(navigation image)
Home American Libraries | Canadian Libraries | Universal Library | Community Texts | Project Gutenberg | Children's Library | Biodiversity Heritage Library | Additional Collections
Search: Advanced Search
Anonymous User (login or join us)
Upload
See other formats

Full text of "Ahle sunnat urdu magazines,urdu islamic book,"

The Minaret 

An online Islamic magazine 
www.iosminaret.ore 



Vol. 1, No. 1 (March 2007) 



Dr Mohammed Manzoor Alarm 
Professor A. R. Momin 




Institute of Objective Studies 

Institute Building, 162, Jogabai Main Road 

Jamia Nagar, New Delhi- 1 10025 

Tel: 91-11-26981187, 26989253, 26987467 Fax: 91-11-26981104 

Email: manzoor@ndf.vsnl.net.in Website: www.iosminaret.org 



IOS Minaret, /hi Online Islamic Magazine 



IOS Minaret, in On I u I . Magazine 3 

Editorial 

Modern information and communication technologies offer a unique opportunity for the 
dissemination of information and ideas on an incredibly large scale. A number of Islamic 
websites have surfaced in recent years, which aim at providing a wide range of information 
related to Islam and Muslims. An over-view of such websites and their significance in the 
global context is provided in "Digitization of Islam: Globalisation's Gift to the Muslim 
Ummah", featured in the inaugural issue of The IOS Minaret in May, 2006. 

The IOS Minaret was launched as an online Islamic magazine in May 2006. The aims and 
objectives of the website are set out in the Introduction. The IOS Minaret is inspired by the 
verse of the Holy Quran: " Lo! Allah does not change the condition of a people until they 
(first) change what is in themselves." It is motivated by the conviction that Muslims need to 
build effective and sustainable networks of fortifications — intellectual, moral and cultural — 
in order to deal with the formidable challenges they are faced with. 



■. m - D B Q * 




The IOS Minaret is unique in certain respects. First, it seeks to focus on the enduring 
significance and relevance of Islamic ideas and principles in the contemporary global context 
and in terms of the current academic idiom and vocabulary. The features in the website are 
presented not in an abstruse, jargon-laden manner but in a lucid, readable style. Second, the 
website offers perceptive, insightful comments and analyses of current events, trends and 
issues. These comments and analyses are basically informed by an Islamic perspective and 
reflect an inter-disciplinary approach. Third, The IOS Minaret features, from time to time, 



4 10 S Minaret, An Online Islamic Magazine 

in-depth, critical reviews of recently published books dealing with global issues, world 
religions, Islam and Muslims, and inter-cultural dialogue. 

The IOS Minaret is committed to carry on with its mission, in the months and years ahead, 
by presenting a wide range of interesting and unique features, including the following: 

> Virtual Museum of Islamic Art and Culture 

> Great Cities of the Islamic World 

> Profiles of Muslim Countries 

^ Institutions of Islamic Learning in the World 

^ A History of Islamic Ideas 

^ Islam and the Making of Civilization 

> Islamic Movements and Orgnisations in the World 

^ Minarets of Learning and Wisdom (Profiles of prominent Muslim scholars and 

sages) 
^ A Window on Islam's Intellectual Legacy (Introductory essays on classical Islamic 

literature) 

The Internet culture is yet to take root in India and in other countries of the Third 
World, where the printed word is favoured over the virtual world. The Institute of 
Objective Studies is pleased to present the print edition of The IOS Minaret, which is 
aimed at reaching out to a wider readership. The contents of this biennial Minaret 
magazine have been taken from the website. We look forward to the support and 
cooperation of well-wishers, readers, contributors, subscribers and advertisers in this 
labour of love. 

We would like to express our appreciation of the services of Mr. Ataur Rahman, 
Mr. Mansoor Ahmad and Mr. Md. Afroz for looking after the organizational and 
technical side of The IOS Minaret with efficiency and dedication. 



Dr. Mohammad Manzoor Alam 
Professor A. R. Momin 

hd/tors 



IOS Minaret, An Online Islamic Magazine 



CONTENTS 



Editorial 
Introduction 



1. The Challenges of Globalization and 
the Muslim World 

2. Inter-Cultural Dialogue in a 
Globalizing World 

3. Islam and Social Justice 

4. GLOBESCAN 

Comments on current events, trends, 
issues 

5. Indo-Arab Economic Relations: The 
Road Ahead 

6. DIGITIZATION OF ISLAM 
Globalization's Gift to the Muslim 

I }])/:)/ a I) 

7. 'Don't touch my headscarf 

8. SNAPSHOTS OF ISLAMIC 
LEGACY 

9. MULTICULTURALISM ON TRIAL 
The exclusion of Muslims and the 
construction of national identity in 
Spain 

10. JESUS, THE SON OF MARY 

11. Pope Benedict XVI and Islamophobia 

12. SACRILEGIOUS CARTOONS 

Is it justifiable to offend people's sensitivities 
in the name of freedom of expression? 



Professor A. R. Momin 

IOS Research Network 

IOS Research Network 
Professor A. R Momin 

Dr. M. A. Hasib 
Professor A. R. Momin 

IOS Research Network 
Professor A. R. Momin 



Professor A. R. Momin 
IOS Research Network 
IOS Research Network 



32-48 

49-56 

57-72 



85-90 
91-94 

95-102 

103-112 
113-128 
129-134 



6 10 S Minaret, An On/in h n/ic Magazine 

13. Islam and Pluralism Professor A.K Momin 135-142 

14. Islam and the Making of Indian Professor A. K Momin 143-160 
Civilization 

15. Mawlana Rum on Human Nature Professor A.K. Momin 161-166 



IOS Minaret, in On I u I . Magazine 7 

Introduction 

Institute of Objective Studies 

The Institute of Objective Studies was established as a non-profit, non-political academic 
organization in Delhi (India) in 1986. The broad objectives of the Institute include the 
promotion of conceptual, multi-disciplinary and empirical studies on Islamic civilization and 
on Indian Muslims as well as other religious traditions and communities in the country, and 
of analytical studies on issues and challenges faced by Muslims in particular and by Indian 
society and humanity in general. One of the main concerns of the Institute is to foster an 
academic and cultural environment of goodwill, accommodation and dialogue between 
Muslims and the followers of other religious traditions. In furtherance of these objectives, 
the Institute regularly organizes national and international seminars and conferences, 
publishes books and journals, sponsors socio-economic surveys and other research projects, 
and offers scholarships to meritorious and deserving students. 

During the past two decades, the Institute has sought to broaden its base by opening and 
facilitating channels of communication and interaction between Muslim academics, the 
ulama, and activists, by developing linkages and networks with NGOs engaged in 
development and welfare projects, and by initiating academic exchanges and collaboration 
with eminent scholars as well as academic organizations and research institutes in different 
countries. A recent outcome of this collaborative effort is the publication of a volume 100 
Great Muslim Leaders of the 20 th Century (2006). 

The Institute has six regional Chapters, which are located in the cities of Chennai, Aligarh, 
Patna, Calicut, Kolkata and Ahmedabad. In recognition of its multi-faced contributions, the 
Economic and Social Council of the United Nations has conferred on the Institute a 
consultative status (Roster). 

THE IOS MINARET 

The dawn of the 21 st century has brought in its wake formidable challenges as well 
unforeseen prospects for humanity. Globalization is accelerating apace and is poised to 
radically alter the world scenario in the foreseeable future. The process of globalization 
seems to be a paradoxical phenomenon, a mixed bag of positive and negative elements and 
features. Thus, on the one hand, it has brought about a good measure of exposure and 
sensitivity towards ethnic, religious and cultural diversities, thanks to modern information 
and communication technologies, large-scale international migrations, and intermingling 
among people from varied ethnic and religious backgrounds. On the other hand, modern 
information and communication technologies have also been used for disseminating and 
reinforcing stereotypes and prejudices about different ethnic groups and religious 
communities. The 2004 annual report of the Vienna-based European Monitoring Centre on 
Racism and Xenophobia points out that, notwithstanding the high-sounding rhetoric of 
human rights, ethnic and religious minorities in many European countries — especially 



8 10 S Minaret, An Online Islamic Magazine 

Muslims and Gypsies — have to bear the brunt of xenophobia, institutionalized racism and 
exclusion. 

A relatively recent phenomenon which has attracted world-wide attention, especially in the 
aftermath of 9/11, is what has come to be known as Islamophobia: fear of and hostility 
towards Islam and Muslims. The currently prevailing perception about Islam in the Western 
world is that it is at variance with progress and enlightenment, that it incites violent passions 
in its followers, that it poses an ominous threat to world peace. Shortly after 9/11, Nobel 
Laureate V. S. Naipaul asserted that Islam has always attempted to enslave and wipe out 
other cultures and that it has had calamitous effects on converted peoples. Samuel 
Huntington, whose book The Clash of Civilisations and the Remaking of World Order (1996) 
created a storm of controversy, described the contemporary period as the "age of Muslim 
wars" in which Muslims are fighting each other and non-Muslims alike. Writing in Newsweek 
(17 December 2001), Huntington argued that these wars (allegedly initiated by Muslims) 
have replaced the Cold War as the principal form of international conflict and that they 
could congeal into one major clash of civilizations between Islam and the West or between 
Islam and the Rest. He sees Western Christianity and Islam as potentially pitted against each 
other in the unfolding global scenario. Francis Fukuyama, who authored the notorious "end 
of history" thesis, argued in the same issue of the magazine that the gravest threat to 
Western liberal democracy is posed by what he describes as "Islamo-fascism". A British 
historian Niall Ferguson has recently said that even if the Muslims in Europe are the citizens 
of the countries where they live, they cannot be true citizens. Misconceptions about Islam 
and mistrust towards Muslims exist, in varying degrees, in large parts of the world today. 

It is heartening to note that such extreme and distorted views have not gone unchallenged. 
The hollowness of Huntington's clash of civilizations thesis has been exposed by some of 
the world's leading thinkers and intellectuals. Edward Said, for example, decried the clash of 
civilizations thesis as a deplorable attempt to revive the old good vs. evil dichotomy 
prevalent during the Cold War era. Huntington's views, fallacious and distorted as they are, 
have been publicly denounced by heads of states, including President Bill Clinton, statesmen 
and politicians in many Western countries. The massive anti-war protests and 
demonstrations across Europe, North America and the rest of the world before the 
American-led invasion of Iraq and the sharp differences between the major European 
countries and the US and its allies before and after the invasion exposed the absurdity of the 
thesis. 

The events that unfolded in the wake of 9/11 brought about a radical transformation of the 
global scenario. A curious fall-out of 9/11 was a surge of popular as well as academic 
interest, especially in the United States and Europe, in understanding Islamic beliefs and 
values. Large numbers of Muslims, especially those living in the Western world, felt the need 
to fall back upon their spiritual and cultural heritage and to reinvent their identity. One can 
scarcely fail to notice the tidal wave of Islamic resurgence which is sweeping across the 
Islamic world as well as South Asia, Europe, North America and Australia where Muslims 
have a sizeable presence. This is reflected in the growing demand for Islamic literature, in the 
proliferation of religious and communitarian institutions and organizations, in the 
revitalization of Islamic movements, and in the growing involvement of Muslim youth as 
well as Muslim women in faith-based activities. 



IDS Miliard, in ()/// /< Is/a . Magazine 9 

The IOS Minaret has been conceived in the context of the unfolding global scenario. The 
broad objectives of the website are the following. 

(1) To present the values, ideals and principles of Islam in a rational, non-polemical and 
cogent manner and in the contemporary idiom. 

(2) To highlight the seminal and multi-faceted contribution of Islam and Muslims to the 
development and enrichment of human civilization as a whole as well as in specific 
regional contexts in the areas of advancement of knowledge and learning, human 
rights, science and medicine, engineering and technology, social sciences and 
humanities, art and architecture, town planning, governance and administration. 

(3) To provide authentic, updated information about Muslim communities located in 
different parts of the world. 

(4) To examine and analyze contemporary issues from an Islamic perspective. 

(5) To clear misconceptions, misrepresentations and misgivings about Islam and 
Muslims. 

(6) To clear the cobweb of confusion, ambivalence and scepticism in the minds of 
certain sections of Western-educated Muslims, students and youth and to instill in 
them a sense of legitimate pride in their religious and cultural heritage. 

(7) To act as a catalyst in motivating educated Muslims to play a positive and 
constructive role in society in the light of Islamic values. 

(8) To build bridges of tolerance, goodwill and dialogue between Muslims and the rest of 
humanity in particular and between civilizations, cultures and communities in general. 

The IOS Minaret covers a wide range of themes and subjects, including the Holy Quran, 
Hadith and Islamic law; history of Islamic civilization in the global as well as regional 
contexts; contribution of Muslims to the advancement of knowledge, science and medicine, 
social sciences and historiography, literature and the humanities, engineering and technology, 
architecture, arts and crafts; unity and diversity in contemporary Muslim societies; the status 
and role of women in Islam and in present-day Muslim societies; Muslim minorities; the 
historical significance and role of Islamic endowments; Islamic movements; Islamic financial 
institutions; profiles of eminent Muslims; prominent institutions of Islamic learning; centres 
of Islamic heritage; problems and challenges facing the Muslim ummah, etc. The discussion 
of these themes will be informed by a multi-disciplinary approach, shorn of pedantry and 
contestation. 

The IOS Minaret has an interactive format, which will hopefully motivate scholars, 
researchers, writers, media persons and other experts, professionals, students and educated 
Muslims to come to grips with the concerns and challenges facing the global Muslim 



10 10 S Minaret, An ( I h i \l 

community. Readers and browsers are welcome to send their queries and comments on our 
write-ups and we can assure them of our prompt response. 

The Institute has decided to bring out a print edition of The IOS Minaret twice a year. We 
are happy to present the first issue of The Minaret. 



Dr. Mohammad Manzoor Alam Professor A. R. Momin 

Chairman Academic Director 



10 S Minaret, /hi Online Islamic Magazine 

THE IOS MINARET 

Forthcoming features 

Invitation to the Holy Quran 

The Challenges of Globalization and the Islamic World 

Contribution of Muslims to the Medical Sciences 

Islamic International Law 

The Contribution of Al-Zahrawi to Surgery 

The Legacy of Islam: Endowments 

Islam and Human Rights 

Islamic Contribution to Historiography 

Non-Muslims in the Islamic State 

Islamic Finance and Banking 

Islam and the Environmental Crisis 

Islam and the Making of Civilization 

Contribution of Muslims to Geography 

Human Development in the Islamic World 

Islam and Multiculturalism 

Being a European Muslim (Dr Tariq Ramadan): Review Essay 

Ibn Khaldun: The Founder of Sociology 

Women's Rights in Islam 

Islam the Alternative (Murad Hofmann): Review Essay 

Human Nature in Islamic Perspective 

Contribution of Muslims to Architecture 

Islam and the Making of Indian Civilization 

Islam in China 

Living Heritage: Al-Azhar University 

Living Heritage: Museo Vivo de Al-Andalus 

Islamic Law and Muslim Minorities 

Civic Activism in the Islamic World 

Islam's Democratic Essence 

Islam's Intellectual Legacy: The Contribution of Fuat Sezgin 

Sociology in Islamic Perspective 

Social Science Methodology: An Islamic Perspective 

Al-Biruni: The Father of Anthropology 

Islam and Modernity 

Transnational Islamic Movements: The Tablighi Jama'at 

Islamic Resurgence in Central Asia 

Women's Religious Seminaries in Iran 

Women's Madrasas in India 



IOS Minaret, An Online Islamic Magazine 



Journey to Islam: Extracts from Murad Hofmann's Autobiography 
Contribution of Muslims to Political Science 
Islam in Southeast Asia 



IOS Minaret, in On I u I . Magazine 13 

The Challenges of Globalization and the Muslim World 
Professor A. R. Momin 

Globalization involves a whole set of processes, including the increasing integration of the 
world economy, the growing interconnectedness and interdependence of societies around 
the world, and extensive and unprecedented movement of capital, goods and services, 
technology, people, lifestyles and cultural patterns. Modern information and communication 
technologies are the driving force of globalization. In earlier times, the economies of most 
countries were dominated by agriculture or industry. In contrast, the global economy is 
defined in terms of processes that are largely intangible and 'weightless'. This weightless 
economy is a product of modern information and communication technologies — computer 
software, Internet-based services, media and entertainment products. In other words, the 
global economy is essentially knowledge economy. Manuel Castels, in his influential books 
The Rise of Network Society (1996) and The End of Millennium (1998), points out that the global 
system is in essence a network society made up of extensive linkages between production, 
power and experience. These linkages, according to him, construct a 'culture of virtuality' in 
the global flows which transcend time and space. 

Globalization is not an entirely new phenomenon. In earlier times, empires, conquests, 
religions, movements and migrations involving large numbers of people had a global or 
near-global reach. Christianity, Buddhism and Islam have been global religions for centuries. 
The globalization of Christianity began under the aegis of the Roman Empire with the 
conversion of the Emperor Constantine I to Christianity in 313 A.D. The globalization of 
Islam, on the other hand, did not commence under the auspices of any empire. It was set in 
motion by the inherently universalist message of the Islamic faith which attracted hundreds 
of thousands of people from diverse ethnic backgrounds and from different regions of the 
world, by the dispersal of Muslims across large parts of the world and, subsequently, by the 
creation of transnational institutions of science and learning. For the first time in history, the 
globalization of science, medicine and philosophy took place under the auspices of Islamic 
civilization during the medieval period. It was marked by extensive translations of scientific 
and philosophical works from Greece, India, Persia and Egypt, by a creative synthesis of the 
researches of Muslim scientists with those of other lands, by the establishment of scientific 
institutions (such as observatories, scientific academies, medical colleges, libraries, hospitals), 



For the first time in history, the globalization of science, medicine and philosophy 
took place under the auspices of Islamic civilization during the medieval period. It 
was marked by extensive translations of scientific and philosophical works from 
Greece, India, Persia and Egypt, by a creative synthesis of the researches of Muslim 
scientists with those of other lands, by the establishment of scientific institutions 
(such as observatories, scientific academies, medical colleges, libraries, hospitals), 
by the employment of Arabic as the universal lingua franca of scientific 
communication, and by the creation of a community of scientists, philosophers and 
translators from diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds. 



14 10 S Minaret, An Online Islamic Magazine 

by the employment of Arabic as the universal lingua franca of scientific communication, and 
by the creation of a community of scientists, philosophers and translators from diverse 
ethnic and religious backgrounds. 

It must, however, be acknowledged that the scale, magnitude and reach of the processes 
subsumed under globalization, particularly the incredible acceleration in the rate of change, 
are truly unprecedented in the annals of human history. A great deal of hype and euphoria 
surrounds the process of globalization. Mercifully, the euphoria is now slowly dissipating, 
giving way to a more realistic and balanced assessment of the pros and cons of globalization. 



A balance sheet of globalization 

There is no denying that, whether one 
likes it or not, globalization is here to 
stay and is in fact poised to gather 
further momentum in the years to come. 
At the same time, there is a growing 
realization that globalization is a 
paradoxical phenomenon, a mixed bag 
of the good and the bad. Anthony 
Giddens, one of the most celebrated 
sociologists of today, points out that 
globalization is not a single process but a 
complex mixture of processes, which 
often act in contradictory ways, 
producing conflicts, disjunctions and 
new forms of inequality. Consequently, 
globalization is being perceived and 
experienced differently by different 
people in different parts of the world. 
Therefore, in order to assess the 
benefits, prospects and challenges of 
globalization it is necessary to 
contextualize it to specific groups, 
communities and regions. 

Globalization has opened vast and 

hitherto unforeseen opportunities for 

millions of people around the world in 

terms of new technologies, economic 

growth, better job prospects and 

occupational mobility, increased trade 

and commerce, and foreign investments. 

Modern information and communication technologies have made an incredibly vast range of 

information open and accessible to all and sundry, with positive consequences for efficiency, 

productivity and competitiveness. Technological innovations (which are now globally 




IDS Miliard, in Onl n Is/a ■. Magazine 15 

accessible) have greatly facilitated a far more efficient harnessing of natural resources, such 
as oil, natural gas and hydraulic and mineral resources. The global sourcing of goods — fruits, 
vegetables, meat, sea food, consumer items — through large retailing outlets (such as Wal- 
Mart) provides incredibly large, global markets for an enormous variety of local products, 
with substantial benefits to large numbers of consumers and farmers. Global processes, such 
as the reduction of tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade, have greatly facilitated the global 
flow of goods and services and have a positive effect on competitiveness. Online trading 
sites, such as e-Bay, provide not only information and access to a wide range of products 
from across the world but also an outlet for the sale of traditional handicrafts from different 
regions of the world. One of the most remarkable achievements of globalization is the 
increasing worldwide network of medical consultations and the global diffusion of medical 
technology. 

While the benefits of globalization are evident and undeniable, one should not lose sight of 
its dark side. The most scathing critique of globalization is that it has brought about wide 
and glaring asymmetries of power, resources and opportunities in large parts of the world. 
Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen has remarked that "even though the world is incomparably 
richer than ever before, ours is also a world of extraordinary deprivation and staggering 
inequality." Much of the world — most regions of Africa and Latin America, Russia, nearly all 
of the Middle East (except Israel), large parts of Asia — has been left out of the process of 
globalization. The richest 10% of the world (living in Western countries and in Japan) 
consume 58% of the world's total energy, 84% of all paper, 45% of all meat and fish, and 
own 87% of all vehicles. Nearly 80% of the world stock of foreign direct investment is 
located in the industrialized countries of the North. The bulk of global trade occurs within 
three regions, namely Europe, North America and Asia-Pacific. The 1999 Human Development 
Report revealed that the average income of the fifth of the world's population living in the 
richest countries was 74 times greater than the average income of the fifth living in the 
poorest countries. In the late 1990s, 20% of the world's population living in the 
industrialized countries accounted for 86% of the world's overall consumption, 82% of 
export markets, 74% of all telephone lines, and 97% of all patents worldwide. The digital 
divide — the technological gap between the North and the South — is too glaring. Nearly 80% 
of the world's population living in the poorer countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America 
still lacks access to the most basic communication technologies. In sub-Saharan Africa less 
than one per cent of households have a landline phone. There are more telephone lines in 
Manhattan than in the whole of sub-Saharan Africa. In the industrialized countries one 
person out of three owns a computer as compared to one out of 130 in Africa. The 
information superhighway seems to have passed by most of the world's population. 



The richest 10% of the world (living in Western countries and in Japan) consume 
58% of the world's total energy, 84% of all paper, 45% of all meat and fish, and own 
87% of all vehicles. Nearly 80% of the world stock of foreign direct investment is 
located in the industrialized countries of the North. The bulk of global trade occurs 
within three regions, namely Europe, North America and Asia-Pacific. 



16 10 S Minaret, An Online Islamic Magazine 

One of the paradoxical features of globalization is the contradiction between inclusion and 
exclusion. While some countries have reaped a rich harvest of globalization, others have 
been marginalized and excluded. All the international agencies — such as the World Bank, 
International Monetary Fund, World Trade Organization — are dominated by the world's 
richest nations, particularly the United States. 

Nineteen of the forty two African states that are members of the WTO have little or no 
representation at its headquarters in Geneva. In many countries of Africa and Asia real 
incomes are falling, with disturbing consequences for people's health, life expectancy and 
education. The World Bank Report 2000 says that there is a danger that many of the 
developing countries most in need of economic growth will be left even further behind as 
globalization progresses. 

The disjunction between the global and the local is becoming increasingly evident. What 
appears rational at the global level — such as the various international trade agreements 
related to natural resources, biodiversity and intellectual property rights — can have 
devastating consequences for the environment, indigenous resources and local communities. 
This is reflected in the massive protests against globalization by ethnic minorities in 
Philippines, indigenous communities in Ecuador, peasants in Burkina Faso, Indian fisherfolk 
and environmental activists in the United States and other countries. 

The challenges of globalization and the Muslim world 



On the whole, there is an unfortunate absence in the Muslim world of a realistic and critical 
reflection on the global scenario, the prospects and 
opportunities afforded by it, and the challenges 
faced by the Muslim community. By and large, the 
perception and response of the Muslim world to 
the challenges of globalization seems to be foggy, 
confused and out of focus. In my view, the 
challenges of globalization in respect of the 
Muslim world cover the following seven areas: (1) 
the knowledge deficit (2) the economic and 
technological wilderness (3) human rights (4) 
global culture and secularization (5) Islamophobia 
(6) Muslim diaporas (7) the dependency syndrome. 

The knowledge deficit 

The pursuit of knowledge occupies a central place 
in Islam. Prophet Muhammad (SAW) declared that 
the acquisition of knowledge is an obligation on 
every Muslim. He exhorted his followers to carry 
the torch of knowledge and learning far and wide. 




IOS Minaret, in On I u I . Magazine 17 

Islam opened the portals of knowledge to all and sundry, men and women, rich and poor, 
king and slave. This refreshingly open, dynamic and egalitarian approach brought about 
revolutionary consequences for not only Muslims but human civilization as a whole. 

One of the gravest ailments affecting large sections of Muslims is the abysmally low level of 
literacy and their endemic indifference to education. Almost two-thirds of Muslims in the 
world today are illiterate, far below world average. Nearly three-fourths of Muslim women 
across the world can neither read nor write. The Arab Human Development 'Report 2002 
identified three major deficits in the Arab world today: knowledge, freedom and women's 
rights. The report reveals that illiteracy rates in the Arab world are still higher than the 
international average and even higher than the average in the developing countries. 

The education of females has a particularly significant bearing on nutrition, healthcare and 
hygiene. It greatly improves the family's ability to manage basic child care, increase the 
nutritional content of diet, ensure a more effective diagnosis of disease, and improve 
elementary healthcare. Several studies suggest that the education of females is positively 
correlated with a significant increase in immunization and child mortality rates. It has been 
estimated that mothers who have completed primary school have 20% less malnutrition in 
their children than illiterate mothers. 

It is now universally recognized that education is the key to human development, progress 
and global competitiveness. No people or country can hope to reap the harvest of 
globalization without making a heavy investment in human development, especially 
education. Unfortunately, the Muslim and Arab world lags far behind in this crucial area. 
The Second Arab Human Development Report 2003 concludes that the status of knowledge in 
the Arab world in terms of demand, production and dissemination is grossly inadequate and 
ineffectual. The Third Arab Human Development Report 2004 points out that scientific research 
in Arab countries is seriously hampered by weak basic research and the almost total absence 
of advanced research in fields such as information technology and molecular biology. Arab 
countries, according to the report, have one of the lowest levels of research funding in the 
world. Investment in research and development in Arab countries is less than one-seventh of 
the world average. The average number of scientists and engineers working in research and 
development in Arab countries is 371 per million people, while the world average, including 
countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America, is 979. 



The Third Arab Human Development Report 2003 points out that in the 1000 years 
since the reign of the caliph Mamoun, the Arabs have translated as many books as 
Spain translates in one year. The Arab world translates about 330 books annually, 
one-fifth of the number that Greece translates. The economic and technological 
wilderness. 



18 10 S Minaret, An ( ' i > nu Magazine 

The number of books published in the Arab world does not exceed 1.1 per cent of world 
production. The number of books translated from foreign languages into Arabic is 
negligible. The Third Arab Human Development Report 2003 points out that in the 1 000 years 
since the reign of the caliph Mamoun, the Arabs have translated as many books as Spain 
translates in one year. The Arab world translates about 330 books annually, one-fifth of the 
number that Greece translates. In 1990, thousands of scientific conferences were held in 
different parts of the world, where two and a half million papers were presented. The papers 
presented by Muslim scholars numbered only one thousand. 

The economic and social scenario in most Muslim countries is defined by low or stagnant 
growth, low productivity, wide income disparities, wasteful military expenditure, injudicious 
management of resources, heavy burden of debts, escalating unemployment rates, rising 
inflation, and inefficient and insensitive administration. 

The GDP of all Arab states combined stood at $531.2 billion in 1999, less than that of a 
single middle-size European country, Spain ($595.5 billion). There is no dearth of resources 
in the Muslim world. There are 18 major oil-producing countries in the world, of which 10 
are Muslim, which produce nearly 40% of the world's oil. Much of the oil revenue goes into 
the personal accounts of the ruling elite or in defence expenditure, including the purchase of 
military hardware, the maintenance of foreign troops stationed in some Muslim countries, 
and the professional services provided by foreign military personnel. The 1994 Human 
Development Report pointed out that the top five arms-exporting countries, who are also the 
five permanent members of the UN Security Council, are together responsible for 86% of all 
conventional weapons exported. Muslim countries are among the biggest clients of arms- 
exporting countries. They spend, on an average, 10% to 30% of their GDP on defence. 
Ironically, after World War II there has been no major armed conflict between Muslim 
countries and the Western world. On the other hand, Muslim countries have fought several 
wars among themselves, which led to the killing of 1.5 million Muslims and injury to 
thousands. It is estimated that the foreign debts of Muslim countries account for over thirty 
per cent of the world's debts. 

There are 22 Arab states with 280 million people, who constitute about 5% of the global 
population. The Arab Human Development Report 2002 revealed that one in five Arabs — 20% 
of the population — still lives on less than $2 a day. Nearly 15% of the labour force is 
unemployed. According to an International Labour Organization study, of the 88 million 
unemployed males between 1 5 and 24 years worldwide, almost 26% are in the Middle East 
and North Africa (quoted by Thomas Friedman: The World is Flat, 2005, p. 198). 

Muslims constitute nearly 20% of the world's population, but Muslim countries account for 
only 4% of world trade. The share of Muslim countries in foreign direct investment (FDI) is 
negligible. None of the Arab countries, for example, figures among the top ten FDI- 
attracting countries in the developing world. 

The digital divide between the industrialized countries and the Third World is strikingly 
evident in large parts of the Muslim world. According to the Arab Human Development Report 
2002, the number of telephone lines in the Arab world is barely one-fifth of that in the 



K)S Minnnt, /\u Oiilnii I shii i. i'u Magazine 19 

developed countries. Access to digital media in the Arab world is among the lowest in the 
world. There are just 18 computers per thousand people in the region, compared to the 
global average of 78.3 per thousand people. Only 1.6 per cent of the population in the Arab 
world has Internet access. International patenting provides an index of a country's 
technological progress. Hewlett-Packard, the world's leading patenting agency, registers on 
an average 11 new patents a day. Between 1980 and 1999, Arab countries produced 171 
international patents while South Korea alone registered 16,328 patents during the same 
period. 

The Arab Human Reports of 2002, 2003 and 2004 tell a sad story of failed planning, lack of 
vision and strategy and developmental decline. One inescapable conclusion that emerges 
from the reports is that the Arab world is in deep decline, even relative to the developing 
countries. The story in respect of the rest of the Muslim world is not substantially different. 



Human rights 

Autocratic rule, absence of political and civil 
rights, suppression of freedom of expression, 
opinion, association and dissent, media censorship 
and institutionalized gender discrimination are 
among the conspicuous features of many Muslim 
countries. According to the rankings of Freedom 
House (an American-based monitor of political 
and civil rights), almost two-thirds of the 192 
countries around the world are now electoral 
democracies. But among the 47 countries with a 
Muslim majority, only one-fourth are electoral 
democracies and none of the core Arabic-speaking 
countries falls into this category. Out of seven 
world regions, the Arab countries have the lowest 
freedom score. Political participation is much less 
developed in the Arab world than in other 
developing countries in Latin America, East and 
South-East Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. The Arab 
Human Development Report 2002 identified lack of 
freedom as one of the three major deficits of Arab 
countries. By and large, the transfer of political 
power through the ballot box is a rare 
phenomenon in the Arab world. In many Muslim 
countries which have some semblance of 
democracy, elections are often manipulated. There is no dearth of autocratic and repressive 

regimes in the Muslim world, both in the recent past as well as today. Riding on the wave of 
Islamic resurgence, the Islamic Salvation Front in Algeria won the municipal and regional 
elections in 1990. On December 26, 1881 the first multi-party elections were held in the 
country. The Islamic Salvation Front emerged victorious in the first round, securing 48% of 




20 10 S Minaret, An Online Islamic Magazine 

the popular vote and 188 out of 231 parliamentary seats. The ruling National Liberation 
Front, on the other hand, could secure only 1 6 seats. The Islamic Salvation Front was widely 
expected to repeat its earlier performance in the second round of elections scheduled for 
January 16, 1992. However, on January 12 the pro-West Algerian army in a de facto coup 
seized power and stalled the election process in order to prevent the Islamic Salvation Front 
from winning. The military take over was followed by a brutal suppression of the Front, 
precipitating a civil war in which more than 75,000 Algerians were killed and nearly 1 5,000 
leaders and activists of the Front were arrested and imprisoned. 



In 1972, an Islamically-oriented political party, the National Salvation Party, was founded in 
Turkey under the leadership of Necmettin Erbekan. Its primary goal was the restoration of 
Turkey's Islamic character and the recovery of its glorious heritage. This provided an 
indication of the growing popular disenchantment with the secular, Western-oriented, 
military-backed policies of the ruling establishment. In 1995 Erbekan's party, renamed Refah 
Party, won the majority of seats in Turkey's National Assembly and Erbekan became the 
prime minister. However, the military, which still swears by the Kemalist ideology, declared 
the Refah Party unconstitutional, banned it from participating in elections, and removed 
Erbekan from premiership. 



Autocratic regimes in Africa and in the newly- 
independent countries of Central Asia have 
generally responded to the rising wave of Islamic 
resurgence with brutal repression. In Central Asia 
thousands of Muslims who are involved in 
movements of Islamic revival were detained on 
fabricated charges. Many young men and women 
were dismissed from schools and universities for 
keeping beards and wearing the Islamic headscarf. 

Media control and censorship are rampant in 
Muslim countries. Most media agencies in the 
Muslim world are state-owned. Journalists often 
face intimidation, harassment and victimization. 
The Arab Human Development Report 2003 quotes 
Freedom House in recording that no Arab country 
has genuinely free media, and only three have 
"partly free" media. The Emir of Qatar was the first 
Gulf ruler to recently allow a free press in his 
country. 




It is significant to note that there is a great yearning among the Muslim masses for 
democratic freedom and participation. Two most recent World Values surveys conducted in 
1995-96 and 2000-2002, based on questionnaires that explore values and beliefs in more than 
70 countries (comprising nearly 80% of the world's population), indicate that societies 
throughout the world (including Muslim societies) see democracy as the best form of 
government. Most of the Muslim countries surveyed think highly of democracy. In fact, in 



K)S Minaret, /hi Onliih Isliu i. in Magazine 21 

Albania, Egypt, Bangladesh, Azerbaijan, Indonesia, Morocco and Turkey, 92 to 99 per cent 
of the population endorsed democratic institutions — a higher proportion than in the US (89 
per cent). 

The Human Development Report 2002 observed that "no society can achieve the desired state of 
well-being and human development, or compete in a globalizing world, if half of its people 
(women) remain marginalized and disempowered." The position of women in the Muslim 
world today leaves much to be desired. The Third Arab Human Development Report 2003 
points out that the participation of Arab women in their countries' political and economic 
life is the lowest in the world. Nearly in all Arab countries, women suffer from unequal 
citizenship and lack of legal entitlements. There is widespread disenfranchisement of women 
in Arab countries. Only four Gulf countries — Bahrain, Oman, Qatar and Kuwait — have 
given voting rights to women. The proportion of women in parliaments in Arab countries is 
extremely low. They occupy 3.5 per cent of all seats in parliaments, compared to 4.2 per cent 
in East Asia, 11 per cent in sub-Saharan Africa, 12.7 per cent in South-East Asia and the 
Pacific, and 12.9 per cent in Latin America and Caribbean countries. Women failed to win 
any seat in the parliamentary elections in Kuwait held on June 29, 2006. 



The most immigrant-dense areas in the world are located in the sparsely-populated, oil-rich 

region of the Middle East: Qatar (63.7%), Kuwait 

(71.6%), UAE (90.1%), Saudi Arabia (25.76%), Oman 

(33.56%), Bahrain (35.12%), Jordan (26.39%). In most 

cases, the expatriate population hardly enjoys any 

political or civil rights. 

Global culture and secularization 

The global media, especially satellite television, 

advertising and the entertainment industry have 

acquired enormous salience in our globalizing era. 

Time Warner is the world's biggest media corporation 

with assets larger than those of many developing 

countries. International trade agreements, such as the 

General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), are 

especially favourable to the global media corporations 

in that they facilitate the domination of local markets 

by media giants. Entertainment around the world is 

dominated by Hollywood films and videos. The largest 

export industry for the US is entertainment, especially Hollywood films and videos. 

Hollywood blockbusters, legally imported or pirated versions, are hugely popular in 

practically every city around the world. 




Merve Kavakci, who was elected a member 

of the Turkish parliament in 1993. was 

ridiculed am prevented from taking oath 

because she entered parliament with her 

headscarf 



The global media, Hollywood films and videos and advertising send out certain messages — 
explicit as well subtle — which are embedded in the values, lifestyles and cultural patterns of 
present-day Western societies, especially the United States. These include the glorification of 
individualism and self-gratification, consumerism and hedonism, sexual freedom (including 



22 10 S Minaret, An Online L < \4 

homosexuality and lesbianism), disregard for societal norms, and the glamorization of 
violence. One of the Hollywood video films Lara Croft: Tomb Raider has become immensely 
popular among adolescents and has sold millions of copies worldwide. Targeted at young 
boys and girls in the age group of 8-12 years, the video exposes young viewers to sex and 
violence. There has been a phenomenal spurt in the US, Europe and even in the 
metropolitan cities of Asia in the sales of PG-13 films, such as Loving Silverman, which have 
explicit references to oral sex, masturbation and necrophilia. The celebrity singer Janet 
Jackson's hugely popular million- selling album The Velvet Rope makes explicit references to 
homosexuality. The album has been banned in China, Singapore and Malaysia. 

Western products — Coca Cola, Levi jeans, Michael Jackson, Madonna, Mickey Mouse, 
Barbie dolls, American pop culture — are projected by the Western media as global products 
aimed at global audiences, transcending ethnic, religious and cultural distinctions. The 
projection of Western culture in the guise of global culture sends out the subtle and 
subliminal message to the younger generation in Asia and Africa that the value system and 
cultural patterns of the West are superior and preferable to those of non-Western societies. 
This globalized cultural hegemony poses a serious threat to the cultural traditions and 
identities of Muslims as well as other people living in non-Western societies. This produces 
confusion and ambivalence in the minds of the younger generation. 

In our globalizing era, the role of parents and other members of the family in the 
socialization of children has been greatly reduced. Peer group, global media, educational 
institutions and networks in the wider society now play a much larger role in the 
socialization process. Muslim children, especially those living in Western countries as well as 
in large metropolitan cities in Asia, Africa and Latin America, are being increasingly exposed 
to cultural influences which are at variance with Islamic values and traditions. 

Global processes and institutions, such as increasing mobility, the accelerated pace of life, 
secularization and global media, are producing consequences which are at best a mixture of 
positive and negative elements. Individualism and consumerism, for example, seem to be 
making inroads into Muslim societies, especially in the highly qualified professional class. 
Increasing mobility (involving relocation in other cities as well as transnational migration) 
and growing career-mindedness are bringing in their wake uprooting and alienation from the 
neighbourhood, community and cultural moorings. They are also producing disturbing 
consequences for parents and other elderly members of the family. 

In some Muslim countries, the ruling establishment, military junta and the educated elite 
continue to be under the strong influence of Western culture and secularism. They tend to 
look down upon those of their compatriots who are deeply committed to Islamic values, 
traditions and cultural symbols and often make them a target of ridicule, derision and 
victimization. In 1999, Merve Kavakci, a computer scientist who was elected a member of 
the Turkish parliament, was prevented from taking oath and was subsequently stripped of 
her Turkish citizenship because she entered parliament with her Islamic headscarf. Earlier, 
her father, Yusuf Ziya Kavakci, had to resign as Dean of the Faculty of Islamic Studies at 
Ataturk University on account of supporting Muslim women's right to wear the hijab. Her 



I()\ Minaret, {//(>//' u I' ■ . Magazine 23 

mother lost her teaching position at the same university for wearing the hijab. The family had 
to migrate to the United States. 

Islamophobia 

The Runnymede Trust in Britain set up a Commission on Islamophobia in 1997. The report 
of the Commission tided Islamophobia: A Challenge to Us All, revealed that Islamophobia — 
fear of and hostility towards Islam and Muslims — was one of the chief forms of racism in 
Britain. The report pointed out that for many in the Muslim community, to demean and 
vilify Islam was as exclusionary as racism and sapped their confidence to engage with 
reassurance with the wider society. 

The wide prevalence of Islamophobia in large parts of the world, especially in Europe, 
United States and Australia, is reflected in the vilification and demonization of Islam and 
Muslims, in the opposition to the visibility of Islamic symbols (such as the Islamic headscarf) 
in public places, in the distortion and misrepresentation of matters related to Muslims by the 
Western media, in the racial profiling and surveillance of Muslims (in the United States), in 
attacks on mosques, in the discrimination against Muslims in respect of employment, 
housing and education, and in the tirade against Muslim immigrants by the far-right political 
parties and racist groups. It is widely believed in Europe that Islam is at variance with 
progressive values, that it encourages intolerance, fanaticism and aggression in its followers, 
and that it poses a threat to world peace. Nick Griffin, a leader of the far-right British 
National Party, had said in a recent speech that Islam was a vicious, wicked faith. He was 
tried for incitement to racial hatred, but on February 3, 2006 walked free at the end of the 
trial. In his defence, Griffin argued that he was attacking a religion (which, in the case of 
religions other than Christianity, is not an offence under British law), not a race. 

Islamophobia has been fuelled by a cluster of circumstances, including the misrepresentation 
and disparagement of the Islamic Revolution of Iran in 1979, the controversy arising out of 
Salman Rushdie's novel Satanic Verses, the controversial debate over the Islamic headscarf in 
France in 1989 and in subsequent years, the Madrid train bombings of 2004, the terrorist 
attack on the United States on September 11, 2001, the highly provocative writings and 
utterances of some influential intellectuals and writers such as Samuel Huntington, Bernard 
Lewis, V. S. Naipaul and Francis Fukuyama, the murder of the Dutch film maker Theo van 
Gogh in November 2004, and the terrorist attack on London in July 2005. The Salman 

Rushdie affair in 1988-89 created a wide divide between Muslims and the wider British 
society. Rushdie, a self-professed atheist, was accused by Muslims of defaming and 
slandering the Prophet and his wives. Copies of Satanic Verses were burnt on streets. Some 
Muslims in Britain sought a ban on the book by invoking the anti-blasphemy law in Britain 
but found to their dismay that the law protected only the official state religion, namely 
Anglicanism. Ironically, some books, such as Uttle Black Sambo, are kept out of libraries in 
the US because they cause offence to certain sections of society. But the same sensitivity was 
not shown to Muslims in the case of Salman Rushdie's Satanic Verses. 



24 10 S Minaret, An Online Islamic Magazine 

The resentment and hatred towards Muslim immigrants in European countries is sometimes 
manifested in assaults on Muslims and in the vandalization of mosques and community 
centres. In 1985 several mosques and Islamic centres were attacked and vandalized in several 
parts of the United States. Racist groups burnt a hostel for Turkish immigrants in Solinger in 
Germany in 1993. The opening of new mosques or prayer halls in Italy and Spain is often 
accompanied by protests by the local people. The far-right political parties in Europe, such 
as Front Nationale in France, the British National Party, Vlaams Belang in Belgium and 
Republikaner in Germany, are vocally anti-Muslim. 

Islamophobia has been on the rise after 9/11, as the reports of the European Monitoring 
Centre on Racism and Xenophobia testify (see http://www.eumc.eu.int) . An Amnesty 
International report reveals that nearly 32 million people in the US, mostly Muslims from the 
Middle East and South Asia, have reported that they have been racially profiled in the wake 
of 9/11. The late UN human rights chief Sergio Vieirade Mello emphasized that the "war on 
terror" was exacerbating prejudices around the world, increasing discrimination against 
Arabs and Muslims and damaging human rights in industrialized as well as developing 
countries. Arabs and Muslims at large are experiencing increasing incidents f racial 
discrimination — singling out, finger printing and, in some instances, violence. 

The Western media often distort and misrepresent news and events related to Muslims and 
thereby reinforce prejudices and stereotypes about the community. In the aftermath of 9/11, 
Italian television channels broadcasted visits by Italian officials and the police to local 
mosques in the southern and northern parts of Italy, which implicitly suggested that these 
mosques harboured Muslim fanatics and terrorists. This media focus created apprehensions 
in the local people about their own safety, who felt that the mosques should be closed down. 



The wide prevalence of Islamophobia in large parts of the world, especially in 
Europe, United States and Australia, is reflected in the vilification and demonization 
of Islam and Muslims, in the opposition to the visibility of Islamic symbols (such as 
the Islamic headscarf) in public places, in the distortion and misrepresentation of 
matters related to Muslims by the Western media, in the racial profiling and 
surveillance of Muslims (in the United States), in attacks on mosques, in the 
discrimination against Muslims in respect of employment, housing and education, 
and in the tirade against Muslim immigrants by the far-right political parties and 
racist groups. 



10 S Minaret, sin Online Islamic Magazine 



J -J 



A recent manifestation of Islamophobia was the publication in September 2005 in a Danish 
newspaper Jyllands-Posten of 12 highly derogatory caricatures of Prophet Muhammad. In 
one of them he was shown wearing a bomb- 
shaped turban (thus portraying him as a terrorist). 
In early February 2006 several newspapers in 22 
European countries republished the caricatures. 
The publication of these sacrilegious cartoons 
generated an enormous amount of anger and 
resentment among Muslims across the world, 
which was expressed in massive protests and 
demonstrations and in the call to boycott Danish 
goods. 

Muslim diasporas 

Large-scale transnational migration is one of the 
defining features of globalization. According to an 
International Labour Organization analysis of 
migration patterns in 152 countries, between 1970 
and 1990 the number of countries classified as 
major receivers of labour immigrants rose from 39 
to 67. It is estimated that some 175 million people 
live outside of their countries of origin. About 
three out of five international migrations are 
located in Western countries. According to the 
United Nations' 2000 International Migration 
Report, one person out of ten living in the 
industrialized nations is an immigrant. In France, 
which greatly emphasizes cultural homogeneity, 
fourteen million French citizens — nearly a quarter of the country's population — have at least 
one immigrant parent or grandparent. The majority of Australia's population consists of 
immigrants from over a hundred countries. 




Large numbers of expatriate Muslims, including their second and third generation 
descendants, live as citizens or residents in Europe, North and South America, Australia, 
New Zealand and some of the African countries. The number of Muslims living in Europe is 
estimated at 33 million. The largest concentrations of Muslims are to be found in France, 
Britain, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, Spain and Belgium. The number of Muslims in the 
US, Canada and Latin America is nearly ten million. The first generation of Muslim 
immigrants in most European countries was recruited as cheap labour required for the post- 
War reconstruction of European societies. Initially, European states believed that migrant 
labour would be a transient phase and the immigrants would return to their countries after 
the expiry of their contract. However, the demand for cheap labour in the rapidly developing 
European economies continued unabated. Meanwhile, various European states allowed 



26 10 S Minaret, An ( ' Is uk Magazine 

family reunion for immigrants. Consequently, the first generation of immigrants decided to 
stay back in their adopted homelands where their descendants were born and raised. In 
France, for example, more than 30% of immigrants belong to the second, French-born 
generation. Muslim immigrants, like immigrants in general, have made a highly important 
contribution to European economies. For example, France's rapid economic expansion after 
World War II owes much to the sweat and toil of Muslim immigrants from the former 
French colonies in North Africa. A substantial proportion of the labour force across Europe 
and in other industrialized countries is aging, resulting in a falling supply of labour and skills. 
The immigrants fill in this lacuna. A UN study points out that Europe will need 1.6 million 
migrants a year for the next 45 years to maintain its work force at current levels to replenish 
aging populations and falling birth rates. 

The experience of Muslims in Western countries and the record of Western states in 
addressing their concerns and in integrating them into mainstream society present a mixed 
picture. On the whole, Western societies offer Muslims as well as other immigrants a fairly 
good package, comprising better economic prospects, opportunities for higher education 
and professional training, civil and political rights, personal autonomy, and religious and 
cultural freedom (which, incidentally, is scarce in many Muslim countries). Muslims in 
Europe and North America have their own mosques (Paris alone has nearly a hundred 
mosques), burial grounds, religious schools (which are funded by the state in some 
countries), enjoy the freedom to celebrate their feasts and festivals and have the facility for 
halal meat. Muslim women move about freely in their traditional attire, including the hijab. 
Nearly all European countries provide facilities for imparting instruction to the children of 
immigrants in their national languages. Several European countries, including Belgium, 
Germany, Sweden and the Netherlands, are now supporting imams brought from Turkey, 
Morocco and other Islamic countries to provide Islamic instruction to Muslim children. 

On the other hand, Muslims in Western societies are faced with a host of problems and 
challenges, including xenophobia and institutionalized racism, unclear citizenship, lack of 
legal security, discrimination, exclusion and stigmatization. Laws, policies and procedures in 
many European societies betray bias and discrimination against Muslims and other 
minorities. The 2005 Annual Report of the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and 
Xenophobia reveals that Muslims, as well as other immigrants and national minorities (such 
as Gypsies), regularly experience exclusion, discrimination and racism in respect of 
employment, housing and education. This is reflected in discriminatory housing 
advertisements and outright refusal by landlords, real estate agents and housing associations. 
As a result of this exclusion and discrimination, Muslims and other immigrants are forced to 
live in overcrowded flats and under unhygienic and poor conditions. Segregation and 
ghettoization along religious and ethnic lines is prevalent throughout Europe, particularly in 
France, Spain, Sweden, Portugal and Cyprus. The report refers to a research at the University 
of Paris which found that job applicants with a disability, followed by those of North 
African background, were the main victims of discriminatory treatment. 



IOS Minaret, in On I u I . Magazine 27 

France swears by the republican ideals of liberty, equality and fraternity. In reality, however, 
Muslim immigrants from North Africa (including their descendants born and raised in 
France) experience widespread discrimination, exclusion and marginalization. French society 
is differentiated according to class, religion and ethnicity. Mainstream jobs and positions 
remain largely with the white, upper class, Christian majority. The suburbs, where the 
majority of Muslims live, are characterized by poverty, high unemployment rate, crime and 
drug addiction. Faced with this gloomy situation, many Muslim youths are forced to change 
their names and to conceal their local addresses for fear that that the revelation of their real 
identity will jeopardize the prospects of getting a job. In November 2005 North African 
youths indulged in large-scale rioting and vandalism on the streets of Paris (where nearly 
1400 cars were torched in a single night). The rioting was triggered by the accidental death 
by electrocution of two North African youths who were being chased by the French police. 

There are indications that things are getting increasingly difficult for Muslims as well as for 
potential immigrants in Western countries. The far-right political parties in Europe, which 
make no secret of their antipathy towards Muslims and other immigrants, are growing in 
popularity. Thus in Belgium, the right-wing, anti-immigrant Vlaam Belang Party won nearly a 
quarter of the national vote in the 2004 elections. In Sweden, the Office of Multicultural 
Affairs was closed down and funds for the welfare of immigrants were substantially curtailed 
in the face of growing public hostility towards immigrants. There has been an increase in 
racist attacks on Muslims in many European countries. The 2005 Report of the European 
Monitoring Centre on Xenophobia and Racism revealed that there were as many as 52, 694 
racist attacks in Britain during the period 2003-2004, followed by Germany with 6,474 
incidents. Some European countries have devised subtle methods of discouraging potential 
immigrants. In the Netherlands, for example, would-be immigrants are shown a film which 
depicts a topless white woman cavorting on a beach. Another shot focuses on two white 
men engaged in a passionate kiss in a park. This is meant to provide snapshots of the culture 
of the host country (which may shock the potential immigrants and dissuade them from 
migrating). 

