Friday, 6 February 2015

Deconstructing Cole's Perception of Islam (2)

Published in Guardian Newspaper December 17, 2014.

Continued from yesterday
ASMA bint Abu Bakr (RA) relates that her mother had come from Makkah to Madinah to meet her. Her mother was not a Muslim and followed pagan tribal customs and beliefs. Asma enquired from the holy Prophet (SAW) how she was supposed to treat her. The holy Prophet (SAW) told her to be kind and considerate and to behave towards her as was a mother's due from a daughter. Obeying one's parents and treating them with respect and affection is a great virtue and it serves as repentance for a person's sins. One wonders which Islamic manuscripts Dr. Cole avails himself with to have concluded that women, black and underprivileged are treated as second class in Islam.

More importantly, in Europe, women did not have the right to own their own property until 19th century. When they were married, either it would transfer to the husband or she would not be able to dispense of it without permission of her husband. In Britain, perhaps the first country to give women some property rights, laws were passed in the 1860's known as "Married Women Property Act". More than 1300 years earlier, that right was clearly established in Islamic law. Again, there is no restriction in Islamic law that says a woman cannot work nor have a profession and that her only place is in the home. When it comes to financial security, Islamic law is more tilted in many respects towards women.

Indeed, these sacred codes of the Glorious Quran explain why Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, suggested earlier in 2008 that aspects of Shari'ah should be adopted in Britain. The archbishop's remarks sparked a national debate and led to calls for his resignation. However, notable figures like Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers, the Lord Chief Justice, strongly backed Rowan Williams. Subsequently, the official story of adoption of aspects of Shari'ah in United Kingdom came up in April 2014 whereby it was revealed that The Law Society - the body which represents and advises solicitors in England and Wales - drawn up guidance for its members on how to draw up wills in accordance with Islamic law. A seasoned diplomat in the mould of Dr Cole is supposed to have asked why? what? and how? about Sharia before mis-interpreting Islamic law.

Dr. Cole labored in vain in painting Islam black with his numerous views over the unrest in Middle East and by extension Boko Haram in Nigeria. To start with, accusing Islam of "Takfirs" (extremists) wrong doing is like accusing the whole generation of Christians over Adolf Hitler's Nazism who wanted to establish "political caliphacy" across the whole world during Second World War. Adolf Hitler was a devout Catholic yet he was never restrained from launching attacks on other European countries who were predominantly Christians. During this period, six million Jews were massacred by Germans who were predominantly Christians. The same could be said of Hiroshima and Nagasaki nuclear bombing of several million Japanese by US military - none of whom were Muslims. All these historical facts show that there is another dimension to warfare beside religious theology which Dr .Cole's analysis did not cater for.

How about the consequences of foreign policies of major world power in relation to economic and political influence of these countries under consideration in Middle East? Former CIA director and Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, confirmed in his memoir (From The Shadows) that US backed the Mujahadin in the 1970s against former Soviet Union. The Mujahadin later metamorphosed to Al Qaeda which wreck havoc in Middle East today. While corroborating this line of thought, former US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, agreed in a report on MSNBC in 1998 that CIA gave covert support towards the formation of Al Qaeda. In fact, US started backing Al Qaeda's forefathers even before the Soviets invaded Afghanistan as Zbigniew Brzezinski, Jimmy Carter's National Security Adviser, told Le Nouvel Observateur in a 1998 interview.

It is on the basis of these precarious challenges with potential for pushing any society on the brink of lawlessness that informed his eminence Bishop Matthew Kukah to have warned uninformed religious leaders not to lend credence to the false belief of blame game over Boko Haram. In the interview he granted another Newspaper on January 16, 2012 under the caption "Do not be afraid, Bishop Kukah appeals", it was stated that Boko Haram is a national malaise that has crossed religious barriers. The Bishop cited instances of a Christian woman who went to her own parish Church in Bauchi and tried to set it ablaze. Again, a man alleged to be a Christian, dressed as a Muslim, went to burn down a Church in Bayelsa. In Plateau State, a man purported to be a Christian was arrested while trying to bomb a Church. Armed men gunned down a group of Christians meeting in a Church and later it turned out that those who have been arrested and were under interrogation were in fact not Muslims and that the story was more of an internal crisis. These and many more including "Boko Haram" drama in Osun State by a named pastor called for collective effort and not apportioning blame of not "sufficiently angry". If there is a way out of these dark moments in the history of our dear country, Dr. Cole should endeavor to offer suggestion.

