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A question of compatibility

  • Published at 12:00 am August 5th, 2019
Trump-Modi
File photo: U.S. President Donald Trump attends a bilateral meeting with India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the G20 leaders summit in Osaka, Japan, June 28, 2019 Reuters

Why are Muslims being demonized across the world?

Muslims across the world are facing a backlash as a result of Islamist terror. There is now a degree of suspicion, travel bans, enhanced vigilance, social isolation, and even dehumanization of Muslims in many countries of the world.

Right-wing politicians and even sections of society of non-Muslim majority nations are leading these campaigns. In many countries, they have found traction and have become part of the socio-political power equation. 

For example, anti-Muslim hate campaigns were a key element of the election campaign of BJP-RSS in the parliamentary elections in India which they convincingly won. In Europe and North America and in few other places in the world like the Philippines, Myanmar, and Sri Lanka, there exists an anti-Muslim sentiment.  

Are sizable sections of the other communities of the world turning against the Muslims? It seems so. But, why? 

It’s useless to pay heed to the Islamist cliché of conspiracy against Muslims by non-believers for they are close-minded people and have no good knowledge of the phenomenon and its causalities; nor are they capable of rational thinking and comparative analysis. 

This is the age of satellite TV, the internet, computers, social media, and smartphones. Information travels at the speed of light. India has decisively turned towards the Hindu nationalists in the last two elections, ending the long coalition era of moderates for more than two decades. 

There is a hunch that news and photos of the atrocities of IS and al-Qaeda had a negative impact on the minds of Indian voters about Muslims in general and despite relatively much lower number of Islamic terror incidents in India itself, they have now become more suspicious about Muslims of their own country.  

In Europe and North America, there is a rise of right-wing political forces riding on the anti-immigration and anti-Muslim sentiment. Global Islamist terrorism is one of the root causes. Westerners are worried about the lack of transformation and integration of a sizable section of the immigrant Muslims and their descendants in those societies. 

One key issue across the world is the orthodox religious lifestyle of a large section of Muslims and the tribalism emanating from that. Muslims are too community and belief-centric and fail to see things beyond that and through comparative lenses.

Often they fail to mix or accept others freely and equally. Such community-centric ideas are passed from generation to generation. Interestingly, the Muslim themselves across the globe are quite diverse.

However, in a multi-cultural scenario, the conservatism of the Muslims become more intense than in other communities. There is a sense of condescension among conservative Muslims about other beliefs and spiritual opinions. This is highly problematic and evoke reverse condescension and make the situation worse for all. 

Another incongruity of the typical Muslim mind is the tendency of living in the past glory of Islamic conquest and expansion. Strangely, they keep talking of the Islamic virtues of those epochs to be inculcated today. 

They fail to comprehend that things have fundamentally changed for the entire world with the Enlightenment, industrial revolution, and scientific inventions. Brute force of mediaeval and pre-medieval times inspired by raw faith is neither good nor is it going to work in today’s sophisticated world. 

Muslims are often in the news for the wrong reasons. Terrorists come out in disproportionately high numbers from Islamic communities compared to others. Being in a perpetual state of denial won’t work.  

It’s better to understand conflicts of the present time through the established civilized perceptions, laws, and conventions related to conflicts, international relations, and social/community relations. There are conflicts in non-Muslim parts of the world too and those are hardly seen through the prisms of faith and community. 

Limiting faith to the private arena is imperative. Also no acceptable faith in modern times can be violent or hateful or disparaging towards others. 

Another issue is how to react to a liberal environment or how to react to liberal behaviour offered to Muslims. Liberal gestures must be replied to with liberal gestures.

 It’s mean to take chance of a liberal environment and forward one’s orthodox agendas. That’s why “Sharia for UK” folks are deplorable.  

Muslims are already facing the wrath of the majority communities of some non-Muslim countries eg India, Myanmar, and even the US to some extent. Conditions of non-Muslims in general in Muslim majority countries aren’t good either. 

The best approach for Muslims would be to be on righteous moral ground in terms of community behaviour and mind-set. Apart from faith, Muslims are also a trans-national global cultural community. 

Some solidarity among Muslims worldwide does exist. It’s important to turn it into a religio-cultural one rather than one of raw faith. 

At the same time, reform endeavours relating to the understanding of inter-communal relations and formation of a rational world view must ensue. Only these will ensure smoother normal lives for the Muslims across the world.

Sarwar Jahan Chowdhury is an opinion contributor to the Dhaka Tribune.