By Syed Ali Mujtaba
The catch phrase – “This is who we are” is interesting. This was what the US President Barak Obama thundered when he announced the killing of the most wanted US terrorist Osama Bin Laden.
Why this phrase is interesting because I hared the same catcall after the ill-fated 9/11 episode. Someone discreetly whispered in my ears, it was to demonstrate “this is who we are.”
In the aftermath of the killing of Osama Bin Laden, the lunatic voice of same tone and tenure is doing rounds in certain quarters and I am flabbergasted when this cycle will come to an end.
It’s like a duel between the shield and the arrow, as for every superior shield there are smarter arrows. Both seem to have the resolve of one up against the other. Both seem to be on the right side of the justice, even though they know they are not.
The US policies of unilaterally pursuing its national interest have created havoc ever since the end of the cold war. Its deliberate designs to trample the interest of other nation to serve its own interest have created a lot of bad blood. The vengeance of that hatred was manifest in the 9/11 episode. The pity was it was taken as an act of terrorism,
The shock therapy of 9/11 was to bring the super power to its sense and tone down its arbitrary policies. However, contrary to that reasons, it paved way heightened arrogance and the beginning of the policy to tell the world “this is who we are/”
When I watched the photograph of Obama, Hilary and co, watching the CIA briefing on Operation Geronimo, I was reminded of the movie “Hard Target” (1993).
In that movie a bunch of psychopaths plays the game of head hunters. They feed some malnourished people and make them physically strong. They then organize an event where those folks are to run for their life and in the process those psychopath hunts them down. The psychos then laugh at their laurels each time, till the hero Van Dam, takes those bulls by the horn and give a run for their money.
The killing of Osama Bin Laden looks to me a script of similar to that of “Hard Target.” That bunch of most powerful people on this earth reminded me of those psychopaths of the movie who took sadist pleasure in taking the blood of those running for life, playing the dirty game “This is who we are.”
I am sure, when it might have been announced that “enemy is killed in action” Obama may have done the NBA hero Karim Abdul Jbbar’s act, leaping up few feet from the ground, raising his hand in exclamation shouting “We got him”!
To me, Osama was like, Van Dam who took up the challenge by the scruff and for ten years defied the most powerful nation on the earth equating with the hero of “Hard Target,” eventually to fall to the superior arrow. This however does not mean that arrow has upstaged the shield and the duel has come to rest. It’s an unending fight with no clear cut winner.
It’s a dirty game based on lies, cunningness, hatred and deceit. The most ironical part is there seems to be a conspiracy of silence among the nations of the world and none has the moral courage to say to stop this madness.
There are few exceptions. Former Cuban President Fidel Castro criticized the way the United States carried out the raid against Osama bin Laden. He said the U.S. raid in Pakistan violated that country’s laws and offended its dignity.
In India, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and DMK President M. Karunanidhi said the path taken by Osama bin Laden cannot be termed as ‘Islamic terrorism.’ He argued that just because bin Laden took to terrorism to achieve his goal, it cannot be called Islamic terrorism. Anger against any person cannot be justified in the form of terrorism, he wrote.
However, these are fringe voices and by and large the community of nations has condoned the acts of the US and it acts that it has skirted under the war against terror.
There are no two opinions that terrorism in any form has to be opposed tooth and nail but then this does not mean that those who become the cause of terrorism should be condoned.
It’s high time that the voices of sanity may take center stage and have the moral courage to speak “This is who we are not.”
Who will bell the cat, it’s hard to foresee, but then this trend if goes unchecked does not boa well for global peace.
Perkasa chief Datuk Ibrahim Ali has called lawyer Syahredzan Johan a traitor for saying that the Federal Constitution has never stated Islam is the country’s “official religion”.
Syahredzan had commented on an Utusan Malaysia report that Christians want to usurp the religion’s place in the charter.
The Umno-owned paper and some Malay-Muslim groups, including Umno leaders, have been pushing the view that the country’s highest law proclaims Islam to be its “official” religion and that only a Muslim can be its prime minister.
Syahredzan, who is the Bar Council’s constitutional law committee chief, said Utusan’s reading of the law was wrong and warned the Malay-language daily was pushing what he described as a “dangerous misconception” that could plunge the country into religious and social unrest.
“In terms of the Federal Constitution, there’s only one religion for the federation, no official or unofficial. The Constitution is clear on this. Islam is not the official religion,” he said to The Malaysian Insider when contacted yesterday.
Today, Ibrahim said that Syahredzan was trying to boost his popularity in the Bar Council that was full of non-Muslims.
“The constitutional lawyer has a narrow brain or is he making the statement for the sake of wanting to be popular among the Bar Council lawyers which are mainly non-Muslims. Please don’t be a traitor to Islam,” he told the Malaysian Insider.
Ibrahim explained that since Islam is the only religion recognised by the Federal Constitution and it was therefore implied that it is the official religion.
“Even though the Constitution only mentions Islam as the federal religion, therefore in terms of definition when other religions are not the federal religion then Islam itself becomes the official religion.
“That is the intention of the Constitution. Why does Syahredzan not understand this?” he said.
Article 3(1) of the Federal Constitution does not position Islam as the “official” religion of the country.
