Tuesday, October 04, 2005
For the love of Islam, fight the terrorists
Different reasons are given for the Bali terrorist attacks. Australian Prime Minister John Howard describes it as an attack on democratic Indonesia, an attempt to destabilise the country and punish it for adopting a more democratic model.
South Australian magistrate Brian Deegan, who lost his 22-year-old son Josh in the 2002 Bali bombing, says it was an attack on Australian foreign policy.
I have my own theory which does involve a short history lesson. I believe the Bali bombing was an attack on Indonesian Islam.
Some 700 years ago, Yemeni traders brought Islam to this part of the world, the centre of Southeast Asian trade.
The various indigenous merchants had no system of accounting and the Yemenis introduced the systems still in use today including resolving commercial disputes based upon sharia law. In Indonesia, when people think of sharia, they don't think of chopping hands and stoning adulterers. They think of banking and finance and trade law.
Most Yemeni traders came from a tribe known as the Bani Alawi, direct descendants of the Prophet Muhammad. In the towns and villages around Penang and Aceh, you will find more direct descendants of the Prophet than in Saudi Arabia.
And the People of the House (as Muslims refer to the Prophet's descendants) are known for certain qualities. They are scholarly. They are soft-hearted and compassionate. They are calm. They are spiritual. They inspire love, not hatred.
The Yemeni traders were Sufis who brought a kind of Islam that focuses on spiritual purification and social reform. Sufis work with people of all faiths in an effort to bring peace and prosperity to the world.
In New York, a Sufi imam named Feisal Abdul Rauf regularly hosts dinners with Jewish and Christian New Yorkers. In India, the poor and depressed of all faiths and no faith find refuge at the tombs of Sufi saints. Sufism is a grassroots religion in just about every Islamic country, including Afghanistan and Iraq.
The terrorists' version of Islam has no room for Sufis. The terrorist religion is about war, not peace. It is about hatred, not love. Sufis teach that you bring people closer to you and your faith through love and service to others. Terrorists teach that you convert people by killing them, by bringing tears to the eyes of their families and loved ones, by driving fear into their communities.
The terrorist vision of Islam is winning no friends in the world's largest Islamic community.
The latest bombing has taken place in the final week of the sacred Islamic month of Sha'ban. Orthodox Sunni Indonesians see this month as a time to prepare for the beginning of the sacred month of Ramadan.
Traditionally, the shedding of blood during Ramadan and its two preceding months is strictly forbidden. The terrorists have flouted this taboo which finds its source in the Koran, the scriptures regarded by millions of Indonesians as the literal word of God.
Terrorists bring out the worst in themselves and others. Orthodox Sufi Islam brought peace to this region of the world. Today, the terrorist ideology masquerading as Islam is bringing war and violence and tears to the region. Those who care about Islam should be at the forefront of fighting terror.
* Irfan Yusuf is a Sydney-based industrial lawyer and occasional lecturer in the Department of Politics at Macquarie University in Sydney.