Pakistan Today – Giving context to religious extremism

Pakistan Today – Giving context to religious extremism

 

By Xari Jalil

Published: Pakistan Today – June 20, 2011

Seminar
  • During a talk at IPSS, Dr Mubarak Haider discusses how Iqbal’s glorification of the plunderer’s sword and Sayyid Qutb’s idea of Islamic world dominance fan violent tendencies within Muslims

LAHORE – It is the 1960s and a man locally known as Saleem, gets up as usual from his ‘bed’ in Nasir Bagh, and begins to ‘hunt down’ cars passing by. With every passing car or rickshaw, or horse carriage, Saleem with his collection of sticks and stones begins to attack them, shouting and cursing, and crying out loud, “You secret agents! Stop following me around!” Once an aeroplane passes over him and he is startled. “Oye khufia waalion!” he shouts. “Tussi meri otton vi narani shuroo kar dee ae?” (Hey you secret agents! Have you started to keep vigil from up above too?)

Once Saleem was a sexologist–not a decent, educated one, but a quack, one of those who had a small shop somewhere downtown, until he was raided upon by the police and arrested for giving out medical advice and dubious medications without any medical degree. Pressure, psychological torture and a weak ego cracked his mind, and he ended up with elements of schizophrenia, which later developed into complete paranoia.

But Dr Mubarak Haider, who remembered Saleem in a lecture on Saturday, at the office of the Institute of Peace and Secular Studies, did not simply mention him in passing. Dr Haider drew a parallel of Saleem’s case with the case of Muslims in the world today, both severe cases of paranoia, as he terms them. “Muslims,” begins this author of a book called Tahzeebi Nargissiat or Narcissism from Civilization, “have become weak and insecure and as a result have turned paranoid imagining that the entire world is after them only because they happen to be Muslims.”

Dr Haider’s point of view may appear to be very controversial, and many may have even already termed him a heretic, but the fact is that this is exactly what he talks about, not just in his book but also in his lecture at IPSS: tracing the roots of religious extremism. “The violence and extremism that comes within Islam and Muslims has been created throughout ages,” he says. “Let’s make this clear: it was not part of the Islam that the Holy Prophet (PBUH) promoted, and it was not part of his Hadith. This has been propagated by the warring Muslims who thought that to spread Islam forcefully was correct because they were the ‘chosen ones’, and they were the ‘perfect people’. This is a diseased thought that lends bias, prejudice and a sense of narcissism which I talk about in my book, and these feelings always lead to intolerance and gender violence.”

Muhammad Iqbal for instance, a renowned Muslim poet, often portrays the strengths of Muslims as those who have spread religion around the globe with a sword of plundering and looting and destroying other nations and their sacred artifacts. Dr Haider refuses to believe that the original form of Islam was similar to this. How come it is never discussed or promoted about Muslims giving apologies or building schools or coexisting or living peacefully, he asks.
“Elements of violence and narcissism have been inserted by Muslim scholars like Maulana Maudoodi and Kutub, encouraging followers never to question their religion and disregard any kind of critical thinking. Today in discussions, we see that the discussion begins by a presumption: ‘because Islam is a perfect religion, therefore…”

Dr Haider blames the attempt to ‘modernise Islam’ as the reason for this. “In physics, a universal law must not take into constraints of time and space, (spatial temporal formula. If this happens, then it ceases to become universal phenomena because there is always a change of time and space in the universe,” he says. Always those who have revived Islam with their motives have stated that it was an immortal religion, and adaptable to changes, he says.

Violence in Islam: Dr Haider says that Qutb in his writings has always specified that Islam did not exert force on anyone. But the condition would only be applied after Muslims finally began to rule the world. “So basically Muslim scholars have suggested that violence was a part of Islam, again this was something never commanded by the Quran or Sunnah.” He signifies that violence can be so deep rooted that it can rarely be stopped in time. The thoughts being fed to Muslims, about being the best, most perfect people, and about the Muslim Ummah being the greatest in the world and about spreading the mission of God under the sword has turned Muslims into individuals full of violence, extremism and an inclination for aggression.

“The worst picture that Qutb paints is that one day after the Muslims begin to rule the world and then all oppression supposedly ends, invitations will be sent to non-Muslims to convert. If they choose not to do so, then they will be made to live under the Muslims and pay jizya tax, which remains undefined,” says Dr Haider. “In Islam, in fact the warrior, or the Mujahid, has been given the highest status after an Aalim, who in Qutb’s and Maudoodi’s terms is the scholar of Islam and nothing else. It seems one does not need to know anything else,” he remarks, criticising the narrow interpretation of Islam.
Saleem’s case of paranoia and Muslim paranoia is similar. In fact, Saleem seems to be a symbol of what is happening to Muslims today. “It is not just Afghanistan where violence is being bred against the Western World,” observed Dr Haider. “Even those who have lived for generations in Europe and the US and have enjoyed the best of facilities on the countries’ expense have suddenly become protectors of their religion and have begun to think ‘everyone is wrong, I am right and I am endangered and threatened by everyone else’. Even if a bird flaps a wing, these Muslims will feel threatened, and suspicious, and ready to kill. If this is not paranoia what is?,” Haider asks.

Dr Haider admits that he is also one of those people who are greatly anti-US, in the sense that he is strictly against the imperialism of the US, and he would be the last person to side with them. But he disagrees with blaming the US to be ‘jealous’ of Islam, and to be attacking Muslims because they are Muslims. “The great big oil game is so obvious. Even Saddam tried to get to Kuwait for their oil. The US and anyone else is interested in the oil that the countries in the Middle East have, not their religion. Has any one wondered how Islam along with several other religions is protected too in these countries? At least these countries have people who speak against their government’s actions!” Haider says.
Disease of the mind: “Because it’s a disease of the mind, it must be treated like that,” says Dr Haider. “Of course discussions and media have a huge part to play in this cure or treatment, and a huge complication is that the body cannot cure the brain’s disease – the brain must do that on its own. Therefore one part must either be cleansed or must be ignored from being unleashed. That is the only way,” the writer says.

The result of narcissism is paranoia, and the end of paranoia is the end of isolation. Integration therefore is the only plausible and possible way to end this paranoia among Muslims too. “There seems to be no meaning of life except surviving,” says the scholar. “Survive till the meaning of life is understood, or till that knowledge arrives. But to survive we must live together. To find that meaning we must live together and in peace. This is the only way to end this affliction,” he says.