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'A person who has understood Islam will never become a fundamentalist'

Last updated on: July 05, 2016 21:06 IST

'When you have the freedom to have mosques, the freedom to have madrassas and the freedom to pray, why should you turn to terrorism?'
'Both mother and father are equally important to every person. Similarly, both our country and religion are important for a citizen.'
'Terrorism has no religion. A small segment of people from all religions are terrorists.'

IMAGE: Sayyid Ibrahim Khaleel Bukhari addresses a crowd of nearly 300,000 Muslim youth who pledged to respect all faith traditions. Photograph: Kind courtesy: Ma'Din Academy

On Friday, July 1, the chairman of the Ma'din Academy, (external link) Sayyid Ibrahim Khaleel Bukhari, organised a congregation in Malappuram, Kerala, where around 300,000 Muslims met and took a pledge to respect all faiths.

The intent of the congregation was to prevent terrorists from hijacking Islam.

With that in mind those present swore that 'Even as we take pride in being Muslim, we respect and honour all other faiths and their followers. We will keep a continuous vigil against forces such as Islamic State that work to destroy the oneness of humanity.'

Ma'din Academy has 33 institutions with 20,000 students.

Bukhari, below, left tells Shobha Warrier/Rediff.com about why India, which has the third largest Muslim population in the world, must take the lead in guiding youngsters to the path of peace.

A day after the congregation pledged for peace, there was a terrorist attack in Bangladesh executed by young educated Muslims. What do you think attracts such young men towards terrorism?

There are many reasons behind young Muslims getting attracted to terrorism. If they had proper knowledge of religion, they would not have turned terrorists at all.

They may have intellectual wisdom, but they have absolutely no knowledge of the religion. I would say that not a single person with knowledge of the religion has become a terrorist or a fundamentalist.

Another reason that drives them to terrorism is unemployment. When they have no job and so much time in their hands, these youngsters with energy get attracted to many unwanted things.

The third reason is when they see their religion being attacked they think they have to react and retaliate. That is because they do not know what they are doing.

You said they had no knowledge of the religion. The terrorists in Bangladesh killed those who could not reportedly recite verses from the Quran. Do you think they do this because they do not understand what real Islam is?

Yes, they indulge in these kinds of activities because they do not know what Islam is. A person who has understood Islam will never become a fundamentalist.

The greatest ideal to follow is the Prophet (Muhammad), and in the life of his followers. You cannot see anything connected to fundamentalism there.

Prophet Muhammad always said that you become a believer only when you follow the religion in its true spirit.

Many youngsters become followers of IS after reading inflammatory material on the internet. Do you feel that the information they acquire through such sources misleads them?

Yes. By reading all sorts of material on the internet, they get an improper knowledge of the religion. That is why it is essential to teach them what true Islam is.

What came to your mind when you heard about youngsters murdering innocent people who could not recite the Quran?

I feel extremely sad and I can only describe their actions as beastly. These beastly actions are the biggest blow and blemish that has happened to Islam.

I also have doubts about some external forces trying to infiltrate Islam to damage the reputation of the religion because a true Muslim will never be able to indulge in such barbaric activities.

This is the holy month of Ramzan and almost everyday you hear about terrorist attacks in some place or the other.

Yes, this is the holy month and in no way can we justify such actions. They have to be punished and should be stopped at the earliest. We should not let them grow anymore.

Many observers feel Islamophobia is on the rise across the world. Do you think such fear gives rise to more terrorists or is it the other way round?

I would say that terrorism has no religion. A small segment of people from all religions are terrorists. These people have only one religion and that is terrorism.

You cannot blame an entire religion for the bad deeds done by a minority as they have no knowledge about what their religion teaches them.

These minorities create so many problems for the religion. You must understand that no religion, I repeat no religion, encourages fundamentalism.

Do you think that such stereotyping of Muslims causes youngsters to join up with terrorist outfits?

Yes, it is one reason. Some might feel that the world was accusing them of something they didn't do. It is like calling a man a thief when he is not one. It might even push him to be one in retaliation.

Who do you think is responsible for letting such terrorism fester?

The fight among various governments, even within the Islamic countries, has lead to this situation. Those in the opposition try to take advantage of the ruling party by making use of these forces.

If these governments had understood the threat posed by the extremists and put an end to them in the initial stages itself, the situation would not have reached such an alarming level.

Do you hold the United States responsible for the present situation?

I cannot deny that. They (the US) are responsible. There were many drawbacks in the way they dealt with many countries. They destroyed Iraq, saying the country had weapons of mass destruction, but found none.

They destroyed an entire country. There may be many people over there who might be thinking what the Americans did was unfair and unjust.

Do you agree with the opinion of some radicals that they are Muslims first and any other identity comes later?

If they had any knowledge about their religion, they would not have said so. The first thing a true Muslim is expected to spread the message of peace. His kindness should be directed at people belonging to all religions.

When he meets someone, he says, Aslamu alaikkum (peace be upon you). In every aspect of Islam, only peace is talked about. Only the misguided elements think otherwise and get carried away by the message of violence.

What identity of a person should come first: Country or religion?

He should be able to see both in the same way. It is like asking who is more important, father or mother. Both mother and father are equally important to every person. Similarly, both our country and religion are important for a citizen. He is bound to protect both.

Although India is a multi-faith nation with a secular Constitution it boasts the third largest Muslim population in the world. Do you feel it can become a beacon to other nations as well?

Yes, you said it right. Even though India is a secular country, we have every freedom to practice our religion and live as a Muslim without any fear.

When you have the freedom to have mosques, when you have the freedom to have madrasas and when you have the freedom to pray, why should you turn to terrorism?

We want to send this message to the entire world.

How much can Muslim leaders in India contribute to spread the message of peace to the world?

Whenever we go abroad for conferences and seminars, one question we encounter is this: What is the condition of the Muslims in India? Are you not minorities there?

The answer that I give is this: Islam came to India during the times of the Prophet. There are people from different religions around us and they pray to different gods, but we always lived harmoniously. That is why there is peace of mind and happiness in our country.

It is to make youngsters understand the true message of Islam that we start religious centres. Even in our schools and colleges, we see to that children from all religions sit together and that no segregation takes place. The love that they develop as a child will never end.

If we can live happily in a secular country, why can't they? That is our message.

Shobha Warrier / Rediff.com
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