Hyderabad Again: Muslims must speak out against jehadis twisting Islam for terror

Terror has returned to haunt the city of concord and amity again. Hyderabad has been home to deities like Mahakali, Bonalu and that of Hazrat Gesudaraaz. It’s sad to see this latest bout of terror and barbarity in a city famed for its syncretic culture and tehzeeb (etiquette).

The lack of political will, weak intelligence gathering apparatus, inadequate laws, poor law-enforcement and political mud-slinging result again and again in tragedies of the kind unfolding now at Hyderabad. The script is depressingly predictable. Many lives lost, the home minister visits the area to make some clichéd statements, some amount for compensation is declared, the police claims to have caught the mastermind and then it’s back to business as usual — till the next blast and loss of human lives, yet again and again..

When a terrorist is to be hanged, human amnesty appeals and our own tedious judicious system come in the way of prosecuting the murderers of humanity. At the same time, as Arun Gandhi (Gandhi grandson) says, it’s no use hanging terrorists. When we hang one, hundreds will be born. What to do now?

Today, Islam is under scanner owing to so many voices asserting that the religion advocates violence. Not all of them can be wrong as people judge by what they see and today these terrorists speak and act violently in the name of Islam. At the same time, the government mustn’t jump to the conclusion that it only must be a “group of Muslims” like Indian Mujahideen that must have orchestrated those terror strikes. This kind of blanket assumption hurts a law abiding Muslim.

Jaipur, Delhi, Mumbai and Hyderabad are global cities and the terrorism that struck these cities is a global phenomenon. As a human being and an Indian Muslim, I literally wept over the needless deaths of those who died or were maimed while shopping during the beginning of the summer break.

Kafeel in Glasgow, Mumbai blasts by Memons and others in India, the jehadis in Kashmir, 9/11, 7/7 (London), 13/12 (Delhi), 29/10 (Delhi) and the Al-Qaida at a global level — all these make my head go down in shame as a Muslim. 

Muslims must come out openly against terrorist outfits like Hu-JI (Harkat-ul-Jihad-e-Islam), Lashkar-e-Taiba, Al-Qaeda, Harkat-ul-Ansar, Jaish-e-Mohammed, Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, Sipah-e-Sahaba, Indian Mujahideen and others, all committed to desecrate peaceful coexistence and harmony. And until that happens, the community will remain under the clouds of suspicion, for no fault of a great majority of its members.

For the self-proclaimed jehadis have been slaughtering innocent lives at railway stations, bus stops, trains, airplanes, temples and markets. For a Muslim, actions are measured against the Quran and the Sunnah (practical examples) of the Prophet Muhammad’s life. The Quran states that every human life is a sanctified life; to save a life of a person is equivalent to saving the life of mankind.

Even in a state of war, there are fundamental principles laid down by the Prophet, e.g. innocent lives (men, women and children) even in the enemy camp must be protected; the right to freedom of religion of people of other faiths must be ensured; plants must not be destroyed; no acts of aggression are allowed, and, most important of all, every attempt must be made to enter into a truce.

We are living in a situation where an act of aggression by a few misguided Muslims is labelled as an act sanctioned by Islam. This is a hostile portrayal of Islam. Similarly, Muslims condemning all Americans or Europeans are equally guilty of stirring up hostility. There is no doubt there are agendas to smear the image of Islam. But a few misguided Muslims are only helping these smear campaigns.

The ideologically networked jehadis kill without mercy, specialize in suicide attacks and when cornered fight to the finish. They derive their strength from Al-Qaeda. Its carriers shatter the dignities of life. These radical jehadis are part of an intricate web of nationalist insurgent groups that act autonomously and are difficult to track down. From 9/11 US to 29/10 and 13/12 Delhi, theirs is a bloody tale of hate and kill.

Many of the terrorists acting in the name of Islam cite Kashmir, Palestine, Chechnya, Iraq and Afghanistan to justify the killing of innocent lives. They have lost their moral compass. For them, anyone who does not agree with their point of view is an infidel and should be eliminated. They are able to misinterpret verses from the Quran to justify their heinous designs. Muslims must separate themselves from ‘Muslim’ terrorism.

The word jehad comes from its Arabic root jahada meaning ‘to struggle’. The word jehad has been so badly misused both by some wayward Muslim terrorists and Islam-baiters that it has completely lost its meaning. Jehad is essentially a struggle against evil, both within and beyond us. Jehad-e-Akbar (The Greater jehad) is a complete surrender to the Will of Allah. It calls for a total subjugation of ego and anger.

