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Sab's world

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Why it's Islam vs. rest of the world?
Tavleen Singh
Indian Express
August 31, 2006

In Davos this year there was much talk of Islam and its differences with the
West. The emphasis was on trying to understand why rather than on dismissing
the whole issue as that clash of civilisations Samuel Huntington wrote so
prophetically about nearly ten years before 9/11.

A whole gamut of Muslim intellectuals were invited to address sessions with
subjects as diverse as religion and globalisation, modernity and Islam and the
shared roots of Western and Islamic culture.

Arab princes spoke, as did professors and scholars from the Islamic world and
women in hijab who argued that the West try and understand that democracy and
gender issues had different meanings in different cultures.

The Grand Mufti of Bosnia was there alongside the former American Archbishop of
Canterbury and representing the Indian subcontinent was, ironically, General
Pervez Musharraf.

As I watched him expound on his theory that Islam was a peaceful religion that
sought only friendship and peace with the world, I found myself wondering why
then it had been necessary to break India up for reasons of Islam. But, that is
the sort of politically incorrect question nobody asks these days just as we do
not ask why the Kashmir Valley's struggle for autonomy has ended up becoming
part of the international jehad against Americans, Jews and Hindus.

Political correctness was very much the mood of the World Economic Forum's
annual meeting so many of those who spoke for Islam got away with blaming the
West for their woes.

You must understand, they said, that terrorism was not Islamic or Christian but
just terrorism. And, you must understand that at the root of what was going on
lay unresolved political problems like Palestine and Kashmir. Our friendly,
neighbourhood military dictator went so far as to say that because of these
unresolved political issues young Muslims had developed a sense of persecution
and had begun to believe that the world was against Islam.

It was the duty of the West to not just help resolve these political issues
fairly but also help solve some of the socio-economic problems of the Islamic
world. Then, the world would be at peace once more and we could live without
the threat of suicide bombers.

Since this column has never had pretensions of political correctness let me spit
it out. It would, in my view, be a terrible mistake to try and understand the
causes of Islamic terrorism. And, please let us call it Islamic since nearly
every terrorist act in recent years has been committed by Muslims in the name
of their so-called jehad.

These terrible acts of violence cannot be excused on political grounds. There
have always been political disputes and there always will be but the solution
is not terrorism. As for ''socio-economic'' causes we need to remember that
none of the hijackers of 9/11 were poor, illiterate or underprivileged.

Many of them have abandoned their repressive home countries for comfortable,
middle-class lives in Europe and the United States but were so consumed by
hatred of the West that they were prepared to die for it.

Moderate Muslims need to ask why just as they need to ask why, despite all their
oil, even rich Muslim countries are unable to create just and enlightened
societies instead of ones that produce disaffected, desperate youths who are
prepared to give their lives to kill innocent people.

If the West is such a terrible place and America Satan incarnate then why do so
many Muslims choose to migrate to cities like New York and London? Why are they
not happy to live bigoted, blinkered lives in Riyadh and Jeddah?

There would be no problem with Islam, no ''clash'' of any kind, if it would
restrict its jehad to its own boundaries. It is precisely because it has chosen
to internationalise its ideological and religious battle that there is trouble.
Just as young Muslims think their way of life is worth fighting and dying for,
so young people who are not Muslim feel their way of life is worth fighting

And, whether Muslims are prepared to admit it or not modernity does mean
questioning ancient religious beliefs and demanding answers. A religion that is
based on the belief that the last word or ideology, faith, social mores and law
was written fourteen hundred years ago will always find itself in conflict with
change. Modernity is in its essence the ability to accept change.

This is the jehad that needs to be fought but it needs to be fought within Islam
so that moderate, rational voices can rise above the violence and hatred of the
bigots who seem to be the only ones able to speak for Islam.

In Davos we were supposed to have heard the voices of moderate Islam but what we
ended up hearing, at session after session, was an endless litany of

It was the fault of the West that Islam was being labelled a terrorist religion,
the fault of the West that most Muslim rulers were despots, the fault of the
West that political issues had been allowed to fester, the fault of the West
that Muslim countries had not progressed economically and the fault of the West
that Osama bin Laden had got created. In vain I searched to hear one voice that
would admit that there must be something deeply wrong in Islamic societies that
they had bred the sort of hatred that created so much senseless violence.

Just an explanation, for instance, for why the Buddhas of Bamiyan were smashed
to bits without one Islamic country intervening. I did not hear it.

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