“Islam in crisis”: Macron only exposed the emerging truth

New Delhi: On October 2, when French President Emmanuel Macron remarked that “Islam is a religion that is in crisis all over the world today, all hell broke loose in the Muslim world. Many condemned him. Some took to violence, beheaded three, and wounded many others in France. It appeared as if Macron was villain-of-the-piece, a global pariah, especially for the non-Arab Muslims and their rent-seeking liberal-democratic-secular cohorts.

However, at a subterranean level, Islam, as we know it, is indeed in a crisis from modernity. The message, howsoever ugly or obnoxious it may appear is clear: Islam must either reform or perish.

Consider this: an atheist China has destroyed 1,600 mosques in its restive Xinjiang Province in three years, banned Haj for the minority Uighur Muslims, scrapped Arabic/Persian architecture of a mosque to make it look like any Chinese shopping complex, and even rewriting a China-friendly Qur’an in Mandarin.

And this: the United Arab Republic (UAE), Saudi Arabia’s alter ego, has just relaxed several strict Islamic personal laws to move on with modern times—at a time when Islamic militants, including Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, are baying for the French blood for alleged blasphemy, etc.

This new development has come within a month of the UAE and Bahrain signing the “Abraham Accords” with Israel, their medieval enemy, to normalize relations with the Jewish state, to the chagrin of non-Arab Muslim countries like Turkey and Pakistan, among others. Saudi Arabia, is currently tasting waters; it may also follow suit in the face of the threat from Turkey’s attempts to revive the Ottoman Empire.

This only means that the Arab world is realizing futility of its archaic Islamic heritage and wants to move on with modern times and geopolitical realities—something the non-Arab Muslim nations are not yet prepared for.

Last week, the UAE announced a major overhaul of its Islamic personal laws, which now allow unmarried couples to live together, loosened restrictions on alcohol and criminalized the so-called “honour killings”. These have been implemented with immediate effect to keep pace with the changing Arab society.

In the last few decades, the UAE has emerged as a global financial hub, and destination for tourists, fortune-seekers, and businessmen. Earlier, its strict Islamic laws were embarrassing for many of these foreigners and their countries and were seen as obstacles in realizing the full potential of the seven Arab sheikhdoms comprising the UAE.

These historic and progressive reforms are expected to attract millions of foreign tourists to boost the UAE economy and make it less dependent on traditional sources of revenue business-friendly ambience, and oil.

Accordingly, there will now be no penalties for alcohol possession, sales and consumption. There will also be no ban on cohabitation of unmarried couples. The beneficiaries include Muslims as well. The Arab nation will also better protect women’s rights by getting rid of the tribal custom of ‘honour killings’.

The UAE’s strict Islamic laws were equally applicable to the Arab natives and the expatriates. The expatriates outnumber local citizens nearly nine to one. The amendments will now permit foreigners to avoid Islamic Shariah courts on issues like marriage, divorce and inheritance.

Clearly, the Arab world is in for far-reaching changes in the near future.

Another change in the Muslims’ world affairs has surfaced in China where President-for-Life Xi Jinping is the driving force against ‘Islamic heritage’.

But nobody in China’s “all-weather friend” Pakistan, or for that matter anywhere in the world, dare question Beijing for its ‘Islamophonia’, as they do in the case of India, France, and other democratic countries. China routinely hangs Islamic terrorists, has for long been keeping a million Uighur Muslims in ‘re-education’ camps, and even banned their pilgrimage to Mecca.

Few have noticed how China has been effecting far-reaching changes even in mosque architecture, imposing various restrictions, and also ‘Sinicizing’ The Qur’an by getting it rewritten in its own language, giving no room to anyone and making sure the militant Muslims remained in check.

The latest example came in a mosque whose traditional ‘Arab-style’ domes were demolished and the shrine was rebuilt like a Chinese mall.

A recent Australian study, using satellite imagery, had found that China has systematically destroyed nearly 1,600 mosques in Xinjiang province alone since 2017.

As part of its ongoing project to ‘Sinicize’ Islam in China, a large mosque has been completely reconstructed by the government, removing all signs of Islam.

The Nanguan Mosque in Yinchuan, capital of the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, was the largest in the province. It has so completely been rebuilt that—with no minarets or domes–that it no longer looks like a mosque at all. The mosque was built during the late Ming dynasty (1368-1644), and restored in 1981.

It was entirely renovated and changed by the Communist Party government of President Jinping.

The region, inhabited by the largest community of Hui Muslims in China, became a major target of the ‘Sinicize Islam’ drive of the Chinese Communist Party. In the last two years, a large number of mosques have lost their distinguishing features.

Now, all the five bright green colored domes and the golden minarets have been removed. The golden Islamic style filigree, decorative arches, and the text in Arabic script on the mosque have all been scrapped. Even the signboards are in Chinese, according to media reports.

The bright golden and green colored mosque with onion-shaped domes and Islamic style curved windows have been changed into a grey-colored rectangular structure.

The latest images of the mosque were posted by Christina Scott, the United Kingdom’s deputy head of mission in China, on Twitter. She wrote, “TripAdvisor suggested the Nanguan Mosque in #Yinchuan well worth a visit. Only this is what it looks like now, after ‘renovations’.  Domes, minarets, all gone. No visitors allowed either, of course. So depressing.”

The transformation was expedited after a recent visit to the city by  President Xi Jinping, who scolded officials for the slow pace of ‘Sinicizing’ Islamic structures. He remarked that “Ningxia has made some achievements in religious reform, but it was not thorough enough.” It meant that the work should be intensified.

He also visited the region on June 6-8. The demolition activity picked up soon after that. By June 26, the five green domes and the minarets were gone, and the remaining work was completed soon.

