It is a piece of news on my android device which continues to perplex me. Using wireless internet with access to instant news from another corner of the world claims an age of technology. The piece of news itself claims an age of darkness. My paradox…
International Islamic University (IIU) Islamabad participates in Model United Nations (MUN), an educational activity to promote diplomacy, research, critical thinking and most importantly international relations. Purpose of this international exercise is to develop understanding of different cultures from around the world and organize interactive debates amongst participants to realize political significance of various international players. During a recent such event in IIU, an Israeli cultural stall was also organized. As expected, when the news of “Jewish” stall reached various corners of country via social media, it incited wrath of certain people and the stall had to be closed. The university spokesperson issued apology and justification by stating, “A few students arranged a stall for Israel without the knowledge and permission of the university authorities. IIU strongly condemns the incident and no sooner did they come to know about the matter than the program was cancelled without any further delay.” Since this all was just lip service and did not certify as an evident victory over god’s enemy; something more was also required to be done to ensure protection of life and property on the streets. Dean of faculty of Management Sciences, Dr Bashir Khan along with student adviser Tasneem Fatima were suspended. For the satisfaction of the ‘right’ people, punitive suspension of the unholy has been confirmed by Dr Aziz Ur Rehman, assistant professor at the IIU’s faculty of law and adviser to the IIU President.
The ‘right’ proponents generally present a two-fold argument; religious and political. Since Jewish culture is necessarily unislamic and that we have not recognized the state of Israel to exist; this stall was totally unacceptable.
Culture, as we generally know, usually exhibits itself in dress, language, food and other ways of life. Can anyone determine that our present use of dressing in coats, ties, pants (Western), shalwar and kameez (Indian / Sikh) is Islamic? Our fast food culture, use of dining tables, forks and cold drinks is Islamic? The language in which you are reading now, the use of Internet, cellular phones, means of transportation are Islamic?
If you think it to be unislamic, go ahead and do away with all the present use of such things and be wholly Islamic. Shed away the sense of your partial morality this autumn, which would precisely mean NOW. I hope it is beyond reasonable doubt that Islam genuinely abhors partial or split morality in true sense of term.
And if you don’t, then be reminded that you are a believer that culture is neither Islamic nor unislamic; it is a process by which people live their life. (Whether one admits this belief or not, however is a separate issue.) You also believe that both religion and culture happen independently of each other yet enmeshed and that they do not necessarily clash with each other until a deliberate effort is made to that effect. Just like a Muslim can drive either on left or right; he can use camel or jet; he can use miswak or toothbrush; he can read koran on hard copy or on e-book; he can wear pants or shalwar, and so forth. Infact if one digs down, it is quite impossible to segregate the effect of the then Arab culture on life of our Holy Prophet (S.A.W). We just cannot determine with conviction that the dress and language of our Holy Prophet (S.A.W) was essentially Islamic and not an outcome of prevailing Arabian culture?
For the political argument, while we may or may not agree to the legitimacy of state of Israel and denounce their atrocities being committed against humanity with whatever fervor we may like; no amount of rationality can justify against the fact that Jewish culture and state exist and that they exert phenomenal weight in global political and economic relations of the day. Effort to learn or understand them is not a question of political morality but rather of education in the field of international relations. Not doing so due to political reasons is analogous to not educating oneself in some specific scientific study, just because it comes from an Israeli background. Fact is; this event purely had parameters of learning and development and does not qualify to be labelled at all on political determinants. Negating this fact is just a state of denial; which would not make the world the way we want it to be seen.
Simply closing our eyes during daylight would not mean absence of light; it however would be an age of darkness.
Sad state of affairs in our country unfortunately fed by people’s desires and whims. It is akin to shunning British culture and language in the 19th century and earlier which led to Muslims of sub continent lagging far behind the Hindus who accepted it as an opportunity. Healthy debates should be encouraged in our institutions which is not just about Islam but to understand the dynamics of world politics and relations.