‘True Islam’

The reaction following any jihadist terror attack in the West follows a seemingly premeditated pattern. Both modern-day Orientalists and ‘moderate Muslims’ blame the West, while being over-defensive about Islam – hence playing right into the jihadists’ hands.

A week after the Orlando shooting, it’s still being debated whether the attacker should be called a jihadist. When the father of the ISIS (and al-Qaeda) sympathising Omar Mateen confirmed that his son “got very angry when he saw two men kissing”, the attack seems like a leaf out of ISIS throwing homosexuals down from buildings in Iraq and Syria.

Mateen, a follower of the homophobic jihadist ideology, that propagates death for homosexuality, was facilitated by the US’ masochistic gun-control policies. Hence, it’s important to address gun laws and the jihadist ideology, both of which equipped Mateen for the greatest mass shooting in modern American history.

Of course it would be bizarre to suggest that Islam – or religion – has a monopoly over homophobia, as manifested by anti-gay legislation in Jamaica, Uganda and Russia among others. China, which staunchly enforces irreligion, has also passed homophobic legislations. Even the current leader of the West and his backed candidate for the US presidential elections both voted against same sex marriage in 2008.

But unlike the West where gay rights have evolved to a point where same-sex marriage is being mulled, and in many areas legalised, the Muslim world isn’t even ready to consider the simple reality that a Muslim can be gay. This in turn is because most Muslim states manifest jihadist bigotry themselves, by derailing UN’s resolution for recognition of LGBT rights or 10 of these states upholding death penalty for homosexuality.

When a 51-country bloc of Muslim nations won’t let the UN General Assembly accept homosexuals as human beings, and Islamic scriptures denounce homosexuality (Surah Al-A’raf 7:80-84, Tirmidhi 1:152), why are we adamant on denying the prevalence of homophobia in the Muslim world, and the causal conjunction between violence against the LGBTQI and Islam?

The ‘people of Lut’ have been equally condemned in Christian and Judaist scriptures as well (Genesis, Chapters 11–14), for their homosexual behaviour. But why is it that it’s just the Muslim states that have formed a united front at the UN against the LGBTQI?

In the year 2016, it’s radical Muslims who are trying to impose their religious ideology the world over. Similarly, the orthodox version of religion is significantly more prevalent in the Muslim states, than the rest of the world. This results in varying illusions of a seventh century caliphate being peddled as the ideal form of governance by not only jihadists, but also the majority of Muslim states and a large chunk of ‘moderates’ as well.

Modern-day jihadism breeds on two ideas, neither of whom is vocally refuted by us Muslims. First, that West is to blame for Muslim world’s volatility. Second, that Islam is a superlative doctrine, and ideologically self-sufficient to govern the world.

But if Western imperialism fuels terrorism, why aren’t Latin American militants marauding around the world? And why is Bangladesh jolted by jihadism?

What is it that unites jihadists of different ethnicities and nationalities under one umbrella, currently spearheaded by ISIS? If it’s Islam, or their Muslim identity, it doesn’t explain the Muslim world’s popular rejection of ISIS.

It’s the desire to impose Islam – known commonly as Islamism – that is the driving force behind jihadism, with neocolonialism, socio-economic disintegration and other factors largely playing second fiddle.

If the Islamic state is this utopia, why is the implementation of Islamic law and societal development diametrically opposed? If everyone has got the interpretation of Shariah and Islam wrong, maybe it’s time to consider the obvious: that it’s irrelevant what ‘true Islam’ is.

Anyone who claims to oppose jihadism needs to condemn the idea that any version of Islam – just like any other ideology – holds the monopoly over truth, and in turn is supreme enough on its own to govern the entire planet.

There is a menacingly high percentage of Muslims that support imposition of Shariah law. While the 84% of Muslims in Pakistan and 74% in Egypt (Pew survey) who want outmoded legislation for blasphemy, homosexuality, adultery, might not join ISIS, it is this non-violent extremism that gives credence to jihadism.

What makes it more perilous is the duplicity of the many prominent religious scholars, where they condemn the extremist parts of the Islamic doctrine in front of western audiences, while promoting Islamist supremacism among Muslims.

Also, that most of the victims of jihadism are Muslims in no way absolves the Muslim world of its contribution to its spread. In fact, the predominance of Muslim victims is the logical corollary of the origins of jihadism.

True to its kind, the jihadist monster feeds off the nearest, which includes every Muslim not conforming to violent Islamism, who is excommunicated as ‘untrue’ Muslim. The self-defeating reaction to this is Muslims apostatising ISIS, instead of making the idea of ‘true Muslim’ redundant.

What we need is honest embracement of plurality in the Muslim identity and the understanding of Islam, instead of holding any version of the ideology as the ultimate truth. For, as long as there is a ‘true Islam’ there will be many willing to kill and die for its imposition.

It’s a daunting, nay impossible, task to surgically remove bigotry out of the current mindset. But let’s vow to teach the coming generations an egalitarian version of Islam that embraces equality in its purest form. Accepting Ahmadis as Muslims and LGBTQI as equal human beings will be the final hurdles for progressive Islam.

Kunwar Khuldune Shahid is a former member of staffHe can be reached at khuldune.shahid@nation.com.pk. Follow him on Twitter

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