This is truly one of the saddest pictures that I have ever seen. You can see how she is holding back her tears. What have we adults done to our children?
I defend Islam. Not those who call themselves Muslim but go against Islam.
ISIS is a political problem. Not a religious one.
So trying to explain ISIS and its actions through the Qur’an and Sunnah – the theological basis of Islam is futile and misleading. ISIS is a narrative started by those who created ISIS and to answer them is to play into their hands.
It is like someone who asks, ‘Have you stopped beating your wife?’ You can’t answer that question in the normal way by saying yes or no. You are damned if you say yes and you are damned if you say no. The only way to answer that question is to say, ‘I never beat my wife.’ Or even better, say, ‘I am not married.’
This is the raising of a voice in the hope that I will be joined by other voices – not only Muslim voices – but Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Sikh, Atheist, Anyone voices – of people who believe in compassion, morality, ethical behavior, justice and accountability. People who live by principles that reflect integrity and honesty and a sense of responsibility for our lives and actions. People who are not racist and who don’t put a differential value on the lives of other people; who consider murder to be equally heinous no matter who is killed. People of courage who are not afraid to stand for justice, especially when they stand alone. People who don’t do it because they think it will change the world. But who do it because they don’t want the world to change them. People who one day will then discover that the world did change. Change for the better to leave behind a legacy of honor. It is to such people that I speak. And it is they who I wish will respond by raising their own voices for justice, ethics, integrity and compassion.
The people of ISIS will never be able to justify their actions by the Qur’an and Sunnah. This corrupt and malicious group will continue to appear and be cut off until the Dajjal himself will emerge from among them.
Abdullah ibn Amrtreported: Rasoolullahﷺ said: ‘There will emerge from the east some people from my nation who recite the Qur’an but it will not go beyond their throats. Every time a faction of them emerges it will be cut off. The Prophet repeated this and on the tenth time he said:
كُلَّمَا خَرَجَ مِنْهُمْ قَرْنٌ قُطِعَ حَتَّى يَخْرُجَ الدَّجَّالُ فِي بَقِيَّتِهِمْ
Every time a faction of them emerges it will be cut off until the Dajjal emerges from their remnants. Source: Musnad Ahmad 27767, Grade: Sahih
Rasoolullahﷺ warned of the coming of a people like ISIS and described their rigidity, rudeness and lack of mercy as signs of their distance from Islam and its true teaching and understanding.
Ali ibn Abi Talib (R) narrated from Rasoolullahﷺ: When you see the black flags, remain where you are and do not move your hands or your feet. Thereafter there shall appear a feeble insignificant folk. Their hearts will be like fragments of iron (no mercy). They will have the state. They will fulfil neither covenant nor agreement. They will call to the truth, but they will not be people of the truth. Their names will be parental attributions, and their aliases will be derived from towns. Their hair will be free-flowing like that of women. This situation will remain until they differ among themselves. Thereafter, Allahﷻ will bring forth the Truth through whomever He wills.
Those involved in the ISIS, have, by their own actions, removed themselves from the fold of Islam. They have left Islam and those who join them will also be among them. Those Muslims who kill innocent people, Muslim or not, have committed murder. They are liable for capital punishment and if they die before they are punished in this world, then their destination is the Hellfire. This is the consensus decision of all the Muslim scholars of the world. I can give a list of Fatwas for anyone who is interested. We are thankful to our media for publishing them. Every leader of Muslims has condemned the ISIS and their actions. People join the ISIS do so for two reasons: to fulfill their own perverted fantasies or giving in to despair and hitting out those who they imagine are the reason for their frustration. Both reasons have nothing to do with Islam.
When crimes against humanity are committed, it is the duty of Muslims to stand with the oppressed whether they are Muslims or not. If such crimes are committed in the name of Islam, we have a further obligation to clarify for people the truth about our religion.
I live by the motto: I will not allow what is not in my control to prevent me from doing what is in my control. I invite you to do the same. Do what you can. For you will not be asked, “What happened?” You will be asked, “What did you do?” Do something worthwhile. For to live, is not merely to draw breath.