The dependency syndrome 

The overall scenario in large parts of the Muslim world today is defined by an excessive 
dependence on foreign military technology, hardware and personnel, on Western technology 
and technicians, on the massive import of Western goods and services, on Western financial 
institutions for trade as well as investment, on Western educational and professional 
institutions, and on foreign ideologies and models. There is a conspicuous absence of a spirit 
and culture of self-reliance, of concern with developing indigenous technology and 
invigorating local industries, and an unfortunate dearth of professionalism and 
entrepreneurship, of vision and long-term strategy. 

The Arab Human Development Report 2003 points out that the experience of Arab countries 
with the transfer and adoption of technology has neither achieved the desired technological 
advancement nor yielded attractive returns on investments. Importing technology has not 



.?/,' 



IOS 'Minaret, sin Online Islamic Magazine 



led to its adoption and internalization in the host country. The factors responsible for this 
sorry state of affairs include the absence of an environment conducive for scientific and 
technological research, dearth of scientific institutions, low investment in research and 
development, and shortage of professionally trained local personnel. 

Edward Said, a sympathetic observer of the Islamic world, once perceptively remarked that 
the Muslim world in general and the Arab world in particular have become an intellectual, 
political and cultural satellite of the Western world, particularly the US. Seyyed Hossein 
Nasr, one of the most distinguished Islamic scholars of today, hardly exaggerates when he 
says that "we have made ourselves an appendix to Western thought." 

Responding to the challenges of globalization 




A deep and pervasive sense of despair and 
hopelessness, coupled with anger and 
resentment, seems to prevail in large parts 
of the Muslim world. In his farewell speech 
as prime minister of Malaysia at an Islamic 
summit hosted by him on October 16, 2003, 
Mahathir Mohammed raised the question as 
to why Muslim civilization has become so 
humiliated, and then added, "our only 
reaction (to this malaise) is to become more 
and more angry. Angry people cannot think 
properly." 

A dispassionate, carefully crafted and 
effective response to the challenges of 
globalization faced by the Islamic world, or 
to the predicament of the Muslim ummah in general, is thwarted by a set of impediments. 
There is an unfortunate absence in the Muslim world of critical reflection and a realistic and 
balanced appraisal of the global scenario, the prospects and opportunities afforded by it, and 
the obstacles in availing of these opportunities. By and large, the perception and response of 
the Muslim world to the challenges of globalization is characterized by a blissful ignorance of 
the rapidly changing global scenario, complacency and self-righteousness, hypersensitivity 
and defensiveness, absence of collective self-introspection, pervasive disunity and dissension, 
paucity of coordination and concerted action, and lack of vision and farsightedness. 



AJordanin woman displays i hie sage received on 

her mobile phone (following the carlo on controversy) 

which says, "If we keep boycotting Danish pro duds 

till next summer, they will k se i\ least 36 million 

euros." 



10 S Minaret, sin Online Islamic Magazine 




Mecca-Cola and Zarnzarn-Cola, made in Iran and becoming hugely popular 

in the Muslim world, offer an alternative to US brands such as 

Coca-Cola and Pepsi-Cola 



However, as the saying goes, every cloud has a silver lining. During the past two decades 
there has come about a refreshing revival and resurgence of Islamic consciousness in large 
parts of the Muslim world. This is reflected in the increasing popularity of Islamic literature 
(including Islamic software), the growing involvement of the Muslim elite, women and youth 
in faith-based communitarian activities and programmes, the growth of local associations 
and organizations, and the salience of transnational Islamic movements. Islamic banking and 
financial services have emerged as a major force in the Islamic world. In response to the 
growing demand for Shariah-oriented financial services from their Muslim clientele, some of 
the major international banks have started their own Islamic financial services. Leading 
banks such as HSBC and Citi have set up full-fledged Shariah advisory boards of Islamic 

scholars to offer advice on new financial 
products such as Islamic bonds and 
hedge bonds. In 2003 HSBC bank 
launched an "Islamic mortgage" scheme 
in Britain to provide halal loans for 
house purchase. Deutsche Bank is a 
majority shareholder in the Dar al 
Istithmar Sharia Consultancy. 

Investment bankers in the Western 
world are competing to create a range of 
new Islamic capital market products on a 
large scale. 




fere rice of more than 150 imams and religious leaders 
i n Eu r o pe , h eld: n Vi e nn a i n Ap r i! 2BQS , e m p h a si ze d a n 
int e g rati o n of i si a rni c i d en t ity a n d co r e Eu ro p e a n v a I u e s. I 



One of the major ailments affecting the 
Islamic world is the absence of free 
media. Satellite television channels are 
now challenging the monopoly of the state over the means of production and dissemination 
of information, thereby increasing the space for civil society. A revolutionary breakthrough 
in this direction came about with the launch of Al-Jazeera, an independent television 
channel, in Qatar in 1996. Al-Jazeera is broadcasted via satellite and Internet free of charge 
around the world. The programmes aired on the channel are marked by objectivity, balance 
and a high degree of professionalism. Al-Jazeera enjoys huge popularity in the Arab world as 



30 10 S Minaret, An Online Islamic Magazine 

well as in the Arabic-speaking diaspora in Western countries, with an estimated audience of 
over 40 million. 



It is gratifying to note that, by and large, 
Muslims living in Western countries have 
not given in to despondency and despair 
in the face of trying circumstances. They 
have sought to come to grips with 
challenges and problems with courage of 
conviction and determination and 
without compromising their cherished 
beliefs and values. They have created 
large religious and cultural spaces — 
mosques, prayer halls, community 
centres, Islamic schools, local 
organizations — in order to meet the 
religious and cultural requirements of the 
local Muslim communities. At the same 
time, they consider themselves as full- 
fledged citizens of the countries where 
they are living and participate in the 
social, economic and political affairs of 
the local communities as well as the wider 
society. 




Seyyeci Mohammad Khatami, the former 

president of the Islamic Republic of Iran, 

emphasized the value and centrality of 

inter-civilizational dialogue forthe 

management of world affairs 



A positive development in recent years is the growing tendency on the part of Muslims living 
in Western countries to get their grievances redressed and to secure their legitimate rights 
within the legal and constitutional framework, and not in the name of minority rights. In 
Germany, for example, Muslims are seeking the resolution of their problems from within 
German society. The German constitution, for instance, allows religious instruction in state- 
funded schools. The demand by German Muslims for allowing Islamic teachings in schools 
is legitimized in the framework of this constitutional provision. Similarly, the decisions by 
the Supreme Administrative Courts in Germany that allow Muslim girls in some cities to be 
exempted from coeducational sports lessons, or the recent court decision that grants 
Muslims the right to slaughter animals according to their religious ritual, were informed and 
guided by the basic principle of freedom of religion guaranteed by the German constitution. 
The courts in Germany as well as in other European countries are playing a highly important 
role in granting legal recognition to the religious and cultural rights of Muslims and other 
minorities. 



In his farewell speech as prime minister of Malaysia at an Islamic summit hosted by him 
on October 16, 2003, Mahathir Mohammed raised the question as to why Muslim 
civilization has become so humiliated, and then added, "our only reaction (to this 
malaise) is to become more and more angry. Angry people cannot think properly." 



10 S Minaret in Oi I Mnoa^/ne 31 

nationality in 1995. In 1998 she completed her education to become a teacher in an 
elementary school, but was refused commission because she was not willing to remove her 
headscarf before class. She filed a petition in the Supreme Court. She argued that her 
wearing of the headscarf represented individual and religiously motivated conduct that was 
protected by the German constitution. The Supreme Court gave the verdict in her favour. In 
the Netherlands, a Muslim woman's registration in a teacher training programme was 
cancelled because she refused to shake hand with a male teacher on religious grounds. She 
approached the Committee for Equal Treatment, a state institution which has been created 
to deal with the issue of discrimination on grounds of race, gender or conviction, which 
ruled in her favour. 

There is an increasing appreciation among Muslims of the positive role of dialogue and 
negotiation in creating an atmosphere of understanding and harmony. A pioneering move in 
this direction was taken by Seyyed Mohammad Khatami, the former president of the Islamic 
Republic of Iran. In his key-note address at a Unesco conference on April 5, 2005, Mr 
Khatami emphasized the centrality of dialogue among civilizations for the management of 
world affairs. He stressed that dialogue among civilizations signifies the rejection of 
terrorism and violence. Religious leaders and transnational Islamic bodies like the 
Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) are playing an important role in projecting the 
value of inter-civilizational dialogue and harmony as an important means of removing 
misunderstandings about Islam. The concluding statement of the first European conference 
of Imams in Graz (Austria) in 2003 declared that Muslim identity is compatible with the 
values of democracy, the rule of law, pluralism and human rights. 



Islamic banking and financial services have emerged as a major force in the Islamic 
world. In response to the growing demand for Shariah-oriented financial services 
from their Muslim clientele, some of the major international banks have started their 
own Islamic financial services. Leading banks such as HSBC and Citi have set up 
full-fledged Shariah advisory boards of Islamic scholars to offer advice on new 
financial products such as Islamic bonds and hedge bonds. In 2003 HSBC bank 
launched an "Islamic mortgage" scheme in Britain to provide /ra/a/ loans for house 
purchase. 



IOS 'Minaret, sin Online Islamic Magazine 



Inter-Cultural Dialogue in a Globalizing World 
IOS Research Network 

In many respects, globalization is a paradoxical phenomenon. Thus, on the one hand, modern 
information and communication technologies as well as extensive migrations and travels have 
brought about greater awareness about the salience of ethnic and cultural diversity across the 
world. This has also resulted in greater contact, interaction and intermingling among people from 
diverse ethnic, religious and national backgrounds. On the other hand, there is a far greater 
awareness of the existence of wide asymmetries of power, resources and opportunities across the 
world, the spurt in ethnic, religious and regional conflicts in large parts of the world, growing 
xenophobia and racism directed against ethnic and religious minorities, and the growing 
tentacles of global terrorism. 




Conflict seems to be an endemic phenomenon. The 
roots of conflict lie in a complex interplay of 
multiple factors, including the inequitable 
distribution of resources and opportunities, the 
tendency on the part of the dominant majority to 
establish and perpetuate its hegemony, the exclusion, 
marginalization and demonization of minorities, and 
a long-suppressed sense of deprivation and 
frustration. Social and ethnic conflicts can be 
triggered with ease in an atmosphere which is 
suffused with mistrust, resentment and hatred. 
Conflicts are often embedded in cognitive and 
psychological processes. It is now widely recognized 
that conflict is not inevitable, that it is possible as 
well as imperative to manage and resolve it through 
negotiation and dialogue and through the creation of 
an environment which fosters a spirit of mutual 
trust, understanding, good will and accommodation. 



Lord Adam Hafizjee Pal 

House of Lords iri Britain 



The creation of an atmosphere conducive for inter- 
cultural and inter-civilizational dialogue entails 
certain prerequisites. First, it requires an open recognition and tolerance of ethnic, religious 
and cultural diversities. Evidently, the need for dialogue arises in a situation where people 
have different perceptions and attitudes, which are largely conditioned by cultural and 
religious factors, towards different communities as well as issues. Second, self-righteousness, 
xenophobia, bigotry and a condescending and exclusionary attitude are the biggest stumbling 
blocs in inter-cultural dialogue. (The US Lieutenant-General William Boykin, while 
describing his battle against Muslims, remarked, "I know that my God was bigger than his 
(Muslim's), that my God was a real God and the Muslim's was an idol." International Herald 
Tribune, August 27, 2004.This kind of bigoted and obscurantist attitude leaves absolutely no 
room for inter-cultural or any other kind of dialogue.) Inter-cultural dialogue cannot be set 
in motion unless there is a substantial measure of openness, inter-cultural sensibility, 



10 S Minaret, sin Online Islamic Magazine 



) > 



magnanimity and an accommodative and inclusionary spirit between the dialogue partners. 
Our perceptions and judgement about other people are conditioned for the most part by 
uncritically held assumptions, prejudices and stereotypes. No fruitful and viable dialogue 
between peoples and communities can take place unless such assumptions and stereotypes 
about others are set aside, unless simplifications and generalizations (which are often based 
on distortion and misrepresentation) about different groups and communities are eliminated. 
Third, the dialogue process should be informed by a sense of optimism and hope. One 
should bear in mind the fact that differences are neither irreconcilable nor inevitable and that 
they can be ironed out and resolved through discussion, negotiation and dialogue. Fourth, 
inter-cultural dialogue cannot take place in a socio-cultural and existential vacuum. It should 
address the historical, social, political, cultural, and psychological contexts of the issues and 
problems that cause mistrust and friction between different groups and communities. 

Clash of civilizations? 

Samuel Huntington, an American political scientist, wrote an article "The Clash of 
Civilizations" in Foreign Affairs in 1993. The article generated a great deal of discussion and 
controversy in academia as well as in political circles across large parts of the world. 
Subsequently, Huntington expanded the arguments contained in the article in a book The 
Clash of Civilisations and the Remaking of the World Order (1996). The crux of Huntington's 
argument is the following: 

It is my hypothesis that the fundamental source of conflict in the world will not be 
primarily ideological or primarily economic. The great divisions among humankind 
and the dominating source of conflict will be cultural. 

Nation states will remain the most powerful actors in world affairs, but the principal 
conflicts of global politics will occur between nations and groups of different 
civilizations. The clash of civilizations will dominate global politics. The fault lines 
between civilisations will be the battle linesof the future. (The Clash of Civilisations and the 
Remaking of the World Order, p. 22, emphasis added}) 



Huntington identifies seven or eight 
major civilizations (Western, Confucian 
(Sink), Japanese, Islamic, Hindu, 
Slavic-Orthodox, Latin American, and 
possibly African). Focusing on the 
cultural lines of demarcation between 
the Western and Islamic civilizations, 
he sees Islam and Christianity as 
potentially pitted against each other as 
the defining feature of an evolving 
global scenario. The fault lines, 
according to Huntington, that may be a 
source of conflict in the future include 





V|l 




*a 


in m 






\ 


* 


Muslim chile 


'M 

Iren praying in a mosq 


ue in Mar 


1 

settles, France 



34 10 S Minaret, An ( ' h nu Magazine 

that between Islam and Christianity (or animism) in Africa, and between the Hindu and 
Islamic civilizations in South Asia. Huntington predicts that the next war, if it ever occurs, 
will be a war between civilizations. 

Huntington's conceptualization of civilization and his view of the dynamics of civilization 
are highly problematic. He takes an essentialised, homogeneous and monolithic view of 
civilization and ignores the internal diversities within each civilization. He characterizes 
Indian civilization as Hindu civilization, oblivious of the fact that Buddhism was a dominant 
religion of the country for over a thousand years (India is often described in the Chinese 
chronicles as "the Buddhist kingdom"), that India has the third largest Muslim population in 
the world (nearly 150 million), and that Islam has played a highly important role in the 
development and enrichment of Indian civilization. Huntington's classification of people 
into categories such as Western civilization and Hindu civilization is too facile, simplistic and 
strait) acketed. This sweeping categorization glosses over the internal variations in these 
civilizations, which are reflected in class, ethnicity, location and nationality. As Amartya Sen 
has rightly pointed out, it is open to question whether humanity can be preeminently 
classified into distinct and discrete civilizations {Identity and Violence: The Illusion of Destiny, 
2006, pp. 10-11.) 

Huntington's understanding of the dynamics of civilization and of world history is foggy, 
reductionistic and cynical. He takes a highly exaggerated view of conflict and strife and pays 
little or no attention to the processes of interaction and exchange between civilizations. Eric 
Wolf has convincingly argued that interconnections between societies and civilizations are 
far more widespread than has commonly been assumed. Wolf says that it is misleading to 
regard the world as an "archipelago of cultures" because cultures and civilizations have been, 
more often than not, in contact. Underlying Huntington's clash of civilizations thesis is a 
simplistic and coarse theory of the dynamics of human society and of history. 

Huntington's view of Western and Islamic civilizations as discrete and rather fossilized 
entities betrays his ignorance of the role of Islamic civilization in the shaping of Western 
civilization. The transmission of the scientific and philosophical legacy of the Greco-Roman 
civilization to Europe during the Middle Ages, which ushered in the Renaissance and played 
a key role in the flowering of Western civilization, was largely carried out by Muslim 
scientists, philosophers and translators. The wide-ranging contributions made by Muslims to 
the development of modern science and medicine, technology and engineering, arts and 
crafts and architecture have been amply documented, (see J. R Hayes, ed. The Genius of Arab 
Civilisation: Source of Renaissance, Cambridge, Mass., 1983) Lord Bhikhu Parekh has rightly 
pointed out that Islam has been a part of Western consciousness for hundreds of years. 
Therefore, he says, to juxtapose Western and Muslim societies as wholly incompatible 
civilizations is totally fraudulent. 

Exposing the naivete, myopia and cynicism inherent in Huntington's analysis, The Economist 
pointed out that "it is striking that the new wave of self-awareness in the Muslim world has 
not produced any serious move towards a merger of Muslim states, that in the Orthodox 

Christian part of the world the recent tendency has been for things to fall apart, not 

come together None of this would suggest that the world is heading for that fearful 



IOS Minaret, in On I u I . Magazine 35 

sounding "clash of civilizations", but rather that global alignments would continue to be 
determined by the play of interests among nation states of whatever civilization." (The 
Economist, December 23, 1995-January 26, 1996). 

Huntington takes a rather complacent and uncritical view of Western civilization and 
exaggerates its salient features and virtues. Thus he asserts that social pluralism, 
individualism and a tradition of individual rights and liberties in the West are unique among 
civilized societies. He conveniently glosses over the dark side of Western civilization, as 
reflected in the Crusades, the Inquisition (which offered Muslims the options of conversion, 
expulsion or execution), the Spanish Reconquista (which provided the first instance of ethnic 
cleansing in Europe in the 15 th century when Muslims, together with the Jews and the 
gypsies, were forced to leave the country), repressive regimes in Europe, European 
colonialism, anti-Semitism, and the West's role in undermining the rights and liberties of 
people in Africa and Asia. (Anti-Semitism has been one of the darkest spots on the face of 
Western societies. Until the late 1960s, many prestigious universities in the United States 
maintained restrictive quotas that limited Jewish enrollment. Social cubs often denied, until 
quite recently, membership to Jews. In 1995 there were more than 1800 anti-Semitic 
incidents in the US, including acts of violence against Jews and against synagogues. In 
France, which is home to Europe's largest Jewish population, there were 974 incidents of 
attacks on Jews in 2004, following which the former Israeli premier Ariel Sharon called 
French Jews to migrate to Israel because of "the wildest anti-Semitism prevalent in the 
country.") 

The hollowness of Huntington's clash of civilizations thesis has been exposed by some of 
the world's leading thinkers and intellectuals. Edward Said, for example, decried the clash of 
civilizations thesis as a deplorable attempt to revive the old good vs. evil dichotomy 
prevalent during the Cold War era (Edward Said, "A Clash of Ignorance", The Nation, 
October 22, 2001). Huntington's views have also been publicly denounced by heads of 
states, statesmen and politicians in many Western countries. The former American president 
Bill Clinton, in a speech to the Jordanian parliament in 1994, strongly repudiated the clash of 
civilizations thesis, noting that "there are those who insist that there are impassable religious 
and other obstacles to harmony, that our beliefs and our cultures must somehow inevitably 
clash America refuses to accept that our civilizations must collide." 

Huntington states that "the fault lines between civilizations are replacing the political and 
ideological boundaries of the Cold War as the flash points of crisis and bloodshed." The 
events that unfolded in the aftermath of 9/11 belied Huntington's prognostication. The 
massive anti-war protests and demonstrations across Europe, North America, Australia and 
other parts of the world before the American-led invasion of Iraq and the sharp differences 
between some of the major European countries and the US and its allies before and after the 
invasion exposed the absurdity of Huntington's thesis. 

Huntington's clash of civilizations thesis rests on fallacious premises and questionable 
assumptions about the dynamics of human society and of civilization. It is reductionistic and 
myopic and therefore needs to be discarded. The focus should be on interaction, exchange 



36 10 S Minaret, An ( ' h nu Magazine 

and dialogue among cultures, civilizations and nation states in the context of our globalizing 
era. 

Inter-cultural understanding and dialogue in Islamic perspective 

Certain broad premises and principles, enshrined in the Holy Quran and the Traditions of 
Prophet Muhammad (SAW) have a significant bearing on inter-cultural and inter- 
civilizational dialogue. These include an explicit recognition of religious and cultural 
diversity, a universalist and inclusionary view of divinity and of prophecy, freedom of belief 
and conscience, tolerance and peaceful coexistence, protection of the rights of minorities, 
and an emphasis on the creation of a culture of peace and amity. 

Islam takes due cognizance of racial, ethnic and religious diversities that characterize human 
societies across the world and holds that these diversities are divinely ordained (Quran 
11:118; 30:22; 25:54). In the Islamic view, God is not a racial or parochial deity who is 
concerned only about Muslims but the Lord of the universe and of all humankind. 
Furthermore, divine presence is not confined to specific sites or modes of worship. Thus the 
Quran says: "Had God not checked one set of people by means of another, there would 
surely been pulled down monasteries, churches, synagogues and mosques in which the name 
of God is commemorated in abundant measure" (22:40). 

Islam's universalist and inclusionary orientation is also reflected in its view of prophecy. The 
Quran says that God has sent down prophets to all peoples and to all parts of the world 
(35:24). A Tradition of the Prophet says that there have been as many as 124,000 prophets at 
different points of time. Muslims are required to believe not only in the prophecy of 
Muhammad but in that of all other divine messengers. Likewise, they have to believe, in 
addition to the Quran, in all other divine scriptures. 

Peaceful coexistence, tolerance and accommodation are among the cardinal features of the 
Islamic faith. The Quran explicitly maintains that there is no place in Islam for compulsion 
in religious matters (2:256; 109:6). Though Islam is against idol-worship, Muslims are advised 
not to revile those who worship idols or images (Quran 6:108). The Prophet is advised to 
invite people to the path of righteousness and guidance, not through intimidation and 
coercion, but in a gentle and amiable manner. Thus the Quran says: "Invite (all) to the way 
of thy Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching, and argue with them in the best of ways" 
(16:125). It is significant to note that when God asked Prophet Moses (may peace and 
blessings of God be upon him) to go to the Pharaoh in order to invite him to the path of 
righteousness, he was told to "speak to him mildly, perchance he may heed the warning or 
fear God" (Quran 20:44). 

The followers of Semitic religions, especially Jews and Christians (who are described in the 
Quran as People of the Book), share some fundamental articles of faith, notably 
monotheism, with Muslims. The Quran contains a positive affirmation of Judaism and 
Christianity. All the Hebrew prophets (many of whom are mentioned in the Quran by name) 
as well as Jesus Christ are also the prophets of Muslims. The Quran emphasizes that the 
tenet of monotheism should provide the cornerstone of dialogue and reconciliation between 



10 S Minaret, in On I Magadan 37 

Jews, Christians and Muslims (3:64). The special affinity between Muslims and Jews and 
Christians is reflected in the permission accorded to inter-marriages between them and the 
permissibility for Muslims of the flesh of animals slaughtered by Jews and Christians (5:5). 
The attitude and behaviour of the Prophet towards Jews and Christians in Madina exhibited 
remarkable tolerance, broad-mindedness and compassion. Some Jewish families lived in his 
neighbourhood in Madina. If one of their children fell sick, the Prophet would make it a 
point to visit the distressed family as a gesture of good will and sympathy. If the funeral of a 
Jew happened to pass by while he was around, he would stand up as a mark of respect for 
the deceased. 

Islam and the West 

The relations between Christendom and the Islamic world, which are home to nearly half of 
the human population, have been characterized, at different points of time, by a curious 
mixture of peaceful and harmonious coexistence, mistrust and vilification, competition and 
contestation, and violent confrontation. 

Norman Daniel, in his book Islam and the West: The Making of an Image (1960), has shown that 
from the time of St. John of Damascus in the eighth century and Peter the Venerable in the 
twelfth century, the Western perception of Islam has been shaped, for the most part, by 
ignorance, prejudice and misrepresentation. St. John (d. 750) regarded Islam as a Christian 
heresy. This perception was reinforced by the Crusades. Pope Innocent III described 
Prophet Muhammad as the Antichrist. The Royal Chaplain and Father Confessor of Spain, 
Jaime Bleda, introduced the Prophet as the deceiver of the world, false prophet, Satan's 
messenger, the Beast of the Apocalypse and the worst precursor of the Antichrist. The 
Prophet was debunked by Christian polemicists as an ambitious schemer, a bandit, an 
impostor and even an epileptic. His claim to prophecy was dismissed as fraudulent and his 
religion a sum of heresy. Mosques were described as synagogues of Satan. Martin Luther 
wrote several treatises attacking the Quran and Prophet Muhammad. He dubbed Islam as a 
false religion. (Islam and the West: The Making of an Image, pp. 246, 276; see also R. W. 
Southern: Western Views of Islam in the Middle Ages (1962), and Minou Reeves: Muhammad in 
Europe: A Thousand Years of Western Myth Making (2000) 

The Crusades (1095-1292) cast a long and ominous shadow for several centuries over 
Christian-Muslim relations. In a recent article, Daniel Johnson writes that in the eyes even of 
most Christians, the Crusades were a crime against humanity, one for which apologies are 
due, especially to Muslims. (Daniel Johnson, "How to Think About the Crusades" 
Commentary, 120 (1), July- August 2005) The Crusades were a barbaric, unprovoked war of 
aggression, conquest and extermination. As several Western historians have pointed out, 
many of the crusaders were motivated by greed and avarice and by the pursuit of land and 
plunder. Anti-Islamic rhetoric incited the passions of the crusaders. Pope Urban II 
contemptuously described Muslims as "a race utterly alien to God." When Jerusalem fell in 
1099, the crusaders vandalized and devastated the city and massacred tens of thousands of 
Muslims and Jews. For Jews, who had been living in the city in peace and harmony with 
Muslims, it was a catastrophe unprecedented since the destruction of the Temple. Soon the 



38 10 S Minaret, An ( ' h nu Magazine 

definition of crusade was widened to include the extermination of Jews, heretics and pagans 
in Europe and elsewhere. During the fourth Crusade, which was diverted from the 
reconquest of Jerusalem and instead turned to the sacking of Constantinople in 1204, 
Eastern Orthodox Christians also suffered at the hands of the crusaders. 

A few years ago, the Nobel Prize-winning German novelist Guenter Grass suggested that 
Pope John Paul II, "who knows how lasting and devastating the disaster wrought by the 
mentality and actions of Christian crusaders have been", should issue a formal apology to the 
Muslim world. 

Muslims ruled over Spain for nearly eight centuries. During this period, Spain developed a 
composite civilization based on a confluence of Muslim, Christian and Jewish cultural 
traditions. Andalusia or Muslim Spain provided an enviable example of a multiethnic society 
where people belonging to diverse religious and ethnic backgrounds lived in peace and 
harmony. Science and medicine, technology and engineering, philosophy and literature, 
architecture and crafts attained an unprecedented efflorescence during this period. This 
magnificent chapter of Spanish history and culture came to an unfortunate and barbaric end 
in the fifteenth century. In 1492, the Spanish Queen Isabel and King Ferdinand ordered the 
forcible expulsion of all Muslims, together with the Jews and the gypsies. 

One of the factors in recent history which aggravated the strained relations between the 
West and the Islamic world was the European colonization of Muslim lands which began 
with the conquest of India and the scramble for Africa in the 19 th century. Large parts of 
Africa, the Arab world, Southeast Asia and Central Asia were colonized by the major 
European powers. The division and fragmentation of Muslim lands, propelled by the 
geopolitical and commercial interests of the European colonial powers, resulted in an 
extensive plunder and exploitation of natural and human resources and severely undermined 
the unity and solidarity of the Muslim ummah. (see "Introduction" 100 Great Muslim Leaders of 
the 20 th Century, published by the Institute of Objective Studies, New Delhi, 2006) 

In Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bosnian Serbs carried out a brutal pogrom of ethnic cleansing and 
genocide in the early 1990s when thousands of Muslims and Croats were expelled or 
murdered in cold blood in order to create ethnically homogeneous areas under Serb control. 
Virtually the entire population of Bosnia-Herzegovina comprising 4.4 million people was 
uprooted. Around three million people became internal refugees. More than a million people 
were forced to migrate to other European states. Tens of thousands of Muslim women were 
raped by Serb soldiers. Thousands of people were brutally massacred, whose remains were 
later discovered in mass graves. The Western world responded to this disaster of enormous 
proportions with indifference. No real initiative was taken by the Western powers or the 
Roman Catholic Church. The Christian churches in Bosnia were severely compromised. 
Radavan Karadjic, the Serb general who masterminded the whole operation, was never 
reprimanded by the Serbian Orthodox Church. The Vatican extended its support only to 
Catholic Croatia. To rub salt in the wound, many people in Europe even talked of a Muslim 
conspiracy to create a Muslim state in the heart of Europe (although Bosnia had all the 
features of a secular, multiethnic state). It was after four years of ethnic cleansing and 
genocide that the United States decided to intervene in the war. 



10 S Minaret, /hi Online Islamic Magazine 



A distinguished Dutch scholar Jacques Waardenburg commented on the demonization of 
Islam and Muslims in the Balkans in particular and in Western Europe in general in the 
following words: 

In Western Europe, as in the Balkans, the larger churches, including Roman 
Catholics and Anglicans, Lutherans and Calvinists, and also secular ideologists, have 
fundamentalist currents and quarters for whom Islam is, if not the Antichrist, at least 
a nightmare; more than once it is seen as an enemy. In the light of what happened in 
Bosnia and the responses to them in European societies, I have become more 
realistic than I was some 15 years earlier. One can no longer afford to be optimistic 
about the future of Muslim communities in Europe as ethnic, cultural and religious 
minorities (Jacques Waardenburg, "Religion and Politics in the Balkans" Islamic 
Studies, 36 (2-3), 1997). 

Aggressive proselytization by Christian missionaries, particularly by Evangelical sects, and 
their inimical portrayal of Islam has adversely affected the relations between Muslims and 
Christians. During the colonial era, Christian missionaries by and large enjoyed the tacit 
support and patronage of colonial governments. Missionary activity among Muslims was part 
of a larger global scheme for proselytism that also included Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, 
animists and the followers of other religions. Missionaries often employed the vocabulary of 
imperialism and spoke in terms of the spiritual and moral conquest of Africa and Asia. Some 
missionaries, who were associated with universities and other academic institutions and had 
a biased opinion about Islam, were projected as experts on Islam and Muslims. One such 
missionary scholar was Samuel M. Zwemer (1867-1952), an American minister of the Dutch 
Reformed Church who established missions in Iraq and Bahrain and edited the journal The 
Muslim World. Zwemer consistently portrayed Islam as a fanatical and retrogressive faith that 
was incompatible with rationality and modernity. In his book with a wishful title The 
Disintegration of Islam (1916) he predicted the eventual demise of the Islamic faith. 

In recent years there has emerged a strong, aggressive Evangelical fundamentalism, especially 
in the United States. Pentecostalism, an Evangelical sect, is the fastest growing sect within 
Christianity with some 500 million followers. There are more than 140,000 American 
missionaries engaged in aggressive proselytization around the world. It is significant to note 
that even the Roman Catholic Church looks at the current resurgence of Evangelism with 
apprehension. Pope John Paul II often called the Evangelical sects in Christianity "rapacious 
wolves devouring Catholics and causing divisions and discord in our communities." It is an 
open secret that the US president George W. Bush has strong Evangelical leanings. He 
claimed that his decision to invade Iraq was "a mission from God." Bush and his loyal foot- 
soldier Tony Blair are said to have prayed together in the lead-up to the Iraq invasion and are 
believed to share a "spiritual affinity." Bush's post-9/11 invocation of a 'crusade' against 
Muslim terrorists and their sponsors and the US military programme to develop a 'crusader 
artillery system' assume significance against this backdrop. 



40 10 S Minaret, An Online Islamic Magazine 

The Federation of Asian Bishops Conferences has recently pointed out that 

A phenomenon which continues to awaken the most resentment among the peoples of Asia 
is that of proselytism and conversion. In the minds of Asians, the Church's primary 
objective seems to be to convert as many people as she can so as to increase her little flock. 
Church expansion is also seen as a Western extension. The increase in the number of 
Church movements engaged in aggressive and militant evangelization (understood in the 
very narrow sense of the word) is certainly a case for concern for our brothers and sisters of 
other faiths. Perhaps, it might be good to be reminded of the golden rule which nearly all 
religions speak of: Do not do to others what you would not want done to yourself. 

There is a widespread resentment in the Muslim world about the blind support extended by 
the US and its allies to Israel despite its intransigence and defiance of international law and 
of UN resolutions. In an international seminar held at Harvard University in 1997, it was 
reported that the elites of countries comprising nearly two-thirds of the world's people — 
Chinese, Russians, Arabs, Muslims, Africans and Indians — see the US as the single greatest 
threat to their societies and as a menace to their integrity, autonomy, prosperity and freedom 
of expression. They view the US as intrusive, interventionist, exploitative, unilateralist, 
hegemonic, hypocritical, and engaging in financial imperialism and intellectual colonialism 

(quoted in Samuel Huntington, "The Lonely 
Superpower" Foreign Affairs, (March- April 
1999), pp. 35-49). 

The events that unfolded in the wake of the 
attack on the United States on September 11, 
2001 and the subsequent invasion of 
Afghanistan and Iraq forebode the emergence 
of a new imperialism, represented by the 
hubris, hegemony and the unilateralist 
interventionist of the US and its allies. 
American policy makers frequently refer to the 
US as the indispensable nation, the sole 
superpower, and the lone conscience of the 
world. The neoconservatives in the American 
establishment unabashedly call upon the US to 
take the lead in establishing a "benevolent 
global hegemony." Robert Kagan, a neoconservative columnist, asserts that American power 
should be deployed to control or prevent the "rise of militant anti-American Muslim 
fundamentalism in North Africa and the Middle East, a rearmed Germany in a chaotic 
Europe, a revitalized Russia, a rearmed Japan in a scramble for power with China in a 
volatile East Asia." The Bush administration believes that it has the resources to bully or 
bribe everybody into complying with its dictates. 




A representative of the Islamic Council of Australia 

talking to young surfers on the beach after Australia's 

worst racial riots in December 2005 



K)S Minaret, /hi Onliih Isliu i. in Magazine 41 

Islamophobia 

In a special report on Islam and the West, The Economist described European approaches to 
Islam as represented by a "fundamental fear" of Muslim societies of the Middle East (The 
Economist, August 6, 1994). Willy Claes, then the Secretary General of NATO in the mid- 
1990s, pointed to the Islamic challenge as the major threat confronting the West. The 
Runnymede Trust in Britain set up a Commission on Islamophobia in 1997, which revealed 
that Islamophobia — fear of and hostility towards Islam and Muslims — was one of the chief 
forms of racism in the country. The wide prevalence of Islamophobia in Western countries 
is reflected in the stigmatization and demonization of Islam and Muslims, in the opposition 
to the visibility of Islamic symbols in public places, in the distortion and misrepresentation 
of matters related to Muslims by the Western media, in racial profiling and surveillance, in 
the opposition to immigration by the far-right political parties, and in discrimination against 
Muslims in respect of employment, education and housing. It is widely believed in Europe 
that its over 20 million Muslims pose a serious threat to the security, culture and prosperity 
of European societies. Islamophobia has been on the rise after 9/11. (see 
http: / / www.eumc.eu.int) An Amnesty International report says that nearly 87 million 
people in the US — nearly a quarter of the national population — are at high risk of being 
victimized because they belong to racial, ethnic or religious minorities. Nearly 32 million 
people in the US, mostly Muslims from the Middle East and South Asia, have reported that 
they have been racially profiled. 

Nick Griffin, a leader of the far-right British National Party, 

said in a recent speech that Islam was a vicious, wicked faith. 

He was tried for incitement to racial hatred, but on February 3, 

2006 walked free at the end of the trial. In his defence, Griffin 

argued that he was attacking a religion, not a race. Curiously, 

Britain and Denmark have an anti-blasphemy law, but it is 

applicable only to Christianity and not to other religions. Both 

the Conservative Party and the Liberal Party in Denmark have 

opposed a parliamentary move to abolish the anti-blasphemy 

law or to make it more inclusive. Most European countries 

have moved in the direction of making immigration laws and 

policies more stringent. In many countries the tough 

immigration policies and procedures betray Islamophobic 

tendencies. Thus the southern state of Baden-Wuttenberg in Banner held by a Muslim 

„ iii i i i r protestor in the US a few days 

Germany has designed its own searching exam exclusively lor after 9f11 

Muslim applicants seeking German citizenship. Questions in 

the exam include the following: If your son told you he was a homosexual and wanted to live 
with another man, how would you react? If your adult daughter dressed like a German 
woman, would you try to prevent her from doing so? 

In September 2005 a Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten published 12 highly derogatory 
caricatures of Prophet Muhammad. In one of them he was shown wearing a bomb-shaped 
turban (thus portraying him as a terrorist). In early February 2006, several newspapers in 22 
European countries republished some or all of the cartoons. The publication of these 




42 10 S Minaret, An Online L < \l 

sacrilegious cartoons generated an enormous amount of anger and resentment among 
Muslims across the world, which was expressed in massive protests and demonstrations and 
in the boycott of Danish products. 

In our globalizing era, people's perceptions and judgement of other communities tend to be 
shaped by what they read in the newspapers and magazines and what they see on television. 
The global media (which are largely controlled by Western media empires such as Time 
Warner and Reuters) often misrepresent news and events related to Muslims which 
reinforces stereotypes and prejudices about Muslims. Edward Said has perceptively observed 
in Covering Islam (1997) that the coverage of Islam in the Western media or the public 
reactions to events in the Muslim world do not take place in a vacuum, but are nourished by 
a "subliminal culture consciousness" which derives its anti-Islamic attitudes from centuries 
of negative conditioning. Thus if the Palestinian Arabs vent their resentment and anger 
against the Israeli occupation of their homeland, it is described (by an American scholar of 
Jewish origin, Bernard Lewis, whose virulent dislike of Islam and Muslims is well-known) as 
the "return of Islam." Another Western scholar characterizes it as "Islamic opposition to 
non-Islamic peoples." 

Muslims are generally portrayed by the Western media as fanatical, aggressive, bigoted, 
devious, debauch and as the quintessential Other. Arabs in the Middle East are perceived as 
a homogeneous people and painted in the darkest of colours. The Western media seems to 
be oblivious of the fact that there are more than 15 million Arab Christians — comprising 
Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Protestant — living in the Middle East. 

The wide prevalence of Islamphobia in the Western world is reflected in the currency of the 
term 'Islamic fundamentalism', which is indiscriminately used by the media and by writers 
and commentators in the West to describe Islamic movements, resistance to oppressive 
regimes, and assertions of religious and ethnic consciousness and identity among Muslims. 
Thus, struggles for self-determination by the Muslims of Central Asia have been described 
by Western observers as Islamic fundamentalism. The electoral results in Algeria in 1991 
have been described in the Western media in terms of the reemergence of Islamic 
fundamentalism. The victory of Hamas in the Palestinian elections is dubbed as the triumph 
of Islamic fundamentalism. The massive world-wide protests over the publication of the 
slanderous cartoons of the Prophet in European newspapers were described as the 
resurgence of Islamic fundamentalism. 

A distinguished American psychologist Gordon Allport has spoken of 'word fetishism'. A 
fetish is an object or word that elicits an uncritical, habitual response, which is often laden 
with certain value presuppositions. The phrase Islamic fundamentalism provides a good 
example of word fetishism. There is now an increasing realization, even among Western 
scholars, writers and policy makers, that the term Islamic fundamentalism is highly 
contentious, that it obfuscates rather than clarifies, that it has pejorative, disparaging 
connotations. In December 2005, the European Union launched an initiative to deepen ties 
with Muslim countries and reach out to the 20 million Muslims living in Europe. This is 
sought to be done by clarifying the discourse on Islam, by using the right vocabulary to steer 
clear of misunderstandings and misrepresentation, and by avoiding references to pejorative 



K)S Minnnt, /\u Oiilnii I shii i. i'u Magazine 41 

terms like Islamic fundamentalism and Islamic terrorism. The emphasis is on developing £ 
"non-emotive lexicon for public communication" related to Muslims. 

Muslims in the West 




No reliable statistics on the number of Muslims 

living in Europe and in North America are 

available. A 1986 estimate placed the number of 

Muslims in Europe at 23 million. There are more 

than eight million Muslims living in the US, 

Canada and Latin America. The experience of 

Muslims in Western countries and the record of 

Western societies in addressing their concerns 

and in integrating them into mainstream society 

present a rather mixed picture. There is no 

denying that, by and large, Western societies offer 

Muslims as well as other immigrants a fairly good package, comprising better economic 

prospects, opportunities for higher education and upward mobility, civil rights, personal 

autonomy, and religious and cultural freedom (which is scarce in many Muslim countries). 

For example, Muslims in Europe and North America can have their own mosques, burial 

grounds, religious schools (which are funded 
by the state in some countries), freedom to 
celebrate their feasts, freedom for Muslim 
women to wear the Islamic headscarf (hijaB), 
and facilities for ha/a/ meat. As early as 1 974, 
Belgium passed a law granting Islamic 
worship the same status as that accorded to 
the established religions in the country, 
namely Catholicism, Protestantism and 
Judaism. Nearly all European countries 
provide facilities for imparting instruction to 
the children of immigrants in their native 
languages. 




Shabina Begum lost her case for the right to wear the 
Islamic dress in class at Denbig High School in Luton, 



On the other hand, Muslims in Western societies are faced with a host of problems and 
challenges, including xenophobia and institutionalized racism, unclear citizenship status, lack 
of legal security, discrimination, stigmatization and marginalization. Laws, policies and 
procedures in many European societies betray bias and discrimination against the 
immigrants and minorities. In Britain, for example, there is an avowedly colour-blind 
allocation of housing, which in reality is discriminatory in respect of non-whites. Similarly, 
tens of thousands of Anglican, Catholic and Jewish schools in Britain are funded by the 
state. About a quarter of all pupils in Britain attend state-funded religious schools. It was 
only a couple of years ago that this privilege was extended to a few (five) Muslim schools 
and one Sikh school. In Britain, until recently (December 2003), acts of discrimination 
against Muslims were not considered illegal because the courts did not recognize Muslims as 
an ethnic group, although Jews and Sikhs are recognized as ethnic groups. In Belgium, the 



44 10 S Minaret, An Online Islamic Magazine 

Vlaas Belang Party (which won nearly a quarter of the national vote in the 2004 election) 
wants to disallow the immigrants to get brides from their native countries. In Britain, the 
Labour government is also inclined to this view. 

France swears by the republican ideals of liberty, equality and fraternity. In reality, however, 
Muslim immigrants from North America (including their second and third generation 
descendants born and brought up in France) experience widespread discrimination, 
exclusion and racism. French society is differentiated according to class, religion and 
ethnicity. Mainstream jobs and positions remain largely with the white, upper class, Christian 
majority. The bantieues (suburbs) where the majority of Muslims live, are characterized by 
poverty, high unemployment rate (over 30% as compared with the national average of 10%), 
crime and drug addiction. Faced with this gloomy situation, many French youths are forced 
to change their names and to conceal their local addresses for fear that the disclosure of their 
real identity will jeopardize their chances of 
getting a job. In November 2005 North African 
youths indulged in large-scale rioting and 
vandalism on the streets of Paris. The incident 
was triggered by the accidental death by 
electrocution of two of their colleagues who 
were being chased by the French police. 

Following 9/11, the Madrid train 
bombing in 2004 and the terrorist attack on 
London in July 2005, the stigmatization and 
arbitrary harassment of Muslims has greatly 
increased in large parts of Europe and the US. ' A groupSHUSSS against the poi.ce 

Soon after the London attack, the London raid on a Muslim house in East London on June 2, 2006, 
.. 11- as reflected in the sunglasses of a protestor 

police erroneously executed an innocent 

Brazilian electrician thought to be a suicide bomber. On June 2, 2006, the London police 
carried out a massive pre-dawn raid, with 300 officers, on the house of two Muslim brothers 
in East London, on suspicion of terrorist links. One of the brothers was wounded in a shot 
fired by the police. The police recovered nothing which could suggest that the brothers were 
involved in any terrorist activities. They were later released without charge. This incident 
fuelled anger and resentment in the Muslim community. 

There has been a good deal of discussion on the cultural rights of ethnic and religious 
minorities in Western societies. The discourse on the cultural rights of minorities in 
European societies or elsewhere may be clouded by myopia unless it is accompanied by a 
discussion of cultural responsibilities and obligations. The immigrants and minorities, 
including Muslims, are obliged not only to obey the laws of the countries where they live but 
also to respect local norms, cultural traditions and the sensitivities of the host society. For 
example, a boisterous midnight celebration or music party by African immigrants in a 
predominantly white locality in Austria or Switzerland is likely to disturb the sleep and peace 
of mind of local residents, which cannot be defended in the name of the immigrants' cultural 
rights. The integration of immigrants cannot be regarded as a one-sided affair nor can it be 
entirely left to the state or the host society. The immigrants also need to make sincere and 




IC>\ A [/////it/, iii Onl it Ishi . \[aga^/ne 45 

sustained efforts to earn the goodwill of the host society by learning the local language, by 
showing deference to the sensitivities of the host society, by participating in local-level 
voluntary action, by inviting their neighbours and other members of the host society to their 
homes on festive occasions, by encouraging their young children to join voluntary 
organizations and to participate in sports and other activities. This kind of engagement can 
go a long way in tearing down the walls of mistrust and separation and in building bridges of 
understanding and harmony with the wider society. In Germany, the Muslim Women's 
Training Centre (Begegnungs i 'dungs W ha Frauen), founded at Cologne in 

1996, carries out a wide range of activities and programmes for Muslim women, including 
facilities for education, training and counseling. One of the important activities of the Centre 
is to foster an atmosphere of understanding, dialogue and accommodation between the host 
society and the immigrants and to facilitate their integration. 

Inter-faith dialogue 

In the first half of the 20 th century, social scientists and assorted intellectuals in the West 
confidently asserted that religion would inevitably decline in the face of forces unleashed by 
secular rationality and modernity. This prognostication came to be known as the 
secularization thesis. An eminent American sociologist Peter Berger, in an interview to The 
New York Times in 1968 confidently stated that "by the 21 st century, religious believers are 
likely to be found only in small sects, huddled together to resist a worldwide secular culture." 
However, this prophecy of doom was belied by the tidal wave of ethnic and religious revival 
and reawakening that began to sweep across large parts of the world from the 1980s 
onwards and which gathered added momentum in the closing years of the 20 th century. In a 
recent article, Berger has confessed that the secularization thesis has been falsified by the 
resurgence of ethnic and religious consciousness in large parts of the world, including the 
United States, that the project of secularization has been successful only in one small corner 
of the world, namely Europe. The rest of the world, he says, continues to be as fervently 
religious as ever. The resurgence of religious consciousness and identity across the world has 
a significant bearing on inter-faith dialogue. 

The initiative for inter-faith dialogue in the West was taken by the Vatican and the World 
Council of Churches in the 1950s. A series of meetings and consultations between the 
representatives of Christian churches and those of other religions, including Muslims, were 
organized in different European cities. A major impetus to inter-faith dialogue was provided 
by the Second Vatican Council (1962-65). In 1964 Pope Paul VI established an Office for 
Non-Christian Affairs at the Vatican to study diverse religious traditions, provide resources 
and promote inter-religious dialogue through education. The Office for Non-Christian 
Affairs produced a document entitled "Orientations for a Dialogue between Christians and 
Muslims" in 1970. The document urged Christians to clear away the "outdated image, 
inherited from the past, or distorted by prejudice and slander, that Christians have of Islam." 
It also recognizes the "past injustice towards the Muslims for which the West, with its 
Christian education, is to blame." The document notes with regret that far too many 
Christians, brought up in an atmosphere of open hostility, are against any reflection on 
Islam. Carrying the spirit of dialogue and reconciliation forward, the Office for Non- 



46 10 S Minaret, A.n Onl Is \4 

Christian Affairs in 1967 asked Christians to offer their best wishes to Muslims at the end of 
the month of Ramadan with "genuine religious warmth." 

On April 24, 1974, Cardinal Pignedoli, head of the Office for Non-Christian Affairs, visited 
Saudi Arabia and carried a message from Pope Paul VI for King Faisal. The message 
expressed "the regards of His Holiness, moved by a profound belief in the unification of 
Islamic and Christian worlds in the worship of One God". In October 1874, a delegation of 
the ulama from Saudi Arabia visited the Vatican and was warmly received by the Pope. This 
meeting paved the way for a meaningful and sustainable dialogue between Christians and 
Muslims. The Saudi delegation was subsequently received by the Ecumenical Council of 
Churches of Geneva and by the Lord Bishop of Strasbourg, His Grace Elchinger. The 
Bishop invited the members of the delegation to join the midday prayer in his cathedral. In 
1989 the Office for Non-Christian Affairs was renamed the Pontifical Council for Inter- 
Religious Dialogue. 

The World Christian Council launched a programme for Dialogue with People of Living 
Faiths and Ideologies in 1971. From the outset the focus of the programme has been on 
Muslim-Christian relations. A number of international and regional meetings and workshops 
were organized under the programme, which focused on an exchange of views and 
experiences related to Christian-Muslim dialogue. Christian churches in France have played a 
pioneering role in fostering closer ties between Christians and Muslims. France was the first 
European country where an Office for Relations with Islam was set up by the Catholic 
Church in 1973, which was followed a few years later by the establishment of a Church- 
Islam Commission by the Protestant churches. Several Christian umbrella organizations in 
the West, including the Conference of European Churches and the Council of Bishops' 
Conferences in Europe, launched programmes which focused on Christian-Muslim relations 
in the context of Europe. The World Council of Churches in Geneva opened an office 
devoted to inter- faith dialogue. In Sweden (which, like Britain, has an established church), 
inter-faith activities are supported by the state. Under the state-sponsored programme, a 
Christian priest, a Jewish rabbi and a Muslim imam held public inter-faith dialogue sessions. 
In 1994 this group was sent on a peace mission to Sarajevo. In 1996 the Nordic Centre for 
Inter-Religious Dialogue was established in Stockholm. In recent years inter-faith 
programmes have been launched in many parts of the world. A larger forum for inter- 
religious dialogue is the World Parliament of Religions which has regularly been meeting in 
Chicago since 1993. Unesco has organized several meetings and conferences focused on the 
role of religion in fostering inter-cultural harmony and global peace. 

A number of academic institutions, research centres and seminaries in Western countries 
focus on inter-faith understanding and dialogue, especially on Christian-Muslim relations. 
These include the Centre for the Study of Islam and Christian-Muslim relations at Selly Oak 
Colleges, Birmingham (Britain), founded in 1975, the Duncan Black Macdonald Centre for 
the Study of Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations at the Hartford Seminary in the US, and 
the Centre for Muslim-Christian Understanding established in 1993 by Georgetown 
University and the Foundation pour L'Entente entre Chretiens et Musulmans at Geneva. 
The Centre focuses on the historical, theological, political and cultural dimensions of the 
encounter between Islam and Christianity. The Muslim-Christian Research Group, a team of 



IOS 'Minaret, in On I n I . Magazine 47 

Muslim and Christian scholars working together in Paris, has published books in French and 
English on issues related to Christian-Muslim relations. 

