ENLIGHTENED MODERATION | Essay for CSS and PMS | web4study


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Enlightened moderation is a term coined by former President of Pakistan Pervez Musharraf, which applies to practise Islam moderately, as opposed to practising fundamentalist version of Islam. To think properly as to rationalize thoughts, be on the positive side of life, to prefer optimism, and the theory is against extremism. The strategy of enlightened moderation was unveiled by Musharraf during the OIC Subunit Conference at Malaysia in 2002. In an elementary sense, one is enlightened if he/she is well informed and aware of the implications and ramifications attaching to any given issue or proposition.

The attitude of mind should be open-minded, willing to accept the possibility that other belief systems may contain some merit, and that therefore they deserve respect. They have the right to exist, even flourish, alongside our own faith. This is moderation, and the disposition towards others that it generates is tolerance. Moderation and tolerance are, thus, children of enlightenment. Musharraf explained his position in an opinion piece published in various newspapers in 2004. His plan for enlightened moderation has two sides. It calls “for the Muslim world to shun militancy and extremism and adopt the path of socioeconomic uplift” and “for the West, and the United States, in particular, to seek to resolve all political disputes with justice and to aid in the socio-economic betterment of the deprived Muslim world”. Musharraf pointed out that moderation and enlightenment have been the traits of the Islamic world since the times of the Islamic prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H).

The world has been going through a tumultuous period since the dawn of the 1990s, with no sign of relief in sight. The suffering of the innocents, particularly the Muslims — at the hands of militants, extremists and terrorists has made it all the more urgent to bring order to this troubled scene. The world has become an extremely dangerous place. The devastating power of plastic explosives, combined with high-tech remote-controlled devices, as well as a proliferation of suicide bombers, has created a lethal force that is all but impossible to counter. The unfortunate reality is that both the perpetrators of these crimes and most of the people who suffer from them are Muslims. This has caused many non-Muslims to believe wrongly that Islam is a religion of intolerance, militancy and terrorism. It has led increasing numbers of people to link Islam to fundamentalism; fundamentalism to extremism, and extremism to terrorism. Muslims can protest however vigorously they like against this kind of labelling, but the reality is that such arguments are not likely to prevail in the battle for minds. To make things even more difficult, Muslims are probably the poorest, most uneducated, most powerless and most disunited people in the world.

The stark challenge that faces anyone with compassion for the common heritage of mankind is detem1ining what legacy we will leave for future generations. The special challenge that confronts Muslims is to drag ourselves out of the pit we find ourselves in, to raise ourselves up by individual achievement and collective socio-economic emancipation. Something has to be done quickly to stop the carnage in the world and to stem the downward slide of Muslims. The idea for untangling this knot is Enlightened Moderation, which is a win for all — for both the Muslim and non-Muslim worlds.

It is a two-pronged strategy

It is related to the Muslim world. Tolerance, the rule of law, political and economic openness, the extension of greater opportunities to women–these cures must come from within Muslim societies themselves. The Muslim World has a great responsibility towards the whole affair of radicalism, violence and terrorism, by transforming their societies as per the true teachings and guidance of Islam. Muslim leaders have a great role to play in all this and need to do their utmost to transform their societies. The prong required to be delivered by the Muslim world demands shunning militancy; extremism and adopting the path of socioeconomic uplift and emphasizes closer coordination among Muslim nations to combat terrorism and extremism. It requires the Muslims to pull themselves out of their present poverty, ignorance, and incompetence, and embrace enlightenment, tolerance, and moderation. The Muslim world, as well as West, needs to understand that even if this project is initiated with the utmost seriousness, and using all available resources, it would still take many years to be accomplished.

As for Muslims, what we need is introspection. Who are we, what do we as Muslims stand for, where are we going, where should we be headed and how can we reach there? The answers to these questions are the Muslim part of Enlightened Moderation.

