Solidarity among Muslims needed
A B M S Zahur
The Islamic summit conference in Putrajaya was significant in many ways. It was held in a situation when the worlds only super power and some of its strong supporters were apparently planning to corner the Muslims across the world through various measures. The Muslim residents in USA are not being treated well after September 11, 2001. The Bush administration spared no pains to blame the Muslims for the gruesome terrorist activity though it has become, after a lapse of more than two years, dubious as to who masterminded this event. To raise the sentiment of the common people of USA Bush referred even to start some sort of crusade. But the question remains whether USA is capable of eliminating 1.3 billion Muslims from the face of the earth in a world of interdependence. It is true that Muslims are lagging behind western world in technological development.
The government must crush the movement to declare Ahmedias as Kaffirs. It may even be appropriate to discuss such event in parliament. The fundamentalists must be told in clear terms that the vast majority of the Muslim population of Bangladesh deeply respect the teachers of Islam and they do not accept intolerance to any other religion or opinions because they want to establish democratic order.
It may not be difficult to prove that petro dollars proved to be more useful to the western world than the Arabs. Bush administration cannot be oblivious about the effect of gradually cooling relationship with the Muslim world particularly after its occupation of Iraq. The Muslim world is bound to show their preference for European technology to that of the US. This will hurt US economically. If the elites of the Arab world can bring about discipline in their lifestyle poor Muslims of non-Arab countries can be immensely benefitted. In fact this may go a long way in accelerating economic growth of the Muslim world. If even a semblance of western type democratic order can be set up in the Arab world there will be change in the state policies of Arab principalities.
The former prime minister of Malaysia may not be totally correct in his observation he made in the conference. However, he appears to be the only Muslim politician who has the courage and conviction to speak loud and clear the truth about US-Israel relation. Without strong US-British support a Jewish state right in the heartland of the Arabs would not have emerged. This outrageous act has resulted in making millions of Palestinians refugees in their own land. If out of sheer desperation a large number of Palestinian youth become freedom fighters, due to their long untold suffering, can we call them terrorists. Why the Anglo-US conspiracy be tolerated and why the Palestinians accept the injustice? Simply because they do not have modern technology, no atomic weapon and no unity. On the other hand the western world, particularly USA, is sympathetic towards the Jews who suffered heavily in Nazi Germany. It is said that the Jews (Albert Einstein) gave USA the atomic bomb to win the second world war and the Americans out of their deep gratitude support the Jews blindly, caring a little about what is right or what is ultimately good for the Americans.
In the days of the Prophet Muhammad (SM) the Jews considered the Arab Muslims as uncultured and depressed class. Compared to the Jews the position of the Arab Muslims has remained almost the same though Arabs are much richer now and enjoying all the modern amenities of life. Technologically the Jews are way ahead of the Arabs. If the Arabs could have come to some understanding with the Jews (as done by Arab states such as Egypt or Jordan) it would have not only been good for the Arabs or the Jews it could be immensely good for the world. With the support of superior technical knowledge of Israel the Arab states could have accomplished wonder in the whole of the Middle East.
What Mahathir of Malaysia wanted is that instead of resorting to negative practice like suicide bombing the Muslims of the world should concentrate on acquiring superior technical knowledge. Simply show of emotion will not bring them any good. If 11 million Jews can do wonder to this world why 1.3 billion Muslims cannot face the challenge. He strongly felt that the present sufferings of the Muslims is mainly due to their indifference, lack of sensitivity and unity. He admits that many Muslim states will not agree to his views but some states may start the work of bringing unity and sense of solidarity in the Muslim Umma.
Bringing solidarity among Muslims, however, is no simple a task. In fact it is extremely difficult if not impossible. At present Muslims are divided and subdivided and are at different levels of sociological development. The people of Arab states are still at the stage of tribal culture, far from the democratic order of the west. If true unity among the Muslims is to be achieved it may be attempted through a number of steps. In the first step the Arabs must understand that in the eyes of Allah all Muslims are the same. It is not correct to assume that Arabs should be treated as superior Muslims because they speak Arabic or Prophet Muhammad (SM) was born among them. An ordinary Arab must realise that non-Arab Muslims are as good as them. It would, thus, be good for them to show respect to poor Muslims from non-Arab countries. It is not a sentimental appeal, it has become an urgent necessity for them for their own survival with honour and dignity.
The rich Arabs should gradually understand that their security lies with the common people not with the aired mercenaries from the western world. Foreign Mercenaries can provide them with temporary security. This, however, cannot be a permanent arrangement. They must earn love and respect of the common Arabs. They must clearly understand that America will draw them closer so long as America needs oil. Their oil reserve will sooner or later be exhausted. The Bush administration is already at the advanced stage of negotiation with the Russians on supply of oil. Strong interest in oil led the Americans to establish base in Afghanistan. Intensive research is on in the western world on reducing dependence on oil. They have already done enough work on development of solar and nuclear energy. They are working hard to find out new sources of energy.
If the Muslim world cannot immediately develop western type democracy under which there is no difference between people they must give immediate attention to obliterate the differences between the shias and sunnis. There is no strong reason to create bad blood among various sects of Islam. If mutual love and respect cannot be developed quickly let there be no hatred for one another. The Muslim states should be more sensitive toward each others distress and difficulties.
The Muslim women must be emancipated from their inferior position so that they may contribute as good as men toward development in the Islamic world. It has been proved that intelligence of women is not inferior to men. In a least developed country like Bangladesh where the society is overwhelmingly dominated by men, women are playing very important part in its economic development (e.g. readymade garments, shrimp processing etc). The poor uneducated rural women are showing a remarkable ability to alleviate rural poverty through obtaining microcredit facility. It is reported, however, that some fundamentalist elements are opposed to economic independence of women. The government should be careful about the activities of such fundamentalists.
Though Bangladesh is regarded as a moderate Islamic state the government may not be indifferent to some recent events. It would really be unfortunate if the good name of BNP as a moderate party is tarnished due to direct or indirect support to negative activities from some members of the alliance. The government must crush the movement to declare Ahmedias as Kaffirs. It may even be appropriate to discuss such event in parliament. The fundamentalists must be told in clear terms that the vast majority of the Muslim population of Bangladesh deeply respect the teachers of Islam and they do not accept intolerance to any other religion or opinions because they want to establish democratic order.
Because of weakness in leadership Islam has been divided and sub-divided in so many sects after the end of the era of Khulafa-e-Rashedeen. In such a situation it may be appropriate for the major Muslim countries to take measures to unite the Muslims through the approach of disjointed incrementalism. They also be careful about possible emergence of terrorist leaders like Osama Bin Laden. The success of these states will enable us to envisage the revival of Islamic glory.
ABMS Zahur is a retired Joint-Secretary.