The best and easiest way to deal with political phenomena like the ISIS is to ask one simple question: WHO GAINS and WHO LOSES?
In this case the answer is staring us in the face: Who gains?
Weapons manufacturing countries and weapons dealers gain. Money launderers gain. Human trafficking gangs gain. Leaders with political agendas gain. And power hungry criminals gain.
They say that numbers don’t lie. So here are some numbers. Please take a look and tell me what you think we are really promoting. We get what we pay for; so here goes.
How logical is it to ask for peace when our economy and financial well-being is based on war. Wars happen because they are profitable. ISIS is a highly profitable enterprise and it makes a lot of financial sense to those who benefit from it. Loss of life is called ‘collateral damage’. Not murder, genocide, crime, desolation and degradation of human life.
I graduated in history and political science and post graduated in management and applied behavioral science. Over the past 33 years I consult globally with government, public and private companies, major business families, clergy, police and administration professionals, journalists, teachers and educationists. So I am speaking from my knowledge base.
In any dynamic system – politics is a dynamic system – a vacuum can’t exist. ISIS got created when the United States decided to wage war based on a pile of lies, in Iraq. That created a power vacuum which the ISIS has filled. Mercifully you don’t have to believe me. The Iraq Enquiry Report, called the Chilcot Report says it all though it stops short of naming the perpetrators as war criminals. But named or not, every man, woman or child with even a rudimentary idea of politics is saying, ‘Tell me something I don’t know.’ I am sure the report is not a surprise for anyone in this theatre.
But we the people of the world, are grateful to the Sir John Chilcot for having voiced all our opinions and backing them with clear data. What remains to be seen is what happens. I don’t know about you, but in my estimation, saying, ‘I am sorry’, after killing a million people, is not enough. Not enough in any criminal justice system in the world. Not enough in any religion. Not enough for any logical, moral human being in any part of the world.
Who doesn’t gain?
Muslims don’t gain. Muslims are the victims; the largest victims of the ISIS. Directly because they are the largest number killed by ISIS. Directly because their lands have been devastated, homes destroyed and millions have become refugees, wandering from door to door seeking charity and dying on the beaches and in the waters of the ocean. Directly because they have become the victims of knee jerk reactions of governments and people who, infuriated at the actions of ISIS, attack their local masjid, Muslim home, Muslim women who have the confidence and courage to wear their religious symbol – the Hijab. Governments are passing oppressive legislation denying Muslims their fundamental rights and using racial and religious profiling as a tool to victimize a Muslim for being Muslim. Governments are treating Muslim educational establishments as if they are dens of evil, seeking to restrict and disrupt their activities to educate their children. It has become literally dangerous for a Muslim in the West to go to school, travel to work or for pleasure or even to go to the masjid.
Truly today it is the Muslim woman who is the symbol of Islam. She is the champion of Islam. Allahﷻis he witness and on the day when she meets Him she will stand with the Prophets. For like them she chose to face the world with courage, unsupported, except by the One who created her and whom alone she worships. I salute our sisters, mothers and daughters. You are our greatest and most inspiring leaders.
So ask, ‘Who gains and who loses?
Today the creators of ISIS are guilty of gross underestimation of its capability. People, even those who are expected to, don’t seem to realize that criminals are the best organized group in any society. ISIS are criminals. They are very well organized.
This underestimation is the result of hubris, arrogance and complacency. We don’t seem to realize that authoritarianism is the most efficient form of administration and volunteerism brings the greatest energy. Quick results that you can instantly enjoy are the highest form of motivation. Such an outfit, especially if it takes refuge in some religious chicanery and deception, attracts people who have passion but no perspective or wisdom. Wisdom and perspective come from introspection, reflection, learning with understanding and studying under a capable mentor. Such people can see through the deception of ISIS and will never join. So it is the former that we have to address, convince and wean away from a course that can only lead to destruction in this world and the next.
We can’t fight that by force or by our own version of oppression. We have to fight it by understanding, wisdom, a huge amount of patience and believe it or not, love. It is the battle of hearts that we have to win. You can’t do that by force. Nobody can do that by force. Add to this the fact that there are clear vested interests in this whole tragic scene, merchants of death who benefit from arms sale, buying stolen oil at cheap rates, human trafficking, using mercenaries to settle old scores and occupation of land. It is a very complex scenario which needs to be tackled on all fronts at once. It is a war of the heart. However, we seem to be bent on helping them to win it.
