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Old Saturday, May 10, 2008
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Default Truth behind Enlightened Moderation

Musharraf’s “strategy” of “enlightened moderation” is at best promotion of the Western warlords’ concept of a “war within Islam.” The neo-cons of the Western world and the neo-mods of Islam, are promoting “moderate Islam” for justifying perpetual wars, occupations and support of dictatorial regimes.

Since the 2003 OIC Conference, Musharraf has been tirelessly working to get credit for the concept of “enlightened moderation”. All he actually achieved was merely adding a word “enlightened” to “moderation”—a term the American warlords have invented to use both as a weapon and a shield for their geo-political political agenda for a long time. Introducing it is their potent weapon for winning the latest war on Islam. However, it is used as a shield when the crusaders claim to using it not for a war on Islam but only intensifying a “war within Islam,”.

Among Muslims, the promoters of “moderate” Islam are considered classic examples of those who do not care about anything other than self-interest. In the following analysis we will see if it is really their benighted opportunism that makes them embrace “moderate” Islam as a tool for self-promotion. Their continually shifting positions, according to the changing priorities of the United States, is an evidence of their self-centered approach in this regard, but an analysis of their approach is necessary.

Before assessing Musharraf’s “doctrine” of “enlightened moderation”, we need to keep in mind that on the opposite ends of the broad spectrum of anti-Islam views, there are two very general and deep-rooted misconceptions: The first misconception is that the Holy Qur’an preaches intolerance and that Islam is only a religion of peace. Both are misrepresentations of the teachings of Islam.

The basic principle of Islam, a belief in prophethood, including the prophethood of Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, is enough to give the lie to the first misconception. Islam teaches that in times past Allah sent prophets to every nation and their numbers are close to 124,000. Islam also teaches that they essentially taught the same message and, since that is so, to disrespect one of those prophets means to disrespect them all. The Qur’an that preaches not only love and respect for the founders of the great religions of the world, but much more than that—faith in them—could not resort to narrowness of intolerance towards those very religions.

Zero tolerance for zulm—injustice and oppression—in Islam negates the second misconception that it is a religion of peace alone. Most importantly, the root word of Islam is “al-silm” which means “submission” or “surrender.” It is understood to mean “submission to Allah.” In spite of whatever noble intention has caused many a Muslim to claim that Islam is derived primarily from peace, this is not true (see Qur’an 2:136).

A secondary root of Islam may be “Al-Salaam” (peace); however, the text of the Qur’an (2:136) makes it clear that Allah has clearly intended that the focus of this life should remain submission to Him. This entails submission to Him at all times, in times of peace, war, ease, or difficulty.

To demystify this pair of grand misconceptions, we need to study words and deeds of the present day self-proclaimed “moderates” who are exploiting the second misconception in their favor, which indirectly leads to consolidation of the first.

Musharraf’s adding “enlightened” to “moderation” gives the impression that other Muslim opportunists are preaching some kind of inferior moderation. However, his best explanation is hardly different from the confusion spread by several others in the name of moderate Islam.

According to Musharraf, the “suffering” of his “brethren in faith” at the “hands of militants, extremists, terrorists, have inspired” him to come up with “the strategy of enlightened moderation.” Here we must note that Musharraf:

- tries to kill two birds with one shot, i.e., to please both Muslims and the enemies of Islam;

- presents “enlightened moderation” as a strategy, not a value, or a form of Islam to avoid annoying Muslims;

- confirms Islamophobes’ perspective that the root of the global turmoil lies with Muslims alone;

- gives legitimacy to the Islamophobes’ classification of Muslims and Islam;

- attempts to prove Islam and secularism compatible, and

- hides the source of his inspiration—which is nothing more than his self-interest.

Like other self-proclaimed moderates, Musharraf provides no clarification as to why a true Muslim would not be a moderate without following Musharraf’s agenda for the so-called moderation. Instead, Musharraf tries to prove that the world would have been a peaceful place if there were no “plastic explosives, combined with hi-tech, remotely controlled activation means superimposed by a proliferation of suicide bombers.” His strategy begins with meaningless appeals such as, “something has to be done quickly to stop this carnage.” He is right at least in that. Something must be done. But, have appeals and appeasement ever made the aggressors change their policy? The situation demands more than empty appeals and high sundry rhetoric.

Musharraf is cunningly following the neo-cons’ agenda. He argues, the world is “an extremely dangerous place” because of “plastic explosives,” and “suicide bombers.” He concludes that the world is in such a sorry state because “the perpetrators of the crime…are Muslims.”