Earlier, Muslims viewed the initiative taken by Jewish and Christian groups in inter- faith 
dialogue with suspicion and mistrust, fearing that this was a disguised attempt at 
proselytization. In the course of time the mist of apprehension has lifted and there is now a 
greater willingness on the part of Muslims to share their perceptions and experiences with 
the followers of other faiths. Several Islamic institutions and organizations in Europe, North 
America and other parts of the world have made inter-faith dialogue, especially Muslim- 
Christian dialogue, an important part of their programmes. The Islamic Society of North 
America (ISNA), based in Indiana, USA, is a national association of Muslim organizations in 
the United States which provides a common platform for presenting Islam, supporting 
Muslim communities and developing educational, social and outreach programmes, 
including inter-faith dialogue. The Islamic Foundation at Leicester, Britain, has an Inter- 
Faith Unit, which brings out an informative journal called Encounters: Journal of Inter-Cultural 
'Perspectives. The Al-Bayt Foundation in Jordan, which is devoted to research on Islamic 
civilization, also devotes attention to Christian-Muslim relations. In Indonesia, inter-faith 
dialogue has been officially promoted for the past few decades. An Institute for the Study of 
Religious Harmony was set up in Jakarta in 1993. The State Institute of Islamic Studies in 
Jakarta started a journal called Keligiosa: Indones I fl ms H any. In 1998 a Chair 

for the Study of Islam, Judaism and Christianity was created at the University of Rabat with 
the cooperation of Unesco. 

Religion has much to offer to our troubled world. Unfortunately the creative, humanizing 
and liberating potential of religion has not been adequately harnessed. Religious sensibilities 
can be a valuable source of personal fulfillment, cultural vitality and social solidarity. The 
history of the resistance movement against the apartheid regime in South Africa provides an 
illuminating illustration of this fact. The strength of inter-religious solidarity in the resistance 
against apartheid played a vital role in bringing this obnoxious system to an end. African 
history and cultural traditions have been profoundly shaped by the interplay between three 
religious traditions, namely Islam, Christianity and traditional African religions. 

In order to release and harness the great potential of religion, it needs to be divested of its 
outward trappings and reinterpreted in a humane, inclusionary and accommodative spirit and 
in the context of our globalizing era. The Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences has 
issued a refreshing statement in recent times: 

Asia is the womb of the great world religions. All great scriptural religions were 
born on Asian soil. The Church has to be in constant dialogue with the religions 

of Asia and to embark on this with great seriousness There may be more truth 

about God and life than it is made known to us through the Jesus of history and 
the Church. As such, Christians who take Christ's injunctions seriously must 
search for this truth in the various religions of the world. 

Inter-religious dialogues are generally confined to academic and religious elites and do not 
touch the lives of people at the grass roots level. In order to make inter-religious dialogue 



48 10 S Minaret, An ( ' h nu Magazine 

more effective and viable, it is necessary to ensure the involvement and participation of large 
numbers of people from diverse religious backgrounds and from different walks of life. This 
can be done by involving grass roots organizations, regional movements and local leadership 
in inter-faith dialogue. 

Conclusion 

There seems to be a positive correlation between the public recognition of the culture and 
identities of minorities, the degree of social and cultural autonomy available to them and 
their felt sense of self-assurance, and their integration into the wider society. A reassuring 
and enabling environment — free from xenophobia, mistrust and stigmatization — is likely to 
facilitate and strengthen their involvement with the wider society and to channel their 
capabilities, energies and resources in a socially productive direction. On the other hand, 
repressed identities are often the breeding ground of separatism, alienation and extremism. 
In Germany, the public recognition of ethnic and religious minorities, especially Turkish 
immigrants, has played a significant role in their integration into the host society. In the late 
1980s, the Auslander Berauftragte (The Commission on Foreigners) offered a definition of 
community on the basis of religion. Like churches in Germany, which are recognized as a 
religious community (Religionsgesellschafi), Muslim associations also enjoy this status in several 
provinces. In Hamburg, for example, language teachers, even those with Turkish nationality, 
are treated as civil servants. 

A positive development in European societies in recent years is the growing tendency on the 
part of immigrants to get their grievances redressed within the legal and constitutional 
framework, and not in the name of minority rights. In Germany, for example, Muslims, 
especially German-born Muslims, are seeking the resolution of their problems from within 
German society. For example, the German constitution allows religious instruction in state- 
funded schools. The demand by German Muslims to allow Islamic teachings in schools is 
legitimized in the framework of this constitutional provision. Similarly, the decisions by the 
Supreme Administrative Courts in Germany that allow Muslim girls in some cities to be 
exempted from coeducational sports lessons, or the recent court decision that grants 
Muslims the right to slaughter animals according to their religious ritual, were informed and 
guided by the basic principle of freedom of religion guaranteed by the German constitution. 
Significantly, the courts in Germany, as well as other European countries, are playing a 
highly important role in granting legal recognition to the religious and cultural rights of 
immigrants and minorities. In the Netherlands, the Committee for Equal Treatment, a state 
institution which has been created to deal with the issue of discrimination on grounds of 
race, gender or conviction, has recently ruled in favour of a Muslim woman whose 
registration in a teacher training programme was cancelled because she refused to shake 
hand with a male teacher on religious grounds. Taking recourse to the legal and 
constitutional path, coupled with negotiation and dialogue, will go a long way not only in 
securing public recognition for the legitimate rights of Muslims and other minorities but also 
in drawing them closer to the host society and thereby facilitating their integration in the 
host society. 



K)S Minnnt, /hi Onlnii Ishui/u Magazine 49 

Islam and Social Justice 
IOS Research Network 

Egalitarianism, universal brotherhood of humanity and social justice form the bedrock of the 
social structure of Islam. These cardinal principles are embedded in the Islamic world-view. 
It is therefore profitable to examine the nature, scope and significance of the concept of 
social justice in the larger context of the Islamic world-view. 

The Islamic world-view 



Islam is not a racial or parochial religion, confined to a particular race or people or to a given 
period of history. It is universal in its message and appeal. The universality of the Islamic 
faith is reflected in its view of prophecy as well as in its attitude towards other religions. 
According to the Islamic belief, prophets and divine messengers have been sent to all people 
in every part of the world (Quran 16:36). Muslims are required to believe in not only the 
prophecy of Muhammad (SAW) but also that of all other prophets who carried the divine 
message at different points of time. 

In the Islamic view, God is transcendent, but not as 
an external despot, high in the skies, who is 
unconcerned about man's fate. The Quran says that 
God is closer to man than the artery of his neck. 
He is the most compassionate, the most merciful. 
He is not a parochial deity but the Lord of the 
universe and of all humankind. 

According to the Islamic view, man is not the 

product of a blind process of evolution, but a being 

who has been created by God with His own hands. 

All humans, according to the Islamic view, are born 

innocent, untainted by original sin or guilt. Man has 

been endowed with self-consciousness, reason and 

moral choice. The Quran describes man as God's 

vicegerent on earth (2:30; 6:165). In the Islamic 

view, human nature is characterised by a certain 

duality or polarity. On the one hand, man is said to have been created from clay, a lowly 

substance (Quran 23:12; 32:7). On the other hand, God has breathed His soul into him 

(Quran 15:29). Furthermore, man has been endowed with the capacity and freedom to 

choose between good and evil (Quran (76:3; 90:8-10). Thus, man possesses two rather 

contradictory kinds of potentialities: benign and sublime, on the one hand, and vicious and 

demonic, on the other. In the Islamic view, the relationship between the individual and 

society is one of complementarity. Islam avoids the extremes of both exaggerated 

individualism and communitarian totalitarianism. 




50 10 S Minaret, An ( I h nu Magazine 

The Islamic conception of human nature avoids the fallacies of romanticism, cynicism and 
determinism. It takes due cognisance of the existence of evil and viciousness and says that it 
is embedded in the structure of the human psyche. At the same time, it emphasizes that man 
has the capacity and freedom to overcome his organismic frailties and limitations and to 
actualize his benign potentialities. It underscores the unfolding and development of the 
benign, angelic qualities inherent in human nature. As God's vicegerent on earth, man is 
accountable to his Creator for all his actions. Though the world and all its bounties have 
been created for man, he is required to use the God-given resources prudently and in 
moderation. The Islamic principle of moral accountability provides a corrective to the 
wasteful consumption of resources. 

The Islamic ethos covers all spheres of human life, both temporal and spiritual. Islam makes 
no differentiation between what is God's and what is Caesar's, between the external world 
and the internal world. It does not posit a rigid duality between the sacred and the profane. 
The Islamic faith avoids the extremes of renunciation and self-abnegation, on the one hand, 
and excessive self-indulgence, on the other. It underscores the value of balance and 
moderation. 

Egalitarianism 

The unity, equality and brotherhood of mankind, regardless of the distinctions of birth, class 
or caste, are among the cardinal principles of the Islamic faith. The universal appeal of these 
principles has drawn and continues to draw hundreds of thousands of people from diverse 
ethnic and social backgrounds across the world to the fold of Islam. In spite of occasional 
deviations from the ideal, the principle of egalitarianism has remained a beacon of 
inspiration for generations of Muslims across the world. 

According to the Islamic view, all human have been created from a single primordial pair 
(Quran 49:13) and are therefore equal. In the Islamic view, the distinctions of birth, lineage, 
class, wealth or caste are inconsequential. The only worthwhile distinction or honour is piety 
and moral virtue. Thus the Quran says: "O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of 
a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, so that you may know each other. 
Verily the most honoured amongst you in the sight of God is the one who is the most 
righteous of you" (Quran 49:13). In his sermon during the Last Pilgrimage, the Prophet 
declared: "O people! Verily your Lord is One and your father (Adam) was one. Verily an 
Arab is not superior to a non-Arab nor is a red-skinned person superior to a dark-skinned 

The Islamic conception of human nature avoids the fallacies of romanticism, 
cynicism and determinism. It takes due cognisance of the existence of evil and 
viciousness and says that it is embedded in the structure of the human psyche. At the 
same time, it emphasizes that man has the capacity and freedom to overcome his 
organismic frailties and limitations and to actualize his benign potentialities. It 
underscores the unfolding and development of the benign, angelic qualities inherent 
in human nature. 



IOS 'Minaret, in ()/// u I . Magazine 51 

person, nor is a dark-sinned person superior to a red-skinned person, except in respect of 
piety and righteousness. All Muslims are brothers unto each other." 

One of the priceless gifts of Islamic civilization to humankind is that it flung open the doors 
of knowledge and learning to all and sundry, men and women, rich and poor, high and low. 
This revolutionary democratisation of knowledge served as a great social leveller. Slaves and 
their descendants as well as people of humble social and occupational background emerged 
as touch bearers of learning and scholarship. 

The Islamic view of economic and human resources 

According to the Islamic view, all resources have been created by God for the sake and 
humans (Quran 31:20; 57:7). These resources are for the benefit of all mankind and not for 
just a few individuals, families or groups (Quran 2:29). Man is therefore urged to partake of 
God-given resources (7:32; 28:77). Livelihood is described in the Quran as God's bounty 
(Quran 2:198; 5:4; 17:66; 28:2; 62:10). The Prophet is reported to have said: "Seek for your 
family legitimate means of livelihood, for this is a jihad (holy war) in the cause of God." The 
Prophet condemned indolence, dependency and beggary and emphasized that one should 
earn his livelihood through his own effort. One of the comprehensive prayers in the Quran 
says. "Our Lord! Give us what is good in this world and in the Hereafter" (Quran 2:201). 

Islam is not against the ownership of private property or the accumulation of wealth. 
Nevertheless, the whole range of economic activities from agriculture to trade and 
commerce is subjected to two basic conditions. First, one should employ legitimate means in 
earning one's livelihood. Trade and other economic or commercial activities and transactions 
are subjected to a system of moral checks and balances. All unethical means of acquiring 
wealth, including unfair trading practices, bribery, hoarding, black marketing and usury, are 
strictly forbidden. Second, being the vicegerent of God, man is required to act as the trustee 
of economic resources. He should neither squander them in an unbridled manner nor use 
them as a means of exercising control and domination over others. The Islamic tradition is 
highly critical of ostentation and conspicuous or wasteful consumption (Quran 9:35; 17:26; 
25:67). Imam Abu Hanifa, one of the greatest jurists of the first century of the Islamic era, is 
reported to have said that even if one were having a wash by the river Tigris he should be 
economical in the use of water. 

Karl Polanyi has argued that one major pitfall of classical and neo-classical economic theory 
is that they regard the economy as an autonomous, self-regulating domain. In actual practice, 



One of the priceless gifts of Islamic civilization to humankind is that it flung open 
the doors of knowledge and learning to all and sundry, men and women, rich and 
poor, high and low. This revolutionary democratisation of knowledge served as a 
great social leveller. Slaves and their descendants as well as people of humble 
social and occupational background emerged as touch bearers of learning and 
scholarship. 



52 10 S Minaret, An ( ' h nu Magazine 

however, economic processes are always regulated by social relations and moral values. Islam 
takes due cognizance of this reality and subjects economic activities to a system of moral 
checks and balances. In Islamic perspective, ethics and economics are indissociable. It is 
note-worthy that the bearing of ethnical norms on economic activities and economic 
behaviour is now increasingly recognised by eminent economists like Amartya Sen. 

Islam is against the concentration of wealth in a few individuals or families (Quran 59:7). 
The Islamic economy is guided by the concept of human well-being (falah), which entails the 
sharing of available resources, fellow-feeling, social justice and philanthropy. The Islamic 
ethos of social justice is reflected in the Prophetic tradition: "Take wealth from the rich and 
turn it over to the poor." The Quran says that the needy and the dispossessed have a rightful 
share in the possessions of the rich (Quran 70:25). In the Islamic view, poverty and 
destitution result largely from the inequitable distribution of resources and the concentration 
of wealth in the hand of a few. In addition to the emphasis placed on charity and 
philanthropy, two important mechanisms facilitate the process of social justice in Islamic 
society: an obligatory tax on well-to-do Muslims, and the law of inheritance. The rate of the 
obligatory tax (%akah) varies according to the nature of the economic resources one 
possesses. 

The Islamic law of inheritance stipulates that after death the assets and property of the 
deceased should be distributed among his heir and the nearest relatives. A person can 
bequeath only one-third of his property to any one he likes. The purpose of this provision is 
to ensure that he does not give away all of his wealth, through testamentary will, to some one 
according to his whims, leaving his legitimate heirs and descendants destitute. 

Charity and philanthropy 

The Islamic tradition places a great deal of emphasis on compassion, altruism, sacrifice and 
charity. The Quran urges Muslims to spend on the poor and the needy (Quran 2:195, 219, 
254, 264, 267, 274; 3:92; 14:31; 57:10-11; 76:8, 9). The Prophet is reported to have said: "All 
humankind is (like) the family of God and the dearest of them in the sight of God is the one 
who is the most kind and beneficial to God's family." 

He also said that a person who renders (some) service to widows and the poor is equal to 
one who is engaged in jihad in the path of God or to one who spends the whole day in 
fasting and the whole night in prayers. He warned that a Muslim who eats to his heart's 



Karl Polanyi has argued that one major pitfall of classical and neo-classical economic 
theory is that they regard the economy as an autonomous, self-regulating domain. In 
actual practice, however, economic processes are always regulated by social relations 
and moral values. Islam takes due cognizance of this reality and subjects economic 
activities to a system of moral checks and balances. In Islamic perspective, ethics 
and economics are indissociable. It is note-worthy that the bearing of ethnical norms 
on economic activities and economic behaviour is now increasingly recognised by 
eminent economists like Amartya Sen. 



10 S Minaret, /hi Online Islamic Magazine 



content while his neighbour keeps hungry is not a true believer. A significant aspect of the 
concept of social justice and egalitarianism in Islam relates to the humane treatment of slaves 
and their emancipation. The institution of slavery, which was widespread in pre-Islamic 
Arabia, was temporarily continued with a view to provide security and succour to prisoners 
of war. The Prophet exhorted Muslims to deal with slaves in the most humane manner and 
to treat them like one's family in respect of food, clothes and education. Islam sought the 
gradual eradication of slavery. The Quran says that liberating a slave is the best form of 
charity (Quran 90:11). A large number of slaves were set free by the Prophet and his 
Companions. According to Islamic law, a freed slave and a freeborn are equal in status. The 
Prophet got his cousin Zynab married to his freed slave Zayd ibn Haritha. Islamic law 
stipulates that a slave has the right to purchase his freedom by paying some compensation to 
his master. 

The institutionalisation of social justice 

In Islamic society, social justice is institutionalised under the auspices of the state, an 
independent judiciary, and a comprehensive system of endowment (Waqf). The Islamic state, 
especially through the state treasury (Bajt al-mat), became a key instrument of social justice 
and public welfare. During the caliphate of Umar, the state treasury was greatly expanded 
and became a great source of sustenance and security for substantial numbers of poor and 
destitute people. The state treasury played a multiplicity of roles in Islamic society, including 
offering financial support to the needy, the disabled and the deprived sections of society, 
advancement of loans to the needy and the repayment of their debts, rehabilitation of 
victims of natural calamities, providing stipends to different categories of people, providing 
care and support to children who have no parents or relatives to take care of them, subsidies 
to peasants and cultivators to improve the means of cultivation, construction of canals, roads 
and bridges, and the management of public hospitals. 

In Islamic society, the judiciary is independent of the ruling dispensation. The judge (qadi) is 
required to implement the provisions of Islamic law (shariah) without fear or favour and in 
the discharge of his obligations he is accountable, not to the powers that be, but only to 
God. An independent judiciary played a crucial role in ensuring compliance with Islamic law 
on the part of the ruling establishment as well as the general public. 



In Islamic society, the judiciary is independent of the ruling dispensation. The judge 
(qadi) is required to implement the provisions of Islamic law (shariah) without fear 
or favour and in the discharge of his obligations he is accountable, not to the powers 
that be, but only to God. An independent judiciary played a crucial role in ensuring 
compliance with Islamic law on the part of the ruling establishment as well as the 
general public. 



54 10 S Minaret, An OnL h nu Magazine 

Gender justice 

An important dimension of social justice is gender justice. Islam has made a note -worthy 
contribution to gender justice. Islam strictly prohibited the pagan practices of female 
infanticide and child sacrifice. The Prophet described the birth of a female child as a sign of 
divine mercy and blessing. The honourable status of women in Islam is attested by a saying 
of the Prophet: "The word is an ephemeral thing, of which one takes temporary advantage; 
and among the things of his world nothing is better than a good, virtuous woman." He 
exhorted Muslims to be kind and considerate towards their wives. He declared: "The best 
amongst you is the one who is the most kind and considerate towards his wife." In an age 
when women's rights were virtually non-existent, Muslim women were given full rights to 
acquire, inherit and dispose of personal property without let or hindrance from relatives, 
including the husband. 

The institution of Waqf (endowment of property for charitable purposes) played a highly 
important role in translating the ideal of social justice into reality. It was first instituted by the 
Prophet, who dedicated seven gardens of date palm for public welfare. The institution of 
Waqf had a profound and far-reaching impact on charitable activities and the promotion of 
learning in the Islamic world. A wide variety of charitable activities, including the 
establishment of public hospitals, asylums, libraries and caravanserais, children's education, 
care and rehabilitation of physically disabled people, and the provision of regular stipends 
for the poor and the destitute, were carried out under the auspices of the institution of Waqf. 
In the medieval period, a wide network of large and well-equipped charitable hospitals, 
including mobile medical units, existed in all cities and towns of the Islamic world from 
North Africa to Turkey and from Andalusia to India. Their expenses were met from public 
endowments. It is interesting to note that institutions of higher learning in medieval Europe 
borrowed the Islamic institution of Waqf. The earliest colleges in Europe were founded and 
supported by foundations and charitable trusts. 

Social justice and non-Muslims 

The concept of social justice in Islam is inclusive rather than exclusive, in the sense that it 
does not exclude the non-Muslim citizens of the Islamic state from its purview. 

The attitude and behaviour of Prophet Muhamamd towards the beliefs and traditions of the 
followers of other religions exhibited exemplary tolerance, understanding and magnanimity. 
When he set up a city-state at Madina, he drew up its constitution, which was committed to 
writing at his instance. This constitution included two significant passages: first, Muslims 
would have their religion and the Jews would be entitled to their religion; secondly, Muslims 
and Jews would together constitute a community. This covenant was extended, at a later 
date, to the Christians of Najran and the pagan Arabs. Thus the Pax Islamica included not 
only Muslims but also Jews, Christians and the pagan Arabs, and guaranteed to them 
religious, cultural, and judicial autonomy. In fact the Islamic state assumed responsibility for 
the maintenance and even defence of Jewish, Christian and pagan identities. The charter of 
rights and assurances issued to the Christian population of Najran by the Prophet included 
the following passage: 



10 S Minaret, /hi Online Islamic Magazine 



An assurance is hereby extended, on behalf of God and the Prophet, to the people of 
Najran, that their lives, religion, lands and wealth will be protected. No change in their 
existing conditions will be effected. Their rights will not be violated. Their commercial 
caravans and delegations will be protected. No cardinal will be dismissed from his position, 
nor will an ascetic be denied the right to his way of life. The custodians of churches will face 
no interference in respect of their functions. 

The protection of minority rights under the Islamic dispensation has no parallel in the annals 
of history. The Prophet exhorted his followers to scrupulously protect the legitimate rights 
and privileges of the dhimmis (non-Muslim subjects of the Islamic state). 

The attitude of tolerance and sympathy was continued by the four caliphs and the 
Companions. It is remarkable that the occupation of Syria by the Muslim army during the 
caliphate of Abu Bakr met with no resistance from the local Christian population who 
welcomed the Muslim soldiers not as invaders but as liberators. During the caliphate of 
Umar, some Muslims usurped a piece of land belonging to a Jew and constructed a mosque 
on the site. When the Caliph got to know about it he ordered the demolition of the mosque 
and the restoration of the land to the Jew. During the caliphate of Ali, the Muslim-occupied 
territories of the Byzantine Empire faced internal strife. Emperor Constantine II sent a 
secret message to the Christian population in the Islamic state, urging them to rise in revolt 
against Islamic rule and assuring them of his military support. The Christians, however, 
spurned the offer, saying: 'These enemies of our religion are preferable to you.' 

Islam does not favour the forced assimilation or conversion of non-Muslims (Quran 2:256; 
109:6). The Islamic state guaranteed not only the protection of the lives and honour of the 
dhimmis but also of their religious beliefs and rituals, personal laws and endowments. When 
Amr ibn al-As, a distinguished companion of the Prophet, conquered Egypt in 640 AD, he 
left the Christian population in undisturbed possession of their churches and guaranteed to 
them independence and autonomy in all ecclesiastical matters. He allowed the properties and 
endowments attached to Christian churches to remain with the Christian custodians. 

After the conquest of Jerusalem, Caliph Umar gave the following assurance, in writing, to 
the Christian population of the town: "This is the assurance which Umar, the servant ofGod, 
the commander of the faithful, grants to the people of Aelia. He grants to all security for 
their lives, their possessions, their churches and their crosses, and for all that concerns their 
religion. Their churches shall not be converted into dwelling places, nor destroyed, nor shall 



During the caliphate of Uthman, Jeserjah, the bishop of Merv, wrote a letter to the 
Patriarch of Persia, saying that the Arabs, whom God has given dominion over the 
world, do not attack Christianity. On the contrary, they help our religion, respect our 
priests and shrines, and offer donations to our churches and monasteries. 



56 10 S Minaret, A.n ( I h i \l 

any constraint be put upon them in the matter of their faith." During his caliphate, some 
Muslims usurped a piece of land belonging to a Jew and constructed a mosque on the site. 
When the Caliph got to know about the incident, he ordered the demolition of the mosque 
and the restoration of the land to the Jew. 

Under the Islamic dispensation, non-Muslims were entitled to preserve and maintain their 
places of worship and to construct new ones. In some cases, the expenses for the 
maintenance and repair of their places of worship were met from the state treasury. Similarly, 
the salaries of Jewish rabbis and Christian priests were often paid from the state treasury. 
During the caliphate of Uthman, Jeserjah, the bishop of Merv, wrote a letter to the Patriarch 
of Persia, saying that the Arabs, whom God has given dominion over the world, do not 
attack Christianity. On the contrary, they help our religion, respect our priests and shrines, 
and offer donations to our churches and monasteries. 



IOS Minaret, in On I u I . Magazine 57 

GLOBESCAN 

Comments on current events, trends, issues 
Professor A. R. Momin 

Discontents of affluence 

Prosperity and affluence does not seem to be an unmixed blessing. It is often accompanied 
by pride, stress, competitiveness, and low levels of happiness and contentment. In his 
celebrated work The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, the eminent German sociologist 
Max Weber observed that wherever riches have increased, the essence of religion has 
decreased in the same proportion. As riches increase, so will pride, anger and love of the 
world in all its branches. The London-based Henley Centre brought out a report in 2002 
called The Paradox of Prosperity, which says that though overall living standards in the West 
will rise by 35% in the next few years, this will be accompanied by longer working hours as 
well as growing competitiveness and stress. This is likely to take a heavy toll of people's 
social and psychological health and well being. 

A recent incident vividly brings out the discontents of prosperity. A blue-collar worker in 
Kentucky, United States, Mack Metcalf and his second wife Merida, won a $34 million 
lottery jackpot in 2000. He bought a large estate and built a mansion overlooking the Ohio 
river and stocked it with horses and luxury cars. But his happiness proved to be short-lived. 
Metcalf s first wife sued him for $31000 in unpaid child support. One of his former girl 
friends cheated him of $500,000 while he was drunk. In despair he took to heavy drinking. 
In 2001 he divorced his wife. Merida got into drugs. One day, her boy friend died of a drug 
overdose. In 2003, just three years after winning the jackpot, Metcalf died due to alcohol- 
linked illness at the age of 45. A few days later, Merida's decomposed body was found in her 
bed. 

James Montier, a highly rated global equity strategist from London, has been studying the 
psychology of investing for many years. He says that material possessions do not make a 
person happy. He tells his stockbroker clients that the road to happiness lies not in the 
pursuit of material wealth, such as limousines, mansions and other trappings of luxury, but 
through meditation, new experiences, friendships and adventures. He declares that "evidence 
shows that people who have more materialistic goals are less happy than those who focus on 
intrinsic values such as relationships and personal growth." 

Research conducted over many years indicates that there is no necessary correlation between 
affluence and happiness. Princeton University's Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman and 
his associates found that people with higher incomes spend more time in activities that are 
associated with negative feelings, such as tension and stress. They were more often in moods 
that they described as hostile, angry, anxious and tense. 

Tal Ben-Shahar, a former soldier in Israel's IDF Aircraft Unit, offers a hugely popular course 
called Psychology 1504 at Harvard University, which focuses on the pursuit of happiness. 
He points out that as material wealth worldwide has risen, so have levels of depression. 



5H 



IOS 'Minaret, sin Online Islamic Magazine 



Beyond basic needs, he says, money does not contribute significantly to happiness. 
Happiness, according to him, is mostly dependent on our state of mind, not on our status or 
the state of our bank account. 

The Holy Quran alludes to the transience of worldly life and of material possessions in an 
evocative metaphor. It says: "Know that the life of this world is only play, and idle talk, and 
ostentation, and boasting among you, and competition and rivalry in respect of wealth and 
children; as the likeness of vegetation after the rain, whereof the growth is pleasing to the 
farmer, but afterwards it dries up and you see it turning yellow, then it is reduced to straw" 
(57:20). The Prophet is reported to have said: Contentment has nothing to do with the 
abundance of material possessions. Rather, it comes from within oneself. He is also reported 
to have said: "Verily, by God! I am not apprehensive about you being faced with poverty 
and destitution. Rather, I am afraid that the (bounties of the) would be spread out for you 
the way they were spread out for those who went before you and that you might get too 
enamoured of it the way they did, and that (in consequence of it) it might destroy you the 
way it destroyed them." 

Drinking: Life's bane 



Drinking has been a part of everyday life in Western societies for centuries. However, 
drinking in excess and alcoholism have always been disapproved. With the decline of 
religious and moral values, the disintegration of social institutions, the prevailing atmosphere 
of permissiveness and the easy availability of cheap liquor, the old inhibitions and taboos 

related to excess drinking — binge drinking 
as it is now known — are disappearing. In 
fact, binge drinking has become quite 
fashionable among young boys and girls, 
and even children, in many Western 
societies. In the UK, nearly six million 
people are believed to be binge drinkers. 

Excess drinking is taking a heavy toll of 
people, especially youngsters. Since 1997 
there has been a 30% rise in hospital 
admissions due to heavy drinking. In 
2004-05, more than 51000 people aged 18 
and over were treated in British hospitals 
for problems related to binge drinking. 
Around 140 people, including 13 children, are admitted to British hospitals every day for 
heavy drinking. Alcohol abuse is linked to serious ailments, including cirrhosis of the river, 
stomach ulcers and damage to oesophagus and the brain. More than 20,000 die each year in 
Britain from alcohol-related causes. Alcohol-related deaths have soared by 20% in Britain in 
the past five years. Studies show that one in five heavy drinkers develops cirrhosis of the 
liver. 




10 S Minaret, An Onl u I . \ Liga^ine 59 

The latest report about the extent of binge drinking in Britain says that young women are 
out-drinking men. This has resulted in an early onset of liver disease in women habituated to 
binge drinking. Professor Moira Plant of Briton's Bristol University points out that there are 
now young women in their late teens or early 20s developing liver damage that in the past 
was not seen until the age of 60 or 70. She warned that if young women in Britain continued 
to drink in this way, they could create problems for the health services in the future. 

The earlier view that a little alcohol is beneficial for health is now being reconsidered and 
doubted. Rod Jackson, a British specialist who led the latest study on the consequences of 
even modest consumption of alcohol, has pointed out in an article in the British medical 
journal Lancet that any benefit from light to moderate drinking is probably small and is 
unlikely to outweigh the harm caused by alcohol. 

More than fourteen centuries ago, the Holy Quran forbade the drinking of alcohol, even in 
the smallest of quantity, declaring that its disadvantages and harmful effects far outweigh its 
benefits. The celebrated British historian Arnold J. Toynbee one observed that one of the 
most valuable and lasting gifts of Islam to humanity is the prohibition of alcohol. 

The woes of asceticism 

International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), started by an Indian 
businessman turned preacher Abhay Chran De in the 1960s, became one of the most 
popular alternative religious and spiritual movements in Western countries. It now has more 
than a million followers worldwide, including such notables as the heir of the legendary Ford 
family and the Beatle George Harrison. In Russia, the society has nearly 100,000 white, Slav 
members. The members of ISKCON are expected to observe celibacy. 

Recently, a US court has ordered the society to pay $9.5 million in damages to about 450 
victims of physical and sexual abuse at its boarding schools in the US and India. The society 
has admitted the abuse. An ISKCON teacher who is one of the accused has directly blamed 
the requirement of celibacy for his perversions. 

Islam disallows celibacy as it considers it unnatural. The Quran says: "It is they who invented 
monasticism— We did not ordained it for them— only seeking God's pleasure, and they did 
not observe it (monasticism) according to its requirements" (57:27). The Prophet is reported 
to have said: "There is no place for asceticism in Islam". 

Looking for a Bill Gates in the Muslim world 

One of the distinctive features of the present era is the incredible, unprecedented increase in 
the prosperity and affluence of individuals, families, corporations and countries. According 
to Forbes magazine's rich list for 2005/2006, there are now 793 billionaires in the world 
(worth a combined $52.6 trillion), spread over 49 countries. Millionaires (people with 
investible assets of at least $1 million) now number 8.3 million worldwide. 




60 10 S Minaret, An Online Islamic Magazine 

What is even more remarkable — and pleasantly surprising — 
is that institutionalized charity and philanthropy is steadily 
on the rise. Thus in the United States the number pf private 
charitable foundations has risen from about 22,000 in the 
early 1980s to over 65,000 today The amount spent on 
charities in the US exceeds $300 billion a year, over 2% of 
the country's GDP. Religious charity accounts for nearly 
62% of all public donations. 

In recent years the greatest contribution to public charity 

and philanthropy has been made by Bill Gates, the founder 

of Microsoft and the world's richest man. He set up the 

Melinda and Bill Gates Foundation a few years ago, which 

gives money for health, reducing poverty and destitution, 

and increasing access to technology in the developing 

countries. Bill Gates has already contributed $31 billion to 

the Foundation. The Foundation spent nearly $1.36 billion in 2005. It has financed, to the 

tune of $300 million, R and D to combat malaria, AIDS and other dreadful diseases in Africa 

and Asia. The Foundation has recently given a grant of $4.2 billion to One World Health, a 

non-profit pharmaceutical company, to start Phase III clinical trials for using paromomycin 

for the treatment of kala-azar (which kills nearly one hundred thousand people a year in the 

state of Bihar alone). By the end of his life, Bill Gates intends to have handed over most of 

his fortune — estimated at $46.5 billion — to the Melinda and Bill Gates Foundation. 

The example set by Bill Gates has inspired other businessmen and industrialists in the US as 
well as in other countries. Thus, Warren Buffett, the world's second richest man (with assets 
of $42 billion), announced on May 25, 2006 that he would be contributing about $1.5 billion 
every year to the Melinda and Bill Gates Foundation. Buffett said that he planned to give 
away about $37 billion (nearly 85% of his fortunes) to charity. Interestingly, he once 
remarked that "I want to give my kids enough so that they could feel that they could do 
anything, but not so much that they could do nothing." 

Pierre Omidyar, the founder of e-Bay, the world's largest online trading portal, and Jeff 
Skoll, the trading site's first chief executive, have given away millions of dollars in charity to 
make "the world a better place." When Sergey Brin and Larry Page, the founders of Google, 
made their company public, they announced that a part of the search engine's equity and 
profits would go to Google.org, a philanthropic organization. 

Inspired by Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, Jackie Chan, the celebrated Hollywood star, 
announced on May 28, 2006 that he would bequeath half of his fortune to charity. Forbes 
magazine named Jackie Chan one of the world's ten generous celebrities. 

The Islamic tradition places a great deal of emphasis on generosity, charity and philanthropy. 
The Quran says that the dispossessed and the needy have a legitimate share in the resources 
of the rich (70:25). In other words, acts of charity should not be vitiated by a condescending 
attitude towards the poor. One should not feel that one is doing a favour to a poor man by 



K)S Minnnt, /\u Oiilnii I shii i. i'u Magazine 61 

doling out a few coins to him. Prophet Muhammad (SAW) is reported to have said that a 
person who renders service to widows and the poor is equal to one who is engaged in holy 
war (jihad) in the path of God or to one who spends the day in fasting and the night in 
prayers. 

Islam channelised charity and philanthropy in two inter-related directions: individual actions, 
and through the agency of %akah and waqf (charitable endowment). The institution of waqf 
was started by the Prophet, who dedicated seven gardens of date palm for charitable 
purposes. Inspired by the exhortation in the Quran that one should give away money as well 
as land in the way of God and by the precepts of the Prophet, many of his Companions 

donated agricultural land and gardens as 
waqf. Caliph Umar set up the institution of 
bayt al-mal (public treasury), which served as 
a key agency for providing financial 
assistance to the poor and destitute, 
widows, orphans, wayfarers and other 
disadvantaged sections of society. 

The institution of waqf 'had a profound and 
far-reaching impact on the course of 
Islamic civilization. Large endowments 
instituted by Muslim rulers and members of 
the nobility supported a wide range of 
institutions, including mosques, madrasas, 
public libraries, caravanserais, universities 
and hospitals. The famed Al-Azhar 
University in Cairo, founded in 972, was financed by revenues which accrued from waqf 
properties. The institution of waqf has been a highly significant and inseparable part of 
Muslim societies throughout Islamic history. In the early decades of the 19 th century, waqf 
land comprised 570,000 acres (over 20%) out of a total of 2.375 million acres in Egypt. In 
1841 the number of lots of waqf land in Aligiers (Algeria), whose revenues were assigned for 
the maintenance of the city's grand mosque, was 543. In Turkey about one-third of the 
country's total land was committed to waqf at the turn of the 20 th century. The Indian 
subcontinent has hundreds of thousands of institutions which are supported by waqf 
properties. 

In Forbes magazine's rich list of 2005/2006 there are 45 Muslim billionaires. The following 
table provides an over- view of the country- wide distribution of Muslim billionaires. 




Turkey 


15 


Saudi Arabia 


11 


Kuwait 


4 


United Arab Republic 


4 


Egypt 


2 


Lebanon 


2 


India 


2 



62 



IOS 'Minaret, sin Online Islamic Magazine 



Kazakhstan 

Russia 

UK 

USA 

Switzerland 



Total 



45 




Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Al-Saud (from Saudi Arabia), with 
assets worth $20 billion, figures among the first ten 
billionaires. Prince Alwaleed regularly gives substantial 
donations for charitable and Islamic causes. In December 
2005 he gave $20 million to the universities of Harvard and 
Georgetown to expand their Islamic studies departments. 

Some of the Muslim countries have invaluable natural 

resources. There are 18 major oil-producing countries in the 

world, of which ten are Muslim, which produce nearly 40% of 

the world's oil. Unfortunately, most of the oil revenue goes 

into the personal accounts of the ruling elite or into defence 

expenditure. It cannot be gainsaid that Muslim kings and the 

aristocracy contribute substantially to charitable causes, but the quantum of such donations 

leaves much to be desired. Some of the worst problems facing the Muslim ummah include 

poverty and destitution, malnutrition and disease, extremely low levels of literacy (especially 

female literacy), lack of access to the basic necessities of life, and high unemployment rates. 

The Arab Human Development Report 2002 revealed that one in five Arabs — 20% of the Arab 

population — still lives on less than $2 a day. The situation in the rest of the Muslim world is 

not substantially different. The Muslim world desperately needs a Bill Gates and others of 

his kind. 



Pfince Alwateed Bin Talal 

Al-Saud.cneof the ten 

richest billionaires in the 

wo lid 



Ayaan Hirsi Ali: Wages of sacrilege 

The present era has produced a miniscule breed of Muslim intellectuals and writers — such as 
Salman Rushdie, Taslima Nasreen, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Chahla Chafiq — who are overawed by 
the West and who take immense delight in disowning and disparaging their own religious 
and cultural heritage. Salman Rushdie's Satanic Verses exemplifies their mindset. 

Born in 1967 in Mogadishu (Somalia), Ayaan Hirsi Ali came to the Netherlends as a refugee 
in 1992. Soon after graduating in political science she joined the far-right People's Party for 
Freedom and Democracy. In 2003 she was elected to the Dutch parliament. Soon she 
became famous for her radical views and damning statements about Islam and the Muslim 
community in the Netherlands. She publicly declared that she was no longer a Muslim or a 
believer and argued that the "major aspects of Islamic doctrine and tradition are 
incompatible with an open society and with women's emancipation". In one of her 
interviews Hirsi Ali said that she considers the Islam of the Quran and of the Prophet as a 
threat to life. She was eagerly lapped up by the Dutch media and the far-right politicians. 



IOS Minaret, in On I u I . Magazine 63 

Following the worldwide protests and demonstrations by Muslims over the publication of 
the slanderous cartoons of Prophet Muhammad (SAW), Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Salman Rushdie, 
Taslima Nasreen and the Iranian rebel writer Chahla Chafiq issued a statement which 
condemned the protests and said that "after having overcome fascism, Nazism and 
Stalinism, the world now faces a new global threat: Islamism." 

A Dutch film maker Theo van Gogh made a film called Submission, which was aired on 
Dutch television in the summer of 2004. The script of the film was written by Hirsi Ali. The 
film opens with a prayer and then presents, through Hirsi Ali's voice-over, the stories of four 
Muslim women telling God about the abuse (including incestuous rape) they have suffered at 
the hands of men. The film shows semi-nude images of women with verses from the Quran 
inscribed on their naked bodies. The film quite explicitly conveys the message that Islam has 
nothing positive to offer to women, that the abuse and humiliation of women by Muslim 
men is legitimized by the Quran. Understandably, the film created a great deal of anger and 
resentment among Muslims in the Netherlands. The Dutch media tried to sensationalise the 
issue by posing provocative questions to Muslim leaders, but they responded with restraint. 
There was no move to get the film banned. On November 2, 2004, Mohammed, a Dutch 
citizen of Moroccan descent, stabbed Theo van Gogh to death. After the murder of her 
mentor Hirsi Ali went into hiding. 

The latest news, as reported by The Economist (May 20, 2006) is that the Dutch authorities 
recently found that Hirsi Ali had told lies about her name and age and had given a fabricated 
story to justify her application for asylum in the Netherlands in 1992. Consequently, on May 
16 her Dutch citizenship was cancelled, following which she had to resign from parliament. 
Last month, a court ordered her to leave her apartment on the complaint of neighbours who 
feared for their own safety. She had to leave the Netherlands for the US — disgraced and 
humiliated. 

The Quran says: "A person whom God scorneth, there is none to give him (or her) honour" 
(22:18). 

The decline of marriage in the West 

The Economist (London) reported on April 1, 2006 that in Britain a fifth of all people aged 25 
to 34 now live with a partner outside wedlock. Perturbed by the rapid disintegration of 
marriage and family, Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, told leading politicians 
that saving marriage was a "life and death matter." 

The decline and disintegration of marriage in Western countries is not a sudden 
phenomenon; it has been in progression over the past few decades. A set of interrelated 
factors, including the growing sense of individualism and self-gratification, the steadily 
loosening hold of religious and moral values, changes in sexual mores and the accelerated 
pace of social change, have contributed to the steady decline of marriage in Western 
societies. The available survey data indicate that remaining single, living together outside 
marriage, births out of wedlock and rising divorce rates are becoming increasingly common 
in almost all Western countries. The reasons for remaining single, especially among women, 



64 10 S Minaret, An ( ' h nu Magazine 

include individualism, sexual freedom, freedom of lifestyle, and the growing financial 
independence of women. 

A survey of marriage in more than 30 European countries revealed that living together 
without marriage is becoming the norm rather than the exception in most European 
countries. In Sweden, for example, more than one-fourth of all couples are living together 
outside marriage. Nearly half of all babies in Sweden are born to unwed mothers. In Britain, 
as in other European countries, living together without marriage is becoming increasingly 
common. It is estimated that in the next few years four out of five married couples in Britain 
would live together before marriage. In Britain nearly one-third of all births are out of 
wedlock. It is estimated that more than half of all babies in the country will be born to 
unwed mothers or couples who are cohabiting outside marriage by 2012. In 1980 only 12% 
of babies in Britain were born to unmarried mothers. Figures published by the Office for 
National Statistics show that in 2004 four out often babies were born to unmarried mothers. 
Denmark, Sweden and Finland have even higher figures. In the United States 33% of all 
births in 2002 occurred to unmarried women. 

In addition to the increasing incidence of cohabitation outside marriage, another disturbing 
trend is what has come to be known as voluntary childlessness. In recent years there has 
come about a radical shift in the perception about children in Western countries. There is a 
growing belief among young women and men that not having children is the ideal way of 
life. Their increasing preoccupation with unbounded freedom, self-fulfillment and career 
advancement, coupled with work and financial pressures, keeps them away from having 
children. A recent study conducted by the Federal Institute for Demographic Research in 
Germany shows that 26% of men and 1 5% of women aged between 20 and 39 do not want 
to start a family. Fifty per cent of university-educated women of child-bearing age in 
Germany prefer not having children. In the 1990s nearly 60% of women aged between 25 
and 29 in Germany had a baby. The figure has plunged to 29% in 2005. In Britain a recent 
report of the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys predicted that 20% of women born 
between 1960 and 1990 will remain without a child. In the US 20% of women in their 30s 
are expected to remain without a child. 

A culture of voluntary childlessness seems to be emerging in many Western countries as well 
as in Australasia. In Britain there is a growing market for books such as Child-Free and Loving 
It. Honda is now designing cars that will replace child seats with dog crates. In Australia, 
childless couples constitute the fastest growing type of household. In many restaurants in 
Rome children are not welcome. 

Demographers point out that in order to maintain the population at its present level, a 
fertility rate of 2.1 births per woman — known as the total fertility rate— is required. The 
growing tendency in Western countries to remain childless or to have just one baby has led 
to a steady fall in fertility rates. Italy, for example, has the lowest fertility rate in the world — 
1 .2 births per woman. The alarming decline in fertility rate in Italy is expected to result in a 
drop in population from the present 57.3 million people to 51.3 million over the next 25 
years. The total fertility rates of Germany, Greece, Poland and Russia are, respectively, 1.4, 



IC>\ A [/////it/, in ()//' it I- . . \h/ga%ine 65 

1.3, 1.3, and 1.3. Germany's population is set to plummet from the current 82 million to 70.8 
million by 2050. 

Russia's population is declining by at least 700,000 people each year, leading to the 
emergence of hundreds of uninhabited "ghost villages." One of Russia's leading sociologists 
has warned that the country's population may halve by the middle of the 21 st century. 
Official Russian forecasts, along with those from international organizations like the UN, 
predict a decline from 140 million to between 80 and 100 million by 2050. In Britain women 
now have on average 1.7 children, compared with 2.4 children nearly 30 years ago. In the 
1940s one in ten British women did not have a child; now the figure is close to one in four. 
In Sweden fertility rates have fallen from 2.1 a few years ago to 1.5. 

In Asia, Japan has the lowest fertility rate — 1.4 births per woman. Japan's population is 
expected to drop by more than half (from 125 million to 55 million) by 2050. A record 56% 
of 30-year old women in Japan are childless. 

The rapid fall in fertility rates in European countries is fraught with disastrous economic, 
demographic and social consequences. A much reduced young work force will have to 
support a large elderly population (thanks to increased life expectancy), which will strain the 
already burdened social security system. The requirement for migrant labour will continue 
unabated. A UN study points out that Europe will need 1.6 million migrants a year for the 
next 45 years to maintain its work force at current levels to replenish aging populations and 
falling birth rates. 

Lesbian and gay relationships are on the increase in the United States and many European 
countries. It is estimated that gay and lesbian couples constitute nearly ten per cent of the US 
population. Gay marriages are legally allowed in the US and some European countries. 

The increasing fragility of the institution of marriage in Western countries is reflected in the 
dramatic increase in divorce rates. In Britain around 40% of all marriages now end in 
divorce. About half of marriages of people in their 20s end in divorce. Nearly 20% of British 
children witness the divorce of their parents before they reach the age of 16. It is estimated 
that this trend will grow and that in a few years only 50% of British children will experience 
a normal, conventional family life. In Sweden and in the US the divorce rate is nearly 50%. 
In France nearly one-third of all marriages end in divorce. It is estimated that if the present 
trend continues, nearly 40% of all marriages in Europe and the US will be doomed to failure. 

The consequences of marital breakdown, separation and divorce are particularly disastrous 
for women and children. The number of single-parent families (mostly headed by women) as 
a result of divorce or birth out of wedlock is rapidly increasing in all European countries. In 
Britain, for example, more than 20% of children live with only one parent. There are more 
than 1.6 million single-parent families in Britain. In the US nearly 25% of all households are 
single-parent. 

The consequences of divorce and living in single-parent families are traumatic for children. 
The available evidence indicates that the absence of fathers is a key factor in the 



66 10 S Minaret, An ( ' h nu Magazine 

impoverishment of children. Generally, children from single-parent families do not perform 
as well in school as children from normal families. Furthermore, such children often have 
behavioural and psychological problems, including drug abuse, delinquency and propensity 
to violence. Alarmed by the growing incidence of suicide among children living in single- 
parent families, school shoot-outs and two teenagers killing their father, the US President 
George W. Bush recently proposed spending $300 million a year on initiatives to strengthen 
marriages. A recent study at York University in Britain, based on surveys by the World 
Health Organisation and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, 
found that British children from single-parent families were among the unhappiest and 
unhealthiest in Europe. On a scale of "well being" they ranked 21 st out of 25 EU nations. 
Many youngsters are barely on speaking terms with their parents and many were unhappy in 
school. They were found to be more promiscuous, with more than a third admitting having 
sex by the age of 15. More than a quarter of 15-year olds had been drunk 20 times or more, 
while 39% had used cannabis. 

Remaining single, voluntary childlessness, delayed pregnancy and avoidance of breast feeding 
have adverse consequences for women's health. Researches reveal that upper middle class 
and wealthier women are more at the risk of breast cancer because they tend to delay 
marriage and motherhood, have no or fewer children, prefer not to breastfeed the child, and 
are likely to have hormone replacement therapy. All these factors have a positive bearing on 
the onset of breast cancer. In Western countries the rate of breast cancer is 90-100 per 
100,000 women. 

Islam attaches a great deal of importance to the sanctity of marriage. It emphasizes that 
sexual gratification should occur only within the fold of marriage. The Prophet is reported to 
have said: "Marriage is a part of my way; therefore one who turns away from my way does 
not belong to me." Sexual promiscuity, cohabitation outside marriage, birth out of wedlock 
and voluntary childlessness are strongly disapproved in the Islamic tradition. 

Inter-civilizational dialogue 

Most of our readers must be familiar with the thesis of clash of civilizations propounded by 
the American political scientist Samuel Huntington. Huntington argues that the principal 
source of conflict in the international arena in the years to come will not be primarily 
ideological or economic but cultural. He sees Islam and Western Christianity as potentially 
pitted against each other as the defining feature of the rapidly changing global scenario. 
Underlying Huntington's thesis is the assumption that a clash of civilizations between the 
Islamic and Western worlds is inevitable, largely because, in his view, Islam cannot peacefully 
coexist with other cultures and civilizations. 

Huntington's argument rests on fallacious premises and questionable assumptions about the 
dynamics of human society and civilization. His thesis has been repudiated by some of the 
world's leading intellectuals and writers and publicly denounced by many statesmen and 
heads of states in Europe and the United States. 



IOS Minaret, in On I u I . Magazine 67 

A much-needed corrective to the misguided thesis of the clash of civilizations has recently 
been provided by the UN-sponsored document on the Alliance of Civilizations. The UN 
initiative was cosponsored by the prime ministers of predominantly Catholic Spain and 
Muslim Turkey. The Alliance of Civilizations report was prepared by a cross-cultural group 
of 20 prominent international figures from a variety of religious traditions, including the 
former Iranian president Mohammed Khatami and Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu. 
The report was presented to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan at a ceremony in Istanbul on 
13 November 2006. The report calls for urgent efforts to bridge the growing divide between 
Muslims and the West. It points out that the main causes of the rift are not religion, culture 
or history, but recent political developments, notably the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 

Kofi Annan pointed out at the ceremony that as long as the Palestinians live under 
occupation, exposed to daily frustration and humiliation, and as long as Israelis are blown up 
in buses and in dance halls, so long will passions everywhere be inflamed. He added that no 
other dispute had such a huge symbolic or emotional impact on people. 

The Alliance of Civilizations report notes that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, along with 
Western military interventions in countries like Iraq and Afghanistan, contributes 
significantly to the growing sense of resentment and mistrust that mars relations among 
communities. The report warns that globalization is contributing to the discord, with many 
communities perceiving it as "an assault." For these communities, the report says, "the 
prospect of greater well-being has come at a high price, which includes cultural 
homogenisation, family dislocation, challenges to traditional lifestyles and environmental 
degradation." 

The report points out that "people who feel that they face persistent discrimination, 
humiliation or marginalization are reacting by asserting their identity more aggressively. 
However, the report dismisses the notion that a clash of civilizations is inevitable. It 
emphasizes that "the need to build bridges between Muslims and the West has never been 
greater". 

