in the name of Islam
Ameena Hussein writes of two types of Islam that can no longer be
There was a time when I believed that Islam was a religion of love,
forgiveness, peace and justice. I was a child then and I have only
my parents to blame for conjuring a religion that encompassed tolerance,
mercy and humanity. I was deluded by my daily utterances that began
with Bismillah i rahman i rahim (in the name of God the most merciful,
the most beneficient), that I practised a religion of compassion
Today I live
in another age, another time where I have to confront another religion.
That religion too is called Islam but it is portrayed as a religion
of violence, of savagery and of inhuman cruelty. Until now, the
two religions, my Islam and theirs lay side by side with each other.
I ignored them and they ignored me. I saw how their Islam could
be manipulated and distorted by them and others, who profited by
their existence. But it did not concern me, I told myself. They
have a right to practise in their own way as much as I have a right
to practise in mine.
I must be truthful.
It was not September 11 that woke me up. It was Daniel Pearl. Yes,
an American. Yes, a Jew. Ironically on the eve of the Haj festival
I learnt that Daniel Pearl, a Wall Street Journal journalist had
been murdered. His throat had been slit. To me, it seemed like the
undue Haj sacrifice; only even more distorted. I wondered if the
kidnappers were sending a message to the world. They most certainly
had a message for me. We are, they say-to me, practitioners of a
religion of hate. I wonder if their Islam has become a religion
of despair. And I wonder what is happening to my Islam.
All over the
world the majority of Muslims are silent as a minority of despotic,
cruel, inhumane human beings kill, maim, violate and dishonour in
the name of Islam. They have taken my religion, used it, exploited
it, twisted it unrecognizably to destroy the very essence of Islam.
They have created a parallel Islam. And I have remained silent.
What has become of the great world religion that produced art, architecture
and literature? Where is the example of a rich life of ethics, charity
and spirituality? Centuries ago, we were the models for tolerance,
reason and civilization. Today we have to ask ourselves what did
we do wrong? We cringe when we hear the word Muslim extremist on
the television, we flinch at the mention of Muslim terrorist, we
apologize weakly for Muslim fundamentalism but we do not respond
towards the hijacking of our religion.
those who have all taken the religion of Islam in their own perverse
way and exploited it for their unholy gain but we do not protest.
We are quiet
in the face of irrational suppression of Muslim women and girl children
by so called fundamentalists who only have to wave a leaf of the
Quran to shut us up and we do not ask for justification. Much of
this rage is defended among themselves. We are the better Muslims,
they say. We are purifying the religion they say. We are doing it
for the Palestinians, they say. But all this hate, this violence,
this abhorrence will not help Palestine. We must be honest. Palestine
may be the excuse now but we didn't care ten years ago. For too
long we have blamed everyone else for misunderstanding Islam.
We have accused
the Jews, the media, Hollywood and the West for distorting and misrepresenting
our religion and ourselves. I am beginning to think that we have
only ourselves to blame. We prepared the ground, we dug the grave,
we handed them the gun. Can we blame them if they shoot? We have
to take collective responsibility for the state of our religion.
It is we who have the greatest duty to stop violence committed in
the name of Islam.
The change starts
with us. If every Muslim were to say for every instance of injustice,
terror, and death that has been perpetrated in the name of Islam,
no! we will tolerate no more! We will make a difference. If every
Muslim were to practise their religion with the love and peace that
I was taught the religion possessed, there will be a difference.
If every Muslim was really a Muslim, the world would be different.
Ameena Hussein is a Sri Lankan writer who currently lives in