Of Zebras & Zealots- How Britain's Liberals Are Failing Muslims

Liberals in Britain must defend their brethren from anti-muslim bigotry, while at the same time support reformists like Maajid Nawaz in their herculean task of ridding Islam of it's violent, jingoistic ethos.

The false analogy made by a lady in the audience on BBC Question Time has gone virulent, like a bad bout of diarrhea during the Bombay monsoon. Taking offence at the media's use of the term Islamic State while referring to the infamous terror outfit which has vowed to establish a global (Islamic) caliphate, the woman said: "If I call myself a zebra, do you then refer to me as a zebra?"

I saw this story because Huffington Post (UK)'s hyperactive twitter handle was putting it out there once every hour (just like it started trending #TerrorismHasNoReligion even before the final body count in Paris was announced). The liberal media in the West has now got to the point where if a striped animal eats grass, walks on hooves and moves in a large zeal of zebras, they will still refrain from calling it one. Anyone audacious enough to point out the obvious, is quickly branded a Zebraphobe.

It is imperative to protect Muslim communities in the West from bigotry and hate crimes, which are on the rise in the aftermath of an Islamist terror attack. That is a valid concern. But shutting down the debate on Islamist ideology and denying the blatantly obvious links between terror and theology is disingenuous and detrimental. For then, the liberal-apologist stance towards Islam seems disconnected with ground reality. In the absence of a balanced liberal perspective on the issue, the right conservatives' rhetoric gains resonance among the panick-stricken masses. Unfortunately, the right-wing critique of Islamism comes with a generous dose of anti-muslim bigotry and xenophobia.

Pick up a copy of Muhammed Pickhtall's translations of the Quran, (or even Maulana Wahiduddin Khan's; both are endorsed by the Ulema) and randomly open to any page between Surah Al-Nisa and Surah Al-Taubah (chapters 4 to 9); you will find at least one verse that either derides non-believers, condemns them to eternal torments in hell, exhorts muslims not to 'take Jews & Christians for friends', 'smite their (disbeliever's) necks', or implies that women are entitled to only half as much as men (be it inheritance or their testimony in court).

On referring to the Hadiths in the Sahih-Al Bukhari (considered by over a billion muslims as the most authentic source of Islamic edicts after the Quran), you will find sufficient justification and historic precedents for the barbarity inflicted by ISIS on women, captured POWs and Yazidis. In fact the manner in which ISIS administers its capital city of Raqqa, is very similar to any other Islamic theocracy.

Of course the overwhelming majority of Muslims all over the world do not take these edicts seriously; anymore than the majority of Christians and Jews take the violent ethos of the Old Testament literally. But the significant number of zealots that do, cannot be dismissed as having 'nothing to do with religion'.

British liberals of the past have played a small but pivotal role in ridding India of it's social and religious evils. From banning sati (the ritual of burning widows alive on their husband's funeral pyre), to speaking out against polygamy, child marriage and contributing to women's emancipation. What if progressive Brits from the 1800's had remained silent out of "respect" for the practices of indigenous cultures? What if they had adopted this regressive policy of total apologia and 'soft bigotry of lower expectations' that their liberal descendants show towards Islam today? It would have made it a little more difficult for us Indians to exorcise those evils from our society.

Liberals in Britain must defend their brethren from anti-muslim bigotry, while at the same time support reformists like Maajid Nawaz in their herculean task of ridding Islam of it's violent, jingoistic ethos. By failing to grasp the nuance between criticism of Islam (an ideology) and bigotry against its practitioners (Muslims), Western liberals are ironically failing the same people they claim to protect. For no other group of people have been victimized by the scourge of radical Islam so viciously as Muslims themselves-- from the streets of Syria and Saudi Arabia to the ghettos of Europe.


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