How does Radicalization happen?
The cycle of radicalization is: Discrimination (poverty, denial of opportunity, fear), fueled by Demonization (of Islam, community), leads to Alienation (feeling discarded, hated). Radicalization (start hating the ‘other’) develops and eventually can result in Violence (hit back). Hit back anyone who is seen as the ‘other’. Radicalization is the reaction to helplessness and despair; which results in desperation and a feeling of having ‘nothing to lose’. This is aided by internet preachers who preach false doctrines of violence in the name of taking ‘revenge’ which the recruits accept because they don’t have the knowledge to see through the farce.
Radicalization doesn’t happen in the Masaajid. It doesn’t happen in the home. Parents are often the last one to come to know that their children have become radicalized. Radicalization doesn’t happen in Muslim schools. The more you attack Masaajid, Madaaris, schools, Muslim homes and Muslims and Islam, the more you help radicalization. Mocking Islam and its symbols is as infuriating to Muslims as mocking the symbols of any religion would be to the followers of that religion. Calling that freedom of expression, is at best delusional and at worst premeditated mischief and evil. Insulting people and what they hold holy and dear is not freedom. Pope Francis, responded when asked about the cartoons seeking to mock the Prophet Muhammadﷺ, ‘If my secretary mocked my mother, I would punch him in the nose.’ When asked about so-called ‘Islamic Militancy’ and the demand that he should condemn it, he responded, “If I speak of Islamic violence, I should speak of Catholic violence.” He was referring to the despicable, brutal and barbaric killing of the French priest Jacques Hamel last week. The Pope is a man of rare integrity and courage in the world today. He is a man of god and I pray for him. The priest who was killed recognized his killers as they were about to kill him and said, ‘Go away Satan.’ That is what they are. Satan, Shaytaan. Asking Muslims to answer for them is insulting, misguided and completely unwarranted. The Pope spoke for Muslims and all sane, logical and fair minded people when he made his statement.
To quote a journalist friend of mine wrote to me, “In my understanding, there are two scenarios playing out almost all over the globe, in general, and in the ‘Muslim’ world, in particular. One is the very clear and present injustice being perpetrated through the physical invasion, occupation and devastation of ‘Muslim’ countries for the greater interests of the power-and-arms lobbies within certain governments, thus leading to extremism and calls for blind vengeance among the thousands so traumatized.
The other possible scenario is the devilish execution of an insidious strategy of setting up bogeymen organizations and individuals projected as Islamic forces but which do everything – spectacularly and horrifyingly – against the spirit of Islam, so that, ultimately, the negative tarnishing of Islam and ‘Muslims’ happen effectively, with little blame on the real plotters and script-writers behind the scenes. In both these scenarios – whether the open, or the hidden, one – the loser is the ‘Muslim’ nation.”
This is why education is important. You need education to gain perspective and understand the games people play and how to counter those games.
Radicalization happens on the internet and it happens in prisons. And it is helped and supported by deprivation, discrimination, demonization of Islam and the whole community of Muslims. It is helped and supported by the knee jerk reactions of governments, law enforcement and security agencies and the biased reporting of the press and media. It is helped and supported by media trial of suspects, their torture by police and by their disappearance in extra judicial killings. It is helped when legal means for redressal of wrong are denied. Frustration, desperation, a feeling of being cornered fills the heart. All these are gifts from heaven for recruiters and those selling the doctrine of radicalization.
Let me give you some examples from the recent past:
Confessions of a Killer policeman: Thounaojam Herojit
Then the article quotes: “Herojit went with them as far as the front gate before his parents caught up, begging the men to let him go. He was too young, he didn’t know what he was saying. They would find the money. The insurgents gave in but said, “But first he needs to be taught a lesson.” They made him lie face-down on the ground. One of them brought over a bamboo rod, which the family used to bar the gate. Herojit does not remember how long they beat him, but afterwards the family sat around him and they all cried. And after that, he told us, “I was ready to kill.”
