Comment: Muslims deserve better

While watching NATO-backed rebels rummaging through fallen dictator Gaddafi’s abandoned belongings, a middle-aged Dhivehi lady exclaimed at the television ‘How the West conspires against Muslim leaders!’

The seemingly misguided remark, upon second thought, deserves further analysis.

Gaddafi himself, after all, has claimed to be a leader of Muslims – defending the Islamic nation against the rebels, whom he has referred to as ‘rats’, ‘cockroaches’ and ‘unbelievers’.

He would also call upon ‘Sheikhs’ and ‘Scholars’ in and around Tripoli to rise up and defend the faith from the godless rebels.

Gaddafi is by no means the first politician to imagine himself as a “leader of the Muslims”. Over the decades, several people have laid claim to this mantle.

Hosni Mubarak, the Iranian political clergy, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, the Islamist parties of Pakistan and Bangladesh and – closer to home – former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, the Adhaalath party, and various individual “Sheikhs” have all modeled themselves as ‘Islamic leaders’, portraying an image of Islamic piety, and shouldering the unwieldy burden of the speaking for the entire Islamic faith.

And yet, despite these innumerable ‘leaders’, all whom assert they have the ultimate solution to Islam’s woes, the 1.5 billion strong Muslim community has consistently had a poor report card in all areas of human development in recent decades.

Golden Age

A cursory look at history shows a dramatically different picture.

It was during Ramadan just over 1400 years ago that an illiterate Prophet was first commanded to ‘Read!’.

Within a few short centuries, Islam would end up as the dominant force in the world, commanding a wealthy Empire that would be celebrated as the fountainhead of all learning, discovery and innovation.

A religion revealed to a barbaric, medieval tribe would transform them overnight into champions of knowledge and achievement, resulting in “the Golden Age of Islam” that produced intellectuals and polymaths of the caliber of Ibn Sina, Al Farabi and Ibn Rushd.

So why is that, a thousand years later, despite the advancements in technology and communications, Muslims no longer revel in that spirit of achievement?

A reasonable argument could be made that that following the decline of the Muslims, a large majority of the Muslim lands had been colonized, followed by extended periods of dictatorial regimes threatened only recently by the Arab spring.

Yet, former colonized states like China, India and South Africa are making all making giant strides using the best of modern Science and Technology, but Muslims in general appear to not yet have found that fire.

Muslims are largely missing from advanced fields like scientific research and the global business world, or are very severely under represented – whereas tyrants and gun-toting militants throughout the Islamic heartland have somehow gotten labeled ‘Muslim leaders’.

Perhaps it is time now to acknowledge that the Islamic community is facing a severe leadership crisis?

The Curse of the Leaders

To evaluate the cause, let us first glance at a list of the individuals all of whom have in recent decades appointed themselves captains of the ship.

Osama bin Laden. Mullah Omar. Ayatollah Khameni. Al Qardawi. Ibn Baz. At home, we have such luminaries as “Sheikh” Ibrahim Fareed, “Sheikh” Iliyaas and a disproportionately large number of other such eminent scholars to guide our tiny population.

The grand roadmap these “leaders” have for Muslims can be measured by the broad canvas of issues they usually occupy themselves with.

While one group’s idea of salvation for humanity lies in forbidding women from buying cucumbers and other phallic vegetables of potential sin, another invests endless time, money and resources into efforts to threaten, intimidate or harass women into wearing black middle-eastern style veils.

Some declare life-saving vaccines as haraam, while others are entirely outraged over the 3 year old kindergarteners studying together in co-ed schools.

When they’re not burning books, they can be found condemning yoga. When they’re not busy uncovering Zionist organ-harvesting rackets, they’re dissecting the heavy legal issues surrounding the permitted length and colour of a woman’s hair.

Even celebrated Sufi poet Ghalib once pondered over the Ulema’s disturbing preoccupation with the problems of menstruation and menstrual bleeding.

In the year 2011, there is still some disagreement over whether girls should indeed be sent to school.

More than a couple of these wise mullahs have issued fatwas against Tom & Jerry on National TV, while another has outright called for Mickey Mouse to be put to death.

And almost all of them are united in their common jihad against established, peer-reviewed Science.