In a related development, a recent BBC-sponsored survey of people in 27 countries says that 
an average of 56% people said they saw positive links between the West and the Islamic 
world, despite current global tensions. Doug Miller, president of Globescan, the agency 
which carried out the survey, said the results suggested that the world was not heading 
towards an inevitable and wide-ranging "clash of civilizations." Most of the respondents felt 
the conflict between Muslims and the West was about political power and interests, and not 
about culture and religion. Interestingly, the most positive responses came from Western 
countries, saying it is possible to find common ground between Islamic countries and the 
West. 

Loneliness and Alzheimer's disease 

Dementia is emerging as an increasingly worrisome ailment in large parts of the world, 
especially in Western countries. It is defined as an acquired deterioration in cognitive abilities 




IOS 'Minaret, sin Online Islamic Magazine 

that impairs the successful performance of daily activities. Loss 
of memory is the most common cognitive dysfunction in 
dementia. In addition to memory, other mental faculties, such as 
language, calculation, visuospatial ability, judgement and 
problem solving, are also affected. Dementia affects four 
million people in the United States and involves a total health 
care cost of $100 billion annually. Alzheimer's disease (AD) is 
the most common cause of dementia. In the US, approximately 
10% of all persons over the age of 70 experience significant 
memory loss, and in more than half of the cases the cause is 
Alzheimer's disease. In the US the annual cost of caring for a single AD patient in an 
advanced stage of the disease is estimated at $50,000. In India about 3% of people in the age 
group of 65-75 suffer from dementia. 

A recent study of more than 800 elderly patients in the US, who were followed over a four- 
year period, has suggested that people who lead lonely lives are twice as likely to develop 
Alzheimer's disease. This was revealed in a paper published in Archives of General Psychiatry in 
2007. Social isolation has already been shown to be linked to dementia, but this is the first 
time researchers have looked at how lonely people actually felt. 

The study found that the risk of developing AD increased by 51% for each point of the 
loneliness score. Those with the highest loneliness score of 3.2 had about 2.1 times the risk 
of developing AD, compared to those with a low score of 1.4. In addition, autopsies were 
carried out on 90 patients who died during the study to investigate certain physical 
symptoms of AD, such as deposits of protein outside and around nerve cells. 

The leader of the study Professor Robert Wilson, professor of neuropsychology at Rush 
University Medical Centre in the United States, points out that loneliness may affect systems 
in the brain dealing with cognition and memory, making lonely people more vulnerable to 
the effects of age-related decline in neural pathways. Professor Wilson adds that we need to 
be aware that loneliness has not only an emotional impact on old people but also a physical 
impact. 

The National Institute on Aging at the University of Chicago sponsored a study in 2006, 
which found that men and women between 50 and 68 who scored the highest on measures 
of loneliness also had high blood pressure, which is a major risk factor for heart disease, the 
number one killer in the US. Lonely people, according to the study, are also susceptible to 
depression, alcoholism, weak immune system, impaired sleep and suicidal tendencies. 



The Alliance of Civilizations report notes that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, along 
with Western military interventions in countries like Iraq and Afghanistan, 
contributes significantly to the growing sense of resentment and mistrust that mars 
relations among communities. 



IOS Minaret, in On I u I . Magazine 69 

In China six million people suffer from AD, a third of all Alzheimer's patients in the world, 
and the number of diagnosed cases is rising. The increase in incidence of AD in China is 
linked to the erosion of the country's traditional support networks. Residential patterns in 
large cities in China, as in other cities around the world, are undergoing a radical 
transformation. Living in high-rise buildings and apartments breeds individualism and social 
isolation. This new urban ecology affects old people the most — especially those who live 
alone and have no one to talk to — and results in loneliness and depression. And depression 
is a risk factor for AD. 

The worrisome increase in AD is related to a set of social, cultural, behavioural and 
psychological factors. For one thing, people are living longer, thanks to modern medicine and 
better health care facilities. The significant contributory factors include the breakdown of 
networks of support provided by the extended family and kin, neighbourhood and the 
community, accelerated geographical and occupational mobility on the part of the professional 
class, growing individualism and the increasing trend towards nuclearisation of family. All this 
makes old people feel increasingly lonely and depressed and susceptible to a variety of physical 
and psychosomatic ailments, including AD. 

Recent researches suggest that the US is becoming increasingly socially isolated. One recent 
study, for example, found that one-fourth of Americans say they have no one with whom 
they could share and discuss important personal matters. Paradoxically, modern information 
and communication technologies — especially the mobile phone and the Internet — seem to 
facilitate greater communication and connectedness among people. At the same time, 
personal, face-to-face interaction is being increasingly replaced by virtual or online 
communication. Michael Lewis, in his book The Future Just Happened (2000) draws attention 
to the social effects of the Net and observes that the Internet tends to encourage isolation 
and seclusion among youngsters in relation to the family, neighbourhood and the wider 
society. 

Robert Putnam has described the decline of community in the US in the metaphor of 
'bowkng alone.' He points out that growing social isolation is closely knked to the escalating 
rate of depression and other signs of worsening mental and physical health. 

Islam places great emphasis on human brotherhood, fellow- feekng and sharing kfe's joys and 
sorrows with others. It discourages asceticism, world-renunciation and isolation from the 
wider community. The Prophet is reported to have said: "A Muslim who lives in the midst 
of Muslims and bears with their cruelty and unkindness (towards him) is better than the one 
who does not live among them." The emphasis on social interaction and participation is 
reflected in the importance attached to cooperation and mutual help, in the norms governing 
family life (especially in respect of parents and elderly persons), in the obligations towards 
kin and neighbours, in etiquette and manners, and in the instruction to offer prayers in the 
mosque. This emphasis on social participation and engagement greatly mitigates the pain of 
lonekness experienced by elderly people. 



IOS Minaret, /hi Online Islamic Magazine 



Circumcision and the prevention of AIDS 



HIV infection/AIDS is a global scourge, with cases reported from virtually every country. 
The current estimate of the number of cases of HIV infection among adults worldwide is 
over 37 million, two-thirds of whom are in sub-Saharan Africa. Nearly 50% of cases are 
women. In addition, an estimated 2.5 million children younger than age 15 are living with 
HIV/ AIDS. There are three million deaths from AIDS annually, making it the fourth 
leading cause of mortality worldwide. The cumulative number of AIDS-related deaths 
worldwide through the year 2003 exceeds 20 million. In 2006, 2.8 million people in sub- 
Saharan Africa became infected with HIV, out of which 2.1 million died. 

In December 2006 two major trials were carried out by the US National Institute of Health 
in Kenya and Uganda. The full data from the trials were published in a paper in The Lancet in 
February 2007. The paper says that conclusive data shows that circumcision reduces men's 
chances of catching HIV by up to 60%. "This is an extraordinary development," said Dr. 
Kevin de Cock, Director of the World Health Organisation's AIDS Department. 
Circumcision seems to be the most potent intervention in HIV prevention. 



A joint analysis in 2006 by WHO in Geneva, UNAIDS 
and other experts around the world found that in sub- 
Saharan Africa circumcision could avert 2 million new 
infections and 0.3 million deaths over the subsequent 
10 years. These studies lead to the conclusion that 
"circumcision must now be deemed to be a proven 
intervention for reducing the risk of heterosexually 
acquired HIV infection in adult men." Medical 
researches have found circumcision to be a highly 
effective preventive intervention in respect of several 
diseases in men and women. There is a strong 
correlation between circumcision and the absence of 
cancer of male genitals. A number of studies have 
documented higher rates of cervical cancer in women 
who had uncircumcised partners. A recent large 
international study has provided overwhelming 
evidence of the link between lack of male circumcision 
and cervical cancer in the female partner. Sexual 
relations with uncircumcised males put women at 
greater risk of a variety of infections. 

Legitimising incest? 



The increase in incidence of 
AD in China is linked to the 
erosion of the country's 
traditional support networks. 
Residential patterns in large 
cities in China, as in other 
cities around the world, are 
undergoing a radical 

transformation. Living in 
high-rise buildings and 
apartments breeds 

individualism and social 
isolation. This new urban 
ecology affects old people the 
most — especially those who 
live alone and have no one to 
talk to — and results in 
loneliness and depression. 
And depression is a risk 
factor for AD. 



Incestuous relationships have been universally disapproved across the world and in all ages. 
However, isolated incidence of incest have been reported among royal families in ancient 
Egypt, ancient Persia and Rome, Thailand, Japan, Hawaii and among the Inca of highland 
South America. Pharaoh Ramses II (who lived during the age of Prophet Moses) had 



K)S Minant, /\u Oiilnii I shii i. i'u Magazine 71 

married his own daughter. These incidences constitute an exception to the universal 
existence of incest prohibitions. 



1^3 



Once in a while one hears of stray, isolated cases of 

incest, which is otherwise considered a pathetic deviation 

from the normative order of society. According to the 

BBC Internet News (7 March 2007), Patrick Stuebing, 30, 

and Susan Karolewski, 22, of Leipzig, Germany, who are 

real brother and sister, are living together as a couple for 

the last six years and have four children from this 

relationship. Their whole family broke apart when they 

were younger. Patrick did not meet his mother and other members of his family until he was 

23. He met his sister Susan for the first time after their mother died and fell in love with her. 

Susan says she does not feel guilty about their relationship. 

Incest is a criminal offence in Germany. Patrick has already served a two-year sentence for 
committing incest. Three of his children have been taken away by the authorities and placed 
in the care of foster families. The couple's lawyer has lodged an appeal with Germany's 
highest judicial authority, the Federal Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe, in order to overturn 
the ban on incest. The case has prompted a heated debate in the German media. A ruling 
from the Constitutional Court is expected in the next few months. Incidentally, France has 
abolished the law against incest. 

Medical research has shown that there is a higher risk of genetic abnormalities when close 
relatives— especially father and daughter, brother and sister — have a child together. When 
siblings have children there is a 50% chance that the offspring will be abnormal. The average 
risk of genetic abnormalities is increased eightfold for brother-sister and parent-child 
matings. The mortality rate among children born of incest is about twice that of normal 
children, and among those who survive, genetic defects such as dwarfism, heart deformities, 
deaf-mutism and severe mental retardation are ten times more common. 



Stray, isolated 

Western countries, 
by the media, should 
wider social and 
Western societies. 
evidence from 

ethology that incest 
human society have 
biological basis, 

however, is the fact 
against incest is 
consciousness of 

course of 

Cultural and moral values in the wider society hav 



A joint analysis in 2006 by WHO in 
Geneva, UNAIDS and other experts 
around the world found that in sub- 
Saharan Africa circumcision could avert 
2 million new infections and 0.3 million 
deaths over the subsequent 10 years. 
These studies lead to the conclusion 
that "circumcision must now be 
deemed to be a proven intervention for 
reducing the risk of heterosexually 
acquired HIV infection in adult men." 



incidents of incest in 
which are reported 
be viewed in the 
cultural context of 
There is some 
comparative 
prohibitions in 

possibly some 

More important, 

that societal sanction 
ingrained in the 
children in the 
socialization, 
i significant bearing- on the incest taboo. 



IOS Minaret, /hi Online Islamic Magazine 



The steady erosion of moral and religious values in Western societies is all too evident. This 
is reflected in increasing sexual permissiveness among men and women, in the growing 
incidence of cohabitation without marriage and births out of wedlock, in the increasing use 
of explicit sexual images in advertising, media and the Internet, and in growing gay and 
lesbian relationships. In France, a survey carried out in 2000 indicated that men had an 
average of 11.3 sexual partners in their lifetime, compared to 3.4 for women. About half the 
babies in Sweden are born to unwed mothers. In Britain four out of ten babies were born to 
unwed mothers in 2004. It is estimated by the Office for National Statistics in London that 
by 2012 most babies in Britain will be born to unwed mothers. By 2030 eight out of ten 
births will be outside the fold of marriage. 

Family breakdown has a devastating impact on children and adolescents. Studies suggest that 
the trauma of watching parents split up or having no father around, coupled with an 
excessive exposure to explicit sexual images on television and the Internet, may speed up 
puberty in girls. The age at which adolescents in most Western countries mature — around 
12 years — has fallen by up to 3 years over the last century. But the early onset of puberty is 
not being matched by emotional maturity, which could leave youngsters at a greater risk of 
teenage pregnancy and drug and alcohol abuse. 

Islam considers incest as a horrifying transgression of the moral order of society. The 
prohibition against marrying close relative includes three broad categories: (i) consanguinous 
(blood relatives, such as parents, siblings, uncle, aunt, etc) (ii) affinal (related by marriage) (iii) 
lactational (related through milk fosterage and wet nursing). A man's foster sister, for 
example, is as unlawful for him as his natural sister. 



When siblings have children there is a 50% chance that the offspring will be abnormal. 
The average risk of genetic abnormalities is increased eightfold for brother-sister and 
parent-child matings. The mortality rate among children born of incest is about twice that 
of normal children, and among those who survive, genetic defects such as dwarfism, heart 
deformities, deaf-mutism and severe mental retardation are ten times more common. 



IOS Minaret, in On I u I . Magazine 73 

Indo-Arab Economic Relations: The Road Ahead 

Dr. M. A. Hasib 

Former Executive Director, Reserve Bank of India 

In discussing Indo-Arab economic relations, one may focus on different dimensions of the 
subject, including the historical, cultural, political and economic relations between the two 
regions related to trade and investments. But I will not deal with them, except in broad 
terms. I could look at Indo-Arab economic relations, as I see them, as an Indian focusing on 
economic conditions and opportunities in the Arab region in the years ahead, or 
alternatively, I could look at the Indian economic scenario from the perspective of an Arab. 
I would prefer to look at the contemporary economic scenario in India in a global 
perspective and in respect of the future prospects for the Indian economy. 

Let us start with the global perspective. The major economic powers in the world today are 
USA, Europe, Japan and Asia, particularly China and India. Looking at the latest trends, it 
appears that the world growth is lopsided. In 2004 the world economy grew by about 5 
percent. Among the developed countries, the highest growth was achieved by the USA (4.4 
per cent) while Europe and Japan grew only by 2.1 per cent and 1.7 per cent respectively. In 
the newly emerging economies the highest growth was recorded by China (9.5%), followed 
by Argentina (9%), Malaysia (7.1%), and India (6.9%). The current growth rate in India 
exceeds 8%. 

Europe and Japan have been struggling for the past few years. It is the USA, the world's 
largest economy, which is a major driving force for the economies of the rest of the world. 
Should I, if I were an Arab trader or investor, look to the USA, while keeping in view the 
fact that profitable relations should be consistent with safety and stability? Undoubtedly, 
there are vast opportunities in the USA, but one needs to take a deeper look. The long-term 
growth rate of an economy depends on the quality of its institutions, technology, 
investments and savings. American institutions, with some exceptions, are among the best in 
the world. But is its growth rate, which is the prime determinant of international economic 
relations, sustainable? The American economy is consumption-driven; its per capita 
consumption is the highest in the world, and much of the consumption is wasteful. The 
American economy is debt ridden. Its households savings are close to zero. It is the rest of 
the world which is accumulating dollars and pumping them back into the US to finance its 
consumption. A vast majority of American households are under debt. Home prices driven 
by low interest rates are going up. But it is like a bubble which may bust any time as it has 
happened in the past. The main point is: will the rest of the world continue to finance the 
fiscal deficit of America? How long can one go on enjoying exotic foreign holidays or 
fighting costly wars with borrowed funds? When a bank ultimately asks a borrower to repay 
the loans he had taken, he will go bankrupt in similar conditions. That may happen to 
America, although it may not happen tomorrow or the day after. But the day of reckoning 
will come when international confidence in the American economy will be shattered. 

So if I were asked to advise an Arab financial institution about its investment preferences, I 
would advise it to put only a few eggs in the American basket 



74 10 S Minaret, An ( ' i > nu Magazine 

It is the newly emerging economies, mainly China and India, which have been recording 
high growth rates. What is even more important is that their future is brighter than that of 
Western economies. From the Arab point of view, India could be a better destination 
because of historical, cultural and religious factors. Let us look at the Indian economy in a 
wider perspective. The Indian economy is passing through high growth phase and I dare say 
that, unless some unforeseen situation arises, it seems to be a secure, long-term trend. The 
latest estimate of the growth of GDP is more than 8%. Let us take a critical look at the 
growth rate of Indian economy in a historical perspective, particularly in the context of the 
last five decades since 1953. In the first 20 years, the growth rate varied between -3.7% and 
7.6%. There were two years with negative growth rates. In ten out of twenty years, the 
growth rate was less than 5%. In the next twenty years, the rate varied from -5.2% to 10.5%, 
again with two years of negative growth rate. So the Indian economy was growing during 
this period, but at a relatively slow, halting rate, based as it was on mainly agriculture and 
government-directed policy investments. Government rules and policies hindered, rather 
than promoted, entrepreneurial initiative and skill. India remained a marginal player in world 
economy. The world seemed to have lost trust in the Indian economy, so much so that when 
India had to borrow from England in a critical balance of payments position in 1991-92, the 
Bank of England insisted on gold as security for the loans to be shipped physically to Bank 
of England. Fortunately the gold has been returned to India. 

Things have changed for the better since 1991-92. Since then there has not been a single year 
with a negative growth, despite some bad monsoon years. During the last three years the 
growth rate has accelerated and is expected to exceed 8% in the current year. So a new trend 
has set in, which has been recognized and appreciated by the world. The apprehensions 
about the health of the Indian economy have been laid to rest and foreign investors now 
find India a very promising and profitable place to invest. Foreign exchange reserves, which 
covered less than 2 months of imports in 1990-91, now cover more than 14 months of 
imports. Total reserves are more than the external debt, a sure sign of the growing strength 
of the Indian economy. Is this a short term, sustainable trend? Or is it only a bubble which 
may burst, as I fear it might happen to the American economy? 

The answer to this question lies in certain far-reaching changes which are currently taking 
place in the Indian economy. Savings and investment are two important determinants of 
growth. Gross domestic savings, which were around 9% in 1952, have steadily increased to 
an estimated 29% in the current year. Capital formulation, which was about 8. 7% in 1950- 
51, is estimated to have gone up to above 30%. These are sure indications of dependable 
growth. Despite poverty and low per capita income, households contribute 22% out of 29% 
of Gross Domestic Savings. 

Second, the composition of Indian output has undergone significant changes in recent years. 
About half a century ago, agriculture contributed more than half of GDP; its contribution 
now stands at 25%. It is not a weakness, but an indicator of positive changes in the 



So if I were asked to advise an Arab financial institution about its investment 
preferences, I would advise it to put only a few eggs in the American basket. 



IOS Minaret, in On/ n I . Magazine 75 

economy. An economy which was largely dependent on the vagaries of the weather is now 
depending more on industry and services, including trade, the hospitality industry, 
construction, communication, and financial services (eg banking and insurance), which now 
contribute more than half the national output. The contribution of industry is about 24%. 

Third, this transformation has come about as a result of fundamental changes in policy. 
Following the liberalization of the economy, entrepreneurial and technological skills have 
been harnessed. Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) are rated among the best in the 
world. The literacy rate and life expectancy have improved appreciably in recent years. 

Fourth, investible resources and the quality of investment have improved. There is a healthy 
investment climate, which is conducive for reposing confidence in the future. India receives 
more than a quarter of global portfolio investment to emerging market economies. Fifth, 
financial stability has played an important role in the process. The banking system in India is 
fully compatible with Basel 1 norms, which means that the capital adequacy ratio has 
improved appreciably and its non-performing assets have declined. Capital and reserves have 
been ascending to new heights. An important factor in the current investment climate is the 
strict regulation of the financial system and capital market by the Reserve Bank of India and 
the Securities and Exchange Board of India. I may add in this context that since the majority 
of Arabs are Muslims, the capital market in India offers them opportunities for investment 
which are compliant with Shariah norms. My young friend, Dr. Shariq Nisar, has done useful 
research in this area, which shows that a major part of stock equity index is Shariah- 
compliant in accordance with internationally accepted norms. I may add, finally, that no 
investment opportunities are without risk but the risk should be calculated and manageable. 

A major risk to the Indian economy may be caused by high oil prices and external shocks 
like an adverse international political climate and the possibility of loss of trust in the 
American economy. Undoubtedly, there are weak spots in the economy. Infrastructure, 
primary education and health care need radical improvement. Agriculture is in need of 
investment. But the important point is that things are changing in a positive direction. 

Therefore, I would advise my Arab friends to take advantage of the growing opportunity for 
investing in India. Put a few of your eggs in the Indian nest; they will hatch and may well lay 
golden eggs, hopefully without catching bird flu. 



Therefore, I would advise my Arab friends to take advantage of the growing 
opportunity for investing in India. Put a few of your eggs in the Indian nest; they 
will hatch and may well lay golden eggs, hopefully without catching bird flu. 



76 10 S Minaret, An ( tine Is nu Magazine 

(This paper was presented as the Presidential Address at a symposium on "Indo-Arab Economic 
Cooperation—The Road Ahead" at Islam Gymkhana, Marine Lines, Mumbai, on February 
27,2006. It is reproduced here with grateful acknowledgement to Dr Hasib.) 



10 S Minaret, /hi Online Islamic Magazine 



DIGITIZATION OF ISLAM 

Globalization's Gift to the Muslim Ummah 
Professor A. R. Momin 

One of the distinctive characteristics of globalization lies in the unprecedented advances in 
information and communication technologies, which have brought about what David 
Harvey aptly describes as "time-space compression". He points out that globalization 
involves the shrinking of space and the shortening of time. Some scholars speak of 
"deterritorialization" as an important consequence of globalization, suggesting that the 
notion of space has undergone a radical transformation. Manuel Castells in his The Information 
Age: Economy, Society and Culture (1998) shows how computer-driven telecommunications 
have intensified global interactions and created networks which bind together individuals 
located in different countries into virtual communities. What is emerging, he says, is a global 
network society. Phrases like online worlds, virtual communities, global cyberspaces and 
network society are frequently mentioned in the contemporary discourse. A highly 
significant feature of online networks is their openness and relative autonomy. Furthermore, 
the Internet is an amazingly interactive medium in that it has an in-built mechanism for 
immediate feedback. 

Some commentators argue that the Internet is generating "social capital" in the form of 
networks, norms and social trust that facilitate cooperation and coordination among people 
who share common social concerns and commitment. There are more than 5000 
transnational NGOs, most of whom coordinate their activities and programmes through the 
Internet. The International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) has established intensive 
linkages, through the Internet, with non-governmental organizations working for the ban on 
landmines. By 1999 the ICBL became a coalition of more than 1300 NGOs which 
successfully persuaded and pressurized 89 countries to ratify the Landmine Treaty. It was 
awarded the Nobel Prize for its sustained efforts. 

An eminent sociologist Zygmunt Bauman has coined the phrase glocali^ation to highlight the 
fact that globalization seems to reinforce not only global and transnational but also ethnic 
and local identities. This phenomenon is reflected in the increasing use of modern 
information and communication technologies by religious communities and organizations. 
Thus, in Thailand Buddhist monks are making increasing use of the Internet for 
disseminating their religious doctrines and traditions through more than 200 websites. In 
India, religious and spiritual satellite channels are rapidly increasing and drawing hundreds of 
thousands of viewers in the country as well as from amongst expatriate Indians. 

Modern information and communication technologies are playing a highly important role in 
the revival of indigenous languages and cultures in Europe. There are more than 200 000 
speakers of Breton language in France. Breton was nearly wiped out as a result of the 
repressive policies of successive French governments. In recent years, a remarkable revival 
of Breton language has taken place in France, especially in the Brittany province. In August 
2000, TV Breizh began broadcasting as France's first regional channel. 



78 10 S Minaret, An ( ' h nu Magazine 

The use of modern information and communication technologies for religio-political 
mobilization in the Islamic world on a wider scale was witnessed in Iran prior to the Islamic 
Revolution in 1969. During the 1970s, many of the speeches and discourses of Ali Shariati, a 
highly educated and influential thinker and speaker, were recorded at Mashhad University 
and at Husayniyah Irshad in Tehran and circulated through audiocassettes. These recorded 
speeches were subsequently transcribed and published in book form. The cassettes as well as 
the books were clandestinely distributed through a wide network of mosques, seminaries, 
shrines, religious councils, community centres and colleges and universities. In the mid- 
1970s Imam Khomeini was exiled to Iraq and later to Paris. His recorded sermons and 
speeches from his Neaphle-le-Chateau headquarters near Paris were widely circulated across 
the length and breadth of Iran. His taped messages were transmitted through telephone lines 
to secret locations in Tehran where they were transferred onto cassettes for duplication and 
distribution. These cassettes played a highly significant role in arousing popular sentiments 
against the Shah. Their political impact was greatly enhanced when they were aired by 
Western news agencies, especially the BBC. 

During the Soviet era, audiocassettes of the speeches and sermons of religious leaders in 
Uzbekistan, which emphasized Islamic identity and Uzbek nationalism, became highly 
popular. The Naqshbandi Sufis established a wide network of mosques, madrasas and 
hospices (khanqahs) and extensively used audiocassettes for the dissemination of Islamic 
materials. During the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, audiocassettes of religious 
discourses and sermons were widely circulated in the country as well as among the Afghan 
refugees in Pakistan. These recorded speeches and sermons created a great sense of Islamic 
solidarity and paved the way for the emergence of a powerful movement against the Soviet 
occupation. 

Recordings of the speeches and discourses of prominent Muslim thinkers and leaders, such 
as Sayyid Qutb, Ali Shariati, Mawlana Abul Ala Maududi and Dr. Asrar Ahmad, among 
others, are now available not only on audiocassettes but also over the Internet through the 
use of the latest audio streaming technology. 

The preservation and transmission of the Holy Quran and the Traditions of Prophet 
Muhammad (may God shower His blessings on him!) was ensured through an ingenious 
combination of memorization, oral transmission and writing. As soon as the verses of the 
Quran were revealed — they were revealed incrementally over a period of 23 years — they 
were memorized by the Prophet and were simultaneously committed to writing at his 
instance. These conjoined modes of transmission — memorization and writing — have 
continued uninterrupted during the past fourteen centuries of the Islamic era and are still in 
evidence across the Islamic world. Similarly, several Companions of the Prophet recorded 
and wrote down his sayings and instructions — which came to be known as Hadith — during 
his lifetime. This process of compilation of Hadith was marked by a distinctive 
methodology — known as Isnad — involving a critical scrutiny of the chain of narrators and 
their biographies with a focus on their reliability. The preoccupation with the compilation of 
Hadith within the framework of this methodology gave rise to a vast body of literature. 



10 S Minaret, An Online Islamic Magazine 



79 



The emphasis on the written word, which has been 
central to the Islamic tradition, resulted in a colossal and 
truly monumental literary output which has no parallel in 
the annals of early or medieval civilizations. An indication 
of this amazing preoccupation with writing is provided by 
the existence of hundreds of thousands of manuscripts 
on a variety of subjects in libraries and museums in 
Muslim countries as well as in India, Europe and North 
America. Islamic manuscripts, which have survived the 
vicissitudes of time, are estimated to number more than 
three million. In addition to Islamic countries, a large number of Islamic manuscripts are 
found in libraries and museums in Europe, North America, Japan and Australia. Fuat 
Sezgin's monumental work Geschichte des Arabischen Schrifttums contains over 1.5 million 
entries on extant Islamic manuscripts. A large number of extant manuscripts are in great 
danger of being damaged or even lost for ever. In recent years a pioneering effort in respect 
of preserving, restoring, cataloguing and publishing Islamic manuscripts has been 
undertaken by Al-Furqan Islamic Heritage Foundation, London and Juma Al Majid Centre 
for Culture and Heritage, Dubai. 





Al-Furqan Islamic Heritage Foundation was established in London in 1988 by the Yamani 
Cultural and Charitable Foundation, headed by Shaykh Zaki Yamani. The main objective of 
the Foundation is the documentation and preservation of Islamic manuscripts. This is done 
through promoting, initiating and sponsoring research in the field of Islamic manuscripts, 
surveying and cataloguing the existing manuscripts, preserving manuscript collections, 
publishing new critical editions of Islamic manuscripts of particular significance, and 







80 10 S Minaret, An Online Islamic Magazine 

establishing a reference library with the research tools necessary for the study of Islamic 
manuscripts. 

Al-Furqan Islamic Heritage Foundation has published World 
Survey of Islamic Manuscripts in four volumes. In addition, it has 
published, in several volumes, catalogues of Islamic manuscripts in 
the libraries of Albania, Niger, Sarajevo, Bulgaria, Egypt, Mali, 
Palestine, Makka, Yemen and India. The Foundation has also 
published new critical editions of several important books dealing 
with Islamic disciplines. 

The Juma Al Majid Centre for Culture and Heritage was 

established as a public, non-profit, welfare-oriented educational Ai-Fmqan isiumic Henidye 

and cultural institution in 1991 in Dubai. It is financed by 

permanent endowments from its founder and president Shaykh Juma Al Majid. One of the 

major objectives of the Centre is to acquire microfilms of manuscripts and documents 

related to Islamic disciplines. More than 70,000 original, photocopied and microfilmed 

manuscripts and documents are stored in the library of the Centre. The Centre also has 1344 

manuscript catalogues of well known libraries from 52 countries across the world. 

One of the objectives of the Centre is to repair and restore original manuscripts. The Centre 
has invented Al Majid Restoration Machine for restoring damaged manuscripts and 
protecting them from further deterioration. The Centre has donated 24 such machines to 
Islamic institutions in more than 14 countries. 

In recent years, there has come about a world-wide resurgence of Islamic awakening and 
revival, which is conspicuous not only in Muslim countries but also among Muslim living in 
Western countries. This Islamic resurgence is reflected in the growing demand for Islamic 
literature, in the proliferation of religious movements and communitarian organizations, in 
the increasing involvement of Muslim youth and women in faith-based activities, and in the 
growing use of modern information and communication technologies for disseminating and 
exchanging Islamic materials as well as shred concerns. 

Computer technologies are remarkably adept with both the textual and phoenetic modes of 
storage, retrieval and transmission. In recent years, varied computer technologies, including 
websites, CD-ROM, homepages and audio streaming technology, have been used for 
archiving, retrieval and dissemination of Islamic materials. The entire text of the Holy Quran 
(including the Arabic text and recitation by trained qaris), its translation in English and other 
European languages, brief commentaries on the Holy Quran and several collections of 
Hadith together with English translations are available on CD-ROM as well as on the 
Internet. A well-known software is Alim, made by ISL Software Corporation, Marylan, USA. 
It provides information on a wide range of subjects. 

An important Islamic website devoted to Quranic exegesis (Tafsir) is Al Tafsir.com The site 
provides the text of the Holy Quran, recitation, Quranic exegesis from several standard 
texts, translations of the Quran in 17 languages and information related to Quranic 



K)S Minant, /\u Oiilnii I shii i. i'u Magazine 81 

disciplines. Translations of the text of the Holy Quran are provided in English, German, 
French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Jaoanese, Dutch, Chinese, Urdu, Turkish, Persian, 
Indonesian Russian, Malay, Hindi and Bengali. With the use of the latest computer 
technologies, the site allows cross-referencing and hyper links on a verse-by-verse and word- 
by-word basis. 

AlTafsir.com began in 2001 under the aegis of Aal al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought, 
Amman. The Institute was established in 1980 by the late King Hussein of Jordan. Nearly 70 
to 100 prominent Muslim scholars from around the world are associated with the Institute. 

The entire Arabic text of Imam Bukhari's celebrated collection of Hadith A^l-Jami' al-Sahih as 
well as the well-known collection of Hadith by Imam Muslim are available on the website of 
Al-Islam ( www. al-islam.com ) . An English translation of Bukhari (by Muhammad Muhsin 
Khan) and of Muslim (by Abdul Hamid Siddiqui) are available on the website of the Muslim 
Students Association of the University of South California ( www.usc.edu/dept/MSA) . 
These two sites also publish the Forty Hadith by Imam Nawawi in English. The multi- 
volume concordance and index of nine well-known collections of Hadith, prepared by the 
renowned Dutch Orientalist A. J. Wensinck, has been converted to electronic form. Several 
collections of Hadith in English translation are available on 22 websites and in French on 8 
sites. 

Islamic websites, which are rapidly multiplying, provide a wide range of information and 
materials, including an explication of the verses of the Holy Quran and selections from 
Hadith literature, informed opinion on the religious, social, economic, political and cultural 
affairs of the Muslim world, chat rooms, and online fatwa (solicited legal opinion or edict 
pertaining to specific issues and problems faced by Muslims in day-to-day life). IslamiCity 
( http://www.islam.org) , based in the USA, is one of the important Islamic websites. In 
addition to providing fairly comprehensive information on the Quran and the Sunnah, the 
website offers online fatwa service, radio and television channels, chat rooms, Islamic 
screensavers and electronic greeting cards. IslamiCity has published more than 5000 fatawa 
on the Internet. 

Another important Islamic website is Huruf ( http://www.huruf.com) , which is jointly 
managed by Knowledge Management Systems (KnowSys) and ITLogic. Among other 
materials, it offers informed opinion and comments on contemporary issues related to the 
Muslim world. It also espouses inter-cultural and inter-civilizational dialogue. The website of 
As-Sunna Foundation of America ( http://www.sunnah.org/msaec/ .) provides 
information of a general nature on fundamental Islamic themes and sources. Another 
website muslimheritage.com provides information on the contribution of Islamic civilization 
to science, technology, arts and architecture. It also provides information on prominent 
Muslim scholars and Islamic organizations. IslamOnline.com provides current news and 
analysis pertaining to the Islamic world. Gulfnet is an important computer network which is 
linked to eight academic and research institutions in the Gulf region. 

Some websites are specifically devoted to providing fatawa (singular: fatwa) online. The 
distribution of fatawa on the Internet can be classified into two broad categories:® archiving 



82 10 S Minaret, An Online Islamic Magazine 

as well as compilation of various fataiva which are already published in specialized books on 
the subject (ii) solicited fataiva in response to specific requests from surfers. The Saudi 
Arabian Permanent Committee for Islamic Research and Fatawa, a government-regulated 
body, runs a website called Fatawa-Online (http://www.fatwa.online.com). It received 
over 30,000 hits from surfers between October 1999 and December 2000. The As-Sunna 
Foundation of America ( http://www.sunnah.org/fatwa/ .) offers fatawa online. Another 
site is Dar al-Ifta al-Misriyya ( http://www.haneen.coni.eg/fatwa/fatwapage.html ). 
IslamOnline.com has a section on fataiva and counseling. Prominent institutions of Islamic 
learning, such as Al-Azhar University in Cairo, offer online fataiva services. Online fataiva are 
available in English as well as Arabic, Persian, Turkish, Malay, Urdu, Thai and other 
languages. 

The task of providing authentic legal opinion in response to specific queries from surfers 
entails a great deal of competence and responsibility. Only a person who is well-versed in 
Islamic law, has a specialized knowledge of fativa literature and has received training in 
issving fataiva at a reputed institution of Islamic learning can perform this task. One peculiar 
problem with solicited fataiva on the Internet is that one cannot be sure whether the person 
who is providing the required information or opinion is a professionally trained and 
competent scholar or an amateur person with a smattering of Islamic law. 

Computer technologies are increasingly being used for archiving and preserving Islamic 
texts. At the Centre for Islamic Jurisprudence in Qom, Iran, several thousand texts, both 
Shi'i and Sunni, have been converted to electronic form. An Islamic organization based in 
Qatar has undertaken an ambitious project to preserve, by microfilming, unpublished 
manuscripts on Islamic subjects, which are found in large numbers in Muslim countries as 
well as in India. 

Contemporary Islamic movements, especially those which have large, transnational 
followers, are making increasing use of modern information and communication 
technologies for providing information about their activities and programmes and for 
reinforcing connectivity and internal cohesion. The Naqshbandiya-Haqqaniya order of 
Sufism, with roots in Turkey, Cyprus, Syria and Lebanon, is one of the most prominent Sufi 
orders in Western Europe and North America. The teachings as well as activities and 
programmes of the order are disseminated to its followers located in different countries 
through books and pamphlets as well as over the Internet. 

The Aga Khan Trust for Culture was founded in 1988 and is registered in Geneva, 
Switzerland as a private, non-denominational, philanthropic foundation. One of the aims of 
the Trust is to increase cross-cultural understanding of Islamic architecture and the close 
linkage between culture and architecture in Islamic civilization. The Trust has commissioned 
a new project called ArchNet ( www.archnet.org ) at the School of Architecture and 
Planning, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA. The main objective of Archnet is to 
provide extensive high-quality, globally accessible intellectual resources focused on topics of 
architecture, urban design, urban development (including restoration and conservation), 
housing landscape, and concerns related to the Islamic world. Archnet provides, on an 
accessible server, images, a searchable text library, bibliographical reference databases, online 



K)S Minnnt, /hi Onlnii Ishui/u Magazine 83 

lectures, statistical information, papers and reviews. Currently there are over 8000 images 
and 1500 publications related to the historical as well as contemporary architecture of the 
Islamic world in the Digital Library. 

The Institute for the Study of Islam in the Modern World, founded in Leiden, the 
Netherlands in 1998, aims at promoting inter-disciplinary research on contemporary social 
and intellectual trends and movements in Muslim societies and communities. Its redesigned 
website (www.isim.nl) is a useful source of information on the contemporary Islamic world. 

One of the significant features of our globalizing era is the existence of transnational 
communities or diasporas which maintain a vast network of culture and communication — 
greatly facilitated by the incredible advances in the means of transportation and in 
information and communication technologies — with their countries of origin. Telephone, 
satellite television and the Internet are playing a highly important role in connecting the 
diasporic communities to their roots and their homelands. With the creation of the state of 
Israel in 1948, more than 50% of the local Palestinian population were driven out of their 
homelands. More than four million refugees took shelter in the neighbouring countries as 
well as in Europe and North America. A whole generation was born and brought up in 
foreign lands, cut off from their homelands and their cultural roots. The members of this 
generation are now discovering, thanks to homepages on the Internet, their religious and 
cultural traditions as well as the villages from which their parents were forced to migrate. 
The commemoration of the martyrdom of young Palestinians killed by the Israeli forces now 
takes place on the Internet. Furthermore, families create their own websites to search for lost 
relatives. Messages, images and appeals related to shared concerns are downloaded from the 
Internet, forwarded and circulated, printed and pasted in mosques, on university and on cafe 
walls. Historical pictures of Palestinian villages and towns before the exile and those of the 
intifada are amongst the most downloaded and forwarded images. The growing use of 
computer technology is thus transforming the Palestinian refugees into a transnational 
virtual community and facilitating the reconstruction of their identity. Chat rooms, websites 
and mailing lists provide the infrastructure for this virtual community. The cybercafe 
provides an amiable atmosphere for the Palestinians to meet, exchange news and messages 
and to socialize. This process is reinforced through the Palestinian television channel and the 
Palestine Broadcast Corporation. 

The Al-Jazeera, an independent 24-hour television channel with headquarters in Qatar, has 
greatly transformed public opinion in the Middle East. It is broadcasted via satellites and the 
Internet around the world. Al-Jazeera's on-the-spot telecast of the intifada and live shots of 
Israeli atrocities on the Palestinians are immediately spread on the Internet and distributed to 
a wide audience of Palestinians and other Arabs. 

There is a sizeable Iranian diaspora in North Canada, USA and Europe. The Internet is 
playing a highly significant role in connecting the diasporic Iranian communities to each 
other and to their homeland. One of the prominent online Iranian magazines is 
www.iranian.com . with several sections and links. The news section, for example, has links 
to more than 150 online Iranian magazines and newspapers. Interestingly, Iran's online 
newspapers appear much before the printed editions are available on news stands in Tehran 



84 10 S Minaret, An ( I h \4 

and other cities. In addition to magazines and newspapers, one can also access through the 
Internet Radio Payam (Tehran's local radio) as well as Radio Sada-e-Iran (a round-the-clock 
radio station located in Los Angeles). In Stockholm, Iranian local radio stations download 
programmes from the Internet and rebroadcast them for the local Iranian community. 

The Nizari Ismailis are one of the small Shii sects living in more than 25 countries across 
Asia, Africa, Europe, North America and Australia. The members of the community, who 
are generally highly educated, use computer technologies, from websites and e-mail listservs 
to weblogs and IRCS, to access and exchange information, issues and concerns of common 
interest. The Internet thus serves as a means of strengthening community solidarity and 
identity. 

Modern information and communication technologies are also increasingly being used for 
transnational ethnic and political mobilization. The Kurdish refugees in North America and 
Europe, for example, run their own television channel and extensively use the Internet for 
reinforcing community solidarity and for pushing their political agenda. 

As the use of computers, the Internet and mobile phones among Muslims is rapidly 
increasing, these services are also being used for disseminating and exchanging information 
about such things as the dates of Islamic festivals according to the Islamic calendar and 
other issues of common concern. A couple of months ago, newspapers in several European 
countries republished highly offensive cartoons of Prophet Muhammad (which were 
originally published by a Danish paper Jyllands-Posten in September 2005). This produced a 
great deal of anger and resentment among Muslims across the world. Some Muslim 
countries recalled their envoys to Denmark and declared a ban on the import of Danish 
goods. Danish goods and commodities were boycotted on a wide scale across the Muslim 
world, especially in the Middle East. Messages to boycott Danish goods were extensively 
circulated and forwarded through mobile phones and the Internet. 

Modern computer technologies have great potential and prospects in store for the 
dissemination and exchange of Islamic materials, for forging communitarian unity, for 
effectively responding to the challenges facing the Muslim ummah, and for reinforcing 
Islamic identity. 



10 S Minaret, sin Online Islamic Magazine 




'Don't touch my headscarf 
IOS Research Network 

Jack Straw, Britain's former foreign secretary and current leader of the 
Commons, stirred up a hornet's nest on October 6 by stating that the 
veil creates a barrier and "separateness" between Muslims and other 
people and makes relations between communities more difficult. Straw, 
who has been known as a fair-minded advocate of minority rights, said 
in his controversial remarks that when he meets Muslim women from 
his Blackburn constituency — which has a large Muslim presence — he 
often asks them to remove their veils so that he could have a real, face- 
to-face interaction. 

Britain's prime minister Tony Blair joined the debate, saying, "It is important these issues are 
raised and discussed and I think it is perfectly sensible if you raise it in a measured and 
considered way, which Straw did." On October 17 he said that the veil was a "mark of 
separation" between the Muslim community and the rest of British society and that's why it 
makes other people from outside the community feel uncomfortable. The prime-minister-in- 
waiting chancellor Gordon Brown and another cabinet minister Harriet Harman also 
expressed their support for Straw's views. Harman argued that those who wear the veil are 
cutting themselves off from the rest of society. 

Britain's shadow home secretary David Davis said in an article 

in the Sunday Telegraph that religious divisions were 

threatening to corrode fundamental values such as freedom of 

speech. He said that what Jack touched on was the fundamental 

issue of whether, in Britain, we are developing a divided society, 

whether we are creating a series of closed societies within our 

open society, whether we are inadvertently encouraging a kind 

of voluntary apartheid. He added that there was a feeling some Muslim leaders wanted to be 

protected "from criticism, argument, parody, satire and all the other challenges that happen 

in a society that has free speech as its highest value." 

London Mayor, Ken Livingstone, has also weighed into the debate, saying he would like 
Muslims to give up the veil. But he suggested that change was not something that could be 
imposed from outside the Muslim community. A day after Straw made his controversial 
remarks, a white young man, shouting racist abuse, tore a Muslim woman's veil from her 

face. 




Jack Straw's remarks evoked a strong reaction from Britain's Muslim community. Lord Nazir 
Ahmed complained there was a constant theme of demonization of the Muslim community 
and politicians and journalists were jumping on a bandwagon because it is fashionable these 
days to have a go at the Muslims. Massoud Shadjareh, chairman of the Islamic Human 
Rights Commission in Britain, said it was astonishing Straw chose to "selectively 
discriminate on the basis of religion." Rajnaara Akhtar, head of an organization called 
Protect-Hijab, added that the "appalling comments showed a deep lack of understanding." 



IOS 'Minaret, sin Online Islamic Magazine 



An estimated 70 people, including 20 Muslim women in veils, demonstrated in Straw's 
constituency against his comments. 

Straw was also criticized by the opposition Liberal Democrat constitutional affairs 
spokesman Simon Hughes, who questioned whether a British MP had the right to criticize 
the way people in his constituency dressed. Oliver Letwin, the main opposition Conservative 
Party's policy chief, added that if Muslim women wanted to wear the veil they cannot be 
prevented from doing so. He said it was dangerous to suggest that they should not be 
allowed to. Hazel Blears, chairwoman of Labour Party, said there was a need for debate on 
the issue but insisted "I don't think it's right for government to lay down laws about what 
people wear and what they shouldn't." 

A couple of days after Straw's controversial remarks, Aishah Azmi, a 23-year old Muslim 
teaching assistant at Headfield Church of England Junior School in West Yorkshire, was 
suspended for refusing to remove her veil in class. She told the BBC that she could remove 
the veil, but not in front of male colleagues. She added that her veil had not caused problems 
with the children with whom she had a "brilliant relationship." 

The hijab issue in Europe 

The controversy over the Islamic headscarf has been 

simmering in Europe for the past few years and has gained an 

added impetus following the terrorist attack on the United 

States in September 2001 and the attack on London in July 

2005. In France, the controversy erupted in 1989 when three 

Muslim girls wore headscarves to their public school in Creil, a 

suburb in the north of Paris. The event triggered a heated 

public debate. Some commentators argued that the incident 

reflected a clash between the identity of (Muslim) immigrants 

and the French national identity, which is defined by laicite (France's secularism) and the 

republican model of cultural assimilation. In their eyes, the controversy provided a 

confirmation of the fact that Islam was incompatible with the secular principles of French 

society. 

The controversy resurfaced in 1994 when the right-wing French government issued a 
circular to public schools forbidding the wearing of any ostentatious religious symbols, such 
as the headscarf, in public schools. It was argued that public schools in France represented 
the very embodiment of national ideology of egalitarianism and secularism. The French 
education minister Francois Bayrou declared in the parliamentary debates on the headscarf 
issue in October 1994 that 'French national identity is inseparable from its schools.' In the 
same year, some Muslim girls wearing headscarves were expelled from a public school. 

In 2003, President Jacques Chirac appointed a commission under the chairmanship of 
Bernard Stasi, a former minister, to consider the question of religious symbols in public 
schools. The Stasi Commission suggested in its report, submitted in 2003, that wearing 
conspicuous religious symbols, such as the Islamic headscarf, should be banned in public 





K)S Minnnt, /hi Onlnii Ishui/u Magazine 87 

schools. The report was accepted and implemented by the government. However, 
headscarves can be worn in private Muslim schools and at the university where the law on 
religious symbols does not apply. 

The headscarf controversy in France affected other 
European countries. It surfaced in Belgium in 2003. The 
schools in Brussels dependent on the municipal network 
decided in 2003 to disallow the registration of students 
wearing headscarves. Muslim students reacted to the ban 
by setting up a collective called 'Don't touch my headscarf, 
which bears allusion to the successful anti-racist campaign 
of SOS Racisme ('Don't touch my mate') in France during 
the 1980s. The decision to ban headscarves in schools in 
Brussels generated an intense public debate. Two French- 
speaking members of the federal parliament introduced a bill in the Belgian senate to ban the 
headscarf in public places. The present position in Belgium is that each school has the 
freedom to adopt its own policy on the issue. 

In the Netherlands, the wearing of headscarves by three Moroccan girls in a French public 
school in 1989 generated an intense public debate. The editor-in-chief of a Dutch feminist 
monthly declared in 2000 that she would in no case accept a woman with a headscarf as an 
editor of her magazine, which added fuel to the controversy. In 2003, some faculty members 
at Leiden University objected to the presence of two Muslim students wearing headscarves 
in class on the ground that face covering 'impeded interactive communication in the class 
room and caused teachers and other students to be uncomfortable.' They brought the matter 
to the Dean of the Faculty who placed it before the University Board. The Board decided to 
ban face covering in the class room. In January 2006 the Dutch parliament voted to ban the 
headscarf. 

In September 2004, local politicians in the north of Italy resurrected old laws against the 
wearing of masks to ban the Islamic headscarf. In July 2005, the Italian parliament approved 
anti-terrorist laws which make hiding one's features from the public — including through 
wearing the veil — an offence. 

Germany has followed a fairly liberal policy in respect of the veil. The provinces have the 
freedom to adopt their own policy regarding the wearing of veils or headscarves in schools. 
The Federal Administrative Court in Germany ruled that a Muslim girl can be exempted 
from swimming lessons if these are not sexually segregated. In 2003 an interesting case 
related to the wearing of headscarf by a teacher in the class room came up before the 
German Supreme Court. The plaintiff, a Muslim woman born in Afghanistan in 1972, had 
lived in Germany from 1987 and acquired German nationality in 1995. In 1998, she had 
completed her education to become a teacher in an elementary school, but was refused 
commission because she was not willing to remove her headscarf before class. In her 
petition she maintained that her wearing of the headscarf represented individual and 
religiously motivated conduct that was protected by the German constitution. The Supreme 
Court gave its verdict in her favour, saying that the wearing of headscarf by a civil servant in 



88 10 S Minaret, An Online Islamic Magazine 

front of a class of students is constitutionally protected by the principle of freedom of 
religion. 

In Britain, 80 to 90 per cent of students in several inner-city schools are Muslim. In the 
1970s a big controversy erupted over school uniforms that required girls to wear short skirts. 
Girls who did not comply with the requirement were expelled from schools and in some 
cases parents took their daughters out of school over the issue. A Muslim liaison committee 
was formed in Bradford to negotiate with the local authorities about this issue. 
Compromises were eventually worked out, allowing Muslim girls to wear trousers as long as 
the trousers match the colour of the school uniform. Girls are now generally allowed to put 
on headscarves and they can wear tracksuits for physical education classes. Several schools 
have tried to organize separate swimming classes for boys and girls. 

The ban on hijab in Muslim countries 

Some Muslim countries, notably Turkey and Tunisia, have 

banned the wearing of headscarves in schools and 

government offices. In some Muslim countries, the ruling 

establishment, military junta and the educated elite 

continue to be under the strong influence of Western 

culture and secularism. They tend to look down upon 

those of their compatriots who are deeply committed to 

Islamic values, traditions and cultural symbols and often 

make them a target of ridicule, derision and victimization. 

In 1999, Merve Kavakci, a computer scientist who was 

elected a member of the Turkish parliament, was 

prevented from taking oath and was subsequently stripped of her Turkish citizenship 

because she entered parliament with her Islamic headscarf. Earlier, her father, Yusuf Ziya 

Kavakci, had to resign as Dean of the Faculty of Islamic Studies at Ataturk University on 

account of supporting Muslim women's right to wear the hijab. Her mother lost her teaching 

position at the same university for wearing the hijab. The family had to migrate to the United 

States. 

In May 2006, a gunman shot dead one judge and wounded four others in a senior court in 
Turkey. It appears that one of the wounded judges had ruled last year against teachers 
wearing the Islamic headscarf. The gunman is reported to have shouted, 'I am the soldier of 
God!' 

Tunisia passed a law in 1981, which prohibits women from wearing the Islamic veil in public 
places. Recently the Tunisian authorities have launched a campaign against the veil. Police 
have been stopping women on the streets and asking them to remove their headscarves and 
to sign pledges that they will not go back to wearing them. 

