Noted Afro-American scholar Amina Wadud was about to board a flight from Calicut when she was told that the programme has been cancelled. It was later revealed that her lecture on Gender and Islam was called off in the last minute due to threat from a puritanical Salafi Muslim group in Chennai. A timid police and the university authorities preferred peace in the campus to free thinking and the right to dissent. The self styled guardians of Islam also missed an opportunity to challenge the author on her ‘anti-Islamic views’.
But the guardians ‘true Islam’ conveniently forgot that they were simply propagating blatant lies to prevent the author from airing her views on Islam based on her independent research and thinking. They also forgot that since the classical period of Islam, there was no single opinion which was acceptable to everybody when it comes to the details of faith. Four School of Thoughts in Islam co-existed harmoniously even while differing on many vital issues.
The Salafi group in Chennai also claimed that Wadud’s earlier programme in Karur had created law and order problem. Wadud has categorically said she didn’t give any lecture in Tamil Nadu earlier.
The group also claimed that the organizers invited Wadud without knowing her intellectual background. The head of the department of Islamic studies at Madras University, PK Rahman, is a PhD scholar from JNU. When the Other Books in Kerala published the Malayalam translation of Wadud’s book, The Quran and woman, they included a lengthy essay by Prof Rahman in the book. Both Rahman and Wadud had shared a platform at a function in Kerala where Wadud had freely expressed her views on Islam. Still the Salafi group says the organizers didn’t know the background of their guest. Typical frogs in the Chennai well!
Going by the tradition of Salafi Islam, the group reacted on expected lines only. While describing the characteristics of Salafism, noted Islamic scholar Muhammed Asad, who witnessed the rise and growth of modern Saudi Arabia living in the Arab world for many decades said this: “One of the defects is the narrowness with which it seeks to confine almost all religious Endeavours to a literal observation of injunctions, overlooking the need for penetrating to their spiritual content. The other defect is……. in that zealotic, self-righteousness orientation of feeling which concedes to no one the right to differ…..While ever since the advent of Muhammad ibn Abd al Wahhab they have regarded themselves not merely as champions of the faith but almost as its sole owners.” (Muhammed Asad: The Road to Mecca).
Truly, Salafis are true to their ‘faith’!
Incidentally, Calicut University in Kerala also kicked up a row by withdrawing a poem from the syllabus claiming that the poet was an Al Qaeda terrorist. After revamping the syllabus for BA English literature, ‘Ode to the Sea’ a poem written by a former Guantanamo Bay detainee, Ibrahim al- Rubaish, was included in the syllabus. It was selected as it deals with the core issues of the collection on burning issues of the contemporary world- globalisation, human rights and gender issues. The collection also included poems by Pablo Neruda, Sylvia Plath and Maya Angelou.
But a section of teachers found that Rubaish was a terrorist and his poem cannot be taught in the university. Succumbing to the pressure, the board of studies promptly withdrew the poem from syllabus.
In fact, the poem was one among the 22 poems written by detainees at the Guantanamo Bay prison. The hapless human beings huddled up there for their alleged terror connections etched their creative thoughts on the walls of prison with toothpaste and charcoal. Many of them wrote poems on cups and plates provided them at the prison. Unable to withstand the torture, they poured the cry of their souls through beautiful verses only to save their life from suicide, which many of them tried multiple times.
Lawyers of Amnesty International collected these poems and published in 2006 as an anthology titled as ‘Poems from Guantanamo: The Detainees Speak’. Edited by Mark Falkoff the collection was published by University of Iowa Press in the US.
According to Amnesty sources these poems were collected after a thorough scrutiny by the Pentagon. In fact, Rubaish was a teacher in Pakistan when he was arrested and he was even empanelled to be appointed as a judge at a court in Saudi Arabia.
But none of these facts were considered when some warriors of ‘war on terrorism’ found that Rubaish was a terrorist!
By Jumah al Dossari
Take my blood.
Take my death shroud and
The remnants of my body.
Take photographs of my corpse at the grave, lonely.
Send them to the world,
To the judges and
To the people of conscience,
Send them to the principled men and the fair-minded.
And let them bear the guilty burden before the world,
Of this innocent soul.
Let them bear the burden before their children and before history,
Of this wasted, sinless soul,
Of this soul which has suffered at the hands of the “protectors of peace.”
Jumah al Dossari is a thirty-three-year-old Bahraini who has been held at Guantánamo Bay for more than ﬁve years. He has been in solitary confinement since the end of 2003 and, according to the U.S. military, has tried to kill himself twelve times while in custody.