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Posted Online on Wednesday, 17 May 2006 08:00 IST

Muslim Islamic NewsEvil That the Good Men Do

By Mirza A. Beg

The Milli Gazette Online

16 May 2006

“Ours is a religion of peace, freedom, equality and justice”. Most of us believe it, proclaim it, and some even write about it with passion. The question arises, why do many in our leadership while proclaiming it, cavalierly behave in violation of these qualities? A reasonable answer could be that these are human failings and are present in all systems and religions. The leaders often try to exploit our failings and we should not only condemn, but resisted such people and practices with thoughts, words and deeds.

A more vexing question is why many more of us defend, or at least condone such practices with an indefensible rationale that others do it too. The defenders often deny that it is happening at all and call the criticism, propaganda. An even more troublesome rejoinder is you should criticize others first and then they castigate the bearer of the mirror showing the distasteful face, as described in Oscar Wild’s “A Picture of Dorian Grey”. 

Partisans of all systems indulge in this type of circular reasoning. They match the ideals of their system against the worst practices in others and vehemently justify the unsavory actions of some, to be a reaction to what others have done first. This is called building straw men, and demolishing them to feel contented. 

Such discordance between ideals and actions neither justifies nor elevates our chosen religion or ideology. It simply negates what we proclaim. We end up becoming a caricature of what we hold sacred, and derided by our ideological replicas, similar caricatures from the other side. 

In effect the worst amongst us become our standard bearers. Rather than debating to understand and alleviate the problems, the discussion spirals down to whether killing 90,000 is better than killing 100,000 or rape is better than murder. Instead of engaging in such debased arguments, we should denounce it and refuse the bait from the uncouth and uncivilized purveyors of hate. 

Confronted with the irrationality of this mind-set, they sanctimoniously admonish that this is not the time for criticism or self-examination, because it would give ammunition to the enemy. It is a time to unite. So we unite behind a decadent charlatan wrapped in the flag of nation, religion or ideology.

I have heard this reasoning from Muslims, Christians, Hindus, Jews and even Communists. 

Decent Muslims on the receiving end these days, find solace in embroidered selective memories of the past dominant civilizations. They resent the exploitative hegemony of the West. Some of the better known grievances are the repressions in Palestine, Chechnya, the riots in India and the U.S. occupation of Iraq. The sad part is that they do not see and therefore can not rise above the violence of Muslims against minorities in some Muslim countries, and even Muslims killing other Muslims in sectarian conflicts such as Sunnis against Shias and an evolving holocaust in Darfur. 

The Christian “right” is a prime example of this attitude among the Christians in the U. S. Most of them are decent people in their personal lives, but in defense of Bush’s ill-conceived policies in Iraq based on lies, they quote from Revelations and Deuteronomy in the Bible, completely ignoring the teachings of Jesus. Lies, deceit, occupation, torture and killing are justified in the name of the second coming of the “Prince of Peace”. My close “right-wing” Christian friends called the ethnic cleansing in Bosnia, propaganda. 

Jews have suffered pogroms in Christian Europe for 1,700 years, culminating in the Nazi holocaust. Yet many of them support the draconian Israeli policies of dispossessing the Palestinians. The criticism of such Israeli policies is branded as anti-Semitic. It dilutes the heinousness of anti-Semitism. The most eloquent critics of the oppressive Israeli occupation are the thousands of Jews whose parents and grandparents knew first hand the agony of dispossession and humiliation for centuries. 

Hindus are inheritors of a collection of highly evolved philosophies of ancient India. In modern times a reactionary virulent form of fascistic party has gained strength in India. It abhors all those who are not part of their narrow view of India. They have had success in achieving a level of political stranglehold on the Hindu ethos. They have engineered pogroms against Muslims and have attacked Christians in recent times. Their virulent propaganda was rewarded with power in some states by infecting many decent Hindus.

Many Atheists and communists argued with me in 60s and 70s in support of the Soviet Union. They justified the horrible record of the Soviet Union not only within its borders, but also the suppression of Eastern Europe for the same tired reason, that it is a global struggle and therefore this is not the time to criticize.

Average, decent and good people are infected by the nefarious propaganda of the extremists. The fault is ours. It springs partly from our yearning to be temporally validated and partly from our propensity to look for quick and easy solutions to complex problems. We fall for easy solutions to even the problems imbedded in human nature, with no real solution. Some behaviors can not be eradicated, only contained. So we succumb to the snare peddled by the purveyors of supremacy propelled by hate. 

People who are honest in personal dealings; good neighbors who would help the needy, feed the hungry and can legitimately be proud of being good human beings are taken in. The propaganda becomes a reality, driven by the success of the reprehensible partisans from the opposing sides, turning lies into truth and making enemies out of potential friends. Good people end up supporting horrible policies and even pray for the success of their leaders who spread misery in their name. [12 May 2006

Mirza A. Beg can be contacted at



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