Stand up

Targeting children and schools is inhumane,no matter who does it

Written by Aijaz Ilmi | Published:February 20, 2009 10:45 pm

Recent,fast-paced,events in the beautiful Swat Valley in Pakistan are a grim reminder of what the future holds for the state of Pakistan. They rode the tiger and now it’s getting impossible to get off. Laws in Pakistan may permit local implementation of Sharia,but the terror methodology of the Taliban and capitulation to it will sound its own death-knell.

The reverberations and repercussions for the entire subcontinent where over 40 per cent of the world’s Muslims live — a vast number of them in poverty and ghetto-like conditions — are staggering. For Indian citizens,it is a dangerous neighbourhood: besides Pakistan and Bangladesh,there are dangerous insurgencies currently or recently active in Nepal,on our north-eastern borders and in Sri Lanka.

News reports about the extreme distress of citizens at large and of women and children in particular — visuals of bombed-out schools and the random killings of innocents — with the Taliban justifying all this in the garb of Sharia is inhuman,to say the least. In times like these,believers must stand up; and some look for guidance from the ulemas,from reputed Muslim organisations.

In February of 2008 the Darul Uloom of Deoband had held a large conference and after some deliberation unequivocally condemned terrorism as “anti-national and anti-Islamic”. This was greatly appreciated,by people all over the world; but the forces that actually unleashed terror were not named in this resolution. We can’t pick and choose between these forces. Recent acts in Gaza (UNICEF reports over 300 innocent children were victims of Israel’s aggression) and now the Taliban’s targeting of schools and children are both gross violations of humanity and its basic laws. The need of the hour is for all shades of opinion amongst the Muslims — the ulemas,the common Muslim,the leaders and other opinion-makers — to express themselves against these forces of terror; otherwise these inhumane atrocities will continue without meaningful opposition. 

Our neighbours in Pakistan are wondering how soon their great cities like Rawalpindi,Islamabad and Lahore will come in the grip of these revanchist forces. The idea of India,with its secular constitution and its time-tested judiciary,along with a vibrant democracy,continually reassures Muslims in India. A recent illustration of this was after the Mumbai outrage: every Indian citizen,regardless of religion and caste,protested unitedly and vehemently against the mind-numbing terror. The fact that these terrorists didn’t get even an inch for their burial speaks volumes about the seething anger amongst Muslims in India. Placards saying “no burial for these ‘murderers’” were totally justified.

The truth is that the declaration of the Darul Uloom against terror and the statement by Maulana Mahmood Madani,the general-secretary of the Jamiat Ulama-i Hind,that “the killing of innocents or atrocities against them is terrorism” clearly indicts the Taliban too. Last May,when Sayyid Imam al-Sharif who is considered the Egyptian ideological father of Al-Qaeda published a major condemnation of terror tactics used by them,various Islamic countries responded in appealing to end such atrocities.

Whilst speaking to a few maulvis in UP,I was told that the Hadith says Talabul ilmi farizatun,Ala kulli muslimeen wa muslima — which means it is compulsory for both men and women to seek knowledge. Contrast this with what the Taliban is doing. When the Qur’an began to be revealed,the first word of its first verse was Iqra — that is,read. Education is thus the starting point of every human activity.

A systemic effort to deny women and children of their rights is the oldest of ploys to perpetuate any misguided beliefs. All such activities are just vilification of Islam and its practices.

My knowledge of our religious scriptures may be limited but my conscience tells me that we must speak up. Let us not see this as somebody else’s problem,and wish it will go away. It is a challenge to civil society,of which we all are a part. This battle of the mind must be won comprehensively for the sake of our future generations. As is written in the Qur’an,la ikraha fideen — the use of force is not allowed for acceptance of religion. Ignorance and illiteracy can be very expensive,and silence can be deafening. But watching passively is not an option.

The violent killing of Musa Khan,a journalist for the news channel Geo TV in Swat is a reminder of the chilling answer that the Taliban have for every voice of reason. Not one,not two — Musa Khan had 32 bullet injuries on him. Obviously the Taliban does not believe in the power of the pen. We must not allow them to spread illiteracy; so the answer is clear as crystal. The Taliban and their wannabes in India should be fought together.

The writer is the chairman of the editorial board at the Kanpur-based Urdu newspaper ‘Daily Siyasat Jadid’

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