The American University in Cairo, a foreign private university located in Egypt, banned the 
wearing of the headscarf in 2001 on the ground that face covering is inherently incompatible 
with the principles and practices of liberal education and that it presented security and 




K)S Minant, /hi Onlnh Ishui/u Magazine 89 

identification problems. The University justified the ban by invoking a 1994 Ministry of 
Education order, upheld by the Supreme Constitutional Court in 1996, which forbids the 
wearing of the veil at national educational institutions. Despite the order and the court 
ruling, enforcing the ban on the wearing of headscarves has proved exceedingly difficult. 
Scores of Egyptian students continue to wear the hijab, At the American University in Cairo 
the number of students wearing the headscarf has actually increased since the ban took 
effect. 

The headscarf in historical and Islamic perspective 

Long before Islam, the use of veiling for women appears to have existed in the Hellenistic- 
Byzantine era and among the Sasanians of Persia. In ancient Mesopotamia, the veil was 
regarded as a symbol of respectability and high social status for women. The practice of 
veiling and seclusion of women was a part of the Judaeo-Christian tradition. At the 
beginning of Christianity, Jewish women used to cover their head and face. Veiling is 
frequently mentioned in the Old Testament texts. Thus the Book of Genesis says "And 

Rebekah lifted up her eyes and when she saw Isaac she 

took her veil and covered herself (24:65; see also Isaiah 
3:23; Corinthians 11:3-7). 

Veiling is explicitly prescribed in the Quran and the 
Traditions of the Prophet and has been a matter of universal 
consensus among Muslim scholars and jurists over the past 
fourteen centuries of the Islamic era. Thus the Quran says: 
"Tell the believing men to lower their gaze and be modest. 
That is pure for them. And tell the believing women to lower 
their gaze and be modest and display of their adornment 
only that which is apparent and to draw their head cover over their bosoms, and not to 
reveal their adornment save to their own husbands" (24:30-31). Another verse states: "O 
Prophet, tell thy wives and thy daughters, and the believing women, that they should cast 
their outer garments over their persons (when out of doors), that is most convenient, that 
they should be known (as such) and not be molested" (33:59). However, jurists differ 
whether it is obligatory for a woman to cover her face as well. 

The Western perception of the veil 

In Western perception, veiling is commonly associated with the seclusion of women, which 
is turn is linked to their subordination and to the patriarchal ideology. It is regarded as an 
infringement of women's rights and their freedom. It is argued that the veil inhibits the 
integration of Muslims in Western societies. Unfortunately, all these assumptions are based 
on lack of understanding and prejudice. The veil is essentially a symbol of religious and 
cultural identity, privacy and self-respect. 

European societies accord the highest importance to freedom and human rights. Muslim 
women in Western societies or elsewhere want to voluntarily wear the headscarf in the name 
of the same freedom which is such a major part of the European liberal tradition. How can 




90 10 S Minaret, AnOnlin h <nu Magazine 

one profess freedom and liberalism and at the same time deny another individual or 
community the same right? How can one think of imposing the dress pattern and lifestyle of 
the majority population on minority groups while pretending to swear by democratic values? 
Banning the headscarf represents forced homogenization and thereby smacks of cultural 
totalitarianism. 



IOS Minaret, in On I u Is/a . Magazine 91 

SNAPSHOTS OF ISLAMIC LEGACY 

Professor A. R. Momin 

Islam and the globalization of science and technology 

A great deal of hype and euphoria surrounds the process of globalization, which is hailed as 
the most distinctive feature of the present era. Undoubtedly, the scale, magnitude and reach 
of the processes subsumed under globalization are unprecedented in the annals of human 
history. However, it will not be correct to regard globalization as an altogether new 
phenomenon. In the past, vast empires, large-scale conquests, massive migrations of people, 
and the diffusion of ideas and beliefs as well as science and technology over large territories 
exhibited several features of globalization. 

A movement for the globalization of science and philosophy was set in motion in the 
Islamic world during the medieval period. This movement was marked by extensive 
translations of scientific and philosophical works from Greece, India, Persia and Egypt, a 
synthesis of the researches of Muslim scientists and those of other lands, the establishment 
of scientific institutions, the employment of Arabic as the lingua franca of scientific research, 
translation and communication, and the creation of a community of scientists and translators 
from different religious, ethnic and religious backgrounds. Roger Bacon acknowledged that 
almost all of Aristotle's works were available only in Arabic translations, with only a small 
percentage having been translated into Latin. He asserted that without Arabic, Greek 
knowledge would have never reached the Europeans. Montgomery Watt has remarked that 
no people in the world translated from foreign languages as much as Muslims. George 
Sarton, the celebrated historian of science, has observed that, prior to the 15 th century, 
almost all the works of classical writers were available only in Arabic. 

Scientific institutions, such as observatories, scientific academies, medical colleges, libraries 
and hospitals, which were established by Muslim rulers and members of the nobility and 
supported through waqf endowments, played a highly important role in the globalization of 
science. The most remarkable scientific institution in the early centuries of the Islamic era 
was Bayt al-Hikmah founded by Caliph Al-Mamun in Baghdad in the early decades of the 9 th 
century. It was in this institution that nearly the whole corpus of scientific and philosophical 
literature from Greece, Persia and India was rendered into Arabic. 

The translators of scientific and philosophical works included not only Muslims but also 
Jews, Christians, Sabaeans, Magians and Hindus. One of the most prolific translators was 
Hunayn ibn Ishaq or Johannitus (d. 877), who was a Syrian Christian. It is significant to note 
that the seven volumes of Galen's Anatomy are extant only in the form of its Arabic 
translation by Hunayn ibn Ishaq. Ibn Maymun or Maimonides (d. 1204), a brilliant scientist 
and translator, was a Spanish rabbi. Other important translators were Thabit ibn Qurra (d. 
901), who was a Magian, Abu Bishr Matta (d. 940) and Qusta ibn Luqa (d. 912), both 
Christians, and Ali ibn Abbas al-Majusi (d. 994), a Magian. 



92 IOS Minaret, An Online L m \\ 

The scientific legacy of Islamic civilization greatiy contributed to the European Renaissance. 
(See]. R. Hayes: The Genius of Arab Civilization: Source of Renaissance. Cambridge, Mass, 
1983). 

In his recent book Identity and Violence: The Illusion of Destiny (Penguin 2006), Nobel Laureate 
Amartya Sen has paid handsome tributes to the role of Islamic civilization in the 
globalization of science and technology. To quote him: 

Muslim engineers were responsible for the development and use of the technology of 
irrigation in the form of acequias in Spain, drawing on the innovations they had introduced 
earlier in the dry lands in the Middle East. This allowed, more than a thousand years ago, the 
cultivation of crops, fruits and vegetables, and the pasturing of animals on what had earlier 
been completely dry European land. Indeed, Muslim technologists were in charge of this 
admirable technical job over many centuries. 

Furthermore, Muslim mathematicians and scientists had a significant role in the globalization 
of technical knowledge through the movement of ideas across the Old World. For example, 
the decimal system and some early results in trigonometry went from India to Europe in the 
early years of the second millennium, transmitted through the works of Arab and Iranian 
mathematicians. Also, the Latin versions of the mathematical results of Indian 
mathematicians Aryabhata, Varahmihira and Brahmagupta, from their Sanskrit treatises 
produced between the fifth and seventh centuries appeared in Europe through two distinct 
steps, going first from Sanskrit to Arabic and then to Latin. As leaders of innovative thought in 
that period in history, Muslin/ 'It ong the most a tted globali^ers of science and 

mathematics. The religion of the people involved, whether Muslim or Hindu or Christian, 
made little difference to the scholarly commitments of these Muslim leaders of mathematics 
or science. 

Similarly, many of the Western classics, particularly from ancient Greece, survived only 
through their Arabic translations, to be retranslated, mostly into Latin, in the early centuries 
of the second millennium, preceding the European Renaissance. The Arabic translations 
were originally made not, obviously, for preservation, but for contemporary use in the 
Arabic-speaking world — a world of some considerable expanse at the turn of the first 
millennium, (pp. 69-70, emphasis added) 

Islam's multicultural legacy in Spain 

The contribution of Islamic civilization to the promotion and advancement of knowledge, 
especially through an innovative amalgamation and creative synthesis of learning and science 
drawn from different sources, the creation of an environment of tolerance and 
accommodation, and to the onward march of human civilization — through the harvesting of 
nature's resources, science and medicine, engineering and technology, arts and crafts, 
architecture — constitutes one of the most illuminating chapters in human history. It is 
gratifying to note that there is now a growing recognition and appreciation of Islam's 
monumental role in the enrichment of human civilization. 



10 S Minaret, sin Online Islamic Magazine 



<).] 



capabilities of 
traditions. 



In a speech given on September 26, 2001, 
Carly Fiorina, president of Hewlett 
Packard, observed: 

When other nations were afraid of ideas, 
this civilization (of Islam) thrived on them, 
and kept them alive. When censors 
threatened to wipe out knowledge from 
past civilizations, this civilization kept the 
knowledge alive, and passed it on to 

others Although we are often unaware 

of our indebtedness to this civilization, its 
gifts are very much a part of our heritage. 
The technology industry would not exist 
without the contributions of Arab 
mathematicians. Leaders like (the Ottoman 
Emperor) Sulayman the Magnificent 
contributed to our notions of tolerance and 
civic leadership. And perhaps we can learn a 
lesson from his example: it was leadership 
based on meritocracy, not inheritance. It 
was leadership that harvested the full 
very diverse population — that included Christian, Islamic and Jewish 




One may add that the inspiration for these lofty ideals was provided by the teachings of the 
Holy Quran and the precepts of Prophet Muhammad. The Quran repeatedly urges Muslims 
to closely observe natural phenomena and to ponder over the mysteries of the universe and 
of the human psyche. It emphasizes the pursuit of knowledge as the key to all-round well- 
being and development. The Prophet regarded the acquisition of knowledge and learning as 
an obligation on every believer. He declared that "wisdom is (like) the lost animal of a 
Muslim; he should catch hold of it wherever he finds it." He exhorted his followers to carry 
the torch of knowledge and enlightenment far and wide, and warned against concealing or 
withholding it. Islam opened the portals of knowledge to one and all, men and women, rich 
and poor, king and slave. This refreshingly open, dynamic and egalitarian approach to 
knowledge brought about far-reaching and revolutionary consequences not only for Muslims 
but also for human civilization as a whole. 



Between the fifth and fifteenth centuries, when Europe was enveloped in the Dark Ages, the 
Iberian peninsula under Muslim rule witnessed a spectacular efflorescence of science and 
medicine, philosophy and literature, technology and engineering, art and architecture and, 
above all, of tolerance and multiculturalism where Muslims, Christians and Jews lived and 
worked together in unimaginable harmony. Samuel ha-Nagid, a Jewish rabbi, was appointed 
the vizier of the kingdom of Cordoba. He led his largely Muslim soldiers into battle, with 
prayers on his lips for the victory of his beloved land. 



94 10 S Minaret, An OnL h nu Magazine 

Amartya Sen, in his recent books Identity and Violence: The Illusion of Destiny (Penguin 2006) 
and The Argumentative Indian (Penguin 2005), has written that when Maimonides, the Jewish 
philosopher was forced to emigrate from an intolerant Europe in the 12 th century, he found 
a tolerant refuge in the Arab world. His host, who gave him an honoured and influential 
position in his court in Cairo, was none other than Emperor Saladin (Identity and Violence, p. 
66; The Argumentative Indian, p. 286). Sen quotes a contemporary writer Maria Rosa Menocal 
who says in her recent book The Ornament of the World: How Muslims, Jews and Christians Created 
a Culture of Tolerance (New York: Little Brown 2002) that by the 10 th century, the achievement 
of Cordoba in Muslim-rule Spain in being "as serious a contender as Baghdad, perhaps more 
so, for the title of most civilized place on earth" was due to the constructive influence of the 
joint work of Caliph Abd al-Rahman III and his Jewish vizier Hasdai ibn Shaprut. Menocal 
argues that the position of Jews after the Muslim conquest "was in every respect an 
improvement, as they went from persecuted to protected minority" (quoted in Identity and 
Violence, p. 66). 

It may be added that during the Keconquista (or Reconquest) the Spanish Queen Isabel and 
King Ferdinand expelled Muslims, Jews, and gypsies from Spain in 1492. Large numbers of 
Jews took shelter in Muslim lands. In Turkey they were received with open arms by the 
Mayor of Istanbul. It is significant to note that Ladino, a dialect spoken by the Spanish Jews, 
survived only in the eastern Mediterranean lands which were part of the Ottoman Empire. 

Museo Vivo de Al-Andalus, a unique museum established by the distinguished Muslim scholar 
and statesman Roger Garaudy in Cordoba, brings out the cultural and intellectual legacy of 
Muslim Spain through modern audio-visual techniques. 

Even today, Spanish tradition cannot be understood without the Islamic legacy and cultural 
heritage. Spanish language is replete with thousands of words of Arabic origin. Most of the 
family names as well as names of places and regions in Spain betray their Arabic origins. The 
regional division of Spain into 17 communities points to the continuing legacy of the Muslim 
period. 



K)S Minnnt, /hi Onlnii Ishui/u Magazine 95 

MULTICULTURALISM ON TRIAL 

The exclusion of Muslims and the construction of national identity in Spain 

R. Zapata-Barrero, Associate Professor of Political Theory, 
Grup de Recerca sobre Immigracio i Innovacio Politica 
(GRIIP), Department of Social and Political Science, 
Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona, Spain 

( ricard.2apata@upf.edu) 




1. Political discourse on multiculturalism in Europe 

In Europe, "circumstances of multiculturality" are mainly 
related to religion and the interrelation between Muslim 
communities and non-Muslim European citizens. Reflections on Muslim communities and 
political management of cultural pluralism necessitate an analysis of facts in political 
discourses. A reflection not so much on the discourse of power, but on the. power of discourse is 
necessary. In this short essay I intend to offer a conceptual framework of why and how 
interpretations are constructed to manage cultural pluralism in general and regarding the 
Muslim communities in Spain in particular. The Spanish case demonstrates how different 
political traditions and powers employed discourse as a barrier for exclusion of the Muslim 
communities. The purpose of anti-Muslims measures is to avoid losing voters to the far 
right parties. This is the primary concern of many governments, the only intentional logic 
that directs the politic body. As such we are not in the realm of the discourse of politics but of 
the politics of discourse. Discourse becomes a political option, a common practice for most 
traditional European political parties, especially when they have to communicate a speech 
about cultural diversity. These politics of discourse aim to gain and maintain power, by securing 
the majority of votes through traditional and populist rhetoric. 

This discursive strategy is mainly based not only on stereotypes and negative pictures of 
Muslim people, and other defense mechanism of the social structure, but on a simplistic, 
reductionist and monolithic interpretation of Muslim communities. Political discourse 
generates problems instead of solving them, fracturing society in two parts, pro and against 
Muslims. In citizens' terms, the difference between Muslim and non-Muslim citizens 
becomes by itself an explanatory category. 

It is true that we cannot say that a conflict arises every time there is contact between an 
immigrant/citizen of Muslim origin and a non-Muslim, but on the whole it is frequent for the 
Muslims to have serious problems performing their culture and religion in a public space 
originally created and occupied by non-Muslim citizens. 1 In short, we are faced with what would 
qualify as a structural problem of multiculturalism. 11 There is a tendency to identify Muslims for 
what they are (their religious affiliation) rather than by what they do (like any other citizen). 1 " 
These negative interpretations are the main variable explaining why contact zones are 
transformed into conflict zones. Conflicts related to cultural pluralism are a matter of 
interpretation. Indeed, one of the channels where this picture is produced and enforced is the media 



96 10 S Minaret, A.n Onlin h m \4 

which, consciously or unconsciously, conveys at least three negative pictures of Muslims that serve 
to legitimate racist and xenophobic attitudes: Muslims are linked to Bin Laden, with criminal 
activities, and inspire an immediate threat; Arab people are opposed to democracy because their 
Muslim practice violates the most elementary human rights; and finally, as a corollary, Islam is 
identified with barbarism. 

What makes the Muslim community a problem in Europe is then the distorted and hostile 
discourse on Islam that sprung up from historical misrepresentations, enforced by today's 
misperceptions propagated by the media. Despite the fact that these images are based on gross 
generalizations and stereotypes, they have shown durability and continuity over time to the 
extent that they have dominated the European discourse as facts. The main argument to be 
defended is then that from an homogeneous and simplistic view of Islam and the Muslim 
Community, whish nourishes reactive discourse with populist rhetoric and conservatism 
discourse based on tradition rhetoric, a reflection on the politics of discourse is urgent, a political 
discourse pluralizing the Muslim European citizenry and incorporating then within the European 
historical path. 

2. The populist rhetoric and the rhetoric of tradition governing discourse towards 
Muslims 

From a social psychological point of view we know that when there is social fear of an 
unknown community, citizens tend to search for arguments to explain their feelings. These 
arguments help them to rationalize their emotions. The arguments citizens currently find in 
the public arena come mainly from the media, tradition, and political discourse. The 
argument to be defended is not that Islam is a source of social and political instability, but it 
is the perception that citizens have of Islam and the interpretation politicians intentionally 
and tacitly follow that are the main sources of instability. For instance, it is not the presence 
of a mosque in a city that provokes instability, but the perception that citizens have of a 
mosque which transforms this previous contact zone into a conflict zone. 

In most surveys, the media are seen to consolidate the perception that Muslim communities 
are not only extremely different from us but can also endanger our values and current ways 
of life. When the media try to correct this tendency, they are inclined to go to the other 
extreme and build an exotic icon of the Muslim, close to the Rousseauesque universe, as an 
uncivilized but kind-natured human being, who reminds us of the philosophical discourses 
after the conquest of America in the 16 th and 17 th centuries. iv In reality, the public's 
perception of Muslims is based on media discourse rather than direct contact. The politics of 
discourse nourishes these arguments. It builds a re-active and conservative discourse against 
the cultural and religious demands of pluralism. From the viewpoint of the re-active 
discourse, cultural pluralism may transform the various spheres of life. Circumstances of 
multiculturalism are seen as negative. Two types of rhetoric occupy the political space: the 
populist rhetoric and the rhetoric of the tradition. 

The populist rhetoric uses the argument of democracy in a way that appeals to and satisfies 
citizens. But in reality it appeals only to a sector of the society in the name of the whole 
society. It creates conflicts of interests between the societal majority (the non-Muslim 
citizens) and the minority (the Muslim immigrants/citizens). This rhetoric is nourished with 



10 S Minaret in Oi I Magadan 97 

the "popular" referent, linking it with the security and the maintenance of the socio- 
economic level. v Populism is, in fact, "democracy badly understood." It supposedly 
addresses the interest of the whole society while in reality it addresses only the interest of a 
sector of the society (non-Muslim citizens), but not the Muslim citizens. 

Populism is a discourse that invertebrates and fractures society. The populist rhetoric has a 
"re-active" function, since its arguments are built on the "complaints" of common citizens 
with the objective of translating them into social action against other sectors of the society, 
confusing the reality and the ideal of the society. Populism has an "essentialist" component, 
since the interests and needs of the non-Muslim citizens are seen as unchangeable, and as the 
only criteria to be politically considered in managing "circumstances of multiculturalism." It 
uses the perception of one part of the citizenry as democratic truth. It has also a dualistic 
logic given arguments to the extreme that the needs of some (non-Muslims or Muslims) are 
seen as incompatible with the needs (social, cultural, economic) of others. vi 

The rhetoric of the Tradition does not have the interest as reference framework (the interest 
of the Muslim/non-Muslim citizens), but a set of beliefs and values homogenizing the 
society. Before the link between security and maintenance of the socio-economic level that 
characterizes to the populist rhetoric this conservative discourse produces basically 
arguments based on identity. Its basic framework is that the tradition, understood as a set of 
established values and beliefs having persisted over several generations and as process of 
transmission of uses and customs from generation to generation, vii breaks with cultural 
pluralism. Tradition is a defense to maintain the sacred chain of the self and his/her history. 
It has, then, a vital function in the political body, the sacred purpose to maintain social 
cohesion. This new rhetoric is opposed to the process of change in which we are, since 
cultural pluralism affects the values of the most essential tradition: values tied to identity and 
community. Before the process of structural change provoked by the politics of cultural 
pluralism, this rhetoric seek, in words of Hirshman (who analyses the rhetoric of re-action in 
the 19th and 20th century provoked in the process of acquisition of rights), to "turn the 
clock back" viii 

But this it is not a historical exception. In all processes of structural change, beginning with 
the French revolution, a conservative re-active line of thought is generated. Indeed, the 
conservative tradition began to produce its arguments inspired by the context of the French 
structural revolutionary change. The framework of reference of E. Burke, for example, was 
to defend the respect of the tradition of the English revolution set against the French one, 
which broke literally the chain of historical transmission. 114 This rhetoric of the new 
conservatism takes tradition as the main producer of arguments. In our identity terms, here 
enter the arguments to maintain our Apostolic, Catholic-Roman, and Christian tradition, set 
against other religious sources of identity. Tradition is our cultural alter ego. It nourishes the 
politics against the demands of cultural pluralism. Tradition is the last source of recognition 
and plays an almost sacred role, since from some initial rational arguments we can penetrate 
easily to strong emotions directly related to our identity. 



IOS Minaret, /hi Online Islamic Magazine 



3. Maurophobia and Spanish identity-building process 

Of all immigrant groups, the Moroccan immigrant best represents "the cultural other", 
because neither language nor religion is shared with Spaniards. Muslim presence and 
practices moreover have constantly been associated with negative news in the media, thereby 
leading to "Maurophobia". Islam has historically been excluded from the formation of the 
Spanish (Christian) identity (R. Zapata-Barrero, 2006). This is why there are some discourses 
that tends to view Moroccan immigration as a threat to the Spanish identity, Moroccan as 
potential "cultural invaders," or even as a new Arab invasion (J. de Lucas, 2002; 23-48), or 
the re-Islamization of Spain (G. Martin Munoz, 1996; 9-16). Immigration has been 
incorporated into the political discourse at the expense of one specific ethnic group: 
Moroccans. 

This aspect of Spanish nation-building is also nourished by media, which constantly associate 
the most negative news with Muslim presence and practices. The Spanish authorities that draw 
on these historical stereotypes to restrict the public space available to the Muslim community 
also drive the presentation of a "process of Islamization" of Spain. In this situation, the 
construction of Muslim facilities acquires vital importance, and so too is the Muslim presence in 
schools and the redesigning of cemeteries. 

Since the tragedy of El Ejido, in February 2000, x but surely also as a consequence of the attacks 
in New York (11 September 2001), in Madrid (11 March 2004), and in London (7 July 2005), 
there has been an explicit and intentional policy favoring Central and Eastern European and 
South American immigrants over Moroccans. Moroccans were until recently the most 
numerous foreign nationality in Spain (about 21.8% of the foreign population), followed by 
Ecuadorians, who accounted for 7.6%. Although the latest statistics (2004) show that 
Ecuadorians have surpassed Moroccans. xl Moreover, the first bilateral agreements for 
importing immigrant workers were signed with Ecuador and Poland. The only logical 
explanation for this policy is based on race and the Christian identity, i.e., the protection of the 
Spanish identity against those viewed as potential "cultural invaders," or even as a new Arab 
invasion, 55 " or re-Islamisation of Spain. xiil 

There is a historical Spanish tradition of Maurophobia present in the social and political 
discourses, and it is used to legitimate citizens' attitudes against Muslim immigration in Spain. xiv 
This Spanish identity-building is also nourished by media which constantly remind us that the 
most negative news are related to Muslims' presence and practices. Islam has historically been 
excluded from the formation of the Judeo-Christian Spanish identity in which the formation of 
a Christian "us" has been opposed to an Islamic "other." xv The process of Islamisation of 
Spain through the presence of Muslim immigrants is also driven by the Spanish authorities who 
draw on these historical stereotypes to restrict the public space available to the Muslim 
community, forcing its members to close on themselves and search for their own identity, since 
the identity of Spanish citizenship is not open to them. In this situation, the construction of 
Muslim facilities acquires vital importance and so, too, the Muslim presence in schools and the 
redesigning of cemeteries to allow for Muslim funeral rites. 



10 S Minaret, /hi Online Islamic Magazine 



These evidences are the premises for an analysis linking the Muslim community and the 
Spanish tradition. The analysis is typically approached from two different perspectives. One 
perspective argues that Islam belongs to the Spanish cultural tradition and identity. The 
other argues that Islam is alien to the Spanish cultural tradition and identity, which is based 
on the Greco-Roman and Judeo-Christian heritage. Consequently each perspective employs 
different form of political discourse. Indeed, Spain has two ways of managing differences 
related to muslim community 

The first approach defends the idea that there is one tradition rather than two. It 
demonstrates that Spain is the only Western European context in which the Islamic tradition 
developed a cultural society and a political system that lasted centuries. Spain is the only 
country in Western Europe to have been Islamized for so long (we know that the Balkans 
and Sicily were also Islamised). Thus, this perspective gives rise to a political discourse 
emphasizing what is common. 

The second perspective portrays two separate traditions that have been historically at odds. 
It follows a political discourse that stresses what is different between the Muslim and 
Spanish traditions, what separates the two traditions. It has also constructed a hostile 
tradition by drawing a negative picture of the Moroccan, synthesized in the figure of "the 
Moor" ("<?/ moro ,r ). The main line of this argument is that current Spanish tradition is the 
result of the Christian victory over Islam. Muslim people are by nature unable to be 
integrated into a society and a public sphere that is replete with Catholic customs. The 
Spanish public sphere is structurally Catholic. 

This historical iconography of the Moors belongs to Spanish tradition and is at the 
foundation of the Spanish identity and nation building. Two main periods can be identified 
in the process of Spanish nation-building: The period of the "Reconquista" and Catholics 
Kings in the XVth century, and the critical period of a loss of Spanish identify at the end of 
the XlXth century, when Spain decline of main colonies, mainly from Latin- America forced 
to rethink what does Spanish means? Having lost politically population and territory control 
through colonies, A building of a new notion of community arise, with the notion of 
Hispanidad, through which there were a strategy to sep culturally an homogeneous 
community which was lost politically through the period of de-colonization. A sense of 
belonging to a broader "Hispanic" community was built. These facts show that in Spain, 
tradition matters. We cannot understand the citizens' perception of - and attitude against - 
the Moroccan community in Spain today only in terms of sociological and political variables 
and without historical arguments. 

Since the period of the Reconquista or Reconquest, when the Spanish Queen Isabel and King 
Ferdinand, known as the Catholic Kings, using mainly Christian arguments, expelled the 
Muslims (together with the Jews and the gypsies) from Spain in 1492. The presence of the 
kingdom of Al Andalus over eight centuries (from 711 to 1492) finished in fact in 1609 with 
the expulsion of the moriscos (that is, Muslims who converted to Christianity and stayed in 
Spain after the Reconquista; today we would call them "Spaniards of Muslim origin"). If this is 
the beginning, other phases of Spanish history contribute to this negative picture of the 



100 10 S Minaret, An ( ' ti u /> mu Magazine 

Moors. E. Martin Corrales in an excellent work tracing this historical construction of the 
Moors, reminds us that the propaganda of the Reconquista worked to disqualify and satanise 
the Islamic religion. 5 ™ As well as emphasising some ethnic and physical characteristics of 
these believers, it allowed for the formation of a corpus of stereotypes and clearly degrading 
cliches (depicting them as impure, treasonous, false, evil, perfidious, cruel, cowardly, lewd 
and so on). The process of negative construction of the image of the Muslims intensified 
from the 16 th to 18 th centuries, when Muslim corsairs filled the ports of the southern 
Mediterranean with Christian slaves. 

Symbolically, then, it is meaningful that the Spanish identity has been codified as a negation of 
this historical debt, since the Sephardic Jews were expelled from Spain at the same time as the 
Muslims and gypsies, in the symbolic year of 1492, the official date of the beginning of the 
conquest of America and the global expansion of Spanish Catholicism and messianism (indeed 
the first global politics even conducted). The politics of the so-called Catholic Kings has many 
elements of what today we would refer to as ethnic cleansing. Behind this, there is also the 
politically constructed idea of Hispanidad, developed at the beginning of the 20 th century, 
precisely to counterweigh the loss of the last colonies in America (particularly Cuba in 1898). 
This idea of Hispanidad was also used under the Franco regime (1940-1975) to refer to a 
community of people linked together by linguistic and religious criteria. Within this framework, 
Hispanidad was clearly used politically to build a culturally homogeneous society and the 
discourse of exclusion. 

Instead of having a socializing and pedagogic effect, this political discourse generates 
divergence and instability in the society. Politicians not only avoid talking about immigration, 
but when they do so, their discursive behavior is alarmist and even contains populist 
components linking the Muslim community to insecurity and social instability. The reality is 
that in Spain there is an apparent absence of integrationist politics, a lack of political will to 
include Muslims in the public sphere. In an integrationist framework that favors the 
sentiment of social belonging, Islam could develop in Spain, and in general in Europe, 
without conflict. Instead, it tends to turn into a closed and hostile space where Muslims 
search for their identity and their community.™ 

This political discourse generates divergence and instability in society. Politicians not only 
avoid talking about immigration, but when they do so, their discursive behaviour is alarmist 
and even contains populist components linking the Muslim community to insecurity and 
social instability. Moroccan immigrants threat our culture and democracy (therefore in order 
to integrate we have to change their culture,). The image of the Moroccan is based on 
inferiority: physically, economically and culturally; Migration is criminalized in the press by 
often naming nationality in crime and linking Moroccan to terrorism. Almost all press is 
about the attempts of Moroccan immigrants to come to Spain and make living. 

Language and religion are the only criteria to explain this shift in immigration management. 
The cultural and religious criteria are not new, and have already been used for the formal 
selection of immigrants. It is even said that it is not immigrant selection that is taking place, 
but really an "ethnic filter" and even a "Darwinist politics of immigration"."' 111 In general 
terms, we would say that the labour market attracts immigrants, but politics selects them using 



I()\ Minaret, {//(>//' u I' . . Muga^ine 101 

colonial and national identity criteria. In the management of its new multicultural society, Spain 
is currently at the beginning of some sort of Hispanidad revival. 

Hispanidad is a political term that was created precisely to comprise the whole Spanish area of 
influence, designating a linguistic (Spanish) and religious (Catholic) community and creating a 
sense of belonging, to the exclusion of non-Spanish speakers, atheists, Masons, Jews, and 
Muslims. In a process The Franco regime (1940-1975) reconstructed this term as a symbol of 
homogeneity and unity, as a cohesive society with the slogan Una, Grande j Ubre (One, Great 
and Free). xix This Hispanidad was a political construction separating people in a Manichaean 
fashion. xx Those following the regime were good citizens, those having some doubts about it 
(i.e., republican) were the bad citizens. This political construction of Hispanidad aimed at 
creating the notion of the Hispanic race in order to obtain a sentiment of loyalty and patriotism. 
Patriotism, race, and religion were an explosive mixture that dominated the conservative 
political discourse (and academic arena) for the first half of the 20 th century, xxi and legitimatized 
the Francist regime. xxil 

This binary logic still exists today, although with a rather different dimension. The bad citizens 
are those who do not speak Spanish and hold beliefs other than Catholic: Moroccans are the 
first candidates and are constantly used in a political discourse that reminds us of this imagery 
of Hispanidad. Society's perception of immigration is usually that of Muslims as a religious 
minority. At the same time, there are conservative discourses on European identity and 
civilization that advocate Christian tradition and politically construct Islam as anti-European 
and Christian. 

To conclude 

The presence of Muslims and their demands for recognition has sparked an extensive 
political rhetoric. Despite the various political and cultural circumstances across European 
countries, Spanish political rhetoric has two common features. It is largely grounded on 
interpretations based on tradition and current gross generalizations. Second, it is calculated 
to win a majority of voters by deploying rhetoric basically grounded in traditional values and 
populist practices. Such rhetoric has an enormous negative effect on Muslims' integration, by 
drawing on past Muslim-Christian relationships and present global political conflicts and 
wars as to assemble a violent and monolithic image of Islam. 

The Spanish case demonstrates how Islam has been excluded from the Spanish Judeo- 
Christian tradition, despite the fact that an important and rich Islamic tradition lasted in 
Spain for eight hundreds years. Spanish political identity has been constructed against 
Muslims for centuries, following at least two main basic dimensions: Spanish language and 
Catholic religion (Hispanidad). History and colonialism also matter as they nourish this 
rhetoric of tradition in Spain. Today, Muslims in Spain are seen primarily through the hostile 
prism of the moors. 

To sum up, politicians have yet to accept and publicly recognize the cultural and religious 
diversity of their societies. The only way to solve the problem is for politicians to treat new 
Muslim citizens in an equal and respected manner like any other European citizen, regardless 



102 10 S Minaret, An ( ', i 1 leh imic Magazine 

of religion, place of origin, and color. To do this, however, first and foremost, requires a 
responsible rhetoric free from the stereotypes and distortion of Islam and Muslims seen in 
the rhetoric of tradition. 



10 S Minaret, sin Online Islamic Magazine 



JESUS, THE SON OF MARY 

Professor A. R. Momin 



The Jesus Papers: Exposing the Greatest Cover-Up in History, by Michael Baigent. 
New York: HarperCollins, 2006, 321 pp. 

The present era of globalization represents a curious mixture of paradoxes and 
contradictions. Thus, on the one hand the process of secularization is steadily on the 
increase, especially in large parts of Europe. On the other hand, there is an unmistakable 
resurgence of religious consciousness and fundamentalism — of different hues and kinds — 
across a large number of countries, including the United States. The religious market in the 
US, for example, is experiencing a huge, unprecedented boom. The market for religious 
books, or books dealing with religious or quasi-religious issues, in the US grew by 37% in 
2003. The Purpose-Driven Life by Rick Warren, an evangelical preacher in the US, is the 
best-selling hard cover book in American history, with more than 25 million copies sold. 



For the greater part of its history, or at least since 325 
A.D. when the Nicene Creed was adopted as the official 
dogma of the Church, Christianity has been 
Christocentric. Following the emergence of modern 
science, explorations and discoveries, and the beginnings 
of the scientific outlook in the Renaissance, some scholars 
began to focus on a critical study of the Bible in the light 
of scientific evidence. Some scholars, such as Wilhelm 
Bousset, Bruno Bauer and Kalthoff, went to the extent of 
asserting that there had never been a Jesus of Nazareth 
and that Christ of the New Testament was a mythical 
figure. 



Exposing 

the Greatest 

Cover-Up in 

History 



JESUS 



MICHAEL BAIGENT 



On the other hand, the eminent Lutheran theologian and 

New Testament scholar Rudolf Bultmann (d.1976) 

convincingly demonstrated, in the light of comparative 

religious history and a critical study of the New 

Testament texts, that the historicity of Jesus cannot be 

denied, although it appears that the figure of Christ became shrouded in myths and legends 

drawn from Greek and Roman sources. Bultmann emphasized the need for demythologizing 

Jesus. The eminent Orientalist and archaeologist W. F. Albright pointed out that 

innumerable elements of pagan mythology and folklore — such as the rite of baptism, descent 

to the underworld, disappearance for three days and eventual ascension to heaven — found 

their way into Christianity. 

In recent years there has come about a renewed interest in the life of Jesus Christ as seen in 
the light of comparative religious history, archaeology, and a critical study of Old and New 
Testament texts. Michael Baigent's book (coauthored with Richard Leigh and Henry Lincoln 



104 10 S Minaret, An 

and published in 1982) Holy Blood, Holy Grail, which suggested that Jesus and Mary 
Magdalene had married and founded a holy bloodline, became a bestseller. Dan Brown's 
novel The Da Vinci Code, which drew upon Baigent's book, became an international 
publishing phenomenon. A film based on the novel became hugely popular — and also 
controversial— across large parts of the world. The book under review has already become a 
New York Times bestseller. 

Jesus and the New Testament 

Unfortunately, there is no evidence of any texts or documents, historical records or 
inscriptions dating back to the time of Jesus which could directly throw some light on his life 
and mission. The only available sources of information on Jesus's life and times are the New 
Testament texts, particularly the Gospels. Over seventy gospels are known to have existed in 
the past, but only four of them have been authenticated by the Church and the rest declared 
as apocryphal. The canonical Gospels — those of Matthew, John, Mark and Luke — are based 
on two manuscripts, namely, Codex Vaticanus (which is kept in the Vatican Library) and 
Codex Sinaiticus (preserved in the British Museum), which date from the fourth century 
A.D. Furthermore, these are Greek translations from the original Aramaic texts, which are 
lost. 

Unfortunately, the Gospels appear to be fragmentary, anecdotal and abound in 
inconsistencies. Thus, according to Matthew's Gospel (2:1), Jesus was born before 4 B.C., 
while Luke's Gospel (2:1-7) mentions 6 A.D. as the year of his birth. Baigent says that one 
cannot say how much fantasy is incorporated into the New Testament. The texts, he says, 
are inconsistent, incomplete, garbled and biased (p. 123). He quotes Canon Alfred Leslie, a 
prominent figure in the Church of England, as saying that "there is nothing in the Gospels 
one could be certain about" (p. 10). Baigent mentions that William Inge, Dean of St. Paul's 
Cathedral, was once asked to write a treatise on the life of Jesus. He declined, saying that 
there was no solid evidence on the basis of which any thing reliable could be written about 
Jesus's life and works (p. 11). 

Baigent argues that soon after Jesus disappeared from the scene there began the 
manipulation of his story that ultimately created a tradition centred upon Jesus rather than 
upon God (p. 64). In other words, Christianity became identical with Christology. He adds 
that "the Jewish origins of Jesus became subsumed within an increasingly influential pagan 
context introduced by converts to Christianity from among the Greeks and Romans. A 
number of pagan sites, rituals and festivals — such as the birth of Mithras on 25th 
December — were appropriated by the Church. These pagan influences drew Christianity and 
its view of Jesus away from the Jewish context in the succeeding centuries. "The original 
Jesus movement," he says, "was taken over by a Jesus mythology" (p. 261). Baigent quotes 
several Old and New Testament scholars in support of his argument. St. Paul played a major 
role in disembedding Christianity from its Jewish moorings and in the development of a 
Jesus mythology. It is significant that Paul never knew Jesus nor did he ever meet him. And 
he did not get on with the messianic Jewish community in Jerusalem. In fact, Baigent says, 
the Jerusalem community did not trust Paul (p.240). 



10 S Minaret, sin Online Islamic Magazine 



The Dead Sea Scrolls 

The most interesting and absorbing part 
of The Jesus Papers is the section which 
deals with the Dead Sea Scrolls. Between 
1947 and 1956 hundreds of documents 
(estimated between 825 and 870) written 
in the Aramaic language on papyrus 
were discovered in eleven caves near 
Khirbet Qumran on the shores of the 
Dead Sea in Jordan. In the course of 
time most of these scrolls were 
purchased by the Israeli government and 
are now on display at the Shrine of the 
Book in Jerusalem. In the course of 
excavations at the ruins in Qumran, 
coins and pottery were found, which are 
dated from the beginning of the 
Christian period to the end of the Jewish 
War in 70 A.D. 

Baigent has previously published (with 
Richard Leigh) a book The Dead Sea 
Scrolls Deception in 1991. He reveals in 
the present book that a great deal of 
mystery, intrigue and manipulation has surrounded the acquisition and publication of the 
Dead Sea Scrolls, in which a group of scholars and the Church were involved. While some of 
the texts were published relatively quickly, others took more than forty years. Baigent points 
out that "there was a growing suspicion that Catholic scholars who were entrusted with the 
responsibility of preparing the texts for publication were holding back material detrimental 
to the tenets of the Catholic Church" (p. 256). The existence of some scrolls was kept a 
secret. One of them was somehow leaked to a popular journal and published after more than 
thirty years. In 1991 the complete set of the Dead Sea Scrolls at the Huntington Library in 
California was released. How is it that so much of intrigue, manipulation and politics 
surrounded the Dead Sea Scrolls? 



iwiwm ivpyti -A'fi' 1 f<N X?Y 'J ■' yAn&'&frtOai 

■* ■-.,< 'i'lVf ,r^-' until* "CPY'' 1 ' " , * v1 ;.- , '»'- a 

■ t ^vftynvnti U*hb« !rav -p«u- 5**»i ■s* rtr ' 

•■"■ ! ■ -J r ' 












The reasons given by Baigent are startling. He points out that the Dead Sea Scrolls pose a 
formidable challenge to Pauline or Trinitarian Christianity in that they cast grave doubts on 
the uniqueness and divinity of Jesus, which has been a cardinal tenet of the Church for the 
past 1600 years. The scrolls, he says, "prove that you cannot disentangle Christianity from 
messianic Judaism, which had no concept of a divine messiah." 



Baigent points out that the Dead Sea Scrolls pose a formidable challenge to Pauline or 
Trinitarian Christianity in that they cast grave doubts on the uniqueness and divinity of Jesus, 
which has been a cardinal tenet of the Church for the past 1 600 years. The scrolls, he says, 



106 10 S Minaret, An Online Islamic Magazine 

"prove that you cannot disentangle Christianity from messianic Judaism, which had no 
concept of a divine messiah" 

(p. 260). Baigent reveals that it is for this reason that the Vatican had hidden some of the 
scrolls for many years, adding that the Vatican has a history of acquiring and destroying 
writings that run counter to its teachings (p. 89). Furthermore, writes Bagent, the scrolls 
expose the deep theological clash between the Jerusalem messianic community and Paul, 
who never knew Jesus (p. 259-60). 

Another plausible reason, which Baigent does not mention but which has been suspected by 
Muslim scholars for quite some time, is that some of the scrolls foretell the prophecy of 
Muhammad (may peace and blessings of God be upon him), which is alluded to in the 
Gospels as well (John 16:7-14). It is significant to note that some of the scrolls, especially the 
Book of Enoch, mention the raising up of a prophet like Moses, as well as a royal Messiah 
and a priestly Messiah. 

Jesus, the Son of God? 

The belief that Jesus was the Son of God, which was ratified by the Council of Nicaea in 325 
A.D., has been an inseparable part of Christianity for centuries. However, some Christian 
sects, such as the Unitarians and the Basilidians, did not subscribe to the Trinitarian doctrine. 
The words 'son of God' and 'sons of God' are metaphorically mentioned in several places in 
the Old and New Testament texts (Creation 6:1-5; Psalms 89:19; Isaiah 63:16 Jeremiah 31:9; 
Matthew 5:44-45). In Exodus (4:22), God says that Israel is my son, my first-born. Chapter 3 
in the Gospel of Luke, which describes the genealogy of Jesus, says that Jesus is the son of 
Joseph and of Adam, who was the Son of God. The Book of Enoch (71:1) speaks of the 
"holy sons of God." Baigent argues that even the Gospels fail to support the Nicene Creed, 
and quotes an eminent New Testament scholar Joseph Fitzmyer as saying that "the Gospels 
have not so presented that claim" (p. 260). 

The most conclusive and sensational evidence against the assumed divinity of Jesus 
presented by Baigent, which constitutes the piece de resistance of the book, relates to the 
existence of two papyrus documents bearing an inscription in Aramaic, which he saw with 
an Israeli businessman in the 1990s. 

The documents, consisting of two letters, together with some artifacts were discovered by 
the Israeli businessman in the old quarter of Jerusalem in 1961. Some archaeologists and Old 
Testament scholars, who were consulted by the businessman, dated the letters at about 34 
A.D. The letters were addressed to the Jewish court, the Sanhedrin, by someone who called 
himself bani mashiha — translated by Baigent as the Messiah of the Children of Israel. 



Baigent points out that the Dead Sea Scrolls pose a formidable challenge to Pauline 
or Trinitarian Christianity in that they cast grave doubts on the uniqueness and 
divinity of Jesus, which has been a cardinal tenet of the Church for the past 1600 
years. The scrolls, he says, "prove that you cannot disentangle Christianity from 
messianic Judaism, which had no concept of a divine messiah." 



10 S Minaret, sin Online Islamic Magazine 



107 



The writer of the letters was accused of calling himself "Son of God" and had been asked to 
defend himself against this heresy before the Jewish court. In the first letter, the messiah 
explains that what he meant was not that he was "God" but that the "Spirit of God" was in 
him — not that he was physically the Son of God. He added that everyone who felt similarly 
filled with this divine "spirit" was also a "son of God." In other words, the writer explicitly 
states that he is not divine. Baigent believes that the messiah of the letter is none other than 
Jesus. He writes that while listening to this story, he was struck by the similarity with an 
incident described in the Gospel of John (10:33-35) where Jesus is accused by the Jews of 
blasphemy, of claiming to be God. 



There seems to be some problem with the translation of the words bani mashiha. According 
to the grammatical structure of Semitic languages, bani mashiha would mean "Children of 
the Messiah," which implies that the letter could not have been written by Jesus (the 
Messiah) himself. This raises the possibility, if the documents are genuine and date back to 
the time of Jesus, that they could have been written by Jesus's disciples on his behalf or on 
his suggestion. This, however, does not diminish or dilute the revolutionary import of the 
documents. 



The news of the existence of these letters reached Pope John XXIII, who sent word to the 

Israeli experts asking for these 

documents to be destroyed. The Israeli 

businessman refused to comply with this 

but made a promise that he would not 

publish the letters for the next 25 years. 

At the time Baigent met him twenty-five 

years had long expired but he still 

refused to release the documents 

because he felt that releasing them 

would cause problems between the 

Vatican and Israel (pp. 269-70). 

Crucifixion 

Another central dogma of the Church is 

the crucifixion of Jesus. However, since 

early times some Christian sects did not 

believe that Jesus died on the cross. 

Baigent points out that there are evident 

contradictions in the Gospels in respect of the alleged crucifixion of Jesus. He refers to a 

statement by Irenaeus in the late second century A.D., in which he complaints about the 

beliefs of an Egyptian Gnostic, Basilides, who taught that Jesus had been substituted during 

his journey to Golgotha, and that this substitute, Simon of Cyrene, had died in Jesus's stead 

(p. 127). 

Baigent mentions an interesting incident related to Canon Alfred Leslie Lilley (d. 1948), 

Chancellor of Hereford Cathedral. Lilley was a highly regarded expert on medieval French 

and was often consulted on difficult translation work. In the early 1890s he was requested by 




108 10 S Minaret, An Onl it /> mu Magazine 

a former student of his to travel to the Seminary of Saint Sulpice on the outskirts of Paris to 
advise on the translation of a mysterious document. These documents were in medieval 
French and had once been in the possession of the Cathars in the south of France in the 
twelfth and thirteenth centuries, although they were much older. The Cathars were one of 
the ascetic Christian sects in the Middle Ages which professed faith in an angelic Christ who 
did not die on the cross. These documents were translated from an earlier document from 
Jerusalem dating from the first century A.D. According to these documents, which were 
deciphered by Lilley who thought that they were authentic and extraordinary, Jesus survived 
the crucifixion and he was alive in 45 A.D. Subsequently the documents changed hands for a 
large sum of money and eventually landed up, under mysterious circumstances, in Rome 
where they were destroyed (pp. 9-10). Baigent quotes Hugh Schonfield, the author of The 
Passover Plot (which was first published in 1965 and since then has sold over six million 
copies in 18 languages), who suggests that Jesus was drugged — sedated on the cross such 
that he appeared dead but could be revived later, after he had been taken down and 
therefore could have survived (p. 127). Baigent reckons that "Jesus was taken down from the 
cross, apparently lifeless but in reality unconscious, and taken to a private tomb where 
medicines could be used to revive him. He would then be whisked away from the scene" (p. 
129). 

Baigent quotes Hugh Schonfield, the author of The Passover Plot (which was first published 
in 1965 and since then has sold over six million copies in 18 languages), who suggests that 
Jesus was drugged — sedated on the cross such that he appeared dead but could be revived 
later, after he had been taken down and therefore could have survived (p. 127). Baigent 
reckons that "Jesus was taken down from the cross, apparently lifeless but in reality 
unconscious, and taken to a private tomb where medicines could be used to revive him. He 
would then be whisked away from the scene" (p. 129). 

Surviving the crucifixion was difficult, but not impossible, says Baigent. The celebrated 
historian Josephus reports that he came upon three of his former colleagues among a large 
group of crucified captives. One of them survived (p. 127). According to the Gospels, Jesus 
was crucified between two other men, described as thieves in the English translation. In the 
light of circumstantial evidence, there could be two possibilities in this situation: either 
someone else was crucified in Jesus's place (as the Basilidians believed), or he was crucified 
but survived the ordeal. 

In a television programme called 'Did Jesus Die?' broadcast by the BBC in 2004, the 
eminent New Testament scholar and commentator Elaine Pagels referred to Schonfield's 

Baigent quotes Hugh Schonfield, the author of The Passover Plot (which was first 
published in 1965 and since then has sold over six million copies in 18 languages), 
who suggests that Jesus was drugged — sedated on the cross such that he appeared 
dead but could be revived later, after he had been taken down and therefore could 
have survived (p. 127). Baigent reckons that "Jesus was taken down from the cross, 
apparently lifeless but in reality unconscious, and taken to a private tomb where 
medicines could be used to revive him. He would then be whisked away from the 
scene" (p. 129). 



IOS Munnet in On I u Is/a . Magazine 109 

book The Passover Plot (which suggests that Jesus was sedated on the cross and that he was 
removed quite early and therefore could well have survived) and concluded, "That's certainly 
a possibility" (p. 128). Baigent is of the view that after the aborted crucifixion Jesus went to 
Egypt with his wife Mary Magdalene. 

Baigent refers, in passing, to a legend which says that after surviving the crucifixion, Jesus 
traveled to Kashmir in India, where he breathed his last. The shrine of Yus Asaph in 
Kashmir, according to the legend, is in reality the grave of Jesus. 

Jesus in the Islamic Tradition 

Jesus Christ (may peace and blessings of God be upon him) is mentioned in the Quran 25 
times, and as Masih (messiah) 11 times. He is also referred to as the Word of God (4:171). 
Islam is the only religion in the world which affirms the prophecy of Jesus and makes a 
belief in his prophecy (as well as in that of all other prophets) an essential part of its creed. 
Unfortunately, the Gospels tell us little about the early life of Jesus or about Mary. The 
Quran provides certain important data about Mary (Maryam in Arabic) and her family and 
about Jesus's birth, which are not available in the Gospels. According to the Quran, Imran 
was the father of Mary and the grandfather of Jesus, who belonged to a highly respectable 
family. The third chapter of the Quran is named after Imran's family. 

One of the distinguished commentators of the Quran, Ibn Kathir, traces Mary's descent to 
the prophet Solomon. Mary's mother, Hannah, who was childless, made a vow that if she 
conceived and delivered a child she would dedicate it to the Temple. After a while Mary was 
born. She was the only child of her parents. After a few years Mary was entrusted to the care 
of Zakariya, who was her mother's sister's husband. When Mary came of age she began 
devoting herself to the worship of God in a corner of the Temple. She is mentioned 34 
times in the Quran and described as an extremely virtuous and pious woman (3: 37-42). In 
fact, one of the chapters of the Quran is named after her. The Quran says: "Every time that 
he (Zakariya) entered (Mary's) enclosure to see her, he found her supplied with sustenance 
(such as fruits). He said (in amazement): O Mary! Wherefrom (comes) this to you? She said: 
"From God, for God provides sustenance to whom He pleases, without measure" (3:37). 
The Quran says that angels used to visit Mary. "Behold! The angels said: "O Mary, God has 
chosen you and purified you — chosen you above the women of all nations" (Quran 3:42). 

The Birth of Jesus 

The Quran affirms immaculate conception and provides a moving account of Mary's agony. 
"Behold! The angels said: "O Mary, God gives you glad tidings of a Word from Him; his 
name will be Jesus, the Son of Mary, held in honour in this world and in the Hereafter and 
of (the company of) those nearest to God. He shall speak to the people in infancy and in 
maturity. And he shall be (of the company) of the righteous. She said: "O my Lord! How 
shall I have a son when no man has touched me? He said: "Even so, God creates what He 

wills And God will teach him the Book and wisdom, the Torah and the Gospel" (Quran 

3:45-48). 



