"... because Muslim leaders are driving on Interstate-95 South from Washington D.C., hoping to reach New York."
This is my response to an embarrassing question that always comes up during my religious courses and lectures: "If Islam truly champions the values of equality, freedom, and compassion, then why do we see the Muslim world in chaos?"
Case in point: Syria. Since the largely peaceful uprising against a four decade long dictatorship started four months ago, nearly 1700 civilians have been killed by the regime, including 200 deaths in the week leading up to the Muslim Holy month of Ramadan.
And since Muslim governments were the first to demand a halt in U.S. military operations against Taliban during the 2001 Ramadan, Syrian forces must have exercised restraint during Ramadan, right?
Ground raids and tank shelling continued against the residents of the cities of Hana and Deir Ezzor claiming a dozen lives and maiming many more all during the first week of Ramadan.
Perhaps the reason White House spokesman Jay Carney called the cruelty "grotesque."
Crushing a largely peaceful protest with brutal force by the Syrian regime during Ramadan illustrates a larger point; the hypocrisy of variegated Muslim dictators. The Saudi King spins around in Mercedes' while women in the Kingdom yearn for a driver's license. The Iranian Ayatullah hands down death sentences to apostates while eager to spread his brand of faith to others. And the Pakistani government makes life hell for minorities like Christians and Ahmadiyya Muslims while providing safe havens to terrorists -- all in the name of religion.
"We will get you to New York", these leaders promise the masses while cruising down 95-south.
And demanding peace from non-Muslim governments during Ramadan? Well, that's just another one of their hypocrisies. The 1980-88 war between Iran and Iraq showed no respect to Ramadan. In the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Ramadan never brought a lull to fighting between the Palestinians and the Israelis during the September 2000 intifada. And in 2008 the Taliban rejected a Pakistani ceasefire in the northwest of the country, the Taliban stronghold, during Ramadan.
President Assad reads this and muses, "But we have a consistent record. Remember when Syria and Egypt launched the 1973 war against Israel during Ramadan?"
If Muslim autocrats claim to be the followers of Prophet Muhammad (sa), they must take the high moral ground -- I-95 North -- as leadership in Islam is a trust, not a feather in the cap. The Prophet (who never sought leadership in his lifetime) said, "Office is a trust and a source of limitation and remorse on the Day of Judgment except for him who takes it up with full sense of responsibility and duly discharges its obligations (Muslim). " The Holy Quran further supports this: "This is the Home of the Hereafter! We give it to those who desire not self-exaltation in the earth, nor corruption" (28:84).
That's two out of two for many Muslim autocrats who are clinging on to power through corruption and force for the purposes of self-exaltation.
I am sure they are feeling bewildered and trapped. Here is why: If they play the religion card, Prophet's saying "I do not appoint anyone to public office who asks for it or desires it (Bukhari and Muslim)" stands in their way. And if they switch to the secular standards, then relinquishing power is the natural response to such a large scale uprising.
Some falsely accuse the Prophet of fighting during the month of Ramadan by citing the battle of Badr. What is glossed over though is the fact that Muslims were merely defending themselves against an army three times their size, bent on annihilating them.
People ask me, "Will the Muslims following these leaders on 95-South, ever change direction?" "They already have," I respond. "The younger Muslims look at the exit signs and wonders: 'Why are we in South Carolina or Georgia if our destination was New York.' Then they either take charge, replace the drivers (the Arab Spring) or they simply disembark and take a northbound bus (folks like me).
My generation remains proud of Islam -- the faith, and we remain proud of millions of hardworking Muslims -- the followers. But we are ashamed of these autocrats. And I say to them: Forget the Arab spring. Instead brace for revolts in every region, in every season. For your conduct brings us all shame.
Not to mention the embarrassing questions that I end up facing during my courses.
As an adjunct faculty for religion and history at the Community Colleges of Baltimore County, Dr. Younus has given dozens of courses about true Islam. He also serves as a clinical associate professor at the University of Maryland, School of Medicine. He can be reached at Faheem.Younus@Ahmadiyya.us