And herein lies the diagnosis for our woes; Muslims today are plagued with “leaders” that, instead of boldly taking them to the future, have pledged to stay frozen in time – or even worse, insist on running the civilization race in the opposite direction as the rest of humanity.

Entire generations have been lost thanks to myopic mullahs, and tyrants whose foresight does not extend beyond the tip of their nose.

A culture once credited with keeping alive the flame of knowledge through the centuries is now known more for dogmatism and hostility to Science.

Political tool

Perhaps the biggest tragedy of Islam is that it has ended up as a tool of political convenience.

Self-declared “leaders”, who have no achievements to speak of, cloak themselves in religious garb and invoke the name of God as their only claim to legitimacy.

In their hands, religion ceases to be a moral code for the community’s common welfare – and instead becomes a stick to keep the masses under control.

In the wake of the recent Arab democratic uprisings, the Saudi Arabian government promptly issued ‘Islamic rulings’ against protesting against authority. (The jarring irony of it, coming from the Wahhabi-Saudi nexus that once rose in revolt against no less than the Islamic Caliph!)

When it suits these tyrants, the rules are carved in stone, and when necessary, the Qur’an might as well have been written on water.

Dr. Amir Hussain, prominent Professor of Theological studies said in an interview with Science and Spirit magazine, that tyrants “find it useful to espouse the rhetoric of faith, because people respect that language, are reluctant to oppose it”

Two days before abolishing the Islamic Caliphate in early March 1924, Mustafa Kemal Pasha, founder of modern Turkey, told his assembly:

“The religion of Islam will be elevated if it will cease to be a political instrument, as had been the case in the past…”

The Pied Pipers

Some of the greatest achievements of the Islamic Golden age were the grand libraries and Universities of Baghdad and Cordoba.

The great polymaths of that era kept alive the knowledge of the Ancient Greeks and the Indians – reviving ancient philosophy, number systems, algebra, chemistry and astronomy.

In President Obama’s words, it was Islam that taught the world navigation of the Seas, and the mastery of pens.

Today, Muslims around the world fare poorly in Education. The 2006 Sachar Committee Report commissioned by the Indian Prime Minister revealed that 25 percent of Muslim children in India under the age of 15 didn’t attend schools, or dropped out early.

There are no great Islamic Universities today – and troublingly enough, it is the so-called ‘leaders of Muslims’ themselves who are actively engaged in a campaign against ‘evil, Western education’.

The establishment in 2009 of $10 billion King Abdullah University of Science and Technology would ideally have been hailed as a tremendous opportunity to revive learning and research in the Muslim heartland.

Instead, the ‘religious leaders’ in Saudi Arabia reacted with fury over the larger, more pressing issue of the University being a co-ed institute.

Orthodox Islam has always opposed what the rest of humanity considered progress

Professor Dr. Amir Hussain once said, “Knowledge is highly prized in Islam, but fundamentalist Muslim rulers have hounded Islamic scholars for centuries.”  Great intellectuals like Ibn-Rushd thrived despite the pressures these anti-intellectual forces.

However, in recent years, modernism has all but disappeared from mainstream Islamic discourse, giving the anti-intellectuals a free run to propagate their views as ‘true Islam’.

Sir Syed Ahmed Khan was one of the modern Muslim pioneers who believed Islam would be greatly damaged if not shielded from the orthodox clergy.

Believing that a proper, Western-style scientific education was crucial for Muslims’ advancement, he founded the Muhammedan Ango-Oriental College in 1875 (It would later become the Aligarh Muslim University)

Former Pakistan Supreme Court Justice Javid Iqbal, son of celebrated Urdu poet-Philosopher Allama Iqbal, believes Islam’s revival is dependent on interpreting the religion in light of modern scientific thought which would ‘strengthen the faith of believers’.

Condemning the medievalisation of Pakistan, he recounted how his father had blamed conservative Mullahs for driving Muslims into the dark ages.

“My father’s advice was unequivocal: Muslims should not let themselves be exploited by the semi-literate Mullah…  Mohammed Iqbal went out of his way to expose the intellectual bankruptcy of the Mullahs — the same Mullahs who have once again taken the lead in Islam”

Shirin Ebadi, the first Muslim woman to win the Nobel Prize, also calls for an interpretation of Islam that is in harmony with equality and democracy, claiming that it is not that religion that binds women, but “the selective dictates of those who wish them cloistered.”

