Friday, October 20, 2006

Muslim Brotherhood

Verily, this brotherhood of yours is a single brotherhood, and I am your Lord and Cherisher: therefore serve Me (and no other). (Quran: Chapter #21, Verse #92)

So I got the news today that my cousin is expecting his first child, which led me thinking along the lines of equality in Islam. Strange, I know. But you see the cousin happens to have moved to Dubai some 6 years ago, he's got a good life there and Dubai's going to be his home for another 20-30 years. After which he's going to retire, and then be throw out of the country. His yet to be born child, for whom Dubai will be home, will never become a citizen of the country of his birth. Citizenship is an important symbol of national pride, why soil it by including the filth that is non-Arabs!

Being a corporate type my cousin can and does enjoy the life in Dubai and no way does his life even closely resemble the plight of unskilled migrant workers (slaves) or camel jockeys (abducted asian children, as young as 3 years old, they're deemed too heavy by the age of 10!).
The yuppy cousin though is not immune to the discrimination of the Arabs, finding a doctor for his pregnant wife was hard and rather humiliating, you see, medical help is reserved for the Arabs.

These are our 'Muslim brothers' who hold such a reverential place in all non-Arab Muslim societies. They after all speak the language of the Quran. In Pakistan its forbidden to publish a translation of the Quran without the Arabic text, as the translation can 'never' be the true word of God; I vaguely remember a story of a publishing house that was razed to the ground, years ago, by protestors because it dared to publish a Quran in Urdu without the Arabic text; never mind the fact that no one understands Arabic. There's logic there I'm sure, perhaps the omnipotent Allah , can only speak Arabic (well they do say that the ability to learn languages is a gift); now if only there was a way that the creator of everything that there ever was and everything that there ever will be, could be taught another language!

The awe with which other Muslims, especially South Asians, view the Arabs is startling. This inability to differentiate between Islam and Arabs means that we are willing, nay eager, to triumphalise Arabic sucesses even when they come at the cost of our own, heritage, our own traditions, and our own lives. I remember being taught in 'Pakistan Studies' about the military successes of Arabs starting from about the 8th century. But these successes which I was taught to celebrate were nothing but attrocities committed by Arabs against the people of the sub-continent, against 'my people'. I remember being taught of the military genius of a young Muhammad Bin Qasim, a man who in his magnanimity chose not to kill all those people who accepted Islam. I was taught to take pride in the fact that the temple of Somnath, a place of worship, was destroyed and all the worshipers massacred by Mahmud Ghaznavi, following in the footsteps of the Arabs who'd done the same thing 300 years earlier. It was my traditions that were trampled upon, it was my heritage that was deemed unworthy by the Arab overlords, and it is their successes that I celebrated in my Pakistan Studies O'Level, and I got a C, both the times I took it!

But as hard as the Arabs might have tried, the indigenous traditions never faded away, and Islam in the Sub-Continent evolved to incorporate the customs and traditions of the Indians. Sufi-ism, much touted, much maligned, was responsible for the spread of Islam in India. (A different strain of Sufism, one influenced by Coptic influences was responslible for the spread of Islam in Egypt and Turkey.) And yet today the sufi tradition in South Asia is under fire by rigid beliefs, spread by righteous Arab sheikhs - they must know South Asian societies better, didn't you know God speaks their language!

Getting back to the subject of equality and citizenship, now you know what I don't care if the Arabs don't give my cousin or his son citizenship, its their country and their rules and if people are willing to go and work under these conditions, then fine. But then don't dare fucking talk about Muslim equality; don't open madrassahs in my country, and ask us to protest and strike over anything that happens to the Arabs; don't tell us to go on jihad against the Great Satan (who by the way would have no problems with granting my cousin, citizenship); don't talk about Muslim brotherhood and then abduct 3 year-olds and tie them to camels; don't ask us to be proud of your achievements, your temples of excesses (Burj-al Arab) where they've been built by South Asian slave labour.

Equality of man is surely something to strive for, but then why limit that by including only those who share your beliefs, and vilifying all those who don't. A society upon equality premised on beliefs will never ever be equal, for our beliefs will never be uniform, what will perhaps be uniform is man's conviction in the righteous superiority of his own beliefs.

Disclaimer: By Arabs, I not only mean Arab Regimes but also Arab people who have a superiority complex when it comes to Islam (based on people I've met, smart, decent people, many good friends - Moroccans are exempt from this personal generalisation, they're French anyway!)


Ahsan said...

well, i dont know if you can get pissed off about citizenship or whatever, every country has its rules and its their right to choose them. look at dubai, something like 1 in 5 of its residents are citizens, they would totally lose their "identity" if they granted foreigners citizenship for working there.

i agree that arabs in general tend to have a superiority complex when it comes to the rest of the islamic world; i wonder if its just an "arabs vs no arabs" question or an "arabs with oil vs everybody else" question. by the way, which arab countries DONT have any oil? i just want to know for the record.

ayla said...

Alien Panda, I think a lot in this post is quite true regarding Dubai and Gulf Arab countries.

That said, I think you are being extremely unfair to other peoples in the Middle East- so called "Arab world". As one of South Asian origins, I have also spent a lot of time in the Middle East, particularly Egypt and Syria (and's close by.) I have also been to Dubai and members of my family often visit.

Therefore, I feel I am in a position to say a few things and I'm not saying any of it is true, I'm just offering a different perspective.

1) Gulf Arabs are different to "other" Arabs and I hate even using the word "Arab" because a lot of Syrians, Egyptians and Lebanese people I know don't consider themselves to be "Arab." Only those who ascribe to the ideology of pan-Arabism or don't really think about it call themselves Arabs. They are Cairenes, Bedouins, Damascenes, Beirutis first and foremost!

2) Syrians, Egyptians and Lebanese people differentiate themselves from Gulf Arabs and vice- versa.

3) Gulf Arabs (in their own countries) treat Egyptians, Syrians, Lebanese and Palestinian people in pretty much the same way as they treat South/South Eastern Asians. I know this because (a) I have been there and (b) I have met many taxi drivers, hostel owners, shop owners, land lords who have lived and worked in a Gulf country in order to make some money and buy their respective shops, houses, cars. All of them can identify straight away that (a) I am of South Asian origin (b) that South Asian people are hard workers and eat good hot food and finally, they invite me to their homes and practise whatever hindi, urdu words they know. (I of course dont know any so I just laugh and look impressed.) Thereafter, I ask them what it's like in the Gulf and they complain of the awful treatment they receive, the racism and the sadness that they are not treated as equals by the Gulf Arabs.

I have never felt any kind of contempt from Syrians, Egyptians and Lebanese people based on my ethnicity.

4) Many Egyptians, Syrians and Lebanese dislike Gulf Arabs because of the same contempt shown towards them.

5) In general, people in the Middle East do suffer from a kind of superiority complex which has more to do with being oppressed and this feeling of being despised by the West. True, they generally have no interest in learning from the "East" but most (excluding Gulf Arabs here) are trying to make a living and have such little access to the outside world.

Also, the people I met all had some strange brotherhood feeling for Pakistan and all thought India was extremely poor- more poor than their countries. Otherwise, they have much bigger problems and concerns than to worry about making their Pakistani, Indian, Indonesian "brothers" feel like they are equals.

I feel you are wrong to bunch all "Arabs" together in such a way.

Peace in the Middle East!