Unveiling the Truth behind the Veil
Unveiling the Truth behind the Veil
(Bringing Islam to the World One Concept at a Time!
Taking the Qur'an to Every Home and Heart that Needs It --
And which One Does Not?)
Commenting on Current Events
I keep saying I don't; I don't want to; and I will not - comment on current events. Yet, some of them won't leave me alone.
The veil in a British classroom is one such issue that keeps thrusting itself upon my consciousness. So here I am doing what I maintain and say I will not do.
My sources are the same sketchy newspaper reports that everyone reads. And media accounts, as everyone should know, are at best fragmentary, hurried and incomplete. At worst, they could be anything anyone wants. Your guess is as good as mine.
I bear no malice toward either the Muslims or the West. How can I when God has made me both Muslim and part of the West, all at the same time, both identities tightly rolled into one: a Muslim in the West?
To me, there never was and never will be a contradiction between the two, as in reality they are both one and the same.
Islam and Muslims in a Nutshell
A Muslim everywhere is a Muslim: first, second, last - and all the time. And at no time would any Muslim want to be anything else.
At the same time, a Muslim is also an absolutely devoted, loyal, faithful, sincere, dependable, trustworthy, caring, concerned and solicitous friend and servant of those in whose midst God Almighty chooses to place him or her: family, friends, neighbors, community, society and the entire world, including animals, plants, air, water and the environment - that world spreading out in concentric circles from his or her person to infinity.
And all the time a Muslim conducts himself or herself - to the extent humanly possible, and within the limits of individual variations that apply to all human situations - with a profound sense of accountability before God as well as before his fellow humans.
That is Islam for you in a nutshell. And that is the true life, values and orientation of a Muslim, no matter what the drive-by or instant mercenary experts on Islam and Muslims, with their secret and not-so-secret agendas and motivations, tell you otherwise.
And what a nutshell it is. Allahu Akbar!
Western Wing of the Muslim Ummah
It was at least 15 years ago that I articulated, in several hours of back-to-back speeches, and in subsequent writings, the notion of the Western Wing of the Muslim Ummah.
To me the Muslim Ummah is one, just like Allah says in the Qur'an it is. And so is all of humanity at a different level. Both are indivisible, through time and through space, and neither can be chopped up in airtight compartments of either history or geography.
Whatever distinctions of tribe, nation, people, race, color or region exist, they exist so people will recognize each other and organize their lives in a more efficient manner. Otherwise, every man's and every woman's sense of concern should be to all of humanity and everyone's sense of loyalty together should be to God Almighty, the maker and master of all.
Focus of One's Service and Solicitation
And the focus of every human being's service and solicitation should be one's own fellow-humans, starting out with family, relatives and neighbors and extending to the last human being on earth.
So, as a Muslim in and from the West - as part of the Western Wing of the Muslim Ummah that is - the veil issue simply will not leave me alone. I hope nothing but good will come out of my comments on it.
May Almighty Allah forgive me if I say something wrong! And may those who may be affected by my comments also forgive me if I in any way offend them.
For, I seek nothing but to be helpful to the extent I can. As the Qur'an puts it: In ureedu illal islaaha masta-ta'tu.
The Real Issue in the British Classroom
What exactly is the issue? The teacher in England should not have her mouth and face hidden behind a veil when teaching English language to students? Is that the issue?
If it is, then to me it is a nonstarter. For, how else do students learn to associate sound, intonation, voice fluctuation and proper pronunciation with lip movement, mouth position and facial expression?
What about the radio then? Well, then, what is the point of having a classroom with a real teacher in it? Why not we all go back home and turn on our radio sets?
Does the teacher have a choice? Of course she does. She can either remove her veil while teaching or resign.
She can always go to a school that would allow her to teach with the veil on. But such a school will be doing its pupils a signal disservice. And I, though a fairly proud Muslim, would hesitate to send my son or daughter to a school where teachers cover their faces in veils when teaching.
Islam vs. Expediency
The teacher defined her own real position on the issue when she, if newspaper accounts are to be believed, showed up for her job interview, with her face unveiled. The entire story begins and ends right there. Provided, of course, the story as reported by the media is true.
If that indeed is the case, then it is not Islam, but expediency. Islam as a rule does not sanction, far less require, extreme or rigid positions with regard to anything.
And if the teacher's conversion to the veil had occurred after her interview and acceptance of the job, then the proper thing - and the Islamic thing - for her to do was to go to the management and brief them on what had happened and ask them if the changed scenario was acceptable to them.
That is what would have been the right and proper thing - the Islamic thing - for her to do. But clearly the issue is deeper than that.
Who Dresses How in Public: Whose Business Is It Anyway?
As for how a woman chooses to dress in public, when she is not teaching, that is entirely her business, and no one else's. Since when are the dress habits of citizens a politician's business?