110 IOS Minaret, An ( )nline Islamic Magazine 

"Behold! The angels said: "O Mary, God gives you glad tidings of a Word from Him; his 
name will be Jesus, the Son of Mary, held in honour in this world and in the Hereafter and 
of (the company of) those nearest to God. He shall speak to the people in infancy and in 
maturity. And he shall be (of the company) of the righteous. She said: "O my Lord! How 
shall I have a son when no man has touched me? He said: "Even so, God creates what He 

wills And God will teach him the Book and wisdom, the Torah and the Gospel" (Quran 

3: 45-48). 

When the time to deliver the baby drew nearer, Mary retired to a remote place. The Quran 
says: "And the pains of childbirth drove her to the trunk of a palm-tree. She cried (in 
anguish): "Ah, would that I had died before this; would that I had been a thing forgotten." 
But (a voice) called out to her from beneath the palm-tree: "Grieve not, for your Lord has 
provided a rivulet beneath you. And shake towards yourself the trunk of the palm-tree; it will 
let fall fresh ripe dates upon you. So eat and drink and cool (your) eye. And if you do see any 
man, say, 'I have vowed a fast to (God) Most Gracious, and this day will I enter into no talk 
with any human being.' At length she brought the (babe) to her people, carrying him (in her 
arms). They said: "O Mary, truly an amazing thing has you brought. O sister of Aaron, your 
father was not a man of evil, nor your mother a woman unchaste." But she pointed to the 
babe. They said: "How can we talk to one who is a baby in the cradle?" He said: "I am 
indeed a servant of God. He has given me revelation and made me a Prophet. And He has 
made me blessed wherever I be, and has enjoined on me prayer and charity as long as I live 
(19:23-31). Ibn Kathir, one of the commentators of the Quran, mentions that soon after 
Jesus's birth Mary traveled to Egypt and stayed there for about twelve years. 

The Quran describes many of the miracles performed by Jesus. The Quran emphasizes that, 
like all other prophets, Jesus preached pure monotheism (5:116; 3:51; 5:72). The Quran 
explicitly repudiates the belief that Jesus was the son of God (19:34-35, 88-92). Jesus is 
described as following the Jewish ethos and traditions (3:48, 50; 61:6). The Quran 
unequivocally maintains that Jesus was not crucified, but he was raised up to the heavens. 
"That they say (in boast), "We killed Jesus Christ, the son of Mary, the Apostle of God," but 
they killed him not , nor crucified him, but so it was made to appear to them, and those who 
differ therein are full of doubts, with no (certain) knowledge, but only conjecture to follow, 
for certainly they killed him not. No, God raised him unto Himself, and God is Exalted in 
power, Wise" (4:157-158). Ibn Kathir mentions that someone else was crucified in Jesus's 
place. 



"Behold! The angels said: "O Mary, God gives you glad tidings of a Word from Him; 
his name will be Jesus, the Son of Mary, held in honour in this world and in the 
Hereafter and of (the company of) those nearest to God. He shall speak to the people 
in infancy and in maturity. And he shall be (of the company) of the righteous. She 
said: "O my Lord! How shall I have a son when no man has touched me? He said: 

"Even so, God creates what He wills And God will teach him the Book and 

wisdom, the Torah and the Gospel" (Quran 3: 45-48). 



IOS ' Munmt {//(>/ I Mnoa^/ne 111 

When Prophet Muhammad received his first revelation in the cave of Hira in Makka he 
returned home in a statement of bewilderment and told his wife Khadija about the incident. 
The next day she took him to her uncle Waraqa ibn Naufal who had embraced Christianity 
and was well-versed in Jewish and Christian scriptures. Waraqa had translated the Gospels 
from Syriac into Arabic. After the Prophet narrated his experience Waraqa told them that 
this was a sure sign of prophecy. Your experience, he said, is similar to the namus of Moses. 
If I were to be alive, he added, when your people would drive you out of your city, I would 
support you. A renowned Islamic scholar, Professor Muhammad Hamidullah, is of the 
opinion that the word namus is an Arabicized form of a Greek word nomos, which seems to 
have found its way into Syriac. The word nomos in Greek refers to the Torah. Therefore, 
what Waraqa meant was that the Prophet's experience of receiving the first revelation was 
similar to that of Moses on the Mount Sinai. 

During his nocturnal ascension to heaven (mi'raj) Prophet Muhammad is reported to have 
met the earlier prophets, including Jesus Christ. He described Jesus as very fair and 
handsome, of medium stature, and with a broad chest and long, curly hair. According to the 
Islamic tradition, Jesus will come down to earth before the end of time. Faced with hostility 
and persecution, some Companions of the Prophet decided to migrate, on his advice, to 
Abyssinia, which was under the rule of a Christian called Negus. When they were ushered in 
the court of the Negus, the crucial question about Jesus came up. The Muslims declared that, 
according to the Quran and the teachings of the Prophet, Jesus was a servant of God and 
His apostle and His Word who was born from the blessed virgin. Thereupon the Negus 
picked up a stick from the ground and said: "By God, Jesus, son of Mary does not exceed 
what you have said by the length of this stick." 

Faced with hostility and persecution, some Companions of the Prophet decided to migrate, 
on his advice, to Abyssinia, which was under the rule of a Christian called Negus. When they 
were ushered in the court of the Negus, the crucial question about Jesus came up. The 
Muslims declared that, according to the Quran and the teachings of the Prophet, Jesus was a 
servant of God and His apostle and His Word who was born from the blessed virgin. 
Thereupon the Negus picked up a stick from the ground and said: "By God, Jesus, son of 
Mary does not exceed what you have said by the length of this stick." 

Jesus and Christianity in Islamic Literature 

From early times Muslim scholars evinced a keen interest in knowing and writing about the 
religious beliefs, traditions and rituals of peoples from different regions and cultures. 

There is a substantial literature in Arabic on the beliefs, rituals, feasts and customs of pre- 
Islamic Arabia as well as of Jews, Christians, Sabaean, Magians, Hindus, Zoroastrians and 
others. The most important and wide-ranging contributions to this genre were made by Ibn 
Qutayba (d. 883), Ibn al-Habib (d. 859), Al-Masudi (d. 956), Al-Biruni (d. 1048), Ibn Hazm 
(d. 1064), Abdul Qahir al-Baghdadi (d. 1037), Al-Shahrastani (d. 1153), Qadi Sa'id (d. 1070), 
Shihabuddin al-Qarafi (d. 1285), Al-Maqrizi, Ibn Taymiah (d. 1325), Al-Ya'qubi (14th 
century), Haji Khalifa (d. 1658), and Rahmatullah Kairanvi (19th century). 



/ 12 IOS Minaret, An ( )nline Islamic Magazine 

Al-Masudi has dwelt on the history of Christianity and on Christian doctrines in his book 
Muruj al-dhahab. Interestingly, he also mentions that the apostle Thomas traveled to India 
where he lies buried. Baigent also refers to this legend (p. 135). Al-Biruni, in his book Al- 
Athar al-baqiya fil qurun al-khaliya, discussed the inconsistencies in the Gospels. He also 
writes about the gospels which were declared as apocryphal by the Council of Nicaea. Al- 
Yaqubi has given a summary of the four canonical Gospels in his historical works. Ibn 
Hazm, in his book Al-fisal fil milal wal-ahwa wal-nihal, has offered a detailed and critical 
discussion on the beliefs and doctrines of Jews, Christians and the followers of other 
religions. He also dwells on some of the major sects within Christianity. Ibn Hazm had made 
a careful study of the Old and New Testaments. In fact, he may be regarded as a pioneer in 
the critical study of the Old and New Testament texts. To quote him: 

The Torah is claimed by its adherents to be the verbatim word of God 
conveyed by Him to Moses and written by his own hand. That is why I had to 
write the foregoing long and assiduous analysis of its text to establish the 
contrary. Fortunately, no Christian makes this kind of claim regarding the 
New Testament. All Christians agree that the New Testament is a composite 
of works by the four aposties — Matthew, Mark, John and Luke — and a 
number of other writings by humans. 



Faced with hostility and persecution, some Companions of the Prophet decided to 
migrate, on his advice, to Abyssinia, which was under the rule of a Christian called 
Negus. When they were ushered in the court of the Negus, the crucial question 
about Jesus came up. The Muslims declared that, according to the Quran and the 
teachings of the Prophet, Jesus was a servant of God and His apostle and His Word 
who was born from the blessed virgin. Thereupon the Negus picked up a stick from 
the ground and said: "By God, Jesus, son of Mary does not exceed what you have 
said by the length of this stick." 



10 S Minaret, sin Online Islamic Magazine 



Pope Benedict XVI and Islamophobia 
IOS Research Network 



Pope Benedict XVI, while delivering his address at 
Regensburg University in Germany on September 12, quoted 
a dialogue from a 14 th century book, written by a Christian 
priest, between the Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus 
and an educated Persian Muslim on the subject of 
Christianity and Islam. The dialogue took place, at the 
initiative of the emperor, against the backdrop of the siege of 
Constantinople by the Ottoman king Bayazid I between 1394 
and 1402. 




The Pope pointed out that the emperor must have known that surah 2:256 of the Quran 
reads: "There is no compulsion in religion." But naturally, the Pope added, the emperor also 
knew the instructions, developed later and recorded in the Quran, concerning holy war. The 
emperor then asked the educated Muslim: 'Show me just what Mohammed brought that was 
new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread 
by the sword the faith he preached.' 

The Pope added that the emperor then went on to 
"explain in detail the reasons why spreading the faith 
through violence is something unreasonable. Violence is 
incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of 
the soul. God is not pleased by blood — and not acting 
reasonably is contrary to God's nature. Faith is born of 
the soul, not the body' The Pope then concluded: "The 
decisive statement in this argument against violent 
conversion is this: Not to act in accordance with reason 
is contrary to God's nature." 

The Pope's remarks created a huge furore across the 
Muslim world. Islamic organizations and Muslim states denounced his statements and 
accused him of slandering Islam and the Prophet and attempting to rekindle the fires of the 
crusades. Iran's supreme religious leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei stated that "the most 
important aim of these remarks is the creation of a religious crisis in the world and to make 
different religions confront each other. The remarks are in line with the crusade against 
Muslims." Morocco withdrew its ambassador to the Vatican, calling the Pope's comments 
offensive. The New York Times said in an editorial on September 17 that Pope Benedict 
must issue a "deep and persuasive apology for the quotes in his speech. The world listens 
carefully to the words of any pope. And it is tragic and dangerous when one sows pain, 
either deliberately or carelessly." 




/ 14 IOS Minaret, An Online Islamic Magazine 

Some fair-minded Christian priests also felt that the Pope's remarks had the potential to hurt 
the sentiments of Muslims. Fr Julian Saldanha, a theology professor at the St. Pius Seminary 
in Goregaon (Mumbai) felt that the Pope should have shown greater sensitivity. He said that 
the Pope reproduced a quotation which is derogatory of the Prophet Mohammed, without 
refuting it or showing that he disagrees with it. I cannot agree with this comment, which is 
incorrect and lacking in sensitivity and respect, said Fr Saldanha. It would be good, he added, 
if the Pope told us what he appreciated about the Prophet. Rev Daniel A. Madigan, Rector 
of the Institute for the Study of Religions and Cultures at the Pontifical Gregorian University 
in Rome, said that "you clearly take a risk using an example like that. Certainly the Pope 
closes the door to an idea which was very dear to Pope John Paul II — the idea that 
Christians, Jews and Muslims have the same God and have to pray together to the same 
God." A Catholic journalist Kornelius Puruba, writing in the Jakarta Post, said that "it will 
be more difficult now — after the Pope's recent remarks — to argue that there is no clash of 
civilizations between the West (Christianity) and Islam." 

A half-hearted apology 



Faced with world-wide protests from Muslims, Pope Benedict 
tendered a personal apology for his remarks on September 17. 
He said in his apology that he was misunderstood and added 
that he was "deeply sorry for the reaction in some countries to 
a few passages of my address at the University of Regensburg, 
which were considered offensive to the sensibility f Muslims. 
These in fact were a quotation from a medieval text, which do 
not in any way express my personal thought. I hope that this 
serves to appease hearts and to clarify that the true meaning of 
my address, which in its totality, was and is an invitation to 
frank and sincere dialogue, with great mutual respect." The 
next day he told pilgrims at the Vatican that his remarks on 
Islam had been misunderstood, adding "I trust that my words 
at the University of Regensburg can constitute an impulse and 
encouragement towards positive, even self-critical, dialogue 
both among religions and between modern reason and 
Christian faith." 




4r/il 




Ayatollah AM Khamenei 



It appears from the text of his apology and 
the remarks he made at the Vatican that the 
Pope did not think he said anything wrong. 
He only expressed his regret for the 
"reactions" of Muslims. He said that the 
quotation from the medieval text does not 
reflect his own "personal thought." One 
wishes he was more explicit in his apology 
and about his "personal thought" (on Islam 
and the Prophet). The least he could have 



K)S Minant, /\u Oiilnii I shui/ic Magazine 115 

done is to retract his statement. Hence his apology seems to be half-hearted. 

A profile of Pope Benedict XVI 

Long before he was elevated as pope, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (as he was known before 
assuming the title of Pope Benedict XVI) was known for his doctrinal conservatism and his 
intolerance of dissent. He believes the Church to be a divinely-ordained institution and is 
highly critical of those priests and theologians who think of it as a human construction. He 
believes that "the Church, the bearer of faith, does not sin." 

Unlike his predecessor John Paul II, who was very 
supportive of inter-faith dialogue, especially between 
Christians and Muslims, and who was the first pope to ever 
step in a mosque (in Syria in 2001), Pope Benedict XVI 
does not think much of inter-faith dialogue. He believes 
that divine revelation came to an end with Jesus Christ. In 
1996 he had written that Islam had difficulty in adapting to 
modern life. Pope Benedict is firmly opposed to birth 
control and abortion, ardently supports the celibacy of 
priesthood, and is against the ordination of women. He is 
reported to have said that anyone who supports the "grave 
sin" of abortion should be denied communion. He once 
denounced rock music as the "vehicle of anti-religion." 

In 1981 Cardinal Ratzinger was appointed the head of Vatican's Congregation for the 
Doctrine of the Faith (which was earlier known as the Inquisition). He has a reputation for 
stifling dissent. One of his early campaigns was against liberation theology. (Liberation 
theology is a Roman Catholic movement that originated in Latin America in the last decades 
of the 20 th century. It seeks to express religious faith by helping the poor and by working for 
social and political transformation. The Vatican has been wary of liberation theology and has 
sought to undermine its influence by appointing more conservative prelates.) Pope Benedict 
has described the supporters and sympathizers of liberation theology as being inspired by 
Marxism rather than Christianity. 

In 2004 when he was the Vatican's topmost theologian, Cardinal Ratzinger created a stir by 
opposing Turkey's bid to join the European Union because "as a Muslim country, it was in 
permanent contrast to Europe." He argued that Turkey belonged to a different cultural 
sphere, adding that its admission into the EU would be a grave error against the tide of 
history. 

One of the first signs of Pope Benedict's departure from the reconciliatory approach of 
Pope John Paul II and his toughening stance towards the Islamic world was the removal 
from office, at his instance, of Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald. The British-born cleric was 




In 2004 when he was the Vatican's topmost theologian, Cardinal Ratzinger created 
a stir by opposing Turkey's bid to join the European Union because "as a Muslim 
country, it was in permanent contrast to Europe." He argued that Turkey 
belonged to a different cultural sphere, adding that its admission into the EU 
would be a grave error against the tide of history. 



116 10 S Minaret, An Online Islamic Magazine 

heading a Vatican department that promoted dialogue with other religions. A distinguished 
scholar on Arab and Muslim affairs, he was an acknowledged expert on the Islamic world 
and on Christian-Muslim relations. The decision by Pope Benedict to remove Fitzgerald 
from his post and to send him to Egypt as papal nuncio was widely seen as a demotion. 

Father Thomas Reese, a Jesuit scholar and an authority on the workings of the Vatican, told 
the BBC news website that "the Pope's worst decision so far has been the exiling of 
Archbishop Fitzgerald. He was the smartest guy in the Vatican on relations with Muslims. 
You don't exile someone like that, you listen to them. If the Vatican says something dumb 
about Muslims, people will die in parts of Africa and churches will be burned in Indonesia, 
let alone what happens in the Middle East." 

During his recent visit to Spain, Pope Benedict prayed at the ancient cathedral in Valencia, 
which was originally a mosque built during Muslim rule. (Contrast this with the action of the 
caliph Umar who refused to say his prayers in the premises of the Church of the Holy 
Sepulchre lest it might be claimed it as a mosque by later Muslims.) 

Between the lines 

Pope Benedict's remarks on Islam in his address at Regensburg University, his subsequent 
apology and his statement at the Vatican on September 1 8 should be seen not in isolation 
but in the context of his overall views about Islam and Muslims and about inter-faith 
dialogue. The sub-text of his remarks and their subtle insinuations point to a set of unstated 
assumptions about Islam, which are set forth in the following. 

(1) Islam represents a sum of evil and inhuman dogmas and practices. 

(2) The expansion of Islam has been due to coercion and violent proselytization. 

(3) The doctrine of holy war (Jihad) in Islam and violence are indissociable. 

(4) The use of coercion or violence for conversion is at variance with God's will and is 

contrary to reason. 

(5) Since Islam has spread through coercion and violence, it is unreasonable and, at the 

same time, devoid of God's approval. 

(6) There is no place for reason in the Islamic world-view, whereas it has a central role in 
Christianity. 

These hidden, unstated assumptions underlying the Pope's remarks become clearer in the 
light of the Swiss interior minister Pascal Couchepin's defence of his speech, reported by the 
media on September 17. Couchepin described the Pope's speech as "intelligent and 
necessary." He added that Christianity is based on the Greek way of thinking in which faith 
does not contradict reason, while in Islam Allah can do literally everything even if it 
contradicts reason. This is what the Pope was pointing out and I think he was right, he 
added. EU Commission President Jose Manuel Durao Barroso also defended the Pope, 
saying more European leaders should have supported him. The problem is not the 
comments of the Pope but the reactions of the extremists, he added. 



K)S Minaret, /hi Onliih Isliu i. in Magazine 117 

Islamophobia 

Norman Daniel, in his illuminating book Islam and the West: The Making of an Image (1960), has 
shown that from the time of St. John of Damascus in the eighth century and Peter the 
Venerable in the twelfth century, the Western perception of Islam has been shaped, for the 
most part, by ignorance, prejudice and misrepresentation. St. John (d. 750) regarded Islam as 
a Christian heresy. Pope Innocent III described Prophet Muhammad as the Antichrist. The 
Royal Chaplain and Father Confessor of Spain, Jaime Bleda, introduced the Prophet as the 
deceiver of the world, false prophet, Satan's messenger, the Beast of the Apocalypse and the 
worst precursor of the Antichrist. The Prophet was debunked by Christian polemicists as an 
ambitious schemer, a bandit, an impostor and even an epileptic. His claim to prophecy was 
dismissed as fraudulent and his religion a sum of heresy. Mosques were described as 
synagogues of Satan. Martin Luther wrote several treatises attacking the Quran and Prophet 
Muhammad. He dubbed Islam as a false religion. {Islam and the West: The Making of an Image, 
pp. 246, 276; see also R. W. Southern: Western Views of Islam in the Middle Ages (1962), and 
Minou Reeves: Muhammad in Europe: A Thousand Years of Western Myth Making (2000). 

Following the Second Vatican Council (1962-65), the Office for Non-Christian Affairs at the 
Vatican produced a document entitled "Orientations for a Dialogue between Christians and 
Muslims" in 1970, which urges Christians to 'clear away the outdated image, inherited from 
the past, or distorted by prejudice and slander, that Christians have of Islam. The document 
recognizes the past injustice towards the Muslims for which the West, with its Christian 
education, is to blame. The document notes with regret that far too many Christians, 
brought up in an atmosphere of open hostility, are against any reflection on Islam." 

The Runnymede Trust in Britain set up a Commission on Islamophobia in 1997, which 
revealed that Islamophobia — fear of and hostility towards Islam and Muslims — was one of 
the chief forms of racism in the country. 

The wide prevalence of Islamophobia in Western countries is reflected in the stigmatization 
and demonization of Islam and Muslims, in the opposition to the visibility of Islamic 
symbols in public places, in the distortion and misrepresentation of matters related to 
Muslims by the Western media, in racial profiling and surveillance, in the opposition to 
immigration by the far-right political parties, and in discrimination against Muslims in respect 
of employment, education and housing. It is widely believed in Europe that its over 20 
million Muslims pose a serious threat to the security, culture and prosperity of European 
societies. Islamophobia has been on the rise after 9/11. (see http://www.eumc.eu.int) 



Following the Second Vatican Council (1962-65), the Office for Non-Christian 
Affairs at the Vatican produced a document entitled "Orientations for a Dialogue 
between Christians and Muslims" in 1970, which urges Christians to 'clear away 
the outdated image, inherited from the past, or distorted by prejudice and slander, 
that Christians have of Islam. The document recognizes the past injustice towards 
the Muslims for which the West, with its Christian education, is to blame. The 
document notes with regret that far too many Christians, brought up in an 
atmosphere of open hostility, are against any reflection on Islam." 



118 



IOS 'Minaret, sin Online Islamic Magazine 



Islamophobia has been strengthened by the writings of some intellectuals and writers in the 
West, such as Oriana Fallaci, Bernard Lewis, Samuel Huntington and Francis Fukuyama. 
Oriana Fallaci, Italian writer and journalist, described Europe as "Eurabia" and said that "the 
continent has sold itself and sells itself to the enemy (Muslims) like a prostitute. Europe has 
become more and more a province of Islam, a colony of Islam." 

Jihad 

The thrust of the Byzantine emperor's argument, quoted by the Pope, is that the notion of 
jihad involves the spread of Islam by the sword. Unfortunately, both the emperor and the 
Pope seem to be ill-informed about the meaning and import of jihad. It connotes a sincere 
striving in the service of a virtuous cause. It includes a struggle within oneself in order to 
gain control over one's base sentiments and traits (such as jealousy, greed, malice, 
dishonesty), a fearless assertion of truth before a tyrannical ruler, the fight against injustice 
and oppression, and the sacrifice of one's wealth and even life in defence of one's country or 
one's honour. Therefore, jihad cannot be exclusively identified with force or violence, though 
it may sometimes involve force. 



It is significant to note that before his arrest by the Romans, Jesus told his disciples: "He that 
hath no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one" (Luke 22:36). The gospels say that 
when Jesus entered the temple in Jerusalem and began to 
drive out those who were buying and selling within its 
sacred precincts, he overturned the tables of the money- 
changers and the seats of those who sold doves (Mark 
11:15-16). The gospel of John adds that Jesus "knotted a 
whip out of small cords and drove them all out of the 
temple" (John 2:15). 

Islam and the sword 

The belief, reflected in the quotation used by the Pope, 
that Islam has spread by the sword is a malicious canard 
which has been perpetuated in Europe for the past several 
centuries. There is an enormous amount of historical, 
empirical and sociological evidence to refute this belief. It 
is pertinent to quote Thomas Arnold, an English 
missionary in the Indian Civil Service of colonial days: 




of any organized attempt to force the acceptance of Islam on the non-Muslim 
population, or of any systematic prosecution intended to stamp out the Christian 
religion, we hear nothing. Had the caliphs chosen to adopt either course of action, 
they might have swept away Christianity as easily as Ferdinand and Isabella drove 
Islam out of Spain, or Louis XIV made Protestantism penal in France, or the Jews 
were kept out of England for 350 years. The Eastern Churches in Asia were entirely 
cut off from communion with the rest of Christendom throughout which no one 
would have been found to lift a finger on their behalf, as heretical communions. So 



IOS Minaret, in On I u I . Magazine 119 

that the very survival of these Churches to the present day is a strong proof of the 
generally tolerant attitude of the Muhammadan governments towards them (The 
Preaching of Islam (1 896) , p. 80) . 

Peaceful coexistence, tolerance and accommodation are the hallmarks of the Islamic 
tradition. The Quran explicitly states that there is no place for compulsion in Islam (2:256; 
109:6). The attitude and behaviour of Prophet Muhammad towards the beliefs and traditions 
of the followers of other religions exhibited exemplary tolerance, understanding and 
magnanimity. He allowed a delegation of polytheists and idolators from Taif to stay in his 
mosque at Madina. Some Christians from Najran, who visited the Prophet, sought his 
permission to say their prayers in the mosque, which was granted. 

When the Prophet set up a city-state at Madina, he drew up its constitution, which was 
committed to writing at his instance. This constitution included two significant passages: 
first, Muslims and Jews will be entitled to the preservation and protection of their 
respective religious traditions; second, Muslims and Jews will together constitute a 
(political) community. This covenant was extended, at a later date, to the Christians of 
Najran and the pagan Arabs. Thus the Pax Islamica included not only Muslims but also 
Jews, Christians and pagan Arabs, and guaranteed to them religious, cultural, and judicial 
autonomy. The city-state of Madina provided the first model of democratic pluralism. 

A violent history 

As a theologian Pope Benedict must certainly be aware of the following statement of Jesus 
Christ: "The straw that is in thy brother's eye, thou seest; but the beam that is thine own 
eye, thou seest not! Hypocrite, cast first the beam out of thine own eye, and then shalt 
thou see clearly to take out the straw from thy brother's eye" (Luke 6: 41-42). 

The record of the Catholic Church, which has been amply documented by Western 
scholars, is scarred by deception, corruption, brutal suppression of dissent, and violence. 
The first Muslim missionaries who were sent to Christendom were met with swords 
drawn and were massacred at Dhat al-Talh in 629. 

The Crusades 

The Crusades (1095-1292) cast a long and ominous shadow for several centuries over 
Christian-Muslim relations. In a recent article, Daniel Johnson writes that in the eyes even of 
most Christians, the Crusades were a crime against humanity, one for which apologies are 
due, especially to Muslims. (Daniel Johnson, "How to Think About the Crusades" 
Commentary, 120 (1), July- August 2005) The Crusades were a barbaric, unprovoked war of 
aggression, conquest and extermination. As several Western historians have pointed out, 
many of the crusaders were motivated by greed and avarice and by the pursuit of land and 
plunder. Anti-Islamic rhetoric incited the passions of the crusaders. Pope Urban II 
contemptuously described Muslims as "a race utterly alien to God." When Jerusalem fell in 
1099, the crusaders vandalized and devastated the city and massacred tens of thousands of 
Muslims and Jews. For Jews, who had been living in the city in peace and harmony with 



120 IOS Minaret, A.n Onlint Is \ ' 

Muslims, it was a catastrophe unprecedented since the destruction of the Temple. Soon the 
definition of crusade was widened to include the extermination of Jews, heretics and pagans 
in Europe and elsewhere. During the fourth Crusade, which was diverted from the 
reconquest of Jerusalem and instead turned to the sacking of Constantinople in 1204, 
Eastern Orthodox Christians also suffered at the hands of the crusaders. 

A few years ago, the Nobel Prize-winning German novelist Guenter Grass suggested that 
Pope John Paul II, "who knows how lasting and devastating the disaster wrought by the 
mentality and actions of Christian crusaders have been", should issue a formal apology to the 
Muslim world. 

The crusades were directed not only against Muslims and Jews but also those persons and 
communities, such as the Knight Templar and the Cathari, which were declared heretics 
by the Church. The suspected heretics were arrested by the Inquisition, tried, tortured and 
ultimately burned at the stake. The use of torture against heretics was approved by Pope 
Innocent IV in 1252. The Knight Templar were a religious military order of knighthood 
established during the Crusades in the early 12 th century for the purpose of protecting 
pilgrims from Muslim warriors. They took vows of poverty and chastity and performed 
courageous service. They flourished for two centuries and their number swelled to 20,000. 
By 1304 they were falsely accused of harbouring heretical beliefs and practices and were 
made the target of persecution. Under instructions from Pope Clement V, their properties 
were confiscated. Many were imprisoned and executed. Their leader Jacques de Molay was 
burned at the stake. 

One of the victims of the Inquisition was the Christian sect of Cathari or Albigensians, 
who flourished in southern France in the 12 th and 13 th centuries. The Cathari believed that 
the material world was evil and therefore one must renounce the world to free his spirits. 
They saw Jesus Christ as a noble being, an angel, rather than as God incarnate. They were 
declared heretics by Pope Innocent III, who launched the Albigensian crusade against 
them. The entire populace in the Cathar regions in France was ruthlessly massacred and 
their towns were laid waste. An estimated 20,000 people, including women and children, 
were killed. Those held prisoner were tortured, blinded and mutilated. Likewise, 
Franciscans were suspected of being infested with heresy and many of them were burned 
at the stake. 

In the Middle Ages, sorcery and witchcraft were believed to be associated with demonic 
possession and heresy and so came within the purview of the Inquisition. The Inquisition 
published a scandalous book Malleus Maleficarum (The Witches' Hammer), which 
instructed the Catholic clergy how to identify, torture and execute those women who were 
deemed "witches" by the Church. These "witches" included female scholars, priestesses, 
gypsies, and midwives who used medical knowledge to ease the pain of childbirth. In the 
course of three hundred years of witch-hunt by the Church, hundreds of thousands of 
women were burned at the stake. 

After the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 A.D. Christian rulers had 
prohibited the Jews from entering or living in the city. Following the sack of Granada in 



IOS 'Minaret, in On I u I . Magazine 121 

1492, a campaign of forcible conversion of Muslims and Jews at the instance of King 
Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, with the approval of the Church, was carried out. Those 
who refused were exiled or executed. About five hundred thousand Muslims and nearly 
two hundred thousand Jews were expelled from the country. In 1290, during the reign of 
King Edward I, all Jews were exiled from Britain. It was only after 366 years that they 
were allowed to return and settle in Britain during the time of Oliver Cromwell. Jews were 
denied citizenship and religious and cultural freedom in much of Europe during the 
Middle Ages. In some regions they were forcibly expelled. Anti-Semitism has continued to 
persist in Europe to this day. 

Pope Benedict has stated that "violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the 
nature of the soul." He must surely be sure that in many cases violence was perpetrated by 
those, including priests and popes, who swore by this lofty principle. His namesake Pope 
Benedict (972-974) was strangled by a priest after the Roman citizens rebelled against him. 
Pope Damasus I (366-384) hired a group of killers to spend three days massacring his 
opponents. 

The Spanish Inquisition marks one of the bloodiest chapters in human history. It enjoyed 
the full support of Vatican's High Office of the Inquisition, now called the Congregation 
for the Doctrine of the Faith, an office Pope Benedict XVI once headed. The conquest of 
the Americas by the Spanish in the 16 th century led to an extensive plundering of the local 
resources and the decimation of the indigenous population. The genocide was blessed by 
the Holy See. 

The First and Second World Wars, which were mainly fought among Christian states, 
took a huge toll of human lives. In World War I, ten million people were killed and 
around 21 million were wounded. In World War II, 27 million people lost their lives and 
hundreds of thousands of soldiers were wounded and maimed. In addition, between 20 
and 30 million civilians were killed as a result of aerial bombardment, mass atrocities, 
deportations and genocide. One of the most brutal and blood-chilling genocides in human 
history took place in Nazi Germany where nearly six million Jews, Gypsies and Slavs were 
systematically massacred by shooting, medical experimentation, or by the use of gas 
chambers. Pope Pius XII maintained an enigmatic silence in the face of the Holocaust. 



Following the sack of Granada in 1492, a campaign of forcible conversion of 
Muslims and Jews at the instance of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, with the 
approval of the Church, was carried out. Those who refused were exiled or 
executed. About five hundred thousand Muslims and nearly two hundred 
thousand Jews were expelled from the country. In 1290, during the reign of King 
Edward I, all Jews were exiled from Britain. It was only after 366 years that they 
were allowed to return and settle in Britain during the time of Oliver Cromwell. 
Jews were denied citizenship and religious and cultural freedom in much of 
Europe during the Middle Ages. 



122 10 S Minaret, An ( ' ti m h n/ic Magazine 

In the Bosnian civil war (1992-95) the Serbs carried out a brutal pogrom of ethnic 
cleansing and genocide against Muslims and Croatians. Virtually the entire population of 
Bosnia-Herzegovina was uprooted. Thousands of people were mercilessly massacred and 
hundreds of women were raped. 

The Christian churches in Bosnia were severely compromised. Radavan Karadjic, the Serb 
general who masterminded the pogrom, was never reprimanded by the Orthodox Church. 
The Vatican extended its support only to Catholic Croatia. The IRA cadres in Ireland and 
Basque separatists in Spain and France (who are Catholics) have carried out violent, 
terrorist activities against their own coreligionists and their respective states for decades. 

Reason and revelation 

The conclusion drawn by Pope Benedict XVI from the dialogue between the Byzantine 
emperor and the Persian Muslim is that "not to act in accordance with reason is contrary 
to God's nature." 

The Pope may or may not be aware — and even if he is, he is unlikely to acknowledge — 
the debt that Christian theology and Western civilization owes to Islam. The subject of the 
relation between reason and revelation — on which he waxes eloquent — engaged the 
minds of some of the greatest Muslim philosophers and theologians more than a 
thousand years ago. Al-Ghazali (d. 1109, known in Europe as Algazel), Ibn Rushd (d. 
1198, known as Averroes), Ibn Sina (d. 1037, known as Avicenna) and Al-Frabi (d. 950, 
known as Alfarabius or Avennasar) wrote extensively on the place of reason in religion. 

What is particularly important, as the distinguished historian Robert Hammond has 
convincingly demonstrated, is that several Christian theologians in the Middle Ages, 
notably St. Thomas Aquinas (d. 1274), Raymond Lull (d. 1314), Albertus Magnus and 
Raymund Martin, were greatly influenced by the ideas of Muslim philosophers and 
theologians. The views of Ibn Sina had a deep influence on the scholastic philosophy of 
Albertus Magnus. 

Al-Ghazli wrote a treatise in the late 11 th century on the relation between reason and 
revelation. Thomas Aquinas, the foremost philosopher and theologian of the Catholic 
Church and the champion of orthodoxy, was profoundly influenced by the ideas of Al- 
Ghazali, Al-Farabi, Ibn Sina and Ibn Rushd. Aquinas' view that reason is capable of 
operating within faith, enunciated in his Summa Theologica, bears the unmistakable imprint 
of the thoughts of Muslim philosophers. In his Quaestiones Disputatae, Thomas Aquinas 
refers to Averroes' observations on the nature of God's knowledge. He borrowed a great 
deal from Al-Farabi, especially in regard to the attributes of God and the proofs of His 
existence. The arguments set forth by Aquinas for the existence of God are virtually the 
same as those enunciated by Al-Farabi. 



10 S Minaret, /hi Online Islamic Magazine 



One wishes the Pope, who claims to be such a great votary of reason, could engage in 
some self-introspection concerning the compatibility between reason and Christian 
dogmas, including trinity, the divinity of Jesus Christ, original sin and atonement. Since 
the Enlightenment there has been a growing realization of the fact that these Christian 
doctrines are at variance with reason. The process of secularization, which is continuing 
apace in Europe, owes much, in addition to the scientific spirit and modernization, to the 
perceived unreasonableness of many of the dogmas of Pauline Christianity. 

Before the 13 th century, the Catholic Church held that all unbaptised people, including 
newborn babies who died, would go to hell. This was because original sin — the 
punishment that God inflicted on humanity because of Adam and Eve's alleged 
disobedience — had not been cleansed by baptism. Subsequently this dogma was replaced 
by the notion of limbo, which held that unbaptised babies would not experience pain but 
neither would they experience the Beatific Vision of God. (Incidentally, how does one 
reconcile this dogma with belief in a loving God?) Muslims, on the other hand, believe 
that the souls of stillborn babies go straight to heaven. 

An anthropologist Leopold Pospisil, in his book The Kapauku Papuans of West New Guinea 
(1963) quotes a Papuan native in a 'Stone Age' society that was still mainly unaffected by 
Western culture at the time of his fieldwork in 1955. The native asked, 'Why, if (as you 
say) God is omnipotent, did the Creator have to change himself into a man and allow 
himself to be killed (crucified) when it would have been enough for him to order men to 
behave?' The native added that the Christian notion of man resembling God in 
appearance seemed to him utterly "stupid" (p. 85). T. J. Winter, an Oxford don who 
embraced Islam many years ago, recently said in a statement that he regards the doctrine 
of the Holy Trinity as nonsensical. 



Thomas Aquinas, the foremost philosopher and theologian of the Catholic Church 
and the champion of orthodoxy, was profoundly influenced by the ideas of Al- 
Ghazali, Al-Farabi, Ibn Sina and Ibn Rushd. Aquinas' view that reason is capable 
of operating within faith, enunciated in his Summa Theologica, bears the 
unmistakable imprint of the thoughts of Muslim philosophers. In his Quaestiones 
Disputatae, Thomas Aquinas refers to Averroes' observations on the nature of 
God's knowledge. He borrowed a great deal from Al-Farabi, especially in regard to 
the attributes of God and the proofs of His existence. The arguments set forth by 
Aquinas for the existence of God are virtually the same as those enunciated by Al- 
Farabi. 



124 IOS Minaret, An Onl m 1 1 mu Magazine 

The endemic conflict between the Catholic Church and science is too well known to be 
reiterated. The cosmological theories of Bruno (d. 1600), which laid the foundation of 
modern cosmology, were declared as heretical by the Catholic Church and led to his 
excommunication. After a seven-year trial by the Roman Inquisition he was burnt at the 
stake. 

Many of the tenets of the Catholic Church, such as celibacy of priesthood, prohibition of 
the ordination of women in the church, and the taboo on birth control methods — even in 
the face of the grave menace of HIV/ AIDS in Africa — are being increasingly perceived as 
irrational and out of sync with modern times by lay Christians as well as a growing 
number of Catholic priests. 

The point is that the Catholic Church needs to set its own house in order before pointing 
fingers at others. 

The Catholic Church and the crisis of credibility 

Pope Benedict XVI, and the Catholic Church in general, seem to be greatly perturbed by 
certain developments in Europe. These include the steady decline of Christianity on the 
continent, the dwindling fortunes of the Catholic Church, the implication of Catholic 
priests in sex crimes, and the growing visibility of Muslims, including the large-scale 
conversion of white Christians to Islam. 

Church attendance is steadily declining in most European countries. In Germany (the 
Pope's native country), between 1965 and 1999 the percentage of church-goers dropped 
from 75% to less than 30%. It has now fallen to less than 15%. In 1851, about 60% of the 
population of England and Wales attended church. By the end of the 20 th century this 
figure dropped to 10%. In Sweden church attendance is now about 5%. The available 
survey data indicate that in most European countries there has been a general erosion of 
religious beliefs and a steady decline in church membership and attendance. The number 
of people willing to join the priesthood is steadily falling. In Britain, between 1900 and 
1984 the number of priests declined from 20,000 to 10,000. The Catholic Church is faced 
with a worrying shortage of priests, especially in Europe. 

Another source of worry and disquiet for the Catholic Church is the growing popularity 
of new religious movements and sects such as Pentecostalism, Jehovah's Witnesses, 
Scientology, Assemblies of God, and the charismatic movement. Pentecostalism, a 
Protestant movement which originated at a Bible College in Kansas, USA in 1901, is the 
world's fastest growing sect within Christianity with some 500 million followers. The 



10 S Mi mint In <hi i Maga^im 121 

World Christian Encyclopaedia suggests that by 2050 there may be more than a billion people 
(nearly as much as the present Catholic population around the world) affiliated with 
Pentecostalism. 

In the past few years there has been a spate of highly popular books, written by Western 
scholars and writers, which cast grave doubts on some of the fundamental tenets of 
Christianity. These books include The Passover Plot (first published in 1965) by Hugh 
Schonfield (which has sold over six million copies in 18 languages), The Gnostic Gospels 
(1980) by Elaine Pagels, Holy Blood, Holy Grail (1982) by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh 
and Henry Lincoln, Tost Christianities (2003) by Bart D. Ehrman, The Da Vinci Code (first 
published in 2003) by Dan Brown (which has become a publishing phenomenon and the 
subject of a popular — and controversial — film), and The Jesus Papers: Exposing the Greatest 
Cover-Up in History (2006) by Michael Baigent, which is a New York Times bestseller. 

BBC's Panorama aired a documentary "Sex Crimes and the Vatican" on October 1, 2006. 
It focused on the wide prevalence in Europe, US and Canada of the sexual abuse of 
children by Catholic priests and revealed the existence of a secret document Crimen 
Sollicitationis written in Latin in 1962 and circulated among Catholic bishops across the 
world. The document, which contains instructions for bishops about dealing with 
allegations of child sex abuse against priests, was enforced for 20 years by Cardinal 
Ratzinger. The documentary revealed that Father Tom Doyle, a canon lawyer, had a 
diplomatic career with the Vatican but was sacked after he criticized the Church's 
handling of child abuse. He pointed out that "Crimen Sollicitationis is indicative of a 
worldwide policy of absolute secrecy and control of all cases of sexual abuse by the clergy. 
Nowhere in any of these documents does it say anything about helping the victims. The 
only thing it does is that they can impose fear on the victims and punish the victims for 
discussing or disclosing what happened to them." The document imposes the strictest 
oath of secrecy on the child victim, the priest dealing with the allegation and any 
witnesses. Breaking that oath means instant banishment from the Catholic Church — 
excommunication. Father Doyle pointed out that when the perpetrators — the priests — are 
discovered, the systematic response on the part of the Catholic Church has been not to 
investigate and prosecute the culprits but to shift them from one place to another in a 
secret manner. So, he says, there is a total disregard for the victims. 

The BBC documentary names some priests, such as Father Sean Fortune and Father 
Oliver O'Grady, who have been known child abusers and paedophiles. Despite knowing 
the heinous background of such priests, the Catholic Church simply shifted them secretly 
from parish to parish and never bothered to inform the police. Furthermore, they were 
helped and shielded by their own bishops. Father Fortune was finally exposed by some of 



126 IOS Minaret, An Onl m 1 1 n/ic Magazine 

the victims and their families, following which he killed himself on the eve of his criminal 
trial. Father O'Grady abused at least 30 victims over a period of two decades. He was 
finally caught, confessed to his crime and was jailed for seven years. 

The documentary reveals that in the US 4500 priests have been accused of raping or 
sexually abusing children. In 1996 a budget of US$ 7 million for covering up cases of child 
sex abuse by priests was allocated by the Church. The documentary refers to the Ferns 
Report, which revealed that over 100 boys and girls were sexually abused and raped by 26 
priests in one diocese alone. Some American priests, who were accused of child abuse and 
were wanted by the police, fled to Rome where they were protected and sheltered by the 
Vatican. Cardinal Ratzinger sent instructions to all Catholic bishops that all allegations of 
child abuse should be sent to the Vatican, which suggests that he was personally involved 
in the massive cover-up. Disgusted by the attitude of the Church some priests, such as 
Father Patrick, left the priesthood and joined lawyers acting for the victims of child sex 
abuse. 

The Muslim population in Europe, including immigrants, their second and third 
generation descendants, and converts, has experienced a remarkable growth in recent 
years. The number of Muslims in Europe is estimated at 25-30 million, with more than 5 
million in France, 3 million in Germany and 1.6 million in Britain. The number of white 
Christian converts to Islam is steadily rising, especially in France, Germany, Britain and 
the Netherlands. In the Netherlands there has been a ten-fold increase in the number of 
white converts after 9/11. In Paris alone there are more than a hundred thousand white 
converts, mostly women. In Britain the number of white converts exceeds 40,000. 

These converts include T. J. Winter, an Oxford scholar, Martin Lings, a former Keeper of 
Oriental Manuscripts at the British Museum, Yahya Birt, the son of BBC's former chief, 
Matthew Wilkinson, former head boy of Eaton, Joe Ahmad Dobson, the son of a former 
cabinet minister in Britain, members of the New Left, and some members of the House 
of Lords. 



The Muslim population in Europe, including immigrants, their second and 
third generation descendants, and converts, has experienced a remarkable 
growth in recent years. The number of Muslims in Europe is estimated at 25- 
30 million, with more than 5 million in France, 3 million in Germany and 1.6 
million in Britain. The number of white Christian converts to Islam is steadily 
rising, especially in France, Germany, Britain and the Netherlands. In the 
Netherlands there has been a ten-fold increase in the number of white converts 
after 9/11 



IOS ' Mi mint {//(>/ i Maga^im 12', 

Yahya Birt says that "Islam is pure monotheism. It has a clear moral system and an intact 
tradition of religious scholarship. No scripture expresses its message of the oneness of 
God as clearly as the Quran. It also has a rich mysticism, which maybe what appeals to 
middle class white Brits like me." One may ask the Pope whether he thinks the conversion 
of tens of thousands of white Christian converts to Islam in Europe is due to forcible or 
violent proselytization. 

Christian-Muslim dialogue in a globalising world 

Christians and Muslims constitute nearly half of the world's population. The followers of 
the Judaeo-Christian-Islamic tradition need to join hands in order to face the challenges of 
our globalizing era. This can be done by engaging in a sincere dialogue in an atmosphere 
of mutual respect, sensitivity and accommodation. However, this dialogue is not likely to 
bear fruit unless the subliminal baggage of prejudices and malice is abandoned, unless the 
attitude of self-righteousness and exclusion is given up. 

Since the time of Cyprian (d. 258), who propounded the principle that outside the Church 
of Rome there is no salvation, the Catholic Church continues to believe that 

"whosoever knowing that the Catholic Church was made necessary by God through 

Jesus Christ, would refuse to enter her, or to remain in her, could not be saved." In other 
words, not only Jews and Muslims (as well as the followers of other religions) but also 
Protestants and Orthodox Christians are unworthy of salvation. After 2000 years the 
Second Vatican Council (1962-65) decreed that Judaism is religiously acceptable as a 
preparatio for Christianity. Unfortunately, neither the Catholic Church nor the Protestant 
and Orthodox churches have ever recognized Islam as embodying a genuine religious 
experience. 

The Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences has issued a refreshing statement in recent 

times. 

The Church has to be in constant dialogue with the religions of Asia and to embark 

on this with great seriousness There may be more truth about God and life than 

it is made known to us through the Jesus of history and the Church. As such, 
Christians who take Christ's injunctions seriously must search for this truth in the 
various religions of the world. 

Islam espouses a pure, unadulterated monotheism, which is the corner-stone of the 
Judaeo-Christian tradition. Furthermore, Islam is the only religion in the world (besides, 
of course, Christianity) which unequivocally affirms the prophecy and ministry of Jesus 



128 IOS Minaret, An ( ' ti u /> n/ic Magazine 

Christ and hold him and his mother Mary in great esteem. The Quran offers an open 
invitation to Jews and Christians in the following words: 

Say: "O People of the Book! Come to common terms as between us and you: That 
we worship none but God; that we associate no partners with Him; that we do not 
erect, from among ourselves, lords and patrons other than God." (3:64) 



Say: "O People of the Book! Come to common terms as between us and you: That 
we worship none but God; that we associate no partners with Him; that we do not 
erect, from among ourselves, lords and patrons other than God." (3:64) 



10 S Minaret, sin Online Islamic Magazine 



SACRILEGIOUS CARTOONS 

Is it justifiable to offend people's sensitivities in 

the name of freedom of expression? 

IOS Research Network 



In recent years, the perception about Islam and Muslims in large parts of the world, 
especially in Western countries, has been coloured by a great deal of prejudice, mistrust and 
distortion. The Runnymede Trust in Britain set up a Commission on Islamophobia in 1997, 
which revealed that Islamophobia — fear of and hatred towards Islam and Muslims — is one 
of the chief forms of racism in many European countries. The wide prevalence of 
Islamophobia in European societies is reflected in the demonization of Muslims, in 
discrimination in respect of employment, education and housing, and in attacks on the 
visibility of Islamic symbols in public places. It is widely believed in Europe that its over 15 
million Muslims pose a serious threat to the security, culture and prosperity of European 
societies. Islamophobia has been on the rise after 9/11, as the report of the European 
Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia testifies. 

By and large, Muslim immigrants in European countries, 

including their descendants born and brought up in 

European societies, are faced with a multitude of problems, 

including institutionalized racism, lack of legal security, 

unclear citizenship status and high unemployment rate. In 

Britain, until December 2003, discrimination against 

Muslims was not considered unlawful because the courts 

refused to accept that Muslims are an ethnic group although, 

strangely, Jews and Sikhs are recognized as ethnic groups. 

Faced with an inhospitable atmosphere, many Muslim 

youths in France and other European countries are forced to 

change their names and to hide their local addresses for fear that this might jeopardize their 

chances of getting a job. 




In some European countries, Muslims face the prospect of de-ethnicization and assimilation: 
the pressure to give up their ethnic and religious identity and to assimilate in the culture of 
the dominant population. The Bernard Stasi report, commissioned by the French president 
Jacques Chirac in 1997, recommended a ban on school children wearing outward religious 
symbols, including the Jewish yarmulke, the Christian crucifix, the Islamic headscarf, and the 
Sikh turban. The Netherlands, where the issue of hijab or the Islamic headscarf has become 
highly controversial, is considering a similar ban. In Germany, the southern state of Baden- 



130 10 S Minaret, An Online Islamic Magazine 

Wurttemberg has designed its own searching exam exclusively for Muslim applicants seeking 
German citizenship. Questions in the test include: If your son told you he was a homosexual 
and wanted to live with another man, how would you react? If your adult daughter dressed 
like a German woman, would you try to prevent her from doing so? In Belgium, the far-right 
Vlaams Belang Party, which won nearly a quarter of the national vote in the 2004 election, 
wants to prevent Muslim immigrants from bringing their brides from their home countries. 
In Britain the Labour government and many of its liberal supporters endorse this idea. 
An indication of the deep-seated nature of Islamophobia is provided by the controversy over 
Turkey's membership of the European Union. Austria has openly opposed the move. 
Germany, Greece, Denmark, the Netherlands, France, Sweden and Spain are not at all 
enthusiastic about Turkey's entry. French intellectuals are saying that it may be possible to 
welcome the Turkish elite — Westernised as they are — but not the "Anatolian peasant who is 
not European by culture, tradition or habit." France and Austria have pledged to hold 
referendums on the question of Turkey's accession. Polls suggest that the move would be 
rejected by wide margins. An EU commissioner, the Dutch politician Fritz Bolkestein, 
warned that Turkish entry into the EU would "finish the job of the Ottoman Empire, and 
the liberation of Vienna would have been in vain." 

In September 2005 a minor Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten published 12 highly 
derogatory caricatures of Prophet Muhammad. In one of them he is shown wearing a bomb- 
shaped turban (thus portraying him as a terrorist). In early February 2006, several 
newspapers in 22 European countries, including the French daily France-Soir as well as ~Le 
Monde and Liberation, Germany's Die Welt, Italy's Corriere della Serra and Fa Stampa and Spain's 
Catalan daily El Periodico, republished some or all of the cartoons. In France, the front page 
of France-Soir carried the headline, "Yes, We Have the Right to Caricature God", 
accompanied by a cartoon of Buddhist, Jewish, Muslim and Christian deities floating on a 
cloud. The editorial in France-Soir said that it had published the cartoons in the name of 
freedom of expression and to fight religious intolerance. 

