01 November, 2017


I was ISIS when as a child I listened to, and later as an adolescent condescendingly nodded to the sermon defining the entity called Kaafir [infidel] to me. As an adult I had the power to stop and redefine my world-view, negating this exclusion, questioning how a God of all creatures would deliberately create some in non-Muslim fold and then deny them the privileges available to the Muslims purely by chance. But I refused to exercise that power. I may not have nodded in approval. But surely I did not resist this patently unfair exclusion. I was fanning ISIS when the bully in the house to my left made sarcastic gestures to the non-Muslim in the house to my right, and I stayed neutral. When the jihadist / terrorist blew up the innocents in my town and province, I stretched my imagination and, giving a go-by to my intellectual objectivity and impartial scholarship, put out lame excuses, alibis and explanations warding off any suggestion for reinterpreting the religion and for modernizing its meaning in current context. I learnt enough history to recognize how the crusaders earlier, colonialists later and the imperialists in current times exploited, oppressed and subjugated the Muslims and the Muslim nations – and do so now. I could easily establish connection, even where none appeared manifest, between every act of Islamist terror and this medieval barbarism against Muslims. When there grew one too many terrorist and I faced humiliation of suspicion, search and seizure, and going got difficult for me in secular world, I coined a new excuse: Islam is different from Muslims. And that the Jihadis are not true Muslims. ISIS may have been formally launched in 2014 far away in the Middle East. But it was born around me, and grew up with me. Amidst all the scientific and cultural advances I was privileged to witness I retained some affinity, some loyalty, some solidarity with it. I was ISIS in some sense, after all. When the ignorant, poorly educated and bigoted mullah openly poisoned my gullible young friends and their na├»ve siblings, I looked the other way. By refusing to stand up and challenge him and his interpretation of Islam, I condescended to his version of the Islamic faith. I let him usurp not only a faith but an entire culture. I was born with ISIS, lived with ISIS and am now indistinguishably inter-linked with it in popular perception world-wide. It is now too late for me to unshackle myself of this unpleasant bondage. But unshackle I must, if I want to live with peace anywhere in civilized world. Ditto for the AlQaeda, Talibaan, Jaish, LeT and their entire anti-humanity ilk. That many non-Muslims – such as the right wing Hindus in India, fanatic Jews in Israel, bigoted Christians in American or Europe – harbor equally retrograde notions, ought not to distract me. Look at how contemptuously the world looks at them, and how they, too, reap ignominy for their respective communities, faiths and nations. I must work to protect mine at the least.

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