Dutch Election And The Presumed Muslim Problem – OpEd

The Dutch had their election last Wednesday in which the anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim extremist party – the Freedom Party (PVV) – came out a distant second winning 20 seats in the 150-seat parliament. Its leader Geert Wilders ran on a “de-Islamification” platform, calling for Islamic schools to be closed and the Qur’an and burqa to be banned.

Wilders said he was still expecting to see a “European spring” for his supporters. The Dutch election on Wednesday had been billed as a litmus test for populism in Europe after last year’s British vote to leave the European Union and the election of US President Donald Trump.

But there were also warnings that Wilders and the far-right, Fascist-leaning movement across Europe would not quietly fade away. Come May the French voters would elect their president where Marine Le Pen of the National Front party is projected to win 40% votes in the first round of the election. Far-right parties in Europe are hoping to benefit from increased levels of support as Germany’s Alternative for Deutschland (AfD) party is poised to enter federal parliament for the first time in September. In Hungary, the government of Viktor Orban is part of that anti-immigrant nexus.

All these far-right parties are anti-immigrant, esp. anti-Muslim. One can find their connection with hate groups like the Stop Islamisation of Europe of Danish xenophobe Anders Gravers Pedersen, and American Freedom Defense Initiative and Stop Islamization of America of Pamella Geller and Robert Spencer, let alone the English Defence League, the Jobbik Party and many others that either mushroomed or became overtly more aggressive after 9/11.

It would be foolish to ignore the crucial role of the sly organizers of the Jerusalem Summit that brought them together for a common cause after 9/11 against a perceived common enemy – a win-win proposition for Israel-firsters and Muslim haters around the globe. [Islam was presented as a religion of terrorists (including Palestinians) that is not only incompatible with the West but an existential threat to western Judeo-Christian values, thereby, buying the moral justification for an undivided Jerusalem under Israeli control only – something that nearly half a century of occupation simply could not do. Interested readers may like to read this author’s series of articles on Jerusalem Summit.]

What’s driving the popularity of these anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant, bigotry-ridden parties – all over Europe? It’s the fear of Islam. They profess that “Islamophobia is the height of common sense”. They claim to be threatened by the new immigrants who are coming from Muslim countries, and are desirous of preserving the European way of life. The minority Muslims (5%), Hindus and Buddhists together comprise only about 7% of the Dutch population. One can only take pity on the poor Dutch who feel threatened by a small minority!

As I have noted elsewhere, guys like Wilders have a very long history of deplorable racism and bigotry, and are beyond reform. They do not know Islam and are not interested to know the faith of some 1.7 billion Muslims either to shed off their appalling prejudice. They cherry pick verses of the Qur’an to fit their chauvinist agenda and present a very distorted image of Islam and its noble Prophet.

Far from the false claims of hatemongers like Wilders, the Qur’an presents Muhammad (S) as the last of the mighty messengers of Allah, sent as a prophet, as a Witness, and a Bearer of glad tidings, and a Warner, with the best moral character who epitomized kindness, and as a mercy to all creation.

One can only pray and hope that the hatemongering bigots and extremists are guided to the truth to see things objectively. To hope for a psychic transformation overnight in racists and bigots like Wilders and Le Pen, however, may be foolhardy. They are committed to bring about a civilizational war with Islam. Centuries of prejudice against Islam and its noble messenger have defined them. And, prejudice dies hard.

It may not be an exaggeration if I were to state that in the annals of human history, there has never been a man who has been so much loved and vilified as Muhammad (S) – the Prophet of Islam. To the faithful Muslims, he is the best of mankind that was ever created by Allah.

The poem below by Hassan ibn Thabit (Radi Allahu Anh’, meaning: May Allah be pleased with him) shows how Muhammad’s (S) companions felt about him:

By God, no woman has conceived and given birth
To one like the Apostle, the Prophet and guide of his people;
Nor has God created among his creatures
One more faithful to his sojourner or his promise
Than he who was the source of light,
Blessed in his deeds, just and upright.
(Sirat Rasulallah by Muhammad Ibn Ishaq)

Muslims don’t utter Muhammad’s (S) name without the salutation: sal-lal lahu alayhi wa sal-lam (meaning: blessings of Allah and peace be upon him; abbreviated here as (S)). The Muslim testimony of faith includes the sentence: There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is the servant and messenger of Allah. During the call of prayer (ad’han), five times daily – from pre-dawn hours to night, the same words are repeated from the minarets of masjids (mosques) urging Muslims to come and pray to Allah. A Muslim also ends his/her prayer with a supplication to Allah seeking blessing and bounties for the prophet and his family the same way He had blessed the family of Abraham (Ibrahim alayhis salam).