How many times do we need proof that it is heavy handed action that is the best way to recruit for extremism? In this case it was what we can call a reverse process but our actions at law enforcement produce plenty of such cases. Randomly picking up youth on suspicion, holding them incognito, torturing them to extract confessions and then ‘encountering’ them are all gifts for ISIS type recruiters. The law can’t be upheld by those who break it.
Another headline: Campus magazine ‘critical’ of government: After BJP protest, HRD ministry, L-G Bedi ask varsity to explain.
You can stop the open expression of dissent. But can you stop dissent itself? What happens when you try to enforce that? You drive the dissent underground and your problem gets compounded. Dissent is the most reliable sign of a democracy. Dissent is the border between democracy and dictatorship. Dissent is an early warning system for the Government to take corrective action failure to do which can result in them losing power. Dissent is the pulse of the people which indicates health or sickness. When governments shut down legitimate dissent, it goes underground and metamorphoses as extremism. The same thing happens in industry when short sighted managements try to prevent union activity or to play one union against the other. In the end it is the management which loses. I speak from over 16 years of hands on experience with highly militant communist unions in Guyana and Kerala.
In a now famous interview on December 5, 1996 on 60 Minutes, Lesley Stahl asked the then Secretary of State of the United States about U.S. sanctions against Iraq: We have heard that half a million children have died. That’s more children than died in Hiroshima. Do you think the price is worth it?
Secretary of State Madeleine Albright 60 Minutes (5/12/96)
“I think this is a very hard choice, but the price – we think the price is worth it.”
I submit to you that differential pricing of human life doesn’t work. Human life is sacred. All human life is sacred. The value of a person’s life is not based on his race, color, culture, religion, belief or wealth. We are all human and all equally valuable in the eyes of the One who created us all. Islam doesn’t distinguish between the life of a Muslim and a non-Muslim. Both are sacred in Islam. Both are inviolable.
The punishment in the Shari’ah for murder is death – irrespective of who killed whom. And that is how it should be. Justice is portrayed as blindfolded because justice is when punishment depends on the crime, not the criminal. Differential punishment doesn’t work; just as differential value of human life doesn’t work.
Allahﷻ said in the Qur’an about this:
مِنْ أَجْلِ ذَلِكَ كَتَبْنَا عَلَى بَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ أَنَّهُ مَن قَتَلَ نَفْسًا بِغَيْرِ نَفْسٍ أَوْ فَسَادٍ فِي الأَرْضِ فَكَأَنَّمَا قَتَلَ النَّاسَ جَمِيعًا وَمَنْ أَحْيَاهَا فَكَأَنَّمَا أَحْيَا النَّاسَ جَمِيعًا
Maeda 5: 32: Because of that We ordained for the Children of Israel that if anyone killed a person not in retaliation of murder, or (and) to spread mischief in the land – it would be as if he killed all mankind, and if anyone saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of all mankind.
I want to draw your attention to the obvious, that the Qur’an clearly doesn’t differentiate between the life of a Muslim and a non-Muslim. Killing any person is like killing of all humanity. And saving the life of any person is like saving the life of all humanity. I am proud to say that history is witness to Muslims who practiced this and saved the lives of countless non-Muslims in various conflicts. One of the most famous is the story of Imam Sidi Kaddour Benghrabit, the Founder and Imam of the Grand Mosque of Paris who at great danger to his own life, saved the lives of many Jews who would otherwise have gone to Hitler’s gas chambers. But the memory of the world is short.
Another headline: Israel to demolish 7 agricultural structures, water wells in southern Nablus. http://www.maannews.com/Content.aspx?id=772471
Is this a crime or not? What would happen if anyone other than Israel did this? Ask why the same law is not applied in this case. What is the logical effect of such discrimination? Does it need an Einstein to figure this out?
And if this is not enough, here is yet another headline: Israel passes law allowing imprisonment of Palestinians aged 14 and under:
Is this justice? How does this compare with laws related to crime by juveniles? What do you think will happen to those youngsters in prison? Who is ready to ask all this?
