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Updated: February 21, 2011 23:53 IST

Misconception about Muslims and Islam

Shaikh Mujibur Rehman
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A World Without Islam, Graham E Fuller; Little Brown, New York. Hachette India, 612-614, 6th Floor, Time Tower, M.G. Road, Sector 28, Gurgaon-122001. Rs. 595.
The Hindu
A World Without Islam, Graham E Fuller; Little Brown, New York. Hachette India, 612-614, 6th Floor, Time Tower, M.G. Road, Sector 28, Gurgaon-122001. Rs. 595.

To those who are convinced that such titles are suggestive of Islamophobia, A world without Islam could be misleadingly provocative. Those who believe that there can never be a world without Islam or Muslims and that such a thought could be nurtured only at the cost of humanity will find it highly deceptive. The book vigorously argues that Islam has nothing to do with whatever violence, war, or ill-feeling is happening in its name.

What is surprising is that this robust pro-Islamic argument and fascinating pro-Muslim narrative comes from a very unlikely quarter. Graham Fuller, now in the academic field, has served as the vice-chairman of the CIA's National Intelligence Council. That one with such a background will have so many nice things to say about Islam and Muslims is rather difficult to believe.

Graham Fuller attempts to make a convincing case for the innocence of Islam. A substantial part of the narrative is devoted to explaining the evolution of Islam, its relationship with other faiths, and how state power has its own dynamics that often makes Islam a convenient excuse for its wrongdoings and excesses. He argues that “[the] present crisis of East-West relations, or between the West and Islam, has really very little to do with religion and everything to do with political and cultural frictions, interests, rivalries, and clashes.” He goes on to add that three great Abrahamanic faiths — Judaism, Christianity, and Islam — share more than they dispute, and it is the states that dispute.

Blame on evangelists

The author, in a very interesting chapter, titled ‘Muslims in the West', blames the evangelists for spreading the misconception about Muslims and Islam. By way of corroboration, he quotes how American evangelist Franklin Graham said things about Islam that are not just disrespectful, but factually incorrect. He observes that some Muslims, who seek to lead an Islamic life in the West, sincerely try to accommodate the western order and in the process make some compromises. He sounds quite convincing when he argues that some high-profile evangelists have been at the forefront in spreading canards about Muslims and Islam. The Islam-bashers are quick to blame Islam for whatever Osama bin Laden did. But, in the case of Adolf Hitler, they have little to blame in Christianity for his dark deeds. It is necessary that all peace-loving people do not fall for such easy unsubstantiated generalisations but seek to find out why such pernicious conflicts should persist for so long. In a multi-cultural world, the objective should be to build bridges across divides. Apparently, it is not just the evangelists, many among the western elite also subscribe to such sweeping generalisations about the Islamic community. British Prime Minister David Cameron's recent statement at a Munich conference calling for a rethink of the concept of multi-culturalism — in effect echoing what German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicholas Sarkozy had said earlier — is a measure of the deep prejudices and stereotypes the political elite of the West has about Islam and its adherents. Muslims in the West are indeed a global community drawn from diverse backgrounds and have contributed enormously to the enrichment of the western society.

In the chapter on Indian Muslims, the author argues that Hindus and Muslims have demonstrated how by peaceful co-existence they have enriched each other's life. He analyses not just the impact of colonialism, but also Partition, the Bangladesh war, the Kashmir issue, and the Rajinder Sachar report. Some of these issues are extremely complex, and justice cannot be done to them in a single chapter. Yet his conclusion seems to be on right lines. In South Asia, the efforts of ethnic minorities towards faith-based societies have been counter-productive. However, it will be naïve to argue that multi-culturalism is free from danger in India. Fuller seems to be convinced that the war on terrorism is wrong and that its intellectual and moral bases need to be diligently scrutinised.

Clash of civilisations

This book has effectively articulated the challenge to what is popularly known in academic discourse as the “clash of civilisations” thesis. It is an excellent read for those who are interested in understanding the wide range of issues associated with the so-called ‘war on terror'. Moreover, to the extent that the book exposes how some Western regimes are manipulating Islam to advance their own interests, it will go a long way in removing the misconception about that religion and the Muslims as a community. The purpose would be best served if the book is recommended for study at the undergraduate level.

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