In what follows next I share some historic events from the Prophet’s (S) time to enlighten those who may not be aware of such.

The first of these is about events leading up to his Tabuk expedition in the 9th A.H. By that time, Makkah and the vast territories of the Arabian Peninsula had come under the flag of Islam. To the north belonged the Christian Byzantine (the Eastern Roman) empire, and to the north-east the Zoroastrian Sassanid empire of Persia.

The Byzantines together with their Arab allies used to aggravate and provoke the Muslims by any means. This was particularly apparent in their frequent attempts to attack the Muslim merchandise coming from Ash-Shaam (Greater Syria) and the plundering of the caravans threading their roads, not to speak of the stress and grief that they subjected to every Muslim they could seize. Their harassment reached its peak when they killed Al-Haarith ibn ‘Umayr Al-‘Azdi (radiallahu ‘anhu), the Prophet’s (S) emissary, in 8 A.H., who was sent to deliver his letter to Sharhbil b. Amr al-Ghassani, a satrap (Governor) of the Byzantine Emperor at Busra. (Zad al-Ma’ad, Vol. I)

Beheading of an emissary is a serious offense. It is an open declaration for war.

The sad event led the Prophet (S) to dispatch a force of 3,000 to the place where the emissary had been killed and invite the people there to Islam. Instead of being revengeful, the Prophet of Islam instructed the Muslim force not to fight foes if they accepted Islam. He advised them not to kill anyone who does not fight them, especially the children, women, old people, or the people who took shelter in the monasteries. He also instructed them to avoid damaging the date fields, cutting down the trees and destroying dwelling places. [Ahmad, Abu Dawood, An-Nasa’i, At-Tirmizi and Ibn Maajah]

It is worth noting here that such instructions were simply unheard of those days, and were exceptions to the norms of the prevalent time (and even by today’s standard where preemptive strikes and collateral damages have become the norms) where marauding forces would kill and plunder anyone who was in the opposite camp. Far from the barbaric practices of our time, the Muslim forces were forbidden to incur any collateral damage.

After the battle of Mu’tah in which neither the Muslims nor the Byzantine Christians won decisively rumors circulated in Madinah that the Roman troops were massing at the Syrian frontier for an invasion of Hijaz. They were also aided by Arab Christian tribes such as the Banu Lakhm, Djudham, ‘Amila and the Ghassan. Muhammad (S), the Prophet of Islam, decided to take preventive action for the defense of Madinah, and ordered his followers to prepare themselves for a long campaign in the north to Tabuk.

Just before the army would leave for Tabuk, Christian monks of the monastery of St. Catherine in the valley of Sinai, came to see the Prophet (S). He gave them audience, and granted them a charter which is comparable to the Charter of Madinah which he had granted to the Jews. The charter read:

“This is a message from Muhammad ibn Abdullah, as a covenant to those who adopt Christianity, near and far, we are with them. Verily I, the servants, the helpers, and my followers defend them, because Christians are my citizens; and by Allah! I hold out against anything that displeases them.

No compulsion is to be on them. Neither are their judges to be removed from their jobs nor their monks from their monasteries.

No one is to destroy a house of their religion, to damage it, or to carry anything from it to the Muslims’ houses. Should anyone take any of these, he would spoil God’s covenant and disobey His Prophet. Verily, they are my allies and have my secure charter against all that they hate.

No one is to force them to travel or to oblige them to fight. The Muslims are to fight for them. If a female Christian is married to a Muslim, it is not to take place without her approval. She is not to be prevented from visiting her church to pray.

Their churches are to be respected. They are neither to be prevented from repairing them nor the sacredness of their covenants. No one of the nation (Muslims) is to disobey the covenant till the Last Day (end of the world).”

Such were the memorable words of Muhammad (S), the Prophet of Islam, in the year 628 CE, when he granted this historic document, also known as the Charter of Privileges, to the monks of St. Catherine Monastery in Mt. Sinai. What is so remarkable is that the Prophet of Islam gave such a privilege to a Christian community whose co-religionists had beheaded his close companion just few months earlier!

The above charter clearly shows that Islam embodies the concept of coexistence. Only a xenophobe and a bigot can fear what Islam stands for. Xenophobes like Wilders may like to reflect upon Muhammad’s (S) statement rather than spreading fear and hatred of Muslims.

