If there is a threshold of pain and tolerance, this must be it. If this does not wake us up, I do not know what will. The unimaginable and unthinkable affront to Madina, the city of mercy and love where Islam’s beloved Prophet, peace be upon him, lies resting, is an open and audacious attack on Islam and its most sacred symbols. Who would have thought we would live to see this outrage?
No Muslim, however deviant and crazy, can ever think of visiting such an outrage on the most sacred city and Masjid-e-Nabawi, the Prophet’s Mosque. Those responsible for this disgrace and shame cannot be the people of the faith – any faith. Whatever their wretched motives and imagined goals, these people are clearly being used by forces which have long plotted against the House of Islam.
The scourge of Isis and its fellow travellers, claiming to speak on behalf of Islam and Muslims, is perhaps the greatest fitna that the world of Islam has faced since the Khawarij and Mongol invasion. From the mass slaughter of innocents to the abduction and rape of young girls to inflicting spectacular brutalities on hostages on camera, every action of these groups has been designed to generate all-round loathing and repugnance of Islam and Muslims. And they seem to be succeeding in their attempts, considering the global wave of Islamophobia and hate attacks on Muslims that we have lately been witnessing in the West and around the world.
The Islamic world has been the chief and biggest victim of this vicious, unstoppable campaign of mayhem and terror, bleeding as it does from Baghdad to Beirut and from Damascus to Dhaka to Istanbul and Lahore. And now their tentacles have even extended to the birthplace of Islam and one of its two most sacred cities. Yet it is Islam and Muslims who are seen as ‘the problem’ and endlessly lectured about the virtues of peace and tolerance.
The Muslims have been caught between these lunatics who carry out these hateful, unspeakable crimes against humanity in our name and worthies like the presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump who believe that Muslims and Islam are somehow responsible for all this and deserve severest of punishment.
The question is, who stands to benefit from this pestilence and who is using these unthinking automatons?
When this whole reign of terror had first begun, some old, wise watchers of the Middle East had been quick to discern a clear method in the madness. Pundits, however, heaped scorn over such claims, dismissing them as mere conspiracy theories. However, considering the reign of terror and mindless destruction that Daesh has unleashed over the past couple of years those do not seem like conspiracy theories at all.
After all, there has been a long history of machinations by Western intelligence agencies, including Israel’s all-powerful Mossad and Uncle Sam’s CIA, in the Middle East. Indeed, the region has been their favourite playground. From orchestrating military coups to invasions and sowing seeds of strife and revolutions, they have always been found to be in the thick of action.
It is hardly a secret who created Al-Qaeda and midwifed the Taliban as part of the Afghan jihad against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. When Osama bin Laden turned on his own mentors and their too-clever-by-half games, he was portrayed and demonised as the global face of terror. What we are seeing in the Middle East and around the world today is the inevitable outcome of the same dangerous, cynical game.
The unfinished agenda of the infamous Sykes-Picot accord of 1916 – yes, this is the 100th year of that grand Anglo-French conspiracy to dismember the Ottoman Empire, producing ‘notion states’ with imagined borders of the contemporary Middle East – was carried forward with the invasion and destruction of Iraq, unleashing the twin monsters of sectarianism and violent extremism across the Islamic world.
While the sectarian Sunni-Shia divide is an unfortunate historic reality and can be traced right up to the era of the last two Caliphs, the two sects have co-existed in peace and harmony for the better part of the 14 centuries.
Today, on the one hand, you have Sunni and Shia militants at each other’s throat and on the other the violent chaos of the Isis kind is wreaking havoc across the world. Both of these conspiracies are designed to inflict maximum damage and harm on Muslim lands.
On the one hand, Muslims are busy spending their precious resources and energies in destroying each other in the name of sectarian differences. On the other, their image is being systematically attacked and destroyed as a community and faith, totally isolating and alienating them from the rest of the world.
In the words of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Daesh or Isis is a dagger planted in the heart of Islam by our enemies.
The big question is: what are the victims doing to thwart these designs? Whatever the collective leadership of the Islamic world – if there is such a thing – has done so far to confront these forces, it has yet to produce tangible, visible results.
There is no question that what the world of Islam faces today is nothing short of an existential threat, never witnessed in its eventful history. And this demands a firm, collective and directly proportionate response from Muslim leaders, governments, intellectuals and scholars. They must put their heads and all their resources together to take on the challenge. Enough of platitudes and verbal declarations insisting that violence and terror have no place in Islam. It’s about time we demonstrated this belief with our actions.
We need an all-out war on the nihilistic cult of death that glorifies violence and pretends to be inspired by religion. No cause however noble justifies the killing of innocents, certainly not Islam. One thing is for sure though. We cannot win this war on extremism while remaining handcuffed to our narrow sectarian identities and biases. Many of our weaknesses, including the unholy, mind-numbing mess in Syria, stem from this sectarian, subjective approach. Before taking on the enemy, Muslim nations must first sink their differences and stop shadowboxing among themselves.
Only a united and cohesive Muslim society, the Ummah if you will, can take on the forces of chaos and darkness. Without complete unity of purpose and action in our ranks, we can win no battles, let alone take on this monstrous challenge.
In the face of the coming storm, fortifying the house that we all share must be our top priority. This is no time for bickering and petty squabbles that have not been settled over centuries.
If an attack on the very heart of Islam does not shake us out of our indifference and stupor, what will?
The writer is a Middle East-based columnist.