27 September 2006

The Pope is not Alone...

Taken from Daily Pioneer

Given the ferocity of the attack launched against the Pope and the death threats held out by some organisations, including an Islamic cleric from Somalia who has asked Muslims to "hunt down and kill" Benedict XVI, one would have thought that political and religious leaders would be chary of treading this path and inviting the wrath of Islamists. But that is not the case. Unmindful of the tirade being faced by the Pope, two other religious leaders - Archbishop Christodoulos, Head of the Orthodox Church of Greece and Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury - have spoken up about Islam in much the same vein as the Pope.

Speaking on 'The Cross and the Crescent: The clash of faiths in an age of secularism", a week after the Pope made his controversial remarks, Lord Carey said, "Islam's borders are bloody and so are its innards. The fundamental problem is not Islamic fundamentalism. It is Islam, a different civilisation whose people are convinced of the superiority of their culture and are obsessed with the inferiority of their power". In other words, Lord Carey is just not willing to separate radical Islam from Islam in general. However, he urged Muslims to address their religion's association with violence "with great urgency".

Undaunted by the attack on Pope Benedict, the head of the Orthodox Church of Greece told the faithful in Athens that Christians in Africa were suffering from fanatic Islamists.

...Following the assassination of Swami Shraddhanand at the hands of a Muslim fanatic in December, 1926, Mahatma Gandhi had said: "Mussalmans have an ordeal to pass through. There can be no doubt that they are too free with the knife and the pistol. The sword is an emblem of Islam. But Islam was born in an environment where the sword was, and still remains, the supreme law. The message of Jesus has proved ineffective because the environment was unready to receive it. So with the message of the Prophet. The sword is yet too much in evidence among the Mussalmans. It must be sheathed if Islam is to be what it means - peace." This was 80 years ago.

Going by the statements of the Pope and many others, it appears as if time has stood still. Nothing has happened between 1926 and 2006 which would warrant us to say that Gandhi's view on Islam is now irrelevant. On the other hand, the cumulative effect of much of what has happened in the world and in our sub-continent in these intervening years has only reinforced this view.

Long years before Gandhi spoke his mind on Islam, Swami Vivekananda told a gathering in London in November, 1896: "In the Quran there is the doctrine that a man who does not believe these teachings should be killed. It is a mercy to kill him! Think of the bloodshed there has been in consequence of such beliefs!"

Annie Besant said in 1922 that the argument of the Muslim leadership that they are ordained to obey Islamic law as against laws made by the state is "subversive of civic order and stability of the state". BR Ambedkar, the author of our Constitution, too, has emphatically stated that Islam divided the world into Dar-ul Islam ( Abode of Islam) and Dar-ul Harb (Abode of War) and that it is incumbent of Muslims to wage war against any country that is not controlled by Muslims.

In recent years, Samuel Huntington, the Harvard Professor who has propagated the 'Clash of Civilisations' theory, has observed: "The Quran and other statements of Muslim belief contain few prohibitions on violence, and a concept of non-violence is absent from Muslim doctrine and practice."

So what is new in what the Pope said some days ago in Germany? Shall we now put Gandhi, Ambedkar, Annie Besant and Vivekananda in the dustbin of history and mollify the hotheads in the Islamic world, or shall we stand up and tell these radical Islamists that the liberal, democratic world has now run out of patience?

Truly, democrats around the world are tired of explanations. If Islam means peace, we must ask the adherents of Islam to please show it! The angry outburst of Muslims across the world may silence the Pope or force him to backtrack, but nobody should be deceived by it. The problem will not disappear with the Pope's partial retraction. As the reactions of Archbishop Christodoulos and Lord Carey show, non-Muslims are not going to be cowed down by threats of violence either. The apprehensions about Islam in the non-Muslim world are real. Muslims must face this truth and take the initiative to give themselves a new, moderate image. Nobody else can do it.

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