Incidentally all so-called mainstream media don’t publish this news. But remember it gets published anyway and so by hiding it, nothing is achieved apart from even more anger. I am not going to waste your time discussing the reasons here. Just want to highlight what is happening in the world which fuels anger and helps radicalization. If we are serious about fighting radicalization, we have to get serious about dealing with injustice no matter who does it or where. If you want to put out a fire, you can’t be adding fuel to it which trying to beat it down. You have to cut off its fuel. Then it will die on its own, even if you do nothing. That is what I mean.
We don’t simply achieve democracy by wanting it. We have to fight for it every single day. The same goes for human dignity, justice, morality and global peace. We have to fight for peace by establishing justice. Peace is the effect of justice. Those who like to talk about peace must ensure that justice is established. Until that is done, any apparent peace is only a recess between wars.
Justice is the enemy of ISIS and all extremist ideologies. Justice gives the lie to the recruiter’s tale. The extremist’s action is the scream of pain of someone who has lost hope. He feels he has no choice. All legal doors are closed to him. So he hits out as his last action to get attention in a world which has forgotten him and doesn’t care. He seeks negative attention which he sees as better than being ignored. Being ignored denies his existence. Negative attention helps him to assert himself once more, even if it is only once. It takes a very big heart to understand all this and to treat people who are hateful, with love. It has to come from within. It is not an act. Acting can’t be sustained. Despair is at the root of all violence and hope is its cure. Our choice.Hope will only come when we return hatred with love. Love those who are difficult to love. But love them because they need love. Love them because that is the cure for hatred. It is not easy. Neither is the product of hatred. We are the people of Mahatma Gandhi. We are people whose forbearers proved to the world that non-violence works. We are the people who proved to the world that it is possible to return evil with good. What has happened to us today? Gandhiji has gone out of fashion. Our rhetoric is characterized by hatred and extremism. Our reactions mirror the actions of our erstwhile colonial rulers, not the actions of our own parents and grandparents who fought back with love. We need to learn our own history.
As I mentioned, I am social scientist by preference and training. So let me talk to you about mental models and systems theory. That is how I believe the ISIS and all radicalization problems need to be addressed and solved. Through holistic thinking and holistic solutions. Not by fragmentation.
“We cannot solve our problems at the same mental level at which we created them.” Albert Einstein
“Although people do not always behave congruently with their espoused theories (what they say) they do behave congruently with their theories-in-use (mental models).” Chris Argyris, Harvard
We all have various mental models and for most of us they are unquestioned and unexamined objectively. We tend to have a lot of emotional baggage associated with them and strong links to our egos and so feel very vulnerable when invited to question them. Mental models we are aware of and question are beneficial to us. Mental models we are not aware of, enslave us.
What to do about Mental Models – 4 Steps
- Identify and articulate existing mental models
- Map them with desirable mental models
- Define behaviors which reflect the new mental models
- Put metrics on them to monitor performance
Mental models lead to formation of Stereotypes. What is a stereotype?
Something happens to me involving another individual
- I like or dislike what happened
- I form an opinion about that individual
- I then apply that opinion to all individuals who belong to that group.
We don’t ask ourselves the critical questions: How representative of the group was that individual? Is it fair to that group to take an experience in isolation and form an opinion about the whole group, the majority of whom I have never met or interacted with?
The problem with this is that our behavior with others is based on our mental models about them. We then get responses from them which by means of selective perception, we use to ‘confirm’ our original opinion of them. I am sure with a little bit of reflection on how we think of people we can identify our own stereotypes. Stereotypes are almost all negative and must be dealt with urgently.
So what do we need to do? I don’t want to go into detail here. There is detail which involves working with Systems Theory and if someone is interested we can work on this. But in one line, we have to counter the vicious cycle of ISIS with our own virtuous cycle. Systems Theory tells us that if you want to reverse a Causal Loop you have to start a Compensating Loop. The Causal Loop that ISIS has started is well on its way helped and supported by global actions which can only be called insane. We can’t counter that loop by doing more of the same. So we have to do the opposite.
