By Muhammed Tauqeer
[This is the second and concluding part of the article. The first part can be read here.]
The continuous othering has demoralised the Muslims for decades, leading to frustration and desperate reactions, none of which has worked in their favour either. Hence it is now time to introspect whether any one of these reactions is constructive and aligned with Islam’s values.
Denial – The first category of the people is of those who dwell excessively in conspiracy theories and are in total denial that any shortcomings exist in the community. They squarely blame it on others and take no action, but rather indulge in waiting for a miracle or help from God to improve their situation.
Petrified – The second category is of the people who are terrified to the extent that they have started hiding their Muslim identity. Relinquishing beard, hijab was the first step but as the situation is becoming grim, abandoning of Muslims names, fundamental duties and obligations, etc. has also started. New trend is adoption of non-Muslim names which is coming to light most recently with incidents of harassment for using such names.
Compliant – The third category which is increasingly becoming dominant these days, is of Muslims who are out to prove their patriotic credentials to become socially acceptable by excessively participating in festivals, social events, and contributing in social/relief work, etc. The whole intention is to please the majority and prove to them that “we are one of you”.
Isolated – The next category is of Muslims whose despair with the system or concern over security has led them to complete isolation and ghettoization. These people limit themselves to only certain localities, hardly part of a society, leaving them below par on development index. This has not just restricted their socio-economic development but also drifted them away from current realities, restricting growth in their ability to even think and find solution to their problems.
Infuriated – The fifth category is of most dangerously vulnerable who are infuriated by the discrimination and oppression so much so that they are easily trapped by extremists and indoctrinated to do anything or even give up life in suicide attacks. They are so enraged and emotionally charged that they can’t even understand basic tenets of Islam where there is absolutely no place for anarchy and violence.
Confrontational – This is the category of the people (mainly youth) who, in the name of standing up against the discrimination, adopt the means same as that of the oppressors on the lines of Newton’s third law which states “Every action has equal and opposite reaction”. They abuse in response to abuse, they hound in response to hounding, they disrespect others’ deities in response to disrespect of the Prophet ﷺ, and they use every tool in the social media playbook to counter the discrimination without realising they are just adding fuel to the fire. This is absurdity and not Islam. It is sheer wastage of time and energy of the youth who could do wonders if the energies are channelised in constructive cause.
Motivated/Political – Finally, a minority though, there is a category which sincerely believes that they can bring a change by working for upliftment of the community through political process. They either fight for reservations or engage in charitable work or enter active politics. The trap, though, is their vision being limited within the boundaries of current political framework which has already failed to deliver results even to some sections of the majority. Another danger emerging from this approach is that they contribute to the fear of the other when the other gains strength. In the same polarised framework this is legitimately utilised to create oppressive discriminatory laws. Even well-intended, the partial awakening with lack of out of the box thinking is giving false hope and wasting energy on something where there is no solution.
There could be other categories but not so significant to call out in this context.
The ideal response to current predicament of Muslims can only come from Islam, for the Muslim who despite facing the brunt is not ready to relinquish Islam. Muslims believe that in this ever-changing world where every value, every ethic, every principle, every moral and every ideal has shifted from its original position, Islam alone holds a fixed compass which has influenced the lives of many and transformed the society in an exemplary manner. The current situation has degenerated only because the current framework allows leaders who are willing to ride the xenophobic wave of far-right populism in order to garner electoral support regardless of its divisive consequences.
Therefore, the whole world is in dire need of an alternative model of how to organise politics – one which has clear solutions to the problems of mankind. Where politics is about sincerely taking care of the needs of the people rather than a power struggle between self-serving career politicians. Where the role of political parties is not to vie for power but to hold the leadership to account to ensure that it fulfils its responsibility to all its citizens – Muslims and non-Muslims, and indeed to the world. This alternative system is offered by Islam.
A perfect example on how to deal with this racism lies in the early history of Islam. Before the advent of Islam, the Makkan society was ruled by the Chieftains of most prominent and influential clans who established themselves as lords. Their control over Kaaba gave them enormous authority and economic edge over the rest of the Arabs which they often misused. With its first Qur’ānic revelation itself Islam invalidated the lordship of ignorant humans and recapitulated Allah as the true Lord. This triggered insecurities among the tribes, especially ruling class and they started discerning Islam as a threat to their supremacy, resulting in persecution of Muslims. Islamophobia existed well before the term itself was conceived!
Muslims of today have a lesson in how the Prophet ﷺ and Sahaba dealt with Islamophobia. Their reality was much worse than that in our time where they had to endure hunger, abuse, torture and ostracism but none of them abandoned his mission of establishing Islam as the Deen. In spite of all the persecution they never resorted to violence. When Hazrat Sumaiyya was being tortured and executed, the Prophet ﷺ asked them to remain patient without compromising on their Islamic identity.
When a group of Muslims sought refuge in Abyssinia, they were summoned in the court of the ruler Najjashi to hear them against the complaint from Quraish who had wanted to bring them back to Makkah – the response of the Muslims sums the correct attitude. Instead of bowing to the King, which was the prevalent custom and not doing so could be interpreted as disrespect to the King, the Muslims articulated the Islamic position – that the bowing is only to Allah the Exalted.
In spite of all the hardship faced, the Prophet ﷺ and the Sahaba continued to focus on their mission without bothering about the circumstances, the Sunnah that today’s Muslims must follow.