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Published in the 1-15 Mar 2005 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Al-Ameen Award goes to Akbar

By Azmathulla Shariff / S.A.R. Adil

The Milli Gazette Online

Bangalore: Eminent journalist MJ Akbar was conferred with the Al-Ameen All India Community Leadership Award 2004 for his contribution to the community, society and the country here in a function at Hotel LeMeridian on 25 January. Later, while delivering the Hazrat Tippu Sultan Shaheed Memorial Lecture on the 'Concepts and Misconceptions about Islam and Muslims,' Akbar emphasised the need for Muslims in the country to rediscover themselves and emerge out of the defeatist syndrome. Akbar said it was important for Muslims to become what they once were: active engineers of economic growth. "Being a minority has nothing to do with numbers. it is about power. Muslims were never a minority even during Tipu Sultan's reign or under Moghuls," Akbar said in his 55 minute talk. 

He said Islam had succeeded not only because it offered equality and social justice to all but also because it destroyed barbarism through knowledge revolution. "We are in that phase when we must again win the knowledge revolution. Allah has given you feet to stand on," he stressed. Ridiculing the West for its tendency to equate Islam with terrorism and portray it as an antithesis of democracy, Akbar said, "One of the rules of Jihad is that terrorism has no place in it and that women, bystanders and children should not be killed. Why only human beings, even a palm tree is not supposed to be destroyed." 

The misconception about Islam had been created by the British who saw it as a means of colonising the country, he said adding that Muslims were dubbed "fundamentalists" for merely following the fundamentals of their religion. While nuns were the best example of modest attire, Islamic women who dressed in hijab were portrayed in poor light, giving a wrong impression of their status in Islam which had examples of women leading in battles. Akbar quoted Hazrat Ayesha Radiallahu ‘ahna and asked, "If Muslims had converted by the sword, why was it that a country like Spain which they ruled for 700 years had only 25 percent Muslims at the end of Muslim rule in that country? He wondered how it is that a myth has been created about Islam spreading from the point of sword without there being any basis to it.

He said the age of colonisation started the age of misconception about Islam which still prevails. In 1918 something unique happened. Every single Muslim nation was colonised. The war that has been going on since is a war of liberation," he said. He said both the Mughals and the British came to conquer India but at the same time, he also contrasted it by proving how Mughals became an integral part of India and an instrument of development and a thriving economy as against the British who completely reversed this process to the benefit of their own homeland at the expense of India. Akbar pointed out that while the Moghuls had contributed to the country's wealth, the British looted it. "In 1790 when the British came to India, the industrial production of India was 23 percent of the world’s total and that of Britain was 1.8 percent. In 1947, when the British left India, the industrial production of India was 1.8 percent and that of Britain was 23 percent. There are instances when Indians used to go to Britain to write stories on Britain's poverty," he said amid thunderous applause. 

Akbar described Tippu Sultan as a great nationalist who had lived in some of the most defining moments of history. With regard to the use of certain terminologies like 'fundamentalist' and 'regressive' against Muslims, Akbar said that no other community in the world has suffered as much as the Indian Muslims. Islam is one of the most democratic religions in the world. It believes in equality, he said. Film personality Mahesh Bhatt, in his address, echoed the views of Mr. Akbar and said that the community should be 'fearless'.

He came down heavily against the myth the Christian West has created by self certifying itself as progressive and Islam as regressive. How for god’s sake can scantily dressed females of the West be considered progressive and modestly dressed Eastern and Muslim women regressive? Akbar stressed on the conduct of Muslim conquerors in times of victory when they showed exemplary character and courtesy to people from other faiths. The presence of a little mosque outside the famous Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem is a testimony to Umar’s conduct when he refused to offer prayer in the Church’s courtyard because he thought if he did so, the Muslims would have converted the Church into a Mosque. The persecution of Jews by the Christians through the annals of history is a living example of the West’s scheming ways. It is the Muslims today who are being persecuted and bear the brunt of Jewish distrust. Nobody knows why? 

He felt that if he has to opine, he would like to quote from Mahabharata the battlefield conversation Lord Krishna had with Pandavas in support of going to War for justice and honour. Akbar pleaded strongly in favour of Muslims coming out of the siege mentality they find themselves in.

Akbar said that Islam has succeeded because "it has offered quality to all Muslims, given justice – both social and political – to all humans, implemented social justice and has been at the forefront of the knowledge revolution."
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