Is Britain turning into a Banana Republic with a tin pot dictatorship of the kind the world has been used to in parts of Africa, Middle East and Latin and Central America? Are Egypt and Tunisia and Turkey the examples and lodestars of civil society for Britannia?
Egypt's Anwar Sadaat banned men from wearing long shirts on university campuses. Turkey has been fighting a rearguard action to keep Muslim women from wearing a head covering. And Tunisia has recently issued a ban on headscarves for women.
So, is that the direction of freedom, democracy and human rights in which Britain and other European nations are heading?
Race: The Great Big Default
We all want to be delicate and sensitive how we talk about touchy issues. The Qur'an imposes on Muslims a standard of "softness of discourse" that keeps them tongue-tied most of the time.
But the fact is that it is the height of audacity, arrogance, cynicism - and rabid racism and sexism - for White non-Muslim male politicians to attack or insult a presumably non-White Muslim female citizen based on the way she dresses in public. Under British and European law and culture, her rights in this matter are absolutely unassailable, as even a two-bit politician should know.
So, when it comes to dealing with the Brown people of the world, Britain and Europe have had a long and painful history of adjustment. And anyone can see that they are still working on it.
So, when issues involve the Brown people - or any other so-called "Colored" people - and their cultures and mores the great big default in most Western societies and cultures in many cases is race. Even though by no means is race the sole variable in the equation.
A Dress Code for British Females
What is next for Britain, a dress code for English, Irish, Welsh and Scottish females?
Muslim or not, it is a matter of the inalienable right of a British woman to dress as she jolly well pleases. And it is the duty of politicians and other Ogling Toms to nod to her politely and get out of her way if they don't like the way she is dressed.
As for Islam, it is perhaps best to leave poor Islam out of this entire discussion. For, Islam has nothing to do with people covering their mouth while teaching kids, except where some opportunistic politicians may decide to use it as an occasion to make political hay.
But the issue stopped being about the teacher and the school and became about Islam and Muslims the moment politicians from Jack Straw to Tony Blair grabbed it as a weapon in their global war of values and ideology against Islam and Muslims.
Straw should be the last man going after the veil, because nearly 30 percent of his constituency is Muslim. Politicians simply don't do a thing like that unless they have thought it carefully through and discovered a very good political reason for doing it.
As for Blair, this war against Islam and Muslims is his personal war. He is a true believer and he is in it on conviction and purpose.
For politicians lying in wait for opportunities to denigrate Islam and demoralize Muslims, the veil issue arrived on an open platter. Even for a profession notorious for opportunism, this was a performance well above the norm.
For Straw the veil was a hindrance for integration and an inhibitor of free and open communication between people. And for Blair it was a clear mark of separation.
The politicians seem to be saying, but for the canker of the Muslim veil, Britannia would be a paradise of racial, ethnic and cultural integration and bonhomie.
The labor judge who heard the teacher's case against wrongful dismissal was unsparing in taking to task both Straw and Blair for their comments.
Britain and Europe Test the Limits of Their Freedoms
Britain took its time sauntering into where France and Denmark had already jumped with both feet. France could not endure the strain on its two-hundred-year-old traditions of liberty and equality and promptly banned the practice of Muslim girls wearing a headscarf to school. France saw all kinds of dangers lurking under the foot-long cloth perched on the head of a 14-year-old school girl.
In a society where any level of nakedness may not raise anything other than a lustful voyeur's prurient passion, a Muslim head covering raises all kinds of fears and objections among opportunistic and racist politicians.
Politicians in Denmark thought cartoons of the Prophet, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, were cute. To Muslims around the world, they were the worst insult and personal attack they could imagine.
Politicians called them a matter of freedom of expression. Muslims saw them as a deliberate provocation taking advantage of Muslims' absolute and unqualified love and respect for the Prophet, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, on the one hand, and their weakness and vulnerability in Europe and elsewhere in the world, on the other hand.
As for freedom of expression, Muslims had just been down that road and seen how far that goes when it comes to Islam and Muslims. The case of the Muslim headscarves in France was still fresh in everyone's mind.
To many Muslims in France and elsewhere an official ban on female headscarves in schools was an attack on those poor Muslim girls' modesty, on their Islam, on their culture, on their ethnicity, on their dignity, on their rights as free children and citizens of a free and civilized France, and on their very status as women and as human beings.
Truth: The Missing Link
So, Muslims - and the world - have gotten a pretty clear idea of how far the Western notion of freedom of expression goes.
Many in the West seem to have issues that are larger and deeper than run-of-the-mill notions of personal rights and freedom. Among these issues is the issue of race as well as the issue of truth. In fact, truth is often the missing link in all too many of these issues.
For many in the West, truth sometimes seems to have the same relationship with them that a ray of golden sunshine is said to have had with the notorious fictional vampire, Count Dracula. They both could not survive in the same room for long.
As for race, that is an altar that continues to attract large numbers of worshippers throughout the West to this day - some overt and many hiding in hoods.
