"Sir, why is it that all terrorists are Muslims?" a Class 11 student of Modern School, asked me this question during a discussion about current events. This was a very timely, bold but sensible question and being a Muslim, I was accountable to address the curiosity in the minds of a class of 52 students.
The student isn't the only one to have alluded to the Western media coined statement that all terrorists are Muslims but all Muslims are not terrorists. With so many voices stating that the religion advocates violence, Islam is today under the scanner. Not all of them can be wrong - people judge by what they see and today these terrorists speak and act violently in the name of Islam.
I told the student that the guiding themes of every religion are the same. Islam too has the same theme and ideology as other religions but a few people misled some of its followers in the name of god.
26/11 (Mumbai), Kafeel in Glasgow, Mumbai blasts by the Memons and others in India, the jehadis in Kashmir, 9/11, 7/7 (London), 13/12 (Delhi), 29/10 (Delhi) and the Al Qaeda at a global level - all these make my head go down in shame.
It's so embarrassing that each time a Muslim name is found attached with the inhuman and insane acts of terrorism.
Note that jehad is the most misunderstood and misconstrued concept by our non-Muslim brethren and even Muslims. The true concept of jehad in Islam is not to be against other communities, groups or religions but to be against one's own selfish nature, vices and shortcomings within Muslim society in order to fight evil, injustice, inequity, illiteracy and ignorance. First an individual fights jehad against himself to get cleansed. After that he continues the efforts with his wife, family, locality and the whole community. This is Jehad-e-Akbar, the right meaning of jehad.
Terrorism is a political process and religion or a religious community has nothing to do with it. Neither does any religion teach to kill innocents (that is what the terrorists do) nor are the terrorists the people chosen by that religious community to undertake such ghastly acts on their behalf.
Nevertheless, an average Muslim's fears are hate crimes, difficulty in finding jobs, admissions and residential accommodation, unwanted repercussions, distrust and other such things that always get exacerbated by such incidents. Muslims also fear a backlash like the 1984 Sikh riots against them. Terrorists should not be helped in creating a rift between communities.
The Mumbai attackers did try to create a cleavage between Hindus and Muslims. However, though a tragic incident, it did have a silver lining in that it cut across religious lines and saw people uniting in their horror and outrage.
But leaders of some parties have even begun to think that any criticism of Pakistan would not be relished by this country's Muslims.
I still remember that during the last general elections in India, to appease Muslims the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) boasted of the Lahore bus and improving relations with Pakistan as one of its major achievements. It's so sad that these people still treat Indian Muslims as Pakistan's stooges.
Though all Indians know that a few terrorists do not tarnish a whole community, the government for fear of losing votes will not take the matter up with the Pakistani government seriously and will just resort to rhetoric.
It is quite clear now that Indian politicians of all shades were somehow living under an illusion that if they were to turn harsh against acts of terror, they would alienate the Muslims of this country.
When will they ever realize that by doing so they are clearly reflecting their perverted psyche of labeling all Indian Muslims as pro-Pakistanis, which is the worst abuse for any Indian Muslim.
Going soft on terror will not make Muslims happy as the perpetrators of such acts do not segregate their targets by religion. If the politicians of this country think that by shying away from taking on terrorists directly and by going soft on terror they will get kudos from Muslims, they are sadly mistaken.
The public in general has now had enough of those who exploit religious sentiment in order to gain electoral and political mileage. The recent poll results in Delhi are an indication of that.
The rider is: let us save Islam from "the Muslims", Hinduism from "the Hindus", Christianity from "the Christians", Judaism from "the Jews" and Sikhism from "the Sikhs" and other zealots as religion is a very personal matter and as humans, we are all same.
(Firoz Bakht Ahmed is a commentator on social and religious issues and the grandnephew of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, the freedom fighter. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)