Compare this biased assessment with the ability and atrocities of those who are neck deep in innocent blood; who have stockpiles of nuclear and biological weapons and who bypassed even the UN to occupy two sovereign states (Iraq and Afghanistan), and who killed at least 150,000 people21 since 9/11 alone on the basis of lies upon lies. What amounts to a carnage? 3,000 deaths at the hands of unknown perpetrators on 9/11, or more than 128,000 at the hands of known liars?22 Is it enlightened moderation to plead guilty to crimes of unknown culprits and turn a blind eye to the acts of known extremists, and appeal to victims of their aggression, Muslims, to “quickly stop this carnage”?

No one needs to remind Musharraf that the 20th century’s mega-murderers—those states killing in cold blood, aside from warfare, one million or more people—have murdered over 151,000,000 people, almost 30,200 times the 5000 killed by Muslim terrorists, and four times the 38,500,000 battle-dead for all the 20th century’s international and civil wars up to 1987. All these killers were not only real carnage-makers but also followers of one or another religion and ideology other than Islam.23 Which faith are these mega-murderers following? Did anyone think of bringing moderation to their faith?

Then there are the kilo-murderers, or those states that have killed innocents by the tens or hundreds of thousands, the top five of which were the China Warlords (1917-1949), Ataturk’s Turkey (1919-1923), the United Kingdom (the 1914-1919 food blockade of the Central Powers and Levant in and after World War I, and the 1940-45 indiscriminate bombing of German cities), Portugal (1926-1982), and the US sponsored Indonesia (1965-87).

The US played a leading role in sponsoring and directly taking part in these carnages. For instance, 450,000 to 500,000 communists and sympathizers were killed by the U.S. backed Indonesian Army and affiliates in a brief period between October 1965 and the end of 1966.

One is forced to ask: What role did Islam or Muslims play in these carnages? Why should the world associate carnage, terror and extremism to Muslims for the death of a fraction of human beings (6,000 at the most) compared to the systematic murder of many millions in the 20th century alone?

Islam does not justify killing civilians. However, for the sake of fairness in argument, one has to compare statistics of the deaths at the hands of Muslims in the last 14 centuries alongside the numbers of systematic death, destruction and misery inflicted by European colonialists and the US to see who needs moderation.

The US is the only country in the world to have used nuclear weapons in war; the first to use a chemical weapon since the First World War (Agent Orange); is using depleted uranium to poison thousands of Iraqis and Afghans and perhaps make an entire region dangerous to live in. It has been directly implicated in the murders of national leaders like Allende in Chile. Britain used British and Australian soldiers and Aboriginal civilians in “experiments” by setting off nuclear explosions in the 1950s and then studying the effects on people told to stand within line of sight—surely as bad as anything the Nazis did in their “experiments” on concentration camp victims.

For Musharraf and company, moderation is “a two-pronged strategy” of a) “shunning militancy, extremism” and b) “adopting the path of socio-economic uplift.” This appeasement-based strategy does not explain how the so-called “moderate” Islam is different from the Islam as prescribed by the Qur’an and the Sunnah. Why should one follow them and not the source? If the “moderates” had simply argued that there is no need to use interpretation of the Qur’an to justify acts of violence against civilians, it would have been reasonable. However, introduction of a new version of Islam in an environment in which definition and expectation of “moderate” Islam and Muslims have been totally confused, makes no sense.

As far the two prongs are concerned, no one loves to live in perpetual violence and never-ending poverty. The pre-requisite for addressing these problems is not embracing some kind of convoluted form of Islam. Let us see how the issue of poverty fits with the self-contradictory concept of “enlightened moderation” at a time when government policies perpetuate poverty.

As for the second prong, Muslims’ alleged obsession with their faith has no role in the miserable situation they are facing. Instead, it is the lack of obsession that keeps Muslims groping in the dark. They don’t need any moderation in embracing or practicing Islam. “Enlightened moderation” is a deceptive title. It is totally irrelevant to the proposed strategy, which, in turn, is devoid of common sense and the reality of facts on the ground.

Blindness of the proposed strategy touches its peak when Musharraf added a series of appeals with regards to “the role to be played by the West,” saying the US “must aim at resolutely resolving all political disputes with justice,” “resolve the political disputes enumerated above with justice” and “justice must be done and seen to be done.” Well said.

The excessive stress on justice, however, shows that the label of moderation is deceptive in the first place. What Musharraf is appealing for is exactly what the so-labeled extremists are demanding. Why is it so that when Musharraf begs for it, it is OK? But if someone else just talks about it, it becomes extremism?

Besides the apologetic tone, what makes Musharraf a moderate in this case is his hypocrisy of saying one thing and doing exactly the other. Sustaining an unjust order and demanding justice from the same doesn’t make any sense.

The hypocrisy is further reflected in Musharraf’s statement that the “root cause of extremism and militancy lies in political injustice, denial and deprivation.” That is true. However, he forgets that he is playing a lead role in perpetuating “political injustice, denial and deprivation.” He is so obviously responsible for what he calls “acute sense of deprivation, hopelessness and powerlessness.”

