Identity lost

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  • How can Islam regain its honour?

Making President Donald J. Trump “look as bad as possible”, the official death toll from hurricanes that wreaked havoc on Puerto Rico last year has caused the latest stir. The toll that had riveted at the figure of 64 was raised to 2,975 earlier this month by researchers at The George Washington University after having included those who succumbed to horrifying aftereffects of the catastrophe. And this is what made the president’s hackles rise and compelled him into calling the rise a scheme plotted by Democrats.

Trump received backlash over this issue from Republicans and Democrats alike, implying the degree up to which the statement is problematic. Speaker of the United States House of Representatives Paul Ryan tried to make a point by saying, “Casualties don’t make a person look bad, so I have no reason to dispute these numbers”. But what he forgot in the midst of opposing Trump is what has been manifested in the past which seems to be the negation of his statement.

2,996. Exclude the 19 hijackers and the figure drops to 2,977. As simple as the math seems here, the figure sends shiver down the spine of every Muslim on this planet. The casualties were avenged by the American government in the name of War on Terror which has not ended to date, decimating populations of majorly Afghanistan and Iraq and adversely affecting those of many other Muslim countries.

While 9/11 has formulated a new calendar dividing time into pre and post eras, it has caused a long-lasting scar on the religion of Islam, making ‘terrorism’ its synonym. These numbers, surprisingly, did make an entire religion and all of its followers, practising as well as non-practising, look bad. Islam seems to have lost its honour in front of the world and is now generally eyed as a credo demanding only jihad.

It is said that all forms of revolutions and evolutions were kindled by books authored by philosophers of those eras. We are lacking a philosopher, an advocate who through his words could act as a mirror

While growing beard and wearing hijab have become indications of being a potential or suspected terrorist, reciting Quranic verses and offering prayers in public are punishable offenses. Mosques, once deemed as houses of God, have become gainful locations for terrorists as in whenever they attack one, the number of dead is never in single digits. While last year’s Westminster crash is a vindication of the fears of the world regarding Islam, some Muslims themselves have now become hesitant of visiting mosques in order to save their lives. Islam, once defined as the religion of peace and love, is now feared to be the religion of hatred and terrorism.

With examples of non-practising Muslims with a Muslim name living in a Muslim country paying the price of all these identities in the form of castigation and isolation from society, an average Muslim in any part of the world now bases his decisions on the cost of being identified a Muslim. Hesitation to travel so as to avoid being singled out and thoroughly screened at airports was one trouble, now Muslims think a hundred times before applying for immigration to Western countries, thinking of their fate at the hands of those who hate their religion limitlessly. The question that arises in the given scenario is whether Islam will be able to regain its lost identity of being a religion and not a weapon of mass destruction?

Not that the world is witnessing chaos for the first time, but surely it has never seen criminalising of one religion and its followers to such an extent that the effect seems to be permanent. The thirteenth century, too, was entropic, thanks to the Mongols and the Crusaders. While the world identifies the victims of the Crusaders as Muslims, the acknowledgement that those of the Mongols were also Muslims becomes hazy. A conquest more appropriately known as widespread ethnic cleansing annihilated millions of Muslims, making Genghiz Khan a symbol of terror just as Taliban and ISIS are today. But why cannot the world see that even today, Muslims have suffered the most at the hands of the 21st century’s symbols of terror as well as those on a mission to eradicate them, i.e. both Islamist terrorist organisations and western alliances.

Islam did regain its glory after the thirteenth century and did not seem to have completely lost it until 9/11. Whether we will be able to do it again can be answered only if we study and analyse how we bagged it back then. While the thirteenth century is known for cruelty and atrocities that humanity suffered, it is known by one other name and that is of Jalal ad-Din Rumi. A mystic poet, the Voice of Love, Rumi’s sermons and poems taught about peace and fighting the inner self, the real jihad being that against one’s nafs.

“Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.”

“Raise your words, not voice. It is rain that grows flowers, not thunder.”

Do we have anyone like Rumi in the 21st century to take us out of the abyss of ignorance, extremism and revenge? If we really want to be reunited with the indelible mark we have left on the world in the form of Rumi then we need to first begin the search of Rumi inside every one of us.

It is said that all forms of revolutions and evolutions were kindled by books authored by philosophers of those eras. We are lacking a philosopher, an advocate who through his words could act as a mirror, showing us our lacking and portraying the real image of Islam in the world. The Muslims of today, while justifying their religion in front of people, have started doubting it on themselves. And it is only a philosopher who can correct this state. And where can we meet him?

“Out beyond the ideas of right-doing and wrongdoing there is a field. I will meet you there.”

We need to open our minds to the option of having many rights as opposed to the notion of several wrongs. Only then will we be able to see that all of us, despite travelling on different paths, are destined to the same goal – world peace and inner tranquility.