Thursday, June 23, 2011

Critique of “frank Assessment of the Global Muslim Situation”


Analyses and criticisms are welcome only if they serve some purpose. Just lamenting about plain and apparent facts without offering anything new is not a good critique. In his “frank Assessment of the Global Muslim Situation” Maqbool Ahmed Siraj has managed to pique the Muslim pride, probably intending to sound different and kick up some sensationalism, but without much substance.

It is hard to find out what is negative in the things he projects: pictures of mosques popping up in all corners of the earth, Muslims praying on streets of Paris or Madrid, nearly three million gathering around the Kaaba on the 27th night of Ramadan, the holy Quran being distributed by lorry loads among the faithful during the pilgrimage et al. What is wrong with all these? This sort of analysis betrays the mindset of a pessimist, to put it mildly.

Also his “rationalization" of religious conversions to Islam can be certainly done away with. “the fact is that some in the West are in quest of spiritual solace and definitely turn to Islam fascinated by the images of neat rows of namazis praying in solitude of mosques or the spirit of renunciation visible through Hajj pilgrimage. But for the majority of the enlightened citizens of the world, Muslim world holds no charm. ” he says. Well, conversions to Islam cannot be rationalized like that. Scores of people have accepted Islam and many have left it from the time of Prophet Muhammad itself for various reasons. The Muslim community of today are the descendants of those who have “survived”. The background for religious conversions is purely moral and nothing else.

The laggardness of the Muslim community in matters science and technology is a concern shared by everyone, and certainly not a breaking news as Siraj purports it to be. Rather than just informing us Muslims have not invented even a safety pin for the past seven centuries the author would have done a service had he pointed out what is wrong with Muslims which explains their backwardness, or suggested any remedies for their problems; then this bemoaning would have been justified.

While Muslim incompetence in many practical arena including science and technology has to be acknowledged, Siraj's tendency to compare Arabs and Muslims to the West which boasts of an incomparable saga of material advancement and glory inherited from the Greco-Roman tradition is far-fetched. It must be realized it may not be possible to match everyone else on every account and that human history is indeed a story of give and take.

Siraj tends to belittle numbers of the community by his statement: “But numbers is not all that Islam requires projecting itself as the alternative”. Well, numbers are indeed important. Numbers ensure the community survives to the future and will have enough adherents to build up a great civilization anytime they really want to. It is the numbers, and not military prowess, which has “defeated” the U.S and allies in Iraq and Afghanistan despite their apparent military victory there, who are now at least convinced it is not possible to "finish off" Muslims and plan to go back.

At the same time he is blind to many positive aspects of Muslim civilization. The progress the GCC countries have made in the wake of the discovery of oil has been commended by even western countries. It is not just about oil. It is a testimony for the management trait of the Arabs. How the GCC countries manage vast highly skilled foreign population much more numerous than the native population utilizing the latest technologies and ideas speaks on their open-mindedness and progressiveness. I don’t believe it would have been possible by many other groups. The social security, life ethics and tolerance to other nationalities in Arab countries should also be appreciated.

Also Siraj doesn’t note the pro-democracy struggles now being undertaken by the Arab world. It is obvious that this poor people are suffocating under the autocratic rule of their tyrants and are willing even to sacrifice their lives for freedom and bring back glory to Islam. So only an objective analysis which takes into account the unique challenges Muslims face will do more justice to the topic.

It is unfortunate that, barring a few useful (desperate) statistics, Siraj’s rhetoric itself holds little to write about.

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