This refers to Shekhar Gupta’s article, “5 reasons for the crisis in global Islam”, published in Print. He tries to make Muslims believe that
(1) Muslim World is in crisis;
(2) What has happened in France is something particular to Muslims;
(3) Muslims alone tend to think in terms of a worldwide dominance;
(4) Muslims alone fight one another
(5) Muslim countries alone are largely undemocratic with high inequality;
(6) Muslims alone can’t face criticism
Let us dwell on his arguments one by one!
Muslim World is in crisis?
He makes a whirlwind statement meaning that there is crisis in Global Islam. The truth on the other hand is that while the Global Islam is fast coming out of crisis, which gripped it during last few centuries, the rest of the word is getting embroiled deeper and deeper in crisis. Is India not in crisis, where the communal and caste confrontation has reached an intolerable level, and the tensions with its two neighbours has reached a flash point, which can lead to open war any time? Is the world not in crisis due to huge and ever rising rate of crimes, the so-called most advanced countries being at the top in terms of crime rates including murders and rapes? The more “advanced” and “civilized” a country is the more is its rates of crimes, its rates of suicides, its disintegration of family system, its economic inequality and its exploitation of women in sex trade, its rate of foeticides and its involvement in world wars and civil wars in other countries. The crime rate in Muslim countries happens to be among the lowest. And now the world is facing a big crisis in the form of Covid-19 pandemics. In last 25 years, HIV/AIDS has killed more than 35 million. Millions of children are aborted every year in the name of “Freedom of Choice”. Several million are consumed by alcoholism and smoking. Economic Inequality is rising with every passing day. But thanks to the world media dominated by the forces of economics and political power, only deaths attributing to political reasons attract media attention, especially if this involves Muslims.
There has been a ubiquitous practice in recent times that religion is seen as something different from ‘ideology’. The truth is that the world has religious and non-religious ideologies, and every single ideology goes political as soon as it starts winning sizeable followers. The most dominant ideologies in the world in last century have been Capitalism and Socialism (including Communism) and they fear Islam because Islam threatens their theories of economic fundamentalism, which defines ‘good’ and ‘bad’ on the basis of their importance to the Economics, especially market economics. Islam on the other hand distinguished “good” and “bad” on the basis of their impact on health and social peace, prohibiting or discouraging all such practices as pose threat to life and healthiness of life.
Today’s dominant political ideologies fear “Political Islam” just because it might further deepen their crisis, with statistics and scientific facts more and more proving their ideological position on issues such as alcohol and sex as pervert and dangerous for health and peace and their judicial system is an abysmal failure.
What has happened in France is something particular to Muslims?
Out of a feeling of extreme religious hurt, a student killed a teacher who had caricatured the Muslim Prophet. This was followed by another incident, which killed three people. There is no doubt that the insult and injury to Muslim sentiments as well as the extreme reaction by the student and even more specifically the killing of three persons who had nothing to do with the cartoons, all are condemnable. Unfortunately, most of the non-Muslim world, including Indian Prime Minister, who claims to be the Prime Minister of Hindus as well as Muslims, did not care at all about the sentiments of Muslims and chose to condemn “Islamic” terrorism/Islamofascism alone. And now it is being argued as if such reactions are specific to Muslims.
In America, several thousand fall prey to hate crimes every year. The recent killings and brutalities against Blacks by police led to the protests all over the country. Mass shootings are common occurrence, some of which are related to racial or religious motives. Most of the culprits are white Christian Americans. In India, Muslims have been lynched just because of the suspicion of carrying cow meat and not shouting Jai Shree Ram. According to a Reuters report, in India, a total of 63 cow vigilante attacks had occurred between 2010 and mid 2017, mostly since the Modi government came to power in 2014. In these attacks between 2010 and June 2017, “28 Indians – 24 of them Muslims – were killed and 124 injured”, states the Reuter’s report. Out of more than 35000 terrorist related deaths in India in last 30 years, an overwhelming majority has been at the hands of Non-Muslims (Naxalites, Bodos, Ulfa, Maoists), most of whom are Hindus by Census. In the nearby Sri Lanka, tens of thousands to one hundred thousand killings were at the hands of Tamil terrorists. Only last year, in New Zealand, more than 50 Muslims were massacred by a Christian shooter.
