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Sunday, October 15, 2006

Dr. Zakir Naik: Tolerance Towards Non-Muslims

Islam extends tolerance to human beings in general, regardless of their religion, race, caste, colour or creed.

Allah (swt) addresses Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) in the Qur’an:

“We sent you not but as a mercy for all creatures.” (Al-Qur’an 21:107)

One of the aspects of mercy is tolerance, so was Muhammad (pbuh) tolerant to all people. Islam extends tolerance to human beings in general, regardless of their religion, race, caste, colour, creed and sex and sees to it that this quality is instilled in all the followers of Islam.

Most human beings possess the characteristic of being kind to those who are weak, to those who are oppressed. However, very few possess the quality of being kind to their enemies. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) possessed this quality to a surprising degree. History bears witness to this fact.

After the conquest of Makkah, Muslims were in a position to treat the non-Muslims of Makkah with the same ill-treatment they had been receiving from the non-Muslims earlier. These Makkan non-Muslims included those who had plotted for years against Muslims and ultimately had them migrated from Makkah to Madinah. They also included those who had made an economic and social boycott against Muhammad (pbuh) and his tribe for three years, which caused him to live in starvation. They included Wahshi, the murderer of Hamzah (ra), the Prophet’s uncle and also included Hind who had chewed Hamza’s (ra) liver. They included Habar, who had attacked the prophet’s daughter with a spear during her journey from Makkah to Madina, which caused her to die of fatal injuries. What treatment did these non-Muslims receive from the Muslims?

The Prophet (pbuh) asked them: “O people of Quraish! What do you think of the treatment that I am about to accord to you?” They replied: “O noble brother and son of noble brother! We expect nothing but goodness from you”

Upon this he said: “I speak to you in the same words as Yusuf (the Prophet Joseph) spoke unto his brothers: He said: ‘No reproach on you this day’, (Al-Qur’an, 12:92) go your way for you are freed ones.” History has not witnessed since, a better example of tolerance and forgiveness.

Certain critics of Islam allege that Muslims are “Intolerant”. Yes Muslims are intolerant towards injustice, towards oppression, towards tyranny, towards hatred, and towards anti-social elements of society. At the same time, Muslims are tolerant towards kindness, towards love, towards mercy, towards justice and peace. Says Allah in the Qur’an:

“Let there be no compulsion in religion. Truth stands out clear from error; whoever rejects evil and believes in Allah hath grasped the most trustworthy hand-hold that never breaks. And Allah hears and knows all things. (Al-Qur’an 2:256)

Some non-Muslims harbour a misconception that had it not been for intolerance towards non-Muslims and the use of sword against the non-Mulsims, Muslims wouldn’t have had millions of adherents today. An objective and unbiased study of history will lead one to affirm the fact that far from Islam being spread by the sword, it was the inherent force of truth, reason and logic that was responsible for the rapid spread of Islam. Muslims ruled Spain for about 800 years, if the Muslims wanted they could have forced every non-Muslim to accept Islam at the point of the sword, but they were tolerant. Later the Christian Crusaders came to Spain and wiped out the Muslims. There was not a single Muslim in Spain who could openly give the adhan, i.e. the call for prayers. Muslims were the rulers of Arabia for 1400 years. For a few years the British ruled, and for a few years the French ruled. Overall, the Muslims ruled Arabia for 1400 years. Yet today, there are 14 million Arabs who are Coptic Christians i.e. Christians since generations. These Arab Christians are bearing witness that the Muslims were tolerant and did not spread Islam by the sword. Had the Muslims been intolerant, there would not have been a single Arab who would have remained a Christian. The Muslims ruled India for about a thousand years. They had power of being intolerant to the non-Muslims but today more than 80% of the population of India are non-Muslims. All these non-Muslim Indians are bearing witness today that Muslims were tolerant and that they didn’t force their religion at the point of sword.

Indonesia is a country that has the maximum number of Muslims in the world. The majority of people in Malaysia are Muslims. May one ask, “Which Muslim army went to Indonesia and Malaysia?” Similarly, Islam has spread rapidly on the East Coast of Africa. One may again ask, if it was due to intolerance and the use of sword, “Which Muslim army went to the East Coast of Africa?”

The noted historian De Lacy O’Leary responds to this popular myth in the book “Islam at the crossroad” (Page 8):

“History makes it clear however, that the legend of fanatical Muslims sweeping through the world and forcing Islam at the point of the sword upon conquered races is one of the most fantastically absurd myths that historians have ever repeated.”

