace and justice are inseparable and indivisible. Every state, no matter
how high or mighty, must recognize that in the community of nations,
all states, high or low, mighty or weak, developed or under-developed,
and their peoples are entitled to the same set and standard of human
rights, sovereign status, and the same respect. I am certain that the
deliberation in this Conference and efforts being made by His
Excellency President Hosni Mubarak will help us in creating much
needed understanding on the one hand with the followers of other
religions and civilizations to persuade them not to loathe or fear
Muslims and they should abandon their unjust policies, double
standards, and prejudices against the Muslims. On the other hand, we
hope that we also succeed in convincing the orthodox militant narrow-
minded groups of Muslims such as Talibans to abandon their extremist
militant orthodox views and policies, as the image of the entire Muslim
Ummah is being tarnished by their policies and actions.




 
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