9/11 killed around 3000 people, and without any inquiry, within few minutes American President blamed Al-Qaedah for this. Those who carried out the plan perished with the planes. The declared “mastermind” was killed in an isolated attack in Pakistan eleven years later. In between America-led war killed hundreds of thousands of innocent Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan who had nothing to do with 9/11. But America, France and all other countries involved and Christian community who are in majority in these countries continue to be “peace-loving”, while Muslims continue to be “violent”. Nobody had the courage to condemn West for these pogroms in Muslim countries. From all accounts, it appears that ISIS was formed with the support of West in order to topple President of Assad. It became their enemy only when, due to its failure in Syria, it converged on Iraq, which was under America-supported Government.
If we have to establish peace in the world, we have to combat all forms of violence, wars, civil wars, day-to-day violence due to failed Judicial System, violence like induced killing of fetuses and all forms of terrorism. Out of all these, terrorism is the least lethal. Every single death of an innocent needs to be condemned, irrespective of the identity of the perpetrator and the victim, irrespective of the motivating ideology, religious or non-religious and irrespective of the method used; and the condemnation and response should be proportionate to the magnitude of violence rather than the identities of those involved. If we use this criterion, we will have to condemn West millions of times while condemning Muslims few thousand times.
Muslims alone fight one another?
Hardly a century has passed since the First World War and the centenary of Second World War is sill about two decades away. Who were the people fighting each other in these wars? The majority of the countries involved were predominantly Christian countries. More than 70 million perished. Till a few decades back, the major Cold War had been between America and Russia, again both having either Christian or atheist population. If the majority of the countries are either Christian or Muslim, obviously their internal rivalries would be most noticeable. But compared to Christian countries, the list of wars within Muslim world is much shorter. In the ancient past, before Muslim rule, Indian history too is full of bloody wars between different Hindu rajas. Hindus happen to be perhaps the only community in the country where its religious scriptures as well as festivals are related to wars.
Muslims alone tend to think in terms of a worldwide dominance?
This again is mistaken generalization. All the ideologies, religious or non-religious have a desire to become dominant in the world. There is no exception. It is particularly true for the ideologies which have either big following in the world or big power. During last few hundred years; the fight has mainly been the two economic ideologies of Communism and Capitalism. Before that, it was between Christians and Muslims. In India, Hindutva is trying to emerge as a dominant power at least in this country. Currently, Westernism is perhaps the most radical ideology seeking world domination in terms of its concepts like West-style democracy, freedom and market fundamentalism. As Mr. Gupta himself admitted, in recent times, Muslim countries have not invaded other countries; but so many of their countries have been invaded.
In fact, others feel threat from Muslims because of their sheer numbers in terms of the population as well as the countries. Though most of the statisticians tell that Muslims are the second largest community after Christians, the truth is that in terms of real beliefs, they outnumber Christians by a big margin. While a large number of born Christians in Western countries, ranging from 20-60 pc, are no more believing Christians, more than 95 pc of Muslims continue to be Believing Muslims.
Aas already said, another reason of feeling threatened from Muslims is that Islam poses threat to the vested interests of the market forces, which commercialise not only human needs but also human susceptibilities. Islam prohibits alcohol, sex outside proper male-female marriage and gambling, all of which are big markets. Dominance of Islam means threat to these markets.
Interestingly, while Christians have a Pope in terms of a world leader, there is no pope of Muslims. Pope often speaks on behalf of all Christians, but there is no Muslim Imam who can speak on behalf of all Muslims.
Muslim countries alone are largely undemocratic?
This again is something which looks to be more a propaganda than truth. The truth is that the percentage of democratic countries in Muslim world is higher than the percentage of democratic countries in the whole world. Most big countries like Indonesia, Pakistan, Turkey, Iran and Malaysia are democratic. And the number is growing with Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, Lebanon, Tunisia, all becoming democratic. And of course, about 12-15 pc of Muslim population live in India. Moreover, the most populous country of the world China remains largely undemocratic. Even Russia was not democratic till the breakdown of Soviet Union. When we talk of Christianity, we tend to think about West. We forget that a large number of Christian countries in Africa and South America are hugely backward and poor, with hardly any democracy.
What is however unfortunate is that even democracy has not proved to be a saviour of the masses. The conditions in democracies prove that democracies in themselves are no guarantee to better conditions. The Western model of Democracy has proved to be a total failure becoming in effect Corporatocracy, which works mostly for the few corporate at the cost of the people. The political leaders in Democracies – from West to India, have proved no less corrupt and inefficient than “monarchs”.
Muslim countries have one of the lowest crime rates, lowest suicide rates, lowest number of deaths due to alcoholism and sex related diseases, good life expectancy and good per capita income. In the list of top 15 countries in terms of economic inequality, Turkey alone happens to be the Muslim country, South Africa, USA, India and China being among the top 5.
