In the wake of every massacre by jihadists, liberals all over the world immediately start chanting the mantra that Islam has nothing to do with it. In the wake of gruesome killings at the Holey Artisan Bakery in Dhaka, a similar script is being played out. Unless challenged, it will further muddle the issue and cause more grief.
After the massacre, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said, “Anyone who believes in religion cannot do such act. They do not have any religion, their only religion is terrorism.” This is in line with the fairy tales that liberals keep telling us day in and day out: all religions are various paths to realize God or the ultimate truth; all religions preach peace and harmony; terror has not religion.
All these are either the ruses employed by Islamists and their apologists or the consequences of liberals’ bad faith. For contemporary events give the lie to such widespread beliefs. Further, history is full of instances when, inspired by faith, men have killed their countless fellow beings all over the world. The very spread of Islam right from the beginning, during the lifetime of the Prophet Mohammad, took place because of the wars his followers waged against the non-believers, the violent ways they took recourse to. Even their Allah constantly exhorted them to indulge in bloodshed. The Quran is unambiguous in its exhortations. Consider the following injunctions and messages from Allah, the author of the Quran:
(3:56): As to those who reject faith, I will punish them with terrible agony in this world and in the Hereafter, nor will they have anyone to help.
(3:151): Soon shall We cast terror into the hearts of the Unbelievers…
(5:33): The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His messenger and strive to make mischief in the land is only this, that they should be murdered or crucified or their hands and their feet should be cut off on opposite sides or they should be imprisoned; this shall be as a disgrace for them in this world, and in the hereafter they shall have a grievous chastisement.
(8:12): Remember they Lord inspired the angels (with the message): I will instill terror into the hearts of the Unbelievers: smite ye above their necks and smite all their fingertips off them.
(8:67): It is not fitting for a Prophet that he should have prisoners of war until he hath thoroughly subdued the land. Ye look for the temporal goods of this world; but Allah looketh to the Hereafter: and Allah is Exalted in might, Wise.
(9:30): The Jews call ‘Uzayr a son of God, and the Christians call Christ the son of God. That is a saying from their mouth; (in this) they but imitate what the Unbelievers of old used to say. Allah’s curses on them: how they are deluded from the Truth!
And the Jews say: Ezra is the son of Allah; and the Christians say: The Messiah is the son of Allah; these are the words of their mouths; they imitate the saying of those who disbelieved before; may Allah destroy them; how they are turned away!
Thankfully, a vast majority of Muslims do not follow these verses seriously. A large number of them are decent people, like the young boy who refused to part with his non-Muslim friends in the bakery massacre—and paid with his life. Such facts, however, should not blind us to the reality that certain elements of the Islamic faith are problematic.
Speaking on New Year’s Day, 2015, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi underlined this reality. He said, “It’s inconceivable that the thinking that we hold most sacred should cause the entire umma [Islamic world] to be a source of anxiety, danger, killing, and destruction for the rest of the world. Impossible! That thinking—I am not saying ‘religion’ but ‘thinking’—that corpus of texts and ideas that we have sacralized over the centuries, to the point that departing from them has become almost impossible, is antagonizing the entire world. It’s antagonizing the entire world!”
Therefore, he beseeched the ulema, religious scholars, to redefine Islam. “I say and repeat again that we are in need of a religious revolution. You, imams, are responsible before Allah. The entire world, I say it again, the entire world is waiting for your next move… because this umma is being torn, it is being destroyed, it is being lost—and it is being lost by our own hands.”
If the ulema have done anything substantive since then, it is not perceptible. The “religious revolution” Sisi hoped for has proved to be a starter. Not a day passes when an Islamist outrage is not reported from some place or the other; today jihad has footprints from Bali and Dhaka to Istanbul and Boston; and the menace is growing. And a large number of victims of jihad are Muslims themselves.
Typically, mainstream public intellectuals are not helping the cause of war against jihad; they quickly denounce any politician or scholar who is critical of Islam as a racist and Islamophobe. In fact, they are helping jihadists, for such a climate of opinion helps Islamists spread their dangerous doctrines and practices; concomitantly, it discourages and terrorizes the secular and truly liberal Muslims in their strivings to modernize their faith and emancipate their community from the clutches of mad mullahs, the Islamic State, Al-Qaeda, etc. It is time the inadequacies of Islam were recognized in earnest and accordingly acted upon.