We have a glorious past. Islam exploded on the world scene as the flag bearer of a just, lawful, tolerant and value-oriented society. We had faith in human exaltation through knowledge and enlightenment. We exemplified tolerance within ourselves and toward people of other faiths. The armies of Islam did not march forward to convert people by the sword, despite what the perceptions maybe, but to deliver them from the darkness through the visible example of their virtues. What better projection can be found of these deeper values of Islam than the personal example of our Holy Prophet (P.B.U.H.), who personified justice, compassion, tolerance of others, generosity of spirit, austerity with a spirit of sacrifice, and a burning desire to make a better world. Today’s Muslim world is distant from all these values. We have been left far behind in social, moral and economic development. We have remained in our own shell and refused to learn or acquire from others. We have reached the depths of despair and despondency. We need to face stark reality. Is the way ahead of one of confrontation and militancy? Could this path really lead us back to our past glory while also showing the light of progress and development to the world?

We have been left far behind in social, moral and economic development. Unfortunately, during our decline, we remained our own shell and refused to learn or acquire from others. We thus reached the present depths of despair and despondency. We need to face stark realities. Is the way ahead of one of confrontation and militancy? Will this path lead us to our past glory and also show the light of progress and development to the world?

The answer to the questions put forward is not confrontation, violence and radicalism, but rather to head towards enlightenment and concentrate especially on “human resource development” through poverty alleviation, better education, health, and social justice. The path of moderation and a conciliatory approach will have to be adopted to wash off the common beliefs that Islam is a religion of militancy and that it is also in conflict with modernization, democracy and secularism. This will be a very important, a perhaps critical step towards the implementation of this strategy. Muslims need to draw lessons from their past, their golden history and the teachings of Islam, i.e. the Qur’an and Sunnah (the proven practices of the Holy Prophet (PBUH)). In light of this, the Muslim Ummah should critically analyze the acts of some of the people who are misrepresenting the Muslim world, with a view to see whether these are in line with the teachings of Islam or otherwise.

The OIC is the only collective body of the Muslim world in place. There is a clear need to infuse life into this body which, at present, is in a state of near impotence.43 It has to be restructured to meet the challenges of the 21st century, fulfil the aspirations of the Muslim world, and lead Muslims towards fulfilling their legitimate right and obligations within free and equitable societies. TI1e sole voice of the Ummah, the OIC, has neither been able to register the truth on the international stage nor manifested any signs of rising to the new tasks facing Muslims. It appears as if it has been paralyzed by the sheer enormity of the daunting problems emanating from the radical transformation of the globe’s strategic political and economic scene. Despite its large membership, the organization has become almost irrelevant to the new dynamics of global politics.

The Organization of Islamic Conferences (OIC) is our collective body. We need to infuse new life into it; it is now in a state of near impotence. The OIC must be restructured to meet the challenges of the 21st century, to fulfil the aspirations of the Muslim world and to take us toward emancipation. Forn1ing a committee of luminaries to recommend a restructuring of the OIC is a big step in the right direction. We have to show resolve and rise above self-interest for our common good — in the very spirit that Islam teaches us.

The Muslim states possess great potential and resources but the state of affairs of socioeconomic conditions is of great concern. Individually some countries may be rich, educated and developed, but the collective situation is different. The human development indicators of the OIC members are among the lowest in the world, although possessing seventy per cent of the world’s energy resources and with a 40% share in the global supply of raw materials. As for the OIC’s share in global trade, it is a pitiful 6%, while its collective GDP amounts to a meagre 5% of the world’s GDP. 22 of the world’s 49 least developed countries belong to the Islamic world. International institutions have cla~ified 23 Muslim countries as severely indebted. Historically something has to be done and done quickly, to stop the downward slide if we want to prevent ourselves from being sidelined in the future. This generally poor state of political, economic and social conditions helps breed militancy that is both a great threat to Muslim societies and world peace. Radical groups gain support by focusing on the poor and dispossessed, especially when governments fail to perforn1 the same function. Muslim countries, individually and collectively, must make efforts to coordinate and focus their resources.to establish economically more robust societies.

Muslim religious leaders and think tanks must endeavour to correct the misperceptions about the religion in the West. For example, people must be able to differentiate between Islam and Arab nationalism. This may require deliberate information operations in Muslim countries and Muslim interest groups to correct the misplaced misperceptions about the highly peaceful teachings of Islam.

