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by R. K. Ohri



"Those wanting to improve democracy in their countries
should not wait for permission."
- Bulent Ecevit, a former Turkish Prime Minister

Every religion has its own societal ethos and civilizational moorings, its angularities, aberrations and strong and weak points. Neither Islam nor Hinduism nor Christianity could be an exception to this general rule. For instance, the Hindu society has many glaring modernity deficits, even serious societal infirmities, like the pernicious practice of untouchability and the evils of the caste-based discrimination, dowry system, etc., which have been eating into the vitals of Hindu civilization. Many scriptural texts of Manu Smriti and even Purusha Sukta of Rig Veda have been questioned and continue to be the subject matter of serious controversies among the Hindu scholars, intellectuals and enlightened reformist. Surely, the same is true of other civilizations and religious groups like Christianity and Buddhism.

Similarly the Islamic theology has certain distinctive characteristics some of which appear to have contributed substantially to the growing friction between the Islamic and other civilizations because of Islam's mismatch with many universally accepted societal norms. The political ethos of Muslims across the globe derive their sustenance from the spiritual contents of the Quran and the Sharia with the result that Islamic nations continue to look to their scriptures and the clergy for the norms concerning the mode of governance, including the laws relating to public order, administration of justice and the rights of citizens. With the backdrop of Islamic scriptures forming the basis of every adminstrative and legal function, most Islamic rulers and their Muslim subjects consider the government as a monolithic fusion of religion and the state, as ordained by the Prophet. That implies that the rulers cannot make any departure from the norms and the procedures laid down by the Sharia. No amount of modernization or development of progressive ideals can supercede whatever is written in the Islamic scriptures. There is a wide divide between the democratic ideals of equality and freedom, rights of citizens, individual liberty and pluralism cherished by the universal civilization and the rigid format of governance envisaged by the clergy-centric and anti-pluralistic Islamic tradition. As a rule, most Islamic societies have remained isolated from the international mainstream of civilizational values and modern societal ethos because of the widespread absence of democracy, preponderance of orthodoxy and a disproportionately higher level of intolerance for all other faiths and religious beliefs. In order to ensure an objective examination of the issues involved and promote a healthy discourse we might refer to these as modernity deficits or institutional obstacles to the harmonious co-existence of Islamic societies with modern civilizational groups across the globe.

Democracy is by far the most open and people-friendly system of government, based as it is on the principle of universal franchise, equality and freedom. It guarantees equal rights to every citizen irrespective of race, religion, sex, colour or cultural ethos and has therefore come to be identified with socio-economic progress. In modern democracies, supreme authority is exercised for the most part by the representatives elected to the legislatures by the citizens. Accordingly democracy has been famously defined as the government of the people, by the people and for the people. It is a system which entitles the citizens to have the freedom of speech and expression, equality before the law and the right to worship according to his or her belief. In all democratic countries the ultimate power vests in the people who play a major role in the governance of the country.

Members of the legislature or the lawmakers are elected by the people on the principle of one-man (or woman), one-vote. The executive head of the government is either elected from among the members of the legislature by majority vote, as in the United Kingdom and India, or he or she might be elected directly by the people, as is the system in America and some other countries. It is a simple pro-people system but unfortunately there is a singular absence of democracy in most Islamic countries, excepting Turkey and Malaysia which are like two islands of diluted democracy in the Islamic world. In Turkey the democratic polity is guided by the Turkish army. Although Mahathir Mohammed, former Prime Minister of Malaysia claimed to be a popular democratic leader, his commitment to democracy has been often questioned. Despite being a highly successful leader of a Muslim country, he often acted in an autocratic manner. For instance, he had no compunction in arbitrarily prosecuting and imprisoning, on charges believed to be trumped up, his Deputy Prime Minister, Anwar, whose arrest and trial not only stunned the Malaysian people but was also frowned upon by the world community. He was also accused of openly resorting to manifest discrimination against the native Chinese minority. In the process of implementing his populist Bhumiputra policy for giving preferential treatment to Malaysians he had deprived hundreds of ethnic Chinese of their businesses which were taken over by several leading Malaysian families. Recently, after his retirement, Mahathir Mohammed launched a diatribe against the Jews, alleging that they were ruling the world by proxy, mainly in a bid to play to the gallery. The statement was widely seen to be in poor taste.

The standard practice of governance in most Muslim countries is either by monarchs or by dictators, mostly army generals. In April 2003, after the ouster of the Baathist dictator, Saddam Hussein, the Editor of the Yemen Times had addressed an open letter to the rulers of Arabian nations captioned 'Dear Oppressive Arab Leaders' which was a telling commentary on lack of democracy in Arab countries. It indicated how disconnected the leaders of most Muslim nations are from their people. It also reflected the enormous yearning for democracy in the Middle East. The open letter warned them that the gap between the rulers and the ruled was huge and was getting wider. It made an impassioned plea for giving freedom and justice to the people by citing the example of Saddam Hussein who did not allow any freedom to his people and was ultimately toppled by a super power because he did not have popular support. It warned the Arab rulers that unless they treated their people in a better manner, eventually they might also meet the fate of Saddam Hussein sooner or later. They were advised to understand, before it became too late, that they could survive only if they managed to earn the love and appreciation of their people. They cannot hope to survive merely by winning the goodwill of the U.S.A. or any other country, howsoever powerful that country might be. The 'open letter' exhorted the Arab leaders saying: "It is your people, whom you should trust. [...] Allow freedoms. Establish justice. Allow peace and then rely on your people when the moment of truth comes." (1)

The absence of democratic tradition is the single most important reason for lack of modernity in Islamic nations. It is also responsible for their intolerance of other people's religious beliefs. Unfortunately most Muslim countries are ruled either by monarchs, or despotic army generals and dictators like Saddam Hussein. The Middle East and the Central Asia have a number of Muslim countries, all woefully lacking in democratic tradition. For instance, Saudia Arabia, despite substantial economic prosperity heralded by the oil boom, has remained trapped in the centuries old feudal obscurantism. According to a recent announcement, for the first time in the kingdom's history muncipal elections might be held in the year 2004 - and that too for only fifty percent of the seats in the municipal councils. Hopefully women may also be allowed to vote. If that happens it will be a big step forward towards women's emancipation because presently women are not allowed to drive cars or travel on their own without written permission of their male guardians.

Although Pakistan, Bangladesh and Indonesia have a veneer of democracy, the essence of democratic tradition has not been able to strike deep roots there. These Muslim nations, like several others, have been alternating between limping democracy and military dictatorship from time to time. The history of democracy shows that there are some societies, mostly illiberal nations, dominated by rigid dogmatic groups like the former Nazis or the Communist dictatorships or fundamentalist-nations, which inhibit their capability to develop and nurture democratic institutions. Democracy presupposes the acceptance of certain civilizational values. Peaceful co-existence by different socio-religious groups on equal terms, allowing the citizens professing different faiths to worship freely in their own way, freedom of speech and expression and acceptance of pluralism and multi-ethnicity are the basic postulates of democracy.

While discussing the conditions necessary for successful functioning of parliamentary democracy, Dr. Ambedkar, who was one of the members of the Constituent Assembly which wrote the Indian Constitution, had drawn attention to certain tenets of Islam which stand in the way of modernisation and democratisation of Muslim societies. One of these, according to him, is the tenet which says that in a country which is not ruled by Muslims, wherever there is a conflict between the Muslim law and the law of the land, the former must prevail over the latter in relation to the lives of Muslims and a Muslim will be justified in obeying the Muslim law and defying the law of the land.(2) Again the Islamic doctrine of jihad or holy war, against infidels also runs counter to the values for which democracy stands. Dr Ambedkar further pointed out that according to Muslim canon law the world is divided into two camps, Dar-ul-Islam (abode of peace) and Dar-ul-Harb (abode of war). A country is Dar-ul-Islam when it is ruled by Muslims. A country becomes Dar-ul-Harb when Muslims only reside in it, but are not rulers of it. That being the canon law of Islam, India cannot be the common motherland of both of the Hindus and the Muslims. It can be the land of the Muslims, but not the land of the "Hindus and the Musalmans living as equals". It can be the land of the Muslims only when it is Dar-ul Islam and is governed by them. The moment the land comes under the authority of a non-Muslim power, it ceases to be the land of the Muslims, because instead of being Dar-ul-Islam it becomes Dar-ul-Harb". (3) Then there is another tenet of Islam which runs contrary to the ideals of democracy and modernity: it is that Islam does not recognize territorial affinities.(4) The affinity enshrined in the concept of umma is only religious and therefore extra-territorial. Threfore it is obvious that Islam is antithetical to the very idea of nation-state and for the same reason opposed to the evolution of a democratic polity.

Islamic societies differ from modern nation-states in several ways. Almost all Muslim societies place a great deal of emphasis on imparting rigorous religious education to children from the very young age of 4 or 5 years and the medium for this religious education is invariably the exclusivist theological school called "madarasa" or a religious seminary, where they are initiated into the tenets of Quran, the Sharia and the Hadith. For Muslim parents and clerics, the teaching of religious precepts to their children is the first and foremost priority and acquisition of knowledge of other subjects and sciences is a secondary consideration which can wait. The term madarasa is the Urdu or Persian equivalent of the English term 'school'. Thus a madarasa is basically an Islamic school, often attached to a mosque, where emphasis is solely on religious education, mostly concerning the Quran, the Hadith, the Sharia and their interpretation, referred to as 'tafseer'.

The basic curriculum followed in madarasas is hugely steeped in Islamic theology, often described as 'Daras-e-Nizami'. Broadly, the instructions are imparted in Arabic - even in distant countries like Indonesia, Bangladesh and far away islands of Mindnao and Sulu located in southern Philippines. In Pakistan and India, in addition to Arabic, Urdu and Persian are also used as the medium of instructions. The major emphasis is on the philosophy of Islam, the basic precepts of the Quran and Hadith with special reference to the Prophet's personal life and examples, the Hikmat-e-Sharia (i.e., the Islamic personal law) and elementary mathematics. Special emphasis is placed on the history of Islam, the conquests by the warriors of Islam in the past and the related theological concepts of jihad, or holy war and the global fraternity called 'umma'. In madarasa education there is a singular lack of pluralistic and secular ethos, scientific developments and democratic values, the sole emphasis being on the Quran and Sharia. Pakistan has thousands of madarasas, the figures given out vary from ten thousand to fifty thousand for the entire country. One of the famous madarasas in Pakistan, located in Peshawar is Haqqania, where more than 2800 male students ranging in age groups eight to thirty-five years study the Quran, the Hadith and Islamic history and Islamic jurisprudence. The madarasa is funded by wealthy Pakistanis, and devout , politically-oriented Muslims of the Gulf countries. There are no courses in the world history, English, mathematics and computers nor any emphasis on teaching science. According to Jeffrey Goldberg, the "Haqqania madarasa is in fact, a jehad factory".(5)

The madarasas in Pakistan are not something unique. Madarasas are there in almost every Muslim country. A madarasa or an Islamic seminary is an old institution - a precursor of the Christian schools and colleges. There are one million students reportedly studying in Pakistan's more than 10,000 madarasas and militant Islam is at the core of most of these schools. But Haqqania is notable because it claims to have graduated more leaders of the Taliban than any other madarasas in the world. The Taliban hordes burst out of Kandhar in 1994 and during their quick march to Kabul, prohibited female education, fired lady doctors, assasinated homosexuals, staged public amputations and generally brought a bad name to the idealogy of the prophet in whose name they claimed to act.(6)

The majority of Haqqania students come from Pakistan. That worries officials in Washington, Moscow,New Delhi and Jerusalem. Jeffrey Goldberg pointed out that Pakistan's Islamists were becoming more and more Talibanized, as some call it, largely due to the madarasas like Haqqania. As Pakistan also happens to possess nuclear weapons, many Islamic radicals claim that these weapons should become part of the arsenal being built for jihad. Haqqania students believe it too.(7) Maulana Sami-ul Haq, the Chancellor of Haqqania Madarasa, admitted that when the Taliban were faring badly in the battle against the Northern Alliance he had closed down the seminary and sent students to the front for waging holy war. Many Taliban and Al Qaeda leaders are graduates of Haqqania and other similar madarasas many of which are like mini-military academies where strategies for waging jihads against kafirs are evolved, preached and taught. For instance, the well-known terrorist Haroon Fazal was a scholar of the Koranic School in Comoros Islands and afterwards studied in Pakistan before he allegedly assisted in the terrorist strike on the U.S. Embassy at Nairobi in 1998. The main point is that the scriptural teachings of the kind preached in madarasas promote hatred against people belonging to other faiths. The Quran itself directs Muslims to wage holy war against idolators and promises just rewards, both in this world if one lives and in the other world, if one dies in jihad.

In Pakistani madarasas there is extra emphasis on comprehension of Allama Iqbal's "Shikwa" and even greater emphasis on regular singing of Iqbal's famous pan-Islamic poem titled "Tarana" which eulogises the glorious conquests of distant lands by the warriors of Islam in middle ages. "Tarana" also happens to be a great favourite of Jihadi terrorists undergoing training in militancy in the camps set up by the ISI and Pakistani army. This practice of opting for 'madarasa education' separates Muslim children from students of other communities at young age and tends to make them narrow minded, tunnel-visioned, and fundamentalists because of an overwhelming emphasis on the core tenets of Islam, including concepts like umma and jihad and the ideal of paradise under the shade of swords. Studentship is the time when young minds can learn about the latest advances in science and technology, understand the beliefs, cultural mores and cardinal principles of other faiths, savour the multicultural social ethos and overcome prejudices, if any. But this does not happen in the exclusivist Islamic madarasas because of the absence of cross culture contacts and that leads to some kind of mental segregation of young Muslim minds. An example of the comparative school performance of Muslim and Hindu students in British India, almost four decades before partition of the sub-continent, gives an insight into the consequences of obsession with religious education in madarasas. A report on the Progress of Education in India (1907-1912) brought out that apart from social and historical aspects, there were other difficulties in promoting school education of Muslims. First, whereas the object of the young Hindu was to obtain an education which would fit him for an official or professional career, a young Muslim was not allowed to turn his thoughts to secular instruction until he had passed some years in going through a course of sacred learning because for him "the teaching of mosque must precede the lessons of the school." The Muslim boy, therefore, entered the school later than the Hindu. Secondly, he very often left school at an early age. The Muslim parents were usually poorer than their Hindu counterparts in the corresponding social position. A Muslim boy could not therefore receive thorough education. Thirdly, the Muslim parents often chose for their sons while at school an education which would secure for them an honoured place among the learned of his own community, rather than one which would command success in the modern professions or in official life.(8) These deficits of madarasa education, pointed out as early as 1907-1912, continue to plague the Muslim societies not only in India but across the globe even now, in this twenty-first century. And post-partition, a change for the worse did occur in Pakistan, formerly a part of British India, where the mushrooming of madarasas promoted by the radical Islamists has taken a heavy toll on the quality of education and promoted fundamentalism. The creation of Pakistan and the subsequent long spells of army rule in that country proved to be a shot in the arm of radical Islam which thrives on the absence of democracy and amidst unending propagation of morbid hatred against Hindus not only in madarasas but even in the government-run schools. In an illuminating article by the well-known Pakistani columnist, Ardeshir Cowasjee, published in the Dawn (a reputed Karachi newspaper) and reprinted in the Asian Age, New Delhi, the author advised the President, General Musharraf, to first ensure that students in Pakistan were imparted enlightened and correct education and suggested a serious revamping of the present school curricula. He had drawn pointed attention to the fact that for the last eight years, since 1995, the objectives set out by the Ministry of Education in the national curriculum of school education emphasized that by the time the students complete Class V, they should understand the Hindu-Muslim differences, identify the forces working against Pakistan and India's evil designs and make speeches on jihad and shahadat (i.e.,importance of holy war and martyrdom). The students are also expected to promote an understanding of the Kashmir issue, to observe their fellow students and note their reaction to the wars with India and judge their spirit while they made speeches on jihad. Additionally, the students are also required to note the keeness and willingness of their classmates to recite Tarana at school functions.(9) Apparently the reference by Cowasjee is to Iqbal's 'Tarana', which is a somewhat rabid pan-Islamic poem, harking back to the past glory of Islam and claiming the ownership of India, China and Arabia for Muslims. It looks as though Iqbal's 'Tarana' has lately been accorded the status of the second national anthem of Pakistan - thanks to the vigorous state-sponsored promotion of jihadi culture and build an anti-India tempo not only among the youth but even among the school children of Pakistan, as stated by Cowasjee. Allama Iqbal's "Shikwa" and 'Tarana' are hot favourites of Pakistani terrorists, too, and have been regularly sung with verve and gusto in the training camps run by the Jaish-e-Mohammed and Lashkar-e-Tayyeba.