In Italy, Roberto Calderoli, deputy leader of the Northern League Party and a minister in the 
former centre-right government, sported a T-shirt depicting some of the controversial 
cartoons. He not only wore the T-shirt but also proudly displayed it on Italian television, 
which is widely viewed in Libya (a former Italian colony). Two days later, a large mob of 
Libyan Muslims stormed the Italian consulate at Benghazi, which led to the death of 14 
persons and injury to 35 people. Calderoli was forced to resign from the cabinet, following 
which he was placed under interrogation on charges of offending religious beliefs. 



10 S Minaret, /hi Online Islamic Magazine 



131 



Significantly, British and American newspapers did not reproduce the cartoons. Jack Straw, 
Britain's foreign secretary, called the publication of the cartoons "unnecessary, insensitive, 
disrespectful and wrong." The French president Jacques Chirac condemned the cartoons as 
a "manifest provocation". He said that freedom of expression was "one of the foundations 
of the Republic" but added a plea for "respect ad moderation" in its application. While 
maintaining that freedom of expression is dear to France, a foreign ministry statement said 
that France "condemns all that hurts individuals in their beliefs or convictions." The owner 
of France-Soir dismissed the managing editor of the paper after it republished the cartoons. 
The owner, Raymond Lakah, said in a statement that "he decided to remove Jacques Lefranc 
as managing editor of the paper as a powerful sign of respect for the intimate beliefs and 
convictions of every individual." America's State Department said that it was unacceptable 
to incite religious hatred by publishing such pictures. On February 8, three editors and a 
reporter resigned from the New York Press over the management's decision not to reprint 
the cartoons. 

The publication of these sacrilegious cartoons generated an enormous amount of anger and 
resentment among Muslims across the world and led to unfortunate political, economic and 
diplomatic repercussions. Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Libya recalled their envoys to 
Denmark. The storming of the Italian embassy in Benghazi led to the resignation of Libya's 
interior minister. The Swedish foreign minister Laila Frevalds was forced to resign in March 
2006 following a row over the closure of a website which published the cartoons. It was 
revealed that she had not given full information about her role in the closure of the website 
which belonged to a far-right political party in Sweden. Iran, which imports $280 million 
worth of goods a year from Denmark, snapped all trade ties with the country. Muslim 
consumers across large parts of the world, especially in the Middle East, boycotted Danish 
manufacturer Aria Foods, which normally sells $1.5 
million worth of dairy products from Denmark a 
day in the Middle East, announced that its sales 
had stopped. Trade between Denmark and the 
Persian Gulf, which amounts to one billion US 
dollars per year, came to a halt. 

The publication of the cartoons led to massive and 
violent protests in several Muslim countries, 
including Libya, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, 
Bangladesh, Iran, Beirut. Syria, Malaysia and 
Indonesia, resulting in the death of scores of 
people and injury to hundreds of protesters. 
DgmonstrilDn cmverge on Tr^B^ar Square 1i tQ ^tri*ft tr» lil OddOAf 



products on a massive 


cale. The Danisr 










MMmS3mm 



132 10 S Minaret, An Online Islamic Magazine 

Danish embassies in Iran, Beirut, Syria and Libya were attacked and vandalized. 

The Western media have sought to justify the publication of the cartoons in the name of 
freedom of expression. Thus, The Economist stated that "freedom of expression, including the 
freedom to poke fun at religion, is not just a hard-won human right but the defining 
freedom of liberal societies." This is a specious, hypocritical and myopic argument which can 
be faulted on at least three counts. First, to regard freedom of expression as an absolute 
right, regardless of its implications and consequences for the wider society, is absurd. No 
country allows complete freedom of expression. It is restricted by prohibitions against 
defamation, libel, blasphemy, obscenity, national security, incitement to hatred and judicial 
and parliamentary privilege. The European Convention on Human Rights, while recognizing 
that every one has the right to freedom of expression, allows European nations to impose 
restrictions "in interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the 
prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of 
the reputation or rights of others." Most if not all European countries have placed 
restrictions on freedom of expression through legislation. Thus, in Denmark and Britain 
(which have established churches) there is an anti-blasphemy law in respect of Christianity 
(which, ironically, does not apply to other religions). In Denmark, both the Conservative 
Party and the Liberal Party have opposed a parliamentary move to abolish the anti- 
blasphemy law. Nick Griffin, a leader of the far-right British National Party, had said in a 
recent speech that Islam was a vicious, wicked faith. He was tried for incitement to racial 
hatred, but on February 3, 2006 walked free at the end of the trial. In his defence, Griffin 
argued that he was attacking a religion (which, in the case of religions other than Christianity, 
is not an offence under British law), not a race. 

The British Parliament passed a bill on 31 January 2006 aimed at providing protection 
against incitement to religious hatred. The bill could be passed only after members of both 
houses of Parliament succeeded in moving an amendment to the effect that incitement to 
religious hatred must involve the intention to arouse hatred. This is a specious qualification. 
It is well nigh impossible to uncover or judge the hidden motivation of such actions. One 
should rather focus on the consequences and repercussions of such actions in the context of 
the wider society. A few days after the furore, an Arabic newspaper published an apology 
from Jyllands-Posten's editor-in-chief Carsten Juste, saying that "we now offer our apology 
and deepest regret for what happened because it was far from the paper's intention. We did 
not intend to hurt or target anyone." On the other hand, the cartoonist who drew the 
caricatures said in an interview to Glasgow Herald newspaper that he had no regret for his 
action and that freedom of expression and of the press was vital to a democratic society. 



IOS Minaret, in On I u I . Magazine 133 

Curiously, Jyllands-Posten had refused to print cartoons of Jesus because it involved the risk 
of giving offence to some Christians. (See Gwlays Fouche, "Danish paper rejected Jesus 
cartoons" Guardian, 6 February 2006. So, what does one make of this rigmarole? 

Eleven European countries, including Germany, France, Austria, Switzerland, Belgium and 
Poland, have laws (known as Auschwitzluge in the Germanic countries) which make the 
public denial or repudiation of the Holocaust a punishable offence. The world's best-known 
Holocaust denier Ernst Zundel, who was deported from Canada in 2005, faces 14 charges in 
Germany. British historian David Irving, author of 30 books on World War II, was jailed for 
three years by an Austrian court in 2006 for denying the Holocaust and the existence of gas 
chambers in Auschwitz in a speech he had given in Austria in 1989. Irving has been debarred 
from setting foot in Germany, Austria, Italy and Canada because of his views. 

Second, the right to freedom of expression needs to be tempered with social responsibility 
and sensitivity towards the beliefs and sentiments of others. An unbridled right to freedom 
of expression, especially in a multiethnic society, is fraught with socially disruptive 
consequences. Third, the controversy is likely to increase the alienation and disaffection of 
Muslims in Europe, exacerbate the tension between Muslims and the Western world, and 
lead to a further radicalization of Muslim youth. 

It needs to be pointed out that Muslims, whose sentiments have been hurt by the publication 
of these cartoons, have a right to protest against this sacrilege in a peaceful and democratic 
manner. Vandalism and violence in the name of protest is absolutely unjustifiable and is in 
fact counter-productive. It is gratifying to note that zfatwa issued by Egypt's grand Mufti Ali 
Juma'a stated that Muslims should protest peacefully, with "wisdom and exhortation." A 
joint statement issued by the United Nations, the Organization of Islamic Conference and 
the European Union condemned violent protests over the publication of the cartoons while 
calling for respect for religious beliefs. An ideal form of peaceful protest was displayed by 
Britain's Muslims who took out a peaceful rally of over 10,000 protesters on February 11. 
The rally was organized by the Muslim Council of Britain and the Muslim Association of 
Britain and backed by several Christian organizations as well as by Ken Livingstone, the 
Mayor of London. 

Hardly had the furore over the cartoons abated when an Italian magazine Studi Cattolici 
published a cartoon of the Prophet on 16 th April 2006, in which he is shown as cut in half 
and burning in hell. The chief editor of the magazine said that the cartoon was inspired by 
the 13 th century Italian poet Dante's celebrated work The Divine Comedy. 



IOS Minaret, /hi Online Islamic Magazine 



The whole controversy, though unfortunate, has necessitated a serious rethinking of certain 
key issues, including limits to freedom of expression in multiethnic societies, the social 
responsibility of the media in the context of a globalizing world, and the role of the state and 
civil society. 



IOS Minaret, in On I u I . Magazine 135 

Islam and Pluralism 
Professor A.R. Momin 

The terms plural society and pluralism, which came into vogue in the 1960s, have been 
increasingly used in anthropology, sociology, political science and international relations. The 
term plural society has been used to describe societies that are characterised by substantial 
racial, ethnic and social diversities and cleavages. Anthropologists have described many such 
societies as composite, multiple and dual societies. In the social sciences the term pluralism 
has been used in two rather different senses. In one sense, pluralism is said to be a property 
or character of societies that are marked by the coexistence of several distinct groups and 
cultural communities within a single political and economic system. By virtue of the fact that 
these groups and communities are governed by the same economic and political processes, 
they tend to be inter-dependent. At the same time, however, they have a good measure of 
autonomy. In the second sense, pluralism has a distinct political connotation and is regarded 
as a necessary condition for the viability of democracy in complex societies. In democratic 
pluralism, the decision making processes devolve upon a wide variety of autonomous 
political institutions and social groups. 

The first usage of the term pluralism has gained wider currency in the social sciences. 
Another term, which has more or less the same connotation and which has surpassed 
pluralism in usage, is multiculturalism. Most contemporary societies, whether in Asia and 
Africa or in Europe and North America, are now plural and multicultural in the sense that 
they are composed of many distinct, self-conscious ethnic groups and cultural communities. 
The great migrations of the post-War period have not only altered the demographic 
composition of many countries in Europe and North America but have also challenged the 
assumption of a homogeneous national culture as the edifice of the nation-state. The process 
of globalisation, which has brought about an enormous amount of economic, financial, 
political and cultural uniformity and homogenisation across large parts of the world, has also 
contributed to the revival or reinvention of ethnic identities, thanks to the unprecedented 
advances in information and communication technologies. 

Pluralism is not only indicative of an important facet of the political and social reality of our 
times but it also entails a set of moral premises and value-orientations, including an open and 
ungrudging acknowledgement and acceptance of ethnic and cultural diversity, disavowal of 
forced assimilation, tolerance and peaceful coexistence in a humane and democratic 
framework, respect for human rights, including community and minority rights, and 
commitment to dialogue and other peaceful methods of conflict resolution. 

This article seeks to demonstrate that the contemporary discourse of pluralism and 
multiculturalism can profitably draw upon some of the valuable insights and contributions of 
Islamic civilization. 



136 10 S Minaret, An Online Islamic Magazine 

The Islamic perspective on diversity 

The Islamic faith is founded on the edifice of two cardinal principles: the oneness and 
omnipotence of God, and the unity, equality and brotherhood of humankind. Islam takes 
cognisance of racial and ethnic diversities that characterises human societies across the world 
and holds that these diversities are divinely ordained. Thus the Qur'an says: "If thy Lord had 
so willed, He could have made humankind one people, but they will not cease to differ" 
(11:118). The Qur'an further says: "And among His signs is the creation of the heavens and 
the earth, and the variations in your languages and colours; verily in that are signs for those 
who know" (30:22). Lineages, tribes and ethnic groups, which characterise human societies 
everywhere, are said to have been created by God (Qur'an, 25:54). However, these divisions 
are meant to serve the purpose of ethnic or cultural identification; they are not indices of 
social ranking, hierarchy or prestige. The only worthwhile distinction or honour in the 
Islamic view is piety and virtue. Thus the Qur'an says: "O mankind! We created you from a 
single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, so that you may 
know each other. Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of God is one who is the 
most righteous of you" (49:13). 

The varied manifestations of diversity include variations in livelihood, behaviour patterns, 
knowledge and skills and the distribution of resources, including power. Islam takes due 
cognisance of such variations in respect of livelihood (2:212; 13:26; 16:71), knowledge 
(2:247; 58:11), and the distribution of wealth and power. The Qur'an says: "Such days (of 
varying fortunes) We give to people by turns" (3:140). 

The universality of prophecy 

In the Islamic view, God is not a parochial or racial deity like Jehovah, but the Lord of the 
universe and of all humankind. "All of mankind is God's family", says a tradition of the 
Prophet. The Qur'an says that prophets have been sent to all people in all parts of the world 
(35:24). Muslims are required to believe, not only in the prophecy of Muhammad, but in that 
of all other prophets (1 ,24,000, according to a tradition of the Prophet) who were sent to 
humankind at different points of time, as well as in all divine scriptures (2:4, 285; 3:84; 4:26, 
162). Islam holds that all the prophets carried basically the same divine message. The Islamic 
view of prophecy, therefore, is inclusive rather than exclusive, universal rather than 
parochial. 

According to the Islamic view, God's omnipotence and majesty transcend the diversity of 
modes and sites of worship. Thus the Qur'an says: "Had God not checked one set of people 
by means of another, there would surely have been pulled down monasteries, churches, 
synagogues and mosques in which the name of God is commemorated in abundant 
measure" (22:40). 

Tolerance and peaceful coexistence 

The Qur'an explicitiy maintains that there is no place in Islam for compulsion (2:256). It 
says: "If it had been thy Lord's wish, everyone in the world would have believed; will you 



l( ) \ M/ii/iitl, {//(>//' u Is/a . Magazine 137 

then compel people, against their will, to believe" (10:99). The Prophet is told to say to the 
unbelievers: "For you, your religion, and for me, mine" (109:6). 

The Prophet is advised to invite people to the path of righteousness and guidance, not 
through intimidation and coercion, but in a gentle and amiable manner. Thus the Qur'an 
says: "Invite (all) to the way of thy Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching, and argue 
with them in the best of ways" (16:125). It is significant to note that when God asked 
Prophet Moses to go to the Pharaoh in order to invite him to the path of righteousness, he 
was told to "speak to him mildly, perchance he may heed the warning or fear God" (Qur'an 
20:44). The Qur'an advises Muslims not to revile those who worship idols or images (6:108). 

The people of Semitic religions, especially Jews and Christians, share some fundamental 
articles of faith with the Muslims. The Qur'an emphasises that these commonly shared 
tenets should provide the basis for dialogue and reconciliation between Muslims and the 
People of the Book. The Qur'an says: "O People of the Book! Come to common terms as 
between us and you: That we worship none but God, that we associate no partners with 
Him; that we appoint not, from among ourselves, lords and patrons other than God" (3:64). 
The special affinity between Islam and other Semitic religions is reflected in the permission 
accorded to inter-marriage between Muslim men and Jewish or Christian women and the 
permissibility of the flesh of animals slaughtered by Jews or Christians (Qur'an 5:5). 

Following the conquest of Makka, the Prophet entered the city with his companions. The 
people of Makka were terrified and apprehensive about the likely prospect of their summary 
execution on the orders of the Prophet, for they had subjected him to the crudest kind of 
humiliation and torture and had finally driven him out of the city. They stood before him in 
fear and trepidation. "What kind of treatment do you expect from me?", he asked. They said 
in a trembling voice "You are our kind and affectionate brother. We expect the sort of 
treatment that is expected from a kind brother". The Prophet smiled and said: "Today you 
will not be taken to task. Go, you are free!". They could scarcely believe their ears and fell at 
his feet, overwhelmed as they were by the Prophet's magnanimity and compassion. 

Following the Prophet's migration to Madina, Makka was faced with a severe drought. Since 
Makka was a barren desert, food grains had to be brought from other areas. Najd was the 
only area which was unaffected by the drought and could send food grains to Makka. A 
group of Muslim soldiers happened to capture an influential person from Najd, named 
Thamama ibn Athal. He was brought to Madina and taken to the Prophet. The Prophet 
invited him to the Islamic faith, which he refused and retorted that he was ready to pay 
ransom for his release. The Prophet ordered that he be tied to a pillar in the mosque. On his 
instruction, Thamama was provided with food. After a while the Prophet invited him again 
to embrace Islam, but in vain. A few days passed. Finally the Prophet ordered his release. He 
was so touched by the Prophet's generosity and kindness that he fell at his feet and 
embraced Islam. 

Thamama told the Prophet that food grains from his region of Najd were sent to Makka and 
if he permitted, he could block the supply. The Prophet agreed to the suggestion and 
Thamama blocked the supply of food grains to Makka, which caused a great deal of hardship 



138 10 S Minaret, An Online Islamic Magazine 

to the people there. They sent an emissary to the Prophet, who told him on their behalf that 
he had always preached love, compassion and charity and that the people of Makka were on 
the verge of starvation. The Prophet immediately dispatched a letter to Thamama, asking 
him to lift the blockage and restore the supply of food grains. He then sent 500 gold coins 
for the poor and destitute people in Makka. 

The attitude and behaviour of the Prophet towards Jews and Christians in Madina exhibited 
remarkable tolerance, broad-mindedness and compassion. Some Jewish families lived in his 
neighbourhood in Madina. If one of their children fell sick, the Prophet would make it a 
point to visit the distressed family as a gesture of good will. If the funeral of a Jew passed by 
and if he was around, he would stand up as a mark of respect for the deceased. 

Islam does not allow aggression. Only a defensive war is permitted (Qur'an 2:190). When the 
Prophet passed away, the area under the control of the Islamic state exceeded three million 
square kilometres. The cost involved in the conquest of this vast area, in terms of war 
casualties, was less than 300. 

Islam's attitude towards other cultures 

Since Islam is a universal religion, it is characterised not only by a great deal of inner strength 
and resilience but also by a substantial measure of openness and flexibility. It eschews the 
narrow path of xenophobia, ethnocentrism and exclusion. The Islamic attitude towards 
other cultural traditions is reflected in its view of the pursuit of knowledge and the learning 
of foreign languages, in the legitimacy accorded to regional customs and usages, in the 
adoption of foreign technology, and in the acceptance of foreign medicines as well as 
cultural patterns. 

The Prophet is reported to have said: "Wisdom is (like) the lost animal of a Muslim; he 
catches hold of it wherever he finds it". The Prophet regarded the acquisition of knowledge 
as an obligation on every Muslim and exhorted his followers to carry the torch of learning 
far and wide. He warned against concealing or withholding knowledge. Islam opened the 
portals of knowledge and learning to all and sundry, men and women, rich and poor, high 
and low. 

In the Battle of Badr, Muslims scored victory over the unbelievers and more than seventy 
prisoners-of-war were captured by them. Umar, who became the second caliph after the 
demise of the Prophet, suggested that they should be executed. (Incidentally, the Bible says 
that if the enemy is defeated in war, their men, women, old persons and children should be 
executed). Abu Bakr, who succeeded the Prophet as the head of the Islamic state, disagreed 
with this opinion and suggested that they should be set free in lieu of some ransom. The 
Prophet agreed with this suggestion. A ransom of four thousand dirhams or a hundred camels 
was fixed as ransom for each of the captives. Those who paid the ransom were set free. In 
the case of those who could not afford the ransom money, their relatives and friend came to 
their rescue and arranged for the ransom amount. Some of the captives had neither the 
ransom money nor friends or relatives who could pay the ransom money on their behalf, but 
they knew reading and writing. The Prophet declared that a captive, who is unable to pay the 



I()\ Minaret, {//(>//' u I' . . Magazine 139 

ransom money but knows the art of writing, could secure his release by teaching ten 
Muslims children how to write. It was from one of these prisoners that Zayd ibn Thabit, 
who later served as the Prophet's secretary, learnt writing. Imam Bukhari has reported this 
incident under the caption: sanction accorded to the appointment of pagans as teachers of Muslims. 
Interestingly, a few of the prisoners had neither the capacity to pay the ransom money nor 
the ability to read and write. They were set free on their assurance that they would not wage 
a war against Muslims in the future. 

The Prophet occasionally adorned Persian and Roman attire and advised the use of Indian 
medicines. Once, when one of his companions fell seriously ill, he advised him to consult a 
doctor in Madina who was a Christian. In the Battle of the Ditch, one of the companions, 
Salman the Persian, suggested the digging up of a wide ditch around the city of Madina as a 
defence strategy. The Prophet readily accepted the suggestion. In some of the battles fought 
during the time of the Prophet, foreign techniques of warfare were used without any 
reservations. The Prophet instructed his secretary Zayd ibn Thabit to learn Syriac, Hebrew 
and Persian languages so that he could carry on the Prophet's correspondence with foreign 
rulers. Islamic law recognises the validity of some of the local customs and usages, known as 
Urf 'and Madah in legal parlance, in judicial pronouncements. 

The Islamic attitude of openness towards other cultural traditions was evidence in later 
centuries as well. During the reign of the Abbasid caliph, al-Mansur (ruled 754-775 A.D.), a 
movement for the translation of the scientific, philosophical and literary works of ancient 
Greece, Egypt and India into Arabic was initiated. A number of Jewish, Christian, Hindu, 
Magian and Sabaean scholars and translators, such as Hunanyn ibn Ishaq or Johannitus (d. 
877), Yuhanna ibn Masawayh (d. 873), Thabit ibn Qurra (d. 901), Abu Bishr Matta (d. 940) 
and Qusta ibn Luqa (d. 912), were associated with this movement. Hunanyn ibn Ishaq, a 
Christian translator, was appointed head of the Academy of Science (Dar al-Hikmah) in 
Baghdad, established by caliph al-Mamun (d. 833A.D.). He also served as physician to caliph 
al-Mutawakkil. Ibn Maymun or Maimonides, one of the distinguished philosophers and 
translators, was a Spanish rabbi. Jurji ibn Bakhtishu (d. 880), a Christian, was appointed as a 
court physician by caliph al-Mansur. The group of translators included Ali ibn Abbas al- 
Majusi (d. 994), a Magian, and Mankah and Ibn Dahan, who were Hindus. Caliph Harun al- 
Rashid set up a large hospital in Baghdad under the supervision of a Christian physician Jibril 
ibn Bakhtishu. 

Legal pluralism in the Islamic tradition 

The twin sources of Islamic law, namely the Qur'an and the Prophet's Sunnah, provide the 
fundamental principles and precepts governing spiritual and temporal matters. These 
principles and precepts also provide sufficient scope for dealing with unforeseen situations 
and circumstances. Muslim jurists formulated two methodological principles for the 
interpretation and elucidation of Islamic law in the context of changing times and situations. 
These two principles are analogical deduction iQiyas) and consensus among jurists and 
scholars (Ijma). In addition, they enunciated a rational and creative methodology for legal 
innovations (Ijtiahad). All these methodological approaches were basically derived from the 
Qur'an and the Prophet's Sunnah. 



140 10 S Minaret, An Online Islamic Magazine 

During the early Islamic period, people directly turned to the Prophet for the clarification 
and elucidation of legal principles and rulings. After his demise, his companions migrated to 
different lands and set up study circles and schools there. With the passage of time, Muslims 
living in different cities and towns began to follow the legal opinions (fatawa) and judicial 
pronouncements of the companions who had settled there. Thus, the people of Madina 
generally followed the fataiva of Abdullah ibn Umar; the people of Kufa those of Abdullah 
ibn Masud; the people of Makka those of Abdullah ibn Abbas; the people of Egypt those of 
Abdullah ibn Amr ibn al-'As. During the first three centuries of the Islamic era, several 
distinctive schools of jurisprudence emerged. These schools of jurisprudence were named 
after eminent jurists, including Hasan of Basrah (d. 728), Sufyan al-Thawri (d. 777), Awzai 
(d. 773), al-Tabari (d. 922) and Abu Thawr (d. 860), among others. Most of these schools 
died out with the passing away of their founders or shortly thereafter. Four major schools of 
jurisprudence, which flourished and have survived to this day, include those of Abu Hanifa 
(d. 767), Malik (d. 795), Shafii (d. 795) and Ahmad ibn Hanbal (d. 855). 

Legal pluralism in the Islamic tradition is reflected at three distinct levels: (i) the coexistence 
and accommodation, rather than suppression, of different interpretations of Islamic law (ii) 
the cognisance of regional, local practices and usages in judicial pronouncements and legal 
rulings (iii) the tolerance and accommodation of sectarian and denominational differences. 

The Prophet's Companions (Sahabah) and the Followers (Tabiun) had certain differences in 
matters of jurisprudence, legal pronouncements and religious rituals. Some of them recited 
the Bismillah aloud in prayers while others preferred to recite it quietly. Some recited the 
Qunut in the pre-dawn prayers while others did not. In spite of such differences they never 
hesitated to follow one another in congregational prayers. Imam Shafii considered frogs, 
crabs and tortoises impermissible for eating while some other jurists did not prohibit their 
eating. 

Islamic law {Shariah) follows the path of ease and convenience for people, and eschews the 
path of hardship and inconvenience. An eminent Muslim jurist Ibn al-Qayyim says: "The 
basis of the Islamic Shariah is wisdom and welfare of the people in this world and in the 
Hereafter. This welfare lies in complete justice, mercy, well-being and wisdom. Any thing 
that replaces justice with oppression, mercy with harshness, welfare with misery and wisdom 
with folly, has nothing to do with the Shariah". As we shall presently see, several eminent 
jurists, scholars and men of piety have viewed legal differences in terms of convenience and 
ease for the common people. One of the important methodological principles in the Hanafi 
school of jurisprudence is al-Masalih al-Mursalah, which emphasises the greater good and the 
convenience of people in legal rulings and pronouncements. 

In spite of differences in legal pronouncements and rulings, the scholars and jurists of the 
early Islamic period had tremendous regard and respect for one another. They never 
doubted the honesty, integrity and sincerity of their contemporaries. They never allowed 
differences in legal matters to affect inter-personal relationships. Imam Abu Ishaq al-Shatibi 
(d.730) has perceptively observed: "If a new issue leads to differences among people, 
without causing hostility, malice, ill will or division, we regard it as a part of Islam. But if a 



IOS Minaret, in On I u I . Magazine 141 

new issue results in creating animosity and incrimination among Muslims, if it causes the 
snapping of the bonds of brotherhood, it has nothing to do with Islam." 

Sometimes, the scholars of yore abstained from performing some of the religious rituals 
which they considered obligatory, out of deference for their seniors. When Imam Shafii 
visited the tomb of Imam Abu Hanifa in Baghdad and it was time for the pre-dawn prayers, 
he did not recite the Qunut prayers which, in his opinion, were obligatory. When someone 
questioned him about this, he replied, pointing to the tomb of Imam Abu Hanifa: "How 
could I do so before this Imam, who did not think that the Qunut prayers are obligatory in 
the pre-dawn prayers." 

The early scholars, jurists and men of learning viewed the legal differences among their 
predecessors and contemporaries, not as a bane, but as a blessing in disguise. Sufyan al- 
Thawri, for example, used to say: "Do not say that the Ulama have differed in such and such 
matter; say, instead, that they have provided convenience and ease for the people (by their 
difference of opinion)." Abu Yusuf and Muhammad ibn Hasan al-Shaybani, the 
distinguished followers of Imam Abu Hanifa, had certain differences in matters of 
jurisprudence and legal pronouncements with their mentor. Yet, their opinions were 
incorporated in the corpus of Hanafi jurisprudence. Hanafi scholars and jurists have 
maintained that there is nothing objectionable if Hanafi scholars and jurists reach a 
consensus in respect of an extraordinary case in an extraordinary situation, whereby they give 
a legal opinion in accordance with the principles and tenets of the Maliki school of 
jurisprudence, rather than with those of their own Hnafi school. Thus, Hanafi scholars and 
jurists in the pre-Independence period gave a ruling, based on scholarly consensus, in regard 
to the dissolution of a Muslim woman's marriage whose husband has left her with no trace 
of his whereabouts. 

In the early Islamic period, some rulers sought to bring about uniformity and 
homogenization in legal matters under the auspices of the state. However, they were 
dissuaded by eminent scholars and jurists from doing so. During the caliphate of Umar ibn 
Abd al Aziz, it was suggested that he should bring about uniformity and consensus in respect 
of legal rulings, to which he replied: "I would not have been very happy if Muslim scholars 
had not had any differences in legal matters. The companions of the Prophet had certain 
differences in legal matters. Therefore, any one who follows the precepts of any of the 
companions is on the right path". He then circulated an order through the Islamic territories 
to the effect that the people of every region should abide by the ruling over which the local 
scholars and jurists had reached a consensus. 

Once the Abbasid caliph al-Mansur told Imam Malik that he proposed to circulate copies of 
the Imam's books in every city and town, with the instruction that people should follow only 
these books. Imam Malik dissuaded the caliph from doing any thing of the kind. He told him 
that people in different cities were following the rulings of local scholars and jurists and that 
it was advisable to allow this situation to continue. Likewise, caliph Harun al-Rashid told 
Imam Malik that he wished to have the latter's celebrated work Al-Muwatta to be hung in the 
Ka'bah, so that the Muslim masses could follow it in a uniform manner. Imam Malik advised 
him not to do so. 



142 10 S Minaret, An Online Islamic Magazine 

More than one-third of Muslims across the world are living as minorities in non-Muslim 
countries. These Muslim minorities are faced with a number of problems and challenges. 
This situation has led some contemporary Muslim scholars and jurists to re-examine some of 
the principles enunciated in the classical works of Islamic jurisprudence. They argue that 
there is a need to rethink some of the important issues in Islamic jurisprudence, including 
the traditional dichotomy between the Abode of Islam (Dar al-Islam) and the Abode of War 
(Dar al-Harb), the relations between Muslims and non-Muslims in plural and multicultural 
societies, the participation of Muslims in secular politics, coping with the pressures and 
challenges of secularization, and the constraints on Islamic family laws and on the 
maintenance of Islamic identity. In 1994, the North American Fiqh Council announced a 
project to develop a distinctive body of jurisprudence for Muslims living in non-Muslim 
countries. Dr. Taha Jabir al-Alwani, chairman of the Council, has used the term 
Jurisprudence of the Minorities (Fiqh al-Aqallijyah) and has argued that this constitutes an 
autonomous body of jurisprudence based on the principle of the relevance of Islamic laws to 
the conditions and circumstances peculiar to a particular community. He also argues that the 
traditional categories of Dar al-Islam and Dar al-Harb are no longer relevant in the 
contemporary context. The eminent Egyptian scholar Dr. Yusuf al-Qaradawi has carried the 
argument further in his books Fiqh al Aqalliyjah al-Muslimin (in Arabic) and Fiqh of Muslim 
Minorities (in English). 

Ethnicity in Islamic perspective 

Ethnicity, which is an important aspect of the contemporary discourse of pluralism, refers to 
the positive consciousness of belonging to a group. Factors such as religion, culture, 
language and a sense of shared identity constitute the key components and markers of 
ethnicity. Undoubtedly, ethnicity plays an important role in fostering social solidarity and 
cohesiveness and in providing a sense of belonging and rootedness to the individual. In 
actual fact, ethnicity is a Janus-faced phenomenon in the sense that it has both benign as well 
as negative implications and consequences. In the Hadith literature, the negative and socially 
disruptive implications and consequences of ethnicity are described as Asabiyjah or 
ethnocentrism. The Prophet defined Asabiyjah as helping one's own people in a manner that 
is morally wrong. He said: "He who invites people to Asabiyjah is not one of us; he who 
fights for it is not one of us; he who dies for the sake of it is not one of us." One day a 
scuffle took place between a Migrant (Muhajir) and a Helper (Ansari). Both called out to their 
respective groups for help. When the Prophet heard about this incident, he expressed 
displeasure over it and remarked: "Why do you raise slogans like those of the age of 
ignorance (Jahiliyyah)? Give them up; they stink." A companion asked the Prophet whether 
loving one's own people was also a part of Asabiyjah, to which he replied in the negative and 
added: "Asabiyjah is helping one's community in matters of injustice and oppression." 

The renowned philosopher and sociologist Ibn Khaldun (d.1406), in his celebrated work 
Muqaddimah, has dwelt at considerable length on the social significance and functions of 
Asabiyjah and on its bearing on political processes, especially on the establishment of 
political power. However, while he takes a largely instrumentalist view of ethnicity, he fails to 
take cognisance of the negative and dysfunctional implications and consequences of 
Asabiyjah. 



IOS Minaret, in Onl n I . Magazine 143 

Islam and the Making of Indian Civilization 
Professor A. R. Momin 

The comparative study of complex cultures and civilizations presents us with two significant 
and inter-related facts: the wide range of cultural diversities across, as well as within, cultures 
and civilizations, and the universality of cultural exchange, cross-fertilization and 
coalescence. All civilizations have been composed of diverse ethnic groups and cultural 
communities with their distinctive cultural traditions and identities. All civilizations had to 
grapple with the problematic interface between diversity and unity and had to work out 
some kind of reconciliation and synthesis. Civilizations evolve through a dynamic process of 
borrowing and adaptation, accommodation and assimilation, hybridization and cross- 
fertilization of ideas, artifacts, social institutions and cultural patterns. The American 
anthropologist Alfred Kroeber has perceptively observed that the essence of a civilization is 
not in its being but in its becoming. The classical Greek civilization, for example, was a 
mixture of primitive Greek, Minoan, Egyptian and Asian elements. The Japanese civilization 
is partly autochthonous, partly Chinese, partly Indian, and partly Western 
(Kroeber,l 972:259). 

Diversity and Unity in Indian Civilization 

Since the middle of the second millennium BC, Indian civilization has drawn several migrant 
groups and communities to its fold. The advent of the Indo-Aryans, the Tibeto-Burman- 
speaking Mongoloid people, Kushanas, Sakas, Greeks, Huns, Arabs, Turks, Persians, 
Afghans and Mongols in the ancient and medieval periods and the Portuguese, Dutch, 
French and English people in later times testifies to the pervasiveness of the migration 
process in India. In the course of time, most of these migrant groups adapted themselves to 
local conditions and were influenced by the languages, beliefs and cultural patterns of the 
indigenous people. The extensive and protracted process of interaction, exchange and 
mutual adaptation among the various groups and communities brought about India's 
characteristic diversity and a composite structure of culture and civilization. The Indian 
subcontinent has witnessed one of the most creative and ingenious experiments in cultural 
cross-fertilization spanning five millennia. The fabric of Indian civilization has been woven 
from strands and shades of varying textures and hues drawn from a variety of sources. This 
fact is borne out by archaeological and historical evidence, philological and linguistic 
researches, textual and literary sources, and studies in folklore. 

Archaeological evidence points to the existence of commercial and cultural relations between 
the borderlands of north-western India and Iran and Central Asia even before the dawn of 
the Indus Civilization (PossehLl 982:79). The Indus Civilization had extensive trade and 
cultural relations with Mesopotamia, Persia, Afghanistan and the Mediterranean world. The 
migration of the Indo-Aryans from south central Asia into the Indian subcontinent began 
from 1500 BC onwards. Three facts about the advent and settlement of the Indo-Aryans are 
note-worthy. First, there seems to be a striking similarity between Vedic gods and goddesses 
and ancient Iranian and Hittite deities (Kosambi, 1987:72-91; Chattopadhyaya, 1978:43). 



144 10 S Minaret, An Online Islamic Magazine 

Secondly, the Indo- Aryans were ethnically a mixed people. Thirdly, the Indo- Aryans, who 
were pastoral nomads, adopted the technology and occupational pattern of the Indus people 
who were urban-based agriculturists and of the Dravidian-speaking indigenous people. 
Interestingly, the Rg Veda contains at least 25 Dravidian loan words, including agricultural 
terms which do not occur in other Indo-European languages (Sharma, R.S., 1999:45). Punjabi 
and Haryanavi, for example, have quite a few Dravidian agricultural terms 
(Trautmann,l 979:1 64). The presence of proto-Dravidian in vocabulary, syntax and phonetics 
in Vedic literature is fairly well established. The later Vedic texts display an even greater 
admixture of Dravidian words (Burrow, 1965; Deshpande,1995:67-84; Thapar, 1992:11, 94). 
The Austric languages, which are still spoken by some tribal communities in eastern and 
central India, also influenced Sanskrit and other Indo-European languages. Certain kinds of 
echo-formations which are characteristic of Austric languages found their way into Indo- 
Aryan speeches. For example, the most commonly used word for plough in Vedic literature, 
~Langala, was derived from Mundari, one of the Austric languages. 

There are frequent references in Vedic and post- Vedic literature to the migration of foreign 
people, including the Yavana, Pahlava, Saka, Kushana, Parada, China and Abhira (Sharma, 
R.S., 1958:32; Thapar,1979:152-159). Many myths and folk traditions, particularly about 
Aryavrata, Balhika, Himavanta, Meru, Uttarakuru and Uttaramadra, in later Vedic texts, early 
Pali texts and in the epics and the Puranas suggest migration of people (Sharma, 
R.S., 1999:99). The Sama Veda refers to a ritual whereby non-Aryans were admitted into the 
mainstream of Vedic society. Manu mentions that several foreign tribes who came in contact 
with the Aryan people were accorded a place within the fold of Hindu society. Many foreign 
tribes, such as the Saka, Kamboja and China, were included in the four-fold organisation of 
Hindu society. They were described in the classical sources as varnasankara or mixed castes 
(Bose.l 967:207-208; Bhattacharyya,1998: 250). The Atharva Veda refers to the Vratyas who 
were outside the fold of Hinduism. The Brahmans made considerable efforts to draw them 
to the mainstream of Vedic society. The Saka or the Scythians, who entered India around the 
first century BC, were accorded a Kshatriya status (Thapar,1979:176-177). The cult of sun- 
worship was brought to India by the Maga people who came to India around the first 
century BC from Sakadvip or Persia. Initially, they were not admitted into all the rituals and 
ceremonies but subsequently they came to be absorbed into Vedic society and came to be 
known as Sakadvip or Maga Brahmans (Bhandarkar,1913:153-155; Jairajbhy, 1963:153; 
Joshi,1975:179; Walker, 1968:3). 

The classical literature provides ample evidence of inter-marriages between the Indo-Aryans 
and other groups, both foreign and indigenous. The Vedic texts refer to Aryans of Dasa 
descent (dasiputra Brahmans), who were a progeny of Brahmans and slaves (Sharma, R.S., 
1958: 63-64; Thapar, 1992:84). The later sources mention the Abhira Brahmans, who were 
contemptuously described as Mleccha because they were a product of inter-marriage between 
Brahmans and the untouchable Ambastha caste (Thapar,l 975:31). A seventh century 
inscription from south India mentions the Boya Brahmans, the Boyas were otherwise 
described as a Shudra tribe. There were inter-marriages between the Brahmans and the 
forest-dwelling Naga tribe. It is significant that Naga genealogies and myths are accorded a 
prominent place in the opening canto of the Mahabharata (Kosambi, 1987:94; 



IOS 'Minaret, in On/ n I . Magazine 145 

Thapar,1979:122-151). It is also interesting to note that, in the folk tradition, some of 
Krishna's sixteen thousand wives seem to be of foreign extraction (Kosambi, 1987:116). 

Pluralism and Syncretism in Hinduism 

The process of Aryanization or Sanskritization often entailed the adoption of Sanskrit 
names, rituals and customs. However, it did not always bring about uniformity and 
homogenization. The adoption of Brahmanical customs and rituals was often a selective 
process. Furthermore, it was blended with regional customs. For example, the Brahmanic 
institution of gotra was adopted by non-Brahman, including tribal, communities in different 
ways. In some cases, Brahmanic gotras were blended with regional and folk customs. From 
early times, tribal and folk cults and ritual practices were incorporated into Brahmanism. 
Totemic deities such as fish, tortoise and boar were made into incarnations of Vishnu 
(Kosambi, 1987:170). Shiva was formed by a fusion of the Vedic Rudra with some non- 
Aryan deity, including the Indus deity, which has been described as proto-Shiva 
(Chattopadhyaya, 1978: 47, 91-92; Bhandarkar,1913:104). Narayani and Durga, 
manifestations of Shiva's consort, which were associated with non- Aryan tribes, came to be 
absorbed into classical Hinduism (Thapar,1992:178-179; Gonda, 1976; 
Shivapadasundaram,1934). Similarly, the deities of tribals and low-caste groups were 
absorbed by Brahmanism. Serpent worship and phallus worship, which found their way into 
Hinduism, were taken over from forest-dwelling tribal communities. Heterodox sects and 
cults, including the Shakta and Tantra traditions, incorporated several esoteric features from 
indigenous and tribal cultures (Woodroffe, 1951; Bharati, 1965; Dasgupta, 1962). 

The foregoing discussion makes it fairly clear that the Hindu religious tradition and Hindu 
society have been internally differentiated and pluralistic rather than monolithic and 
homogeneous. Pluralism has been one of the quintessential features of Hinduism at the 
metaphysical as well as socio-cultural level. For example, it is believed that if two Sruti 
traditions are in conflict, both are to be held as valid and authentic. The epics, in both textual 
as well as folk forms, bear the imprint of pluralism. For instance, the Ramayana has several 
versions or variants (Raghavan,1980; Richman,1992). A.L. Basham has observed, 
"Hinduism can absorb new ideas and can, if need be, find room for new gods; moreover, 
every passage in the Hindu sacred texts is open to figurative interpretation, so that it is 
possible for different schools of Hinduism to hold diametrically opposed doctrines without 
serious antagonism" (Basham,1958). There exists a rich tradition of heterodoxy, agnosticism 
and atheism in the Hindu philosophical tradition. The literature in the atheistic and agnostic 
tradition in the Sanskrit and Pali languages is larger than that of any other classical language. 
In the fourteenth century, Madhavacharya's book Sarvadarshansamgraha devoted the first 
chapter to arguments in favour of the atheistic position (Sen, 2001). The pluralistic ethos of 
Hinduism is also reflected in the wide range of beliefs and ideas, in social organisation, in 
rituals and ceremonies, and in behaviour patterns (Karve, 1961:1-14). R.S. Sharma has rightly 
commented that Hinduism encompasses a pluralistic cultural universe (Momin,1996: viii). 

From early times, Hinduism appears to an amalgam or synthesis of Aryan, Dravidian, tribal, 
folk and other elements. In other words, Hinduism has been a "mosaic of distinct cults, 
deities, sects and ideas" as Romila Thapar ( 1992:68) has perceptively observed. Syncretism 



146 10 S Minaret, An Online Islamic Magazine 

within the fold of Hinduism is conspicuously evidenced in the survival of non- Aryan deities, 
rituals and ceremonies in villages which have been in the heartland of Hindu expansion 
(Marriott,l 955:209-210). 

The process of acculturation and integration has been extensively at work at the regional 
level. Though all groups or communities in Indian society have their distinct identities, they 
do not exist in a social or cultural vacuum. Rather, they are knit together in a dynamic 
network of reciprocity, interaction and exchange. The sharing of space, village identity, and 
material and cultural traits at the regional level cuts across religious and sectarian differences 
and binds the people together (Singh, 1992; Singh,1999). The distribution of material traits at 
the regional level indicates a significant complementarity in that it is marked by both local 
differentiation and inter-penetration. Often, a cluster or complex of material traits at the 
regional level unites different groups and communities (Bose,1961). 

Islam in India 

The commercial and cultural relations between India and Arabia go back to pre-Islamic 
times. During the pre-Islamic period as well as during the time of Prophet Muhammad (569- 
632), a wide variety of Indian goods and commodities, including camphor, sandalwood, 
spices, perfumes, medicinal substances, coconut, timber, cloth, precious stones and swords 
were exported to Arabia. Indian goods were sold in the bazaars of Hadramawt, Suhar, 
Yemen and Aden in Arabia and thence taken to Iran, Egypt and the Byzantine empire. Some 
people of Indian origin had settled in Arabia even before the birth of Prophet Muhammad. 
The Prophet is reported to have made a mention of some Indian substances, such as musk, 
camphor and costus. He recommended the use of the Indian costus for toncilitis and 
respiratory ailments. After his demise some of his companions visited India. Long before the 
conquest of Sindh by Muhammad ibn Qasim in 712 AD, Arab traders and merchants had 
settled along the coast of Kerala and Gujarat. 

Migrations, Conquests and Cultural Diffusion 

There is a tendency in certain circles to characterize the advent of Muslims in India 
exclusively in terms of barbaric invasions and conquests. This is nothing but a distortion of 
history. For one thing, the various groups of Muslims who entered India at different points 
of time did not comprise a culturally homogeneous category. They were differentiated in 
respect of ethnicity, occupation and motivation. For example, the first wave of Muslims who 
entered India in the seventh century included traders, merchants, scholars and men of piety. 
They were followed, in the course of time, by artisans, craftsmen, Sufi saints, men of letters, 
poets, soldiers and conquerors. In the 13 th century, when Mongol hordes overran and 
devastated the famed cities of Samarqand, Bukhara, Hirat, Naishapur, Merv, Balkh and 
Khwarizm, thousands of artisans, craftsmen and men of letters took refuge in Lahore, Delhi, 
Badaun and other Indian cities. These people underwent a process of adaptation and 
indigenization (Misra,1974). They adopted local languages and cultural patterns. Many of 
them married local women. The descendants of Muslims of foreign descent in India— Arabs, 
Turks, Afghans, Iranians, Mughals etc— constitute less than ten percent of the total Muslim 
population in the country. In most cases, their cultural traditions and identities have been 



IDS Minaret, in ()/// u Is/a . Magazine 147 

diluted or lost as a result of inter-marriages with the local people as well as a long drawn out 
process of indigenization. An overwhelming majority of Indian Muslims are of indigenous 
origin and share genetic and biological traits as well as local languages and dialects, material 
traits, customs and cultural features with the rest of the Indian population. 

It is often argued that conquests bring in their train only barbaric destruction and 
devastation. This is only partially true. History testifies to the fact that invasions and 
conquests have negative as well as positive consequences. Conquests bring about contacts 
and interactions between peoples and cultures and thereby lead to the diffusion of 
technology, ideas, inventions and innovations, architectural and literary styles and cultural 
traits. The conquest of Spain by the Arabs in the seventh century served as a catalyst in the 
hybridization and cross-fertilization of ideas, science and technology, medicine, philosophy, 
architecture, crafts, music and literature. The Mongol invasion of Asia and Europe in the 
13 th century brought in its train the transmission and diffusion of technology, including the 
use of gun powder, magnetic compass, printing and the spinning wheel from Central Asia 
and China to Europe. One of the significant and enduring consequences of the Crusades 
was the diffusion, from Islamic lands to Europe, of medical arts and hospitals, public baths, 
musical instruments, dyes and gun powder, windmills and water wheels, compass, 
astronomical and surgical instruments, and perfumes and sugar. 

The Indian subcontinent has been exposed to foreign invasions much before the Arab, 
Turkish, Afghan and Persian conquests. The Muslim conquest of India brought about 
substantial technological, military, political, economic, social and cultural changes in Indian 
society. As mentioned in the foregoing, the Turkish, Afghan and Persian conquests of India 
brought in their wake the migration of thousands of skilled craftsmen, artisans, engineers, 
men of letters and poets. The development of India's composite civilization, especially in the 
fields of architecture, arts and crafts and languages and literary styles, owes much to their 
skills, craftsmanship and ingenuity. In the wake of Muslim conquests came right-angle 
gearing, very important for water lifting, as also the spinning wheel (Habib, 1994:13). The 
windmill was not a Greek or Roman or European invention; it was invented by Muslims. 
The Arab geographer Al-Masudi saw windmills in Persia in the ninth century AD. The 
European references to windmills appear three centuries later. The windmills set up by 
Muslims in several parts of India, including the one at Aurangabad in Maharashtra, are 
among the marvels of medieval technology and engineering. Muslims introduced pedals in 
looms which accelerated the speed of weaving. Sericulture was introduced by Muslims in 
Bengal and Kashmir. The Turks introduced cavalry in armed combat, which brought about 
qualitative changes in techniques of warfare. It is interesting to note that, in Sanskrit sources, 
the Turkish sultans of Delhi are described as Ashwapati or lords of horses (Nizami,1961:82). 
Another significant military innovation introduced by the Turks in the Indian subcontinent 
was the use of artillery. The use of gun powder and cannon are reported, for the first time, 
during the Bahmani siege of Adoni in Tamil Nadu in 1366. The extensive use of gun powder 
and cannon brought about far reaching changes in techniques of warfare and in defence 
strategies (Momin,1998). 

One of the highly important and enduring contributions made by Muslims to the 
development of Indian civilization was the introduction of paper. The invention of paper 



148 IOS Minaret, An Online Islamic Magazine 

can be traced to the year 105 AD when Tsai Lun, an official attached to the imperial court in 
China, created a sheet of paper using mulberry and other fibres together with old rags and 
hemp waste. The Chinese kept the technique of paper making a closely guarded secret for 
well over six centuries. In 751, a war took place between the Chinese and the Arabs in 
Samarqand. The Chinese lost the war and a number of Chinese soldiers were captured as 
prisoners-of-war by the Arabs. The Arabs set a condition that the Chinese prisoners could 
secure their release by teaching them the technique of paper making, to which the latter 
agreed. Muslims contributed to the craft of paper making in three important and ingenious 
ways. First, Chines paper was made from mulberry and young bamboo shoots, as a result of 
which it was quite delicate and expensive. Muslims experimented with linen, cordage and 
rags, which made the paper sturdy and much less expensive. Secondly, they introduced 
certain ingenious techniques such as maceration of rags with a stamping mill. Thirdly, unlike 
the Chinese, Muslims did not keep the knowledge of paper making to themselves. Instead, 
they disseminated it far and wide (Hunter,1947; Momin,2001). The first paper factory was 
set up in Baghdad in 793 and in a relatively short time, paper factories sprang up in 
Samarqand, Damascus, Egypt, Morocco and Andalusia. Paper began to be exported from 
Andalusia, Sicily and Morocco to Europe. Paper factories were set up in Europe four 
centuries later in the 13 th century. In ancient India, the leaves of the aloe tree and the 
palmyra tree were used for writing purposes. During the medieval period, paper began to be 
imported from Baghdad, Samarqand, Damascus and other cities of the Islamic world. 
Muslim rulers set up paper factories in Bihar, Kalpi,, Jaunpur, Aurangabad and Kashmir. 
King Zainul Abideen introduced paper in the Kashmir valley in 1420 (Momin,2001). 

It is commonly believed that the Muslim conquest of India was motivated by the 
proselytizing zeal, that Muslim kings and emperors forcibly converted the local people to 
Islam, and that Muslim rule over India was marked by fanaticism, bigotry and oppression. 
The fact of the matter is that the Turkish, Afghan and Mughal invasions of India were 
motivated, not by the Islamic spirit, but by material considerations such as territorial 
expansion and economic or financial gains. Similarly, in the conversion of large masses of 
people to Islam, the use of force was an exception rather than a rule (Arnold,l 997:81- 
82,157-158,173-174; Ahmad,1964:82). Dr. Rajendra Prasad has observed,"The attitude of 
the Muslim conquerors had, on the whole, been one of toleration and, in spite of the 
fanatical zeal manifested by some of them at times, it may be safely asserted that there had 
been a continuous effort from the earliest days to deal with the Hindus fairly" 
(Prasad,l 946:86; Sharma, S.R., 1954:8). Following the conquest of Sindh, Muhammad ibn 
Qasim decided to allow the civil and revenue administration to remain in the hands of the 
local people. This policy was followed in the Delhi Sultanate as well. The finance and 
revenue departments of the state continued to be run by Hindu officials. This process was 
accelerated during the Mughal emperor Akbar's reign. He gave charge of revenue 
administration to Raja Todar Mai, which had far-reaching consequences. During 
Aurangzeb's reign, Jaswant Singh was appointed the governor of Gujarat. The tolerant and 
sagacious policies pursued by the Muslim rulers in India are also reflected in land grants 
bestowed by them for the maintenance and upkeep of Hindu and Jain temples. Emperor 
Aurangzeb, who is often maligned as a fanatic and a destroyer of Hindu temples, granted 
endowments and jagir to scores of Hindu and Jain temples across the country. Temple 
authorities and priests in the Someshwarnath Mahadev temple in Allahabad, the Jangambadi 



IDS Miliard, in ()/// /< Is/a . Magazine 149 

Shiva temple in Varanasi and the Vrindavan temple have preserved the original firmans 
granted by Aurangzeb. Tipu Sultan used to regularly send gifts to 156 temples in Mysore. 