(Dr. Zakir Naik is the President of the Mumbai-based Islamic Research Foundation and can be reached at

Source: Islamic Voice


Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Terrorism is not a Muslim monopoly

Swaminathan S Anklesaria Aiyar

"All Muslims may not be terrorists, but all terrorists are Muslims." This comment , frequently heard after the Mumbai bomb blasts implies that terrorism is a Muslim specialty, if not a monopoly. The facts are very different.

First, there is nothing new about terrorism. In 1881, anarchists killed the Russian Tsar Alexander II and 21 bystanders. In 1901, anarchists killed US President McKinley as well as King Humbert I of Italy.

World War I started in 1914 when anarchists killed Archduke Ferdinand of Austria. These terrorist attacks were not Muslim. Terrorism is generally defined as the killing of civilians for political reasons.

Going by this definition, the British Raj referred to Bhagat Singh, Chandrashekhar Azad and many other Indian freedom fighters as terrorists. These were Hindu and Sikh rather than Muslim.

Guerrilla fighters from Mao Zedong to Ho Chi Minh and Fidel Castro killed civilians during their revolutionary campaigns. They too were called terrorists until they triumphed.

Nothing Muslim about them. In Palestine, after World War II, Jewish groups (the Haganah, Irgun and Stern Gang) fought for the creation of a Jewish state, bombing hotels and installations and killing civilians.

The British, who then governed Palestine, rightly called these Jewish groups terrorists. Many of these terrorists later became leaders of independent Israel — Moshe Dayan, Yitzhak Rabin, Menachem Begin, Ariel Sharon.

Ironically, these former terrorists then lambasted terrorism, applying this label only to Arabs fighting for the very same nationhood that the Jews had fought for earlier.

In Germany in 1968-92, the Baader-Meinhoff Gang killed dozens, including the head of Treuhand, the German privatisation agency. In Italy, the Red Brigades kidnapped and killed Aldo Moro, former prime minister.

The Japanese Red Army was an Asian version of this. Japan was also the home of Aum Shinrikyo, a Buddhist cult that tried to kill thousands in the Tokyo metro system using nerve gas in 1995.
In Europe, the Irish Republican Army has been a Catholic terrorist organisation for almost a century. Spain and France face a terrorist challenge from ETA, the Basque terrorist organisation.

Africa is ravaged by so much civil war and internal strife that few people even bother to check which groups can be labelled terrorist. They stretch across the continent.

Possibly the most notorious is the Lord's Salvation Army in Uganda, a Christian outfit that uses children as warriors. In Sri Lanka, the Tamil Tigers have long constituted one of the most vicious and formidable terrorist groups in the world.

They were the first to train children as terrorists. They happen to be Hindus. Suicide bombing is widely associated with Muslim Palestinians and Iraqis, but the Tamil Tigers were the first to use this tactic on a large scale.

One such suicide bomber assassinated Rajiv Gandhi in 1991. In India, the militants in Kashmir are Muslim. But they are only one of several militant groups. The Punjab militants, led by Bhindranwale, were Sikhs.

The United Liberation Front of Assam is a Hindu terrorist group that targets Muslims rather than the other way round. Tripura has witnessed the rise and fall of several terrorist groups, and so have Bodo strongholds in Assam.

Christian Mizos mounted an insurrection for decades, and Christian Nagas are still heading militant groups. But most important of all are the Maoist terrorist groups that now exist in no less than 150 out of India's 600 districts.

They have attacked police stations, and killed and razed entire villages that oppose them. These are secular terrorists (like the Baader Meinhof Gang or Red Brigades).

In terms of membership and area controlled, secular terrorists are far ahead of Muslim terrorists. In sum, terrorism is certainly not a Muslim monopoly.

There are or have been terrorist groups among Christians, Jews, Hindus, Sikhs, and even Buddhists. Secular terrorists (anarchists, Maoists) have been the biggest killers.

Why then is there such a widespread impression that most or all terrorist groups are Muslim? I see two reasons. First, the Indian elite keenly follows the western media, and the West feels under attack from Islamic groups.

Catholic Irish terrorists have killed far more people in Britain than Muslims, yet the subway bombings in London and Madrid are what Europeans remember today.

The Baader Meinhof Gang, IRA and Red Brigades no longer pose much of a threat, but after 9/11 Americans and Europeans fear that they could be hit anywhere anytime. So they focus attention on Islamic militancy.

They pay little notice to other forms of terrorism in Africa, Sri Lanka or India: these pose no threat to the West. Within India, Maoists pose a far greater threat than Muslim militants in 150 districts, one-third of India's area.

But major cities feel threatened only by Muslim groups. So the national elite and media focus overwhelmingly on Muslim terrorism. The elite are hardly aware that this is an elite phenomenon.


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