It only states that “Islam is the religion of the Federation; but other religions may be practised in peace and harmony in any part of the Federation.”
The Federal Constitution does not expressly specify race or religious requirements for the position of prime minister.
Article 43(2)(a) of the constitution states only that the Yang di-Pertuan Agong shall appoint as PM a member of Parliament who in his judgment is likely to command the confidence of the majority of the Dewan Rakyat
A great deal has been written about the stark simplicity and honesty of the early believers and how the rustic, desert tribes conquered the world within two decades of the dawn of Islam. What fascinates me no end though is their seminal contribution to modern science and all streams of pursuit of knowledge. From astronomy to anatomy to medical science and from mathematics to chemistry to physics to navigation and from philosophy to poetry, Muslims have not just left an imprint on modern science, they have shaped our world.
Did you, for instance, know that it was an Arab woman, Fatima Al Fihri, from Morocco who founded the world’s first university? Or the fact that the blue print of modern camera was created by an Iraqi scientist, Ibn Al Haitham, more than a thousand years ago? He wrote the Book of Optics that led to the invention of camera.
How many of us, accustomed to the comfort and speed of air travel, realize that the idea had been first tried by a curious pioneer called Abbas Ibn Firnas? With his body covered in feathers and “wings” strapped to his arms, the Berber polymath took to the sky in 9th-century Cordoba, managing to “fly” several meters before crash landing. It was clearly a work in progress! But let’s not forget it happened a thousand years before the Wright brothers attempted their flight.
New York these days is hosting an unusual exhibition profiling hundreds of such pioneers, from Ibn Firnas to Ibn Sena, in a long due tribute to the contribution of the Islamic civilization. “1001 Inventions: Discover the Muslim Heritage in Our World” that opened in the Big Apple last month after immensely successful shows in London and Istanbul attracting 800,000 visitors is an attempt to recreate the glory of the magical millennium, from 700 to 1700 AD, that changed the world.
It was during this period between the fall of Rome and the rise of the European Renaissance, that Muslim civilization led the world in science and technology and virtually everything else. From the humble coffee beans to the crafty game of chess to windmills to clocks to fountain pen to soap to surgical instruments and from quilting or sewing to gunpowder, the list of Muslim inventions is endless. Five hundred years before Galileo discovered earth was round and was duly punished for it by the church, the Muslim scientists had established the spherical nature of the planet.
IN the empire of the faith that stretched from Spain through the Middle East to China, new ideas were constantly generated, encouraged and embraced. It’s this ferocious hunger for knowledge that took the Arabs and Muslims to great heights of power, prosperity and intellectual supremacy. They fought the battle of ideas from a position of strength, challenging reigning ideas and ideologies of the time.
They looked for and embraced the best from around the world. Which was how the science of arithmetic from India and Greek philosophy were passed on to Europe and the rest of the world. Indeed, the Arab contribution played a critical role in the progress the West has made over the past five centuries.
A culture of excellence coupled with their willingness to learn enabled the Muslims to conquer new lands. Muslim countries were home to scores of universities and libraries long before Oxford and Cambridge came to be founded in Europe.
When the Mongol armies ran over the Middle East sacking eminent centers of power and learning like Baghdad, Damascus and Alexandria and killing hundreds of thousands of people, historians say that there was more ink than blood in rivers. The invaders had burned and dumped in the river hundreds of thousands of invaluable books and rare manuscripts authored and collected over the centuries.
How would you then explain the current intellectual stagnation? Why aren’t Muslims part of the knowledge revolution any more, let alone leading it? Have they run out of steam as a people and as a civilization?
It’s no coincidence that power began to slip Muslim hands just when they stopped exploring and expanding new horizons of knowledge. Muslims haven’t produced one intellectual or scientist of the stature of Ibn Rushd and Ibn Sena, or Averroes and Avicenna, in the past many centuries.
Why? Because the movement of knowledge and ideas that once drove the Arabs and Muslims and fired their imagination has lost itself somewhere. A small European nation or a backward Indian state could boast more universities today than all the Arab countries put together.
All we do these days is spend all our time and energy on pointless delusions of grandeur and fruitless debates. Instead of doing something constructive and positive to lift ourselves out of the dangerous intellectual morass and stagnation we are stuck in, we are busy issuing fatwas condemning each other.
There was a time when most Arab countries did not have much by way of financial and material resources. Thankfully, that’s not the case today. Yet they are not making the most of the boom driven by the oil wealth discovered during the last century. Instead of endlessly building those malls, hotels and palaces and other delusions of grandeur, shouldn’t the Arabs be investing their resources in building knowledge infrastructure like universities, research centers, think tanks and the media? Ours is the age of knowledge.
A war of ideas is on. And only those well prepared and equipped for it will survive this battle of hearts and minds. If for nothing else, Arab countries should make greater investments in knowledge for their restive, young generations. After all, majority of the Middle East’s population today is young and very restive. They are growing up with a sense of purpose and direction and a keen consciousness of their place in the world. The Arab nations will ignore them at their own cost.
There’s no dearth of talent or resources, human or material, in the Muslim world today. What it needs is original ideas and men who could translate them into reality. More important, what is needed is an opening of minds.