Islam vs Islam: the Solution

By B. R. Gowani

There cannot be two opinions regarding the US presence in Afghanistan. It’s clearly an occupying force with imperial objectives, whose central goal is to strengthen the US Global Empire through any means necessary. The US has to leave Afghanistan – or has to be forced out — whether this is done through diplomatic or violent means is the choice left at the discretion of the Afghan people.

The violent resistance against the US and NATO forces is currently coming from the Taliban, but also, from many other Islamic outfits. Included in these are Al Qaeda fighters, on both sides of the Afghanistan/Pakistan border, whose fight has gained them immense sympathy and support from local and non-local Muslims. Also, the civilian casualties resulting from the bombardment of the US drones have helped strengthen this opposition enormously. Many moderate and not outwardly practicing Muslims feel threatened regarding their religion, thus strengthening their suspicion that the US is waging a war against Islam.

The militants’ counteroffensive against the US war is one aspect of their struggle. Their aspirations, however, are dual: one is to drive out the US and the other is to take over power. This second aspect is troubling. It would have been different if Osama bin Laden (that is, if he is still alive) and Mullah Omar were of the Fidel Castro and Che Guevara mold; but that is not the case. They are the exact opposites; neither progress nor human rights are their forte. They are just in a haste to impose a barbaric rule in which half of the society — the women — would be confined to the four walls of their houses. Minorities will be outcasts, and the other sects in Islam will be declared infidels in their brand of government. Education will be restricted to the study of just one book, the Qur’an.

One would not have any reason to lose sleep if these militants were a fringe of the population. But that is not so. On the contrary, their number is on the rise. Let us not forget their connected and unconnected offshoots that have sprung up in many Muslim countries. Some of them have joined hands with the local Muslim zealots and have become a problem for many governments; including those of the corrupt US supported dictators. In some parts of Pakistan these militants have become a parallel mainstream, while in places such as Swat they have overshadowed the government. Things are so bad in Pakistan that there is open talk of the country’s disintegration. (The latest development is another ominous sign: Supreme Court has barred the main opposition leader Nawaz Sharif from elected office.)

Although Pakistan has become the Mecca for these Muslim fanatics, one should take note that it is not solely a Pakistan problem. This is the monster that can readily devour all the Muslim countries (and countries with substantial Muslim population). In this urgency, what is needed is for Pakistan’s liberal segment to join hands with counterparts in other Muslim and non-Muslim countries (such as India, England, United States, etc.) and fight the militants with the following arguments:

1. The freedom to pray should mean that nobody stops you from praying, that is, if you want to pray. It does not mean that you force people (not wanting to pray) to pray. The freedom to ‘not pray’ should be respected.
2. The freedom to fast should mean that nobody force-feeds you to break your fast, that is, if you want to fast. It does not mean that you force people (not wanting to fast) to fast. You cannot force restaurants to remain closed from sunrise to sunset (the fasting time). Those people who want to eat in public during Ramadan (the month of fasting) should have the full freedom to do so without any fear of harassment, intimidation, or arrest. Others should not go hungry for your faith.
3. There should be no prayer calls from the mosque minarets five times a day (Muslims are required to offer five prayers at different times of the day) as people could be sleeping or sick or studying or performing intimate acts. There are all sorts of alarm clocks available in the markets, including the ones which have pre-recorded prayer call.
4. All the sects of Islam (Shia and Sunni) should have full freedom to coexist and the followers of those sects should be at liberty to practice their religion in a way they deem fit.
5. Members of minorities (that is non-Muslims) should have the same rights, with total equality, as all other citizens. They should also be permitted to run for the highest office.
6. Women should be granted total equality, not just in the constitution, but also in the realities of every day life. Any veil which covers the face should be banned completely. Women should have freedom to dress the way they want to.
7. There should be no prohibition on alcohol. What is needed instead is the de-glamorization of alcohol and prohibition on its advertisements. (Liquor is banned in Pakistan but you can have as much of it as you want, even delivered at home. This is true in many countries where it is restricted.)
8. Ahmadi Muslims, who were declared non-Muslims in 1974, should be readmitted into Islam. A ban should be announced on such anti Muslim declarations, because no one has a right or authority to make such declarations. The militants today want all Shias to be declared non-Muslims. Tomorrow this can extend to the moderate Sunnis, too.

The former director of the Human Rights Commission Pakistan, Mr. I. A. Rehman, doubts if declaring certain areas of Pakistan as Shariah zone will restrict the Islamic militancy from spreading to other areas. (See the following article.)

If the arguments do not penetrate the thick headed militants then there are a couple of alternatives: either,

1. The moderates of the Muslim world should jointly issue a fatwa against the extremists and declare them to be outside the fold of Islam,
2. They should declare themselves outside the militants’ version of Islam. They should announce their version of Islam as Islam (LP), i.e., Liberal & Pluralistic Islam; and the militant version as Islam (WT), i.e., Wahhabi Taliban Islam.

B. R. Gowani can be reached at

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