To bell the cat

The prevailing school of thought in the Maldives and many countries around the world is that Islam does not permit dissent or free opinion.

The original draft of the Religious Unity Regulations drawn up by the Ministry of Islamic Affairs in the Maldives, for instance, forbade ordinary citizens from expressing a personal opinion on religion in any form. Furthermore, it also criminalized the most basic democratic right of criticizing authority, instantly putting self-declared ‘religious scholars’ above all public scrutiny.

This clampdown on free thought throughout the Islamic world is perhaps the reason why Muslims have become afraid to think, afraid to speak, and afraid to pull themselves out of the age of Ignorance, as their cultural forefathers boldly did so many centuries ago.

Perhaps one of the greatest wasted opportunities in modern times is the pulpits around the world in front of which hundreds of millions of Muslims congregate in prayer.

There are forums that could conceivably be used to inspire Muslims to work harder, to educate themselves, to educate their children, to promote Science and to promote culture.

Instead, most of us walk away every Friday having heard for the umpteenth time, tired reiterations on the importance of praying five times a day or fasting in the month of Ramadan, and armed with even more evidence of the continued treachery of Jews and Christians.

Change of guard

The Muslim needs leaders who can go beyond petty sloganeering and asserting a hollow supremacy.

For instance, leaders like former President of India, Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, the nuclear scientist known for his humility and passion for youth, transcended the boundaries of race and religion, and inspired a larger community of nation builders.

Leaders like Gandhi, Tagore and Mohamed Ali Jinnah – inspired by 19th-century British liberalism – come across as intellectuals hostile to the idea of discrimination itself.

Today, more than ever, Muslims need leaders of such fierce intellect and industry, if they’re to rub shoulders with the rest of the world as responsible equals, instead of wallowing in eternal self pity.

We need leaders who understand that for a religion to retain its greatness, its principles need to be as dynamic as the human cultures and societies themselves.

Our mullahs have shown us how exceedingly easy it is to wallow in the darkness and blame everything on the West and the Jews.

What we need is a change of guard, and a new class of leaders who are not afraid to take the much harder route – one of accomplishment and progress; to create a world where a tyrant like Gaddafi or terrorist like Osama never again gets mistaken for a ‘Muslim leader’.

All comment pieces are the sole view of the author and do not reflect the editorial policy of Minivan News. If you would like to write an opinion piece, please send proposals to [email protected]


31 thoughts on “Comment: Muslims deserve better”

  1. I strongly hope, that you are not the only one thinking like this in your country.
    It is about time Muslin countries get the type of leaders you talk about!

  2. why is an avowed kaafir, a die hard atheist blogger so concerned about Islam? this is an important question.. shall not one write where one is competent? like atheism? why trying to write about islam?

    the reason is simple. this article like the rest of minivan article begs the readers to start insulting islam. This is the only thing yaameen knows and what minivan seems to thrive on.

  3. @musalhu Shame on you. The article doesn't beg anything other than for the reader to ponder upon the facts laid out in the article regarding the lack of overall progress in the Islamic world. Does it matter that the writer be Muslim or not? I think not. Mayhaps it would be better to realize the truths written in the article and to strengthen your faith with a commitment against tyranny and those who would use our belief as a political tool.

    I say bravo! to Yaamyn who has so eloquently written an article that although touches just the tip of a much larger ice berg, begets the reader to ponder intellectually upon the state of the Muslim Ummah. Good article.

  4. what a dumb heading - all humans deserve better and why Muslims.

    Muslims are doing worse (as you claim) not because of being Muslims. Why drag religion into everything.

  5. So called Islamic States was enslaved and puppet masters of Crusaders and Devil worshipers! ONLY now is the citizens of these nations awake to rampant corruption, inhuman acts in jails (PLS undersand these acts were conducted by orders and under supervision of USA and European's). So called Islamic states (including Maldives) were never Islamic states and would not be Islamic states as these States lacks leadership which believes in Allah SW or mere worship!! Almost all in the leadership are worshipers of their material wellbeing and Devil!! Nor will the pagan devil worshipers allow a rise in Islamic State! Any act to stop Alcholism, Prosititution, Gambling..etc are all called acts of terrorism! World is in a brink of disaster and massive unrest! Trust me..and watch and learn how the Allah SW (mother nature as some call it) brings natural order, social order, economic order and balance in the world! History has always proven this!! Look into Hindu Bagavata Geta, Bible and Quran!!

