“If you cannot laugh at your God, then that God must be very small. The Prophet is, well, a midget,” so said Stephane Charbonnier, the Editor-in Chief of Charlie Hebdo, just a few years ago.
He was not a believer of any sort. Charlie Hebdo’s brand of humor was mercilessly creative and profane, and always full of insight. The outpouring of grief, shock and outrage is quite extraordinary, but what is even more extraordinary is that Jihadists and their apologists are trying to shift the blame on to the victims – the people who were slaughtered for no reason save for expressing their creative views, or buying milk at a grocery store. They are saying the killers were provoked by tasteless cartoons in Charlie Hebdo. There cannot be any bigger evidence of cowardice on the part of Muslims (the Ummah) than if we allow the narrative to be hijacked by these thugs.
All politically correct pundits and various commentators with gravitas are saying violence and Islam are in no way connected, that they are distinct and separate. Islam is a religion of peace and tolerance. Well, I beg to differ. I think the massacre in Paris, at least at Charlie Hebdo offices, are part of a bigger pattern of intolerance and outright bigotry by a very large section of the Muslim Ummah. I know, I know, the knives are being sharpened in order to chop my head off. But, I wanted to talk about this head chopping of anyone, who, so called ‘Muslims’ do not agree with. The Paris massacre needs to be seen in the context of a bigger massacre that happened just a few days ago on 31 December, 2014. On the last day of 2014, some 49 people were killed by a suicide bomber in a little town called Ibb, at the foothills of Ba’adan Mountains in Yemen. There was no million people march, no heads of states linking arms for these people who were killed in Yemen. They were killed just the same way as those in the Charlie Hebdo offices and the kosher grocery store.
Both these massacres result from a single intolerant strain of Islam: the Wahhabi ideology. Wahhabi ideology is the official religion of Saudi Arabia. This country and its rulers have spent $100 billion over the last 12 years to promote their version of Wahhabi Islam. They fund Madrasas which cultivate the intolerant Mullahs who then indoctrinate young minds to blow themselves up. Let us examine why I say that both the massacres can be blamed on the Wahhabi-dominated, despotic Saudi regime.
The Ibb massacre happened on 31 December, 2014 when some 500 people, mostly Zaidi Shias who live in Ibb, gathered to celebrate the Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) birthday. At the peak of the celebrations, around 11 AM, a suicide bomber blew himself up, instantly killing 49 people and himself. What you have to know is this: the Wahhabi religious leaders have declared any observance of Muhammad’s birthday sinful. Muhammad’s birthday is known as “Mawlid,” and has been celebrated as an important occasion by Muslims around the world for eons. When I was little I used to love those Miladunnabis where everyone sang the prayers loudly in Arabic. I never understood the meaning then, but I surely loved the get-togethers and the Semai and Tushar Shinnis after the event. But recently, these traditions have come under direct attack by the militant Wahhabi ideologues. After the massacre in Ibb, far from condemning the killings, the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, Sheikh Abdul Aziz, pronounced “Mawlid” celebrations to be sinful. He did that arbitrarily and without citing any religious authority or Quranic sanctions on 2 January, 2015. Looking for an unrepentant militant ignoramus, anyone?
In a few days, different people were killed in two different parts of the world – Paris and Ibb – both in the Prophet’s (PBUH) name. It was done to avenge the disrespect shown to the Prophet, and for celebrating the Prophet’s birthday. If you just read the previous sentence, it certainly does sound like the zealots have cornered us all into a lose-lose situation.
Let us not pretend that religion, in this case Islam, has no meaningful impact on the madness that is convulsing the world. Religions of all shades and colors have been both the refuge and executioners of people. In the case of Islam, the Wahhabi zealots are preaching a particular form of intolerance that even goes against the Prophet himself. The forefathers of the current day Wahhabis desecrated the graves of four of Muhammad’s companions (Sahabas). However, these zealots have somehow dialed up an interpretation of Islam, which then got backing from Saudi Royals who are simply keen to hang on to power at any cost. The unfortunate thing is, by virtue of their status as the guardians of the Holy places of Mecca and Medina, these Wahhabi zealots are the face of Islam, or at least Sunni Islam. Unless the rest of us reject the Wahhabi zealotry as well as the hypocrisy of the Saudi Royals, we must accept that Islam, as defined today, is a religion of intolerance and injustice. No, Islam as practiced by the current guardians is not a religion of peace and tolerance. Every cultural nuance and deviation, every little insult by anyone, is taken as grave attack on the core of Islam requiring retaliation in the absolute and total sense.
We as Muslims need to change the narrative and rescue our heritage and religion from these madmen. I know my father’s God and his Prophet are no weaklings who would be mortally insulted by the cartoonists in Paris or Copenhagen. He would not need to send in ill-educated thugs to kill 12 people who make their living using their pens. Lashing out of Intolerance is a classic manifestation of weakness and insecurity. I refuse to believe that my God is such a weakling.
The problem remains that Islam has been hijacked by militants backed by Saudi money, and the legitimacy we bestowed upon the Saudi Royals as the keepers of the Holy places in Mecca and Medina. Why should that honor be hereditary and always conferred upon an Arab? There are at least 20 times as many Muslims worldwide who are not Arabs. We can take concrete steps towards a better future:
- Boycott all Imams and mosques which do not explicitly condemn violence and Wahhabi ideology.
- Start a movement to form an elected committee who will be the guardians of the Holy Places for single-term 5-year periods.
If we can get a grassroots movement going against Wahhabi stranglehold on the religion, there just may be a chance that Islam will become the religion of Peace and Tolerance.
Kayes Ahmed is a businessman running multi-national operations from Ohio, USA.