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Change of thought in Muslim countries
By Dr Muhammad Furqan 

As for as Islamic teachings, its peace-loving character and lofty human values are concerned, there cannot be two opinions that this religion has given so much to the world of human beings that if Islamic ideology, philosophy and teachings are promoted in true spirit, the world will become an abode of peace in true sense.

Islam has strongly condemned and opposed mischief mongering and supported and advocated peace, righteousness and justice. The biggest and most important teaching of Islam is the promotion of knowledge and learning and adoption of the path of reason.

A study of the past history shows that Muslims promoted and developed different sciences and disciplines to such an extent that European countries greately benefited from these. But a bitter truth is also that there were certain sections among Muslims themselves who metamorphosed and distorted the image of Islam and promoted such negative aspects and trends which turned out to be deadly poisons for them. There have been numerous instances which show that some persons or groups of persons did many things in the name of ‘Islam’ but in fact kept their own personal or group interests in the forefront. Some people were so much blinded by their lust for power that they not only ignored the broader interests of the masses but also tried to take recourse to the path of cruelty and oppression.

The latest example in this connection is that of the Taliban who treated the Afghan people as hostages for five years and promoted un-Islamic values and practices in the name of enforcement of religion and religious or ‘shar’i’ laws as a result of which common people faced untold miseries and cruelties. Depriving girls of education, observation of strict and rigid system of ‘parda’ and confining women within the boundary walls of their homes, forcing men to grow beards etc are not the true teachings of Islam. Other bitter truths are that in some cases the ruling classes miused the name of religion to strengthen their hold on power while in other cases some groups or persons used Islam and the excuse of enforcement of Islamic laws to capture power.There are elements in many Muslim countries who are trying to overthrow their own governments by force and capture power for themselves while there are other elements who are promoting lawlessness, terrorism, murder etc in other countries, thereby putting governments and people in those countries in trouble and polluting the whole atmosphere and bringing bad name to their countries. 

Osama bin Laden and his supporters and followers belong to this very group. Since the extremism of the Taliban was in conformity with the strategy of Osama bin Laden, the Taliban not only gave him refugee in their country but treated him as an honoured guest from where he was promoting his subversive activities.

Pakistan’s extremist groups were also supporting Osama’s disruptive and terrorist activities. The bitter truth also is that the government of Pakistan, its army and secret agencies also gave him full support. His network was spread far and wide, including Kashmir. Osama and other terrorist groups who were his supporters and followers tried to project Kashmir as the ‘problem of Islam’ because the thinking of Pakistan’s extremist circles has always been the same.

A positive aspect of the situation created after 11 September 2001 and the consequences faced by the Taliban as a result of actions against terrorism is that there are indications of a change in perception and thinking of some Muslim countries. Governments and serious circles of intellectuals in these countries have started thinking how destructive and harmful the subversive and terrorist activities promoted in the name of religion can be for Muslims themselves. Consequently, a discussion has recently started in Saudi Arabia and it has been agreed that religious leaders should review their role so that the course of reason and moderation should be adopted.

As a matter of fact the means of communication and media in the West have severely criticised religious circles and blamed them for fanning and promoting terrorism. At the same time they have also targeted Saudi Arabian government and criticised it for adopting a soft attitude towards terrorists.
Osama’s family is amongst the most prosperous and well-off families of Saudi Arabia. Osama’s call for total departure of American troops from Saudi territory has won him support and sympathies of a very large circle in Saudi Arabia. However, some prominent religious leaders also believe that the most important role in promoting and abetting subversion and terrorism is that of Taliban who have given shelter to Osama. These senior religious leaders had also strongly condemned the incidents of terrorism in the USA.
In any case it is now hoped that the discussions presently going on in Saudi Arabia will bear positive results. There is also a large circle there which is advising the Saudi Ulama to guide and lead the people in such a way that positive and constructive thinking among the people could be promoted and the elements wanting to discredit and pollute Islamic ideology and society with their mischievous and harmful activities could be eliminated.

A columnist has written in his column in the newspaper ‘Al-Watan’ ‘Our religious leaders should understand the requirements of modern times. Muslims of today are not living in an age where they should remain confined to Najd only and isolate themselves from rest of the world’. In fact, this suggestion from ‘Al-Watan’s’ columnist has come after a statement by Prince Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz in which he had stated that religious leaders should be very cautious in their statements and should weigh every word before uttering it. Addressing religious leaders he had also said, ‘The situation we are facing today demands wisdom and insight. I hope that you will understand your responsibilities towards God, your people and your rulers lest we should feel ashamed anywhere. We are a moderate nation and we should take care to see to it that hyperbole and exaggeration should not be promoted in religious affairs’.

Not one Prince Abdullah but the Minister for Religious Affairs Sheikh Saleh Al-Sheikh also said almost the same thing. Talking to Saudi intellectuals recently he had stated that we should adopt the path of moderation and when reasonableness will be promoted, extremist forces will automatically be eliminated

In short, in Saudi Arabia it is a sort of movement in which serious and judicious class is emphasising the point that Islamic teachings need to be understood and preached in true perspective. If this movement develops and becomes stronger, its results will definitely be very positive and of far reaching consequences. Its effects on other Muslim countries will also be salutary and beneficial. Self-evaluation and assessment is a healthy attitude which must be praised and encouraged.

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