The following is my article in Urdu language published in Urdu Times USA, Canada, and UK on September 26, 2012. To read , please click on the PDF document below:
Author Salman Rushdie, in an exclusive interview with CNN-IBN Deputy Editor Sagarika Ghose, has said that his enemies never had a point, and that they were wrong. The noted author feels that in the Muslim world, there has been an attempt to demonize him, and it has been successful.
However, Rushdie pointed that it was not an issue about just the Muslims, saying that the intolerance among the Hindus was as bad as that among the Muslims.
Here is the full text of the interview:
For the last several years, a few of my colleagues and I have been advising the Muslim community that any extremism and violence in the name of Islam results in the defamation of Islam and Muslims around the world.
During the same period, the extremist interpretation of Islam under the Salafi and Wahabi movements, with the support of Saudi and other Muslim governments as well as the US’s covert support of Islamist elements, has resulted in a non-objective analysis of issues even within the educated classes of Muslims globally.
As a result of the Iran/Iraq wars, the Islamic Jihad against the Soviet Union, the two US/Iraq wars, and the support of all such wars by US and its Western allies, Muslims have found excuses to blame the US and the West for all that ails the Muslim states. These Muslims include not only the citizens of Islamic states, but also those who have intentionally chosen the citizenship of the US and Western countries.
They know well that they have taken oaths of fealty and citizenship under the constitutions of the US and the secular countries of the West. Each and every citizen of these countries enjoys the freedom of religion and freedom of speech. Under the first amendment of the US constitution, that assures the freedom of religion and freedom of speech, the state cannot compel any of its citizens to respect the tenets of any religion.
Under the same first amendment, freedom of religion and freedom of speech are intertwined and the citizens cannot pick and choose from these. They cannot have their cake and eat it too, by giving priority to one freedom over the other.
Such freedoms allow Muslims to openly preach their religion, build their mosques, and their women to choose any attire, including the Hijab and Niqab. At the same time, citizens have the right to criticize and ridicule any religious practice, religious personality, or even the prophet of a religion. Those whose sensitivities are hurt due to any ridicule that is intentionally hateful can challenge the offenders in courts of law. They do not have the option of indulging in violence of any kind as a redress.
It is because of these freedoms, that the citizens of the US and the West are free to criticize and make a mockery of even the Christian religion which happens to be the religion of the majority in these countries. At the same time it also allows them to ridicule any other religion that they so choose, including Hinduism, Islam, Sikhism, and other faiths.
These freedoms have tempered the psyches of the citizens to ignore any insults to their faith, if they could not seek redress in the courts of laws in such matter. They never indulge into violence in these matters nor provoke others towards violence.
As opposed to the citizens of the US and the West, Muslims around the world, especially the orthodox among them, have extreme sensitivities about their religious beliefs. They cannot tolerate any insults to their religious practice, and especially to their prophet. And they often react with extremism and violence when faced with such situations.
It is also a fact, however, that over the centuries, opponents of Islam have created classic literature, arts, and artifacts that could be considered extremely offensive and hateful towards Muslims.
The latest example of this is the vulgar and abhorrent movie, “The Innocence of Muslims” that has recently been produced in the US by someone accused of various crimes in the past. A very short trailer of this movie has caused mayhem and violent reaction in various Muslim states. An American ambassador to Libya and several of his diplomatic colleagues have also been unjustly murdered in reaction to this movie. Various US and other Western embassies have also been targeted and attacked in the Muslim world.
Those taking part in these provocations ignored the centuries old traditions and laws of diplomatic privileges and protections. Under these traditions and laws the host countries bear full responsibility of protecting the diplomats and diplomatic enclaves including embassies.
Over the many hundred years of Islamic history, we do not find examples of violent outrage against the ambassadors and embassies of the foreign countries in the Muslim world, until Iran indulged into these atrocious acts during its revolution, and has since caught on in several Islamic countries.
It is ironic that many of these countries, where such violence against diplomats has taken place, have received vigorous support from the US and the West during their recent revolutions. It is also an eye opener that the newly elected President of Egypt called for massive demonstrations against the movie, and then contradicted that any attack on a diplomat or an ambassador could be considered as an attack on the Ka’ba, the most sacred shrine of Islam.
After the murder of US diplomats, and after the attacks on Western embassies, two well known Muslim organizations in the US and Canada have advised tolerance and moderation to the Muslims around the world.
It is one of the first times that non-secular organizations like CAIR, and CAIR-CAN, along with ICNA and others have issued a clear statement that Muslims should ignore this movie. They have also conceded that any group that wishes to show this movie in Canada has the right to do so under the values of freedom of expression in this country.
These organizations have also quoted examples from the life of Prophet Mohammed showing that he exercised restraint and forgave those who insulted or offended him. These organizations have advised the leaders of the mosques to preach the same forbearance and mercy that their prophet practiced. They have even quoted the prophet as advising that evil should not be responded to with evil, and patience and tolerance should be adopted in such situations.
While organizations like CAIR, CAIR-CAN and ICNA, who are generally perceived as non-secular organizations, are now professing moderation, some Muslim scholars living in the west are sowing confusion in Muslim minds. One such scholar, Tahir Al-Qadri, recently told journalists that non-Muslims cannot be prosecuted for blasphemy, while he had previously advised his followers that anyone committing blasphemy against the Muslim prophet must be killed. When challenged about this contradiction he did a volte-face and stated that all Abrahamic scriptures, including the Quran, preach the murder of blasphemers. He could not quote any actual such injunction from the Quran, because such an injunction does not exist.
The truth is, that it is not the haters or enemies of Islam, that commit blasphemy against Islam or its prophet; but the real blasphemers and contemners are those Muslims themselves who misquote the Quran, do not practice what their prophet preached, and indulge in atrocious acts that have been forbidden by their own prophet.
It is unfortunate that Muslims have been blaspheming by killing the companions of the prophet and his family members, and have practised atrocities against them from the very beginning of Islam. If such Muslim were alive today and tried under the blasphemy laws in Pakistan and other Muslim countries, they would have been condemned to death.
There are only a handful of moderate Muslims in the west, who despite all the risks within their own communities, continue to advocate for moderation and secularism. It is probably due to their efforts that the situation may have changed slightly, and, as a result of which, even the major non-secular Muslim organizations are now preaching the path of moderation. Moderate Muslims should continue their struggle and efforts.
(An Urdu version of this article was published as a column in the Urdu Times, USA, Canada, and the UK on September 20, 2012)