  6. Good article. However, it is becoming increasingly clear that as long as a majority of people in our country live uneducated, poverty stricken lives, it serves as a platform for these mullahs to spread their bullshit. I do not like President Nasheed's approach towards the fast spreading parasite which is wahhabism. More and more people are following victim to this ideology, and he rarely even comments on the matter, and saying things like "don't send your kids to Pakistan on jihad" in Fuvamulah doesn't make things go away. Dot Com is operating freely in the country, and we will soon end up like Pakistan. There are enough educated people in the government to recognize the imminent threat, but what baffles me is that they pretend as if nothing's wrong.

    Or and musalhu, if you don't like Yaameen, then why comment at all? Don't read his articles, and don't even visit minivan if you don't like what you see. Maybe dhiislam has something suited to your needs.

  7. Cut the crap. It has always been about power. Then. Now. And will also be in future.

    It has never been about the creator. Who ever he may be. THE god. The GOD. What ever and however anyone refers to HIM. For if it had anything to do with HIM, He would much sooner have wiped off humanity off the planet. Why should any one of us, kill in the name of HIM?

    Humans has the genetic material passed down. Thrive and strongest survives. The hunger for power, manipulation for ones own good, benefit, be superior than your neighbors, use of slaves... the trait is inbuilt within humans.

  8. Wonderfully written, though its a bit too long.
    The self proclaimed leaders and seyku's masquerading as sheikhs would like to take muslims centuries back, as that is the only way they can be important or anyone will even listen to them.

  9. Actually I think Minivan deserves better. All these high voltage religious rants and anti religious rants make me sick...

    @ Minivan editor:
    pls... ask your writers to write anything but religious things.. its poison either way.

  10. I hope you are changing for the better, Yaamyn.
    I suggest you watch Aljazeera TV more often.
    Kind regards,

  11. The main reason is we are not following the way of prophet Mohamed (SAW). Yameen Rasheed as Muslim do you follow!!?? It seems you have a beautiful muslim name but do you really believe. Ask your self. Writing about muslims...HUH

  12. Well researched article, Yameen.

    "And almost all of them are united in their common jihad against established, peer-reviewed Science." - I cannot agree more.

    I'm worried about our own children's scientific education in the Maldives.
    Yameen, I would like to know if you know how far scientific education goes in Maldives? On one hand, education has to be within the boundaries of Islam, otherwise many scientific facts contradict Islam and students participate in the international A'levels which actually includes, for example, evolution and embryology etc.

    Or can any active students tell me more about the situation now?

  13. Islam is the most hated religion all over the world. Fundamental problem is the fact that Islam doesn't allow any reform. Local sheikhs the writer mentioned have failed in handing out any viable solutions faced by our people. What they are proposing are obsolete for the 21st century. The only Muslim country that is comparable to a western advanced nation is Turkey thanks to Attaturk. He adopted secularism and the country saw progress. Muslims are bogged down from the fact their mind are not allowed to open beyond certain point and they are forced to remain backward by their masters for convenient governance. Unless we liberate ourselves from the shackles of superstitions, there is no way out. Well written article Yaameen!

  14. To all those who are considering the above article to be anti-islamic propaganda: Thank you for proving Yameen's point to the dot!

  15. "The hunger for power, manipulation for ones own good, benefit, be superior than your neighbors, use of slaves… the trait is inbuilt within humans."

    Indeed. The Golden Age of Islam flourished because the leaders of the time needed the output of the science and technology to further their empires. Despite their reticense, they allowed the philosophers the luxury of scientific discourse, because it provided the empire builders a very powerful weapon.

    Since the empire was struck a fatal blow, there has never been a leader who saw a need to cultivate the same intellectual capability. Well, there may have been a few, but they were far out numbered by the now more familiar unscientific Mullah.

    Just as the empire building Mullah's saw the need for science to advance their march, the current generation of Mullahs see the need to terrorise civilisation to further their agenda. It's a big mistake to think that the Golden Age of Islam flourished due to a more "science friendly" leadership. The truth is that the Golden Age happened despite those leaders!