The spread of Islam in the Indian subcontinent owes much to the sincerity, tolerance, 
compassion and human sympathies of Sufi saints. They set up their spiritual centres or 
khanqahs in the midst of the settlements of the masses, conversed with them in the local 
dialects, shared their joys and sorrows, and tried to mitigate their suffering in various ways. 
In Kashmir, for example, the first person to embrace Islam was a tribal leader from Ladakh 
named Ranchan. Ranchan, who ruled over Kashmir in 1320-1323, was influenced by a Sufi 
saint Bulbul Shah. Sufism exercised a significant influence on the Bhakti movement. The 
emphasis placed by the Bhakti movement on devotion to a personal God, egalitarianism and 
its disdain for empty ritualism and religious obscurantism were inspired by the teachings of 
the Sufis. 

Syncretism in Architecture, Arts and Crafts 

The contribution of Indian Muslims to the promotion and development of architecture, arts 
and crafts forms a magnificent part of India's composite civilizational heritage. Monuments 
of Indo-Islamic architecture, particularly in Delhi and Agra, exhibit a creative and exquisite 
blend of Saracenic, Persian and Central Asian architectural styles and motifs, on the one 
hand, and Rajput and Jain styles, on the other. Arcuate and brick construction by the use of 
the arch, construction of dome, and cementing by lime and gypsum were introduced in India 
by the Muslims. Muslim architects, engineers, masons and craftsmen innovated new 
techniques of decoration in brick work, tile work and wood carving. They adapted existing 
designs and devised new ones. They made an ingenious use of local materials and regional 
motifs and patterns. All this gave Indo-Islamic architecture a rich diversity of design, style 
and pattern. In addition, an over-arching Islamic pattern was superimposed on this diversity, 
which was marked by large spaces, a powerful and imposing geography, a pervasive sense of 
harmony, functional significance, aesthetic elegance, and an extensive use of ornamental 
calligraphy (Hark,1968). Indo-Islamic architecture had a far-reaching impact on architectural 
styles and patterns through the length and breadth of the country. Interestingly, even Hindu 
temple architecture was influenced by Islamic architectural designs and motifs. The temple 
of Govinda Deva in Mysore, for example, has a porch covered by a vault with radiating 
arches in the style of Indo-Islamic architecture. 

Muslim artisans and craftsmen introduced a variety of materials and pigments, including 
glass, lapis lazuli and cobalt blue. Glass was manufactured in Baghdad, Egypt, Persia and 
Andalusia as earl as the ninth century. Muslim craftsmen developed the technique of 
enamelling glass, which travelled to different parts of the world, including India and Europe, 
during the Middle Ages. Muslim craftsmen excelled in the art of inlaying intricate designs in 
bronze, brass and silver. They perfected the technique of inlaying wood with ivory, bone and 
mother-of-pearl. 

Carpet weaving was introduced in the Kashmir valley, under Turkish and Persian influence, 
by king Zainul Abideen. The art of lacquered papier-mache was introduced in Kashmir by 



150 10 S Minaret, An Online Islamic Magazine 

Persian artists and craftsmen under Mughal patronage. The famed blue pottery of Jaipur and 
Khurja bears the unmistakable influence of Persian and Central Asian techniques and motifs. 
Similarly, Mughal and Rajput miniature painting has been influenced by Persian art. Mughal 
miniature paintings are widely appreciated for their arabesque designs, depiction of minute 
details and the vibrancy of colours. The Renaissance artists were greatly fascinated by them. 
Rembrandt (d.1669) had a personal collection of more than two dozen Mughal and Deccani 
paintings, which he copied in his inimitable style. Muslim artists introduced several kinds of 
colouring materials, which were used by artists in different parts of the country. Lapis Lazuli, 
which was used in the Ajanta paintings, was brought from Persia. 

The contribution of Indian Muslims to the promotion and development of Indian classical 
music, both instrumental and vocal, is generally known and widely appreciated. Amir 
Khusraw has a legendary reputation in this field. Masters and practitioners of Indian classical 
music enjoyed the patronage of Muslim rulers. Pundarik Vitthal of Karnataka composed 
several works in classical music at the instance of Shah Burhan Khan of Khandesh. When 
Khandesh was conquered by Emperor Akbar in 1599, Pundarik Vitthal joined Akbar's court. 
An accomplished musician, Chatur Damodar, was attached to the court of Emperor 
Jahangir. The association of Muslim musicians with the rich tradition of Indian classical 
music continues to this day. 

Syncretism in Languages and Literary Traditions 

Five inter-related dimensions of the contribution of Muslims to the enrichment of Indian 
languages and literary traditions are note-worthy: (i) the patronage of Sanskrit language and 
Sanskrit scholars by Muslim rulers (ii) compositions in Sanskrit by Muslim scholars and 
poets (iii) translation of Sanskrit works into Persian and Arabic (iv) the impact of Arabic, 
Persian and Turkish languages on Indian languages in respect of vocabulary, phonetics and 
script (v) contribution to the development of regional languages. 

Sanskrit scholars and poets were honoured and patronised by several Muslim kings and 
emperors, including Emperor Akbar and king Zainul Abideen of Kashmir. Uday Raj, an 
eminent Sanskrit poet, was attached to the court of Sultan Muhammad Beg of Gujarat. He 
composed a poetic work in praise of the Sultan. Emperor Firuz Tughluq commissioned the 
translation of important Sanskrit works into Persian. A treatise on Hindu astronomy and 
astrology was translated into Persian under the title Dalal-l-Firu\ Shahi. Sultan Zainul 
Abideen of Kashmir (1420-1470) commissioned the translation of the Mahabharata into the 
Kashmiri language. By the order of Alauddin Husain Shah, the Sultan of Gaur (1493-1518), 
the Mahabharata was translated into Bengali. Emperor Akbar, who was a great admirer and 
patron of Indian culture and learning, commissioned the translation of the Atharva Veda 
into Persian. The Mahabharata, Ramayana and some of the Puranas were also rendered into 
Persian under the royal commission. It is estimated that about 90 Persian translations of the 
Ramayana are in existence. Some of them have been printed; others are in the form of 
manuscripts. Emperor Akbar's revenue minister Todar Mai translated the Bhagvata Puran 
into Persian. The patronage of Sanskrit continued in the reign of Jahangir, Shahjahan and 
Aurangzeb. Aurangzeb's courtiers included Sanskrit scholars and poets like Indrajit Tripathi 
and Samant. Prince Dara Shikoh, who was well versed in Sanskrit, translated the Upanishads 



K)\ M/iinnf, {//(>/," u I' ■ . Magazine 151 

into Persian in 1656. Most of these translations have survived the vicissitudes of time and are 
preserved in the India Office Library and the British Museum. In the 18 th century, a French 
scholar Anquetil du Perron rendered Dara Shikoh's Persian translation of the Upanishads 
into Latin under the title Oupnekhet. It was published in Paris in 1801. The celebrated 
German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer (d.1860) turned into an admirer of Indian 
philosophy after reading this translation. Several Muslim scholars were well versed in 
Sanskrit. The great Indianist Al-Biruni (d.1051) studied Sanskrit under the tutelage of 
Brahman scholars and translated some Sanskrit works of a scientific nature, including Brahma 
Siddhanta and Kalpayara, into Arabic. He is also said to have written a treatise in astronomy in 
Sanskrit called Kiran Tilak. Abdur-Rahim Khan-I-Khanan, Abul Fazl and Faizi, the well- 
known courtiers of Emperor Akbar, were well versed in Sanskrit and Hindi. Abul Fazl and 
Faizi translated the Ramayana into Persian. Khan-I-Khanan composed Shlokas which were 
half in Sanskrit and half in Hindi. Shaista Khan, one of the generals of Emperor Aurangzeb, 
composed poetry in Sanskrit. Ghulam ali Azad Bilgrami, a distinguished writer and poet who 
lived in the 18 th century, was conversant with Sanskrit. 

As a result of prolonged and extensive cultural and linguistic interaction between Hindus and 
Muslims during the medieval period, a large number of Arabic, Persian and Turkish words 
found their way into the vocabulary of Indian languages. It is interesting to note that the 
word Hindu is of Persian origin. The Persepolis and Naqsh-I-Rustam inscriptions of Darius 
(d. 486 BC) refer to the frontier regions of the Indus as Hindush. The term was later used in 
Arabic geographical and historical sources (Sircar,l 965:7; Wink, 1990:5). The Ram charitm anas 
of Tulsidas, an Avadhi version of the Ramayana, contains a fairly large number of Arabic 
and Persian words/ 1 ) The scripts of Kashmiri, Sindhi, Punjabi (in the pre -Partition days) and 
Urdu have been derived from the Persian script. 

Indian Muslims have made a highly significant contribution to the development of regional 
languages and literary traditions. The contribution of the Sufis to the promotion of regional 
languages and dialects is particularly note -worthy. The earliest extant specimen of Hindwi, 
the prototype of Urdu and Hindi, are to be found in the Sufi literature. The early Hindwi 
poets such as Masud Sa'ad Salman (d.1121) and Amir Khusraw (d.1325) drew inspiration 
from the Sufi masters and composed their literary works in the local idiom. In the Deccan, 
Gesu Daraz( d.1422) and other Sufi writers and poets were among the early pioneers of 
Urdu literature. 

India's composite heritage is pre-eminently reflected in the development and efflorescence 
of Urdu. One need not belabour the point that Urdu is deeply rooted in the Indian tradition. 
Three-fourth of its vocabulary is derived from Sanskrit and Prakrit and only one-fourth from 
Arabic, Persian and Turkish languages. Its grammatical structure is almost the same as that 
of other Indo-European languages. The beginnings of early Urdu literature can be traced to 
the Deccan in the 16 th century. Dakhani Urdu literature is deeply imbubed with Indian 
folklore, imagery and symbolism. The variety and range of religious literature in Urdu 
testifies to its plural and composite character. All the major scriptures of Hinduism, 
including the four Vedas, the epics, the Upanishads, four of the Puranas and Manusmruti 
have been translated into Urdu. There exist more than 200, full or partial, Urdu translations 
of the Ramayana. Several translations of the Mahabharata and at least sixteen translations of 



152 IOS Minaret, An Online Islamic Magazine 

the Bhagwat Gita exist in Urdu. In the 19 th century, a number of Urdu journals and weeklies 
were devoted to the defence and propagation of Hinduism, Jainism, Sikhism, Christianity 
and Islam. During the early decades of the 20 th century, Urdu served as a popular and 
effective medium of the anti-colonial struggle. The revolutionary writings of Urdu poets and 
writers, who included Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs, fired the patriotic fervour of the Indian 
people. 

The joint participation of Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs in the anti-colonial struggle forms a 
magnificent chapter of Indian history and symbolises the sustained vitality of India's 
composite civilization. 

India's Composite Civilization and the Nationalist Discourse 

Since the 19 th century, one can discern two distinctive and contrasting strands in the 
nationalist discourse in India. One may be characterised as ethnonationalism or Hindu 
nationalism, which is a premised on a conflation of nationalism and ethnicity, particularly 
religious revivalism, and on the assimilation of the minorities and other marginalized 
communities into the culture of the majority. The other is based on a shared political 
discourse, as reflected in equality, citizenship and fundamental rights. The assimilationist 
ideology is camouflaged and expressed in many forms, including cultural nationalism, 
national mainstream and national ethos. It is necessary and important to deconstruct the 
rhetoric of the assimilationist agenda. The agenda has three major premises or 
presuppositions. First, the assimilationist ideology presupposes that India is socially and 
culturally homogeneous and that it has a homogeneous national culture. Secondly, the 
assimilationist ideology identifies the national culture with the beliefs, rituals, institutions and 
cultural traditions of Hinduism. Thirdly, the assimilationist agenda sends out a clear message 
to the minorities and other ethnic groups that they should assimilate themselves in the 
national mainstream. The subtle message is that they should identify themselves with India's 
Hindu past, Hindu mythology and Hindu religious and cultural traditions. 

All the three premises or presuppositions are fallacious and untenable for the following 
reasons. First, the assumption that India has a homogeneous national culture flies in the face 
of the country's historically embedded and pervasive diversity. This diversity exists at three 
distinct levels. First, it exists within the fold of Hinduism, in beliefs, ritual practices and 
cultural traditions. Secondly, the scale and range of diversities in India is truly extraordinary. 
They encompass morphological and genetic variations, languages and dialects, religious 
beliefs and ritual practices, forms and patterns of marriage, food habits, dress patterns and 
cultural traditions (Singh, 1992). Thirdly, this diversity is particularly striking at the regional 
level. 

Secondly, the view that the minorities and other ethnic groups should assimilate themselves 
in the national mainstream implies that hitherto they have been leading a secluded life, that 
they are insulated and isolated from the larger Indian society. This view is fallacious, 
dangerous and untenable. It is fallacious because it perpetuates the colonial myth that Indian 
society is fragmentary, static and atomized. It is dangerous because it maligns and demonizes 
the minorities and other marginalized communities. It is untenable because it is premised on 



10 S Minaret, An Onl u I . \ luga^ine 153 

a distortion and misrepresentation of facts. Thirdly, the assimilationist ideology is at variance 
with the democratic ethos of our time as well as with the secular-democratic spirit of the 
constitution of India. 

There have existed, since ancient times, extensive linkages and networks in Indian society 
which have knit the various groups, communities and segments together. These linkages and 
networks are historically-embedded and continue to exist in contemporary Indian society 
with remarkable tenacity. This has been forcefully brought out in the People of India Project 
carried out by the Anthropological Survey of India. Most communities and social groups are 
located within the cultural-linguistic region where they share material culture, social space, 
regional ethos and identity, languages and dialects, and customs. All social groups and 
communities are closely intertwined in respect of subsistence and economic pursuits, 
adaptation to the environment and utilization of local resources. The extent of linkages 
between the various religious communities, including the majority Hindu population, is truly 
remarkable. Thus, according to the People of India Project, Hindus share a very high 
percentage of traits with Muslims (96.77 percent), Buddhists (91.19 percent), and Sikhs 
(88.99 percent). Likewise, the extent of shared material traits between Muslims and Sikhs is 
89.95 percent and between Muslims and Buddhists 91.18 percent (Singh, 1992). Muslims 
share genetic and morphological traits with the Hindu population. There is a great deal of 
convergence between Hindus and Muslims in respect of kinship organization, marriage 
customs, local languages and dialects and regional identity. In fact, village identity often cuts 
across and transcends religious distinctions. 

National Identity and National Integration 

One can identify four distinct models of national integration in post-Independence India. 

(A) The Composite Culture A lode/ 

(This model is based on the idea of unity-in-diversity, peaceful co-existence, reconciliation 
and co-operation between Hindus and Muslims in particular and among the various religious 
communities and ethnic groups in general. The idea of composite culture as the bedrock of 
Indian nationalism was strongly endorsed by Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru.) 

(B) The Assimilationist Model 

(This model is founded on Hindu nationalism and the assimilation of minority communities, 
tribals and other groups into the orbit of Hindu society and culture.) 

(C) The Secularist Model 

(Espoused by the Westernised Indian elite, this model emphasizes political parameters such 
as citizenship, secularism, federalism and fundamental rights as providing the edifice of 
nationalism. This model disregards the role of religion and ethnicity in public life.) 



154 10 S Minaret, An Online Islamic Magazine 

(D) The Pluralist/ Multicultural Model 

(It argues that India is essentially a plural and multicultural society. Therefore, Indian 
nationalism should be founded on the tolerance and appreciation of ethnic diversity, 
peaceful co-existence and respect for human and community rights, especially minority 
rights.) 

The constitution of India enshrines several elements and features from (A), (C) and (D). It 
envisages a pluralistic polity through the conceptual instruments of secularism and 
federalism. Although the constitution does not contain the word secularism in its Preamble, 
it pervades its spirit and the whole gamut of its provisions. In the Indian context, secularism 
is essentially a matter of state policy towards religion and is marked by three features: (i) 
equal citizenship and equality before law as well as equal legal protection to all citizens ( 
Article 14), (ii) guarantee of freedom of religion to individuals and groups (Article 19 (1) (a), 
(iii) the State's equal distance vis-a-vis various religions in the sense that it cannot 
discriminate in favour of or against any religion of the country. The constitution also 
promotes regional pluralism by providing for a federal government (Articles 370,371). The 
constitution guarantees religious and cultural freedom to all citizens, which includes freedom 
of conscience, freedom to practice and propagate religion, freedom to the minorities to 
preserve their religion, culture, language and script and to establish their own educational 
institutions (Sathe, 1992). 

The assimilationist model is out of tune with the spirit of our times and at variance with the 
universally acknowledged tenets of democratic pluralism and human rights as well as with 
the composite ethos of Indian society. Therefore, it deserves to be discarded. While the idea 
of composite culture as the bedrock of Indian nationalism is largely based on historical and 
contemporary reality, it is rather simplistic and banal in its conventional formulation. It 
seems to highlight and focus only on one facet of Indian civilization, namely Hindu-Muslim 
exchanges and syncretism in architecture, music, arts and cultural patterns. The full reality, as 
I have tried to demonstrate in the opening part of this paper, is that the scale and magnitude 
of India's composite civilization is far more pervasive and extensive. Another problem with 
the idea of composite culture is that it tends to exaggerate the significance and impact of 
certain monistic-syncretistic trends in medieval Indian society, such as the cult of Deen-e-Ilahi 
patronized by Emperor Akbar, the metaphysical monism of Emperor Shah Jahan's son Dara 
Shikoh, and the mystic monism of Kabir. The cult of Deen-e-Ilahi, which was a bizarre hodge- 
podge of doctrines and rituals drawn from Hinduism, Islam, Christianity and 
Zoroastrianism, died with the Emperor's death. Kabir's critique of excessive formalism and 
ritualism on the part of Hindu priests and Muslim mullahs and his emphasis on a personal 
experience of the divine appealed to large masses of people, both Hindu an Muslim, in 
northern and western India. However, it failed to have any extensive and enduring impact on 
Indian society. Ironically, the Kabirpanthi sect split into Hindu and Muslim segments. Some 
secular-minded advocates of India's composite culture emphasize the positive role of such 
things as Hindu-Muslim inter-marriages, the organization of concerts by Muslim musicians 
in Hindu temples and the voluntary participation of Muslims in Hindu rituals and 
ceremonies in fostering national integration. However, such things are peripheral in nature 



IDS Minaret, in ()/// u Is/a . Magazine 155 

and are not endorsed by Hindus and Muslims in general. Yet another problem with the idea 
of composite culture is that it takes a rather facile view of India's past and glosses over areas 
of conflict and tension, especially between Hindus and Muslims. In recent years, the issue of 
India's past, particularly medieval history, has become a subject of contentious debate and 
acrimonious polemic. Colonial historiography has cast an ominous shadow over the 
interpretation of Indian history, particularly medieval history. Unfortunately, there seems to 
be a growing trend towards mixing mythology, particularly religious mythology, with history. 
J Carsten has considered the significance of 'forgetting' in the construction of identity, In a 
situation like ours, where much of the country's history is contested, certain historical 
episodes and narratives need to be subjected to the process of conscious and deliberate 
'forgetting'. The need for the demystification and de-colonization of history is equally great 
and urgent/ 2 ) 

The secularist model, which endorses the idea of civic nationalism or what Jurgen Habermas 
has described as constitutional patriotism, has a great deal of merit in it, but as Craig 
Calhoun has rightly pointed out, nationalism is not merely a matter of politics but also of 
culture and identity (Calhoun,l 997:3). 

I wish to propose an alternative, or rather complementary, model of national identity and 
integration in India, which I would like to describe as the multkommunitarian model. This 
model is not wholly original but based on a reformulation or reconceptualization of certain 
features drawn from the afore-mentioned three models. It is guided by the distinguished 
American anthropologist Alfred Kroeber's perceptive observation, quoted in the opening 
part of this paper, that the essence of a civilization is not in its being but in its becoming. In 
other words, civilization is a dynamic, unfolding process. It is inspired by an acute 
observation of Jawaharlal Nehru to the effect that Indianness is a matter of feeling, a dream, 
a vision, and an emotion. Some scholars have spoken about the conscious 'invention' of 
national traditions and their role in the construction of national identity (Hobsbawm and 
Ranger,1983). The multicommunitarian model presented here is premised on a 'reinvention', 
rather than 'invention' , of national identity in the context of India. 

The multicommunitarian model outlined in this paper is informed and guided by three 
broad premises. 



(1) The national identity of a plural and multicultural society, such as India, should be 
inclusive rather than exclusive, open-ended and fluid rather than closed and rigid, 
dynamic and evolving rather than fixed and static, pluralistic and syncretistic rather than 
homogeneous and undifferentiated, tolerant and accommodating rather than totalitarian 
and tyrannical. It should be based on democratic consensus rather than on coercion 
(Momin,1994; Momin,1999; Parekh,2000). Like individuals, ethnic groups and cultural 
communities in plural societies have multiple identities which are often over-lapping and 
complementary (Sen,2001). The definition and construction of national identity in a 
plural society should allow sufficient autonomous spaces for the existence of these 
identities. 



IOS Minaret, /hi Online Islamic Magazine 



(2) The definition and construction of national identity in a plural society should be guided 
and inspired by a set of value-premises, including appreciation and tolerance of diversity, 
peaceful co-existence in a democratic framework, respect for human and community 
rights, especially minority rights, and adherence to the principle of reconciliation through 
dialogue and other legitimate methods of conflict resolution. 

(3) A theory or model of national integration should not only be logically coherent and 
conceptually elegant but should also have a historical and empirical referent. In other 
words, a viable model of national integration should reflect both the historical reality of a 
given society as well as its contemporary situation. It should steer clear of being too 
idealistic, elitist or abstract. 

The multicommunitarian model of national identity and integration in the context of India is 
characterized by the following features. 

(A) Extensive cultural and ethnic diversity not only exists across the country but is also 
endemic to the Hindu ethos, social organization and cultural traditions. This diversity 
is a valuable and inalienable part of Indian civilization and hence deserves to be 
preserved and maintained. Therefore, an ungrudging appreciation and tolerance of 
cultural and ethnic diversity is a sine qua non of national identity in India. Contrary to 
the misconception prevalent in certain quarters, diversity need not be a stumbling 
block in the path of national unity and integration. As Bhikhu Parekh has rightly 
observed, political unity does not require cultural homogeneity and is best preserved 
in a climate of flourishing and self-confident cultural diversities (Parekh,1997). 

(B) India symbolises a veritable human and civilizational laboratory where the process of 
cross-breeding of ideas, beliefs, doctrines, social institutions and cultural traditions 
has been going on for the past five thousand years. As a result of this process, Indian 
civilization has been enriched, nourished and sustained by several cultural streams 
and ethnic groups. The rich and multi-faceted contributions of various social groups 
and ethnic communities, including the minorities, tribals and indigenous 
communities, to the shaping of Indian civilization, in the past as well as in the post- 
Independence period, should be openly and generously acknowledged. The 
protracted process of cultural interaction and exchange in Indian society has given 
rise to extensive linkages and networks between regions, social groups and 
communities. These linkages and networks are historically embedded and have a 
powerful resonance in the contemporary setting as well. These linkages and networks, 
shared memories and experiences of the anti-colonial struggle, shared traits, social 
and cultural spaces, linguistic and regional identities, and shared literary and artistic 
expressions are the greatest strengths and assets of Indian civilization. They should 
inspire and guide national identity, national integration and national aspirations. 

The idea that India's composite cultural heritage should inform and guide its national 
identity does not necessarily entail a blurring, collapse or dilution of ethnic 
boundaries and religious identities. It is desirable, in my opinion, for Hindus and 



IOS 'Minaret, in On I u I . Magazine 157 

Muslims as well as other social groups and ethnic communities to preserve and 
maintain their respective religious and ethnic identities and to respect the boundaries 
within which these identities are embedded. At the same time, the creative strength 
and potential of their shared identities should be underscored and harnessed in the 
service of national integration (Momin,2001). 

(C) It is gratifying that the constitution of India takes due cognizance of the country's 
pluralistic ethos and allows its various ethnic groups and cultural and religious 
minorities autonomous spaces. The multicommunitarian model, therefore, can be 
worked out and implemented within the broad framework of the Indian constitution. 

Notes 

(1) The Indo-Islamic tradition also encompasses the religious sphere in some measure. In 
Bengal and Orissa, the commonly used word for consecrated food (prasad) in Hindu 
rituals and ceremonies is shirini, which is of Persian origin and which has a similar 
connotation in the Muslim usage. Similarly, the Persian word Pir, which refers to a 
spiritual mentor, is occasionally used in the Hindu religious context. One comes 
across, for example, names like Ramev Pir. 

(2) The policies and actions of Muslim emperors and kings during the medieval period, 
which were often motivated by political considerations, are increasingly being 
communalized by certain right-wing historians. Thus, while stray acts of desecration 
of Hindu temples by some Muslim rulers are exaggerated and misrepresented, such 
acts by Hindu rulers against Buddhist and Jain temples are glossed over. In the early 
medieval period, there were violent confrontations between Hindus, Buddhists, Jains, 
Shaivites and Vaishnavites (Subramanyam,1996). Much before the Muslim conquest 
of India, Hindu rulers some times destroyed Buddhist temples. King Harshdev of 
Kashmir,for example, destroyed and plundered Hindu temples. The Parmar king 
Shubhatvaram destroyed Jain temples in Gujarat. Buddhist shrines and temples were 
systematically destroyed by the Shaivites from the 6 th to the 10 th century. Shankara, 
the ruler of Bengal, dismantled the famous Buddhist temple at Bodh Gaya and built a 
Hindu temple on its ruins. Jain temples were destroyed by Hindu rulers in Tamil 
Nadu and Karnataka between the 7 th and 11 th century. 

An unfortunate consequence of the communalization of history is that acts of 
benevolence and magnanimity on the part of Muslim emperors and kings are being over- 
looked. King Zainul Abideen of Kashmir (1421-1471) undertook the repair of temples 
which had become dilapidated or which had been destroyed by the earlier Muslim rulers. 
He gave the freedom to those who had been forcibly converted by his father to revert to 
their original faith. 



IOS Minaret, /hi Online Islamic Magazine 



Ahmad, Aziz (1964): Studies in Islamic Culture in the Indian Environment (Oxford: 
Clarendon Press) 

Basham, A.L. (1958): The Indian Subcontinent in Historical Perspective (London) 

Bhandarkar, R.G. (1913): Vaishavism, Saivism and Minor Religious Systems (Straussburg) 
Bharati, A. (1965): The Tantric Tradition (London) 

Bhattacharyya, N.N. (1998): Encyclopaedia of Ancient Indian Culture (New Delhi: 
Manohar) 

Bose, N.K. (1967): Society and Culture in India (Bombay) 

Burrow, T. (1965): The Sanskrit Language (London) 

Calhoun, Craig (1997): Nationalism (Buckingham: Open University Press) 

Chattopadhyaya, K.C. (1978): Studies in Vedic and Indo-Iranian Religion and Literature 
(Varanasi) 

Dasgupta, S. (1962): Obscure Religious Cults (Calcutta) 

Deshpande, Madhav M. (1997), 'Vedic Aryans, non- Vedic Aryans and non- Aryans: Judging 
the linguistic evidence of the Veda' in George Erdosy, ed. The Indo-Aryans in Ancient South 
Asia: Language, Material Culture and Ethnicity (New Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal 

Gonda, J. (1976): Vishnuism and Saivism: A Comparison (New Delhi) 

Habib, Irfan (1994): Reason and History (New Delhi: Zakir Husain College) 

Hobsbawm, E. and T.Ranger, eds. (1983): The Invention of Tradition (Cambridge: 
Cambridge University Press) 

Hark, J. C. (1968): The Art and Architecture of the Indian Subcontinent (London) 

Jairajbhoy, RA. (1963): Foreign Influence in Ancient India (Bombay) 

Joshi, P.M. (1975): Studies in the Foreign Relations of India ( Hyderabad) 

Khan, Yusuf Husain ( ): Glimpses of Medieval Indian Culture (Delhi) 

Kosambi, D.D. (1987): The Culture and Civilization of Ancient India (Delhi) 

Kroeber, A. L. (1972); Anthropology (Calcutta: Oxford and IBH) 



10 S Minaret, /hi Online Islamic Magazine 



Misra, S.C. (1974) 'Indigenization and Islamization in Indian History' Secular Democracy 

Momin, A. R. (1977) 'The Indo-Islamic Tradition' Sociological Bulletin, 26(2), pp.242-258 

(1991) "Colonialism, Ethnicity and the Nationalist Discourse in 19 th Century 
Maharashtra", Mahatma Jotirao Phule Endowment Lecture delivered at 
the University of Madras. 
(1994) 'Cultural Pluralism, National Identity and Development— The Indian 
Case' in BN.Saraswati, eel. Interface of Identity and Development 
(Delhi: Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts) 
(1996) The Legacy of G. S. Ghurye: A Centennial Festschrift (Bombay: 
Popular Prakashan) 

(1998) The Impact of the Conquest of Istanbul on the Indian Subcontinent' 
Paper presented at the 3 rd International Conference on the Conquest of 
Istanbul held in Istanbul, Turkey on May 23-24,1998 

(1999) Islam and the Promotion of Knowledge (Delhi: Institute of Objective 
Studies) 

(2001) 'The Management of Ethnic Conflict in Plural Societies' Indian Journal 
of Inderal Studies 

Parekh, Bhikhu (1997) "Managing Multicultural Societies" Convocation Address, University 
of Delhi (April 16, 1997) 
(2000) Rethinking Multiculturalism: Cultural Diversity and Political Theory 
(London: Macmillan) 

Possehl, G. ed. (1982): Harappan Civilization (New Delhi) 

Prasad, Rajendra (1946): India Divided (Bombay) 

Ragavan, V. (1980): The Ramayana Tradition in Asia (New Delhi) 

Sathe, S. P. (1992)'Nehru and Federalism: Vision and Prospects' in Rajiv Dhavan and 
Thomas Pant eds. Nehru and the Constitution (New Delhi: Indian Law 
Institute) 

Sen, Amartya (2001) 'What is the idea of India?' The Indian Express (March4,2001) 

Sharma, RS. (1958): Sudras in Ancient India ( Delhi) 

(1994): Looking for the Aryans (Cennai: Orient) 
(1999): Advent of the Aryans in India (Delhi: Manohar) 

Sharma, S.R (1954): The Crescent in India (Bombay) 

Sherwani, H.K. (1968): Cultural Trends in Medieval India ( Bombay) 



160 10 S Minaret, A.n 

Shivapadasundaram, S. (1934): The Saiva School of Hinduism (London) 

Singh, K. S. (1992) People of India: An Introduction (Calcutta: Anthropological Survey 
of India) 
(2000) "Diversity, Heterogeneity and Integration An Ideological Perspective" 
in Indian Council of Social Science Research: We lived together (Delhi: 
ICSSR) 

Sircar, D.C. (1965): Select Inscriptions, Vol. I (Calcutta) 

Subramanyam, S. (1996), " Before the Leviathan: Sectarian violence and the state in 
precolonial India" in Kaushik Basu and Sanjay Subramanyam, eds. 
Unravelling the Nation, Sectarian Conflict and India's Secular Identity 
( New Delhi: Penguin Books) 

Tara Chand (1936): Influence of Islam on Indian Culture (Allahabad) 

Thapar, Romila (1985): Ancient Indian Social History: Some Interpretations (Delhi:Orient 

Longman) 

(1985): Ancient Indian Social History: Some Interpretations (New Delhi) 

Trautmann, Thomas R. (1979), 'The Study of Dravidian Kinship' in M.M.Deshpande and 
P.E.Hook, eds. Aryan and Non- Aryan in India (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press) 

Walker, Benjamin (1963): Hindu world (London) 

Wink, Andre (1990): Al-HindThe Making of the Indo-Islamic World (Delhi: Oxford 
University Press) 

Woodroffe, John (1951): Shakti and Shakta (Madras) 




10 S Minaret, sin Online Islamic Magazine 

Mawlana Rum on Human Nature 
Professor A. R. Momin 

One may discern, in the history of human thought, 

three distinct and contrasting views on human nature: 

(i) a benign or romantic view, according to which 

human nature is seen as inherently good, (ii) a cynical 

or negative view, which equates human nature with evil 

and viciousness, (iii) a neutral view, which holds that 

there is no such thing as original human nature and 

that it is wholly or largely a product of historical and 

social conditions. In the fifth century BC, Socrates held 

that no man voluntarily pursues evil, because it is not 

embedded in human nature. Chinese philosophy 

espouses a benign view of human nature. The eminent 

historian of ideas Arthur Lovejoy has observed that a 

pessimistic and cynical attitude towards man and his 

destiny has been the dominant strain throughout the 

greater part of history. In Western Christianity, St. 

Augustine developed the doctrine of original sin and 

held that all men are by birth tainted by sin. 

Schopenhauer (d. 1860) developed a highly pessimistic and cynical view of man. He regarded 

man as an evil animal who differs from other animals only in his greater viciousness. The 

philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche (d. 1900) contains extreme contempt and hatred for man. 

Reinhold Niebuhr (d. 1971) spoke of evil as being in the centre of human personality. The 

predominant conception of man in the natural as well as social and behavioural sciences is 

reductionistic and deterministic. The celebrated biologist Ludwig von Bertalanffy has aptly 

described this view as the robot model of man. This model is still endorsed by a good many 

scientists. Thus, Francis Crick, who along with two other scientists, won the 1962 Nobel 

Prize for deciphering the genetic code, said a few years ago: "You, your joys and your 

sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, 

are in fact no more than the behaviour of a vast assembly of nerve cells". 

The romantic as well as the cynical views of human nature present at best a partial and 
therefore one-sided and distorted picture of the human condition. A major limitation of the 
romantic view of human nature is that it offers no satisfactory or realistic explanation for the 
universal existence of evil and viciousness in human society. The cynical and deterministic 
view of man, on the other hand, fails to take cognisance of the salience of human agency. 

The Islamic view of man offers a balanced and realistic picture of human nature and eschews 
the reductionism and distortion inherent in the romantic and cynical views. The Islamic 
perspective on human nature is marked by four distinct characteristics. In the first place, 
Islam offers an ennobling view of human nature. Man, according to the Islamic view, has 
been created in the best of moulds and given dominion over all that is in the universe. Man 
is not the product of a blind process of evolution, but a being created by God with a 



162 10 S Minaret, An 

purpose. All humans are born innocent, untainted by originalism or guilt. All men have 
descended from Adam, the primordial man, and are therefore equal in His sight. The 
equality and brotherhood of mankind is one of the cardinal principles of the Islamic faith. 
Man has been designated as God's vicegerent on earth. Thus Islam portrays man as 
possessing infinite possibilities of being and becoming. 

Secondly, human nature is characterised by a certain duality or polarity. On the one hand, 
man has been created from clay, a lowly substance (Quran 23:12; 32:7). On the other hand, 
God has breathed His soul into him (Quran 15:29). Thus, man possesses two rather 
contradictory potentialities: sublime and divine-like, on the one hand, and base and demonic, 
on the other (Quran 95:4-5). Man tends to be impatient and greedy (Quran 70:19). 
Furthermore, he has a tendecny to be ungrateful, niggardly and contentious. He is prone to 
acting in an unjust manner and often surrenders to his desires (Quran 45:23). The dual 
nature of man is illustrated in the story of Abel and Cain (Quran 5:23-31). 

Thirdly, Islam eschews a deterministic view of the human condition. It takes due cognisance 
of human agency and emphasizes that man has been endowed with self-consciousness, the 
capacity for reasoning and discernment, and moral choice. Man has the freedom to choose 
between good and evil (Quran 8:53; 13:11; 15:29). The Quran says: "We did indeed offer the 
trust {amanafi) to the heavens and the earth and the mountains but, being afraid, they refused 
to take it up; but man took it up... (Quran 33:72). The commentators of the Quran point 
out that the word "trust" (amanah) refers to man's capacity for reasoning, self-reflection and 
moral choice. 

Fourthly, Islam recognises the role of the social environment and education in unfolding, as 
well as stifling, human potentialities. The Prophet is reported to have said: "There is not a 
new born who is not born in a state of nature. His parents make him a Jew, a Christian or a 
Magian". He also said: "A man follows the ways of his friend. Therefore you should be 
watchful about the person you befriend". The Islamic view of human nature is not confined 
to an explication of its nature and dynamics; Islam also suggests a normative framework and 
an ethical code to facilitate the flowering of man's benign potentialities and to check and 
control the destructive, harmful tendencies in his nature. 

It can readily be appreciated that the Islamic perspective on human nature is eminently 
reasonable, realistic and balanced and avoids the pitfalls of the romantic as well as cynical 
views. Interestingly, one can find an echo of the Islamic view of human nature in the 
observation of an eminent French philosopher Blaise Pascal (d. 1662): "It is dangerous to 
show man too clearly how much he resembles the beast without at the same time showing 
him his greatness. It is also dangerous to allow him too clear a vision of his greatness 
without his baseness. It is even more dangerous to leave him in ignorance of both. But it is 
very profitable to show him both." 

The Sufis were greatly interested in understanding the complexities and intricacies of human 
nature and in unravelling its secrets. Imam al-Ghazali (d. 1111) pointed out that man 
possesses within himself qualities which are partly angelic, partly animal-like, and partly 
Satanic. He says that man has been described as a noble being because he has been endowed 



IOS Minaret, in On I /< / . Magazine 163 

with reason, through which he can recognise God and transcend his organismic limitations 
and frailties. Drawing on the Quranic view that good and evil are embedded in the structure 
of the human psyche, the Sufis make a distinction between the heart (qalb) and the lower, 
base self (nafs). The heart, according to them, is the mainspring of benign and angelic 
qualities, including compassion, sincerity, altruism, humility and selflessness. The self, on the 
other hand, is the locus and breeding ground of base qualities and traits, such as pride, 
jealousy, selfishness, deceit and hypocrisy. This distinction is basically derived from the 
Quran which describes the self as inciting man to evil (Quran 12:53), while it speaks of a 
'sound heart' (Quran 26:89), and of a heart 'turned in devotion to God' (Quran 50:33). In 
Sufi literature, the self has been compared to a defiant and wayward woman who tries to 
seduce and cheat the poor wayfarer. Sometimes it is likened to a black dog, a disobedient 
camel, a restive horse or mule, a pig, a snake, and the Pharaoh. 

Since the self is considered the locus of evil and wickedness, the Sufis underscore the need 
for rigorous and sustained efforts to resist its temptations and enticements. Overcoming 
one's organismic frailties and limitations — 'natural qualities' as the Sufis describe it — is 
regarded as the greater jihad or holy war. Qushayri (d. 1072) points out in his celebrated 
Risalah that defying the desires and temptations of the lower self (nafs) is the heart and soul 
of worship. Sahl al-Tustari (d. 896) says that one who has overpowered his lower self has 
gained mastery over the whole world. Abul Qasim Nasrabadi (d. 977) described the lower 
self as a prison and deliverance from it as eternal bliss and tranquillity. 

The Sufis emphasise that though evil is programmed into the structure of the human psyche, 
it is possible and desirable to domesticate and contain it. they prescribe two complementary 
methods for this purpose: purging one's self of base and unworthy qualities — which they 
describe as takhliya or emptying — and substituting them with by sublime and virtuous 
qualities, thereby adorning the psyche — described as tahliya or embellishment. This 
methodology is inspired by a Tradition of the Prophet: 'Qualify yourselves with the qualities 
of God'. Shaykh Shihabuddin Suharwardi (d. 1234) said that if someone gets into conflict 
with another, the latter should confront his adversary's lower self with his heart. Confronting 
someone's lower self (which is the breeding ground of base qualities) with one's heart (which 
is the mainspring of goodness and virtue) will bring an end to viciousness and aggression on 
the part of the enemy. On the other hand, if one were to confront someone's lower self with 
one's own lower self, there will be no end to viciousness and animosity. 

Mawlana Jalaluddin Rumi's conception of human nature is notable on three counts. First, it 
is basically derived from Islamic sources, especially the Quran and the Traditions of the 
Prophet and is therefore in harmony with the Islamic perspective on man's nature. Secondly, 
there is a significant continuity and convergence between the views of classical Sufis on 
human nature and those of Mawlana Rum. Thirdly, he has described the dynamic and 
complexity of human nature and the elusive and enigmatic character of the human self 
through folklore, parables and metaphors, which even the man in the street could 
understand. The appeal and effect of the narrative is heightened further by the elegance and 
beauty of his poetic composition. This constitutes his greatest and unique contribution to 
the subject. 



164 10 S Minaret, An Online Islamic Magazine 

Dwelling on the ennobling view of human nature in the Islamic tradition, Mawlana Rum 
says that man is "the astrolabe of the qualities of highness". In Fihi mafih, he alludes to the 
polarity of human nature and says that man is caught between the angelic world and the 
human world. To quote him: 

The situation of man is like this: they took the feathers of an angel and tied them to the 
tail of an ass, that haply the ass in the ray and society of an angel might become an angel. 

He says in the Mathnawi that man is "a mixture of bee and serpent". 

Mawlana Rum believes in human freedom and man's God-given capacity for moral choice. 
He sees no contradiction between God's omnipotence and submission to His will on the 
one hand and man's freedom on the other. This is illustrated with a fascinating anecdote 
mentioned in the Mathnaivi and Fih mafih. A man stealthily entered an apple garden with the 
intention to steal some fruits. When caught and questioned by the owner, he casually replied 
that it was in his destiny to steal the apples. When he received a sound thrashing from the 
owner he came to his senses and admitted that it was not God's decree but his own evil 
intention which made him commit this act. 

The Prophet is reported to have said, "This world is the seedbed of the Hereafter". Mawlana 
Rum emphasises that every good deed will have its reward in this world as well as in the 
Hereafter. Similarly, every evil deed will bring about adverse consequences for the actor by 
way of punishment. He illustrates this fundamental truth by a simple example, saying: 

When you plant colocinths you cannot reap sugarcane. 

Mawlana Rum dwells a great deal on the follies, temptations and deceptions of the lower self 
(nafs). He compares it to an uncouth rustic who comes into the bazaar, makes loud, 
unpleasant noises and makes a nuisance of himself. The Mawlana employs evocative 
metaphors, similes and symbols to describe the wickedness of the lower self. Some Sufis 
describe the lower self as "greater idol". Drawing on this simile, he says: 

Your (lower) self is the mother of all idols, 

For they are (lie) serpent and this one is like a python. 

He takes the simile further and says: 

The idol is (likeO black water hidden in a jar 

Consider the (lower) self as a stream of this black water 

Pride and conceit is one of he distinct components of the lower self which according to the 
Islamic tradition, brought about the fall of Iblis or Satan. Alluding to this episode, the 

Mawlana says: 

Satan's disease was 'I am superior', 

This disease exists in the lower self of every being. 



10 S Minaret, /hi Online Islamic Magazine 



Mawlana Rum, like the Sufis in general, is not content with describing the deceit and guile of 
the lower self. He urges its domestication and purification through constant vigilance, 
education, sustained effort, hardships, and companionship with the sages. In the first volume 
of the Mathnaivi Mawlana Rum alludes to a Tradition of the Prophet wherein he remarked, 
after returning from an expedition, that we have come back from a smaller holy war (with 
the enemies of Islam) to a greater holy war (with the lower self). The Mawlana then 
comments: 

Consider it easy to be a lion that tears asunder line of people, 
The real lion is one who breaks his own lower self, 
So that he may become God's lion with His help, 
And delivered from his (lower) self and its Pharaoh. 

At another place he asks, rhetorically: what is beheading? And replies: slaying the carnal self 
in the holy war. 

Mawlana Rum greatly emphasises the psychological and spiritual benefits accruing from the 
company of saints and sages. Thus he says: 

If you happen to be sandstone and marble, 

You will become a pearl if you take to the company of sages. 

A little time spent in the company of men of God, 

is better than a hundred years' sincere worship. 

The companionship or noble people will make you noble, 

That of the wicked will make you wicked. 

The Sufis point out that the experience of suffering and hardships is one of the most potent 
means for cleansing the lower self and the purification of the hart. Shaqiq of Balkh (d. 790) 
spoke of the alchemy of hunger. Junaid of Baghdad (d. 906) is reported to have said: "We 
did not imbibe the principles of Sufism from discourses and talks, but from hunger and 
renunciation of the world and from giving up things to which we were accustomed and 
which we found desirable". Mawlana Rum offers a perceptive and insightful expatiation on 
the role of suffering and privations in self-purification through a number of highly 
suggestive metaphors and similes. He points out that everything reaches completion and 
fruition through pain and suffering. The nutshell has to be broken so that the precious oil 
can be extracted from it. Similarly, the shell of the oyster has to be split in order to obtain 
the pearl. Raw hide has to be subjected to a painful process of tanning and scrubbing before 
it is transformed into fine leather. The field has to be cut and dug up so that seeds could be 
planted in it, and the grain has to crushed by the millstone so that it could be made into 
flour, from which bread is to be made. In the same way, he says, the lower self has to 
undergo a process of cleansing through suffering and hardships before it can partake of 
divine grace. 

The Sufis point out that the lower self tries to beguile and seduce people in a variety of 
subtle and devious ways. It may for example seduce the novice who fancies that he has 



166 10 S Minaret, An Onl u h mu Magazine 

already traversed the mystic path. Mawlana Rum cautions people to be aware of its ruses. He 
says: 

The nafs has a rosary and a copy of the Quran in the right hand, 
And a dagger and a sword in the sleeve. 

The domestication and purification of man's lower self does not require asceticism, world- 
renunciation or self-mortification. What is important is to be aware of its deceptions and to 
subjugate it while carrying on with one's worldly obligations. In other words, the essence of 
spiritual life is to remain constantly in the presence of God, as it were, amidst worldly 
preoccupations and concerns. Echoing this view, Mawlana Rum says: 

What is the world? It is (essentially) being oblivious of God, 
And not worldly provisions, silver, children and wife. 

Mawlana Rum believes that the key to eternal bliss lies in divine love. Some of his most 
eloquent verses deal with this theme. Thus he says: 

Cheer to you! O obsessive love of mine! 
O who is the healer of all my ills! 
O who is the cure for my pride and vanity, 
O who is my Plato and my Gallen! 

Mawlana Rum's Mathnawi has provided spiritual nourishment, inspiration and guidance to 
generations of readers and listeners across large parts of the Islamic world during the past 
eight centuries. Its continued appeal and fascination lies in the fact that it effectively portrays 
the reality of the human condition and offers a time-tested panacea for the ills of the human 
psyche through highly evocative metaphors, similes and parables which can be understood 
and appreciated by all and sundry. Undoubtedly, Mawlana Rum has been, and will continue 
to remain, one of the best and most popular interpreters and spokesmen of the Islamic ethos 
in general and of Sufism in particular. 



10 S Minaret, sin Online Islamic Magazine 



I R. Zapata-Barrero, El turno de los inmigrantes: esferas de justicia y politicas de acomodacion (Imserso, 
Ministerio de Trabajo y Seguridad, 2002). 

II B. Parekh, Rethinking multiculturalism (London: MacMillan, 2000). For information on the process of 
multiculturalism in Spain see R. Zapata-Barrero, Multicultur alidad e inmigracion (Madrid: ed. Sintesis, 
2004) and R. Zapata-Barrero, Inmigracion, innovation politica y cultura de acomodacion en Espana 
(Barcelona: Cidob/Bellaterra, 2004). 

III G. Martin Munoz, Marroquies en Espana. Estudio sobre su integration (Madrid: Fundacion Repsol 
YPF, 2003), p. 38. 

IV T. Todorov, Les morales de I'histoire (Paris: Grasset, le College de Philosophie, 1991). 

v R. Zapata-Barrero, Multiculturalidad e inmigracion (Madrid: Editorial Sintesis, 2004), pp. 260-262. 

VI For additional information on populist rhetoric see, among the most recent works: P. Taggard Populism 
(Buckingham: Open University Press, 2000); P. Perrinau Les croises de la societe fermee (Paris: Editons 
l'Aube, 2001); Y. Meny and Y. Surel Par le peuple, pour le peuple. Le populisme et les democraties 
(Paris: Fayard, 2000) ; O. Ihl, J. Chene, E. Vial and G. Waterlot Le populism au coeur de I'Europe 
(Paris: La Decouverte, 2003); P. A. Taguieff Le retour du populism (Paris: Universalis, 2004); E. Laclau 
La razon populista, (Mexico: Fondo de Cultura Economica, 2005). 

VII K. Friedrich, Tradition and Authority (London: Macmillan, 1972), p. 18. 

vm A. O. Hirschman, The Rhetoric of Persuasion (Cambridge: The Belknap Press of Harvard University 
Press, 1991), p. 9. 

1X E. Burke, Reflections on the revolution in France (London : Collier Macmillan, 1987). 

x El Ejido is a market-gardening town in the province of Almeria (Andalusia) in the southeast of Spain 
where violent riots took place against Moroccan workers. See R. Zapata-Barrero, "The 'discovery' of 
immigration in Spain: the politicization of immigration in the case of El Ejido", Journal of International 
migration and integration, Vol. 4, (2003), pp. 523-539. 

XI Anuario de Extranjeria 2004, Ministerio de Trabajo y Asuntos Sociales, Secretaria de Estado de 
inmnigracion y emigration (December 2005). 
http://extranieros.mtas.es/es/general/DatosEstadisticos index.html . 

XII J. de Lucas, "Algunas propuestas para comenzar a hablar en serio de politica de inmigracion," in J. de 
Lucas and F. Torres (eds.) Inmigrantes: icomo los tenemos? (Madrid: Talasa Ediciones, 2002) pp. 23- 



xm G. Martin Munoz, "Prologo" of the Spanish version of P. Balta El islam (Madrid: Salvat-Le Monde, 
1996), pp. 9-16. 

X1V R. Zapata-Barrero, "The Muslim community and Spanish tradition: Maurophobia as a fact, and 
impartiality as a desideratum" in T. Modood, A. Triandafyllidou y R. Zapata-Barrero (eds.) 
Multiculturalism, Muslims and Citizenship: a European approach (London: Routledge, 2005), cap. 8, pp. 
143-161. 

xv Ibid., p. 14. 



IOS Minaret, /hi Online Islamic Magazine 



XV1 E. Martin Corrales (2002), La Imagen del magrebi en Espana una perspectiva historica, 
siglos XVI-XX Barcelona: Bellaterra. 

xvn G. Martin Munoz "El islam en Espana hoy", in L. Martin Rojo, C. Gomez Esteban, F. Arranz and A. 
Gabilondo (eds.) Hablar y dejar hablar (sobre racismo y xenofobia) (Madrid: Universidad Autonoma de 
Madrid, 1994), p. 24. 

xvm B. Lopez Garcia (2003) "El islam y la integration de la inmigracion en Espana", webislam.com, no. 
212 [http://www.webislam.com] 

X1X L. Gonzalez Anton, Espana y las Espanas (Madrid: Alianza, 1997), p.613. 

xx J. Vila Selma,"Hispanidad", Enciclopedia de la Cultura Espanola (Madrid: Editora Nacional, vol. 3, 
1966), p. 551. 

XXI M. Garcia Morente, Idea de Hispanidad (Buenos Aires: Espasa Calpe, 1938). 

XXII M. Carbayo Abengozar,"La Hispanidad: un acercamiento de constructive" in Revista de estudios 
literarios, no. 10, 1998.