The phenomenal growth of madarasas is not limited to Pakistan and Afghanistan alone; it is the same story everywhere - in Bangladesh, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines and even in the secular India. The increasing emphasis on converting every Muslim country into a rigid "Sharia-based Islamic state", if necessary through constitutional changes, otherwise by means of war, has led to the rapid growth of innumerable jihad-oriented Islamic seminaries. There are lakhs of madarasas multiplying all over the Islamic world and their numbers are growing exponentially; Pakistan alone is reported to have something like fify thousand madarasas (both big and small), while Bangladesh is believed to have another twenty to thirty thousand. Most of these madarasas, are factories of fundamentalism, basically devoted to indoctrinating the youngsters with radical Islam and mentally readying them for jihad. The number of madarasas in India too has multiplied exponentially, thanks to the funds donated by the Arab charities and resurgence of radical Islam. In India the number of madarasas was reported to be 88 in 1950.(10) According to the data given by Maqbool Ahmed in his book Islamic Education, their number was 30,000 in 1992. If the latter figure is correct, then there has been an unbelievable quantum jump. The number of madarasas in India multiplied more than 340 times in 42 years! The exact number of madarasas in India at present is not known. According to some reports the overall number could be between forty and fifty thousand. At one time the government toyed with the idea of a legislation for compulsory registration of madarasas, as Pakistan has done. But it dare not do so because of the fear of criticism by the opposition which had carried out a sustained campaign even against passing of the Prevention of Terrorism Act.

The ground reality about the growth of madarasas in Indonesia is mind-boggling ; it reveals startling facts. According to the Indonesian Ministry of Religious Affairs' Office of Education Management Information System, there are 37,362 madarsas in the country in which about 5.6 million students study.(11) Of this, only 3,226 (8.6 per cent) with a million students are run by the state. These figures convincingly reveal Indonesia as a fertile ground for terrorist networks like the Al Qaeda to spawn in relative safety.(12) The bomb attack of October 2002 on tourists at Kuta beach in Bali, claiming more than 200 lives and the dreadful bombing of the J W Marriot Hotel in Jakarta on August 5, 2003 claiming 16 dead and 150 injured, are just straws in the wind. Looking at the massive jihadi fervour being built up among more than five million children studying in thousands of madarasas and the increasing influence of Jemmah Islamiah, there is a strong possibility of many more terrorist incidents being staged in Indonesia. Similarly there has been a big spurt in the establishment and promotion of madarasas in Bangladesh, our neighbour.

The border areas, especially those contiguous to Bangladesh and Nepal have witnessed mushrooming of thousands of Islamic madarasas at a very rapid pace and these are mostly funded by the ISI, Saudi petro dollars and oil-rich Sheikhdoms of the Middle East. The Saudis have been playing the Wahabi card for quite some time now. It is estimated that during the last twenty years the Saudis have spent a huge amount, approximately $100 billion, to promote Islamist philosophy at home and abroad. Only a part of that cash came from collections at mosques, schools, bazaars and other public places. The bulk of the funds came from the coffers of the Saudi treasury.(13) Bulk of this money is believed to have been spent on expanding madarasa education which in turn has promoted the jihadi cult in several countries. Now that very fundamentalist cult, funded and fueled by Saudi petro dollars, threatens to destroy the Saudi regime! In recent months a spate of terror attacks in the Saudi kingdom has given a rude jolt to the ruling clique.

Meanwhile, the madarasas of Pakistan and Afghanistan have already indoctrinated, trained and sent out thousands of militant mujahideen to various countries including the U.S.A., the U.K., Bosnia, Russia (especially in Chechenya) to India (Jammu & Kashmir), Bangladesh, Indonesia and the Philippines. The numbers of Islamic seminaries have multiplied very fast in the last three decades largely due to the tremendous growth in the flow of petro dollars into the coffers of terrorist outfits through numerous Islamic charities set up by the Saudis and other oil-rich sheikhdoms which have been making liberal donations to preach and promote the Islamic faith. Post May 12, 2003, night when suicide bombers attacked housing complexes built for the westerners in Riyadh, some intellectuals tried to warn Saudis of the dangers of the home-grown terrorism. A few days prior to these bombings, Mansour Al-Nogidan, a former religious fanatic who has become fundamentalism's strongest Saudi intellectual critic wrote in a Saudi newspaper that Saudi Arabia suffers from a homemade brand of fanaticism propagated by members of the conservative Wahhabi Islam.(14) There were more bombings in the second week of November 2003 targetting another housing complex on the outskirts of Riyadh which claimed many more innocent lives.

The harmful effects of hard core fundamentalist teachings being imparted in religious seminaries (madarasas) are now being recognized by the intellectuals and scholars of the Saudi society. Hamza Al-Muzini, a prominent Saudi linguistic professor, wrote in another Saudi daily that his young son was being taught the culture of death at school and that many teachers influence young Saudis with their extremist political agenda, a situation tolerated by the Ministry Education.(15) After this article Dr. Muzini received death threats from Saudi-fundamentalists. That shows the high degree of damage already done to the psyche of the generation 'Y' by initiating them into the rabid Wahabi doctrine. With that kind of commitment to radical religious teachings in madarasas, is it any wonder that hundreds of thousands of mujahideens have taken to the cult of Kalashnikov and RDX across the Islamic world, just as fish takes to water? In several countries like Palestine, Pakistan, Indonesia, India and Saudi Arabia suicide bombing has become a badge of honour or a religious statement for the youngsters, mostly those belonging to the educated and well-to-do families.

Thanks to the steep rise in the prices of petroleum in 1970s, after the Arab-Israeli war, and formation of OPEC (Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries) as a semi-monopolistic cartel, in recent years Saudi Arabia has become one of the richest countries in Asia or perhaps in the whole world. Every year, some $6 billion leave the Arab kingdom, mostly from private charities, to build mosques and Islamic schools, feed Muslim children and deliver some life-saving drugs for Muslims from Mozambique to Mindnao. That 's commendable work, but along with the money comes Saudi Arabia's second most-important export to the world: its austere and feudal 18th century brand of Islam, Wahabism.(16) At a mosque and madarasa in Zamboanga City in the southern Philippines, for example, head Imam, Jain Jali, was replaced by a Saudi trained cleric who had access to much-needed funds from benefactors in Saudi Arabia. Now, Jali's less orthodox kind of Islam is no longer preached and community women must wear head scarves and long sleeved tops.(17)

Often it 's hard to track where donations end up. For example, in September, 2002 Dhaka police raided a Riyadh-based international non-government organisation, al-Haramain Islamic Foundation, acting on a tip that Bangladesh branches has been recruiting madarasa students for jihad in Kashmir and Afghanistan. Al - Haramain's records showed that it had received $2.4 million from Saudi Arabia - proof that Saudi alms aren't always used in the most benevolent manner.(18)

The stupendous growth of madarasas due to reckless funding by the Saudis during the last 30 years has made the Jihadi culture a staple religious diet of Muslims, both in Asia and Europe. It has made the younger generation of Muslims highly jingoistic by promoting bigotry and militancy among students during most impressionable years. This trend is visible in several countries of the Balkans, North Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia, the Indian sub-continent and the South East Asia. Madarasa education is largely responsible for attracting the Muslim youth to the heady mix of Qoran and Kalashnikov culture. It is really tragic that while funding the establishment and growth of madarasas, the Saudis and other Islamic charities made no attempt to modernise these seminaries. No attempt has ever been made to upgrade madarasas and recondition these into centres of excellence in education and learning or broadbase their syllabi by including the modern concepts of science and technology in their curricula or make them emulate the high standards set by Christian Convents and Public Schools.

Unlike Christianity, Hinduism or Buddhism, Islam has practically little or zero tolerance for any other religion or faith. Historically there has been no worthwhile reformative movement in Islam because none was ever allowed; nor is any voice of dissent or a reformist idea tolerated. A classic instance of religious intolerance was the persecution of Baha's in Iran and the fate meted out to their spiritual leaders 'Bab' and Bahaullah. Iran, the land of the origin of Baha'i faith, has been a Shia Muslim country ever since the Arab conquerors overran the Zoroastrian civilization in the eighth century. It is widely believed among Shias that Hazrat Ali, the son-in-law of prophet Muhammad, who was the last of the four caliphs of Islam (keepers of the faith in temporal matters), was succeeded to the caliphate by twelve of his descendants, referred to as 'Imams". The twelfth Imam mysteriously disappeared without leaving any heir and a legend grew among the Shias that he would one day return as the Messiah or "Mahdi". Some schools among the Shias began to teach that the Imams were some kind of a manifestation of deity, a belief which runs counter to the orthodox Islam. Therefore in difficult times occasionally some religious preacher would arise claiming to be the "Mahdi" or the hidden Imam.

This became a favourite topic in the early nineteenth century Iran when the need for religious reform was being acutely felt by the masses and when according to the Shi'ite tradition a period of 1000 years was due to be completed from the year of the disappearance of the hidden Imam and his reappearance was believed to be due. At that time one Shaykh Amad-al-Ahsa, whose followers were called "Shaykhis" laid claim to being in contact with "Mahdi", the hidden Imam. He and his successor, Sayyid Kazim, were both called 'Bab' (i.e., the gate between the Hidden Imam and the mankind). They proclaimed that Mahdi would soon manifest himself. Later on when Kazim died, the sect became divided between two factions. One group believed in the spiritual leadership of Haji Karim Khan of Kirman. But a larger faction followed Sayyid Ali Muhammad of Shiraz who proclaimed in 1844 that he was the ' Bab', a manifestation of God, the long awaited "Mahdi". His followers came to be called Babis (later on they came to be known as Baha'is), while the first faction continued to be known as Shaykhis. Sayyid Ali Muhammad of Shiraz, born in 1820, claimed to be a descendant of the family of prophet Muhammad. He was a quiet and modest man and had made a pilgrimage to the shrine of Imams in Baghdad. To convince the people of his divine mission he selected 18 "apostles" whom he started calling as the "Letters of the Living". Some Iranians eagerly accepted the "good news", but many others, including the ruling monarch, reacted with predictable hostility. The Persian ruler imprisoned the Bab. But because many Iranians were looking for the Mahdi, the deliverer, the movement spread. While in prison the Bab wrote a number of books. In the spring of 1848, while Bab was still held in prison, some Babi leaders held a conference and declared that Bab was the prophet of their new religious dispensation. Thereafter the Babis sought to take control of the province of Mazindran in Iran owing to which a series of armed conflicts with the Persian ruler ensued. The war resulted in the defeat of the Babis and finally Bab was executed in 1850. The religious writings of the Bab are called 'the Bayan' (translated as 'utterances' or "exposition"). The Bab cited the supposedly superior universal quality of his writings as proof of his divine mission, just as Muhammad had claimed superiority of his writings to the sermons in the Bible. This led to friction between the orthodox Muslims and Babis. The Bayan includes religious and social laws for the universal religious beliefs of the new age. Thus, Bab laid down the basic tenets of the Baha'i faith and these were all embracing, more humane and far more liberal than orthodox Islam.

Baha'is maintain that the Bab had taught his followers that their next leader following Bab would be greater than him and appointed Mirza Yahya Subh-i-Azal as vice regent of his movement who remained the head of the Babi community for sixteen years. Mirza Subh-i-Azal called upon his followers to give up sword and under his guidance the movement grew further. He was assisted in this effort by his older half-brother, Mirza Husayn Ali, who asumed the name "Baha" (meaning glory) and ultimately came to be known as Bahaullah, the leader of Baha'i faith. Born in 1817 in the town of Nur in Iran's Tihran province Baha'ullah had given up all his wealth for the welfare of the poor early in life and turned to spirituality. In 1863 he declared unity of the whole world as his spiritual mission and advocated equality and justice for all. Baha'ullah enunciated three basic principles of Baha'i faith: the unity of mankind, the oneness of God who was omnipresent and omniscient and the unity of all religions. He preached the principles of equality of men and women, pursuit of scientific temper and advocated universal education for all. It was an attempt to introduce some sort of reform in the orthopraxy of Islam which was at that time the dominant religion of not only Iran but the entire Middle East.

