Istanbul was not enough. Dhaka was not enough. Baghdad was not enough. And Madinah will not be enough. Each worse than the last. The loss of life in Madinah is fortunately much less. But this was meant to be a symbolic assault. The numbers do not matter. They finally came. What has been preached through Wahabbi/Salafi exclusivism for decades has finally culminated in an attack on the resting place of the Prophet itself. This of course is not a time for the ‘I told you so’ rhetoric. This however is a reminder of what is it that has brought us to this point, and it begs the question, that does it not lie upon us more than anyone to rid of this adulteration of the ‘righteous’ path that makes a ‘Muslim’?
This will be another fruitless pursuit, however. The answers are already known. “Muslims cannot do this.” “This is a Judeo-Christian conspiracy.” “ISIS was created by Mossad.” But there will never be an acknowledgement of the multitudes of failures from within the Muslim world. The failure to adapt. The failure to counter. The failure to preserve. The failure to take responsibility. The failure to provide justice. The failure to create consensus. And the failure of leadership.
Soon after the bombing outside Masjid-i-Nabvi, which killed 5 guards, there were already people claiming that “this cannot be a work of a Muslim.” Except one thing: No ‘non-Muslim’ is allowed near the Holy sites. By all standards, these attackers were Muslims. It is only to differentiate ‘us’ from ‘them’ that this denial still exists. Even the scholars at Al-Azhar – the home of the highest Sunni Muslim scholarship – refused to declare them (ISIS) ‘apostates’. If by your standards of ‘being a Muslim’ they are not so, it does not really matter, because you are not one yourself by their standards. In reality, both sides are very much Muslim. The former may still have some sanity and eventually see things as they are. The latter will, however, never stop here. They see their ‘salvation’ in destruction of whatever does not conform with them. Wusatullah Khan once said, “If we are going to go by their version (of Islam), the best Muslim from among us will also be the very last.” Because they are willing to kill any and every one to be the ‘best’ of Muslims.
The origins of ISIS are well-known. The US and its allies in the West had a key role in it, but so did its allies in the Middle East. The money that helped put ISIS on the map came from none other than Saudi Arabia and Qatar. A new proxy as they saw it in 2013-14 for political gain. Turkey wanted a share too for want of a leading role in the region (as in its past). And Iran came in as the self-proclaimed defender of Shite Islam that it wants to be after the surrender of its nuclear program. So, why not, what could possibly go wrong? Well.
Politics aside, the more entrenched issue here has always been Wahhabism and its closer counterparts all around the Muslim world. War breeds extremes. And the extreme that wins is usually the worst of them. On one side, we have the Muslim youth which is under an identity crisis for more than a century, with no capable Muslim leader to lead them nor a Scholar (Mujtahid) to guide them. On the other side are the ones who have already taken refuge with reactionary ideologues and their intolerant worldviews. Worst still is the fact that those who do lead Muslims not only hinder but make it impossible to create a middle-ground where the extremes can be reconciled.
A reconciliation has to take place if we are to preserve the ‘real’ Islam. It has to start with the youth. Identity is at its frailest at this age, most vulnerable, ready for the plucking. No amount of Liberal education in elite, private schools can counter hate that is born through the hijacking of one’s own identity. The fact that the attackers in Dhaka were all from the upper class, studied at liberal universities does not mean that Islamic leaders and preachers get off the hook. Each of these individuals disappeared 5-6 months before the attack, they were radicalized by hate-preaching Mullahs, and then they came back. The result is in front all of us. This is what happened in the case of Saad Aziz as well, the alleged killer of Sabeen Mahmud and the mastermind of the Safora Goth attack. The case is often used by opponents of Liberal education, except that they ignore the fact that near to his graduation he travelled to Waziristan for considerable periods of time. Similar examples like that of Al-Qaeda’s Ayman al-Zawahiri and Osama bin Laden also pop up, which also ignore the facts that Zawahiri was a member of the ‘Ikhwan al-Muslimeen’ as early as when he was 14-years old and Bin Laden left his business degree to pursue Syed Qutb’s Jihadist ideology.
The thing about education is that it is ‘learned’. Religion, however, is something that is ‘believed’. What version the Youth in the Muslim world are being taught decides their fate. And unfortunately the version with most appeal is Wahhabism, with its deep-pocketed backers and ability to induce the false consciousness to agree with the narrative of ‘saving’ Islam.
Islam did not need saving in Baghdad, neither was it saved in Madinah.