Let us agree with Musharraf that “a people suffering from a combination of all these lethal ills are easily available cannon fodder for the propagation of militancy and the perpetration of extremist, terrorist acts.” The question, however, is: what is the root cause for these ills? When these ills do not originate from Islam, why then needlessly introduce different versions of Islam, or a strategy with a deceptive title, to address them?

In the same breath, Musharraf admits: “it is not Islam as a religion which preaches or infuses militancy and extremism but the political disputes which led to antagonism in the Muslim masses.” Logically, the discussion should end at this point because if Islam doesn’t teach militancy and extremism, it is of no use to introduce “moderate” or “liberal,” or “progressive” forms of Islam and leaving the dispute to the unjust to resolve. The need is to address the causes that lead to reactionary sentiments, but where is the strategy for that?

Musharraf equates moderation with a “conciliatory approach” and shows that Islam is not in conflict with secularism. Here Musharraf attempts to make his mantra acceptable to the enemies of Islam by making Islam compatible with secularism. Musharraf’s doctrine displays a mind-set infected with benighted opportunism. It is a mind-set shaped into believing the much trumpeted allegation of the Western warlords that “the suffering of the innocent” Muslims in the world today is only due to Muslim “militants, extremists and terrorists.”

Musharraf had no option but to begin his plea with the same idea. However, the signs of confusion are obvious in his thoughts. He admits in the later part of his plea that these terms are wrongly labeling Muslims alone. In his opinion, if Muslims alone are responsible and he is making a plea to them, why then say they are “wrongly labeled?”

The mantra of moderation is no more than a weapon equally used by the neo-cons in the West and the dictators and other neo-mods for their personal gains in the Muslim world. Their victims are both the Muslim and non-Muslim masses because they equally reap the consequences of wars, occupations and puppet regimes imposed on the Muslim world for “moderating” Muslims and Islam.

General Musharraf is simply supporting and consolidating the neo-cons’ argument that the Muslim World as a whole is devoted to terrorism for which the West needs to “rebuild” and introduce a “civil, democratic Islam.” Infected with benighted opportunism, Musharraf and other “moderates” endorse this lie when they lump 1.2 billion Muslims into one monolithic group and argue that “the Muslim world has to shun militancy” and “extremism” for “enlightened moderation.”

It is not that benighted opportunism has over-powered the “moderates” to the extent that they do not realize the truth. General Musharraf cautiously concedes: “the West, the US in particular, must aim at resolutely resolving all political disputes with justice.” It means:

The US and its allies are not dealing with justice and their injustice is the root cause of the problems today, and Whoever stands by the unjust in perpetrating injustice becomes accomplice in the crimes of the unjust.

The Question is, what makes the “moderates” stand by the US shoulder to shoulder in perpetrating injustice when they admit, in Musharraf words: “the root cause of extremism and militancy lies in political injustice, denial and deprivation,” not Islam.

Opportunism and denial hold “moderate” Muslims from supporting their words with deeds. Musharraf’s sermons about “political injustice” are meaningless as long as he remains committed to perpetuating himself in power and ignores his guilt in continuing to heap political injustice on the nation.

In their attempts to make the leg-less moderation stand, the “moderates” contradict and undermine what they stand for. After giving a historical background, Musharraf proves, in total contradiction to the mantra of moderation that Islam, as a religion, is not one that “preaches or infuses militancy and extremism.” To him, it is “the political disputes which led to antagonism in the Muslim masses.” If this were so, what was the need for inventing “moderate” Islam and Muslims? Why not just follow Islam and be moderate by default?

By virtue of the above mentioned argument from Musharraf, there is no need for promoting secularism, taking out Qur’anic verses from the school curriculum, proposing “moderation,” civilizing Islam and advancing new concepts that have nothing to do with Islam at all. If any moderation is required, it is required of those who are responsible for the root causes of the problem.

Promoting “moderation” that runs against the common beliefs of Islam is just a mockery of Muslims and Islam. Musharraf says Muslims have to “wash off the common belief that Islam is a religion…in conflict with modernization, democracy and secularism.” This is the crux of the “moderate” message, which takes the soul out of both moderate Islam and the neo-cons’ theory of “moderation”, because there is no place for secularism in Islam. Islam also rejects the forms of governance and modernization that are not bound by the prescribed limits of the Qur’an and the Sunnah. However, this does not necessarily mean that Islam in its true sense is against democracy, modernization, education, human rights and so on. If anyone thinks so, he is either a victim of the neo-cons’ lies or the neo-mods’ benighted opportunism. One only needs to refer to the sources of Islam and the truly Islamic scholarship to see what Islam’s position is on these topics

The solution to the world’s problems lies in the realization that leaving Muslims alone to live by Islam is the only way forward to peace and security for all. Propping up dictators and promoting misconceptions about Islam will never work.

Courtesy: Abidullah Jan
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