The orthodox Muslim clerics reacted sharply to the new doctrine and declared that Baha'ullah was an apostate and that his followers were heretics. Acting on the advice of clerics the Shah of Iran soon ordered a crack down on Baha'is which led to the execution and persecution of many Baha'is and a large number of them fled to neighbouring countries. The Baha'i brothers also fled to Baghdad where Bahaullah was able to spread his spiritual movement further. But after violent clashes between Bahais and Muslims which lasted for ten years,the Ottoman rulers exiled Bahaullah and his co-religionists to Adrianpole on the extreme western border of Turkey. It is believed that Bahaullah remained virtually imprisoned at Akka during his exile due to his reformist beliefs which were considered contrary to the basic tenets of Islam. In the entire history of Islam Bahaullah was the only dissident who dared to challenge the Islamic orthodoxy by voicing dissidence by proclaiming that there was a common bond of love and brotherhood between all religions and preached a belief in the universality of God who could manifest Himself in different forms in different lands. The Bab and Bahaullah preached the concept of the unity of God, the unity of all religions and the unity of mankind which outraged the Islamic rulers and the clerics alike. Bahai's have been hounded for two hundred years throughout Iran and other adjoining Muslim countries and their persecution is a well-known instance of intolerance prevalent in Islamic societies. The Islamic Republic of Iran proclaims Shi'te Islam as its state religion, and recognises only Judaism, Christianity and Zoroastrianism as the other true religions. The three minority faiths are legitimised by the Constitution and accorded certain legal and political rights. The Baha'is, however, Iran's largest non-Muslim religious minority, are not mentioned in the Constitution and have the status of unprotected infidels.(19) Since the onset of the Islamic revolution in the fall of 1978, more than 200 Baha'is, mostly leaders of the community, have been put to death. Many institutions of Bahai's have been disbanded, community properties confiscated, holy places demolished, and cemetries desecrated.(20)

As a rule, any intellectual interaction and informed debate or dialogue on the validity of religious concepts and practices is totally forbidden in Muslim societies. Conceding the prevalence of many social evils in Hindu society, Dr. Ambedkar asked whether at all there was any social evil which was found among the Hindus, but not found among the Muslims.(21) Even the caste system is as deeply ingrained in the Muslims of India, as indeed it is among the Hindus. There can be no doubt that the Muslim society in India is afflicted by the same social evils as afflict the Hindu society. The Muslims have all the social evils of the Hindus and something more: that is the cumpulsory system of Purdah for Muslim women.(22) The existence of these social deficits among the Muslims is distressing. But more distressing is the fact that there is no organized movement of social reform among the Muslims of India on a scale sufficient to bring about their eradication. The Hindus have their social evils. But there is a relieving feature about them. Some of them are conscious of their existence and are actively agitating for their removal.(23)

Not only the lack of reform but also the absence of an urge within to reform the socio-religious system is a typical distinctive aspect of Muslim society.That is a major difference between Islam and other religions. For instance, throughout early history the original Hinduism had been a sacrificial religion with the tradition of sacrificing a he- buffalo or goat as an offering to Mother Goddess which ritual was being practised almost universally in all Hindu societies in India and Nepal. In ancient Vedic times it was customary for every Hindu (Aryan) emperor to offer sacrifice of a horse at the altar to propitiate the God on important religious functions. Every powerful king laying claim to be an all-powerful emperor or "Chakravarti" Raja used to send a sacrificial horse, accompanied by a retinue of selected warriors, to distant parts of his empire to seek a challenge from any valiant adversary showing the daring to seize and carry away the sacrificial horse after battling with his troops. And only when the sacrificial horse returned to the capital unchallenged was the Raja proclaimed as a "Chakravarti" after performing the horse sacrifice. Thus offering sacrifice was an important religious ritual of the ancient Vedic civilization or Hindu society. But over the centuries, as a result of informed and scholarly debates and dialogue between religious teachers and the dissenting Hindu Dharmacharyas or religious preachers, this ritual, sort of a gory medieval practice, has been abandoned or at least substantially eliminated.

Similarly the practice of untouchability, the societal bar on widow remarriage, and the weird and barbaric custom of sati (which had originated during the medieval times when invaders, mostly Muslims, used to carry away Hindu women after vanquishing the Hindu rulers or warriors), have been banished from the mainstream of the Hindu society and laws framed to ban all such antiquated rituals and customs. It may be recalled that historically the strongest opposition to most of these regressive religious practices came from within the Hindu society, although in some of the debates even western scholars, mostly British, had actively participated. Initially Buddhism itself had come up as a kind of reformatory movement against the evils of Hindu society, especially the detestable caste classification and the practice of animal sacrifice widely prevalent in the not too distant past. But Buddhism being an indigenous and liberal faith had no problem in subjecting itself to the time honoured Indian tradition of "Shastra-artha" or 'Samvad' whereby the scholars representing different religious tenets or philosophic viewpoints used to sit together and argue, debate and examine, by means of logic and reason, the different postulates of their respective faiths and the rituals and customs which appeared to have questionable validity.

Consequently a strong belief in secularism and pluralism has been an integral part of the Hindu and Buddhist societies. For instance, according to an old tradition established over several thousands of years, on the death of his father or mother, only a son (if the deceased had no son, then a male child, say a nephew) was allowed to light the funeral pyre. But with the winds of reform and enlightenment sweeping across the Hindu society, this age-old custom has been given up. As a result of regular discourses and deliberations it has been accepted that there is nothing in Vedas or Upanishads that prevents female descendants from lighting the funeral pyre or performing the death-related ceremonies. Furthermore, women have inherent and equal right to study, recite, debate and preach the Vedas, the Ramayana and the Gita. According to Hindu belief, even God is genderless. Also the soul or atma is neither male nor female. In Pune, the centre of Maharashtrian orthodoxy, women priests (Stree Purohitas) are being trained to perform pujas and other rituals, thanks to the intiative shown in 1974 by a social reformer, Mama Thatte. The demands for the services of women Purohitas of Pune come even from Mumbai and Goa. And in Pannini Kanya Mahavidyalaya of Varanasi, the holiest town of Hindus, women Purohitas and Sanskrit scholars, well-versed in samskaras, have been trained for decades. Similarly the Christian societies have had no problem in accomodating different viewpoints of their dissenting clergy and non-conformist scholars in the matter of faith through the medium of debates and discourse. That was what led to the acceptance of several religious reforms. Everyone knows that Martin Luther was a prominent dissenter of the orthodox Christian beliefs and a reformist to the core. Under his leadership Protestants broke away from the traditional Catholic Christian mores. That explains how the orthodox Christians of Serbia, Greece, Cyprus and Russia have been allowed to practise their own brand of Christianity in accordance with their beliefs and faith.

Unfortunately that kind of frank and open discourse and debate cannot happen in Islam; a dissenting viewpoint in the matter of religious tenets and beliefs cannot be aired in that society. Every Muslim has to accept what is written in the holy Quran and he dare not deviate from the tenets of Sharia, Sunna and Hadith - much less question the underlying philosophy of his faith and validity of religious dogmas and practices pronounced 1400 years ago. Anyone trying to do that will be declared not only an "apostate" but additionally runs the risk of being put to death in most Islamic societies. Apparently the enforcement of this kind of over-arching harsh clerical diktats in the matter of religion has also promoted among Muslims a general trend of not questioning the role and deeds of ruling kings, dictators and feudal warlords. History is a witness to the fact that in Muslim countries no dissenting voice about the tenets of Islam is ever tolerated or allowed to be raised, much less heard, nor can anyone dare question the authority of the kings and dictators or the propriety of what they do in the matter of public affairs. Rigid enforcement of scriptural injunctions and Sharia have acted as strong deterrents to the growth of democratic institutions in Islamic societies. Thus Islamic faith is increasingly becoming an island of isolation. Excepting Turkey where Kemal Ataturk broke the strangle hold of clerics on Muslim society with an iron hand, abolished the compulsory veil for women and introduced the concept of secularism to make Turkey a modern, tolerant and progressive State, no other Muslim country has dared to undertake any radical reform or present a modern democratic face to the world. Kemal Ataturk could do it because he had acquired a large following, had the unstinted support of the Army and was a virtual dictator. But in recent decades the shadow of the fundamentalist-Islam has returned to the centre stage in Turkey as well. The new ruling party consists of Islamist leaders, though it professes to follow a liberal pro-west policy, ostensibly with an eye on getting entry into the European Union. Turkey has a secular constitution, the women are more modern and liberated than any other Muslim country and it had its first woman Prime Minister, Tansu Ciller, from 1993 to 1995. Even so in recent years fundamentalist Islamic ideology has acquired dominance in Turkey.

In Pakistan, the self-styled land of the pure Muslims, the degree of intolerance and hatred towards non-Muslims is astounding. Not being content with having pushed out hundreds of thousands of Hindus from Pakistan during the last five decades, now the heat has been turned on the Christians. In a soul searching write-up captioned 'It's not easy being a Pak minority', published in the Dawn of Karachi (and reprinted in the Asian Age, New Delhi) the well-known Pakistani columnist Hafizur Rahman had drawn pointed attention to the plight of minorities in Pakistan. He has recounted how Christians, Ahmediyas and Hindus were being regularly harassed. Six years ago Shantinagar,a Christian village in southern Punjab, which was raided by Muslim zealots fed on false rumours set afloat by certain fanatics. They behaved like Huns and laid the village waste. The columnist had kept a tab on the matter and asserted without fear of contradiction that nothing was done by Mian Nawaz Sharif's government to either restore the confidence of the victims or bring the culprits to book. What price civilised behaviour inspired by the tenets of Islam and the much-vaunted claim about tolerance of other faiths? (24) He further wrote that the abduction of Hindu girls was going on all the time. When a hue and cry is raised, the girl is made to state in a court of law that she went away of her own accord, that she married a Muslim of her own accord and that she embraced Islam of her own accord. Then, a few years ago, there was the kidnapping of about a hundred Hindu Haris, men, women and children, in a part of the province. (25) But for the initiative taken by some minority leaders and a few good Muslims nothing would have happened in the matter nor anything heard about it. The columnist concluded that today the most privileged individual in Pakistan whom no one can touch is the Sindhi Wadhera (i.e., landlord) who was not afraid of anyone, not even God. (26) The columnist lamented that the present state of affairs has been brought about over the years by Pakistan's political and religious leaders.

One of the recent and most striking instances of intolerance typical of the militant Islamists was the destruction of the priceless Bamiyan Buddhas located in Kayan valley of Afghanistan in February 2001 by the Taliban. The two gigantic ancient Buddhas, one of them a 53 metre high statue carved into a cliff face in the central town of Bamiyan, were heritage monuments, highly prized works of Kushan era sculpture and art and admired all over the world. Historically Afghanistan has been a melting pot of many cultures and civilizations for centuries - from Aryan and Gandhara civilizations to the Hellenic, Kushan, Mongol and Turkish cultural traditions. Northern Afghanistan was an important religious centre of Mahayana Buddhism and Kayan district where Bamiyan is located lies along the famous silk route linking Samarkand and China with India, Central Asia, Mesapotamia and Roman empire. The Bamiyan Buddhas were carved in the mould of classical features of sub-continental Buddhas, but were draped in Greek robes thereby representing a unique cross culture fusion of the ancient Gandhara art with the refinements of Central Asian sculpture to which was added a dash of chic Hellenistic wardrobe brought to Afghanistan by the army of Alexander, the Great. According to an Islamic edict published and circulated by the Taliban-controlled Bakhtar News Agency in February 2001, Mullah Omar, Afghanistan's ruling fundamentalist leader had decreed that the statues were an insult to Islam and deserved to be destroyed forthwith so that they could never be worshipped again by kafirs.

In a desperate bid to preserve these priceless heritage works of art the UNESCO (the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation) had made an appeal to the Taliban rulers to save the Bamiyan Buddhas, but that appeal was rejected. In an interview with the BBC's Pushto Service, Mullah Abdul Hai Mutmain, a Taliban spokesman said that it has been the policy of the prophet and holy men of Islam from times immemorial to destroy all 'false gods'. He said that the people worshipping the statues were enemies of the Taliban and refused to accept that Islam calls for respect for other people' faiths. He further claimed that "Islam had defeated and cancelled out all other religions ". For several weeks the Taliban soldiers kept on placing bundles of dynamite around the Bamiyan Buddhas, while stubbing out cigarettes on the ancient statues, before they obliterated those symbols of Afghanistan's glorious heritage. It is believed that similarly several rare pieces of sculptures, including innumerable idols in some old Hindu shrines in Bakhtiar province, statues of folk dancers and calligraphic images were also destroyed by the Taliban rulers citing Quranic injunctions as the justification.

It is amazing that this kind of bigotry and intolerance was allowed to go unchallenged by the civil society but what was more astounding was that not a single Muslim country, no Muslim intellectual or scholar, anywhere in the world, no member-state of the Organisation of Islamic Countries,tried to prevent the ghastly sacrilege, a wanton affront to millions of Buddhists and Hindus worldwide. The only people who openly grieved over the destruction of Bamiyan Buddhas and shared the grief of the Buddhists were the Indians who hold Lord Buddha in high esteem because he has always occupied an important place in the pantheon of Hindu deities and incarnations. And doubly tragic indeed was the studied silence of Muslim countries none of which showed even a modicum of civilizational courtesy to condemn the detestable crime of Taliban who recklessly destroyed the statues by using dynamite and resorting to artillery fire for weeks.

Islam is essentially a male-dominated and male-oriented religion and even in his 21st century, excepting Turkey, hardly any Muslim country has cared to give equal rights and a decent and deserving status to women. In Islamic countries governed by Sharia, women are covered with veil, relegated almost to obscurity and denied higher education. They are forced by the religious diktats and male family members to remain largely confined to homes. In support of the widely practised discrimination against women the obscurantist Mullahs quote several verses of Quran to assert that men are superior to women and therefore women cannot be accorded status equal to men. For instance "Men are a degree above them (women)" (verse 2: 228) and "Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because they support them from their means." [...] As to those women " on whose part you (man) fear disloyalty and ill conduct, admonish them, refuse to share their beds, and beat them" (4: 34). Another point to note is that prima facie the very use of the word "you" in verse 4: 34 indicates that the Quran is mainly addressed to men and perhaps men alone. That explains the relegation of women to an inferior position in Islamic theology.

Nearly all Islamic scholars maintain almost unanimously that Islam gives a Muslim male the right to divorce his wife at will, the right to take even second, third and fourth wives and command total obedience from his wife or wives. And to add insult to the injury, as illustrated above, a man can even beat his wife if she disobeys him. The clerics maintain that no woman can question these rules laid down in Sharia, because these are Allah's laws. The atrocities committed on Muslim women in Afghanistan by the Taliban, the religious police of Ayatollah Khomeini in Iran and the indignities heaped on them by the tribal warlords of Afghanistan and Pakistan are too well-known to be repeated here. Taliban's gender discrimination caused immense harm to the Afghan society; it virtually put back the clock of socio-economic progress by at least 25 years, that is by one generation.

After Taliban seized Kabul they issued an edict making it comuplsory for women to wear the veil (burka), disallowing them from wearing high heels and using make up. They were debarred from going out to work, except in the medical sector. Women working in the medical sector could not sit in the seat next to the driver. "No Afghan woman has the right to be transported in the same car, as foreigners," the edict continued.(27) Within three months of the capture of Kabul, the Taliban closed 63 schools in the city affecting 103,000 girls, 148,000 boys and 11,200 teachers of whom 7,800 were women.(28) They shut down Kabul University and sent home nearly 10,000 students of which 4,000 were women. By December 1998, UNICEF reported that the country's educational system was in a state of total collapse with nine in ten girls and two in three boys not enrolled in schools.(29) The Taliban's treatment of women drew enormous adverse publicity and international criticism when Emma Bonino, the European Commissioner for Humanitarian Affairs and 19 women Western journalists and aid workers were arrested and held for three hours by the Taliban religious police in Kabul on September 28, 1997. They had been touring a female hospital ward funded by European Union (EU), when journalists accompanying Bonino were arrested for taking photographs of women patients - all photography was banned by the Taliban.(30) During the Taliban regime several women activists of RAWA (Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan) underwent enormous sufferings because they continued to strive for equal status to women and secure for them social justice and human rights. RAWA was founded by a number of dedicated women intellectuals under the leadership of a gutsy lady, Meena, who was assassinated in 1987 in Quetta,Pakistan, by some fundamentalists, perhaps at the behest of Gulbudin Hekmatyar, leader of a fanatical faction of Taliban. Members of RAWA had also participated in the war of resistance against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the wake of the coup of April 1978.

