A sick and delusional interpretation of faith


murderers-in-Nairobi-and-PeshawarArrogance of murderers in Nairobi and Peshawar comes from their bigoted belief that they are fulfilling their religious obligation

By Rabia Alavi

A country is all about its people and Kenya truly is remarkable when it comes to hospitality and courteousness. I know because I spent two consecutive summers there, bringing back lessons of humility and obligingness, hospitality and humbleness from the Kenyans. For a country that is primarily Christian — we passed by churches and missionary schools and hospitals in even the most remote of villages ­— Kenya is extremely multi-faith as far as its laws go. It is co-habited by Hindus and Muslims, with plenty of mosques, Hindu temples and Sikh gurdwaras. Exclusive eat-outs offer vegetarian-only food and all meat in the country is halal — in consideration for the Muslim Kenyans. It is a regulation upheld by law.

Even these were sufficient reasons to find this week’s vicious attack on an upmarket mall in Nairobi so troubling. But the relentless wave of terror that resulted in the pointless, senseless and utterly criminal murder of unarmed civilians is totally indigestible. Somali Al Shabab militants claimed responsibility for the attack. “When justice is denied, it must be enforced,” the group said in a tweet. “Kenyans were relatively safe in their cities before they invaded us & killed Muslims #Westgate.”

Since Kenya launched attacks against Al Shabab in Somalia in 2011, the group has hurled grenades at Kenyan churches, bus stops and other public places. Last year, the Kenyan military played a major role in handing Al Shabab forces a defeat when, as part of a peacekeeping mission, they liberated the key Somali port of Kismayo.

While the attack is to avenge Kenya’s political inclinations, it also tried to disrupt the peaceful coexistence that prevails in Kenya, by dividing the population into ‘us’ and ‘them’. While Muslims were ‘escorted’ out of the mall before the attacks, the rest had their fate sealed — sentenced to death for being non-Muslims. Back in Pakistan, the situation has been no better.

While Nairobi’s Westgate mall was under siege last Sunday, two suicide bombers blew themselves outside a church in Peshawar, leaving more than 80 people dead. Attacks on religious minorities in Pakistan have been endless and relentless over the years, but this one was the worst ever, given the fact that the miscreants struck on a public holiday, ensuring maximum loss of lives. Women and children formed the majority of victims.

Yet again, atrociously random acts of violence are carried out in the name of religion, while we hang our heads in shame or disgust. Global media cries itself hoarse, identifying the murderers as religious, Islamist or even Islamic militants.

But the arrogance of these murderers, to judge and carry out swift punishments of their choice, comes from their bigoted belief that they are fulfilling their religious obligation. When the attackers at Westgate mall asked Muslims to identify themselves, they said exactly what they believed: “We have come to save you”.

When the suicide bombers blew themselves up outside the church in Peshawar, they were getting rid of the infidels — a duty that they obviously take very seriously. Apparently, the end does justify the means for them. And two wrongs do make a right for them. So it does not matter how many children are orphaned or women widowed or households left without breadwinners. In their delusional scheme of things, these losses do not count.

But clearly, the case is building against those who force themselves upon us, calling themselves defenders of our faith. Muslims are coming forward to condemn, dissociate themselves from and even apologize for such ghastly violence. Not in our name please, they say. In 628, a delegation from St Catherine’s monastery came to Prophet Muhammed (PBUH), requesting his protection.

Following is the promise that he made to them: “This is a message from Mohammad Ibn Abdullah, as a covenant to those who adopt Christianity, near and far, we are with them. Verily I, the servants, the helpers and my followers defend them, because Christians are my citizens; and by Allah! I hold out against anything that displeases them. No compulsion is to be on them. Neither are their judges to be removed from their jobs nor their monks from their monasteries. No one is to destroy a house of their religion, to damage it, or to carry anything from it to the Muslims’ houses. Should anyone take any of these, he would spoil God’s covenant and disobey His Prophet. Verily, they are my allies and have my secure charter against all that they hate. No one is to force them to travel or to oblige them to fight. The Muslims are to fight for them. If a female Christian is married to a Muslim, it is not to take place without her approval. She is not to be prevented from visiting her church to pray. Their churches are to be respected. They are neither to be prevented from repairing them nor the sacredness of their covenants. No one of the nation (Muslims) is to disobey the covenant till the Last Day (end of the world).”

Religious tolerance and an understanding and acceptance of other cultures can go a long way in helping us attain peace in the world. This senseless carnage must stop.

Clarion India - News, Views and Insights about Indian Muslims, Dalits, Minorities, Women and Other Marginalised and Dispossessed Communities.


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