Friday, September 10, 2010

Shunning extremism on both sides

Bashir Goth

Burning the Quran, what burning! As President Obama rightly said this is just “a stunt” and without the limelight given to it by the sensation-seeking, globalized media that makes a mountain out of a molehill, Pastor Terry Jones would have remained an unknown pastor holed up in his equally unknown Dove World Outreach Center.

His prime objective was to bring world attention to himself and to his church and he succeeded; as the media brouhaha that is following his antics has just given him that.

One cannot blame the media for sniffing the source of news but it is the Muslims who can either deny Pastor Jones the opportunity to further exploit his media stunt for more self-promotion or fall for his cheap clownish gimmick and reward him for his action by giving him undeserved and unnecessary attention.

Muslims need not go any further to know that no force in the world, let alone a man who claims to have no more than three dozen people as his followers can obliterate the Quran. Jones says that he is waiting a message from God as to whether he calls off his burning of the Quran or not, but Muslims know that the Almighty God has given them his word more than 15 centuries ago and had unequivocally promised them that He and no one else has sent down the Quran and that He alone shall preserve it:

“Indeed, it is We who sent down the Qur'an and indeed, We will be its guardian. (Al-Hijr 15:9)

It should be clear to anyone who believes and understands the power of this Ayah that no one can challenge the power of God and anyone who does that is just making an illusionary and futile attempt to deceive the world and to create a stunt to gain some transient and laughable worldly benefits for himself. With that in mind, it is expected of enlightened Muslims to take the moral high ground and act as the holy Quran enjoins them to behave in a situation like this:

“And not equal are the good deed and the bad. Repel [evil] by that [deed] which is better; and thereupon the one whom between you and him is enmity [will become] as though he was a devoted friend.” (Fussilat 41:34)

It is again the Quran that teaches Muslims not to reduce themselves to the level of the ignorant but rise above it and set a good example in civility and human decency when they receive ill treatment from an ignorant person:

“…And the servants of the Most Merciful are those who walk upon the earth easily, and when the ignorant address them [harshly], they say [words of] peace…” (Al Furqan 25:63)

It will indeed be unbecoming for any Muslim who knows the core message for which the prophet was sent to act any other way than to follow the Prophet’s footsteps and heed his words:

"The only reason I have been sent is to perfect good manners.”

So what manners one can imagine fits in this case than not to allow oneself to be dragged into the abyss by such a deviant person who has been disowned by his own church that he founded in Germany and condemned by and large by all religious denominations in America and the world and by the majority of the American political leaders regardless of their ideological orientations. It is, therefore, silence in this case that is more profound and more resounding than raising any commotion that could be counterproductive. It is not a silence of weakness but it is a silence that sends the most powerful message as the 9th century British Poet Martin Tupper said:

“Well-timed silence hath more eloquence than speech”.

In a situation like this, one may also take solace of the inspiring story of Abdul Muttalib and the Abyssinian King Abraha. Just as Pastor Jones wants to burn the Quran, Abraha brought with him a massive army, many of them mounted on elephants, to destroy the Ka’aba of Mecca, the place of worship of the Arabs at the time and the most venerated place for all Muslims now. The story goes that when Abraha’s army reached the vicinity of Mecca some of his army looted 200 camels that belonged to Abdul Muttalib, the grandfather of the Prophet Mohammad, who was also the most respected elder in Mecca and the custodian of the Ka’aba.

Abdul Muttalib came to the camp of Abraha and demanded the king to return his camels to him. Surprised to hear that all Abdul Muttalib wanted was a compensation for his camels and not to dissuade him to leave the Ka’aba, Abraha asked Abdul Muttalib why he didn’t talk about the Ka’aba instead of his camels. Abdul Muttalib’s answer was simple and clear:
"I am the master of the camels,” he said, “whereas the Ka’abah house of worship has its lord to defend it". And when Abraha indicated that no one could defend it from him, Abdul Muttalib told him that he was on his own. Finally, Abraha gave him the camels back, while the fate of his mission is well illustrated by Surat Al Fil (The Elephant).

Over 15,00 years ago and through his Bedouin wisdom, the Prophet’s grandfather realized that it was futile to hassle with a daring ignorant over something that was in the hands of a better defender than him and his clan.

Another striking lesson for Muslims in feeling pity for the actions of the ignorant is the story of how Prophet Mohammad reacted to the calamity he met in the hands of the people of the village of Taif when he went there to call them to Islam at the beginning of his mission. Instead of listening to him, the people of Taif ridiculed him and sent their children and the insane to chase him out of the village by throwing rocks at him. The story says that when Mohammad was out of the village he was soaked with blood from head to toe and his shoes were clogged to his feet.

Seeing him in this pathetic state, the Archangel Gabriel brought him a message from God telling him that if Mohammad wished God would order the Angel in charge of the mountains to move the two mountains on either side of the village to collide and crush the people to death. Mohammad’s reply which should stand as a glaring example of tolerance and rising above ignorance was:

“O Allah, guide these people, because they did not know what they were doing.”

One finds no better and no wiser example in dealing with a situation like that of Pastor Jones or any future misfit begging for media attention than that of the Prophet. Anything else will only be facing ignorance with ignorance and igniting a fire that will burn good people on both sides.

The best lesson that both Americans and Muslims can learn from this incident is that extremist people are a minority voice that don’t represent anyone one but their own deviant souls. Therefore, Americans should know that when a fiery Muslim cleric shouts death to America, he doesn’t talk on behalf of the millions of Muslims around the world who admire the good values of the American people and likewise Muslims should realize that when a person like Pastor Jones shouts burn the Quran, the majority of the Americans see him as a nut case who doesn’t represent the great American people.

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