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Periscope
The message from Afghanistan
By Saeed Suhrawardy

What is the message from Afghanistan for Muslims of India? The question may appear far-fetched, but it has relevance. Indian public opinion on the subject was divided in two divergent camps. One did not see eye to eye with the other. The Government of India was overzealous in toeing the US line. A section among Muslim masses wished and prayed for setback to US adventure in Afghanistan. 

The Taliban chapter in Afghanistan seems closed. The new chapter is yet to be written. The victory of Northern Alliance has brought cheer and satisfaction to India. Every regime that held power in India diplomatically recognized the Northern Alliance, as the legitimate representative of Afghanistan. That was in agreement with the position of U.N.O. The fact was conveniently ignored that they had only token presence in Afghanistan. 

However, it is a victory of bombs ruthlessly rained on mostly defenseless civilians. The reaction to inhuman conduct of war by USA was mixed in India. The government and the right-wing non-Muslim bodies were enthusiastic in the support of US action. The exceptions were protest demonstrations by organizations of Muslims and "secular" bodies.

Recent events have made it clear that the US war against terrorism is actually Israel’s war against Islam and Muslims. 

The truth about the real culprits of the terrorist attack on USA shall never come out. The world will know only what the USA wants the world to know.

In the present scenario, what should be the attitude and conduct of Indian Muslims? There are important lessons to be learnt. There are myths that should be dismissed.

It is clear that the terrorist attack on World Trade Centre and Pentagon has not served the cause of Muslims and Islam. It has provided USA with the opportunity to unleash reign of terror in Afghanistan. That has been followed by US-supported Israeli terrorism against Palestine.

The invincibility of Taliban regime reportedly supported by Osama bin Laden has turned out to be a figment of imagination. The Afghan struggle against Soviet intervention was won with the help of US arms and solid support of local people in alliance with rulers in Pakistan. Taliban regime had none of those advantages. Taliban regime had isolated itself from the world community. They had only foes surrounding them. That abundantly shows the risk of getting isolated in the struggle for survival and progress.

At present, Indian Muslims are not in a position to influence international relations. They have no significant role in shaping the foreign policy of their own country. But it is important that they should draw right conclusions from the situation as it developed in Afghanistan.

They can grow and prosper in a happy and harmonious relationship with others. If they live and function in isolation with other communities, they may find themselves in a tight corner. 

Their main object should be survival and progress, without getting involved in conflict. However, that should not mean negation of their cultural and religious identity. Muslims are never eager to join issue with their fellow countrymen. 

They do their best to avoid unpleasant situations. But there are vested interests that shall be happy to find Muslims in a conflict situation. For Muslims, provocations may be many. However they should learn to avoid them in the best possible manner.

Living in a hostile environment they should learn how to win friends and influence people. 

That does not mean that they should turn to the American best-seller by Dale Carnegie, "How to win friends and influence people." The book may help them in becoming successful salesmen. But it will not help them in projecting the image of a Muslim, who is honest, responsible, reliable and dependable. 

Muslims need that image for an honourable place in world community. Islam can help them in acquiring that image. History of Islam is full of great and noble lives that provide specimens of such conduct. 

The task may look formidable, in the context of worldwide campaign of misinformation about Islam and Muslims. But three C’s may help them in accomplishing that. The three C’s are culture, conduct and communication. 

Islamic culture, with roots in Islamic beliefs has successfully assimilated various ethnic elements for evolving a local pattern. Local diverse patterns are united by belief in One God and one direction of worship. Indian experience is not an exception. That pattern has attracted non-Muslims towards Islamic fraternity. Islam has made a rich contribution to every sphere of Indian life. The impressions are visible in the domains of art, architecture, literature, culture, landscape and customs. 

All Muslim rulers and sultans were not true embodiments of Islamic precepts and practices. However, they too contributed to synthesis of Islamic beliefs with local elements. The process has continued from the medieval times to the present age. The presence of Muslims in various spheres of contemporary life confirms that. It should be an advantage in maintaining, expanding and improving the tradition. 

Partition of the country built a wall of prejudice against Muslims in India. The wall became taller and stronger after the arrival of millions of non-Muslims, particularly from the West Pakistan. The need of building bridges between Muslims and others was need of the hour. Sincere Gandhians and fighters for freedom started the process. The assassination of Mahatma Gandhi, the first major terrorist act of post-independence definitely halted the process of alienation between two major communities of the country. However, the lust of power dimmed the vision of politicians. It corrupted the secular spirit of several political parties. 

The sour Indo-Pak relations, Kashmir dispute and two armed conflicts of 1965 and 1971 have enlarged the gulf between the two communities. There are elements in the country, keen to take unfair advantage from that. The tragedy of September 11 was followed by the declaration of war against terror by USA. It provided communal elements in the majority community an opportunity to join the western outcry about Islamic fundamentalism and ‘Islamic terror’. They are not reconciled with the secular democratic set-up of the country. Their object is a theocratic state ‘Hindu Rashtra’. 

There is widespread talk about Islamic terror and militancy of Muslims. Actually that is the continuation of the canard about Muslim religious institutions being sanctuaries and training camps of terrorism. No evidence has been furnished about that. However, the Indian Establishment and mainstream media remains obsessed with Islamic fundamentalism, implying that Muslims by their nature and belief are anti-national. 

There is a search for ‘moderate Muslims.’ That is a misconception. You cannot categorize Muslims on these lines.

The main categories are - Muslims, non-Muslims and anti-Muslims. Non-Muslims may be divided according to their attitude regarding Muslims and Islam. There are many sympathetically inclined towards Islam. Apart from sections that are neutral or indifferent, there are others prejudiced against Islam for different reasons.

Of course, there are practising Muslims and non-practising Muslims. There are Muslims who abide by all obligations prescribed by Islam. But there are others who attend only Friday prayers. There are a few who attend only congregations of I’d-ul-Fitr and I’d-ul- Azha. But they firmly believe that they are Muslims.

Among anti-Muslims there are persons like Salman Rushdie, with names that give the impression that they are Muslims. But by their conduct they play to the gallery of anti-Islam lobby. They belong to the tribe of Arun Shourie and V.S.Naipaul. They are climbers, who rise on the strength of their anti-Islam rhetoric. There are also ultra secularists, who should find a place in that hierarchy.

But verbal affirmation about the correctness and greatness of Islam will not instill faith in the noble credentials of Muslims. That should be demonstrated by the conduct of Muslims, firstly among themselves, secondly in their dealings with others. 

Personal conduct is the best tool of communication. However in an environment infested with prejudices, deliberately implanted, Muslims do need a communication strategy for putting across good word about their ethos and beliefs. 

Effective use of three C’s - culture, conduct and communication is essential for survival and progress. That is a clear message from Afghanistan. 
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