  16. Balrog,

    The crazies and the jinn fearers can vote. Give the Prez a break, he'd like to get re elected.

    Rest assured he'd rather smoke the peace pipe, rather than perform prayers. Doesn't matter to me, its not his arabic recitation skills which are needed for the job. Although I prefer honesty, I understand- the crazies have to be appeased.

    Besides saying anything about the state of Islam only invites derision. They should be allowed to ride camels just because the Prophet did, we should only have a problem if they insist on us all riding with them.

    In my opinion the policies are quite good. They got the Adalath on board to run the Islamic ministry. In fact they can hardly complain because they have much more religious freedom now than under the Pharaoh before - remember a time when a veiled woman couldn't be on TV? How outrageous would such a ban on veils be today?

    Any way to have a debate on the religious freedoms today and pre 2008 would be useless. Debates work best when all parties participating have a rational thought process- the religious side is sadly unrepresented, only crazies like musalhu Sun, 4th Sep 2011 6:01 PM have anything to say.

    I say keep them at bay, as long as we are moving in the right direction, however slowly, evolution and mortality will eventually solve the problem.

  17. Can the Maldivians grasp the contents of this type of article? When you consider that Gasim Ibrahim was the Chair of the Constituent Assembly that wrote the current Maldivian Constitution; and that yesterday's man Gayoom is still the leading political philosopher in the country, it should become clear that Maldivians are not yet ready to read and debate this type of mature scholarly article.

  18. The author seems to say that the lack of progress and advancement of Muslim nations , that is, countries where the large majority of people are considered Muslims, in the modern world is due to lack of 'Islamic' leadership. He also seems to imply that religious leaders have been at the helm of Muslim nations guiding them since their independence and their failure to provide leadership led to the current situation where Muslim nations in general find themselves among the least scientifically and technologically advanced nations of the world.

    It needs to be pointed out that scientific and technological advancement is the outcome of national planning and education. This is done by the political leadership of a nation. The failure of Mulsim nations in general to achieve this is a failure of the politcal leadership of the country and not necessarily its religious leadership. Take the case of the Maldives. In the last sixty years or so of its history, Mohammed Amin, Ibrahim Nasir and Mamoon A Gayyoom were the ones responsible for national planning and education in the Maldives. If one wants to examine the scientific progress or lack of it in the Maldives one needs to look at the policies of the government of these leaders; give them credit where it is due and identify what went wrong with their policies. It has nothing to do with religious leadership as these policies were not dictated by Mullahs. The education ministry and national planning agences in the Maldives during the last sixty years were not headed by Mullahs or influenced by the dictates of religion but largely by secular people. Therefore, although Mullahs are not without their faults as pointed out by the author, they may not yet have to take responsiblity for the lack of scientific or technological progress at least in the Maldives.

  19. The Mullah,
    "Therefore, although Mullahs are not without their faults as pointed out by the author, they may not yet have to take responsiblity for the lack of scientific or technological progress at least in the Maldives." -
    It's not the Mullahs who have to take responsibility; it's religion. And religion found its way into our curriculum. Religion very often contradicts science and therefore, religion should be take out of the curriculum and be taught separately, if we ever want to advance in our scientific education.

  20. @Michael Fahmy
    What is your reference when you say "Can THE Maldivians.."? Do you mean Maldivians in general - in which case the definite artilce should be omitted -or you refer to a particular group among them?

    You indeed sound very much a man of yesterday! Remember when not very long ago - and may be even now - you consider yourself and the like of you the Brahimins of the Maldives - the beyfulhu class? And when you considered the rest of the Maldives as inherently incapable of thinking (faskulhandu madhu)? Remember that. You still sound exactly the same!

    Whatever little thing you may have inside your nutty skull has entrapped you in the past and has not allowed you to shift paradigms.

    If you claim to possess a superior intellect, demonstrate it by insight and anayliss and articulate it in an objective and coherent manner instead of elevating yourself to a higher status by pointing out that others do not know or cannot think.

