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Mainstream, VOL LI, No 11, March 2, 2013

They Do Not Extremists Are Extremists: Understand the Language of Reason and Peace

Wednesday 6 March 2013


by Asghar Ali Engineer

Recently we read with great pain that the extremists in Pakistan killed several women who were active in administering the polio dose to the children. They think it is an international conspiracy to reduce the population of Muslims in the world as the polio dose makes a person impotent. Some Muslims and Imams of mosques in India too thought likewise and asked Muslims in their Friday sermons not to allow social workers to administer the polio dose to their children.

But in India it was just an appeal, no one was physically harmed, much less killed. In Pakistan these extremists believe in the culture of violence and for them the only solution for defying their orders is to be shot dead. Malala was shot as she did not listen to the Taliban and stop advo-cating education for girls. Those who kill others in the name of Islam are far from being Muslims, let alone pious Muslims. In order to be a pious Muslim one has to be just. The Qur’an says: “Do justice, it is closest to piety.” (5:8)

How can one claim to observe the norms of justice by killing others? Justice is something most difficult to carry out, even for murder we require at least two pious and honest witnesses and to prove rape or fornication we need four such witnesses. One has to make sure, according to the Shari’ah law, that before accepting a witness the witness is honest and pious. Witnessing cannot be accepted from anyone. And killing someone is permitted only in certain specific cases like murder and there too, if it is not qatl-e-‘amad (deliberate and coldblooded murder) Allah prefers pardoning with or without compensation.

To kill someone without justification is a great sin. The Qur’an says that “whoever kills a person unless it be for manslaughter or for mischief in the land, it is as though he has killed the whole humanity. And whoever saves a life, it is as if he has saved the whole humanity.” (5:32) This is a very important statement of the Holy Book. Life is sacred and is not cheap that anyone can kill any other person without any reason or rhyme. There has to be strong justification for taking anyone’s life. If life could be taken by anyone and at any time the whole humanity would be wiped out in course of time.

Normally weapons should be used for protecting and not taking life. And which rule of the Shari’ah has prescribed that administering polio should be punished with death? That cure did not exist in those days. The orthodox people greatly resist any change in the Shari’ah law even with proper justification but do not hesitate to change the Shari’ah law or innovate one through false reasoning when it suits their interests. This is what killing women adminis-tering polio amounts to. It is pure innovation with false justification.

These very extremists would not mind producing and selling drugs through smuggling to buy weapons and destroy thousands of young lives. All intoxicants are strictly prohibited in Islam, particularly liquor and drugs; and yet the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan are known to be producing, smuggling drugs and buying weapons. I have attended anti-drug conferences in Afghanistan and know how thousands of people are suffering because the Taliban want weapons. Even many women are addicted to drugs in Afghanistan. So much for the Islam of the Taliban.

Also, whoever said that the polio dose makes men impotent? Have they done any research on that? Or they believe only in hearsay? To believe in something without confirming its truth is highly condemned by the Qur’an. The Qur’an calls it zann (suspicion, guess). See the Qur’anic verses 48:9, 48:12, 49:12, 53:23 etc. how the Qur’an condemns zann. In some cases, it says it is even sin, in some cases it is our personal desire and has nothing to do with truth and the Qur’an advises the believers to avoid zann as much as they can.

And as for the Taliban, who are killing those administering the polio dose, it is mere zann and has nothing to do with the objective reality. And if they have confirmed its truth let them produce the proof. Or do they want these young children born to live as polio-affected people paralysed for their whole life? Life is a beautiful gift from the Allah. Do they want this beautiful gift to become an affliction for these young ones? That too on mere suspicion or guess?

Also, this campaign has been launched by the UNO to eliminate this curse from our earth and make our lives healthier and happier. It is far from aimed at Muslims. Polio doses are being administered throughout the world. The entire humanity is benefiting from it and particularly in Africa and Asia where most of the poor of the world live. It appears to be a conspiracy of the Taliban to paralyse the coming generation of Muslims so that they can live at their mercy and through their charity!

There is so much emphasis in the Qur’an and hadith on knowledge (‘ilm) and instead of being forerunners of science and scientific attitude the Muslim extremists are being so ignorant and superstitious! And they want to keep Muslims in the darkness of ignorance through sheer power of the gun. Muslims are in fact duty- bound to eliminate ignorance and usher in an era of enlightenment. But the Taliban do not want modern education, especially for women, do not want modern medicines and do not want freedom. Instead they are spreading the gun culture. Is this Islam? We have to encourage the young Muslims to fight this menace of the Taliban as it is no less a curse than polio.

Dr Asghar Ali Engineer, who runs the Centre for the Study of Society and Secularism (CSSS), Mumbai, is the patron of the All India Secular Forum set up in 2002 when the Gujarat pogrom in particular and the communal forces in general were threatening the secular fabric of society; the Forum had rejected the Communal Violence Bill drafted by the Ministry of Home Affairs as it gave the police draconian powers to handle communal disturbances without any accountability, and organised a campaign for an alternative legislation. He won along with Swami Agnivesh the Right to Livelihood Award in 2004 in recognition of his steadfast commitment to promote the values of coexistence and tolerance.

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