Therefore, the veil issue in England masks a hotchpotch of several things: it masks some Muslims' ignorance of Islam; it masks the egoism and penchant for power and prominence on the part of some Muslims; it masks the usual garden variety racism that pervades British society at many levels; it masks official and government opportunism; and it masks political cynicism and contempt for truth.
Clearly, Blair is fired up with a messianic zeal that would have done the Crusaders proud. It translates into invasion and occupation of Muslim lands abroad and jumping on the anti-Islam and anti-Muslim bandwagon at home.
And all too often the glue that binds it all together is blatant racism and bald-faced lying, duplicity and deceit. Straw and many in the rest of the Labor as well as Conservative establishments make up the choir in this great tabernacle dedicated to race, wealth, country and power worship.
Old fashioned virtues like truth, justice, equality, honesty, integrity and courage seem to be calling in sick on too many days for too many of these politicians.
Super-Islam or Simple Alienation
The trouble is compounded by the fact that some Muslims seem to have their own home-grown variety of super-Islam of some kind that often seeks to upstage the usual mainstream Islamic routine practiced by most others. Some of these super-Islamists seem to want to go an extra mile of devotion, not always in their own quiet private domain, but in a manner that seems to impinge on other people's lives and consciousness in public space.
But what both the Muslims and the non-Muslims in the West need to really come to grips with is this: To what extent the veil issue - and a whole range of other similar issues - are genuinely in the domain of Islam and to what extent they are symptoms of underlying personal and social problems experienced by individuals associated with them.
And, in the same way, also, to what degree these issues are products of the frustration, disaffection and alienation resulting from the prejudice, racism, discrimination, marginalization and disfranchisement that Muslims may encounter in British and European societies against Islam and Muslims on a day to day basis.
Islam and Muslims Are the New West
At the same times, what everyone seems to be forgetting in this medley of events, words and images is that the West now has a new identity: Islam. That is because a sizable slice of the West's population now is Muslim.
And that part of the West, whose number runs into tens of millions, now professes and practices Islam.
But neither the West nor the Muslims seem to have a proper understanding of this most remarkable phenomenon. If they did, the Muslims would show greater pride of ownership and sense of responsibility and belonging in their new home, the West.
By the same token, the other major stakeholders in the West in the form of politicians, the media and others would show greater respect for the feelings, sentiments and rights of their new neighbors and fellow-citizens, the Muslims.
What everyone needs to tell themselves is this: Muslims in the West are citizen participants in their new homes and cultures. They are not in the West as somebody else's guests, who will be here today and gone tomorrow. But, rather, they are in the West by their own right of ownership. Just like every other citizen that the West ever had.
And they may not only stay here as long as those who boarded the train earlier, but they may also play a key role in shaping and directing the character and destiny of their new home in the West for as long as it may please Almighty God.
A Bunch of Brits - Driving on the Wrong Side of the Road
A year or so before the terrible events of 911, I had an opportunity to give a set of lectures to a leadership group of Muslim youth in Britain that had been cobbled together from several parts of the country.
Right at the outset I told them, much to the chagrin of some and the amusement of a few, that whatever else they were or were not, to me they were just a bunch of Brits.
"And the only thing wrong with you," I said, "is not your Islam, but the fact that, like the rest of your fellow-Brits, you drive on the 'wrong' side and not, like us Americans, on the 'right' side of the road."
By calling them Brits I was trying to break the cocoon in which Most Muslims in Britain tend to hide, including the younger generations.
To all too many of them, Britain was still the host country. Even though many of them were born and brought up in Britain and knew no other home besides it.
History tells us that often Muslims stumble past life's new challenges and experiences through a painful and prolonged process of trial and error. Rarely is there any systematic thinking about the problem or any serious planning for the future. Nor is there always effective leadership to deal with the present.
All of this often makes Muslim life a miracle of survival. The TV show - Survivor - must have gotten its story idea from us. For we are, like Iqbal said, even though he said it in a more positive and robust sense, a marvel of survival: Idhar doobay, udhar niklay; udhar doobay, idhar niklay. Paraphrase: Like the sun, we rise and set here, there and everywhere.
Why then should this new phase of Muslim and Islamic history in Britain and Europe be any different?
A Compact Islamic Core - And Wide Latitude
In Islam God Almighty gave people a compact and coherent set of core beliefs and behaviors. At the same time, God also gave them wide latitude for doing these things on a day-to-day basis.
God sent a personal messenger to hand-deliver this divine package to the world. This messenger, the Prophet, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, then taught and explained the divine package of Islam to the world.
He also actually modeled every one of Islam's teachings himself to show how they all worked in the real world on a daily basis.
What many people - both Muslim and non-Muslim - don't understand is that built into each element of that core package of Islam was an unbelievable range of options, variations and possibilities.
This was absolute proof that this system of Islam could only have come from God Almighty. For, its resilience and flexibility were nothing short of miraculous. No human source could possibly pack its core system with so many "outs" and "loopholes" for its users.