  21. Agree with Mullah on the last comment. The fact that the Mullahs are not responsible for the detrimental state of affairs of our public education system is a simple reminder that our mostly secular public officials of the past 60 or so years, especially of the past regime, were more interested in power consolidation and control. The standard of education has consistently gone down, while public officials hailed schools that won the 'National Top Ten' through disallowing any student who did not pass at mock exam level to then sit for the real O and A level exams as representatives of their schools. The vast majority of students sit as "private" examinees, which implies clearly that there is something abnormal about our education system. And beyond that, the subculture of tuition outside of schools has driven up not only the literal cost of education, but also the long term intangible costs of education in regard to development and nation building. These are sad facts in a much larger picture of destitution in the areas of our public services and development. And the issue today is increasingly made more depressing by the pseudo Wahhabis and religious grand standers by their insistence on protesting co-ed schools when they would be better off putting the effort into making schools better and more responsible in their services rendered to our children.

  22. @Aisath
    Again that also lies with those responsibile for education policy and curriculum. If they think it is religion that is impeding progress, the educational authorities should convince the populace and remove it from the curriculum.

    And just for information, religion was not among the subjects taught in state schools in the Maldives from grade 8 and above at least until 1979. Was there any difference between then and now as far as scientific and technological adancement in the Maldives is concerned?

  23. The Aishath,
    Ya Christianity and other religion have had contradict with science but Islam dose not contradicts with science. Going school without praying dose not help. The most important thing is praying. If we pray while studying, working, etc we will be on top in all aspects. Do you know early Muslims, weather they are scientist or what ever they were they had followed the commandment of Allah and his prophet. That was the most important thing to them. If they had any problem they will go to mosque and pray to Allah for help. Do we do this. Not only praying we have to follow the commandment of Allah and his prophet in our way. Weather it is business, politics, social, what ever it is. We will be the superpower.
    Aishath i know now what will come to your mind. The Europe and Americans they are non Muslims but they have got everything. There communities are totally based on to gain whatever they could possibly get from this world to make their life better and happy, but their communities are going towards corruption. Their families ties are broken they do not care about each other. What they care about is money. Aishath watch a Hollywood movie. You will see, but i do not think you will be able to seen what i am saying. A name so called Aishaths will not be able to see the truth. We do not need a society based on ONLY materials.

  24. The historical split between scientific Islam, which was lead by the the Mutazili and the Islam which rejected philosophy and science (literalists) is a very deep topic. Philosophical, scientific Islam, favoured by the Caliph Mamun of Abassid caliphate was seen to be elitist, and also, was not dominated by Arabs, but by Arab speaking converts (or reverts or whichever way you want to view it.)

    It is a very deep topic but fundamentalism won the day.

  25. @ben, Fundamentalism won the day cos those with the loudest voices and the harshest words and the will to enforce, no matter how horribly, their views on others, have always won the human discourse. Today it is the same, even in Maldives. How many secular or moderate scholars can we claim to argue against the hatred that is the mainstay of doomsayers such as Fareed and Ilyas? How many calm voices do we have that would rise up and say Nay! you shall not subjugate our women and withhold from our children? How many people would be willing to risk being ridiculed in order to defend against the tyranny that some amongst the Ulema would have upon us, to take us back to the 13th century? Sadly, the answer is that it is too few. Or not loud enough. We can go out and protest on the street against the abuse to prisoners, but how many would be truly willing to protest against forced marriage and slavery, or even child abuse? We as a people are doomed when we simply allow teachers and elders to get away with atrocities. When will enough be enough?

  26. Ah, the wails of cornered apologists, who need an atmosphere of ignorance and silence to thrive, music to my ears.

    When will enough be enough? When the victims are supplied with mass-produced weapons of war and given a choice to either fight, or watch as their future is burned to ash.

  27. Aliased,

    Thanks, your memory is incredible!

    Appeasement here is a means to an end - keeping in mind their right to vote and the way to get enough of those votes- to that extent and no more. I suppose a better word was needed there- but my verbal skills do not extend that far .

    We have to work with within the paradgim that exists, not the one we aspire to be at.

    To declare support for a secular govt with full protection of minority rights today is political suicide for any politican.

    Any other way to enforce this basic human right, which most of our compatriots fail to comprehend, would require us to throw out the baby (democratic inclusive govt) along with the bathwater (ignorant and bigoted laws).


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