The shooting of the brave Pakistani teenager, Malala Yusufzai, underscores a reality, without exaggeration, about the degree and severity of misogyny of Islamic extremists. The shooting, which the 14-year-old activist and campaigner for girls’ education survived, is an ever-growing stain on Pakistan’s fabric of militancy and mindless misogynist orthodoxy. The list of threats and violence against women and liberal voices is long. This week BBC profiled an Afghan female rap artist, who is a proud patriot, yet receives regular threats by militants, including threats of acid attacks. In Dagestan, militants murdered the fourth Sufi cleric this year.
What drives these hyenas to commit senseless acts of violence against innocent civilians and even children? Are they so threatened by girls that they have to resort to such tactics as acid attacks and shootings of school buses? Is this what their seminary curricula have taught them, to hate everyone who doesn’t conform to their own way of thinking, and to fear girls, especially educated ones? I once reprimanded my students for using the word “barbaric” for the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, but now I lament my actions. The behavior of these militants and extremists, which are not restricted to the Af-Pak region, is beyond barbaric. They transcend the Dark Ages in their regressive madness and extremes. They make me hate the news and cringe every time I reach for BBC or NPR. They are a dark cloud hovering ominously over the “modern” Muslim world today, and sadly many Muslims remain defensively in denial or apologetically rationalize the existence of these ugly elements, or re-frame Shariah (Islamic law) to distance themselves from such ideologies.
If so called moderate and liberal Muslims fail to acknowledge the reality of these extremists and their agendas, and, more importantly, fail to counter these militant and extremist forces in their midst, dire consequences await Muslim communities worldwide. Some of these consequences are already occurring, including:
- Hijacking and undermining children’s education systems, in the guise of “religious education,” by the infiltration of extremist and ultra-orthodox ideologies that promote intolerance and potentially militancy. Such ideologies include Wahhabism and Salafism;
- Stifling of liberal and Sufi voices and practices, as well as destruction of religious sites, as in the case of Salafi destruction of Sufi shrines and UNESCO heritage sites in recent months in Mali and Libya;
- Attacking and killing non-Muslims in the name of Islam, as in the case of Boko Haram killing Christians and attacking churches in Nigeria;
- Increasing the oppression of girls and women and religious minorities, as well as religious pariahs (e.g., sectarian groups like Shiites, and religions like Bahaism), and denying their rights and freedoms;
- Stoking anti-Americanism, anti-Westernism, anti-modernism, and anti-Jewish and Christian sentiments, again in the name of Islam;
- Undermining democratization and socioeconomic progress, especially by means of suppressing segments of society like women and minority groups;
- Repressing intellectual freedoms and the arts;
- Arbitrarily invoking takfir (calling someone a non-believer, or an apostate) and blasphemy labels, resulting in excommunication or even death of the targeted individual;
- Questioning modern secular ideas, education, and progressive lifestyles, and seeking to repress them;
- Locking entire communities in cycles of religious authoritarianism and totalitarianism by use of force or threats of violence, peer pressure, and excommunication;
- Killing anyone who opposes them;
- Focusing on nothing but their own myopic concepts of “jihad” and manipulations thereof;
- Pursuing agendas of territorial expansion, areas of operation, recruitment, and cooptation of local government, law enforcement, and religious officials, where possible;
- Blaming everything on the US, Jews, and Israel;
- Interpreting religious laws and principles literally;
- Attempting to superimpose 7th century ideas and practices on the present;
- Bullying innocent people into submission and conformity, resulting in religious fascism that does not tolerate dissent, nor does it tolerate women’s rights to choose how they dress, live, acquire an education, work, and marry or divorce.
The end result of this religious fascism is nothing but destructive, oppressive, intolerant, and violent, authoritarian male-dominated communities living anachronistically in a 7th century time warp. In fact, that itself is an untruth, because much of these extremists’ attitudes and behaviors pre-date Islam. Yet, they insist on attributing their take on Islam as replicating the time of the Prophet Muhammad in 7th century Arabia. Still, even the latter was not such a shining example of women’s emancipation and rights, certainly not by modern standards, nor was it brimming with religious tolerance and harmony. Pre-Islamic Arabia fared even worse of course, but to compare these historical contexts to modern times is a non-starter. Hence, the extremists’ backward regression is far worse than anticipated. We all thought the Taliban were the worst when they emerged in the 1990s, but now they have parallel groups and ideologies that mirror them in many respects. And we have the Saudis to thank for the proliferation of Wahhabi / Salafi ideologies that are inspiring these extremists and militants.
Last year and even earlier this year, I had high hopes for post-revolution political and socioeconomic development in Tunisia, where the 2011 Arab Awakening began. Now, Salafist thugs are threatening to derail stability and security in Tunisia, while continuing their violent agendas and attacks. Even as recent as October 31st, there have been fierce clashes in Tunis, as Al Jazeera reports:
“Wielding sharp tools and swords, the protesters went on the attack in the Tunis suburb of Manouba after police arrested a Salafist suspected of assaulting the head of the suburb’s public-security brigade, Khaled Tarrouche, interior ministry spokesman, said.
‘There has been a reinforcement of security, of the National Guard, of the army to prevent any retaliation’ by the Salafist movement, Tarrouche said on Wednesday.
‘The response by the security forces led to the death of an attacker who was hit by a bullet.’
Two security force members were also seriously injured, he said.”
These extremist elements are enemies of knowledge. They are haters of peace and harmony. They are the most intolerant towards tolerance. Muslims must not bury their heads in the sand about this. There is way too much at stake.
NOTE: Everything I write in this blog constitutes my personal opinions and views