It was as if the entire divine law was written under the watchful eye of a powerful human lobby. That is how user-friendly, as they say, everything about Islam really is.
Perfect Homeostasis of the Islamic System
And it is quite simple to understand: a system without an inbuilt mechanism to cope with the stresses of change in time, place and circumstance cannot survive for long. It simply cannot withstand the test of time.
That is precisely what happened to Christianity. And to every other system of any kind that was ever propounded in this world at any time. And that is precisely why Christianity had to undergo so many changes and transformations, including the Reformation.
Islam, on the other hand, did not and does not need a Reformation, in part because Islam comes with its own inbuilt homeostatic system of perfect balance and equilibrium at all times, in all climes and environments, and under all conditions and circumstances.
It is failure to understand or appreciate this basic fact about the nature of Islam that leads to so much confusion, among Muslims and non-Muslims alike, on such issues as Islam and modernity or Islam in the West or Islam and something else.
Or, for that matter, gives rise to situations in which some Muslim women may insist, in the name of Islam, on veiling their faces, not while they are alone by themselves or with their families and friends, and not while walking down the streets, but while teaching students in a classroom, even though, reportedly, the same women may show a readiness to unveil when facing a job interview.
Some Concessions Inbuilt into the Islamic System
Here are some examples of the concessions that God Almighty provided his people:
God Almighty in the Qur'an forbade believers from eating swine flesh (lahmal khinzeer). But not if you ran into an emergency and pork was all the food that was available.
You must use water to wash up for your daily prayers - salaah. And that was nearly 1400 years before the American Society of Microbiology (ASM) discovered that washing hands may not be such a bad idea.
But what if water was unavailable or you were too sick to use water? Well, how about sand - clean dust - the kind that no part of the earth will ever be without?
Use that sand or dust instead to seek divinely ordained cleanliness that would allow you to perform your "prayers."
How can anyone go wrong with a formula like that?
Everyone's required midday prayers - Zuhr - are normally four units. That is how it is and that is how it will be - forever and ever.
But that only holds when you are staying at home. If you set out on a journey, then the required minimum number is reduced by half to two units.
That is right. A full 50 percent off the original requirement for Zuhr, Asr and Isha - the midday, the afternoon and the late night prayers - when you are traveling.
Who knows if modern marketing got its "Sale" idea from Islam?
All Kinds of Sticks to Beat Islam and Muslims with
All kinds of people in the West ceaselessly scream themselves hoarse about how Islam discriminates against women. And a lot of "good" Muslims spend a lot of time and energy trying to prove these people wrong, without realizing that this woman thing is just another stick that these folks use to beat Islam and Muslims with.
This is how it works: You prove one particular claim of theirs to be false, these people in the West will then be ready with a thousand other claims and issues to confront Muslims with.
The fact is, ever since the advent of Islam in this world, enemies of Islam never ran out of issues over which to attack Islam. And they were wrong every time.
On any given day, there are tens of thousands of the West's best brains busily engaged in designing and cataloging all kinds of sticks with which to beat Islam and Muslims. And they have abundant resources at their disposal to do it.
Women in Islam: More Pay for Less Work
Here is an example of a special concession that God Almighty grants women - as opposed to men - in Islam.
At a time when parts of the West are still having trouble finding a formula for giving women equal pay for equal work, Islam gives women more pay for less work.
That is right. You read me right the first time: more pay for less work. And only for women. And Islam has been doing that for the past 1400 years.
Here is how:
Adult Muslim females must do their Salaah five times a day without fail - just like their male counterparts. And they, like their male counterparts, must make up whatever prayers they miss for whatever reason.
But that is only until the women hit their regular monthly time. When that happens, women are completely excused from doing even a single Salaah for the entire period.
Nor are they required to make up any of the "prayers" they missed during all those five, or six, or seven, or whatever number of days.
What all this means is this: starting from puberty, every adult Muslim woman receives a full month's pay for putting in three week's work.
If those in the West who make a living by denigrating Islam think they have a better formula for rewarding females and raising their status in society, and before God, let them put that formula on the table.
Yet another Concession from God Almighty
Everyone knows this about Islamic way of performing "prayers": make sure you stand up when you do your Salaah.
But what if you were too feeble to stand up? Or too sick or too old? What do you do then?
Well, can you at least sit and do your "prayers" while sitting down? Or maybe you can lie down and "pray," huh?
The idea is to get the prayers done, no matter how you do them, so long as your choice of options is sincerely undertaken and those options are not specifically forbidden by God Almighty or his Prophet, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam.
And so long as you can convince God Almighty and his angels who are watching and recording your every move that your excuse for not standing up is a genuine one.
Islam: What an Amazing System of Accommodations
So, God Almighty's mercy and love for his creation packed his system of Islam with all kinds of options and "outs" that his slaves could use whenever they had their back against the wall.