- Vocational training
- Entrepreneurial development
- Imam Development Program
- Transparency in law enforcement
- Responsible journalism
- Start a Vocational Training Centre in every school
- Every child must learn a skill
- Products can be sold and income used for the Centre
- Employment opportunity for artisans/professionals
- Writing a Business Plan to pitch for investment
- Budgeting and P & L Accounting
- Hiring and Team building
- Selling and Service Orientation
Teach them how to turn the skill into a business
Venture Capital Fund
- Interest free loans based on Business Plan
- Easy installment payment options
- MNC/Public/Private firms CSR to provide capital
- CEO’s on the Management Board
No government involvement after setting up
Imam Development Program
- Involve Ulama (with contemporary knowledge)
- Use Minorities Commission or NGO to run it
- Teach leadership skills to Imams
- Pay a stipend and travel costs (if necessary)
Give the Imam prominence and respect. Work through the Imams and Muslim scholars. Respect them, collaborate them and help them. They are your allies.
3 – 6 month course, covering the following topics:
- Understanding current events (no propaganda – just honest appraisal)
- How to make the masjid a window into the Muslim life & culture
- Cross cultural sensitivity, interfaith dialogue, community service
- Refute the message of the extremist from the Islamic ideological angle
- Answering questions about current challenges in an Islamic context
- Counseling skills
- Public speaking skills
Transparency in law enforcement
1. Sensitivity training for police officers and men. One of the best courses I taught was at the NPA in 1991 on Sensitivity Training which was mandated by the Home Ministry in Rajiv Gandhi’s government. Sadly, it was discontinued later, falling prey to change in politics. I suggest this is revived and replicated in all our states.
2. Basic course on ‘What is Islam’, for police officers, to remove prejudice. Knowledge is essential to build cross-cultural understanding. It is a strange thing that we live together but know nothing about one another. Must change
3. Police Public Partnership for Crime Prevention. Take people into confidence in Law Enforcement. Involve elders of the community, lawyers, Imams. Let them see the evidence on the basis of which the suspect has been arrested. Treat the suspect as a suspect, not as a sentenced criminal. Strictly follow due process to build credibility. Credibility and trust in government and police has been seriously eroded to the extent that the default reaction is to distrust and disbelieve anything that comes from either. So even when the police are speaking the truth, people won’t believe them. This sets off its own vicious cycle where policemen feel that there is no point in communicating with people who won’t believe them anyway. There are many cases however, to the contrary in the police, where police public participation and communication has worked wonders. Where highly toxic and volatile situations were defused because people trusted one officer. These cases must be documented and publicized and become case studies in the NPA and Police Training Colleges all over the country.
- Media is the shield of the citizen
- Media is the conscience of the nation
- Journalists are the champions of civil society
- Media is not a PR company & media trial is injustice
मंझधार में नैय्या डोले तो मांझी पर लगाये
मांझी जो नाव डुबोये उसे कौन बचाये
In conclusion I would like to say that I hope this thought-share will help to put things in perspective and enable us to do what it takes to work for peace and harmony in our communities. The success of a democracy is not only dependent on the integrity of its leaders but even more on the activism of the public. It is the public which needs to remind leaders that they hold their positions at the pleasure of their electorate.
It is when the electorate forgets its power and becomes subservient to leaders that democracies metamorphose into dictatorships in all but name. The alternative to justice is injustice, pain and suffering. In our interconnected world, the much touted Global Village, nobody will escape.
I know that when all is said and done and when we stand before our Creator – all of us without exception – we will not be asked, ‘What happened?’ We will be asked, ‘What did you do?’ At that time, I want to be able to say, ‘I didn’t let what I couldn’t do prevent me from doing what I could.’ I wish the same for you all. I want to end with an excerpt from an excellent article that I read some time ago.
Its last paragraph beautifully sums up the issue: “All of this puts Muslims in a double bind: If they just go about their lives, they stand condemned by those who demand that Muslims “speak out.” But if they do speak out, they can expect to be told that short of declaring their sacred texts invalid, they are fooling themselves or deceiving the rest of us. Muslims are presented with a brutal logic in which the only way to truly disassociate from ISIS and escape suspicion is to renounce Islam altogether.”