The SIMI (Students Islamic Movement of India), Shahi Imam Bukhari, fanatics in Coimbatore and Maharashtra, the calls for jehad and the distribution of inflammatory posters have enraged middle class Hindus. Minor issues like a few Muslim leaders opposing the singing of the Vande Mataram on national occasions add fuel to the fire, increasing animosity between the two communities over the years.

But let me say it again: those who kill innocents have nothing to do with Islam. Sura Al-Baqr (Verse: 114) in the Quran states that Allah dislikes those who indulge in arson, loot and killings. Sura Al-Kafirun (Chapter: 30) mentions: Lakum dinokum waley yadeen (You follow your religion; let them follow theirs). Islam rejects violence in all its forms, but the jehadis take the terror path without bothering about the impact it can have on a common Muslim by making him the usual suspect. They don’t read those verses that declare that taking the life of even one innocent individual means killing the whole humanity. The jehadis use those verses from the Quran that are ‘contextual’ and by twisting and bending them they act self-deceivingly as human bombs.

Islam has no room for suicide. However, such misguided and misconceived zeal is also seen in fringe elements who seek to speak in the name of Christianity, Hinduism, Judaism and other religions. Down with all these!

There are many verses in the Quran that are ‘contextual’, in the sense that they are the verses used during a war and are not of a general nature. Take, for example, the verse, ‘Slay the pagans wherever you find them, seize them, beleaguer them, lie in wait for them with every stratagem’ (Chapter: 9, Verse: 5). No doubt these verses call upon the believers to fight with determination against perpetrators and all odds, and these are not necessarily against non-Muslims. If taken out of context, they might appear to advocate violence; misguided Muslims are doing exactly that. According to the Khwaja Iftekhar Ahmed, an Islamic scholar and president of Inter Faith Harmony Foundation of India, what is so abominable is that the extremists select these (some 20) verses only to express ‘righteousness’ to act ‘righteously’. Frankly speaking, to a common Muslim, it is abhorrent to attach such acts to the teachings of Prophet Mohammed, who is known to be merciful not only to Muslims but the whole humanity. The so-called jehadis have no right to misinterpret the verses to suit their dastardly machinations.

But just as well, I would also like to appeal to all my Vedic brethren that they too should not suspect any and every Muslim as the terrorist might be tainting the religion’s name; however, a terrorist has no religion. Today, the entire community is bearing the brunt of this small band of zealots.

I am also warning my co-religionists that it is time that they take to streets condemning those who in Islam’s names are making life a hell for them. Let them be warned that the otherwise calm and cool Hindu community can take to that unfortunate backlash that happened with the Sikhs in 1984. Terrorism of any kind must stop.

The world over, Muslims are at a critical turning point. It has been observed that ordinary Muslims have turned away from militancy after they witnessed what was done in their name and what it did, in turn, to their communities. We have seen this in Egypt and in Algeria.

The need of the hour in cities like Jaipur, Hyderabad, Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai is that the moment the community spots any suspicious people living in their neighbourhood, they must, without delay, inform the police.

Besides, can’t we learn from the countries like the US and Britain on how to curb such acts of terror? It’s high time that both the ruling front and the opposition, instead of indulging in mud-slinging, join heads together to root out terror attacks from India. It is also important that the Muslim community itself develop a broad range of tactics, from traditional counter-terrorism methods to more sophisticated strategies, to destroy this jehadi culture. Muslim voices of sanity are not heard loudly. Even the London Muslims, while condemning the July 7 killings, added a ‘but’ (root cause) to it, as if they were justifying the murders.

In fact, many are guilty of not speaking out against the unjust acts of Muslims against non-Muslims. These jehadis prefer the Muslim ghettos as nobody is bothered as to what activities are going on. Besides, in Muslim mohallas (neighbourhoods), these jehadis offer a handsome rent and the landlord falls for the bait, realizing the truth only when anti-terrorist squads surround his house. These localities serve jehadis as water to the fish.

A liberal Muslim must check a communalist Muslim and a communal Hindu be checked by a liberal Hindu. Muslim voices of sanity aren’t loudly heard. There shouldn’t be “ifs” and “buts” while condemning terror acts. We have to agree to the principle that the killings of innocents cannot be justified irrespective of race, religion, place or ethnicity.

(Firoz Bakht Ahmed is a commentator on social, educational and religious issues. He is grandnephew of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, who was an iconic freedom fighter and India’s first education minister).