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Separatism and the Muslim Umma

November 6, 2009

The Fort Hood, Texas shooting in which 13 have died and nearly 30 injured has left America shocked. The question that most people are asking is, how could an army officer go on a shooting spree? This incident has been the worst such shooting in American history. This incident was reported thus:

A picture began to emerge Thursday of the suspect in the Fort Hood shootings as a mental health professional who worked to help others in high-stress situations.

The gunman was identified as Maj. Nidal Malik Hassan, 39, a law enforcement source told CNN. Hasan’s office at the base’s Darnall Army Medical Center is about a mile from the shootings, where 13 people were killed and 30 were wounded.

Hasan had been telling his family since 2001 that he wanted to get out of the military, said a spokeswoman for his cousin, Nader Hasan. Hasan told his family he had been taunted after the September 11 attacks, the spokeswoman said.

“He was mortified by the idea of having to deploy,” his cousin told the New York Times. “He had people telling him on a daily basis the horrors they saw over there.” Source: CNN

A few days ago two men were nabbed by the FBI from Chicago. Their names are David Coleman Headley and Tahawwur Hussain Rana. Both are Pakistani expatriates. Both have been living in the US and Canada respectively for a long time. They are Lashkar-e Toiba operatives which has very close links with al-Quaeda. They had planned to strike the Danish paper that had published cartoons of Prophet Mohammad. India was also on their target. They had planned strikes on the National Defense College, Delhi and Doon School among other such high profile places in India and the American embassy in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

The London bombings were the handiwork of men who were born and brought up in England. Whether they had any links with the al-Quaeda is not clear, what is clear is that they attacked their own countrymen.

The 9/11 attackers were men who had lived and worked in the west for long. Many of them were educated and had pilot license. Yet they attacked America in perhaps one of the most gruesome mass murders in recent history.

None of the attackers was malnourished, uneducated, poverty driven men who had planned and executed these murderous attacks out of desperation. They were well off, educated and had been in the west for a considerable period of time. Yet they decided to attack the very people they were getting their sustenance from. The question is why?

The one common thread among all these men is that they were all Muslims. Is that reason enough to carry out such ghastly acts? The answer lies in the concept of the Umma. Umma in Urdu means brotherhood. The Muslim Umma for the devout means the world. They do not believe in boundaries and the concept of nationhood is anathema to them. For a Muslim, his religion comes first and his duty is towards his faith and then to anyone or anything else. They believe in and long for a world inhabited only by the faithful. They call such a place or such a nation Darul Islam, the land where Islam is the faith of the masses and those from other faiths pay a tax to the state called Jaziya so that they can live and work in peace. A country where the Muslims are in a minority or negligible in number, is called Darul Harb (Land of the Heathen).  It is the duty of every Muslim to try and make the place where he is living Darul Islam. If for that he has to wage a Jihad or holy war, it is considered a pious act.

The Umma or the Muslim Brotherhood is above everything else. That is why Osama bin Laden is getting such support in a foreign land even though he is a Saudi national. The duty of every Muslim is towards his faith and then, if at all, to the country he is living in. It bothered the Fort Hood shooter no ends when he was supposed to go to Iraq. He could not reconcile himself to the fact that he would be fighting his own Muslim brothers. His conscience was pricking him and he tried desperately to get out of the situation, to pay his way out of the army. His desperation turned to fury when he found that there was no way he could escape being posted to Iraq and fight his own Muslim brothers. What he did next may surprise those who do not understand Islam, but to the many who know what it is to be a Muslim, this has come as no surprise at all.

Having said that, I may add that not every Muslim may believe in the Umma quite so vigorously, but for a Muslim to believe in the brotherhood comes naturally to most.

The saving grace is that while Muslims have this natural bonding amongst themselves, Islam like most faiths is not quite as homogeneous as most people believe. There are the Sunnis, who believe in the Sunnat or the Quran as the last word of Allah (God) which was revealed through Prophet Muhammad. Then there are the Shias who believe that the Prophet was not the last messenger of God and that there will be others to follow. Among the Shias there are the Twelver Shias and The Sevener Shias. Then there are other sects and sub sects. There are the Ahmedias and the Khojas and many other smaller sects that make up Islam. It is the Sunnis that are the largest in number. They are followed by the Shias. Iran is a Shia dominated country but it has Sunnis on its south eastern border touching Pakistan.

