Muslims need people like Sami Yusuf, not Boko Haram

Special to Times of Oman

Have you listened to Sami Yusuf yet? He has been described as the biggest Muslim superstar by Britain's Guardian. But what really interests me about the British singing sensation is his compelling eagerness to reach out to the world and present what he believes is the true face of his faith.

Unlike Yusuf Islam — formerly pop legend Cat Stevens — who gave up music after embracing Islam, this Yusuf is using his music to promote his faith. That's what struck me the most when I first read about Sami Yusuf and his passion and ambition to change the world as it were with his music. He has been reaching out to the world in determined efforts to bridge the gulf that exists between Muslims and the rest of the world.

Yusuf believes that Islam he champions needs to be resurrected in its original, pristine purity and glory. His songs and music unabashedly celebrate the faith and its original humane teachings at a time when it is not the best of times to do so.  

Today, in post 9/11, post Huntington times, it is easily the most maligned and misunderstood faith. It has been at the receiving end of long centuries of disinformation and propaganda blitz as well as been a victim of its own overzealous, misguided followers and assorted groups of extremists.

As if Al-Qaeda, Taliban and ignorant bigots of all shades and hues hadn't done enough to the blessed name of Islam, now we have new band of thugs called Boko Haram.   

In the past few months our heads have hung perpetually in collective shame as the Nigerian loonies have gone on the rampage, day after day, killing innocent, unsuspecting civilians, targeting schools and abducting school girls in droves as if they were cattle.  All this has apparently been carried out in the name of faith and is seen as such by the world.

Who cares if highest Islamic authorities and scholars from across the world have flayed the outfit and its shenanigans in strongest terms as 'inhuman and against the spirit of Islam'? Indeed, majority of scholars are convinced that the Boko Haram is not even part of the faith.

Condemning the recent abduction of some 200 school girls by the group, Saudi Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz Al Sheikh suggested that the group was founded to 'smear the name and image of Islam'.

The world however pays little attention to these tiny, insignificant details as the searing images of young, helpless girls being herded around at gunpoint float out there. And it doesn't take a genius to figure out that if Islam today finds itself on the defensive everywhere, it doesn't have to thank anyone but its own followers.

Muslims have not played a too insignificant a role in bringing about this state of affairs. From targeting innocents to going berserk over trivial, non-issues that have nothing to do with the faith or its teachings, we are constantly playing into the hands of our adversaries.  

Our short sighted and impulsive actions often bring nothing but embarrassment.

However, I believe their self-promoting shenanigans can be dealt with a little more tact, without us feeding into the stereotype of an intolerant, excessively thin-skinned people ever ready to take offence.

Many a time minor, insignificant issues are blown out of proportion by our overreaction, drawing attention to our response rather than the genuine causes that provoked it. Even when our concerns are genuine and justified, they are marred or overshadowed by our excessive reactions.

The dual standards that are so common in the West in such matters do not come naturally to Muslims. When the Danish newspaper Jyllands Postencame up with those extremely hurtful and cheap cartoon, our European friends had shrugged off our protests saying, "Well, our media is free and it's free to do what it pleases. We respect the freedom of speech, you see."

Maybe it is so.

But the media in the West is not so free when it involves its own high and mighty. The self-same liberal European establishment was outraged when two Spanish cartoonists poked gentle fun at the country's royals.

The cartoonists of El Jueves faced imprisonment and heavy fines for taking a less than reverential look at marital life of their royals, Prince Felipe and Princess Letizia. It seems Europe's fabled freedom of expression doesn't always work. This selective freedom is flaunted only when it involves certain soft targets. Talk of double standards!

We cannot counter hatred with more hatred but love.  As Lincoln argued, mercy bears richer fruits than strict justice.  We need more Sami Yusufs, not Boko Haram.

The author is a Gulf based award winning journalist. All the views and opinions expressed in the article are solely those of the author and do not reflect those of Times of Oman.


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