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Genuine pressure-points in sensible dialogues on Islam

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Prasad Binoy
Prasad Binoy
Binoy Shanker Prasad holds a PhD from the University of Missouri-Columbia. Originally from Darbhanga, Bihar (India), Binoy lives with his family in Dundas, Ontario (Canada). He is a former UGC teacher fellow at JNU in India and a Fulbright Scholar in the USA. Author of scholarly works including a book, Violence Against Minorities, Gandhi in the Age of Globalization (a monograph) and a collection of poems, Dr Prasad has taught International Politics and Political Sociology at Ryerson University, Centennial College and McMaster University. He has guest-lectured at such institutions as the School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), George Mason Univ., Univ of Madison-Wisconsin, and Redeemer Univ. Socially active, Binoy has also been a two-term president of Hamilton based India-Canada Society (2006-08 and 2018-20).

Abstract: In the most tragic circumstances of the charges of blasphemy against Nupur Sharma, beheadings of her sympathizers and the PFI’s project plan to bring about Ghazwa-e-Hind to Bharat by 2047, it’s imperative to know and teach the new generation of Muslims about Islam. It will be erroneous to assume the 19.5% Muslim population of India will stay Islamists once they are told about the foundation of Islam – the Quran, the Hadees and the biography of Muhammad. 

Not essentially in the Mullah-Maulvi circles only, but in the modern intellectual-academic community also, discussions on several significant turning points in the Islamic history will keep coming back. The expeditions of the founder of Islam, the rapid spread of this faith and its international grip are the subjects that would keep engaging the curious scholars.

To take one important milestone in the journey of Islam, for example, in 622 CE, according to many historic explanations, the Muslims led by Muhammad were “escapee migrants” to Medina, if not invaders or intruders. They had never been there before, as a collective. According to the Islamic calendar, they had escaped to Medina to save themselves from ‘persecution’. Another explanation asserted they had entered Medina to regroup and reorganize themselves militarily. In the process, they did upset the social harmony of the local people. 

Historians have given detailed description of the killings perpetrated by the soldiers of Muhammad. Muhammad and his followers, according to them, were forcing and alluring people of Medina to embrace a new faith, Islam; turn into its foot soldiers and share the booty. That’s how they expanded their army and got back to conquer the place they had left – Mecca. 

Muslims weren’t Muslims, it’s argued, until they had converted into Islam and in Medina they were offered shelter because they had portrayed themselves as the victims of persecution for their faith. Later on the locals of Medina were reported to have realized that Muhammad and his armed followers were there to change the faith and the status-quo of the natives – the Jews, the Pagans, the Christians and other tribes. 

Critics argued that the Islamists in history had played the victim card and the warrior card both at the same time. They brought people in their fold persuasively before exercising brute force and the law of apostasy to keep them in Islam. 

No wonder, historically, the seminal question related to Muhammad’s Medina migration keeps coming back: Why did Muhammad have to leave Mecca for Medina? Was that in search of a better living, as the life in Mecca was tough for him and his family? Or, was that for the purpose of expansion of his newly-established faith Islam into new territories?

Why will Muhammed be persecuted by the Pagans or other tribes including the Jews, as is accused, until he had done something adverse to them: Historians say Muhammad and his followers asked the pagans not to worship their gods; he and his followers attacked and desecrated the Kaaba which had idols of multiple gods and goddesses installed inside it for generations. He and his followers put pressure on everyone else to accept that Muhammad was the “Final” messanger of God. Many researchers on the Quran, including Amina Sardar of Afghan-Demark background maintain that Muhammad was never presented as the “Prophet” but only as a messanger. 

In another instance, questions have been raised as to why Muhammad and his followers would insist on Monotheism when that was obviously not a new concept – the Jews and the Christians in the region were already preaching and practicing monotheism. It was the supremacy, exclusivity and lordship of Muhammad – or, his cult – that was being questioned and resisted. Muhammad and his forces eventually subdued their dissenters by force.   

Further, according to the Islamists who advocated on behalf of Muhammad claimed that he was first welcomed by the “noble” people of Medina and later on betrayed by the Jews. They alleged Muhammad and his cavalry were attacked from behind by the Pagans. This happened, it’s insisted, after he had concluded agreements of peace with them. In fact, it was explained these noble people of Medina were the same pagans, Jews, Christians and all types of Arabian tribes who had given Muhammad and his caravan shelter assuming the latter were really displaced victims of certain circumstances. They soon realized Muhammad and his followers were there to change their faith and plunder. Then, it’s deduced, the locals must have turned against Muhammad and his forces. Followers of Islam called it, “the betrayal of Muhammad.” 