After the overthrow of the Taliban, RAWA activists have been involved in the difficult task of restoration of women's rights and dignity in the medieval Afghan society. An instance of the atrocities committed on many innocent women in Afghanistan during the Taliban regime was depicted in a documentary made sometime ago by a newswoman from London. It depicted the heart-rending execution of three Muslim women in burka in a square in Kabul. They were shot in the back of their necks in a cold blooded manner and then the three corpses were dragged away by their feet by the sextons. The tragic details of this gory incident have been given in a touching narrative by Oriana Fallaci in her book, The Rage and the Pride(31). Unfortunately in most Muslim countries women continue to be confined behind the veil and discriminated against with impunity even today, largely because of the absence of a just and fair legal framework which could accord them equal status and dignity. Even here in secular India, in matters relating to marriage, divorce, maintenance and inheritance, Muslims continue to be governed by their own religious laws, although the founding fathers of the Indian Constitution had specifically incorporated Article 44 in the chapter under the Directive Principles which laid down that "the State shall endeavour to secure for the citizens a uniform civil code throughout the territory of India." It is quite surprising that even educated and enlightened Muslims and those claiming to be intellectuals have been opposing the framing of a common Civil Code - although in matters concerning other aspects of their day-to-day living, there has never been any opposition to being governed by the Indian Penal Code, the Evidence Act, the Criminal Procedure Code,the Civil Procedure Code and hundreds of other enactments which are equally applicable to all Indian nationals, whether Hindus, Muslims or Christians. Many of these modern laws are violative of the tenets of Islamic jurisprudence enshrined in the Sharia but neither the leaders of Muslim community in India nor their clerics and ullemas nor even vocal intellectuals have ever refused to be governed by these common laws.

Unfortunately the leadership of the community is in the hands of a group of die hard fundamentalists who are determined to deny gender equality and want to perpetuate the male dominance. It is an extraordinary situation. The Supreme Court in a landmark judgment on July 25, 2003 by a three-judge bench headed by the former Chief Justice V N Khare regretted the Government's inaction in not enacting a common civil code as stipulated in the Constitution, while striking down Section 118 of the Indian Succession Act which discriminated against the Christians. It was third time that the Supreme Court raised the issue and expressed "distress over government's failure to give effect to Article 44 of the Constitution". Earlier also there was a sharp reminder in 1985 in the famous case of Shah Bano when the then Chief Justice Y. B. Chandrachud had regretted that the state had been remiss in discharging its obligation to give effect to Article 44. Unfortunately at that time the law was turned upside down by passing the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, just to please the fundamentalists - a retrograde legislation on every count. It led to stringent criticism of the new enactment on several counts, one of which was that it was a retrograde act enabling provision to facilitate the Muslim males in marrying new wives, without paying any maintenance to the former ones in utter disregard of the principles of natural justice and equality. This widely perceived impression, which is not altogether incorrect, only tends to increase the divide between the Hindus and the Muslims by signalling to the former that Muslims are getting an undue favour in the matter of application of the common laws of the land.

Significantly in his recent observations the Chief Justice seems to have criticised that enactment brought forth at the behest of the then Prime Minster, Rajiv Gandhi, by observing that "it is no matter of doubt that marriage, succession and the like matters of secular character cannot be brought within the guarantee enshrined under Articles 25 and 26 of the Constitution (right to freedom of religion)." He pointed out that a common civil code will help the cause of national integration. Unfortunately this important reform had been funked by Pandit Nehru himself in 1955 when the Hindu Code Bill was brought forth. Instead of a Hindu Code Bill, Pandit Nehru's government should have brought forth a uniform Indian marriage and inheritance law, applicable to all communities and religious groups.There was no reason for the Congress government at that time not to enact an Indian Civil Code. But it was not done - could it be due to the policy of vote-bank politics?

The truth is that uniform civil code is an unfinished national goal of the implementation of our Constitution and the apex court has done well to remind the government about its duty. Unfortunately many left-oriented analysts, keep on opposing the introduction of a uniform civil code. They invariably try to give it a communal slant by saying that the government wants to interfere with the rights of the Muslim minority, although they know that the matter has been brought up suo motto by the apex court, and not by the government. Their line of argument is both devious and mischievous. Basically the question of having a uniform civil code should be viewed as a step towards removing gender discrimination in Muslim society. At worst, it could be seen as a conflict of interest between Muslim women and Muslim men, in which the former deserve to be given relief in accordance with the Constitution. But somehow it has always been projected as a dispute between the Hindus and the Muslims. Since most leftists and media columnists swear by modernity,one fails to understand why don't they realise that basically a common Civil Code is also an issue of modernity versus orthodoxy.

It is astounding that the Indian leftist class has reached a stage of mental decay where they can't think straight even on secular issues and speak in a straightforward manner! For blocking the enactment of a uniform civil code, one of the most ridiculous arguments advanced by the leftists, and supported by some leading lawyers, is that just now the Muslim society is not prepared to accept this change and therefore the government should give more time for Muslims to accept it. By the same token, the government should not have passed the laws banning child marriage and dowry which evils have been rampant among both the Hindus and the Muslims, till the two communities were mentally prepared to accept the change. Carrying the same logic farther some loony lawyers could argue that even the abolition of the abominable practice of 'sati' should have been stalled till the Hindu society was ready to accept it! This argument of interminable wait till the Muslim society becomes ready to accept a uniform code looks quite perverse. It is a classic example of reductio ad absurdum.

To dispense justice in an equitable manner, does one have to wait for the consent of the perpetrator of injustice? One simply wonders how could some eminent lawyers practising in the Supreme Court fall for such illogical logic. Frankly, if the Muslims could not be ready to accept a uniform civil code even 56 years after independence, there could be no hope of their ever agreeing to it. If that be so, how long will the Indian state continue to deny to Muslim women the right to equality enshrined in the Constitution? Can the Indian state afford to be seen as blatantly favouring the Muslim men against Muslim women? If so, how long and with what constitutional and legal justification? Interestingly in the State of Goa a uniform civil code governing the institutions of marriage, divorce and inheritance in relation to all citizens has been in force from the times when it was ruled by Portugal. It has been accepted by the Muslims of Goa without the slightest protest, or murmur, and has remained in force without any adverse consequences now for almost fifty years. If a uniform civil code is acceptable to Muslims in Goa, why can't it be enforced throughout the country? In a democratic society no community can be allowed to deny equality and dignity to fifty per cent of its population, that is women, on the ground of religious belief. That kind of ghettoisation has to be swept aside despite opposition by the obscurantists of various communities - whether they be Hindus, Muslims or Christians.

Equality is the cornerstone of democracy. The state cannot deny it to someone simply because she is a woman, or because she happens to be a member of a particular religious group. Despite modernisation of marriage laws in many Muslim countries, including Turkey, Tunisia and even the ever fundamentalist state of Pakistan, the leaders of Indian Muslim community have been persistently obstrtucting the passing of a common Civil Code. There seems to be no justification whatsoever for denying equality and dignity to Muslim women, under a common law. Perhaps the opposition to the uniform civil code among the Muslims of India is due to the powerful grip of Mullahs on that society but at least educated and enlightened Muslims should be able to stand against fundamentalist clerics. Why there is no organised opposition in the Muslim society to the obscurantist edicts issued by Mullahs? Why do the Muslim men consider the option of having four wives as their inviolable right under the sharia? These are important questions concerning modernity and Islam. But no open debate is allowed in such matters by the clergy and religious scholars by invoking the shelter of the Islamic scriptures. And the so-called modern, progressive and secular Muslim intellectuals have have all along maintained studied silence on the subject thereby signalling their tacit consent to the diktats of fundamentalist clerics! That is the main obstacle to reform and modernisation of Islamic societies.

The repugnant practice of female circumcision, a lurid ritual, continues to be widely practised in many African countries like Egypt, Sudan, Somalia and Nigeria. But no voice is raised against that brutality towards female child. True, there are instances of brutality against women in other societies also, but those are sharply condemned and even legal provisions are made to punish the perpetrators of the crime. Interestingly there is another belief, sort of a canard, propagated by the fundamentalist Mullahs that all womenfolk are crooks, impure and unreliable. In one of her books My Girlhood, translated by Gopa Majumdar in English (published by Kali for Women), Taslima Nasreen, a well-known Bangladeshi writer, author of the truth-based Bengali novel Lajja, has poignantly raised the question of denial of equal status to women in Islamic societies by referring to what she had been taught in school. She, along with other students, was told that one of the bones in a women's neck is crooked and that was why no woman thinks straight or walks on a straight path. She questions the scriptural injunction that women were like a field for growing crops to which men were totally free to go whenever they liked, and that if a woman was disobedient the man had a right to drive her away from his bed, and if she remains disobedient, he could even beat her. She questions these scriptural injunctions and remains unconvinced."How could Quran - a book so holy that it has to be kissed before it could be lifted or replaced - speak of such discrimination?"(32) No wonder Taslima Nasreen was hounded out of Bangladesh for holding such independent views on the status of women in Islam and for writing truth about atrocities committed by the Muslim fundamentalists on Bangladeshi Hindu women in her famous, though controversial, novel Lajja (i.e., "The Shame").

Gender discrimination is widely practised in almost every Muslim society. For instance there is that unjust practice of 'triple talaq', widely prevalent in India and many other Muslim countries,whereby a Muslim male can divorce his wife summarily and arbitrarily by pronouncing the word "talaq" three times in one go (i.e., by repeating three times 'I divorce thee'). And according to the Sharia the divorce becomes instantaneously effective and the divorced lady can be immediately thrown out of the house. This malevolent formula of triple talaq hangs like the proverbial Damocles' sword over the heads of Muslim wives most of whom are otherwise, too, not allowed to go out for work because of Islam's societal taboos. It enables unscrupulous husbands to blackmail their wives and maintain their dominance over womenfolk.

The discriminatory treatment meted out by Muslim men to their womenfolk in Islamic societies, mainly due to 1400 years old religious edicts and the dominant role commanded by the clergy, has been acting as a drag on the social and economic progress of Muslim societies. For instance, for quite sometime past Pakistan-sponsored terrorists have been trying to enforce compulsory wearing of the veil, i.e., burka, by Kashmiri women. An edict to this effect was issued by the militant outfit Lashkar-e-Jabbar in December 2002. The militant group which hit the headlines last year for its diktat making burqas a must, in December, 2002 killed four women in Rajouri, just to prove that it means business.(33) Posters were found pasted outside women's colleges directing women to wear burqa and in remote pockets girls were forbidden to continue education after Class 8 and wine shops were targeted leaving many liquor-sellers and buyers injured. Jabbar made its first appearance in the Valley in 2001 and created a sensation by asking women to wear burqas. An outcry followed. But none obeyed, till the militants carried out three acid attacks.(34) The burqa call given by the Lashkar-e-Jabbar has been endorsed by a women's militant outfit 'Dukhtaran-e-Millat' (Daughters of Islam), headed by Asyia Indrabi. Soon the militant's burqa call spread to Rajouri, Majakot, Thanamandi and Kotranka. The Hindu women were directed to wear 'bindis' so as to mark them out from Muslim women.

In yet another attempt to curb the freedom of women in Kashmir, a newly emerged outfit known as the Shariati Nefazi Islami (SNI) has asked girls to follow a strict dress code.(35) It even warned the owners of beauty parlour in the Valley to shut shop before May 15, 2003. A local English daily Greater Kashmir quoted Junaid-ul-Islam, self-styled chief of Shariati Nefazi Islami, as saying that the growing waywardness and moral degradation among young girls was a matter of deep concern. Stating that jeans, transparent and short dresses were alien to Kashmiri culture, it has asked the tailors in the Valley to refuse stitching "obscene dresses".(36) The fundamentalist organisation held parents responsible for encouraging their daughters to imitate western culture and warned that strict action will be taken against the girls found wearing such dresses. Last year when women in the valley were ordered to wear burqa by Lashkar-e- Jabbar, some militant outfits had distanced themselves from the diktat. "However, at least three young girls lost their eyesight and their faces were disfigured when the Jabbar militants splashed acid on them for not adhering to the order.(37)

It may be recalled that some of the staunch Islamist terrorists who bombed the WTC and Pentagon on 9/11, too, were rabid women-haters. To begin with there was that Muhammed Attah who left two testaments. The one in which he says: "At my funeral I do not want impure beings. Meaning animals and women." Then another one where he adds: " Not even around my grave do I want impure beings. Especially the most impure: pregnant women".(38) If such is the degree of contempt towards women among Islamists, how would one expect them to treat women as equal partners in life? And remember, Muhammed Atta was no illiterate ignoramus! How could a University-going young men forget that he too was born from the womb of a woman? That is gender discrimination at its worst - the enigma of radical Islam! Similarly in recent years the ascendancy of Islam in Nigeria has led to a virtual reign of terror against women. A lady lawyer Hauwa Ibrahim has on her hands 15 cases of hapless women facing various forms of punishment under the harsh Sharia law that has taken roots in Nigeria's north. Her best client was Amina Lawal, the young mother sentenced to be stoned to death for having sex outside marriage.(39) It was Lawal's case that first prompted protests against Nigeria staging the Miss World contest in 2002, much to the bafflement of Lawal and her lawyer. "Amina is from a village - no roads, no TV, no radio," says Ibrahim. "She cannot read. She cannot write. She has never heard of Miss World".(40) And fat was added to the fire when a Christian woman journalist wrote that perhaps prophet Mohammed would have approved of the Miss World contest and might have even married a contestant. The result was widespread communal violence in which more than 200 persons were killed. One of the first Sharia cases against women in Nigeria was of Bariya Ibrahim, a teenage mother, who was sentenced to 180 lashes for having sex before marriage. Her appeal was thrown out and Bariya was flogged 100 times in January 2001. Luckily Amina Laval was acquitted due to lack of evidence - apparently more due to the pressure of outraged public opinion. But the large number of women being prosecuted in Sharia adultery cases in northern Nigeria reflect an inherent gender bias in the way the law is applied, says the lawyer Ibrahim. For a woman to be convicted of having sex outside marriage, the birth of a child is sufficient evidence. For a man to be convicted without a confession, there must be witnesses to the act of penetrative sex. That is the tragedy flowing from the rigid control of orthodox clergy over the lives of innocent people.