The Qur’an repeatedly emphasizes the unity of mankind, i.e., they come from the same parents: “Mankind were but one community; then they differed…” (10:19)

Prophet Muhammad (S) in his farewell Hajj sermon delivered on the 9th day of Dhul-Hijjah, 10 A.H. in the ‘Uranah valley of Mount Arafat in Makkah, again underscored the unity of mankind when he said: “All mankind is from Adam and Eve. An Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also, a white has no superiority over black nor a black has any superiority over white except by piety and good action.”

As a matter of fact, in that major speech, delivered some 1320 years before the United Nations could come up with its Universal Declaration of Human Rights, six centuries before King John of England and Archbishop of Canterbury came up with the Magna Carta, the Prophet of Islam had spelled out such rights unequivocally. His declaration (1) proclaimed freedom for all, (2) provided sanctity of life, wealth and property, (3) proclaimed equality of all races and brotherhood of mankind, (4) guaranteed justice for all, (5) stipulated men’s and women’s rights and obligations, (6) forbade monopoly or exploitation, (7) guaranteed preservation of rights of others, and (8) abolished usury – the mother of all economic evils.

Allah says in the Qur’an: “Allah commands justice, the doing of good, and liberality to kith and kin, and He forbids all shameful deeds, and injustice and rebellion: He instructs you, that you may receive admonition.” (Al Qur’an; 15:90) He also says, “O you who believe, be maintainers of justice (and bearer of) witness for (the sake of) Allah. Let not hatred of a people incites you to act unjustly; be just—this is nearer to righteousness. And fear Allah surely Allah is aware of what you do.” (Surah al-Ma’ida, 5:8)

Prophet Muhammad (S) warned, “Let it be known, if any one (Muslim) commits injustice, insults, aggravates, mistreats, or abuses a person of the People of the Book (protected by the state or an agreement) he will have to answer me (for his immoral action) on the Day of Judgment.” (Abu-Dawud)

As can be seen, establishing justice is the law of Allah. The essence of justice is the recognition that all humans are equal and it means creating harmony. Once we accept the principle of human equality and brotherhood, then we need to reject all racism, nationalism, and ethnocentrism. This is something that hateful guys like Wilders find difficult to accept; but that is the one remedy leading us towards justice and peace. The sooner they learn it the better it is for all our humanity.

Fear has been and remains one of the most surreptitious and invisible powers that can bring out the worst among those afraid by forcing them to unleash gruesome crimes against their objects of fear. That’s what the Buddhist chauvinists of Rakhine (Arakan) state and Ma Ba Tha of Myanmar are doing today against the Rohingyas, and that’s what the Nazi fascists did against the minority Jews in Europe in the 1930s and 1940s.

What the far-right racists and bigots in Europe are doing today is selling that fear –the fear of the immigrants, the fear of the Muslims, the fear of Islam, the fear of the ‘unknowns’ – to repeat the crimes of the past century on the ‘others’.

Rather than embracing rainbow diversity as a source of strength in this new century, obviously, they want to turn the clock backward to a distant white past. As the election results in the Netherlands have shown, perhaps not everything is hopeless. There are still many level-headed, forward-looking and progressive Dutch who reject to swallow the toxic pill of intolerance, xenophobia, racism and bigotry catered by Wilders and his ilk of deplorable rascals.

Dr. Habib Siddiqui

Dr. Habib Siddiqui

Dr. Habib Siddiqui has a long history as a peaceful activist in an effort towards improving human rights and creating a just and equitable world. He has written extensively in the arena of humanity, global politics, social conscience and human rights since 1980, many of which have appeared in newspapers, magazines, journals and the Internet.He has tirelessly championed the cause of the disadvantaged, the poor and the forgotten here in Americas and abroad. Commenting on his articles, others have said, "His meticulously researched essays and articles combined with real human dimensions on the plight of the displaced peoples of Rohingya in Myanmar, Chechnya, Bosnia, Kosovo and Palestine, and American Muslims in the post-9/11 era have made him a singular important intellectual offering a sane voice with counterpoints to the shrill threats of the oppressors and the powerful. He offers a fresh and insightful perspective on a whole generation of a misunderstood and displaced people with little or no voice of their own."He has authored 11 books, five of which are now available through Amazon.com. His latest book - Devotional Stories is published by A.S. Noordeen, Malaysia.

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