Wake Up Muslims and Smell the Yemeni Coffee

As most people in North America were basking in the joy and peace of the Christmas season, one of my co-religionists was conducting jihad against the USA, while another 10,000 were meeting in Toronto, hearing from a series of Islamist speakers who steadfastly refuse to distance themselves from the doctrine of armed jihad. While Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a 23-year-old Nigerian was attempting to blow up an airliner as it flew over Ontario on its way to Detroit, on the ground in Ontario the so-called Revival of Islam Conference was in full gear. Young men in beards and women draped in yards of cloth, listened to speeches dripping with the right clichés, but planting the seed of segregation that may produce yet another Umar Farouk Abdelmutallabi. Lost to both the young jihadi in the sky and the youth on the ground was the significance of the timing of their acts. It was the Muslim month of Muharram, the anniversary of the slaughter of the grandson and the family the Prophet Muhammad; an act that triggered almost everything that has gone wrong with the Muslim world today.

Since 9/11, many of us belonging to the faith of Islam have been involved in some form of “damage control”. Our knee-jerk reaction to this latest act terrorism is to say what we say best, “Islam is a religion of peace … hence this action should not reflect on Islam.”. Today I stand corrected.

Before bigots burst out of the building to clamber upon the bandwagon of hadees-hurlers accusing me of hatred toward Islam and Muslims, let me clarify that I’m an observant Muslim searching for answers from within, and what I write is very hard for me. So bear with me and try to understand where I’m coming from, and how I got here. Muslims have just embarked on the Islamic New Year (1431 began on December 18, 2009) and the first month of this year is called Muharram. Muharram is a time for deep reflection, retrospection and redemption. It doesn’t begin with a party but by recalling a devastating incident that shook the foundations of our faith, over 1,400 years ago. It was only 60 years after the death of Prophet Mohammad when his beloved grandson Hussain and his family (including an infant) were brutally slaughtered on the plains of Karbala, in Iraq.

This calamity has been noted by non-Muslim scholars like Charles Dickens, Mahatma Gandhi and Thomas Carlyle as the most catastrophic tragedy in Islamic history. Arab Historian al-Fakhri calls this “a shameful tragedy”, one that was so heinous that he has trouble relating it. In the Muslim world, this incident is acknowledged largely by the shias, who are a minority sect and a few others. The rest either ignore it or brush it under the carpet. I recently read “An account of the Martyrdom of al-Hussain” related by Abu Mikhnaf which is widely accepted by most schools of thought in Islam. What this account reveals is very distressing and troubling. The people, who killed the Prophet’s grandson and then trampled over his body before beheading him and his followers, were not Christians, Jews, Hindus or pagans.

They were Muslim, and I believe this massacre was the first act of terrorism carried out by Muslims against Muslims to strengthen the power of political Islam, which has till today run parallel to spiritual Islam. In actual fact as soon as Prophet Muhammad died, political Islam sidelined the spiritual message of the Qur’an which was one of peace, tolerance, brotherhood and equality and a continuation of the messages given by Prophets before Islam. Nepotism, corruption and decadence had taken over the Caliphate. The rulers vying for leadership were more interested in expansion and excess, than keeping the spiritual message of Islam alive. In the words of author Tarek Fatah, “when Muslims buried the Prophet, they also buried with him many of the universal values of Islam that he had preached.” He says, “the history of Islam [since then] can be described essentially as the history of an unending power struggle when men have killed each other to claim the mantle of Muhammad.” [Chasing a Mirage: The Tragic Illusion of an Islamic State].

This is why Hussain and the family of the Prophet did not give allegiance to an unjust and ruthless leader, Caliph Yazid, and for this act of defiance they were brutally slaughtered. Is it any wonder that beheading is the chosen method of killing used by Al Qaeda? Or that more Muslim innocent civilians, women and children have been killed in acts of barbarism and terrorism by Muslims against their own ilk? It amazes me that this part of Islamic history isn’t discussed and debated truthfully and clearly. When concerned Muslims do speak out, they are immediately slammed as heretics. In a recent debate on CBC between Tarek Fatah of the MCC and Ibrahim Hooper of CAIR, Fatah was called an “extremist” and a “neocon sock puppet” by Hooper for admitting that we Muslims need to take responsibility for the actions of our youth.

Organizations like CAIR, which are well funded, like to create confusion in the minds of Muslims to promote their own agendas, and rarely address or publicly condemn the roots of armed violence. As the Islamic tragedy of Karbala was being commemorated by some Muslims, the Islamic conference in Toronto, ostensibly to “Save the Ship of Humanity” was unfolding. None of the speakers listed could have addressed the incident in which Prophet Mohammad’s grandson was slaughtered.

I doubt if the lessons to be learned from this early Islamic tragedy were discussed at the Toronto event. If they had, perhaps they might have connected the history of violence from the early years of Islam to the terrorist acts of today, especially that of Umar Farouk Abdualmutallib. While Mutallab’s father was so concerned about his son’s ideology that he advised the US embassy, are we as Muslims not concerned about safeguarding our youth in North America who are being brainwashed by the doctrine of armed jihad? We know this for a fact from the confessions of Muslim youth in terror conspiracies who were inspired by the need to kill and maim Canadians in the name of Islam. Before Canada becomes a hot vacation spot for radicals, we Muslims should recognize the fact that we need to embrace the notion of a separation of religion and state and distance ourselves from the doctrine of armed jihad as outdated and irrelevant. Otherwise, no matter how many “Revival of Islam” conferences we hold in Toronto, an Umar Farouk Abdulmutallib will rise from amongst us and blow a plane over Ontario in the name of our faith. For only WE can do it and the onus is on us. The denial and silence are deafening. Wake up Muslims and smell the Yemeni coffee.

Raheel Raza is author of “Their Jihad – Not My Jihad”.