Thus, Islam, far from being a fanatical system of thought, belief or behavior, is a most amazing, superhuman and spectacular system of accommodations, adjustments, concessions and "loopholes," whose purpose is peace on earth, and in human life and in human societies, that only the most fanatical, greedy, selfish, prejudiced and closed-minded people can hate, fear or fight.
As if the mere existence of these concessions was not enough, the Prophet, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, actually encouraged the believers to take advantage of God's concessions - Rukhas, he called them.
Allah likes it, he said, that you should take advantage of the concessions he has given you.
Islam Means Doing Things the Easy Way
Islam is, said the prophet of Allah, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, doing things the nice and easy way. The statement "Easy Does It" is actually an almost direct translation of the words of the Hadith: Addeenu yusr.
Make things easy, the Prophet, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, issued orders to his administrators and appointees in the regions and provinces, and don't make things difficult and burdensome.
Whenever the Prophet, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, was given a choice between two alternatives, said Hazrat 'Aisha, Radiyallau 'Anha, he invariably chose the easier alternative.
What a Deen! And what a Rasul, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam!
Home-Grown Islam of Some Ultra-Enthusiasts
But that was then.
That was the Islam that the Prophet, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, brought, delivered, taught, explained, modeled - and personally supervised.
It was an Islam whose simplicity and convenience swept the world within the blinking of historic time, starting out with the fierce children of the deserts of Arabia who were in many ways the lowest denomination of philosophical sophistication and religious scholasticism.
Now, after 1400 years, some ultra-enthusiasts among Muslims would like to have their own home-grown variety of super-Islam to practice and to project. One takes issue with them at one's own peril.
Is Voting an Islamic Requirement?
At a conference in Britain, a Muslim young woman once asked me if voting - as in elections - was Halal. That is, was it permitted in Islam?
That is the kind of education, training, orientation and leadership some young people in Britain have had. And there are others just like them in other places in the world.
I replied that voting and elections were not only Halal - permissible that is - but they may in fact be an Islamic requirement of some kind.
I asked: How else do you put the right people in positions power?
And the young woman - May Allah bless her - and her friend ran out of the conference hall crying.
No English for British Congregation Leaders
But bear in mind that 21st Century Britain is still a place where many Islamic communities and mosques import their prayer leaders directly from native-speaking "back home."
It seems to make no difference to anyone that many of these gentlemen barely speak English or that they have virtually no understanding of the culture and environment in which they have been so suddenly thrust without any proper training or orientation.
As a result, Jum'ah Khutbahs - those amazing and compulsory weekly open-air-university lectures that the Prophet, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, instituted for the benefit of the entire world nearly 1400 years ago - are often delivered in Urdu in communities where all too many youth can barely understand the Urdu language.
I once asked a more enlightened Muslim leader in Britain: How do you sleep at night with something like this going on in your communities?
"Oh, I sleep all right!" He said.
He may as well have been speaking for the Muslim community as a whole. The sleeping part I mean.
Understanding the True Nature of Islam
So, there are some folks among Muslims who seem to be given to a bit of grandstanding in matters of "religion." Knowingly or unknowingly, they seem to project a Holier-than-Thou image in comparison to most mainstream Muslims.
Two things seem to mask the true nature of this seeming social one-upmanship or "religious" grandstanding:
- One, a basic misunderstanding of Islam and its true nature and spirit.
- Two, an effort to use Islam for addressing personal needs and insecurities, and as a means of political expression, and not quite knowing how to handle it.
You can always add a general lack of common sense as a third element to this mix, for in all situations in life, common sense is an essential recommendation of Islam.
Treatment of Islam and Muslims in the West
As for the treatment of Islam and Muslim immigrants in Britain, Europe and the West in general, it is, at least to some degree, the same old story of race-, wealth- and power-based duplicity, hypocrisy, cynicism and mendacity that have characterized the treatment of foreign lands, cultures and peoples by many in Western societies for centuries.
Soon after the collapse of the Soviet Union, which was brought about in no small measure by Muslims and their mercenary use of political Islam as it is called, many in the West turned their attention to a systematic denigration, devaluation and disenfranchisement of Islam and Muslims on Western soil.
This followed a predictable pattern from country to country, society to society in the West. And the results were all the same: a cumulative and increasingly jarring negative environment for Islam and Muslims everywhere.
And the unstated logic was quite clear: either that or risk integrating vast alien hordes with their strange ways and foreign customs into the mainstream of Western racial and social mix, thereby fundamentally altering its composition and character, which might have meant more or less "Goodbye West!" as the West had known itself for centuries.
Add to this the thought of leaving Islam unchecked to run around and compete openly and freely in the Western marketplace of ideas, images and practices and you may have the makings of an unmitigated religious, cultural, social and political disaster on your hands.
A Boiling Cauldron of Discontent: Souls in Torment
The defeat and dismantling of Communism and its infrastructure and support system may have removed the lid from the ideological, cultural, religious and political cauldron of discontent, alienation and disaffection that was in different stages of boil throughout Britain and Europe, including Russia.
