Following the events of September 11, 2001, Islam became the theater of war of media attacks in many parts of the world. Persistent charges and accusations were leveled against followers of this religion to the point where some were soon running for cover. In over a decade of these attacks, a breed of apologists has risen, one that often goes to extremes to alleviate the fear and suspicion of those of other faiths.
Take the case of the Pakistani human rights activist Ansar Burney who recently traveled to Amritsar, India to perform the Kumari Puja there.
Burney who was Pakistan’s former federal minister for human rights is generally credited with being the first man to introduce human rights concepts in his country some three decades ago.
Among his many notable achievements has been the establishment of the Ansar Burney Trust which he heads and is as stated “a network of human rights organizations and volunteers working for the deliverance of justice, better treatment of human beings and for the rights and freedoms of civil liberties. It works to raise awareness, provide free legal advice and services and humanitarian assistance where needed.” He has also championed steps toward reforms on prison reforms and prisoners’ rights in his country.
Burney, a Muslim, after completing the ceremonial rituals, began a discourse on the importance of girls within a society, and how the world would be an empty place without them. “I think the universe is incomplete without the existence of daughters; for me the whole universe is a girl child. If we don’t evaluate the importance of a daughter then we cannot value anything in life. A girl is very important in every role, be it a mother, daughter, wife or a sister. A girl or a woman in every role is beautiful and important in her own way,” he said.
He then shifted his focus to the recent attack on the 14-year-old Pakistani school girl and activist Malala Yousafzai who was shot by Taliban militants in the head in October and is currently recuperating in the UK. Calling it an attack on all girls across the globe he said, “Your Kanjak ceremony for me is very important and pious. This teaches us that we must realize the importance of the girl child, we must love them and nurture them in a way they deserve. Like what happened with Malala Yousafzai is a very disheartening and unfortunate incident, which shook the whole world and this message went throughout the world. With this, Malala Yousafzai is not only the child of Pakistan but also of the whole world.”
“There will be more girls born as Malala Yousafzai. The militants have not attacked and shown their terror on just one Malala Yousafzai of Pakistan, but they have attacked all the girls of the universe,” he charged.
While I applaud his sense of justice and his efforts on human rights, I have some difficulty reconciling his actions of performing religious rituals which include glorifying other forms of deity. Islam is very clear on the oneness of God, and worship is just to him and no other. Burney could have promoted his message on Malala Yousafzai without the condescending actions of performing religious rituals that highly contradict those of his own faith.
Such is the case of apologists I fear. In a bid to promote acceptance by people of other faiths, some have gone to the extremes of performing rituals of other religions or ideologies simply to be liked or accepted. They fear that Islam carries a stigma on their backs and thus they feel that they have to be extra nice and congenial.
They forget that Islam does tell us to be nice and congenial, and we don’t necessarily have to go overboard to demonstrate it.
(Tarik al Maeena is a columist at Saudi Gazette. This article was published on Oct. 31, 2012)