The Wall of Silence

Category: Asia, World Affairs Topics: Conflicts And War, Iraq, Pakistan, Saddam Hussein Views: 4271

A couple of weeks ago, I had written about the wall of silence that descends across the Islamic world whenever there are human rights violations committed by a Muslim government.

Almost on cue, Pakistan chose to abstain from the UN Security Council resolution demanding that Sudan rein in the Janjaweed militias that have been committing atrocities on a massive scale against southern tribes.

All evidence indicates that Khartoum has been supporting these killers. And yet, rather than joining the vast majority of the international community in condemning these acts, Islamabad has chosen to abstain.

I was wrong to say that the hundreds of thousands of victims were non-Muslims. Many of them are in fact Muslims. Many readers have expressed their anger at the refusal of Muslim countries to condemn the cruelty and barbarity too often displayed by their fellow Muslims.

Why an Indonesian Muslim, for example, felt compelled to defend the criminal behavior of, say, Saddam Hussein when he felt no such need to side with the (Hindu) Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka.

It is true that the concept of the Ummah, or nation of Islam, is unique to Muslims. The Jews perhaps come closest to this spirit, but in their case, this is due to a shared history of persecution that has lasted hundreds of years.

However, in the case of Muslims, this desire to present a united front against the rest of the world often translates into an uncomfortable 'us against the world' syndrome that only serves to deepen the existing gulf that Huntington reminded us of in his controversial 'Clash of Civilizations'.

The truth is that despite the show of unity that we put on when a member of the Ummah is under attack or is being criticized, far more Muslims have been killed and victimized by their fellow-Muslims than they have been by non-Muslims. From Afghanistan to Algeria, Muslims are pitted against Muslims.

For almost a decade in the eighties, Iranians and Iraqis slaughtered each other by the hundreds of thousands. When Saddam Hussein unleashed his chemical weapons, he did not do so against Israel or the West; he did so against fellow-Muslim Kurds and Iranians. When he chose to expand his frontiers, he invaded the Muslim nations of Iran and Kuwait.

After the Soviets withdrew from Afghanistan in the late eighties, the (Muslim) Mujahideen fell upon each other, merrily killing their fellow Afghans for over a decade. If the Taliban had not been thrown out in the aftermath of 9/11, they would be still at it.

As it is, their blood lust is only partially controlled by the presence of western troops. The Algerian civil war in which tens of thousands of Muslims have been killed over 25 years shows no sign of abating.

Over the centuries, a slight difference in the way Muslims worship has made it kosher to kill each other, all in the name of religion. While European Christians have put their sectarian intolerance and slaughter of the Middle Ages behind them, we continue to define ourselves by the particular sect we belong to, often killing those who do not conform to our particular narrow interpretation of the holy scriptures.

Thus, the (Sunni) Taliban killed thousands of (Shia) Hazaras. In Pakistan, this Shia-Sunni division has similarly claimed hundreds of victims over the last two decades. In Saudi Arabia, Shias are not allowed to proclaim their faith, and are marginalized in public life. In Iraq, the situation is pregnant with the possibility of a Shia-Sunni civil war.

But these Muslim-on-Muslim crimes are brushed under the carpet when a member of the Ummah is accused of crimes against humanity, as Sudan is now. What did Pakistan gain by abstaining from the UN vote? Had Sudan been an important trading partner or benefactor, Islamabad's decision would have made a kind of cynical sense.

And if our government had evidence to prove that the charges against Khartoum were false, then we ought to have voted against the resolution. But in the event, an abstention is a cheap, wishy-washy cop-out.

If the Ummah has any relevance and cohesion, surely it must be based on morality, and not mistaken self-interest. The present 'you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours' attitude has further marginalized the Muslim world. By refusing to face reality, we risk falling further behind.

Indeed, many sensitive young Muslims are already disillusioned by the sight of their fellow-Muslims behaving in ways that are completely out of step with our times. Many Muslims in America are furious over the plight of a young Kashmiri girl whose ears, nose and tongue were sliced off by separatist militants.

Indeed, the acts of terrorism being committed by extremist Islamic groups from Bali to Basra are polarizing and dividing the Muslim world as no western policy has. While terrorist groups are undoubtedly gaining fresh recruits among disaffected and confused youth, many other young Muslims are revolted by the senseless violence these groups are committing in the name of religion.

These are difficult days, and many Muslims are unsure of the line to take. Should they join the critics of their fellow-Muslims when the criticism is justified, or take a more comfortable, ostrich-like position? But surely, the rights and wrongs of issues remain unchanged since man attained civilization: it is as morally reprehensible to kill except in self-defense as it always was.

No cause can possibly justify the killing of innocent bystanders. And to gloss over such crimes by asserting that the perceived enemy also acts in a similar fashion is a morally bankrupt argument.

But ultimately, the question to ask is what defines us? Our humanity, or the labels applied to us at birth?