Even Japan and China were a part of this mix.
And these were all souls in torment. They had gone through various stages of painful change over the past several decades and had ended up with virtually nothing. All of a sudden they woke up to the dawn of a new era in which their knowledge was zero; their politics was shallow; their religion was empty; their leadership was below par; their souls were in anguish; and they had nowhere to turn to.
A deep psychological, moral and spiritual hunger had Britain, Europe and Russia, and even Japan and China, in its grip, and active disaffection with traditional Christian religion was palpably on the rise everywhere, leaving the entire post-Communist world uniquely vulnerable to Islam's allure.
The United States is a somewhat different story, which I will address sometime in future, should God Almighty enable me to do so.
So, what was the poor West to do?
West's Experience with Nazism, Fascism and Soviet Communism
Hence, to many of the rich, the powerful and the well-educated in the West, all indications pointed to one solution. And it was a solution with which the West had some experience in the past.
And that solution was to mobilize the West's experience in dealing with Nazism, Fascism and Soviet Communism and use it to roll back the advancing tide of Islam and Muslims in the West.
Two things helped.
One, it was extremely helpful that the Muslims were by and large clueless about much of what was going on around them.
Two, Muslims were busy as usual being all too human and all too Muslim - running after name, fame, wealth and power.
So, as the vice tightened around them, the Muslims had no idea what had hit them.
Some Western "Contributions" to Human History
While many highly educated and powerful people in the West level all kinds of charges and accusations against Islam and Muslims, at times without offering a scintilla of evidence, except their own incestuous quoting of one another from time to time, there are one or two things the Muslims can say about the West that are not terribly flattering.
And sometimes it may be necessary to point out these things if for no other reason than to lift the spirit of the Muslims who may be scraping the barrel of despondency and gloom under the unremitting blitz of anti-Muslim and anti-Islam propaganda that is presently blanketing the world.
Another useful purpose may be to hold a mirror to some of the more strident anti-Islam and anti-Muslim elements in the West in the hope that it will give them a better sense of truth and fairness.
And toward this end, the Muslims must point out that Nazism, Fascism and Soviet Communism are all uniquely Western "contributions" to human history and civilization.
And they are in addition to the West's earlier "accomplishments" such as the Crusades, the Inquisition, the Colonization and the Proselytization through conquest or inducement of conquered populations by Christian missionaries.
Code Noir: The Black Code
In addition, the Muslims may point out, the West also gave the world something called Code Noir - the Black Code - that was promulgated by Louis XIV of France toward the end of the 17th Century.
Here, according to the Imperial Decree quoted by some sources, is some of what the French Black Code had to offer the world:
We enjoin all of our officers to chase from our islands all the Jews who have established residence there. As with all declared enemies of Christianity, we command them to be gone within three months of the day of issuance of the present order, at the risk of confiscation of their persons and their goods.
And here is some more of what the French Black Code had to say:
All slaves that shall be in our islands shall be baptized and instructed in the Roman, Catholic, and Apostolic Faith. We forbid any religion other than the Roman, Catholic, and Apostolic Faith from being practiced in public. We desire that offenders be punished as rebels disobedient of our orders.
Demonizing Islam and Muslims
So when some people in the Western portals and hierarchies of power, politics, government, media, academe, industry, research, think tanks and wealth decided on turning back the tide of Islam and Muslims, their obvious method of choice was systematic demonization of Muslims and Islam using every trick in the book.
But whether you call it propaganda, spin or simple communication, the message was unmistakable: Muslims are bad and Islam is foolish, fanatical, backward and bizarre.
With honorable exceptions, the various official circles of government, media, culture, academe and private anti-Muslim and anti-Islamic industry in the West broadly coalesced in the formation and dissemination of this message.
God Almighty's earth and air were filled with millions upon millions of words, voices, sounds and images, all directed at the single aim of taking a bite out of Islam and forcing the Muslims to accept a second-class pariah status in their own Western lands of adoption or birth.
Muslims were now being very quickly and successfully turned into second class citizens in their own newly minted Western homes. They were now fast becoming the new Jews of Europe and new Blacks of America, a land of opportunity, freedom and equality where many Muslims had buried their heads deep in the sand and thought nothing bad would ever happen to them.
Western Amnesia of Its Colonial Past
What many in the West conveniently forget is that many of the modern Muslim immigrants - and their Islamic ways - may be the chickens of Western Colonialism and Imperialism coming home to roost.
For centuries, the West invaded, conquered, plundered and controlled practically the entire Muslim world. In its aftermath, if ever there was an aftermath in the sense of the West's complete and real dissociation from the Muslim world, the West left a trail of poverty, hunger, disease, disgruntlement and a volatile mix of mutually hostile and warring nations, societies and entities, and corrupt puppet regimes, within the artificial national boundaries the West often selfishly and arbitrarily imposed upon its former colonies.
