How not to cede space to extremists

Published: September 30, 2011
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The writer is vice-president of READ (Rural Education and Area Development) and founder of DNAtesting productions. Twitter @dnoorani

The writer is vice-president of READ (Rural Education and Area Development) and founder of DNAtesting productions. Twitter @dnoorani

Apparently in Pakistan, when you hit rock bottom, you start digging. The brutal massacre of Shia pilgrims in Mastung and the recent attack on a school bus in Peshawer were new lows in the already despondent country. While these incidents were depressing beyond words, what was more disconcerting was the lack of condemnation you heard from political and religious leaders in Pakistan. Those who bothered to condemn the incident, released such generic statements that they appeared to be automatically generated by a computer. The silence of our ‘leaders’ serves as tacit approval for the inhumane actions of extremists.

This apathetic response by Pakistan’s leadership highlights the fact that extremists are leading the discussions regarding Islam and their violent and intolerant ideology is going unchallenged in Pakistan. If Pakistan is to survive as the multi-cultural country it is, the status quo cannot be maintained. As opposed to letting extremists lead the discussion on Islam, we need to challenge their ideology by promoting people like Abdul Sattar Edhi as being representative of Islam. In addition, we must examine Islamic history and use examples from it to counter the extremist ideology. In particular, one document in Islamic history stands out to me, and that is Prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) last sermon.

 The Prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) prefaced his last sermon in 632 CE, before 115,000 Muslims in the ‘Uranah valley of Mount Arafat’ in Makkah with these words. Given this fact and the fact that his pilgrimage marked the culmination of the growth of Islam during his lifetime, it is fair to assume that the Prophet (pbuh) would highlight what he considered to be the most important elements of Islam in his sermon. For this reason, special emphasis must be paid to the last sermon. For instance when he said: “You will neither inflict nor suffer any inequality.” This is just one of the few lessons that the Prophet espouses in his sermon. The others are property rights, equity, forgiveness, non-violence, women’s rights, the pillars of Islam, and equality. With regards to women’s rights, he told his followers to treat women with kindness, and while men have certain rights over women, “(women) also have rights over (men).”

 Along with paying attention to what was said in the Prophet’s last sermon, emphasis should be paid to what he left out. Most noticeably, jihad, which Islamic extremists tout as ‘the sixth pillar of Islam’, is never mentioned in the last sermon. Rather he advocates non-violence and set a precedent for forgiveness over violence by forgiving all the “homicides in pre-Islamic days” and stopping the endless cycle of vengeance. There is no mention of forcibly enforcing religion upon anyone or killing those with differing religious interpretations. Clearly if these topics formed the crux of Islam, the Prophet would have mentioned it in what he thought would be his last sermon.

What Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) advocates in his final sermon is in stark contrast to the violent message advocated by Islamic extremists.

 The Prophet’s last sermon, in my opinion, captures the ethos of Islam and provides a greats lens to view the religion through. It cannot be emphasised enough that the Prophet considered this sermon to be his parting message to the Muslim Ummah, hence special emphasis must be paid to what he said. Pakistanis cannot continue ceding public space to extremists and must counter their ideology by promoting historic documents such as the Prophet’s last sermon.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 1st,  2011.

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Reader Comments (17)

  • RATIONAL MIND
    Sep 30, 2011 - 11:02PM

    Lets believe that Muslims are extremist and are killing people around and have also caused destruction of twin towers causing death of 2000 people and that they should shun extreme views and follow Mr. Edhi only….

    what do you preach to those who are not extremist and are not Muslims also and have invaded Iraq and Afghanistan killing hundreds of thousands of innocent people ? when such people invade muslims then should muslims be doing what Mr. Edhi is doing ? thats what they have done following advice of people like you in Palestine and have got nothing ?

    Open your eyes and think ten times before becoming the advocate of devil

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  • Maulana Diesel
    Sep 30, 2011 - 11:28PM

    We can’t do anything. Cant you see Allah is punishing us for letting loose these illiterate mullahs. No one on earth can challenge their authority. You may do or say anything they are going to stamp you for blasphemy. 180 Million people are held hostage to their authority. Allah save Islam and Pakistan. Aameen

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  • Arindom
    Oct 1, 2011 - 1:11AM

    @RATIONAL MIND:
    Yeah! because someone invaded some other country – we go about killing ourselves!!! Great!!

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  • MD
    Oct 1, 2011 - 1:11AM

    As someone great said that “the greatest truths are the simplest one”. Nobody can contest about these universal truths like, “you shouldn’t lie, you shouldn’t steal, you shouldn’t hurt others, loving fellow humans is equivalent of loving the god, when you help and serve fellow humans you serve the almighty himself etc. But, as a non-muslim, it baffles me to see that Muslims have such a divergent interpretations of Qur’an that they kill their fellow relgionist with impunity, cruelty and that too without any remorse, which makes mockery of the very message of love and compassion that the Qur’an is supposed impart on its followers. Yes, other religions or at least custodians of those religions, too, had been very cruel to its followers as the history tells us, but, every other religion or its followers, it seems to have reformed themselves and moved on to step into the 21st century. The only exception, it appears to be the followers of Islam, still struggling to come to the terms with the new age of technology and science.
    Why Muslims are still mired in such a narromindedness? Is it such a difficult job to understand the Qur’an overall message, that I am repeatedly told, consists nothing but love, brotherhood and peace?
    Aren’t the greatest truths are the simplest one for Muslims?