There are ominous signs that the fundamentalists in Pakistan are trying to make life more difficult for women. In June 2003 the newly formed Government of North Western Frontier Province announced that it will bring a slew of sharia-based legislative measures to promote Islamization of the society, according to the provincial law minister Zafar Azam. "Sharia will be the supreme law," he said. "We will preach to people to adopt good things and give up bad things."(41) Azam said that the provincial government would urge men to grow beards. Another plan was to have separate universities for women. It was feared that the next step could be to set up a version of the Department for Prevention of Vice and Promotion of Virtue - a Taliban-style body. Naturally this has caused concern to educated and enlightened women. Sherry Rehman, a member of the National Assembly of Pakistan and a former editor of the popular news magazine, 'The Herald', wrote: "Every time the spectre of a Shariat act is raised in Pakistan, women are the first to shudder." Irrespective of its content, there are widespread fears that the North West Frontier Province government's adoption of a Shariat bill could result in serious curbs on women's mobility and freedom. The first worry is that many radical clauses kept off this bill's agenda will still be pursued by self-appointed vigilantes in the streets. (42) Rehman recalls that such fears are not unfounded. "Our own history as well as the experience of other Islamicised states holds up a largely anti-women, deeply orthodox mirror to the societies they reflect. This picture threatens a large mainstream of Pakistani women today."

Drawing attention to General Zia's Islamisation process that saddled Pakistan with laws such as the Hudood and Zina ordinances, she urged a quick, sobering look at the police records of the last few years. "The Hudood ordinance remains the single most commonly applied law to hold women in indefinite lock-up". According to this law, in present usage, when a woman petitions her rape she invariably becomes an accomplice instead of a victim. Needless to say, the law's axe falls mostly on poor, resource-starved women. For over three decades, Shariat-law adventurism has been a favourite ploy of rightist political forces who have been allies with the military in dominating the national agenda through the appropriation of the state's ideological discourse. She concludes that Zia's formula of "harnessing Islamist parties as a substitute for the legitimacy conferred by real democracy continues even today".(43) In such discriminatory societal environs there is no possibility of empowerment of women. They hardly have any social position or dignity. Surprisingly not many women organisations worldwide have come forward to the succour of the persecuted and beleaguered women of Islamic countries. All that one notices here and there is a loner Taslima Nasreen in Bangladesh, an activist Asma Jehangir and an outspoken journalist Sherry Rehman in Pakistan or a gutsy Meena, founder of RAWA in Afghanistan trying to stand up to the tyranny of clerics and Muslim males. The real tragedy is that this rampant discrimination against women is carried out under the sanction of the Muslim law, "the Sharia". The singular lack of courage shown by the educated women of various countries, especially the western women's organisations, does no credit to the educated women worldwide. The specious plea that they have no locus standi to interfere in the religious matters concerning the members of another faith is hardly a valid excuse. In any case, due to exclusion of women from the mainstream of socio-economic activities, the scientific, economic and social progress of Islamic nations is not only quite poor but gravely flawed. Surely any society or religious or political group which denies to the half of its population the benefits of the vital pre-requisites of progress, e.g., education, dignity, scientific temper, basic human rights and equality of opportunity will have only slow and stunted growth.

Over the centuries Muslim societies have evolved a typically separatist and exclusivist mindset. This negative trait is illustrated by a number of prominent examples. Red Cross has been a universally recognised well-intentioned and humanist organisation which has been accepted all over the world. But a majority of Islamic countries did not want to continue with the innocuous nomenclature "Red Cross". Perhaps they thought that the word 'cross' had an unpleasant Christian odour which the faithful could not accept. So in the year 1986 in Islamic countries Red Cross had to be renamed (one dare not say 're-christened') as "Red Crescent". In sharp contrast to the Muslim attitude there has never been any objection to the nomenclature Red Cross by the Buddhist and Hindu societies. Sublimated by centuries of civility and tolerance and their belief in equal respect for all religions, 'Sarva dharma sam bhava', Hindus and Buddhists do not see anything wrong or improper in the use of the nomenclature "Cross" for serving the mankind. But Islamic nations decided to accept it as only "Red Crescent" - and could never accept the worldwide accepted nomenclature "Red Cross".

Again there is a well known political pressure group known as the OIC (Organisation of Islamic Countries) established in May 1971, following a meeting of the Foreign Ministers of Islamic countries in December 1970 at Karachi, in Pakistan, to promote solidarity and cooperation among Muslim nations. It is a sectarian religious forum meant solely for Islamic nations. But there is no comparable religiously denominated group of Christian or Buddhist countries. There being only one Hindu country, that is Nepal, there is no question of any religiously denominated Hindu group of countries being formed. The Hindu majority India and the Hindu-influenced Mauritius are both secular states committed to democracy and pluralism. But the OIC is quite unique in more than one way. For one thing it is the only group of nations which has a religiously denominated label and on top of it the OIC often speaks and acts in a patently partisan manner with a degree of unanimity, or near unanimity, in matters concerning the Muslims living and working anywhere in the world and not merely those living in fifty seven Islamic countries. And as a rule, where the dispute is between a Muslim group and a non-Muslim group in any country, the OIC often tends to side with the Islamic causes, as would be noticed from the position taken by it in matters concerning Bosnia, Chechenya, Palestine, Kashmir and recently in the case of Iraq. For OIC the first priority is to support an Islamic cause or movement, and not to act in a just or fair manner, nor decide any issue on merits in an impartial manner as would be seen from its stand on Bosnia, Chechenya, Palestine, Kashmir and other similar issues.

By and large, in Islamic countries there is a total absence of any political space for secularism and pluralism. In Muslim countries one has to be a Muslim to be able to work and live as an honourable first grade citizen. Generally, on religious ground, the non Muslims are relegated to the status of second class citizens and often denied equality of opportunity and the requisite dignity in socio-political matters. In fact, the term used for non-Muslims allowed to live in predominently Islamic countries or societies is "dhimmy", or Zimmy, which implies that they are allowed to exist on some kind of sufferance by submitting to the primacy of Islam. During middle ages most of the Muslim kings of India, except Akbar, had levied a tax called 'Jiziya' on Hindus for allowing the latter to practise their religious beliefs. Verse 9: 29 of Quran gives sanction for imposing 'Jizya' on 'kafirs', a sectarian tax levied on non-Muslims who do not embrace Islam but are under the protection of an Islamic regime, with willing submission and feeling themselves subdued.(44) In sharp contrast to this discriminatory practice, no Hindu or Buddhist ruler had ever imposed such an unjust levy on their Muslim subjects. Even those Hindu and Sikh rulers who had waged life-and-death battles for decades with Moghuls, e.g., Rana Pratap, Shivaji, Peshwas, Holkars and Scindias, did not ever think of imposing any religion-based imposts on Muslims or Christians. The very thought of imposing a religion-based sectarian tax on a section of their subjects, their own people, would be an anathema to the spiritual ethos of a Hindu, Sikh or Buddhist ruler. The first victims of the imposition of 'jiziya' were the Jews of Khaibar in Medina, Arabia.

A very strange feature of most Islamic societies is their frequent recourse to senseless violence and killings, sometime in a very cruel fashion, totally out of sync with the modern societal ethos. Perhaps it springs from a number of punishments like the chopping of the hands for crime of theft, public stoning to death for adultery and rape and public beheading of the guilty, as prescribed in the Quran and the Sharia. Most of these continue to be practised in Sharia governed countries like Saudi Arabia and parts of Nigeria and were sought to be enforced in Afghanistan by the Taliban. The brutality of such punishments being awarded in Saudi Arabia and other Sharia-ruled countries is self evident. Some fundamentalists in Pakistan also want such Islamic punishments to be instituted in their country.

Many Islamic regimes and radical organisations have a track record of wanton killings, sometime in the name of religion, sometime for sheer heck of it! One such incident of senseless killing of innocents, unprecedented in brutality and ferocity in Egyptian history, occurred at Luxor on November 17, 1997, when an Egyptian Islamist gunman, Medhar Muhamad Abdel Rahman, believed to have been trained in the Afghan guerrilla camps led five other terrorists in the mass murder of 58 foreign tourists and at least four Egyptians on the banks of the Nile barely 500 metres from the 3,400-year-old Pharaonic temple of Queen Hatsheput. The attackers, who horribly maimed about 20 more survivors, all perished in the following pursuit and gun battles with police and enraged townspeople of Luxor. The manner of the mass killings, which according to survivors and newsmen like the London Independent newspaper's Robert Fisk who arrived on the scene soon afterwards, recalls in some respect accounts of throat-cutting and disemboweling which took place during the 1979-89 Afghan jihad - tactics which had been so rare as to be almost unknown until then in Egypt.(45)

Blinded by bigotry the Islamists do not spare even their co-religionists, the Shias. One has just to recall the great tragedy which overtook thousands of Hazaras (Shia Afghans) who fled to Bamiyan when Kabul fell to Taliban in 1996. In August 1998 when the city of Mazar surrendered to Taliban, within the first few days around 6000 people, mostly Shias, were hunted and mercilessly killed by the soldiers of Sunni Talibans (Wahabi fundamentalists) who consider Shias as heretics, though not infidels. No mercy was shown even to Shia diplomats. Ten or eleven members of the Iranian consulate in Mazar were dumped into a basement and then shot dead in cold blood - for no fault of theirs. A classic example of the Islamist penchant for the macabre was the brutal beheading of the Wall Street Journal's well-known correspondent Daniel Pearl in Karachi (Pakistan) on February 23, 2002 ,in front of a video camera. The jihadi captors of Pearl filmed themselves on video cutting his throat and then ritualistically severing his head from his body in an ghastly manner. "I am an American," he said on camera. "I am Jewish. My family on my father's side is Zionist", declared Daniel Pearl, before he was beheaded. The same barbaric ritualistic mode of murdering a number of hapless Hindus by beheading them or slitting their throats, has been resorted to by the terrorists in Jammu & Kashmir with impunity in a number of instances. They have been doing it to those Muslim Kashmiris, too, whom they suspect to be in league with the security forces. In fact, some Muslim women of Jammu & Kashmir, who did not obey the orders to wear the veil in accordance with the Islamic tradition, in response to the 'fatwa' issued by a fundamentalist-Islamist organisation called Lashkar-e-Jabbar, were also murdered most cruelly by slitting their throats. As far as the Pak-sponsored militancy in Kashmir is concerned the list of gory killings by the faithful Jihadi soldiers of Islam is fairly long and blood-curdling. One such instance of cold blooded killings of 24 unarmed innocent Kashmiri Pundits, including women and children, occurred at Nadimarg on March 24, 2003, which also happened to be the National Day of Pakistan. It was committed by members of Lashkar-e-Tayyeba. This ghastly crime, masterminded by Abu Mahaz, a Pakistani Commander of LeT for Pulwama area, was allegedly committed with the connivance of some of the nine armed police personnel who had been posted there to protect the Kashmiri Pundits. The role of cops came to light after the arrest of two persons who claimed that police cooperation had been sought which implied that the cops would not resist the massacre.(46)

For instance, an incident depicting the brutality of the Pak-sponsored terrorists took place in the third week of April 2003 when "suspected militants abducted one Mushtaq Ahmed Dev from his house in Kishtwar area at gunpoint and then chopped his nose, ears and tongue off". A police spokesperson confirming the gruesome act, said that Mushtaq Dev hailed from Sigdi area of Chatroo, a remote village of Kishtwar of Doda district. According to an unconfirmed report the victim was a distant relation of the General Secretary of the All India Congres Committee (I) who was also Chief of the Provincial Congress (I).(47) The number of such incidents is quite large.

It may be recalled that a former President of Afghanistan, Najibullah, and his brother Shalmar Ahmadzai, had also met a very cruel and gory end in Kabul at the hands of militant Taliban in September 1996. Najibullah became President in 1985 and oversaw the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan in 1989. He remained in power till 1992 when he was made to step down by the Mujahideen storm troopers due to rapid growth of Islamic militancy. His family was able to escape from Afghanistan in good time, but before he could leave Kabul, the militants overran Kabul and blocked his escape. For four years Najibullah was given refuge in the compound of United Nations Mission. But in September 1996 the Taliban soldiers dragged him out of the compound of the U.N. Mission. Throughout the night they tortured Najibullah and his brother in a manner remniscent of the dark medieval ages and then hanged their mutilated and bloated bodies outside the Presidential Palace. What followed was worse and an altogether macabre spectacle. The bodies of the ex President and his brother were kept hanging there for public to see, while crows and vultures pecked at the corpses. And surprisingly no Muslim country or Islamic scholar dare condemn the ghastly slaying of Najibullah and his brother and subsequent desecretion of their corpses.

One of the most heart-rending incidents of brutal killings in the name of religious faith in the twentieth century has been narrated by Oriana Fallaci to which she along with many journalists and a German photographer, was a witness in Dacca, Bangladesh, after President Mujib's assasination in 1975, when the so-called twelve "impure" men were executed in Dacca, Bangladesh, in the stadium, by stabbing them in their thorax with bayonets. Twenty thousand believers, many among them women, sitting in the tribunes of the stadium continued to pray and chant Allah-o-Akbar, Allah-o-Akbar. After executing the impure men they killed a ten-year-old child who in order to save one of them, his brother, had thrown himself on the executioners, pleading "don't hurt him, don't hurt him".The executing soldiers crushed the child's head with the heels of their heavy boots. This ghastly incident, according to Oriana Fallaci, was reported by her as well as some German, French and British reporters - and one of them, the German, had taken phtographs, too. As soon as the execution ended, the twenty thousand believers (including women) left the tribunes and came down to the ground. But not in a disorderly way, but iin a methodical and solemn manner. They formed a procession and solemnly reached the scene of the carnage, all the time praying Allah-o-Akbar, God-is-great. They passed over the corpses and reduced them to a carpet of crushed bones. They destroyed the dead like the Twin Towers.(48)

Out of twenty thousands spectators sitting that day in the Dacca stadium, not one person, neither man nor woman, stood up to protest against the atrocity. When these brutal killings took place in Dacca no contemporary Islamic scholar or human rights activist showed the courage to raise his voice of protest. That proud privilege of representing the sane voice of humanity fell to the lot of a ten year old boy who stood up to be counted and was mercilessly killed.

And the latest call for taking recourse to the medieval Islamic practice of slitting throats of enemies, as ordained in the name of Allah, came from no less than the much hyped socialist-cum-secularist favourite of India's leftist groups, Saddam Hussain, former President of Iraq. On March 23, 2003 while applauding the Iraqis for their so-called resistance to the U.S.-led invasion, the secular Saddam exhorted his followers to "strike them, and strike evil so that evil will be defeated". "You Iraqis are in line with what God has ordered you to do, to cut their throats," he said.(49) Interestingly a commandment sanctioning the slitting of throats of ' kafirs' and enemies is contained in Verses 47:4, 5, 6 of Quran which lay down the treatment to be meted out to the enemy by mujahids. (50). Till recently the medieval practices like slitting of throats, though ordained by Islamic scriptures, were almost forgotten by the civil society. These have been revived, almost with a vengeance, now by the jihadis. It was time that Muslim intellectuals and religius scholars raised their voice against such horrible crimes. But will they speak up? There is no positive answer to that question.

