Cultural suicide that the globe is witnessing during the recent decades has scared only a few searching souls. It is no surprise that the Muslim youth, like the frenzied young everywhere, have been dazzled by the western culture, promoted in the name of globalisation and living in a modern world.
Long ago, youth like Maryam Jamilah, who were raised in New York, London, Paris, Moscow and Tokyo, warned the Muslim youth about the tragic consequences of blindly copying the glittering west. For the abundant provisions of the materialistic living available in the west, every young mind from the remotest corner of the Muslim world dreams of reaching these shores. If not the USA then Canada, any European country, or Australia would do.
There is nothing wrong in living a comfortable life, and there is no denying the fact that most of the Muslims youth are living a miserable life even in oil-rich regions. Muslim countries rich with abundant natural resources have hoarded their riches for the a few filthy rich. Poverty and illiteracy are the curses that have afflicted the Muslim youth for centuries, often perpetuated in the name of Islam.
How to reverse the cultural suicide of the Muslim youth, and allow them to live a happy contented life?
President Bush and Tony Blair have proposed the remedy of “democracy” and “freedom” for the Muslim lands. The underlying assumption is that democracy will empower the Muslim youth to run their societies as they wish, and freedom will help them come out of the shackles of ‘religious bigots’ (usual terms: Islamic terrorist, Islamic fundamentalists, etc.). Bush is waging his open-ended crusade for more than five years since 7/11 tragic events.
The Muslim elite and intellectuals who side with Bush in this campaign of “modernisation” of Muslim societies never spell out their real agenda. Bush wants to maintain the US hold on Muslim lands and their natural resources. The political elite in Muslim lands are not ready to give up their privileged status and want to keep the throne exclusively for themselves. With few exceptions, Muslim intellectual elite wished to get rid of the restraints that Islam appears to put on their wayward lifestyle. What is left of the Muslim leadership is the religious elite (the Ulema, Muftis, etc.) that the Muslim youth turn to get inspiration for ways to come out of their misery.
For almost 12 centuries, the Ulema provided the leadership role, suggesting practical solutions to the living issues and standing in the forefront when the hordes of anti-Islam forces charged. They understood the real spirit of Islam and how to trans-value without giving up the Islamic core. But slowly, they relegated Islam to some rigid rituals with scant regard to human needs in the ever-changing circumstances.
After the western imperialism subjugated the Muslim lands, the Ulema retired to the cloisters of Madrasa and Khanqah. They hoped that their erected barriers would save the Muslim youth from drowning in the deluge. Then came the nationalist Muslim elite in the 19th century. They sliced the Muslim unity into national states, each trying to preserve its own interests, often sacrificing the broader interest of the Ummah.
By the middle of the 20th century the Muslim youth rebelled against the western hegemony. But they faced daunting challenges from all directions. The political elite in Muslim lands was unforgiving because the Muslim youth not only wanted freedom from European dominance but also pressed for basic human rights, including the right to govern their Muslim societies. The West sided with the corrupt Muslim nationalist rulers.
The religious elite often sided with the corrupt rulers for petty personal gains. The Muslim masses were bewildered. For the overwhelming majority, Islam was nothing more than “five pillars.” As long as they were allowed to perform them, they did not see any reason give up their corrupt cultural practices that had taken hold in Muslim lands over the centuries. As a slogan, “Islam is the solution” was very appealing to the youth but the masses did not identify themselves with so-called Muslim activists.
Then came the firebrands who turned the anger of the Muslim youth against the West in Palestine, Afghanistan, and Iraq. The success against the Soviet invaders gave the Muslim youth a false sense of invincibility, and they believed a few pinpricks like the destruction of Twin Towers, train-bombings in Spain and London, etc. would force the West to reverse its hostile policies against the Ummah.
In the last 25 years Muslim youth have lost a good chuck of their dedicated cadre because of their lack of vision and faulty strategies. If they could see beyond their noses and listen to sanity voices they could fix their vision on reaching the world with “Islam” – the way of peaceful living. To bring their Islamic revolution they would have used the tools of information to reach the oppressed masses. Instead, the prevailing suffocating conditions in their lands, massive massacres of their co-religionists and duplicitous policies of the world powers convinced them to do whatever they can to ameliorate the suffering. They tried but the Muslim rulers connived with the West to thwart their success at the ballot box. They rushed to support the armed struggle in Muslim lands. They sacrificed what is the most precious possession of every human being: their valuable lives. They resorted to suicide bombings only because they had no other weapon to fight the aggressor.
Had the Muslim youth looked back and evaluated the impact of their prolonged sacrifice for their faith and co-religionists, they would have changed their course. Their suicide bombings might have scared a lot of people but Islam has now become synonymous with mindless killing. Their short-sighted solution is hurting Islam in the long run.
Can the Muslim youth be convinced to change their strategy and follow a path of total non-violence for a couple of years until the world abandons its widely held belief that Islam is inherently violent.
It would be not very easy in the present surcharged circumstances when Muslim lives appear to have no value and their blood is spilled without remorse. The world has closed its eyes to the gravest violation of human rights of the Muslims and howls of innocent children, women and the old are drowned in the roars of “war on terror.”
The years of Sha’b Abi Talib in the life of the Messenger (peace and blessings of Allah be with him) provide us with such an effective strategy.
The Muslims were oppressed for years. Many were forced to migrate to Abyssinia. Those who stayed behind and the Messenger suffered for three years in extremely difficult living conditions. But he or his clan or the Muslims did not retaliate.
The Messenger kept on living Islam and showed the opponents that the oppression would not make them give up their belief in the Most Beneficial God. It was for their deep love of all human beings that they invited them to God and to living a peaceful life on earth. Any other way than being God’s vicegerent brings disastrous consequences because human greed and selfishness, as we witness now, is uncontrollable without belief in God and ultimate accountability to Him.
The Muslim youth all over the world have to revert back to the Prophet’s example to reach out to others by communication with them and not by hitting back.