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Let hope spring eternal

Jun 11,2017 - Last updated at Jun 11,2017

Once again last week terrorists struck, murdering innocent people and, adding insult to injury, they claimed to be doing it “for Allah”.

Expressions of sympathy and solidarity by Muslim political and religious leaders and the assurance that murder is contrary to Islam are befitting, but by now it is amply clear that they are not sufficient.

The statement that 1.5 billion Muslims would never contemplate such criminality is true, but irrelevant.

The point at issue is that a disquietingly large number of Muslims and Arabs are proving susceptible to recruitment by terrorist organisations or eager to carry out lone-wolf attacks on their own initiative.

Clearly we, Muslims, are doing something wrong and we need to do serious soul searching to identify what we are doing that has created this situation.

The issue is too important to be left for religious leaders alone, if only because their efforts have so far proved insufficient. 

Moreover, the question is not merely one of theological dogma. It is a matter of identity, which needs to be addressed by all opinion leaders.

Traditional quick answers tend to be specious. The cause of this phenomenon is not limited to the systems of education and morality.

Many of the terrorists were born and raised in the West and some have Western parents.

Nor is it purely a matter of poverty and marginalisation, because some were educated and had lucrative employment, even as doctors.

So how do we explain the deep hopelessness and despair in which a whole generation seems to be floundering and drowning?

Part of the answer may lie in the comparison Thomas Friedman drew in his book “The World is Flat”.

He contrasted a successful society where if a poor man sees the opulence of a rich man’s house, he would think: “I want to be like this man” with a failed society where he would think: “I want to kill this man!”

In many Arab and Muslim countries, whole societies have been robbed of any prospect of upwards mobility by flagrant, endemic corruption.

Many societies have also been robbed of inspiration and hope by their governments’ anti-stardom policies.

In Libya under Qadhafi, for instance, a special anti-stardom police monitored sports programmes to ensure that only the players’ numbers, not their names, were mentioned because the nation should have only one star.

Consequently, the only role models left for Muslims to admire have been dead for at least 1,000 years. Otherwise, how can 1.5 billion people fail to produce in a whole century one single Nelson Mandela or Jonas Salk, or Bill Gates, except from among those who emigrated to the West, like Steve Jobs?

It may be inspiring for Muslim opinion leaders, as they reflect on this question, to see the film “Invictus” about Nelson Mandela’s leadership during the 1995 rugby world championship.


The Rainbow Nation was not born purely out of this victory, but Mandela’s rugby policies were certainly effective in freeing South Africa from the legacy of apartheid.

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