Many commentators pointed out that wherever the Islamists, the followers of Muhammad, had gone around the world, they followed the “Medina model.” In other words, they had first settled and then displaced the local culture and faith. Their common modus operandi was: they entered a new place (if they weren’t conquerors) as merchants or travelers and then requested a place to put up their encampments. After finding their feet on the ground, they continued to do commerce and prayed. And then they preached their faith as superior to the faith of the indigenous people. Finally, they either won over or forcibly converted people into Islam. 

Scholars of African background have documented how the Arab Islamists invaded and Islamized many parts of Africa. They still do, for example, with the help of the Janjaweed Arab tribes in the Darfur region of Sudan. 

It will have to be pointed out though the Christians were the first to enact this playbook. From a non-Christian, non-Islamist point of view this was a common methodology adopted to expand the colony of faith. Christianity was a little different as it took science, technology, medicine and modern governance also along with itself; Islam, with few exceptions, remained stuck in the 7th Century. 

Whenever there were demands for reforms or change, they were brutally suppressed by the Taliban, Muslim Brotherhood, Al Quaeda, ISIS or Boko Haram-type forces. 

An honest everyday Muslim with a peripheral insight in Islamic history would always say: “Pious Islam doesn’t teach violence or forced conversion; Islam is only an invitation to prayer and to God that is universal (monotheism).” They genuinely believe in the innocuousness of their faith. Most non-Muslims around the world would also like to believe the same way. But Islam hasn’t been so in the way it has spread and entrenched itself, the critics argue.  

Next, when it’s asserted according to Islam only Allah could dispense judgement/ultimate punishment to a person for his/her action – not any human being – then why would Muhammad deliver decrees to kill or banish any one? Was he just a human being, a warlord or a messenger of god or a prophet? How was the supremacy of Muhammad determined first and then enforced, if not through self-declaration by Muhammad himself or his camp-followers on the strength of the sword? 

Sane Muslims may differentiate between right/humane punishments and brutal or inhuman punishments. But the Islamist punishments, according to Sharia, are brutal and inhuman – cutting arms or hands for theft, stoning for adultery or homosexuality etc. are barbaric and against the Human Rights Charter the world has agreed to.

Finally, a word on the places the Muslims conquered and occupied. The Islamists appear to have deliberately obfuscated whether the Muslims “conquered” a place (including Jerusalem) or Islam was forced upon the locals (mainly, the Jews, Christians and other tribes) or the locals “accepted/embraced” Islam. This was partly to show Islam was a religion of peace. The fact is wherever Islam went, it was backed up by the sword, war, conflict, bloodshed and forced occupation. The Temple Mount (Jerusalem), Umayyad Mosque in Damascus (Syria), and Hagia Sophia (Turkey) are only a few examples.

About the author:

Originally from Darbhanga, Bihar (India), Dr Binoy Shanker Prasad lives in Dundas, Ontario (Canada). He is a former UGC teacher fellow at JNU in India and a Fulbright Scholar in the USA. Author of scholarly works including a book, Violence Against Minorities, Gandhi in the Age of Globalization (a monograph) and a collection of Hindi poems, Dr Prasad has taught at Ryerson University, Centennial College and McMaster University. He has also been the president of Hamilton based India-Canada Society (2006-08 and 2018-20).

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Prasad Binoy
Prasad Binoy
Binoy Shanker Prasad holds a PhD from the University of Missouri-Columbia. Originally from Darbhanga, Bihar (India), Binoy lives with his family in Dundas, Ontario (Canada). He is a former UGC teacher fellow at JNU in India and a Fulbright Scholar in the USA. Author of scholarly works including a book, Violence Against Minorities, Gandhi in the Age of Globalization (a monograph) and a collection of poems, Dr Prasad has taught International Politics and Political Sociology at Ryerson University, Centennial College and McMaster University. He has guest-lectured at such institutions as the School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), George Mason Univ., Univ of Madison-Wisconsin, and Redeemer Univ. Socially active, Binoy has also been a two-term president of Hamilton based India-Canada Society (2006-08 and 2018-20).
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