This is a conversation I had over chai with Qasim bhai, an old friend of mine who has become a mullah. We spoke in Hindi with a smattering of Urdu. However, for readers not conversant with these two languages I have, to the best of my ability, written the dialogue in English.
Certain personal aspects of our talk have been omitted for reasons of confidentiality. My dear friend’s name too has been changed, according to his wishes.
MQ: How many years since we last met?
MU: About 20, I think? And why have you become a mullah? I remember the wild times we had.
MQ: How is Kavita?
MU: Hah…you wanted to marry her…hahaha…she is married, has two children and is a housewife. And you?
MQ: Married with four children. All girls. I am blessed. My wife is a school teacher. And you?
MU: (I prefer to leave this out). Are you a preacher?
MQ: Yes. I speak about insaanyat…about humanity. Look at the world today. Islam is hated and Muslims are branded terrorists even those who don’t hold a gun, who want to live in peace. Many non-Muslims have something negative to say about us even if they don’t know anything about the religion. There is a media feeding frenzy that likes of which I have never seen. And I am frightened.
MU: Terrorism has become synonymous with Islam. A look at what is happening in Middle Eastern countries… The radicalisation of the religion…beheadings even in the West…come on MQ are you suggesting this has nothing to do with Islam?
MQ: Bhaijaan, since you have tempted me to comment on a subject of much anguish to me, I shall oblige.
Islam to an extent has had a violent history. But so have the other two Abrahamic religions – Judaism and Christianity. The Old Testament and Koran to an extent are holy books that showcase much violence. The crux of the problem is about collecting souls. Both Islam and Christianity is about conversion. So they have become competitors. Today they compete…like two companies selling an exclusive everlasting life. And if you look at the Hindus, one cannot convert to Hinduism. One is born a Hindu. The same is for Judaism. One is born a Jew. However, of late the Jews are permitting conversion after many years of study etc.
The reason we see the rise in violence is because of:
- Social disparities
- Economic disparities
- Unnatural borders. Countries that have been carved up by others with vested interests.
Put all these factors together and add a religious tone to the grievances and what have you? A ready-made situation with willing bloodthirsty people bent on destroying anything and everything in their path in the name of Allah. Mind you, Allah has nothing to do with this. When you study the cultures of the Middle East you will understand that it is people, the politicians, religious leaders and business people that create such situations.
Anyone can raise a flag shouting Allah Aur Akbar and threaten violence but where is the money for this. Money is needed for everything…food….shelter…clothes…weapons…So where does this money come from. People don’t just hand out money. They do it with a purpose in mind. There is an agenda. The Islamic State, I believe, has over US$ 1.5 billion! It didn’t fall from the sky! This has been engineered by very powerful countries.
Why has such situations not arisen in India when the Middle East burns? The reason is that India, even though it was invaded and ruled for hundreds of years by Muslims remained a Hindu country. And this is because the prevalent culture is so strong, so deep. Consider this – India is the fountain of spiritualism. It gave the world many great religions – Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism etc. But the base culture was/is Hinduism. When Islam came to India and conversions took place…the people converted were Hindus…the religion of the converted changed but not the mindset. Also the Muslims have been living side by side with Hindus and other faiths for centuries and thus people have learnt to live and make do. Whereas in the West this is not the case. So that is why people are hysterical about Islam taking over their lands.
How do you understand the mindset of Muslims in the West? Why have they become so prominent? And why have mosques there become recruiting grounds for wannabe jihadists?
There is a disconnection between cultures. As you know people make cultures. Culture in itself is just a word. And here lies the problem. For when people migrate for economic reasons they focus on earning money but fail to make any effort of understating the host culture. They carry their culture with them…the soul being their religion and language…for fear of losing their culture they adhere to their faith and mother tongue…unfortunately this often translates into a form of reverse discrimination …discriminating against the host culture. Add to this the many other social disparities and a wedge is created between Muslims and ‘others’. The violence, the growing belligerence of ‘western Muslims’ is the result. But is this Islam? No. It is a law and order problem which has to be dealt with with the relevant laws.
The rising violence and growing belligerence of Muslim communities in western nations is fuelled and funded by vested interests. There is no religion in this, no Islam. Islam has become a brand to use because it is easily recognisable but completely misunderstood and feared…
MU: How will this end Qasimbhai…blood continues to flow…
MQ: When all right thinking Muslims stand up and shout from the rooftops that enough is enough. But they can’t do this alone. They need help from other communities.
MU: Sounds good but where do we start?
MQ: Muslims must not mindlessly donate money or listen/follow the diktats of ‘violence professing’ mullahs. These mullahs must be reported to the authorities. And the western country’s lawmakers must impose a law to deal with such people.
The truth of Islam lies in believing there is one God, all merciful and all forgiving.
Personally, I don’t believe in Prophets but that does not mean I don’t respect and honour them.
All hate is manufactured from insecurity. We have to free ourselves from this hate. And how do we do this? By respecting each other’s faith. By respecting each other’s culture. It is that simple. Alas, there are vested interests out there that don’t want us all to live in peace because there is much money to be made in murder and mayhem.
We talked about the education of his children, his dream to set up a centre of learning for people of all faiths to study each other’s religion and the price of rice and wheat. After a few cups of chai we departed…each to his own world.