This is probably the most important measure of the strategy to be taken by the Muslims. The importance of reconstruction of religious thought cannot be undermined as it was directed by the Holy Prophet (PBUH) himself. This was an essential component of the early centuries Islamic progress but in later centuries it ceased. The values of any divine religion cannot be changed or modified as they are divine injunctions and based on divine revelations; however, practices can be transformed or reinterpreted or even reconstructed. The process adopted for this purpose, which exists in the teachings of Islam, is called ijtihad (interpretation and reasoning based on the sacred texts). Many Muslims believe that they must choose between Islam and modernity or between Islam and democracy, but these are false choices. To reinterpret Islam for the twenty-first century, the practice of ijtihad must be revived. The issues facing Muslims today that require ijtihad include reviewing the role of women in Islam; narrowing the gap between various schools of thought (schools of jurisprudence); reinterpreting relationships between various faiths and religions in the context of globalization; rethinking Islamic economic theories in relation to the modern economic system; achieving more unity and collaboration among Muslim states in religious, political and economic fields; examining ethical-moral standards with regards to the promotion of individual freedom, especially that of religious minorities; and explaining proper behaviour of Muslims in non-Muslim countries.

The Muslim world is in the middle of problems and complications due to various reasons and deficit· of knowledge is probably one of the major reasons at the base of almost all these problems. A number of factors block the dissemination of knowledge. Among these factors are authoritarian and over-protective child-rearing, the deteriorating quality of education in many countries in the region, curricula in schools that encourage submission, obedience. subordination and compliance rather than free critical thinking, the lack of autonomy at universities, and the poor state of university libraries. Some of the measures that Muslim governments could take that would prove useful are: unleashing and guaranteeing the key freedoms of opinion, speech, and assembly through good governance; disseminating high-quality education based on educational outcomes and life-long learning, promoting research and development in societal activities, and keeping up with the information age, shifting rapidly towards knowledge-based production, and establishing an authentic, broad-minded and enlightened general knowledge model.

Muslim countries must attempt to establish such societies that are educated and knowledgeable, prosperous and tolerant. This is possible only if the education imparted to all the members of society is based on true teachings of Islam. Educated societies are less prone to manipulation by extremists who profit greatly from ignorance.

This is one of the major steps that have been taken up by the current government to achieve the desired objectives of Enlightened Moderation. Registration includes a definition of the curriculum and teaching approaches and even setting up some model madrasas which would teach a syllabus proposed by government which, importantly, includes teaching computers and other sciences in addition to religious studies.

Free education opportunities offered by well-established religious schools, and the Afghan jihad of the I 980s, attracted many foreign nationals to Pakistan. The socio-political environment of that time provided them with opportunities to establish themselves in areas bordering Afghanistan. These elements have been involved in undesirable activities and at times have engaged in violent activities within Pakistan society. Through focused military and police operations, and increased registration of foreign nationals in areas bordering Afghanistan, the government is making concerted efforts are being made to make the society free from such radical elements.

Today, in Pakistan, access to good education remains a privilege, not a right. The state has abdicated all effective responsibility for providing education. As a result, every class gets the education it can afford if it can afford it. Education at every level of Pakistan’s society will have to play a vital role in the uplift of intellectual awareness of the need for change.

This program launched by the government is set to play rich dividends in its efforts to eradicate poverty from the society. Poverty and deprivation are major influences as motivators for radical behaviour. Peoples’ living standards will have to be raised by providing them with good job opportunities and employment so that these people do not fall prey to the attractive recruiting offers of the terrorists.

Pakistan and India have harboured hatred between the populace of both countries, despite their having co-existed for almost twelve centuries (711-1857 CE). This hatred has its base in the brutalities committed at the time of independence; however, subsequent events over the last half a century of both nations’ independent histories have also contributed to IWrture intolerance. No country interested in boosting its economy can afford conflicts and differences with its neighbours and major trading partners. It is time for Pakistan to make a realistic assessment of the global situation and improve relations with its neighbours showing flexibility, even if acceptable compromises are to be made.

Pakistan’s education system needs to be objective. The emphasis must shift from ritual teachings to understanding the spirit of Islam by reading its basic texts. In this regard, Arabic should be pursued as a compulsory subject from eighth class onwards until twelfth grade to achieve a better understanding of Holy Qur’an and other religious explanations. Muslim students should also be taught religion and Islamic principles in greater detail by using the Holy Qur’an and Hadith.