  Category: Asia, World Affairs
  Topics: Conflicts And War, Iraq, Pakistan, Saddam Hussein
Views: 4271

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Older Comments:
The problem with the way this author has written this article is that he criticizes the actions of leaders in Muslim nations, and then redirects the blame onto the regular people. When Irfan Husain criticises the actions of 1.5 billion people in the world, he sites one or two anonymous people, and government leaders of Muslim then can he blame regular people for silence when they are trying to boot these loser rulers out? Don't forget that when that happens, a tyrant is replaced with another one, ie. Saddam -> Iyad Allawi? Zia Al-Haq -> Nawaz Sharif? ring ring?

The author is taking the easy way out by blaming regular people for the actions of dictatorial puppets. You must first deconstruct the situation in this manner: Firstly, most muslim countries have become subservient to the process of bureaucratization; they have become stagnated by organizations, both domestic and international organizations, trying to pull the strings and coerce a government to take orders, OR ELSE! Secondly, none of these governments are fully functioning champions of the promises they make to these people, and later when these promises are broken, the people are commonly left with no alternative but to back these governments which EVERYONE should be aware of by now, are installed by foreign governments, spy agencies, and then, writers such as Irfan Husain writes articles in DAWN talking about how the PEOPLE are silent?
These are the views of a pessimist who has no vision for the future of Muslim people. He should learn from Allama Muhammad Iqbal when he addressed the All India National Congress in 1935

"I follow no leader, I lead no country."

These are the words of a great visionary and representative of the people!

Stop playing the blame game - it only adds to problems...

We wouldn't feel the need to be blaming regular people for the faults of elitist groups pushing the buttons if there were more Alim's like Iqbal!

This article seems to lose focus of the outside countries influences on Muslim countries and the love of these outside countries to cause fighting between Muslims and use that opportunity to their advantage!

MPELAT said:
The author opinion is one sided and do not share the opinion of the muslim world majority. His pointing finger on the Islamic Extremist for Bali bombing without any proof is one grave mistake. Does he realy has the information and proves to put the blame in the Mr. Baasyir group for the crime or he just conveying the Christian World usual blame on the Muslim organization on this kind of tragic event. Fitnah is sharper than the sword and as a Muslim we have to be carefull on not pointing finger on other Muslim without any concrete evident that the perpretator of the crime was another Muslim, especially when the Islamic countries government is under the western governments thumb.

Absolutely correct. Muslims should be examples of objectivity and impartiality. It is a perversion of Islamic unity to offer deaf, dumb, and blind support to a Muslim individual or country while they are working hard to offend Allah, whom we all claim to worship. Remember Hilf al-Fudul, in which the Prophet (SAS) partnered with the pagans to support justice. Later, after his Prophetic mission was well advanced, he said that that Hilf was a good thing and that if he were called upon to make good that commitment he would do so gladly. Many Muslims today have fallen into Jahili-type loyalties whose only rule is I and my brother against my cousin; I and my cousin against the stranger - the very thing the hilf was set up to oppose.

And if anyone should object that the "West" or whatever is doing "worse" things, then I say that I will stand before Allah and be judged for what I do, not for what "they" do, and that my fear and respect for Him should be greater than my bitterness against anyone else.

Very good article, I agree with everything. From the West looking in it seems Mulims love to blame the West for all there problems. There doesn't seem to be any sense of personal responsibility in the Muslim world. Muslims can slaughter each other, slaughter Americans, slaughter Christians and can do no wrong. Although how many more Muslims are killed by there fellow Muslims? A lot more than America will ever kill. Yet we are the cause of your problems? I don't think so, I think the author was right on point with this article and I commend this site for having the courage to publish it. No doubt it will not get a very positive reply from the majority of Muslims who frequent this site.

Asalaam Alaikum Warahmatullahi Wabarakatuhu. I agree with your analysis brother Husain. All that we have been seeing is leaders from various international communities from the E.U to the US Secretary of State (Colin Powell) visiting Darfur, and speaking out against the atrocities being committed there. Where are our Muslim leaders, I have asked myself? What are they doing for our Muslim brothers and sisters whose homes are set ablaze, whose women are being raped and killed, and whose children are left malnourished without any food?
These questions then lead me to ask: What are we doing as an Ummah to help each other? There is an aya in the Quran in which Allah (SWT) states that: "... We are the best of nation/ummah to be created..". Surely, this aya does not apply to our current fragamented stated that we are in. Insha-Allah, I pray sincerely that Allah (SWT) enables us be the ummah that will be most pleasing to him. I know for sure that it will not be easy to achieve this, but together as " one ummah, one nation" we can do it.

As-Salam'kum wr wb,

The choices for Muslims are often limited. Who do you believe? The UN Security Council Resolution on Dafur is sponsored by the USA, who have grand designs and blatantly practice selective reporting for Islamic states.

The Western press takes full advantage of the lack of dialogue between the Islamic countries. Let's get something moving to create better networking betwwen us, maybe through the OIC.

Hj Zin
Melaka, Malaysia