Coming to the question of Economic Inequality, let us first see some of the statistics:
- Recent figures show that the per capita income of the highest income country is 400 times greater than that of the lowest income country. The difference between Switzerland’s per capita income of $40,080 and Ethiopia’s $100 is striking, to say the least. (World Development Report 1999) (Both Christian)
- Statistics also show that 13 economies have per capita income exceeding $20,000, compared to 26 countries with per capita income less than $350. Indeed the gap between the affluent and deprived economies in the global economy is so great that if one were to add the per capita GNP of 50 Least Development Countries (LDC), it does not exceed half of the per capita income of one of the developed
countries. (World Development Report 1999)
- 47% of the population of the second most populous nation on earth lives under the international poverty line of $1 a day, and 87% below $2 a day. This adds up to over 700 million human beings.. (World Development Report 1999)
- Currently, the richest 1% of people in the world receives as much as the bottom 57%. The ratio between the average income of the top 5% in the world to the bottom 5% increased from 78 to 1 in 1988 to 114 to 1 in 1993 (Milanovic 1999).
- Income disparity between the richest one billion and the poorest one billion people has doubled over the last three decades and reached by now a dangerously high level of 150 times. (This is surely much more than the internal economic disparities of the developed and developing nations. The income disparity between the richest 20% and the poorest 20% of the people within nations is far smaller 5 times in Sweden, 6 times in Germany, 9 times in USA and 26 times (the highest) in Brazil.) (hdrnet.org/40/1/humandevelopment.pdf)
- • Even mighty international institutions like the World Bank and the IMF are now taking more money out of the developing world than they are putting in, adding to the reverse transfer of around $50 billion a year from the commercial banks.
- It is estimated that 28% of the total net wealth is held by the richest 2% of families in the U.S.
- The top 10% holds 57% of the net wealth.
- A survey of 26 industrialised nations (the Luxembourg Income Study) found that the gap between the wealthiest 10% and the poorest 10% is greater in the United States than any other country except Russia (Wallechinsky). (Again both Christian)
Not only several Muslim countries have very high per capita income, Economic Inequality within Muslim countries is surely much less than most Christian countries. Islam’s system of Zakat ensures that the rich contribute at least 2.5 pc of their wealth at the end of every year to poor. This helps trhe cause. What comes out of the Zakat system is that the world must tax Wealth rather than Income and Expenditure. If the world adopts this formula, Economic Inequality will drastically reduce.
Muslims alone can’t face criticism?
The truth is that Muslims have been at the receiving end of unbearable criticism. Mostly, others are questioning Muslims, and they are defending themselves. Muslim intellectuals, on the other hand, are more involved in criticising themselves rather than questioning others. While the world is full of Islamophobic material, actively propagated by Jew, Christian, Hindu and many atheistic organisations, Muslims never indulge in derogation of other religions. This is because Islam clearly prohibits speaking ill of others’ gods and figures. In India, cow slaughter was banned just because it hurts the sentiments of Hindus. Violence over insult or desecration to statues is quite common in India. Let France make some derogatory cartoons of Ram and Krishna and see the reaction. Let French “Heroes” be caricatured in a Muslim country and see the reaction.
As far as the Mahathir statement is concerned, it is surprising coming from him. It cannot be condoned. But Shekhar Gupta would have been more just if he at the same time had condemned Macron’s support for the Cartoons in the name of Free Speech. Surely, the selective interpretation of Freedom of Speech is even more condemnable. Any utterance against Jews is condemned as anti-Semitism and any remark about women that irks the market forces is sexism. Even if one starts telling about the medical dangers associated with homosexuality, one will be hounded. But mocking Islam is freedom of speech. First, terrorism is defined in a way that becomes exclusive for any violence involving Muslims, and then Muslims are blamed for the majority of terrorist incidents. And France is a country which was part of the “War on Terror” which killed millions of innocents in Iraq and Afghanistan, none of whom had any involvement in 9/11 attacks. But any violence committed by West becomes “understandable”.
In conclusion, I would like to assert that we must learn to become objective in our thinking and aims. The most important aim for the world must be to safeguard life and healthiness of life. To create a health-protective and crime-free system must be the ultimate goal of our efforts. All religions need to unite on the ground of religious morality, which is almost common to all religions as well as health sciences, rather than fighting on the ground of religious identity. Islam will continue to emerge stronger because it aims to discipline the world, protect them against unhygienic and self-destructive substances and practices and provides a more effective judicial system, which supports the innocent rather than the criminals. The challenge for Muslims is to present true facts to the world, counter the propagandists of market-driven ideologies and work for the unity of all religions with the aim of building a cleaner, healthier and more peaceful world.