Avoiding the Trap of Rhetoric

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Utopian dreams can lead to unconventional tools disruptive of peace and harmony. Muslim youth must be wary of them, says Maqbool Ahmed Siraj

There is something called getting ‘trapped into one’s own rhetoric’.
It is happening with Muslims all over the world. Several ‘Islamic’ movements, jamaats and organizations have been promoting concepts like ‘Ummah state’, ‘Islamic state’, ‘Sharia rule’, ‘Khilafat’ etc. for several decades. One knows very well that these are utopian concepts and are not practicable in a world where Muslims are poor, demoralized, underprivileged, ignorant and unable to see beyond their noses. They blindly oppose secularism, democracy, the nation-state, pluralism, gender rights, minority rights (while being minorities themselves), freedom of the press, human rights etc., ironically even while benefitting from them.
Now that the only superpower is without an enemy on the global level and enjoys ‘Pax Americana’ (Peace as overseen by the United States of America), the US has been looking for new enemies in order to keep its arms industry running. One among them was Muslims. So, it has encouraged several of these rightist groups to raise their rhetoric to newer and higher levels. Some agencies working behind the scenes brainwashed Muslim youths into taking up these as war-cries and a new agenda. The first stage is indoctrination. In the next stage, they are inveigled into taking recourse to militancy and violence. Once they do that, they are taken into custody as terrorists and militants and paraded before the media as criminals and before the general populace as a threat. (for more, read Trevor Aaronson’s ‘The Terror Factory’, IG Publishing, Brooklyn, NY). All this is done for the sake of polarizing votes.

‘Dream Merchants’
It is time that Muslim youth stay away from these ‘dream merchants’ and engage themselves in academic study, employment, competition for services, entrepreneurship, healthy nurturing of families, and helping others (including people of other faiths) in the daily struggle of life.

Jinnah’s Disastrous Legacy
Even Mohammed Ali Jinnah was trapped in his own rhetoric. He used the so-called ‘two-nation’ theory and the demand of Pakistan as a bargaining chip. But the Hindu nationalists within the Congress trapped him in his own rhetoric and offered him Pakistan, which he was neither able to refuse nor guide towards a sound nation-state. Pakistan is a weak and failing state and oscillates for support between one superpower (the US in the last 70 years) and another (now China). Jinnah was highly educated but not a visionary like Nehru. He was a legal luminary. But nation-building requires vision, patience, tolerance, keen sense of history, society and diversity. Jinnah had none of these attributes. He was arrogant and a slave of the ‘I know all’ attitude.

Constructive Work
We should not blame others. We need to raise a new generation of people who can turn ourselves into an intelligent community, not a sentimental community as currently. The youth should keenly study the world, including new concepts of nation-building, and engage themselves in constructive activities. No amount of blaming others will take us forward. Nor will glorifying our history and romanticizing our past help. The world belongs to those who have a constructive agenda, not merely dreams. Constructive work is tedious and takes time to produce results. Ijtemas, conclaves, seminars, Khitab-e Aam etc. are easy to organize, but leave only momentary impact. Spoken words appear pleasant. So, orators use rhetoric (shola bayani) to cast a spell over crowds of ignoramuses. They try to play to the gallery. They seem to have the power to turn people over their heels. But look around them””their world is dark and without any constructive activity. These speakers carry an unrealistic aura around themselves. Some people are taken in by their memory, vocabulary and argumentative skills (for instance, Zakir Naik). They appear on TV screens, magazine titles and videos and claim verbal ‘victory’ over their adversaries. But theirs is a totally wrong approach.
In contrast to these people, those who are engaged in constructive and positive activities work quietly for decades and leave a solid impact in a small area which has a far-reaching legacy. Their real worth is discovered decades after they have left the world. For instance, Dr. Ambedkar could convince very few about his vision, but look at how he now dominates the intellectual scene in India today. His legacy seems to be dwarfing Gandhi and Nehru today, although Gandhi and Nehru too were no small visionaries.
There is no alternative to hard work, study, thinking and strategizing for future. There cannot be any room for fireworks. Critically examine history, but do not try to redo what was done in the past. That was a different context. Today we live in the 21st century. Our urges, motivations, tools, methods and approaches should be in accordance with our times and context, of course without sacrificing morality and values that form the template for the development of all nations and religious groups.
The writer can be reached at [email protected]