By Manzar Imam for Twocircles.net
New Delhi: During a heated Q & A session following a talk on “Islam par Maghrib Ke E’tirazat” or ‘The Objections raised in the West about Islam’, Professor Ebrahim Moosa, a prominent intellectual and Professor of Islamic Studies at Notre Dame University’s Department of History, Indiana, USA said that many of the questions raised today about Islam and Muslims in America and Europe were in fact raised due to the negative approach and misuse of religion by a handful of misguided individuals professing Islam but practicing wrong and un-Islamic actions. The discussion was organised by Islamic Fiqh Academy, India on Sunday, January 8, 2017.
The Professor maintained that there had been a centuries-old history of conflict between Islam vis-à-vis the West. But after the ouster of Muslim rule from Spain, it was understood that there would be no more such clashes and conflicts. However, later, following the Gulf War (1990-91) and especially after 9/11, the same sentiments started to rise and it deepened after the 9/11 attacks. He further said, “Till Operation Desert, this was seen as an anti-Arab sentiment but post 9/11 the intensity grew and it became a widespread anti-Islam sentiment”.
Muslims in the West and other parts of the world are now viewed differently. And, with the rise of ISIS, Islam is portrayed as a threat: a phenomenon which, instead of being apologetic, must be countered especially by the intellectual class of Muslims. He said that there are about 19 million Muslims in Europe and, in America alone, there are about 3 million Muslims who are not only elite but very influential. There are Muslims in key posts in the USA and Europe whose image will get maligned if extremist groups like the ISIS are not defeated, discouraged and condemned from every quarter, he said.
The largest numbers of victims of the attacks of these so-called Islamic groups are Muslims themselves and the chaos generated as a result of these mindless acts have ripple effects across the globe. This is giving rise to objections about Islam while the truth is that Islam does not advocate any such activities and it condemns violence in all its forms. Against this backdrop the Professor appealed Muslims to “shun victims’ mentality” and better their relations with their respective co-countrymen.
Prof. Moosa, who has also taught at Duke University and the University of Cape Town, emphasised the need to reinterpret certain jurisprudential decrees which were contextual and confined to particular demands and times. He said that Muslims need to understand their legacy and they also need to understand that they are living in a political environment which calls for pragmatism because Islam is a practical religion.
A leading scholar of contemporary Muslim thought Professor Moosa suggested that Muslims should blend their experiences with their issues and then seek a solution to their problems. He was referring to the need for ijtihad or Islamic way of reinterpreting certain religious texts to find answers to new and day-to-day questions confronting Muslims especially at a time when religion or religious texts were being widely misused by extremist elements to justify and glorify their actions.
On the question of America’s ‘double standard’ in carrying out attacks under false pretexts in Iraq and elsewhere he said, “The challenge for Muslims is how you are going to solve the problem. Mere understanding is not a solution. It needs ‘strategic intelligence’ of which there is a complete lack.”
(Manzar Imam is a Ph.D student at the Academy of International Studies, Jamia Millia Islamia.)