Moreover, Dr. Cole only glossed over the monumental legacy of Muslim Arabs in pioneering modern world through science, technology and humanity and trivialized this with overall philosophy of tolerance. It is usually not unexpected of the writer as Sir John Glubb stated (in A Short History of the Arab People) that "the indebtedness of Western Christendom to Arab civilization was systematically played down, if not completely denied. A tradition was built up, by censorship and propaganda, that the Muslim imperialists had been mere barbarians and that the rebirth of learning in the West derived directly from Roman and Greek sources alone, without any Arab intervention".

No wonder HRH Prince Charles shook his large audience by surprise in a lecture in the Sheldonian Theatre, Oxford in 1993 on Islam and The West that "If there is much misunderstanding in the West about the nature of Islam, there is also much ignorance about the debt our own culture and civilization owe to the Islamic world. It is a failure, which stems, I think, from the straight-jacket of history, which we have inherited. The medieval Islamic world, from central Asia to the shores of the Atlantic, was a world where scholars and men of learning flourished. But because we have tended to see Islam as the enemy of the West, as an alien culture, society, and system of belief, we have tended to ignore or erase its great relevance to our own history".
Historically, this transmission of learning, culture and civilization could not have taken place without tolerance, passion and love for advancing humanity. For instance, the first French Pope, Pope Sylvester II (946 - May 12, 1003) enrolled and studied at the pioneer University of al-Karaouine in Morocco under the tutelage of Muslim Arabs. He was credited to have introduced Arabic numerals, Abacus and Armillary Sphere to Europe after his successful graduation. How could this have been possible in the atmosphere of hatred and intolerance? I strongly recommend the report of Commission on British Muslims and Islamophobia chaired by Prof. Gordon Conway to Dr Cole in order to de-construct his worldview on Islam and tolerance.

Paradoxically, the fabrications of non-existence evidence on the reward of "72 virgins for Jihad" only make Islam stronger in contemporary world. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, Islam is the world's fastest-growing religion by number of conversions each year. In 2007, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the World Christian Database has Islam as the fastest-growing religion in the world. Again, in 2011 Gatestone Institute, a global research centre in Europe stated that "Islam is the fastest-growing religion in England and Wales, according to new census data that the British government says 'describes the defining characteristics of the population, who we are, how we live and what we do'".
Surprisingly, 2014 saw the publication of the 30th Annual Status of Global Mission in the International Bulletin of Missionary Research. In the latest edition, the researchers estimate Islam as the fastest growing religion in the world: 1.81% per year versus 1.53% for the 20 million Sikhs and 1.29% for Christianity.

Above all, Dr. Laura Veccia Vaglieri stated in "Apologia dell' Islamismo" translated into English as "Interpretation of Islam" (pp. 33-34) that "Thanks to Islam, paganism in its various forms was defeated. The concept of the universe, the practices of religion and social customs were each liberated from all the monstrosities which had degraded them, and human minds were made free from prejudices. Mankind finally realized its dignity and humbled itself before the Creator, the Lord and Master of all mankind... Man became the servant of Allah alone and towards another free man. Each Muslim was distinguished from other Muslims not by reason of birth or any other factor not connected with his personality, but by his greater fear of God, his good deeds, his morals and intellectual qualities". She also stated "It was, therefore, neither by means of violence of arms nor through the pressure of obtrusive missionaries that caused the great and rapid diffusion of Islam, but above all, through the fact that this book (Qur'an) presented by the Muslims to the vanquished, with the liberty to accept it or reject it, was the Book of God, the Word of Truth, the greatest miracle Mohammed could show to those in doubt and to those who remained stubborn. The strength of this message was its crystal clear simplicity and marvelous easiness. For Islam reached out to the soul of the people without having recourse to long explanations or involved sermons".
- Concluded

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