Clash Within Civilization

One good citizen of the world sent me a very exciting video depicting the emerging demographic scenario of the future. It painstakingly analyses the fast unfolding pattern of the world population. It’s a sort of undeclared race, in which the overwhelmingly bulging Islamic contingent comes to the fore. I find it irrefutable – it’s as certain as death; because, Muslim fertility rate is much higher than any other ethnic group. It will easily overtake others in numbers fulfilling the prediction of former Algerian President Muammar Gaddafi that the future world would be predominantly Islamic, without using swords or resorting to terrorist acts. Obviously, it dismays a sizable section of humankind, while Islamic folks should rightfully rejoice over the fact. Therefore, Muslims should feel jubilant for gaining overall supremacy in the not so distant future. But will that future be really peaceful and therefore, desirable?

Here I’ll present my view on the topic – not in the capacity of an authority, but as an ordinary member of global society. It is purely based on empirical phenomena impacting a sensitive mind. Be ready to take it with a pinch of salt.

I am a hardcore atheist, at the same time a hardcore secularist. I always respect a believer – any believer. If the whole world becomes ‘red’ or ‘blue’ it hardly matters to me. And it doesn’t matter to the Earth either – it’ll keep spinning on its axis with a slant of 23 degrees as usual. I understand belief is a supreme necessity for the majority of mankind. Each belief is sacred and equally important as in the case of any other believer. I can imagine how dear one’s belief is to his/her heart. As per Buddhist Channel, Kuala Lumpur, there are about 4,000 religions in the world – including the mainstream and those on the outermost fringes. Every believer thinks only s/he is on the right track; every other groping in the dark alley in futility. And I believe every individual has the right to think differently.

Everybody is conditioned by the envelope of the environment. That envelope embraces anything tangible or intangible the subject comes in contact with. It includes you, me and every other body.

I don’t believe in total view – an oft-repeated phrase of J.D. Krishanamurthy. I think having a ‘total’ view is an impossible concept. No man can have a total view of anything –this is humanly impossible. Some deficiency will always remain. One may suffer from the illusion that his view is total – including that of Krishnamurthy. But whatever I see now appears broadly correct for the time being. However, it is always a relative perception. Again, the ‘domain’ of relativity keeps on changing. Take for granted my views are not free from imperfections.

Professor Huntington propagated the theory of ‘Clash of Civilizations’. This primarily relates impending disharmony between Islam and Christianity. However, many denounced him. I consider either it is done deliberately or due to one’s failure to see it through the right perspective. What I observe now is not a clash of civilizations – which is visible even now -- rather, ‘clash within civilization’ itself.

To prove my point I will cite two recent incidents taken at random.

Saudi Arabia, a staunchly conservative Muslim country, of late, allowed women to participate in sports activity. Of course, it is not without a rider: it is restricted to elite private schools only. Private schools cater to a handful of rich sections of the society. The majority of other schools remain debarred. Still, it is a relaxation of the strictness of longstanding conservatism. Saudi participated in the London Olympics by sending some women athletes. It is a token participation, not with the intention of competing, though. All the same, it signifies loosening of traditional orthodoxy even in the most conservative Islamic country. And it is bound to happen sooner or later, because under the impact of globalization spawned by technological advances none can remain insulated from the rising tide of modernity. With the passage of time it assumes the importance of inevitability. The end result: no conservatism can ward off the inescapable erosion of old customs and values. It is visible in many other Islamic countries – like Turkey, Indonesia, Pakistan, and Lebanon et al. It will happen in the remaining --if any-- orthodox countries as well, in due course of time.

The other incident is the fierce opposition of a section of people protesting against declaring Bangladesh a secular country. They demand it should be designated an Islamic country.

Both the trends are contradictory to each other. On the one hand there will be breakdown of the traditional citadel of orthodoxy; on the other there will be tremendous opposition to transition to modernity -- an unavoidable compulsion of the time. This kind of tug of war occurred with any reform movement in Christianity and Hinduism too. But the obduracy was of a different kind. In their cases it got stabilized by subsequent reconciliation, which may not be possible in case of Islam. The entire Islamic world will remain festered due to this perennial inner contradiction. On the one hand the modern states will not be able to remain insulated, on the other there will be staunch resistance to opening out. It will remain a persisting paradox.

Take the recent incidents of Sunni Muslims washing off the Koranic verses from the walls of Ahmadiyya mosques in Pakistan. Not to talk of tolerating other religions, intolerance remains within Islamic communities itself. Ahmedias also are ‘infidel’. Current terrorist activities going on in Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan are carried out by Muslims for the noble cause of maintaining purity of Islam. Even if the other kind of terrorism is eliminated, Islamic terrorism may not be wiped out. It is based on ‘true’ interpretation of scripture. There are innumerable ingredients which can easily be interpreted as anti-Islamic triggering mass conflict. Do you think Shia-Sunni dispute will ever be resolved? Similarly many more discords will spring up between Islamic nations and within an Islamic nation with the passage of time.

Presenting Jihad means ‘struggle for self improvement’ and ‘blasphemy an invitation for further discussion’ – as some liberal Islamists try to advance – is not going to cut ice with the radicals. No need of bringing any other religious belief colliding with Islam – it is generated within Islam.

It will pose a serious problem in the future. I don’t think it can be warded off. Only endeavour, if at all, could be to limit it. That itself will be a tough task in the future.

Don’t brush it off or gloss over it. It seems to be a real threat – even if the whole world turns to Islam – as it is claimed or desired by many – the threat will remain alive and intensify with time.

In every religion there are different sects – it is bound to be. Let’s take the case of Buddhism: There are many forms of it; Theravadins, Mahayanists , Pure Land Buddhists and Nichiren Buddhists and so forth. All differ widely, still coexist with peace. So is the case with any other mainstream religions. This may not be possible with Islam. Saudi’s opening up and Bangladesh’s opposition to it – both are unavoidable. Both conflicting compulsions, in various forms, will remain active. This is the germ of constant conflict. To think it can be eradicated is to believe in utopia.

I recognise there are good points in every religion and there are opposites too. There is no constant or rigid pattern – it is an unfolding scenario.

Islam is the fastest growing religion of the world today. Irshad Manji, a Canadian reformist and progressive interpreter of Islam, confesses her father was a ‘nominal’ Muslim. How many Khans are ‘nominal’ Muslims in India? I’m appalled to find remarks that Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, founder of Aligarh Muslim University, was not a true Muslim. According to their interpretation all moderate Muslims fall into this category. Does Irshad Manji represent a true Muslim? Our own Imam of Jama Masjid, Maulana Syed Ahmed Bukhari called renowned celebrity figure, social activist and a former MP, Shabana Azmi a ‘naachne gaanewaali aurat’. It clearly implies Islam doesn't permit women taking part in acting, singing, and dancing leaving aside many other things a modern woman does. He couldn’t take any action on her but resentment continues to simmer inside. Can the Koran be tampered with? By modernizing and re-interpreting the Koran will mean gross mutilation of the Holy Book – it will no longer remain a revered repository of Allah's own words. So, there will be enormous discords in the future as 'correct' exposition of the scripture will vary from one sect to another.

If you think in a predominantly Islamic world there will be no ‘dhimmy’ – that is no non-Muslim or infidel, thereby eliminating altogether the existence of ‘Dar al-Harb ‘– the ‘zone of conflict’ and the entire world will be ushered in to ‘Dar al-Islam’ – the ‘zone of peace’ you are likely to be in for a huge ‘Blunderland’.

This article was originally penned by the author in 2013


More by :  Nalinaksha Mutsuddi

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