Where are the Muslim Voices?
Abuses at the Abu Ghraib Prison in Iraq have been haunting me for the last few weeks. However much I look at the photographs with horror and disgust I am also aware that it doesnt take much nor too long for some people to become abusive in certain situations and under certain conditions - especially when society or authorities condone it - openly or by innuendo. Not only can people become abusive but they can also justify their behavior to suit their twisted mentality. Such ethically and morally corrupt people believe that the end justifies the means.
(Check out the results of the Stanford Prison Experiment at: http://www.prisonexp.org, to see how peopleҒs psyche is distorted under pressure and when in command.)
These events were soon followed by the brutal and senseless murder of an American, Nicholas Berg. This cruel and inhumane act sends chills down my back. It is scary to even imagine that anyone is capable of such cruelty. What kind of a sick mind would call this justice or even revenge? It went far and beyond what is humane, disrespecting life that is sacred and to be valued.
The stark truth is that such senseless actions are not only against all teachings of Islam but also inexcusable. There can be no justification or explanation for such insane actions. Nothing, absolutely nothing can make such an action palatable to anyone with any degree of conscience. It is unacceptable and blatantly shameful. Abuse is absolutely unacceptable, whatever shape or form it takes, regardless of who commits it.
Retaliating with cold-blooded murder does not undo anything, nor can it further any cause except instigate more hatred and violence. Islam does not allow anyone to take it upon himself to exact justice for any crime, personal or otherwise, without going through the legal process. They are going against Islamic teachings by taking matters into their own hands. When they stoop below the actions of the people they are angry at are they any different than them? They arenŒt any different, they arent any better.
We canҒt fool ourselves into believing that this band of immoral thugs are in any way capable of protecting our honor and rights. If need be they will have no problem killing the same people that they claim to protect in the same cold manner. If you take a thief for a protector dont be surprised when he steals from you. Such groups stoop to the lowest of low when they commit such a horrendous crime. And they have the gall to say this is in the name of Islam҅ how dare they defile a religion that they obviously know nothing about. Islam teaches us that one of the signs of a dead heart is that it cannot discern between right and wrong it deludes itself into believing that everything it does is right. If in their deluded minds they think they are furthering the cause of Muslims they could not be more wrong.
Muslims who support such idiocy need to wake up and stop condoning these deranged men who murder innocent people. They need to study Islam and learn the ethics of war and treatment of captives. Have you forgotten how Bin Laden turned against the people of AfghanistanŅ killing, abusing and oppressing the same people that he was supposedly defending and protecting? Have you forgotten the injustices against the Afghani women? Have you forgotten the atrocities of Saddam Hussein against his own people? Are these really the kind of heroes that Muslims need? Never forget that someone who is capable of being so cruel and unjust against your enemies will use the same tactics against you. Such a persons goal is not justice but control and power҅ who they crush to get it is the least of their concerns. Ethics and moral values are not their concern either.
A couple of sayings of Prophet Muhammad come to mind. One is that if people knew the extent to which they would be held accountable as leaders they would not want leadershipђ. The other one is that the kind of leadership you will get depends on the kind of people you areђ (ie: honest, dishonest, abusive or just and compassionate). Both give insight into the perils of leadership and the role of the populace in choosing their leader.
The leader and the people are interlinked, like the infinity loop they feed into each other. Leadership by nature is about power, and it doesnt take long for power to turn one blind and abusive. Preserving self-interest at the cost of others generally backfires. Apathy and greed at the personal level will beget injustice at the national level.
I donҒt support the war; but even more so I cant, wonҒt and will not support such an exhibition of crude violence in the name of Islam or Muslim honor. If anyone has an ounce of self-respect, honor and compassion they cannot tolerate such cruelty. Islam demands a much higher standard of ethics and moral values from its followers. How long can we keep saying that Islam does not allow such cruelty without taking any action to condemn it?
The issue of prison abuse is separate from the cold-blooded murder of Nicholas Berg. Neither is excusable nor acceptable. Two wrongs dont make a right.
Granted, not all Muslims support such senseless acts of the cruel… but then where are we and what is our responsibility in all this? Our voices should be loud and clear in denouncing such un-Islamic tactics that these self-created groups choose to follow. Preventing such people from committing injustices is a duty of every Muslim.
A hadith of Prophet Muhammad tells us how to act in preventing injustice:
“Support your brother when he commits or suffers injustice”. A man asked the Prophet (pbuh): “Messenger of God, I understand that I should support him when he suffers injustice. How do I support him when he commits injustice?” The Prophet (pbuh) answered: “You prevent him from doing injustice. That is the best support you give to him”. (Muslim, BukhҢri)
Another hadith tells us:
On the authority of Abu Saeed Al-Khurdari, who said: I heard the messenger of Allah say: “Whosoever of you sees an evil action, let him change it with his hand; and if he is not able to do so, then with his tongue; and if he is not able to do so, then with his heart; and that is the weakest of faith.” (Muslim, Bukhri)
As a community it is our responsibility to not condone such actions and to discourage abuses of any kind. Just shaking our head with disgust doesnt cut it. Moral responsibility requires that Muslims make it clear that such actions are not supported. People⒒s actions or non-actions shape the identity and actions of such groups. If there are more voices denouncing such acts it will not be long before support for such groups will start dwindling. We need to raise awareness and the conscience of our own people. We need to be more vocal and make our presence known. Not supporting such actions does not make one anti-Islam, just a more conscientious and ethical Muslim.
So where are the Muslim voices… there are some but we need a lot more.
Uzma Mazhar May 2004