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  • khwaja
    Oct 1, 2011 - 1:29AM

    the tragedy once with this country was started with the exploitation of religion for political power bargaining….need to highlight root causes and then to analyze present deteriorating conditions,,,,,,suicide attacking is a war strategy implemented against the rival aggressive enemy but here there hell extremists and blindly shooters solve the problem of antagonistic powers,,,,a strong government with the consensus of common people can crash these mercenaries but the divided society seems to helpless in this direction,,,,

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  • Hassan Shah
    Oct 1, 2011 - 1:46AM

    @Rational Mind:Where Did you notice that those innocent people who were brutally murdered in every part of Pakistan, were accomplice of Those invading forces?
    I never saw a single ordinary Pakistani holding a gun along with NATO forces either in Afghanistan or Pakistan? Just because our Govt and Army is support these forces,will legitimize your and Terrorists mindset?
    If abdul sattar Edhi is not a perfect example for them, but you can not deny the wondeful personality like Holy Prophet(pbuh)

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  • N
    Oct 1, 2011 - 1:57AM

    So can we start where extremism takes root? In our elementary class rooms and holy places of worship.

    Could we eliminate the hate narrative in our history books?

    Could we ban the mullah at the mosque from inciting the faithful with fiction and fire?

    Could we hold the establishment leaders and media to a standard of facts only?

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  • Zubeida
    Oct 1, 2011 - 6:42AM

    We are the ones who have created this mess we are in. If we hadn’t been preaching hate, but had concentrated on education, health, economy and friendly relations with other countries–today my kids would have a bright future in Pakistan. But, sadly, the islamization of our society has ruined our rational thinking.

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  • Mahmood Saeed
    Oct 1, 2011 - 10:39AM

    Thank you. I wish many more men of journalism/media support and strengthen your kind of thoughts, as stated iin this article.

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  • Feroz
    Oct 1, 2011 - 12:31PM

    Brother, ideology cannot be countered with rational debate. When an individual is willing to shed blood of another who does not subscribes to his Religious viewpoint, it is better to talk to the wall. Next time you go for a debate please arm yourself with a pistol if you really care about the welfare of your family. Recommend

  • observer
    Oct 1, 2011 - 6:42PM

    @Daniyal Noorani

    North Waziristan,South Waziristan,Swat,Bahawalpur,Muridke,Gojra all ceded.
    BB,Taseer, Bhatti all sacrificed.
    All Party Conclave decides to extend hand of peace and to stand in staunch support of the extremist elements.

    And you are talking about ,’How Not to Cede Space to Extremists’. Where have you been till now?

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  • C M Naim
    Oct 1, 2011 - 9:12PM

    Qadiri, the confessed killer of Taseer, has been sentenced to death. Hundreds, perhaps a thousand people, immediately came out on the streets and protested. Many groups, including groups of lawyers, already exist around the country, and will soon be identifying themselves in very public ways against the verdict.

    Consider. What if hundreds of Sunni intellectual, lawyers, teachers, ordinary folks had come out when they read the news of the recent attack on Shi’ah pilgrims, and announced they would hold public namaz-i-janaza for those victims of sectarian hatred? Would that have made some difference? A little bit of difference?

    Consider further. What if the same had happened many years ago when the first muderous attack on Shi’ahs took place in a Karachi mosque and eleven persons were killed in the month of Ramzan? What if a public namaz-i-janaza, attended by many local leaders and columnists and university professors and civil service people and such were held in some large public space each time a Shi’ah doctor was killed in Karachi? Remember more than seventy were targeted and killed.

    Identifying Islam with a liberality in social and political public matters requires public expressions of that Islam.

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  • Sane
    Oct 1, 2011 - 9:19PM

    What Mr. Noorani is suggesting is all Muslims should wear bangles and adopt non-violance strategy where as American Ambassador is signing every day his approval for Drone attacks…….Even jews brought Nazis to trial before putting them to death…….

    I wonder what technology these poor people have which can not save them from Drones but is threat to America ……..if you can recall all people involved in sep 11 attacks were saudis…..how come America is attacking Northern Area of Pakistan

    Only explanation comes to mind is they are practicing Muslims and believe in Islam…..

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  • Anonymous
    Oct 1, 2011 - 11:04PM

    Cant you people for once not debate about what Islam says or doesn’t say, and concentrate on what your conscience and the rational mind says? Quran seems to have a variety of interpretations and many of these interpretations border on the violent side.

    Change the game to win it.Recommend

  • Rational Mind
    Oct 2, 2011 - 7:11AM

    @Anonymous:
    thats what they are doing in USA……..they are not considering what Isalam says but are using their Rational Mind and that rational mind says Iraq has weapons of mass destruction and attack it and kill hundreds of thousands of innocent people

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  • Human
    Oct 2, 2011 - 8:02PM

    @Rational Mind
    Really…you mean those School children were CIA agents ? Those infidels supporters of RAW on their way to tell Americans locations of those peace loving Taliban ?Recommend

  • rehmat
    Oct 3, 2011 - 6:28AM

    @Sane:
    “What Mr. Noorani is suggesting is all Muslims should wear bangles and adopt non-violence strategy where as American Ambassador is signing every day his approval for Drone attacks”

    I don’t think this article had ANYTHING WHATSOEVER to do with how Pakistan should react and respond to US and NATO. It is talking about the intolerance within he country which is leading o innocent people being killed in markets, school buses, playgrounds, dargahs and mosques.If Americans killed Iraqis, that should not be justification for Lashkar-e-Janghvi killing the Hazaras.

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