Sunday, June 21, 2009

Islam lags behind west and its backwardness is self doing

Prof Dr Colonel ( Retired)K Prabhakar Rao
Only one Muslim country, the Turkish republic has formally separated religion from State as law. It’s founder Mustafa Kamal (Ata Turk) has enacted the removal of Islam from the constitution and abrogation of Shariat, which ceased to be a part of the law of the land. Several Muslim States restricted Shariat to marriage, divorce and inheritance and adopted Western laws in other matters. There has been some move like this in ‘Bath’ party that once ruled Iraq and is in now strong in Syria. However, Saddam Hussein, former President of Iraq has been dethroned after military action by US led coalition forces (1). Pakistan reeled under the dictatorships of army generals and General Parvez Musharraf who was the last British styled aristocrat in Pakistan with some modernity and vision for his country also stepped out. He harbored the hope of being a legendary Mustafa Kamal (Ata Turk) of Turkey for his feud- torn country. But the Military Fundamentalist Junta that engineered the coup for him against former Prime Minister Nawaz Sheriff had engulfed him while in power. He had precarious existence and If he deviated from the anti Indian and fundamentalist path, the Junta was capable of repeating a coup. He was therefore forced to do a great tight rope-balancing act in his country keeping the Junta happy till he was eased out (2).
Islamic demonology in anti secular writings includes names such as former legendary Presidents Colonel Gamal Abdel Nasser and Anwar Saadat of Egypt, Shah Pehalwi of Iran, Afiz Al Assad of Syria, Saddam Hussein of Iraq, Mustafa Kamal of Turkey, King Farukh and Kings of Arabia. All these men who had some modern and forward thinking lumped together as one mass are considered as great betrayers of Islam and as inside enemies who wear Muslim face, bear Muslim name, and is therefore much deadlier than the open enemies from outside (3). Thus for Muslims, Islam is not merely a system of belief and worship, a compartment of life so to speak distinct from other compartments which are the concern of non religious authorities administering non religious laws. It is rather whole of life and its rules include civil, criminal and even what we would call constitutional law (4). Democracy and modernity appear to be at the infinity in Muslim world ( Turkey is an exception) and everything centers around the scripture. Recent chaos in Iran is the glaring example of pseudo democracy in Iran where elections are conducted where results are predetermined.
The center of problem facing Arab Muslims and indeed all Muslims today worldwide is to find a new way of life-Islamic in character, which will be halfway between the West and East that will provide internal stability necessary to enable Muslims to face their problems independently. The Arab world can borrow technology from the west, but it must find the answers to it’s deeper problems within itself. As per Abdullah Ai Al Qasimi in his book “These are the chains”, he stands out with a frank observation that, “ignorance based on religious doctrine has tied our people with knot upon knot”, and proceeds to analyses causes for backwardness among Muslims (5).
The low state of Islam in every field of human endeavor as stated by him compared to west carries over into the depressed situation of the individual Muslims as compared to the individual Christian in whichever country the two groups are living side by side. Al Qasimi admits that Muslim Arab’s Cultural immobility can’t be overcome, except to the extent to which foreign (That is Western, meaning Christian) influence and training are accepted. Arab humanity belongs to “abject frustrated, ignorant, weak” type and not to the other type of humanity, which is progress minded, successful, knowledgeable and strong that is found in West (6). Man has been created for future greatness and East and West have recognized this fact.
East has neglected and gone to slumber while West has realized its material and intellectual possibilities. Hindus claim and beat their chests loudly that all the modern science and inventions were already known to their past spiritual masters and are hidden in Vedas the ancient scriptures. You name any thing they would link it to Vedas. Nuclera weapons are compared to Brahmastra that was wielded by accomplished sages and kings with divine blessings. But who prevented them from exploiting them and Yet, India has remained technologically and scientifically very much backward for centuries. In fact English rule in India was a blessing in disguise. The Indian princes and chieftains whiled away their time mostly in dance, theology, poetry, drama, music, literature, paintings,sculpture except science and technology and remained backward from West. They claim their backwardness to be the result of Islamic occupation and exploitation by the Englishmen in subsequent years. There is no doubt that Western countries gave the breakthrough in the modern science and industrial technology, the benefits of which every one is reaping now. Most of the backward countries want all help from West. But they hate West and attribute all reasons to them for their backwardness. Arabs and Muslims have chosen to be weak in body and mind and lagged far behind the West that galloped towards modernity. By engineering 9/11, 2001 attack on USA by the Islamic terrorists, the Muslim world has finally cut it’s own feet towards prosperity and dug it’s own grave by refusing to modernize and adopt modern governance. For all the ills in Arab and Muslim world West is blamed. The interesting part is that every guy ifrom third world country whether it is Muslim or Non Mulsim country wants to land up in USA or UK.
In the words of Omar A Farukh in his book “ Arab Genius in Science and Philosophy”, great contributions were made by Muslim scholars in the past in the field of theology, mathematics and natural science, but such scholars ceased to exist after 14 th century. He has attributed Arab and Muslim backwardness to concentration on traditional, linguistic and theological studies in contrast to technological advances of Europe. Arabs by and large failed to make use of the scientific and technological knowledge that the West has gained so that they could compete in the narrow world, both in the material and in spiritual struggle (7). Arab institutions in Arab States kept themselves away from more profitable areas of science and technology and wasted their precious time on fruitless pursuits such as theological works (8). A civilization cannot flourish by glorifying past and thumping chests on past laurels, achievements and greatness. It has to keep abreast with change of time and the requirements of modern age. God only helps those who struggle and work hard and help themselves. It must perform continuously towards growth. Otherwise, others would overtake them. Muslim world lacked exactly in this aspect and as a consequence badly suffered.