The second strategy is concerned with the West. The West and the United States, in particular, have a great responsibility with regards to making the world a more peaceful place. The poverty, repression, lack of freedom, and economic difficulties in the Muslim world have been identified by many as the main causes of creating conditions that promote terrorism, violence and radicalism. The allegedly biased role played by the West and the U.S. in settlement of unresolved disputes involving Muslims is also regarded as another major cause of violence. The “Strategy of Enlightened Moderation” assigns an independent prong to the West to undertake these tasks. The other prong, to be delivered by the West and the US in particular, must aim at resolutely resolving all political disputes with justice and also assisting in the socio-economic uplift of the deprived Muslim world. The world must realize that confrontation and use of force are not going to bring ultimate peace. The root cause of extremism and militancy lies in political injustice, denial and deprivation. Political injustice within a nation or a people, when combined with stark poverty and illiteracy, makes an explosive mix leading towards an acute sense of deprivation, hopelessness and powerlessness. A people suffering from a combination of all these lethal ills are easily available cannon fodder for the propagation of militancy and the perpetration of extremist and terrorist acts. The West must make all possible efforts to eliminate the chances of emergences of radicalism by supporting prosperity and opposing repression.

The West must make all efforts to resolve with justice the political disputes involving the Muslim world, like Kashmir and Palestine, as its part of the commitment to the “Strategy of Enlightened Moderation.” These fair efforts on the part of the United States and the West, possibly requiring a change of policy toward disputing partners, can help weaken the linkage between nationalism and radical terrorism.

The West and especially the global leader the United States must adopt an approach of open dialogue, focusing first on diplomacy rather than armed confrontation and fighting. This will be an important measure to win the hearts, minds and souls of the Muslim World and develop a good dialogue between faiths and civilizations.

“Public diplomacy refers to government-sponsored programs intended to inform or influence public opinion in other countries; its chief instruments are publications, motion pictures, cultural exchanges, radio and television.” There is no doubt that people are the strongest element of national power. There is a great deal which goes on in this realm, however, and still, a lot needs to be done.

Though the efforts have increased in the post 9/11 period, undesired armed preemptions/interventions by the West have proved counter-productive and led to a decrease in support by the general public in Muslim countries.

Quite against the rhetoric of the clash of cultures and civilizations, Dialogue between Civilizations aims at finding out the similarities between the faith and cultures to promote peace and harmony in the world. The dialogue should be pursued aggressively by both sides to disprove the conspiracy theories promoted by the term Clash of Civilizations. This dialogue will help build trust and confidence between various faiths and cultures and can help make the world a relatively safer place. There is a fair awareness in the world with regards to the need, importance and suitability of timing of this dialogue, and the U.S. must regulate this dialogue as the global leader. In this context, a productive dialogue between the West and Islam is not inconceivable.

Even at the cost of repetition, it may be important to emphasize that if the underlying causes of violence, radicalism and militancy are ascertained correctly, more than half of the problem is already solved. And if the underlying causes are addressed and diminished effectively, the threat can be eliminated. This will require an aggressive long term campaign to identify and mitigate the contributors lo the underlying causes of militancy. In broadest terms, these measures will include economic stabilization through addressing financial disparities and poverty alleviation, assisting the g~vemments to establish their writs through effective law enforcement, facilitating good governance and ensuring the elimination of ignorance through mass literacy. The United States and its allies should strategically allocate resources to develop those countries where terrorism has already taken root and those where terrorism is likely to take root.

If all this is done with sincerity and an atmosphere of trust established between all cultures and faiths, the West would have played its part and history would unfold differently. In defence of the Muslims, let us trace the genesis of the Muslims being labelled as extremists or terrorists. Before the .anti-Soviet-Afghan war, the sole cause of unrested concern in the Muslim world was the Palestine dispute. It was this issue that led to a unity of Muslims — in favour of Palestinians and against Israel. The Afghan war of the 1980s, supported and facilitated by the West as a proxy war against the Soviet Union, saw·the emergence and nurturing of pan-Islamic militancy. Islam as a religion was used to harness worldwide Muslim support. Subsequently, the atrocities and ethnic cleansing against Muslims in Bosnia, the Chechen uprising, the Kashmir freedom struggle and the invigorated Palestinian intifada all erupted in the ’90s after the Soviet disintegration. To make matters worse, the militancy that was sparked in Afghanistan — which should have been defused after the Cold War — was instead allowed to fester for a decade.

