It is an important document that tries to raise a question - ‘Can Muslims be De-radicalized?” and tries to provide some answers. His hypothesis is that Muslim leadership will have to be pro-active. You cannot de-radicalize a Muslim who is already radicalized with Madrassa kind of education where no questions are asked and logical queries are discouraged.
Mr. Shahin is deeply read scholar and a devout Muslim who has very good grasp over different aspects of Islam. For people who are neutral or allergic to Islam it is a good starting point of understanding Islam in its glory and also see its warts that the author strives to expose with humility and logical reasoning.
Sultan Shahin is clearly allergic to ‘Petrodollar Islam’ that promotes Wahhabi and Salafist view of Quran and Hadees. He stresses that root cause of radicalization of Muslims across world is interpretation of these scriptures without context of the time in which they were revealed or written.
I have tried to paraphrase key points brought out by Mr. Shahin in this book -
Sultan Shahin believes that if Muslim youth can be de-radicalized on the basis of above three premises. Iron grip of Maulvis and Taliban can be loosened if youth can be taught about these three issues.
It is ironical that Islamophobes and ISIS kind of people of different hues quote same Verses of Quran or narrations of Hadees without reference to their context, so people cannot be blamed for taking a negative view of Islam as broadcast by extremist and violent groups.
Unless the followers of Islam decide to modify their world-view vis-à-vis other civilizations and religions they cannot really claim not to be what they are accused of being.
He points out that Muhammad never picked sword for conquest but only to defend his faith when there was no other alternative. These war-time verses must not be taken literally and used to justify violence today. He argues that parts of Islam that teach brotherhood, peace and tolerance to other faiths must be highlighted and adopted more vigorously by followers of Islam.
He notes that silence of majority of Muslims over destruction of precious Islamic heritage, most prominently in Saudi Arabia is ‘overwhelming’. He questions the right of Muslims’ to claim religious freedom when they don’t speak up against religious persecution of other religious minorities in Islamic nations.
Muslims demand not only Shariah where they are in simple majority but now even where they are in a minority. None has agreed except India so far and now UK in a small way. We can see consequences of such ghettoization in UK as well as in India. Wahhabi Salafists are discouraging logical debate in their Madrassas, whether in Pakistan or UK. Reports from UK about radicalization of youth through Madrassas are alarming.
Sultan Shahin reminds readers that Prophet Muhammad set up a secular state. Medina was declared a nation state, not a religious state. Whole multi-religious population was called Ummah not only Muslims as done now. All religious groups, for instance, Jews, followed their own religious laws (i.e. Shariah). Islam is not exclusivist but preaches peaceful living with others. He quotes authoritatively from Quran to prove his point.
Sultan Shahin tries to spell out how Muslim Indians need to think or follow clear thoughts propagated by truly moderate Muslims. He believes that only Muslims of India can play a role in bringing together Sunnis and Shias as they have lived more peacefully together than Muslims in many other countries. They must work hard to establish the Quranic ideal that killing even one innocent is like killing humanity. They must not fall for victimhood mentality and conspiracy theories being fostered by exclusivist Wahhabi theology and propaganda.
He tries to make out another point that Hindus are people of book (ahl-e-kitab) mentioned in Quran. So, Muslims must live peacefully with them, like all other ‘people of book'. He quotes repeatedly to stress that true Muslims cannot be intolerant to followers of other religions. He gives example of Prophet Muhammad allowing visiting Christians to offer prayers in his own mosque.
Quran tells us that there were 1,24,000 prophets before Muhammad and asks its followers to respect all of them equally. Though Prophet asks all people following these prophets to be treated as ahl-e-kitab, Wahhabi-Salafists now treat, even others within Muslim fold, as Kafirs even if they are ahl-e-kitab, leading to blood and mayhem.
A chapter towards end of the book talks of parallels between Vedic thoughts and Islam starting from concept of One God (advaita) that both follow. He quotes various Hindu scriptures – Vedas, Upanishads and modern Rishis and from Sufis to show how two world views can be synthesised. He quotes Swami Vivekananda who had wished for a new India with a Hindu soul and with a body of Islam and laments why we cannot take that syncretic path. Though one may not agree with Mr. Shahin on his interpretation but it is an honest attempt and opens your mind to possibility of this symbiosis.
I have always wondered how a moderate Muslim thinks and responds to intolerant scenario in our society, on one side created by their own brethren who have closed minds and resent majority; on the other side support or lack of it from Hindus around them. I am sure it would not be an easy life.
Will moderate Muslims be able to have their way and come up with an Indian version of Islam like Indonesia did years back that is synthesis of ‘respect for all faiths’ and their own monotheism? That adopts Ramayana with as much ease as it practices Islam. Will they be able to establish a softer version of Islam that highlights the peaceful side of Quran but shuns the violent part; something Christians did with modification of Bible to suite new age and modification of world view in changing world? Or will they be brow beaten or silenced by vocal orthodox followers who are in a minority but rule with powerful backing of vested interests.
I hope more moderate Muslims who are against extremism and feel as Indian as any other Indian will come out to support people like Sultan Shahin, Tufail Ahmed and many other men and women of their kind. I also hope majority community would stop treating all Muslims with cynicism and give space to Muslims who truly believe in universal values of religious freedom and human rights.
It is a book not only for Muslims but also others who wish to understand struggle within Muslim world to take Islam out of clutches of Islamo-fascists nurtured by Petrodollar Islam.
You can view most of the articles that are part of this book and others from international authors on the website run by Sultan Shahin, newageislam.org.