The militant Muslims could not do anything, not even expressed their dissatisfaction for fear of the government.

According to reports, the Covid-19 pandemic has come in handy to the Chinese government by giving it the opportunity to expedite the process of Sinicizing mosques in the nation. Imposing restrictions in the name of the pandemic, the government closed down many mosques, accelerated demolitions, and renovations.

Sunni leadership: Pakistan joins Turkey’s one-horse race

To say that ‘history repeats itself’ could be a cliché, even an understatement. But it should be said to see the latest developments in perspective.

To begin, let us say: the kettle is hotter than tea!

A century ago, Muslims of the Indian subcontinent had launched the Khilafat Movement for restoration of the Ottoman Empire in far away Turkey. It was basically an attempt of the Ali Brothers to create a Sunni bloc in the world. Even the then Nizam of Hyderabad, Asaf Jah VII Mir Usman Ali Khan, threw in his hat with the ambition of wresting the Caliphate from the Turks: he was a relative of the deposed last Caliph, Abdulmejid II, and fancied himself as the rightful heir to the high office.

Because of this ‘Indian’ support to the despised Ottomans, the Arab Muslims have since hated them. One by one, Arab nations finally broke away from the Ottoman yoke in the mid-20th century, but their hatred remained. After Partition of India, and emergence of Pakistan as ‘champion’ of India’s Muslims, the Arab dislike was gradually shifted to Islamabad.

At present, the growing bonhomie between the Arabs and ‘Hindu’ India, as also the Jews of Israel, is proof enough of this megatrend of a split between the Muslims of Arab and non-Arab origins.

But Pakistan has refused to learn any lesson from this subtle shift, even after the Arabs’ repeated snubs in the last one year itself, on the issues like Kashmir and the non-Arab axis it sought to create with Turkey and Malaysia within the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), headquartered in Saudi Arabia.

So, even as the Arabs kept silent and moved closer to Israel, Pakistan aped Turkey again and condemned France for taking action against Islamists. France has the largest Muslim minority in Europe.

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Ahmed Khan Niazi, who is fighting a grim battle for his own survival in the face of a united Opposition at home, criticised the French President for “encouraging Islamophobia” following the killing of a teacher who showed cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad to his pupils.

“Hallmark of a leader is he unites human beings… rather than dividing them. This is a time when President (Emmanuel) Macron could have put healing touch, and denied space to extremists rather than creating further polarisation and marginalisation that inevitably leads to radicalization,” he said in a series of tweets on Sunday.

Satan quoting from the Holy Book. See who is talking about a ‘healing touch’—someone whose country is the global breeding ground for officially-sponsored and funded, and army-supported terrorists of dozens of groups and whose over 7,000 members have been proscribed by the United Nations. A country continuously kept on grey list by the global watchdog on terror funding, Financial Action Task Force (FATF).

Curiously, Niazi himself had admitted in the US last year that Pakistan was home to some 40,000 terrorists!

But this did not prevent him from his peace diatribe: “It is unfortunate that he (Macron) has chosen to encourage Islamophobia by attacking Islam rather than the terrorists who carry out violence, be it Muslims, White Supremacists or Nazi ideologists.”

He claimed that the French President deliberately provoked Muslims, including his own citizens, through encouraging the display of blasphemous cartoons targeting Islam, and Prophet Muhammad.
Without any understanding of it, he attacked and hurt the sentiments of millions of Muslims in Europe and across the world.

Early this month, Macron had described Islam as a religion “in crisis,” and announced plans for tougher laws to weed out “Islamist separatism” in France.

His statement came after the gruesome killing of a teacher by a 18-year-old youth of Chechen origin. The youth beheaded Samuel Paty, 47, in broad daylight, near his school in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, a suburb about 24-km from Paris, for showing cartoons of Prophet Muhammad.

Ironically, Paty had shown these caricatures during a lesson on free speech, according to reports.

The attacker posted a photo of the teacher’s decapitation on Twitter before being shot and killed by the police. The French media said the teenager had been in touch with Paty before the killing.

The killing suddenly made France boil with rage as anti-Muslim demonstrations were organized across the country. Subsequently, France closed several mosques in an unprecedented crackdown in hotspot areas and even posthumously conferred the Legion d’Honneur, France’s highest honour, on Paty in a ceremony attended by President Emmanuel Macron.

The French government also launched a crackdown against more than 50 Muslim organisations as agitated vigilante groups attacked mosques.

This was part of Macron’s October 2 plan against “Islamist separatism”. Last week, France said it was conducting multiple raids and would expel more than 200 Muslims from the country.

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin has also proposed to ban the Collective Against Islamophobia in France (CCIF), an organization that claims to track anti-Muslim hate crimes. He lambasted CCIF as an “enemy of the republic” and hinted at dissolving several other organisations.

Fifteen people have been arrested as part of an investigation into the killing, including the assailant’s family members, reports said.

In September also, two stabbings were reported outside the former offices of the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, which republished cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad at the start of the trial for those suspected with involvement in the January, 2015, attacks which killed 17 people.

With growing concerns about Islamic radicalization in France and the rest of Europe, Macron is mulling a new law to push religion further out of education and the public sector in the country, and aims to strengthen “laicite”, France’s strict separation of church and state.

It would, among other things, let the state monitor international funding coming into French mosques, limit home-schooling to prevent Muslims schools from being run by what Macron cited as “religious extremists”, and create a special certificate programme for imams to be trained in France.

France was where the Muslim expansion in Europe was halted in the eighth century.

And France was where the First Crusade began…

Is France now launching the Last Crusade?

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said Macron needs ‘mental treatment’.

Watch this space!