During this time, hostility among fighters from the Muslim world turned multidirectional, seeking new conflict zones in places where Muslims were suffering. Enter the birth of al- Qaeda. Meanwhile, the Palestinian intifada kept gathering momentum, uniting and angering Muslims across the globe. And then came the bombshell of Sept. 11, 2001, and the angry reaction of the United States against the Taliban and al- Qaeda in Afghanistan. All subsequent reactions of the United States — its domestic responses against Muslims, its attitude toward Palestine and the operation in Iraq — led to total polarization of the Muslim masses against the United States. It is not Islam as a religion that has created militancy and extremism but rather political disputes that have led to antagonism among the Muslim masses.

This is all history now. What has been done cannot be undone. But this situation cannot be allowed to fester; a remedy must be found. It is up to the West to help resolve these political disputes with justice, as part of a commitment to a strategy of Enlightened Moderation. The time for renaissance has come. The way forward is through enlightenment. We must concentrate on human resource development through the alleviation of poverty and through education, health care and social justice. If this is our direction, it cannot be achieved through confrontation. We must adopt a path of moderation and a conciliatory approach to fight the common belief that Islam is a religion of militancy in conflict with modernization, democracy and secularism. All this must be. done with a realization that, in the world, we live in, fairness does not always rule.

The world at large and the powers that be must realize that confrontation and force will never bring peace. Justice must be done and be seen to be done. Let it not be said by future generations that we, the leaders of today, took humanity toward the apocalypse. The call for moderation has however been misinterpreted by some circles as the adoption of Western culture.

Criticism of the strategy can be classified into two broad categories

I. The first group of criticisms hold that the strategy is not more than dictating or guiding the Islamic world on the route described by Washington and that the realistic picture of Muslims painted by Pervez Musharraf is a reflection of an apologetic mindset. These critics, in analyzing the potential and effectiveness of the strategy, think that it may not be able to appeal to the Muslim world as a result, Muslim governments, even if they are convinced on introducing enlightened moderation in their respective societies, may not be able to enforce the strategy. It has also been commented that what has to be implemented by the West and especially by the U.S.–the peaceful and just resolution of disputes involving Muslims, and socioeconomic uplift of Muslim countries–may not attract the \Vest’s sincere efforts.

Some realists, however, remark that though “terrorism is caused by injustice involved in unresolved political disputes; Muslims must realize that the world in which we live is not always fair. In other words, some amount of injustice will always remain and we must learn to five with it.”

Others think it to be the solution to their problems and an effective alternative to, or reinforcement for, the measures already being implemented by the world.

2. There are also some critics who think that by becoming moderate and enlightened means becoming non-religious or adopting non-religious l~t’e style and approach. Irrespective of the criticism, the strategy is in line with the world environment of combating terrorism. Almost all Muslim and Western leaders have equally ratified it to be a useful tool in addressing the problem of ra~icalism. violence and reducing the gap between Muslim societies and the West. As with all the strategies, its effectiveness greatly depends on its operationalizati6n and implementation.

Enlightened moderation has to be pursued within the confines of Huququl Ibad (Rights of human beings) and the Huququ] Allah (Rights of the Creator). In essence that is the definition of Islam. We can and should be tolerant and progressive within Islamic teachings. Islam is a religion of peace and abhors all forms of violence. Against the backdrop of Nine Eleven episode, the Western world has come to equate Islam with violence. This grossly unfair and false perception has to be removed through a policy of moderation which is the spirit of our faith.

The Muslim world and the West, and the United States, in particular, all have their responsibilities to make this world a more peaceful place by uprooting the menace of terrorism permanently. Pakistan has the potential to become a leader of the Ummah. It is the only Muslim power to have acquired nuclear capability. However, internal peace shall remain elusive as long as the menace of extremism is not banished. This is possible through modern education to be spread within the concept of enlightened moderation. Islam stands for justice, peace, love, progress and respect of all and calls for ensuring the rights of minorities. It is a progressive religion and its true face has to be shown to the world while remaining steadfast to the basic teachings of Islam. It is absolutely necessary that the whole Pakistani nation rises unitedly, and strengthen the hands of the government in its fight against terrorism. The Pakistani nation should support the efforts extended by the government to curb the twin menace of terrorism and extremism.

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