While these divisions are there it is also true that Muslims come together as one when there is a call that Islam is in danger (Islam khatre mein hai). That there are divisions within Islam come as no surprise, all religions have such divisions, but when there is a call to come together there is a tumultuous response and that is the critical part. That is why there is an Organization of Islamic Countries. Is there any formal organization for the Christian countries? The answer is no. Why? Because they do not have this concept of Christian Brotherhood, like the Muslims have the Umma. An Indian Christian is content in the belief that he is an Indian and Christians from other nations do not expect him to be a Christian first and then an Indian. They expect him to behave as an Indian and would be surprised if his loyalties lay anywhere else. With Muslims, it is different. One is a Muslim first and last and an Indian or a Pakistani or an American as incidental and not central to his being. It is this that defines them as individuals and this is what separates them from the rest. This is what makes them assert their individuality as a people and as a community in any country. Any condemnation of terror acts by the Muslims becomes meaningless because they insist on a separate identity as a divine right and not as a concession. Once the Muslim Umma is in some reasonable numbers in any society they try and assert themselves by dressing differently and ritually going to the local mosque. They then start demanding ‘rights’ over and above what the society would grant as a matter of course. This is also an attempt to try and get the local community to acknowledge their existence as a separate community. They do not want to amalgamate into the host society and insist on their unique identity. What starts on a local level then is taken to the regional and then to the national level in an effort to demand a Darul Islam. The partition of India was a very well planned and orchestrated idea that led to the dismemberment of the country. The same tactics will be applied in Europe and in other countries where Muslims are increasing in numbers.

The problem with Islam is that it has remained static over the centuries and there is no attempt to move with times. Liberalism is cut out with contempt by the vocal orthodoxy that prevails. The tenets of Islam are not taken in the spirit of the times but in an era long past. The faithful are fed on a diet of orthodoxy that makes them suspicious of anything remotely different. For them the Crusades never did end. Any departure from the rote brings in a sense of guilt among the faithful. The Friday prayers are a time to reinforce what has already been taught as the ultimate truth. What happened in Fort Hood was a man so consumed by his faith that he was ready to be a ‘martyr’ if only that would help him escape what he saw as haraam – to fight his own Muslim brothers. Nidal Malik Hassan is a Jordanian and not an Iraqi but he found it repugnant that he was going to fight his Muslim Arab brothers in Iraq. He will go through anything safe in the knowledge that he was true to the Umma. It is time the liberals took over the cudgels of a faith that has failed to move with times. There are millions of liberals who do not speak out. It is time they did and it is time they said enough is enough. We are living in the twenty first century, are we not?

Update 10.11.2009: U.S. intelligence agencies learned an Army psychiatrist contacted an Islamist sympathetic to al Qaeda and relayed that information to authorities before the man allegedly went on a shooting spree that killed 13 people in Texas last week, U.S. officials said on Monday.

While the agencies were monitoring contacts by Anwar al-Awlaki, a fiery, anti-American cleric in Yemen who sympathized with al Qaeda, they came across some communications late last year with the shooting suspect, Major Nidal Malik Hasan, U.S. government officials said. Source: Reuters

Those trying to find psychological reasons for the ‘mental breakdown’ of Nidal Malik Hasan do not realize that the malaise is more fundamental. The man never went to the war zone, was a psychiartist to those who had been there. Let us not bury our head in the sand. We need to understand this problem to be able to help Muslims find a solution to it. That is the only way to make sure such unfortunate incidents do not recur and innocent lives are not lost.

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Update 15.11.2009: A top Iranian spiritual leader Ayatollah Abdolhossein Moezi. who is Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khameinei’s representative in Britain has said that Muslims in the British army should quit as they will have to fight their Muslim brothers in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Times newspaper has reported on Saturday, 14.11.2009. Moezi, the Director of the Islamic Center of England further that ‘Muslims are not allowed to go and kill Muslims’. Moezi believes that Islam and politics are ‘inter-mixed’, because ‘religion could not be ignorant of social issues. Part of social issues is politics, therefore Islam should have some sort of eye on political issues’.

Update 30.11.2009: The Swiss had a poll whether to ban construction of minarets by the 400,000 Muslims residing in Switzerland. The poll gave a resounding verdict for the ban. More than 59% voted for the ban of construction of more minarets. It is evident that the Swiss realized that such symbols had a more fundamental purpose and were an assertion of the Muslims as a religious and political force within their country. The Umma was at work again.

The Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia while giving a call against terrorism at the time of Ramzan also lamented that the world knows more about Islam than at any other time in history. This was a real disappointment for him. The world media is going berserk criticizing the Swiss for ‘crushing’ the rights of the Muslims in Switzerland!!

Update 30.11.2009: In the ongoing trial of the one Pakistani apprehended in the Mumbai 26/11 attacks of Ajmal Amir Kasab his lawyer Abbas Kazmi has been removed by the honorable court with the observation that Mr. Kazmi was not cooperating with the court. It appears that Mr. Kazmi was trying to unnecessarily prolong the legal proceedings and was also found ‘lying’ at one point. His apologies were accepted by the court and he was allowed to continue. Later, however Judge Tahiliyani decided that since Mr. Kazmi was not cooperating he must be set aside. His deputy, Mr. Pawar has now been appointed to continue with the trial. The judicial proceedings will surely be delayed. It could well be that Mr. Kazmi could not bring himself to be a party to a trial of another Muslim, who for the nature of his crime has little hope. He therefore behaved in  a manner that left no choice with the court but to show him the door. Muslim brotherhood at work again – even with a criminal who has mercilessly murdered scores of innocent fellow Indians? Could well be!!!

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