Friday, November 14, 2008

On Muslim Tolerance and Terrorists

This letter from the Pakistani newspaper Dawn deserves to be reproduced in full:
Lack of tolerance

A country hated all over the world for its policies and its administration; and a country which not long ago had two different laws for the White and the Black; where Black people were not allowed to enter various places or to sit in the same place as white Americans.

This country has shown and practised one of the most fundamental rules of humanity ..... Tolerance. In the concession speech, Senator McCain accepted his defeat like a gentleman despite deep-rooted political, cultural, class and racial differences. Mr McCain’s speech was devoid of any ill-feelings as he congratulated the winner.

Muslims claim that tolerance is part and parcel of their religion. But do they practise it? Have any of the elections, especially in Pakistan, started and ended without blood shed and have any of the assemblies tried to work together with the opposition?

Have any of the assemblies been devoid of walkouts, name calling and abuse between members? This can go on and on if we were to list instances of intolerance practised by so-called pious and devout Muslims.

It is time our political and religious leaders learnt some basic lessons from non-Muslims who practise Islamic teachings better than Muslims.


Why don't all Muslims think like Kamal Hamid? How are Muslims transformed into intolerant terrorists? It turns out to be very easy, as detailed in this article from the Telegraph describing the life of a "failed suicide bomber". There are three steps:

1) First, several years of an exclusively religious education, such as a madrassa, with an emphasis on selective isolation from outside influences and knowledge, not permitting the subject to verify any "truths" for himself. Preferably, the subject has no doubts about the verities of his controllers, nor does he possess any concept of the need to do so from his teachers.

2) Exposure to out-of-context examples of purported abuse of Muslims by non-Muslims to motivate the subject to commit a "just" revenge attack followed by

3) specialized training for the desired terrorist act.

The Telegraph story contains important hints for the "battle of the minds" between the world and radical Islam. Clearly, the concept of "justice" is overlooked. The failed suicide bomber was shown images of Abu Gharib as motivation. Perhaps if he knew more about how Westerners and their justice systems worked - if he knew that the perpetrators were discovered by other soldiers, tried in a court, and punished with prison terms - he might have been satisfied that justice had been done and thus convinced that any "revenge" attack was nonsense.

Apparently the dominant idea of non-Muslim "justice" contained in Islam as taught in these radical madrassas is that non-Muslims must be punished by violence for their perceived transgressions of Muslims and their "rights". Close and extended contact with Westerners - including U.S. troops - appears to create moderation.

(Note that this "injustice" approach to terror has no equivalent at all in Christianity and little modern application in Judaism. Not all religions are alike. If you decide to raise your kids as Muslims, the chances are much higher that they may one day become terrorists.)

If the Public Diplomacy Officers of the U.S. Department of State made more of an effort to highlight the story of how the perpetrators of Abu Gharib were brought to justice throughout the Muslim World, could that help set things straight? What about concentrating these efforts on madrassa teachers, as Kamal Hamid suggests?

Certainly it should be an important element of terrorist rehabilitation programs, as described in this New York Times article. Yet I've never read anywhere of including the best qualities of the West in their curriculum - indeed, the Saudi King's latest interfaith dialogue effort implicitly leaves in the injustice loophole, as I have described. Perhaps Kamal Hamid's letter marks a turning point.

Update, 11/17/08

Readers of Dawn continue to push the look-for-answers-at-home approach. I've often thought that things have gone downhill in Pakistan since 1971. The following letter not only supports this post, but the fact that it was written by the ex-principal of an Islamic school strongly suggests that the country has finally reached bottom and may soon be on its way back up:
...In this terror war, the most important tool used has been promotion of ‘ignorance.’ Most of the children in the terror-prone Muslim world have been denied the opportunity to education in the belief that a properly educated person would hardly fall prey to mindless propagations and be ready to be used as a terrorist or a suicide bomber. Then, the minority that finds way to schools has been systematically denied the right type of education that could promote objectivity and broadmindedness.

Recently, during a visit to Class VII in a school, I was astonished when the students told me that Sudan was located in Europe and Germany was located in Australia! Shocked, when I asked for the textbook of the subject Social Studies, I found that there were nine chapters in the book: (1) Pakistan in the Muslim World (2) The Contemporary Muslim World (3) The Muslim World and Colonialism (4) Muslim Awakening (5) Struggle for Pakistan 1937-1947 (6) Land and People of the Muslim World (7) Resources of Muslim World (8) Trade in Muslim World and (9) Civic Life in Pakistan.

The contents of these chapters were more confusing and one could hardly blame the students for their ignorance. This over emphasis on Islam and Muslims and total ignorance about the world that exists around us have helped a great deal the masterminds of terrorism to use these innocent young people as fodder in shape of suicide bombers and terrorists to achieve their political targets.

Perhaps the best places to fight the war on terror are the pages of the textbooks and the classroom and not the Vatican City.

Former Principal, Sindh
Madressatul Islam

Update, 12/14/08

In an eerie confirmation of the "How to make an Islamic terrorist" formula outlined above, the surviving terrorist of the Mumbai Massacre tells his story here.

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