December 10, 2005
Going to extremes Muslim fundamentalists distort the faith's
teachings and unjustifiably restrict women's freedom
Prophet Muhammad and Islam a great disservice",
writes Raheel Raza in her first book
has so galvanized the violent tendencies in Islam that the faith has
been transformed from a religion of love to a culture of hate? The
answer is very complex. It is rooted in social, political and
in his book Intellectuals and Assassins, writes: "Throughout
history, political extremists of all faiths have willingly given up
their lives simply in the belief that by doing so, whether in bombings
or in other forms of terror, they would change the course of history, or
at least win an advantage for their cause."
writes in her book The Battle for God, "Every fundamentalist
movement I have studied in Judaism, Christianity and Islam is convinced
that liberal, secular society is determined to wipe out
analyzes that fighting - as they see it - a battle for survival, these
fundamentalists often feel justified in ignoring the more compassionate
principles of their faith.
based attitudes of these absolute puritans are at odds, not only with a
Western way of life, but also with the very idea of an international
society or the notion of universal human values.
In amplifying the
more aggressive passages that exist in all of our scriptures, the
religious extremists distort the tradition and implement hardships and
restrictions on women, which are not in any way or form part of the
At the time of the
revelation, Islam came as a saviour for women who were sold as slaves or
buried alive in Arabia. Islamic injunctions gave women freedom,
equality, the right to vote, own property, do business and not be
obligated to hand over their earnings. They were also given freedom of
choice in marriage and divorce.
there has remained a huge gap in the preaching and practice of Islam in
the sphere of women's issues.
there is no formalized priesthood, so the Qur'an is open to individual
interpretation. There are religious scholars, called ulema, who are
experts in the scripture, so Mus
lims are advised to choose an imam or
leader from amongst them, based on their piety and expertise in both
Arabic is a rich
and diverse language in which one word can have 10 meanings or
interpretations and needs to be understood in proper historical context
and supported by the practice and tradition of the Prophet called Sunnah.
ability of human beings to interpret texts is both a blessing
burden. It is a blessing because it provides us with the flexibility to
adapt texts to changing circumstances.
It is a burden
because the reader must take responsibility for the normative values he
or she brings to the text. Any text provides possibilities for meaning,
not inevitabilities. Those possibilities can be exploited or developed
by the reader's good faith. In other words, the meaning of the text is
only as moral as the reader.
Misguidance is a
universal phenomenon found in the outside world and within ourselves.
Linking terrorism to Islam is like linking Pearl Harbour to Buddhism,
Timothy McVeigh to Christianity or calling Baruch Goldstein, who shot 29
worshippers in the Hebron mosque, a true martyr of Israel.
guidance is also a universal phenomenon. In other words, the human race
is not conceivable without both prophets and satans. This leaves most of
us between a rock and hard place. While we condemn acts of terrorism and
sympathize with the victims, we find war against innocent civilians is
not the solution to any problem.
War is a state of
mind well-echoed in the UNESCO constitution, which notes, "Since
wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the
defense of peace must be constructed."
In his message for
the World Day of Peace on Jan. 1 2002,
Pope John Paul II said, "No
peace without justice, no justice
This is the
message of the ancient prophets and the bedrock of every true religion
and true morality. The Prophet of Islam always looked for ways to
eradicate injustice and inequity, looking upon them as the root cause of
most evils. The Pope went on to say that all world religions must
co-operate to eliminate the social and cultural causes of terrorism by
teaching the greatness and dignity of the human person and by spreading
a clearer sense of the openness of the human family.
As an ancient poet
once expressed it:
If there is light in the soul,
there will be beauty
in the person
If there is beauty in the person,
there will be harmony in
If there is harmony in the house,
there will be order in the
If there is order in the nation,
there will be peace in the