These recent instances of bloodletting, committed by Islamists in the name of religion, reveal a medieval mindset, wanting in humane behaviour and civilizational values. Unfortunately all these brutal events historically represent the raw social practices prevalent among Bedouin tribes 1400 years ago. Some of these were followed in Muslim societies in the twentieth century simply because these are supported by religious scriptures. It is doubtful if the universal civilization can ever come to terms with such grotesque practices - even if these are ordained by holy scriptures - whether of Muslims, Hindus or Christians. The foregoing recent examples, just a few out of many such instances from the recent history of Islamists, show that Samuel Huntington is not far wrong when he proclaims that "Islam's borders are bloody, and so are its innards."(51)

This peculiar aspect of deliberate and calculated recourse to raw violence is likely to occupy the quality time and space during deliberations whenever the process of conflict resolution starts - may be after twenty, thirty or fifty years from now. History of mankind is a witness to the fact that ultimately all civilizational conflicts, howsoever long and protracted they might be, have to undergo the process of conflict resolution through dialogue, debate and discourse.

A uniform feature of Islamic societies is their secessionist trait - the divisive tradition of breaking away from their parent countries to constitute themselves into exclusivist theocratic states. Wherever in any particular region Muslims constitute a majority or acquire a comfortable near-majority in numbers, as happened in Kosovo and Bosnia, they start making demands for secession and ultimately take recourse to armed struggle for breaking away from the parent country. That has been the standard Islamic tradition. In twentieth century this trend was started with the carving out of Islamic state of Pakistan by partitioning India in 1947, when the British decided to leave the sub-continent. Since then it has caught the fancy of Muslims societies worldwide. Soon enough this very fundamentalist, religion-centric attitude was witnessed when Pakistan invaded the princely State of Jammu & Kashmir in 1947 in a bid to annexe the valley on the specious plea that it happened to be a Muslim majority area. It is really tragic that due to certain political developments, foremost among which was the presence of Lord Mountbatten as Governor General of India, Pakistan was able to capture and annex a sizable part of Kashmir valley in that war which now constitutes the Pak-Occupied Kashmir. This peculiarly Islamic trend of seeking secession and organising for themselves an exclusivist existence on the basis of religion, something like 'Dar-ul- Islam' or a Muslim theocratic state, has been the cause of many violent faultline clashes and wars in several parts of the world, e.g., Cyprus, Bosnia, Chechenya, Thailand, and Mindnao and Sulu islands of Philippines. Apart from the well-known examples of Cyprus and Chechenya, this aspect of a pronounced propensity for breaking away from the mother-country is best illustrated by the events of of Kosovo and Bosnia where break-up of Yugoslavia and a demographic tilt in population in favour of the Muslims brought a radical change in the mosaic of geo-political developments. Historically communal identities in Bosnia had not been strong. Serbs, Croats and Muslims lived peacefully as neighbours, intergroup marriages were common, religious identifications were weak.(52) Once the broad Yugoslav identity collapsed, however, these casual religious identities assumed new relevance and when fighting intensified they too intensified. There was a perceptible change in the attitude of both Serbs and Croats and they started identifying themselves with their own cultural groups. But change in the attitude of Muslims was even more marked and in the 1990 elections the Muslims rejected the multi-communal parties, voted overwhelmingly for the Muslim Party of Democratic Action led by Alija Izetbegovic.(53) He was the idealogue of the separate Islamic state of Bosnia - in much the same manner as Iqbal had been of Pakistan. He being a devout and radical Muslim had been imprisoned by the communist regime of Yugoslavia for his secessionist views advocating that the Muslim majority areas of Yugoslavia should break away and form a new Islamic country in Europe. Izetbegovic in a book The Islamic Declaration published in 1970 had argued about the incompatibility of Islam with non-Islamic systems. "There can be neither peace nor co-existence between the Islamic religion and non-Islamic social and political institutions." He argues that when the Islamic movement is strong enough it must seize power and create an Islamic republic. In this new state, the subjects of education and media should be in the hands of persons whose Islamic moral and intellectual authority is indisputable and absolute.(54) Bosnia is not an isolated example. It is the same story everywhere. When Muslim population reaches a near-majority status in any country, in fact even before that as soon as it exceeds 30 or 40 per cent, an Islamic struggle for secession immediately starts often resulting in organized violence. On their own admission, as candidly spelt out by Izetbegovic in recent times and by Sir Syed Ahmed more than one hundred fifteen years ago in 1988, Muslims refuse to co-exist with other religious groups on equal terms in the same country and raise the demand for a separate homeland. Evidentally the concept of Hindus and Muslims of India being two different nations was first propounded by Sir Syed Ahmed not by Jinnah, nor Savarkar. The concept of the two-nation theory, for all practical purposes, is an integral part of Islamic theology which divides the world into two hostile camps, Dar-ul-Islam and Dar-ul-Harb, which are in perpetual conflict with each other. Muslims find it difficult to co-exist with other religious groups because Islam per se is opposed to multicultural and multi-communal nation-states.

It has been widely claimed that Islam is an egalitarian faith and it assures equality and dignity to every human being. But that is only a theoretical illusion. Islam is very much a discriminatory religion. First and foremost, it is heavily loaded against all non-Muslims, howsoever, pious, truthful, meritorious and God-fearing they might be. In this respect it is far more discriminatory and unjust than any other religion. As exemplified by Dr. Ambedkar, Hinduism is said to divide people and in contrast Islam is said to bind people together. But that is only a half truth because Islam divides as inexorably as it binds. Islam is like a close corporation and the distinction that it makes between Muslims and non-Muslims is a very alienating distinction. The brotherhood of Islam is not the universal brotherhood of man. "It is a brotherhood of Muslims for Muslims only."(55) It is a fraternity the benefits of which are available only to those within its corporation. For those outside that religious corporation, there is only contempt and hostility.(56) Islam is more discriminatory than most other religions because it has a scriptural sanction for imposition of a poll tax called 'jiziya' on non- Muslims, which resembles protection-money. About the treatment of non-Muslims in Islamic countries there is nothing much to write home about. According to the philosophy of Islam even the most pious and God fearing non-Muslim is inferior to a Muslim. Maulana Mahommed Ali a close associate of Mahatma Gandhi, while presiding at the session of the Indian National Congress in 1923, had lavishly praised Gandhiji - perhaps because the Mahatma had supported the Khilafat movement whole-heartedly. But just after one year while speaking at Aligarh and Ajmer he changed tune and proclaimed that howsoever pure Mr Gandhi's character might be, from the point of view of Islamic religion he shall be deemed inferior to any Mussalman, even though the latter might be without character."(57) That statement of Mahomed Ali created a stir. Many did not believe that the Maulana, who had expressed so much respect for Gandhiji, was capable of entertaining such contemptuous sentiments about him. But later on when Mahommed Ali was speaking at a meeting held at Aminabad Park in Lucknow, he was asked whether the sentiments attributed to him were true. Mr Mahommed Ali without any hesitation replied:

"Yes, according to my religion and creed, I do hold an adulterous and a fallen Muslim to be better than Mr Gandhi." (58)

This statement was made despite the fact that Gandhiji had given his whole-hearted support to the cause of Muslims and both Mahommed Ali and Shaukat Ali were his good friends and old Congressmen. But that did not deter Mahommed Ali from according an adulterous and fallen Muslim a status better than the Mahatma.

For no apparent reason, Islam has a pronounced gender bias against women, who form fifty per cent of the humankind. Even in the matter of the treatment of the faithful, Quran does not accord equal status to everyone. There are verses which try to rationalise the centuries old practice of Muslim rulers in treating different classes of Muslims in an unequal manner on the plea that it has been so ordained by Allah. Again there are verses which state that it is Allah who decides that who should acquire the riches and who is destined to remain in poverty among Muslims. For instance, Verse 28:82 says "It is indeed Allah who enlarges the provision or restricts it to any of his servants He pleases". Again Verse 6:165 justifies inequality when it proclaims, "He (Allah) has raised you (Muslims) in ranks, some above others." But this does not mean that Islam preaches or practises a greater degree of discrimination than any other religion. Such a conclusion will be most unfair - almost a travesty of truth. Most religions are dogmatic and have a pronounced streak of discrimination, are male-centric and male-dominated. Perhaps Islam is a little more.

Eventually one has to admit that there is the problem of a mismatch between modernity and Islam either because of the latter's medieval mindset or its tribal ethos, perhaps both. How to bridge this huge gap? Not easy, perhaps. Tribal ethos and medieval mindset of Islamists are reflected in certain prominent traits: autocracy is one, senseless violence is another, gender-discrimination yet another. To these may be added some other traits like pronounced bellicosity and an inexplicable behavioural pattern of unprovoked brutality. Islam berates all non-Muslims, even if they happen to be the most truthful, pious and God fearing souls on earth - even a Mahatma like Gandhiji was. The sole criterion is that unless non-Muslims submit to Islam, they are no good human beings. Again Islam glorifies martyrdom in the cause of advancing the Islamic faith. That explains the spate of suicidal attacks by Palestinians, notably the Hamas and the Hizbollah, against the Israelis and similar suicide missions being carried out by the Pakistan-trained militants in Jammu and Kashmir and several parts of India, including Delhi, Mumbai, Jammu, Ahmedabad, Coimbatore and several other Indian towns and cities. These are classic examples of Islamist-jihadi fervour for martyrdom. These attacks are meticulously planned, cleverly crafted and ruthlessly executed. These are not impulsive manifestations of violence caused in response to any provocation, nor are these sporadic acts of violence committed by disorderly mobs. These are all premeditated crimes against humanity which no civil society can condone. Many similar attacks have been organised by Islam's terror troops even in India against the so-called 'kafir' Hindus. The barbarism of gun- wielding militants in targetting unarmed innocent Hindu Yatris going for pilgrimage to Amarnath year after year, the two successive attacks on Raghunath temple in Jammu, the attacks on Indian Parliament in Delhi and Akshardham temple in Ahmedabad and killing of the innocent family members of army personnel, including children and infants, at Kaluchak clearly reflect a pronounced streak of sadism. It is this sadism which manifests itself in frequent homicidal and suicidal attacks by the so-called fedayeens in Jammu and Kashmir and Palestine. In recent times it appears to have been accentuated perhaps by illusions of grand entry into heaven where seventy virgin maidens are waiting for them, should they attain martyrdom. The same glory of martyrdom had perhaps fired the imagination of 19 terrorists who attacked the WTC and Pentagon on September 11, 2001. So long as the concept of paradise under the 'shade of swords' continues to rule over the minds of Muslims and they remain committed to waging holy war against all non-Muslim societies, how could there be a rapprochement between the Islamic civilization and the universal civilization? That is a $ 64 million question.

The trend towards armed insurgency by Islamists in many parts of the world for bringing about regime change or achieving secession from the parent country, is on the increase. And terrorism is being used as a convenient tool to further the cause of pan- Islamic movement. During last three decades religiously motivated and jingoist groups of militant Muslims in a number of countries and diverse political regions, as far removed from each other as Bosnia, Chechenya, Thailand and Phillppines, have organised themselves into militia-like outfits to wage holy war to force secession from their parent countries on the ground of religion and carve out for themselves some sort of a Dar-ul-Islam. Most of these groups are armed with Kalashnikovs and RDX and had received organised training in Pakistan and Afghanistan (the land of strategic depth carved out through 'regime change' by the ISI and the Pakistani rulers) for waging jihad and carrying out suicidal terrorist strikes. Almost all of them were indoctrinated in Islamic seminaries, trained in the ISI run camps in Pakistan and Afghanistan and were battle-hardened in the Afghan war against Russia. Subsequently with the growth of Al Qaeda and Taliban their numbers swelled manifold and so did the quality of training and their commitment to the cause of jihad.

The massive sweep of their area of operation alone is enough to convince right thinking members of the civil society about the staggering dimensions of the problem and its implications for the future of the mankind - our future imperfect! A cursory glance around the globe will show up that a number of jihads are already in progress, say in Bosnia, Chechenya, Palestine, Egypt, Iran, Afghanistan, India, Bangladesh, Thailand, Indonesia and Phillppines. The whole of Balkans is like a tinder box which can erupt into flames of civil war any time, any day. In Europe the infection has spread to many countries, including the U.K., the Netherlands, Germany and France. The annihilation of Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq-war has failed to stem the tide of Islamist-terror. Over a period of time it could give greater impetus to the existing groundswell of Islamic-militancy which has already enveloped almost all Muslim nations and some non-Muslim countries too across at least three continents of Asia, Africa and Europe - from Britain to Morocco to the Philippines. The relief, if any, from terrorism provided by the success of the U.S. campaign in Iraq might be only marginal and temporary. In the long run it could fuel more terrorism among the Muslim youth. There may be a lull, say for an year or two, but it should be seen as a lull before the storm. The Islamist outfits are in no great hurry and will surely strike back sooner or later - perhaps sooner than latter and with a vengeance, too! If their past history is any guide the terrorists groups will continue to mount attacks on their target countries like the U.S.A., India and Israel. For the time being it will be a selective, low-intensity guerrila warfare, occasionally marked by the high pitched jihadi fervour but mostly sporadic and surreptitious, full of surprises.

In the next phase of this protracted civilizational conflict the Army-plus-ISI ruled state of Pakistan, General Musharaff's "fortress of Islam", might play yet another momentous role, by providing access to nuclear weapons and technology to jihadi outfits. The access to nuclear technology could also be provided to the radical Islamists by the Iranian regime which for all practical purposes is well set on the road to becoming a nuclear power. Let us admit, it is ony a matter of time. After all in this technology pervasive world how long could America alone block the flow of nuclear technology to Muslim nations. There are fifty seven of them, all under the OIC umbrella, most of them flush with petro-dollars. Access to nuclear know-how will herald another campaign of radical Islam which will be far more aggressive and bloody than the one which we are witnessing presently. The next phase of Islamist jihad is likely to confront and overwhelm many more countries and regions of the world. The availability of nuclear weapons for use against "kafirs" will help in recharging the zeal of the ummah and galvanize the hordes of jihadis, embedded in many countries, and raring to go after their three arch enemies, namely the Christian, the Hindu and Jewish civilizations.

