Thee alone do we worship, and Thine aid alone we seek. Show us the straight way, The way of those on whom Thou hast bestowed Thy Grace, those whose (portion) is not wrath, and who go not astray. (Quran 1:5-7)
When the US was beginning to wage war against Iraq, the discourse in the public square was highlighting how evil Saddam Hussein is, and a laundry list of the evil he does plus speculation that he might have weapons of mass destruction.
The same programming is played over and over again after our relations with other leaders turns sour. Each side goes to their airwaves to promote themselves as the champion and protector of their people, hyping their people up and showing how evil the other is.
The pictures and conversations when relations were good between such people goes into hiding, as well as the secret talks and deals on how to strike a deal that robs and oppresses others.
Tariq Ramadan, Professor of Contemporary Islamic Studies at Oxford University, said it best on his social media accounts:
These violent extremists kill, burn alive, torture, rape... Westerners, Japanese, Jordanians, Muslims and people of other faiths... While some States imprison, rape, torture and kill.
Muslims are caught between these two madnesses. Now the silent majority - full of spirit, moderation and courage -, must speak up against these two objective allies of their historical failure. We cannot play the victims anymore and we must confront both the extremists and the despots at the same time. If we are serious, and ready to stop being apologetic.
There is no question in my mind that ISIS is a barbaric movement, yet when the Iraq war was being promoted, even by Oprah Winfrey at the time, many raised concerns that this war might open the way for terrorists to rise to power and many feared no one would be able to control them. No one listened as we were so caught up in the hysteria of fighting evil blindly, without seeing our own contributions.
As we condemn ISIS, we are also blind to our financing of Israeli apartheid and many military bombardments of Gaza, where our weapons and money burned Palestinian civilians - men, women and children alive. We are also blind that our drones burn people alive as well.
The deceptive dawn is a vertical light, that splits the darkness of the night into two sets of darknesses. It happens right before the darkest moment of the night.
Similarly, we are caught up in a deceptive reasoning reality where we must prove how evil they are, blind to our contributions, deluded that therefore we proved we are civilized and better than them. Each side claims the vertical light, and in fact it becomes a means to see the darkness within.
The real dawn is a horizontal light, a light that gently rises and brings clarity and understanding for all. No one can claim it for themselves, but we join hands at the junction point that all lives are sacred and condemn violence by all.
There is no resistance in my mind or heart that ISIS needs to be condemned. I do not in any way incline toward the evil they say or do. Many scholars have spoken up against their vile hatred and violence.
However, the issue is not how evil they are, but how they got to power.
I wrote the following article, Oprah Winfrey, Warmonger?, before the Iraq war. I have argued then as I do now that these deals and wars spill anarchy in the region producing hotbeds for extremists, terrorists and further ethnic wars. I spoke to many politicians in groups that went to argue against the war. Many were caught in the hysteria. I recall arguing with the late Senator Paul Wellstone, who was facing reelection at the time and was concerned to stand with his conscience at a difficult time, since he was in a tight race with former Senator Norm Coleman.
I told him, "If you were going to die tomorrow - what does your conscience tell you?" He stopped and paused and didn't say anything but later, he spoke against the war, saying he has to listen to his conscience. He died and never made it to the next election.
Coleman became senator and later on lost a reelection.
The Iraq war went on and now that the consequences are unfolding - we point fingers at each other.
The same discourse took place when Al Qaida emerged as well. One day we loved Taliban and now we hate the Taliban. This is not freedom.
The Muslim community as always is caught off guard by the emergence of ISIS and many are at a loss at their behavior. There are no credible solutions. Condemnations were and are continually issued as well as many refutations by scholars and intellectuals on their barbarism. Some went to declare ISIS as kafirs or apostates, to remove any Islamic credibility to their voices. Yet, the chaos exists and in such a situation - who listens and uses their intelligence?
We must pause here.
It is easy to start a war, or a revolution to topple evil people, but many fail to understand that stopping such violence when it spills anarchy is a very, very difficult task, and requires very strong, reliable, competent and trustworthy leadership BEFORE it begins.
In addition, if the means and discourse that brought them to power are being promoted elsewhere, then we might find ourselves closer to the darkest hour.
Let us reflect that all lives are sacred, and before we obsess with our security from them, let us also reason with ourselves that others have as much right to be secure from us, so that the real dawn break can emerge.
I appreciate the civil comments. I would like to explain that I am not advocating pacifism but moreso that when we make a decision to wage war, our discourse should obsess less on how evil the other is, and moreso on how trustworthy those making the call to war are. In addition, we must acknowledge our contributions to the current climate and choose leaders who were not involved in these contributions. That was the reason, I interviewed Shaykh Qays Arthur, on the story of Bilqis, the Queen of Sheba and Prophet Solomon, upon him peace. As Albert Einstein said "We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them."
"We trust politicians who speak straightforwardly, don’t promise what they can’t deliver, explain their policies and their difficulties with reasonable caution, and visibly try to deliver what they promise."
Regarding my usage of the Quran in blogs, this is more an attempt to respond to individuals and groups who are publicly and loudly making claims that the Quran promotes violence and extremism. These claims are now on bus ads and subway signs, etc.,
Instead of mentioning their names, I prefer to respond to their arguments by exploring the Quran and letting its wisdom and guidance speak.
The verses regarding warfare were explained many times in numerous blogs as well as inviting international speakers to visit Minnesota and engage the audience.
Regarding the verse mentioned in the comments section: I recall in a class on communications, we discussed all types of communications. There is a communication between family, loved ones, neighbors, and there is also communication during warfare. People in the military discussed the this communication style. It usually comes in form of commands, tough, forceful, as you are dealing with a climate of war. The aim of such language is to take things seriously and to be vigilant, focused, and prepared to make split second decisions. It is war, and war should be the last resort, but sadly it is now the first.
During warfare, as I stated before, trustworthy leaders must have a strategy to stop the war, not just in combat, but to also prepared to nurture reconciliation, restoration and peace so that revenge attacks do not spill over. The verse mentioned in the comment sections is a beautiful verse which speaks in the context of warfare when facing a force that is engaged in genocide. One has a responsibility to stop such a force and push it to its boundaries. When that force has been pushed back forcefully, then promote peace. This is not easy to do. It is easy to preach peace, love, compassion and mercy when you are not harmed. Everyone does it, yes, including Muslims.
However, the truest and most authenic expression and manifestation of love, compassion and mercy is right at the point when you are fighting a force seeking to wipe you out, and you pushed them through combat to their boundaries and now have power over them. How many can now desist and promote or preach peace?
Look carefully at the verse, as there are two wars being waged. One against the transgressors (transgressing the boundaries of others) and another against the self to desist and promote peace when the war stops. It is not the deceptive dawn, us versus them reasoning, but a holistic warfare to end oppression, as it is our duty to do so.
I recall reading something by Martin Luther King along the same lines. Internally, King admonished himself, "You must not harbor anger." To nurture society to a higher understanding and fight injustice, King said "there had developed beneath the surface a slow fire of discontent, fed by the continuing indignities and inequities to which the Negroes were subjected."
So look at the verse again, and read the context and the time it was revealed. There are two wars being waged, not one.
For further reading, I recommend the following books as well as the authors:
- Muslim and Non-Muslim Relations Reflections on Some Qur’anic Texts, Dr Jamal Badawi
- Islam and Peace, Dr Ibrahim Kalin
- Warfare in the Qur’an, Dr Joel Hayward
- Publications and writings of Tariq Ramadan