That, if anyone really cared to know, is where much of the modern-day Muslim immigrant flood has its roots. And it is exacerbated by the West's insatiable need for cheap labor and what many in the poorer parts of the world see as an economic opportunity.
Once again, many in the West forget that it was the West that brought in the Kashmiri Muslim workers to man its factories in Britain. And it was also the West that brought in the Turkish Muslim guest workers to rebuild Germany from the ruins of World War II.
So, it is important to understand the history of the West's past engagement with the Muslim world if we are to get a proper understanding of its present encounter with it.
The Other Side of the Story: Who Should Care about the Europeans?
At the same time, someone somewhere, the Muslims more than anyone else, because that is why Allah created them, must also understand the confusion, pain, paranoia and anguish of the ordinary Europeans in the face of this sudden and unprecedented influx of foreigners in their midst.
The ordinary Germans, the Danes, the Spaniards, the Swiss, the British, the French and all the others throughout Europe: who has ever cared about their feelings and talked to them in a caring and proper manner and provided them systematic orientation about all the cataclysmic changes that were taking place in the world and right at their doorstep?
Most politicians in the world seek political gain. Most ordinary people in the world pursue self interest. So, who in this world is supposed to care about people - about other people? About all people everywhere, including the European people, on their own soil?
Khair Ummat: A Nation Created for Other People
In the midst of all this global turmoil, where were those people, whom Allah says pointedly in the Qur'an, he created for the sake of other people? Where were the Muslims when the world needed them?
Where were those "who were specifically created for An-naas," when An-naas were desperately looking for them?
Hear Allah say it in the Qur'an in his own words, in what is probably the only statement of its kind in the entire world: Kuntum khaira ummatin ukhrijat linnaas. Paraphrase: You are the best and finest nation specifically designed and created for "the people."
Why was this Khair Ummat not thinking about the Europeans and their plight? Why was this Khair Ummat missing in action?
Why had it become part of the problem instead of being the solution that God Almighty meant it to be?
Why was and is this Ummat so clueless?
Someone much smarter and better than me had put it much earlier in much more stark and powerful language. Addressing the people of India - Hindostan - Iqbal, Allah bless him, had said a 100 years ago: "Na samjhogay to mit jaa-o-gay aiy Hindostan waalo!" Paraphrase: If you don't understand, you will be wiped out.
What can I possibly say that will be clearer, stronger or more effective than what Iqbal said a full century ago?
Frankfurt Airport: A Seething Sea of Immigrants
Let me give one example. The airport was Frankfurt International in Germany. The time was around 1991 or so. I had my boys with me and we were returning from the Middle East and a few other places. What greeted us was quite a sight.
Practically every inch of the airport was packed with people. Not with Germans but with people of every other description from around the world, decked out in the most impressive and colorful of their native sartorial display and speaking in the panoply of the native tongues Allah had blessed them with.
It hit me like a hard punch to the mouth. And I did what people often blame me of doing. I asked an improbable question.
I asked myself how an average German person would feel at this sight. And I did manage to flush out a couple of Germans and asked them. First they were coy and reluctant to talk. Then they opened up. It was hard for them to swallow what was happening to their society, they said, with shallow smiles hiding deeper pain, confusion and resentment.
It was then that I began to wonder how I would react if I were in their place. And I began to do what I always do when faced with a tough situation: immediately start looking for a solution.
Who Is Minding the West?
I put the question that was on my mind squarely to a high government official from the Netherlands.
"What arrangements does the Dutch government have in place," I asked him, "for providing orientation, not just to the immigrants, but also to the native Dutch people about the immigration situation and about all these foreigners in their midst?"
For a while he said nothing. Then he leaned forward, looked me in the eye, smiled and said: "None. No arrangements at all. I don't think we have given that matter serious thought."
Fifteen years later, only last week in fact, a Spanish diplomat said the same thing. "Our mind does not work like that," he said to me. "We don't have a long-range view of things."
Talk about Muslims being unprepared for the future, they have company. But Muslims can offer any number of excuses for lagging behind. What is Europe's excuse?
Who is minding the West, I asked myself. Who is minding the Germans, the Dutch, the Danes and the other Europeans, with their lands and culture and institutions overrun by people from all over the world, without their having a direct say-so in the matter?
Are Europeans Not People? Are They Not Part of An-Naas?
Are Europeans not people, I asked myself. Do they not have feelings? Do they not have rights, including the right to emotional security?
Do the Europeans not have a right, as all people do, not to be rattled and unsettled by profound and sudden transformations of their natural habitat?
How I wish the Europeans had woken up to the coming cataclysm during the early, mid- or even late 1980s.
And how I wish the Muslims of Britain, Europe and America - and the world - had woken up to what was going on. And to what was about to happen.
And how I wish right now - as I write - Muslims of Europe, America and the rest of the world will wake up to what is going on in the world.