The macro picture will become clearer if one adds to the long list of Muslim countries seething with anger over the fate of Afghanistan and Iraq, the huge resentment building up against the west and the growing jihadi rage noticeable among the young educated populace of Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan and Indonesia , especially among the younger generations of educated Muslims who have been in the forefront of the Islamist campaigns. This important role of educated Muslim youths in the advancement of the radical philosophy has been highlighted by Huntington. Like most revolutionary movements, the core elements of Islamists consist of students and intellectuals. In most countries in the first phase of political Islamization the fundamentalists managed to win control of student unions and similar organizations. The first breakthrough came in the universities of Egypt, Pakistan and Afghanistan in the 1970s and then it moved on to other Muslim countries. The fundamentalist movement was particularly strong among students in technical institutes, engineering faculties and scientific departments. Later on, in 1990s the second generation Islamic indigenization started manifesting in Saudi Arabia, Algeria and elsewhere. Due to the trend of increasing proportions of university students being educated in their home-country languages they were increasingly exposed to Islamist influences. The Islamists also developed a substantial appeal to women and Turkey witnessed a clear shift in the attitudes of the older generation of secularist women and their Islamist-oriented daughters and grand daughters. According to a study of the militant leaders of Egyptian Islamist groups it was found that they had five major characteristics, which appeared to be common with the Islamists of other countries. They were young, mostly in their twenties and thirties. Eighty per cent were graduates or university students and more than fifty per cent came from elite colleges or intellectually most demanding fields of technical specialization such as medicine and engineering. More than 70 percent were from lower middle-class with "modest, but not poor backgrounds," and were the first generation young men in their family to get higher education. Most of them had spent their childhood in small towns or rural areas but had become residents of large cities.(59) It was this class of educated youth who powered the new surge of Islamic militancy.

Surprisingly the general impression among the educated elite and intellectuals, both in the west as well as in Asia has been to the contrary, especially in India, where scores of intellectuals, media analysts and political leaders have been blaming the growth of militancy among Muslim youths of the sub-continent (i.e., Pakistan, India and Bangladesh) on their poverty, lack of education, ignorance and economic hardship. It is extraordinary that they refuse to understand the complex nuances of Islamist militancy which draws inspiration from the spectacular conquests of early Arab, Moghul and Turkish armies in the medieval times when they conquered large parts of Asia and Africa and battled it out with European rulers in Iberia (i.e. Spain), France, Balkans and Austria. But most important source of this inspiration to Islamists has been the mammoth growth in Muslim population across the globe. This is the theme song of a number of websites established by dozens of Muslim outfits using Internet. The facts of Islam's extensive conquests are better known to educated Muslim youths, far better than the illiterate Muslim masses, and for that reason the educated Muslims have been in the forefront of the movement of restoring the lost glory of Islam. Perhaps one can forgive the politicians for not stating the obvious and running away from reality because they are into the quagmire of vote-bank politics. But what could be the reason for the naivette of the educated elite, scholars and media analysts? It is difficult to believe that they are unaware of the elementary truth that in India itself the growth of Muslim separatism and the demand for a Muslim homeland by partitioning the sub-continent had been spearheaded in 1930s and 1940s by the educated elite and scholars of the Muslim society. Huntington's viewpoint is wholly corroborated by the recent research studies and empirical data. As logical as the poverty-breeds-terrorism argument may seem, study after study shows that suicide attackers and their supporters are rarely ignorant or impoverished. Nor are they crazed, cowardly, apathetic or asocial. If terrorist groups relied on such maladjusted people, "they couldn't produce effective and reliable killers," according to Todd Stewart, a retired Air Force general who directs the Ohio State University programme in international and domestic security.(60) The truth was brought out by Scott Atran when he pointed out that in the suicide bombing of a café in Tel Aviv in the last week of April 2003 which killed three bystanders, the bomber and the main accused of being his accomplice had grown up in Britain, in relatively prosperous circumstances and studied in a college. Similarly Nasra Hassan, a Pakistani relief worker, interviewed nearly 250 aspiring Palestinian suicide bombers and their recruiters in the year 2001. She found that none of them was uneducated, desparately poor, simple-minded or depressed. They all seemed to be entirely normal members of their families. Again a 2001 poll by the nonprofit Palestinian Centre for Policy and Survey Research indicated that Palestinian adults with 12 years or more of education are far more likely to support bomb attack than those who cannot read. Another report from the officials of the Army Defence Intelligence Agency who interrogated Saudi-born members of Al Qaeda being detained at Guantanam Bay, Cuba, revealed that these fundamentalists, especially those in leadership position, are often educated above reasonable level and a surprising number have graduation degrees and come from high status families. Their motivation and commitment are evident in their willingness to sacrifice material and emotional comforts, including families, jobs and physical security to travel long distances and pay their own way.(61)

Another researcher, Alan B. Krueger, analyzed the data which the U.S. State Department collects on significant international terrorist incidents. The home-countries of the perpetrators of each event were identified. More terrorists do come from poor countries than rich ones but this is because poor countries tend to lack civil liberties.(62)

There is no substance in the oft-repeated argument that lack of education and poverty are the root causes of Islamist-terrorism. Research studies and empirical observations clearly show that the educationally advanced and prosperous elite groups of Muslim community are more involved with the pan-Islamic movement and the growth of radical Islam. Historically in India, too, the well-to-do students and teachers of Aligarh Muslim University had played a very prominent role in fanning the flames of Muslim communalism and carrying forward the battle cry of jihad for creating Pakistan. The uneducated and uninformed Muslim masses became the camp followers of the elite storm troopers of Aligarh University much later, almost a decade later. Sir Penderel Moon had expressed surprise that Pakistan came to be created so late, and with such a rush at the end, while in the beginning the idea was such a slow starter. He pointed out that as far back as 1888 Sir Syed Ahmad, the great Muslim leader of the nineteenth century, had enunciated the premise which led naturally and necessarily, to the idea of Pakistan. Sir Syed Ahmed pointed out that India was a country inhabited by two different nations and there would necessarily be a struggle for power between them, if the English were to leave India. "Is it possible", he had asked, "that under these circumstances two nations - the Mohammadan and the Hindu - could sit on the same throne and remain equal in power? Most certainly not. It is necessary that one of them should conquer the other and thrust it down." He dismissed the idea that both could remain in India on equal terms as something impossible and inconceivable.(63) There is a marked similarity in the views expressed by Sir Syed Ahmad one hundred fifteen years ago, by Iqbal in 1930 and by Alija Izetbegovic, the Islamist idealogue of Bosnia, in recent times. Three of them display the same mindset of breaking away from the parent country, the same perception of the incompatibility of Muslims co-existing with others. And no wonder that Pakistani army brass consistently dream about the day they will be able to rule over India. After all, Sir Syed Ahmed did envision a situation in the future, after the British left, when one of the two communities, Hindus or Muslims, will overthrow the other. who had sown the seeds of India's partition along communal lines. It was Iqbal who conceptualised the theocratic Islamic state of Pakistan and for that important reason he is held in great esteem in Pakistan and is universally revered by many terrorist groups of Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir. Iqbal was an intellectual and a poet par excellence. Iqbal also played an inspirational role, truly a momentous one, in rejigging the groundswell of the pan-Islamic movement across the globe. The truth is that long before Laden assumed leadership of the militant Islam, Iqbal's two radical poems, "Shikwa" and "Tarana", were being translated into Arabic, Indonesian and other languages and regularly used to arouse the Muslim youths across the globe for marshalling them to fight for restoring the lost glory of Islam.(64) What Naipaul saw and experienced in Bandung, Indonesia, in 1979-80 revealed the deep inroads made by the radical pan-Islamic ideology among Muslims of south-east Asia. (65). Sir Vidia's experience during his Islamic journey in 1979-80 clearly showed that the ideology of radical Islam had captured the imagination of the Muslim masses long before bin Laden appeared on the scene. In this respect the successive governments of Pakistan have been totally faithful to Iqbal's ideology and world vision. Naipaul was not far wrong when he said that the story of Pakistan is a terror story. It started with a poet who thought Muslims were so highly evolved that they should have a special place in India for themselves. Naipaul criticised Iqbal's wish "to sift countries of irrelevant populations as something terrible and this is what exactly happened in Pakistan". (66) As mentioned in an article by Ardeshir Cowasjee, the singing of Allama Iqbal's Tarana (a jingoistic poem) with gusto by the students upto fifth class has been compulsory ritual in all goverrnment schools of Pakistan now for the last eight years. Naipaul in one of his narratives has referred to the famous chant of radical Muslims encountered by him in Pakistan: "darta nahin duniya mein Musalman kisi se, ja poocch Ali se" which means that "we Muslims fear no one, none at all; if you have a doubt, go and ask Ali (Prophet Muhammad's son-in-law)". Let the "universal civilisation" (the term used by Naipaul to describe the "western civilisation") understand that it was this medieval gutsy spirit of martyrdom and total commitment to "fight in Allah's way" which was responsible for the audicious terror attacks on WTC and Pentagon in September 2001, and later on mount an attack on the Indian Parliament in December 2001.

Again it is Islamic spirit of sacrifice and the glory of suicidal martyrdom in the cause of Allah which has kept the Palestinian cauldron on the boil for the last fifty years. This philosophy also lies at the root of senseless killings and mayhem in Chechenya, Indonesia and Philippines. This very attitude is responsible for the ongoing militancy, or "holy war" in Kashmir where ISI inspired Jihadis, volunteers from more than one score Muslim countries, are busy carrying out ethnic cleansing of the Hindus. No political analyst dare deny these facts.

Bin Laden is not far wrong when he claims that all Muslims are one people, that they are one nation, and that they have joined a decisive battle against the U.S.A., the Jews and the Hindu India. Surely the turn of Europe as a soft target will come fairly soon, as soon as the Balkans get fully Islamized due to the galloping growth of Muslim populations in Albania, Bosnia, Macedonia and Serbia. It is on the cards that France, Spain and Italy will get submerged in the overflowing stream of Muslim immigrants from Turkey, Egypt and Maghreb fairly soon. The highly visible massive growth in population of the countries of the Maghreb and the Middle East will create multiple demographic divides in Europe during the next two decades leading to major religious conflicts, especially in the soft states like France, Italy and Spain, weighed down by ageing populations and declining Christian numbers. France is already grappling with a major religion-based faultline conflict over the wearing of scarves by Muslim girl students and the growing resistance to the sale of pork products in school cafeterias and about the teaching of holocaust in schools. And the Balkans have already been sucked into the vortex of revived religion-based faultline conflicts. That will add to the growing incidence of civilizational wars. Laden may have been killed or might die but Islamist-terrorists will continue to threaten the non-militant and peace loving Asian and European societies. And to this fact file of terror one might add a footnote that the U.S.A. too have a lurking Islamist problem in their backyard in the shape of the not-too-dormant Black Muslim movement led by that firebrand radical leader, Louis Farrakhan, who calls it "the Nation of Islam", the latter nomenclature being fully in tune with the concept of 'ummah', and two-nation theory - the bugbear of India's armchair chattering classes. The very concept of "the nation of Islam" has a divisive connotation. It candidly proclaims that the Muslims of America are a separate nation, the nation of Islam, whereas the remaining Americans constitute another nation - perhaps that of the infidels. In any case, America is quite far away from Pakistan and the Middle East to be easily targeted by jihadi warriors and perhaps too powerful to be civilizationally damaged. Even then, many American scholars and military strategist, especially the neo-conservatives, are worried about the future of their country. It may be recalled that the entry of Louis Farrakhan into the U.K. has been banned by the government of that country because of his rabidly racist pronouncements against the Jews.

During the last fifty years the militant Islam has become a force to reckon with because of three important developments. Firstly, today Muslims constitute more than one fifth of the world population and by 2025 their proportion might grow to 30 percent of world population, as pointed out by Huntington in his tome Clash of Civilizations and Remaking of the World Order (source: Spengler, Decline of the West I). Secondly they are highly conscious of the power of their numbers and their leaders are trying to capitalise on this huge demographic surge by propagating the cause of holy war and calling the faithful to jihad, presently being waged in more than twenty countries. By far Islam happens to be the fastest growing religion because Muslim clerics have organised an aggressive methodology for proselytisation, better than the one organised by Christian missionaries, which wins them, year after year, a growing stream of neo-converts to Islam, especially in poor countries of Africa and south Asia. This growth in numbers is further facilitated by the "fatwas" issued by Mullahs forbidding the faithful from taking to family planning on grounds of religion. The third reason is equally important. The cash flow of petro dollars and enormous riches of the oil rich Sheikhdoms have provided strong financial muscle to the radical Muslim groups of Pakistan, the Middle East, Bangladesh and Indonesia. This financial clout has been extensively used for establishing thousands of Islamic seminaries and madarasas in several Asian and African countries. It is well-known that in the name of imparting instructions in the tenets of orthodox Islam a whole generation of youngsters has been ideologically motivated and trained to wage multiple jihads in different countries and make the entire world conform to the Islamic ideal of Dar-ul-Islam.

These three important developments along with the anxiety of the U.S.A. to dislodge Russians from Afghanistan in the early 1980s gave birth to Al Qaeda and provided an excellent opportunity to bin Laden to galvanize the Muslim youth for launching an aggressive pan-Islamic movement to restore the lost grandeur of Islam. These Islamists have been harking back to the middle ages and trying to make a bold bid for establishing Islam's supremacy in the realm of global politics. Though bin Laden has been called father of the resurgent Islam, which we find pitted against the rest of the world, including the mighty western powers, the truth is that it is the ISI and the successive leadership of Pakistani Army who have imparted a new fiery life to the terrorist movement by indoctrinating and training hundreds of thousands jihadi soldiers. One can notice the unmistakable footprints of Pakistani army and their relentless pursuit of the doctrine of jihad worldwide, in almost every terrorist attack during the last ten years, whether it occurred in America, or Bosnia or Chechenya or India, or in Indonesia. Osama bin Laden appeared on the horizon much later, like the typical charismatic leader at the right moment! History informs us that the threat of Islamic militancy is not something new. It has very deep societal roots, largely derived from the medieval tradition of the Arabian desert.

It has been argued by some scholars that Islam is a religion of peace, as is evident from the meaning of the word "Islam" itself. But that is just a theoretical statement, if not a convenient cover. In any case, this claim, often proferred by Muslim scholars mostly Indians or those of Indian origin, cannot be substantiated by any empirical evidence. The doctrine of jihad is a reality, too well-known by now. Frankly, the history of Islam makes no pretence of commitment to peace - certainly not till the message of the prophet is spread worldwide and the whole world is converted into "Dar-ul-Islam". Spirituality is only one aspect of Islam primarily flowing from a strong belief in monotheism and submission to a single God, that is Allah. Even a cursory reading of the Quran and Sharia reveals the militant face of Islam. According to the Quran there is only one true religion, the "God's religion", and that is Islam. Quran does not admit the validity of any other faith as a means of salvation for human beings. Islamic thought is anti-thetical to the concept of pluralism. In fact, a number of Quranic verses can be cited to show that Islam is not a religion of peace; it believes in the subjugation and annihilation of all un-Islamic religions and commands its followers to unleash violence against non-Muslims unless they embrace Islamic faith. For instance, Verse 59.20 of Quran proclaims "Not equal are the companions of fire (non-Muslims) and the companions of the garden (that is Muslims): it is the Companions of the Garden that will achieve felicity (victory). Many other verses direct Muslims to fight those belonging to a different faith and kill them unless they adopt Islam. The prayer in verses 71:26-27 to Allah clearly reveals the objective of Islamic faith when it says: "O Lord, leave not of the unbelievers, a single one on earth. For if you do leave any of them, they will mislead Your devotees and they will breed none but wicked ungratefulness". If Islam were a religion of peace, it would not ordain its followers to ensure that everyone must either embrace Islam or face death at the hands of Jihadis. Prima facie this dogmatic belief in the superiority of Islam and the insistence upon its acceptance by everyone seems to be the cause of numerous faultline conflicts between Islam and other civilisations.