On the other hand, Muslim women remained isolated from modern education and were confined to the houses rearing the children and satisfying their husbands. Their world revolved around household works, pleasing their husbands, religion and other related restrictions. The children in such societies tend to become arrogant and fundamentalist devoid of urge for modern and scientific temperament. Even today numerous honor killings are carried out in Islamic nations and women are suppressed and exploited (9). In cities like Hyderabad in India poor Muslims sell their daughters to the lusty old Arabs ( Of Grand fathers age) from Middle East. The provisions in the scripture are misused by the middle men and mullahs. These young girls once taken out of the country land up in dire straits and god only knows their fate. Women like Irshad Manji (10), Ayaan Hirsi Ali (11) and Taslima Nasreen (12) who raised voice in protest against suppression and asked for reformations in faith have been condemned, persecuted and threatened with death. The Madrasas spend maximum time in grinding the students on scriptures and scientific education is rather absent in these societies. Talibans were direct products of Madrasas in Pakistan who banished all education for women in Afghanistan. Societies in which women are suppressed and exploited would always remain backward. Now Taliban is knocking at the seat of power in Pakistan and they already destroyed girls- schools in the area of their influence. Pakistan although is keeping Taliban at bay by severe fighting its success is doubtful.
Muslims also allege that the West had purposely denied scientific know how to them. In the words of Dr Mohammed Kamal Ayyad, a teacher of philosophy at Higher Teachers College, Damascus and author of several studies on Arab Political and cultural problems, The West was interested in keeping orient and especially Arab and Muslim world in a state of spiritual and outwardly matters so that they had neither energy nor interest left to learn from West. The western nations did not want technology, science, industry and organization to be learnt by Arabs and Muslims nations. It is claimed that West was willing to support only those Muslim Institutions, which studied cultural heritage, mysticism, and rhetoric and grammar etc. They did not help other Muslim and Arab Institutions in acquiring scientific equipments, up- gradation of laboratories, promoting acquisition of technology and establishing chairs for comparative literature (13). What Arabs and Muslims particularly resent is the rich array of external manifestations of Western superiority in all the material, economical, technological and organizational fields. These attainments are constantly exhibited, rather flaunted by West and these endorse superiority of West. Muslims consider Western permissiveness, style of living, freedom to women as debauchery, sinful and immoral. They feel that the Muslim society is being corrupted by the Western influences. They hate west, but at the same time cannot avoid contact with them, they need them, as they are completely dependent on West for technology, modern education, industry and exploration and organization. Muslim students run to West to study at the Universities, employment and are influenced by the freedom in the society. They feel liberated. Back at home, the Mullahs cry hoarse that their culture, youth and way of life is being corrupted by the western civilization and mode of life. Arabs feel Western life to be against the morality of their religion in which they sincerely believe and thus West is seen inferior to Arabs. Arabs and other Muslims thus soon developed cultural inferiority complex (14).
Ottoman Empire that ruled over all Middle East countries collapsed after World War I (1915-1918) and the Middle East Muslim nations were colonized by European nations for a long time. This also has helped in building resentment among them. Although they became independent later, they were completely dependent upon West for all matters. These States soon came under the grip of fundamentalist and medieval Mullahs and blood thirsty dictators. Religion has been used to mesmerize the crowds in the name of scriptures and God.
It is a strange fact that Muslims by and large hate west. It is also a fact that Ottomans (Turks) dominated Arabs and they cruelly suppressed Arabs. When 9/11 took place some sections in India and Pakistan danced on streets singing that America was doomed. Arabs had to serve in the armies and fight wars for Ottomans and yet hatred towards Turks was not high. One of the reasons was commonality of religion and Turkey enjoyed the position of Caliphate, the religious supreme for Sunni Muslims who represent 90 % of the Muslim population in the world. Japan was occupied by USA for very long time after World War II. More over, Americans dropped Atom Bomb over Japan in 1945 causing large numbers of deaths. Yet, the hatred towards West is not found in Japan. Similarly, Muslims and British occupied India and it suffered greatly under the Muslim invasions and rule. Yet, there is no hatred towards Muslims and the British in India. Hindus have not declared war against the Muslims and the British. Arabs and other Muslims can’t completely detach themselves from traditional culture unlike British educated Indians. Neither can they keep away like Japan’s Zen Roshi. Their marginality causes discomfort leading to hatred. As summarized by scholor J Desparmet in 1932, the ultimate basis of all allegations to the West is the religious fervor or jealousy which fires Muslims and Arabs from which he derives or deduces all kinds of other objections (15). Their backwardness is due to the inability to change with the time and see reason that has conflicting requirements with the religion and hang on to the dogmas and scriptures. Unless the fundamental approach is changed, backwardness in Arab and Muslim States would continue and grow and there is no escape. Where Women are suppressed and not treated equal such societies sooner or later would disintegrate and disappear. Muslim States have to adopt democracy, modernity and scientific temperament keeping religion aside for spiritual pursuits, if they have to compete with West and survive to be precise..