But Muslims don't believe in looking to the future, do they? They have such a settled habit of driving with their eyes glued to the rear-view mirror. Their hearts are with their past; their eyes are shut to the future; their souls are attuned to the next life; and their bodies cram their present like straws in a flood: Ghuthaa' ka-ghuthaa-is-saiyl.
Allah bless the Muslims! Allahummar-ham Ummata Muhammadin, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam: God Almighty, have mercy on the nation of Prophet Muhammad, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam!
Muslims Being Muslims
As a result, while all this was happening, most Muslims did what they have been good at doing for centuries: played the drum and carried on with their own pursuit of personal power, wealth and privilege; whims, fancies, egos and what the Qur'an calls Hawaa and Nafs; and their pet theological disputations, hairsplitting, fights, intrigues and mutual recriminations using the name and domain of Islam.
In bringing them to the West in large numbers, God had given Muslims a rare opportunity to make Islam a household word throughout the West and the world, filling the psychological and spiritual hunger in human hearts, minds and souls in the West and the rest of the world with God's light and with Qur'an's teachings.
They had a rare and remarkable opportunity to take the Qur'an to every home and heart that needs it - throughout the world.
And Muslims by and large devoted their time, attention, energy and resources to everything but that, as they had done so often throughout their history. And they paid a dear price for that, also, as they had done throughout their history.
God's Purpose in Islam
But what both the West and Muslims must know is that in some important ways Islam is almost completely independent of Muslims - and their ways.
As a direct outflow of God's love for his entire creation, Islam is humanity's common heritage and not the prerogative of this or that ethnic or geographic group, including the present-day Muslims.
We sent you not, says God Almighty in the Qur'an addressing the Prophet, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, except as a source of love, mercy, compassion, joy and blessing for all the worlds.
Hear the Qur'an say it in its own words: Wa maa arsalnaaka illaa rahmatal lil-'aalameen.
Islam's larger purpose, therefore, is to rescue humanity from ignorance, fanaticism and backwardness; from poverty, hunger, strife and insecurity; from the worship of race, country, power and wealth; and then to open up before the entire world a new horizon of perfect liberty, freedom, equality, justice, peace, fairness, education, opportunity and compassion for all.
That is what God sent Islam in this world to accomplish. And those were precisely the "victories" Islam scored every step of the way throughout its history.
And Islam continued to do this notwithstanding all the stumbling blocks that Muslims all too often placed in its path.
Assalamu Alaikum: A Trademark unlike Any
Therefore, it is not for nothing that Islam is called Islam - a comprehensive system of divine blessings including peace and prosperity for everyone everywhere.
And it is also not for nothing that Islam has a trademark and a trade tool most wonderfully suited for that purpose: Assalamu Alaikum.
That means if the term "Islam" stands for theory or the model, the expression "Assalamu Alaikum" represents the operationalization and practical methodology of that theory.
Or stated differently, as some wonderful people in Delhi, India, would say - Allah bless them - if by "Islam" we mean the "Nasbul 'Ain," then Assalamu alaikum is the "Laa-i-ha-e 'Amal" or "Tareeq-e-Kaar" for the realization of that goal or Nasbul 'Ain in practice.
Directly Out of the Pages of the Qur'an
Assalamu Alaikum is the common Islamic greeting, taken directly out of the pages of the Qur'an, that saturates the globe 24 hours a day, seven days a week, throughout the year, every year. It is a nonstop and ongoing invocation of God Almighty's choicest blessings on everyone and everything in the universe.
And that is what Muslims do, day in and day out - all over the world: they bless everyone and everything in the world.
And that is who the Muslims are, even some of the worst ones among them. If only they knew it.
And that is what the Muslims do, even though many of them may be clueless about what they are doing.
And this is God's Almighty's purpose - and plan - of love, joy and peace for his creation through the instrumentation of Islam.
And God Almighty shall accomplish his purpose in his creation in spite of Muslim ignorance, world indifference and Western arrogance.
Hayaat Tayyibah: The Good Life
Islam is, thus, a divine formula for Good Life for all. The Qur'an calls it Hayaat Tayyibah. Right here on earth and after death.
And its march, whether in the East or in the West, is not beholden to human power or endeavor, but flows directly from God Almighty's own will and pleasure - and his love for his creation.
That means those on whom God Almighty is pleased to confer the Good Life - Hayaat Tayyibah - he will. While those who fight it with force, lies, demonization, political trickery and propaganda, he will leave behind.
That is how it has always been. And that is how it will always be.
That is why the veil issue in that British classroom masks more than the faces of some Muslim women most likely misinformed about the true nature of Islam and the duplicity and cynicism of some British and European politicians: It masks the destiny and future of humanity.
(Final and revised version, October 30, 2006)
© 2006 Syed Husain Pasha
Dr. Pasha is an educator and scholar of exceptional
talent, training and experience. He can be reached at DrSyedPasha [at]
AOL [dot] com or www.IslamicSolutions.com.