Unfortunately on the basis of empirical studies and the history of Islam's expansionist past, it does look true that Islamic societies are more violence-prone and have a higher percentage of faultline conflicts with non-Muslim groups. And if we eschew the temptation of resorting to the usual courtesy of taking shelter behind homilies and platitudes, the stark truth is that there are not one or two, but a multitude of frictional asymmetries between the societal values of the universal civilization and the Islamic civilization. There is a huge mismatch, an ever widening divide, which has pushed the world to the brink of the present day civilizational crisis. As against six major faultline conflicts recounted by Huntington in 1993, at present the world is facing over twenty major faultline conflicts as enumerated in Appendix-II.(67) In each one of these, Islam is at war with other religions representing the civil society. The Islamists have a one-point agenda - of restoring the lost grandeur of Islam by converting the world into Dar-ul Islam. To this end they want to enforce Sharia laws in all Muslim countries. Additionally they want to obtain independence for Muslim minorities of the nation-states like the Philippines, India, China, Russia and Serbia by establishing a string of new Muslim countries through jihad.They debunk democracy, modernisation and tolerance of pluralism, because these western ideas run counter to the teachings of their scriptures. Their ultimate goal is reflected in the tenacious philosophy enunciated in the preamble of Al Qaeda's Manual which boastfully proclaims that "Islamic governments have never and will never be established by peaceful solutions and cooperative councils. They are established, as they have always been, by pen and gun, by word and bullet, by tongue and teeth". Islamists have a worldview of transforming the entire world into Dar-ul-Islam on the strength of growing numbers and the doctrine of jihad. Let us remember that their objective is to carry on the ongoing struggle in a protracted manner over a long period so as to debilitate and fatigue out the soft states in multiple attritional battles. They know that the global demographic trends are heavily tilted in their favour. For that reason they are in no great hurry at all, as is evident from their famous retort: "you have all the watches, we have all the time". As their long march succeeds over a period of time, they hope to crush all religious, ethnic and cultural minorities just as they have done in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Lebanon and several parts of the Balkans. In a bid to restore the long lost glory of Islam they have been carrying out a violent struggle to neutralize the influence of western culture in Muslim countries, including the states bordering Islamic nations, say countries like India, Russia, China, Thailand and the Philippines.

Unless there is a radical change in the Islamist mindset, there is little hope of democracy striking roots in Muslim countries. The history of democracy shows that there are some societies and religious groups which intrinsically lack the capability to develop democratic institutions because of inbuilt societal deficits. Huntington believes, like Dr. Ambedkar did, that Islamic societies have some inherent features which tend to inhibit them from imbibing democratic values. According to him, the conflict along the faultlines between Western and Islamic civilizations has been going on for over 1000 years and in the future, too, this military interaction between the West and Islam is unlikely to decline in the years to come. For doing this plain speaking Huntington has received flak from many Muslim scholars and secularist intellectuals of many countries, including India. But there is a kernel of truth in what he has said. A classic example of the apparent incompatibility of Islamic societies and democracy is available right here, in the Indian sub-continent. Ever since the British left the sub-continent in 1947, after dividing the Indian people into two nations, India has been functioning quite well as a successful democracy. Granted that the Indian democracy has several flaws, perhaps some serious limitations. But there have been no coups nor bloodbath, quite unlike Pakistan and Bangladesh, both Muslim countries, which have been floundering in search of an effective toe-hold for moving ahead on the democratic path. In India even the imposition of Emergency in 1975 by Late Mrs. Indira Gandhi, the then all powerful Prime Minister, could not suppress or supplant the democratic tradition embedded in the hearts and minds of the Indian people. It only brought her downfall and that too by the democratic mechanism of universal franchise, the cornerstone of civil society. But the kinds of turmoil that has plagued Pakistan repetitively and the destabilizing events which subsequently overtook the newly born state of Bangladesh, need no comments. Ever since its birth in 1947, Pakistan has not been able to adopt and nurture democracy at all. Even after a long period of 56 years, today that country is being ruled by a blustering army General known for his shenanigans; it is a different matter that he manouvered to get himself elected as President in a sham election. But then, according to General Musharraf himself, he is still trying to evolve "a sustainable democracy" in Pakistan, whatever that might mean. The fate of Bangladesh is only marginally better - it has gone through periods of serious public disorder, coups and spells of dictatorship.

Historically and racially, Indians, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis are the same people. The difference is only one and that is of religion and the civilizational values flowing therefrom. India is a predominantly Hindu country, subscribing to the ancient ethos of "sarva dharam sama bhav", and wholly wedded to secularism, pluralism, tolerance, freedom and equality, the principles firmly enshrined in the Indian Constitution and more importantly in the hearts of ordinary citizens. But both Pakistan and Bangladesh are theocratic states, based on the rigid doctrinaire precepts of Islamic scriptures and perhaps therin lies the clue to the successive failures of democracy in those two countries. How is it that in those two countries democracy has not been able to survive and grow? The answer is not difficult to seek. Democracy is loathed by Islamic rulers, and perhaps by a large majority of orthodox Muslims too. Acceptance of democracy will mean eradication of gender discrimination; it will mean equal rights to Muslims as well as "Kafirs" or non-Muslims, living in those countries which happen to be predominantly Muslim nations. And thereby hangs a tale. Democracy is bound to lead to introduction of modern ideas like freedom and equality. Who knows that introduction of democracy might break down the religious barriers between the faithful and the heathens and thus punch a big hole in the two-nation theory inherent in Islam? Who knows what consequences will flow from the emancipation and empowerment of women, once they throw away their veils? All those changes will surely lead to the development of pluralistic and multi-ethnic society, based on equality between males and females. Will that be acceptable to the Mullahs and the chauvinistic Muslim males? For the present the answer seems to be an emphatic 'no' with a capital "N". There is hardly any Muslim country where democracy has been nurtured, allowed to strike roots and was able to blossom into an article of faith among the Muslim masses. Going by the diktats of their scriptures the Islamists will not agree to give equal rights to non-Muslims and Muslim women.

Evidently there is some problem somewhere with Islamic societies, some mysterious attributes which act as deterrents to the growth of democracy, modernity and tolerance. Could it be that there is some flaw in the system of education prevalent in madarasas where during studentship Muslim children are taught to hate non-Muslims, called Kafirs, while being taught the merits of jihad. One knows for certain that at least in Pakistan, not only in madarasas but even in the government-run schools, children are taught to hate Hindus and the so-called Hindu India and taught merits of jihad, as pointed out by the well-known Pakistani columnist Ardeshir Cowasjee. Apparently similar schemes of radical Islamic instructions prevail in the madarasas of Indonesia, Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia and most other Muslim countries. After all, V.S. Naipaul did encounter similar fundamentalist conditions as early as 1979-80 in Bandung, Indonesia, during an interactive session with a group-leader of radical Islamists, one Imaduddin. As early as 1871, W.W. Hunter, in his book, Indian Mussalman, had impressed upon the then British-Indian Government the absurdity of the British-managed Calcutta madarasas providing an educational fare in which jihad formed a large part of the curriculum prepared for Muslim students.(68) Imagine, it was an uphill task to remove the lessons on jihad from the curriculum of government-run madarasas in the British-ruled state of Bengal. In the free world not many governments can take the extreme step of censoring the contents of religious textbooks being taught in private schools run by non-governmental organizations nor insist on censoring their curricula. If in the garb of providing religious instructions, dogmatic concepts like jihad and ghanima continue to be taught to school children in madarasas there is little hope of peaceful co-existence between the followers of different religions in the decades ahead.

When the present crop of madarasa-educated Muslim children of Pakistan, Bangladesh and Indonesia grows up, they will provide another steady supply of terrorists and suicide bombers to carry forward the holy war of Islamists. A striking example is the growing spate of bombings in Indonesia where in 1979-80 Naipaul had encountered an Engineer-turned-fundamentalist teacher during a session of "mental training" preaching radical Islam through recitation of Iqbal's 'Shikwa'. The foundations laid then and nurtured for decades are bearing fruit now in the shape of successive bombings staged in that country. There are reasons to believe that in the madarasas of Pakistan and Bangladesh and seminaries of many Arab countries, during lessons on jihad hatred and violence against non-Muslims are regularly preached. At least in the notorious Haqqania Madarasa of Pakistan there is rampant hatred against Jews, as was evident during the interaction which Jeffrey Goldberg, a Jewish journalist, had with Maulana Haq, the Chancellor of Haqqania. It is an established fact that childhood images find a lasting place in the psyche of youngsters. Only that can explain the morbid hostility displayed by the Islamist-outfits and Muslim youth against the Crusaders, the Jews and the Hindus.

Chapter -8 Notes

1. TAKE 2, The Economic Times, New Delhi, April 24, 2003.

2. Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, Pakistan or Partition of India, p. 285.

3. Ibid, p. 287.

4. Ibid.

5. Jeffrey Goldberg, Pakistan's Jehad Machines, Readers Digest, February 2002, p. 148.

6. Ibid.

7. Ibid.

8. Dr. Y.B. Mathur, Muslims and Changing India, p.59: Source, Sharp H., Progress of Education in India, 1907-12, para 601, Calcutta, 1912.

9. Ardeshir Cowasjee, First Teach your Class V Students, General, The Asian Age, New Delhi, June 16, 2003, published by arrangements with Dawn.

10. Mushirul Haq, Islam and Secular India, p.32.

11. Terror Tentacles, editorial in The Pioneer, New Delhi, October 15, 2002.

12. Ibid.

13. Amir Taheri, Guest Column, The Saudi's Islamist Frankstein, Sunday, The Hindustan Times, November 16, 2003, p.10.

14. Sulaiman Al- Hattlan, 'Homegrown Fanatics', The New York Times, May 15, 2003].

15. Ibid.

16. Brian Bennet/Bombay, with reporting by Nelli Sindyan/Zamboanga City and Amzad Hussain/ Dacca, Wahabism-Money Trail, TIME, March 10, 2003, p.27.

17. TIME, March 10, 2003, p.27.

18. TIME, March 10, 2003.

19. Firuz Kazemzadeh, The Baha'is in Iran: Twenty Years of Repression (non-Muslim religious minority), Social Research, Issue: Summer, 2000 (source:

20. Ibid.

21 Dr. B. R. Ambedkar, Pakistan or Partition of India, p.215.

22. Ibid, p. 220.

23. Ibid, p, 223.

24. Haifzur Rahman, It's not easy being a Pak minority, View from Pakistan, The Asian Age, New Delhi, July 9, 2003 - by arrangement with The Dawn.

25. Ibid.

26. Ibid.

27. Ahmed Rashid, Taliban, Islam Oil and the New Great Game in Central Asia, p.106.

28. UNOCHA statement, October 1996.

29. UNICEF statement, December 11, 1998.

30. Ahmed Rashid, Taliban, Islam Oil ad the New Great Game in Central Asia, p. 65.

31. Oriana Fallaci, The Rage and the Pride, pp. 107-110.

32. Poornima Joshi, The Sunday Hindustan Times, Nov. 4, 2001.

33. M. Saleem Pandit, Veil of Fear Back in J&K, The Times of India, New Delhi, December 26, 2002.

34. Ibid.

35. The Times News Service, The Times of India, New Delhi, p.10, April 24, 2003.

36. Ibid.

37. Times News Service, Times of India, New Delhi, p.10, April 24, 2003.

38. Oriana Fallaci, The Rage And The Pride, p.64.

39. Michael Peel, 'Counsel for the Condemned', Lunch with Hauwa Ibrahim, The Business Standard, June 2, 2003, p. 6 (reproduced from The Financial Times).

40. Ibid.

41. 'Pak province goes the Taliban way', a news item in The Times of India, June 4, 2003, p.15.

42. Sherry Rehman, Under the Shariat axe, The Indian Express, June 9, 2003.

43. Ibid.

44. Jihad in the Qur'an and Sunnah by Sheikh Abdullah Bin Muhammad Bin Humaid (ex-Chief Justice of Saudi Arabia, (source: website^msa/articles/jihad.html).

45. John K. Cooley, Unholy Wars: Afghanistan, America and International Terrorism, p.185.

46. A news item, Cops ganged up for Pulwana Massacre, The Pioneer, New Delhi, March 30, 2003.

47. A news item, Militants cut off Doda man's ears, nose and tongue - The Asian Age, New Delhi, April 19, 2003.

48. Oriana Fallaci, The Rage and the Pride, pp. 101-102.

49. A news item captioned "Cut their throats, Saddam tells Iraqis", The Pioneer March 25, 2003.

50. Jihad in the Quran and Sunnah by Sheikh Abdullah Bin Muhammad Bin Humaid, ex - Chief Justice of Saudi Arabia. (Source:ˆmsa/ articles/jihad.html).

51. The Clash of Civilizations and The Remaking of World Order, p. 258.

52. Samuel Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, p.269.

53. Ibid.

54. Alija Izetbegovic, The Islamic Declaration (1991), pp. 23, 33.

55. Dr. B. R. Ambedkar, Pakistan or Partition of India, p.325.

56. Ibid.

57. Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, Pakistan or Partition of India, pp. 295-296, Source: 'Through Indian Eyes', Times of India, March 11, 1924.

58. Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, Pakistan or Partition of India, p. 296.

59. Samuel Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations and Remaking of the World Order, pp.112-113.

60. Scot Atran, Who Wants to Be a Martyr?, New York Times, May 5, 2003.

61. Ibid.

62. Alan B Krueger, Poverty Doesn't Create Terrorists, The New York Times, June 13, 2003.

63. Pendrel Moon, Divide and Quit, p.11.

64. V.S. Naipaul, Among the Believers, An Islamic Journey, p.344, part IV.

65. Ibid.

66. A news item 'Naipaul spits fire on Pak', The Economic Times, New Delhi, October 5, 2001.

67. Appendix - II.

68. Suhas Majumdar, Jihad, The Islamic Doctrine of Permanent War, p.74.

Ram K. Ohri is a retired senior police officer of the Indian Police Service (IPS) and author of "Long March Of Islam: Future Imperfect" and "The Bell Tolls: Tomorrow's Truncated India."

This is Chapter 8 of Mr. Ohri's book, "Long March Of Islam: Future Imperfect". Chapter 1 was posted in the September-October 2009 issue of Think-Israel. It is available here. Subsequent chapters were posted, one per issue. The book was published by Manas Publications in New Delhi in 2004. Its ISBN # is 817049186X. It is available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, etc. Mr. Ohri writes that the book is "Dedicated to my sweet grand daughters, Saloni and Jaisal and my soulmate, Pushpa."


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