It is a sad fact that many critics of religion take religious radicalism as a reason for spreading the message for religion free world. It is also a sad fact that few people use religion to motivate believers to kill non-believers and other innocents to achieve their political goals and aspirations. If God knows that people who He created kill their fellow beings en masse without a shred of reasonableness, He, if a reasonable, kind person would block the door of His Kingdom to all those who commit such crimes. However, the perpetrators of such crimes don’t seem to think so implying that God is unkind, unreasonable blood-thirsty Being. If the recent past is looked into, it is not unreasonable to say that many innocents were killed by the fringe group of Islamic believers. Many Muslims are peace-loving average people that you would love to have around. But for a few, world is only a place to be blown up into pieces. Why, for them, is hatred towards their own fellow human beings, the creation of the only true God, their overwhelming drive?
Would God be pleased when mothers weep for their young sons and daughters who hugged and kissed them minutes ago, get blown into pieces of flesh in front of their very eyes? Would He be pleased when the unborn babies and children like flowers blooming in a morning end up as scattered, crumpled petals splattered with blood? Neither did they bear arms nor did they have an inkling of an idea about politics or religion. Would a reasonable God, let alone a reasonable Devil, do such things? It is true all those who were born should die. But being murdered for no reason other than being in a place at a random time and dying are not the same. Why as humans cannot we look at other people with little respect? It is true rich and powerful nations and their backers sometimes misuse their powers. However, is it justifiable to kill the innocents to avenge them?
Francis Fukuyama in his essay ‘Has History Started Again’ (Policy, Winter 2002, The Centre for Independent Studies) argued that despite the events of September 11, 2001, modern liberal democratic systems and market oriented capitalism with the principles of freedom and equality embodied in them would remain a dominant force. He further stated that contrary to the claims about ‘American foreign policy in Palestine or toward Iraq”, it is radical Islam that forms the backdrop to a broader sense of grievance that is far deeper and more disconnected from reality than elsewhere’. He also called for all the moderate Islamists to extend a more approving hand towards the West, ignoring Islamo-facism.
Undoubtedly, it is very necessary to reach out to moderate Muslims to bring them into the fold of liberalism. However, this is currently almost like an invitation to become a non-Muslim. The rigidity of Islamic faith is embedded in the religion itself as well as its institutions. As Arachige (2009) points out the suppression of dissent in Islamic circles is challenging the need of believers to yield to their individual ambitions while accommodating the unifying force of God. Believers are not allowed to deviate from their faith in the supreme God’s word as stipulated in the Koran. They cannot find a place for their individual differences within the institutionalised Islam. The individual is always bound by his or her obligation to the community which police their behaviour. They, the men wielding the power in the society, go to the Mosque together and pray together. Women are expected to follow them. The traditionally-Muslim individual is afraid of severing his or her ties to the family and community. There are many Muslims who break the rules in secret. However, they don’t dare challenge the establishment. This makes individuality inconspicuous and institution the ultimate sanctuary. The end result is a cataclysmic convergence towards the traditional values. This is where radical Islamic sects like Wahhbism take root. This is why the sects like Sufism and Baha’i faith have never been embraced in a bigger way in Islamic societies. Not such diversions but the martyrdom in the name of institution is the ultimate path to achieve individual ambitions.
Can Islam change and accept the individual? For this to happen there should be a sea-change in the way Islamic society looks at the world. Masses in many Islamic countries are not economically, hence intellectually powerful enough to challenge the institution. The few who are, are more likely to become fake believers to make use of the institution to dominate the masses through politics or inherited power. The power in Islamic society is in the hands of men. They make the rulers of the people as well as wielders of power in the family. They also turn religion into a political force that takes them to the seats of power. The secular politics in these societies becomes only an unexpressed aspiration of the oppressed.
Thirdly, women in Islamic society don’t enjoy the freedoms the other women world over enjoy. Some willingly submit to their inferior destiny while others do it for the sake of family or tradition. Many women would be willing to say that the subjugation is their choice. But the real test is to see how an Islamic woman would behave if she was given the same freedom as a Western woman away from the gaze of a watchful society. It is very doubtful that she would be any different to her ‘physiological sisters’ across the world as is the case for Islamic men. In a strictly patriarchal society a male has so much to lose by empowering women, especially when the family unit struggles to survive.
Thus, change, if it ever will come, should start with the equality for women. As the African saying goes, educating a woman is educating a community. Revolution would start at the household, which would eventually embrace the community. Then, the economies of the Islamic societies should improve. There should be better schools, better universities and, in general, better education available to the masses, boys and girls as well as men and women. These trends will be resisted by the radical forces. Radicalism, however, will have a upward struggle in a more economically independent society. These moderate individuals coming out of a more independent society can start the change that would eventually see a more embracing Islamic tradition and secular governments. This change not only will bring the different ideologies in the world together but also will help the long term future of Islam as a faith. Judaism took this step a long time ago and open the path for its long term survival. Believers of Islam should see the Sacred Koran beyond its beautiful Arabic. Be it Arabic, Urudu, Basha Malay or Hindi; Koran should be accepted above all the languages. That would be a step towards moderation. Similarly, Muslims world over should be able to see God beyond the Prophet. They all should be able to see Allah as the God who created the whole humanity, Muslims and Infidels. Like Sufis, they should be able to find a more embracing attitude towards Infidels. These wishes may be too wild to come true; and I am not qualified to preach to an Islamic audience. My only concern is the concern towards our duty to humanity.
Next is going to be the turn of Islam to allow the diversity and call the radical brothers and sisters to deviate from their jihadist march towards world domination. Do we really believe another Ottoman Empire or a massive eastern Islamic Empire is possible in the foreseeable future? Even the radical elements should come to their senses one day. With all their frailties liberalism and capitalism would survive much longer than the Islamic radicalism makes us believe because of their sheer appeal to the individuality. Whether we believe in selfishness of our genes or not, moderate individualism will dominate over the the communal feelings into the distant future.
This essay is not only against radical islamism but also against every form of religious radicalism or fundamentalism. Be it Christian or Buddhist; religious radicalism is something all sensible religious leaders should suppress. Radicalism is the bane of religion as well as a bane for the mankind. We all should remember that Religion is for the mankind but mankind don’t exist for the religion.