1.Bernard Lewis, Islam and West, Oxford University Press, 200, Madison Avenue, New York, 1993, ISBN 0-19-509061-6, PP 4
2. Robert D Kaplan, Soldiers of God, Vintage Departures, New York, Vintage ISBN 1-4000-3025-0, 2001
3. Bernard Lewis, Islam and West, Oxford University Press, 200. Madison Avenue, 1993, SBN 0-19-509061, PP 185
4. Ibid, PP 4
5. Al Qasimi, Hadhi Hiya. l Aghlal (These are the chains), Cairo 1946, PP 12-70 as summarized by Von Grunnebaum, Islam essays in the nature and Growth of a cultural tradition PP 216-219, as cited in Raphael Patai, The Arab Mind, Hatherleigh Press, 5-22, 46 Avenue, Suite 200, Long Island City, New York, 111101, ISBN 1-57826-117-1, 2002, PP 266,267
6. Ibid, PP 267
7. Ibid, PP 268, 311
8. Ibid, PP 312
9. Souad, Burned Alive (A survivor of an honor killing speaks out), Warner books, 1271, Avenue of Americas, New York, 10020, ISBN 0-446-53346-7. 2003, PP 29
10. Irshad Manji, The Trouble With Islam, St Martins Griffin, New York, 2003, ISBN 0-312-32700-5, PP 136
11.Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Caged Virgin, Free Press, 1230 Avenue, New York, 2004, ISBN 0-743-29501-3,PP 11
12. Tasleema Nasreen, Lajja, LGF, ISBN 2253139246, 1996
13. Raphel Patai, The Arab Mind. Hatherleigh press 5-22, 46 Avenue, Suite 200, Long Island City, New York, 111101 USA, ISBN 1-57826-117-1, 2002, PP 318
14. Bernard Lewis, Middle East, Scribner, 1977, ISBN 0-684-83280-1, PP133-136
15.Wilfred Cantwell Smith, Islam in modern History, Princeton University Press, 1977, ISBN 0-691

Dr K Prabhakar Rao

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