The ugly face of distorted religion
Fighting militancy with weapons is a futile exercise. The real battle is for Islam to reclaim the word 'peace'.
Translated from the German ‘Die Religion... ist das Opium des Volkes,’ philosopher Karl Marx said that “religion was the opium of the masses.” While this statement is extremely applicable to Pakistani society, religion is more than just the ‘opium’ of the people.
It is now being used as a weapon; their excuse and justification for everything including things which are not very pleasant in nature. The most obvious example of this would be the "extremists" and their code of conduct, which they attempt to justify in the name of Islam, which has in the process literally distorted the religion's main beliefs and principles in the eyes of many people worldwide.
The perception of Islam in the eyes of the rest of the world has greatly changed over the last decade. There is no doubt that 9/11 left many extremely ignorant people with the perception that "Muslims equal militants". In the years since, militants have increased in strength and number across the globe and Pakistan has somehow become a homeland for many of these terrorists.
Not so long ago, I came across a website that made me feel very uneasy, as it contained the detailed laws and regulations of the Taliban, i.e: their code of conduct, as well as the punishments they carry out. What made me feel even more uneasy were some of the comments below the main text of the site, such as:
- All Taliban rules are according to the Holy Quran and Shariah.
- The Taliban are imposing the rules and regulations as per God’s holy book.
- The Taliban are true Muslims and follow what is taught in Islam.
Now while it does not take a rocket scientist to know that killing or harming any human being, regardless of race, religion, or culture is wrong, other things cause confusion. Are they strictly adhering to what is taught in our holy book minus the suicide bombings? I think not.
While many aspects of life are to be followed according to the Holy Quran, there is uncertainty as to whether they have to be followed and adhered to as strictly as has been stated.
In my opinion, the way Islam is taught today is not the real Islam. In fact, the religion of ‘peace’ has gone far from its meaning. The hate-preaching texts from so-called scholars which exist in many books and publications have led to shrines being blown up and people belonging to different sects and religions being mercilessly killed. This continues to happen as all those arrested in such cases of targeted killings and sectarian violence are later set free on the basis of insufficient evidence. Killings are rampant by members of terrorist organisations such as Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, yet little is done by the government or the judiciary to curtail these targeted crimes.
Someone could pray five times a day, keep all their fasts, learn the Holy Quran by heart and say ‘Allah hu-Akbar,’ everywhere they go, but that alone is far from deciding how good a Muslim they are and what their fate will be in the Afterlife. If the same person does not possess humanity and has been involved in hideous crimes like extremists carry out every other day, they are not even people, let alone Muslims. All their prayers and self-proclaimed religious faith is useless and nothing less than a mockery of religion.
What extremists claim God desires is actually what they want. God never said that people have to be forced into any religion. God certainly never said that non-believers should converted or be killed. Yet the terrorist forces, whether Al-Qaeda, the Taliban or any other terrorist organisation believe that everyone should not only be Muslim, but follow their version of Islam. That is the reason why Muslims belonging to different sects are attacked and murdered.
Fighting militancy is a battle that cannot be won. Not by Pakistan, not any other country. The mindset of the extremists has to be changed, but can it? This is the mindset that has been preached and taught to them since the beginning. The ultimate battle for Pakistan is not against the Taliban or any other terrorist organisation. It is not against India, not any other country. The country’s main battle is the quest for peace. Can the word ‘peace’ become part of Islam again?