Name: Islam Under Siege
Author: Akbar S. Ahmad
Publisher: Vistaar Publications, New Delhi
Year Of Publication: 2003
Price: Rs 380
Reviewed by : Mushtaq ul Haq Ahmad Sikandar
The tragic and devastating events of 9/11 have affected every niche of our life.The world after this event came to be divided in the pre and post 9/11 eras with contrasting analogies. Some intellectuals have predicted an exceptional and dangerous response like "Clash Of Civilizations"(Samuel Huntington etal).The present book under review is authored by one of the outstanding Muslim intellectuals of our time Akbar .S. Ahmed who believes in "Dialogue Of Civilizations" instead of extraordinary Clashing one.His book "Islam Under Seige" is reflecting the accommodating and tolerating nature of Islam.
Agreeing with the rhetoric of 9/11 and Godhra Carnage were carried out by Muslims(P-86) widely circulated allegations reinforced by media, thinkers, intellectuals and politicians, now regarded them as true facts though the proofs are still the "missing links". Akbar goes on to establish and defend the peaceful nature of Islam in course differentiating the popular myths against Islam from true facts.
Akbar as an anthropologist goes on understanding the course the world civilization has gone through and has presently evolved to a "Post-Honour World?". Akbar studies,analyses and then comments about the threat Muslims as individuals and collectively as a Society are feeling due to Globalization, despotic regimes, wars, famines, collapse of a moral order concluding it as a result of breakdown of asbiyya (group loyalty) to use Ibn Khaldun's terminology. Akbar links this disintigration of asbiyya and its reformulation as hyper-asbiyya to the emergence of post honor society in a chapter of the book entitled "Ibn Khaldun and Social Cohesion".
Akbar describes two cases which Muslims see as a hope in the darkness. These are the inclusionary and exclusionary models. Akbar is a strong advocate of inclusivist ideal which he has proved by various examples as the most feasible,accommodating worth to be propagated and accepted by the Muslims. This set of model believes in co-existence with others and sulh-i-kul (Peace with All). In contrast it is the exclusivist model practiced and implemented by Taliban and it has proved to be a farce and impracticable in the present conditions as more than one -third of Muslims are living as minorities in different countries world over. Akbar has also depicted two models that of Muhammad Ali Jinnah and Osama Bin Laden for Muslims to choose as role models, while Akbar protagonists for the Jinnah Model.
The most strong aspect of the book is its advocacy for Muslim elite and masses to develop a spirit of literary aesthetics and tolerance for a varied range of opinions, entertain and cultivate an atmosphere of intellectual generosity for which the whole history of Islam is a witness that it always encouraged a spirit of tolerance in their respective societies. In spite of advocating and being a protagonist of of Dialogue Of Civilizations Akbar still believes that war is inevitable and believes "The real battle in the 21st century will be between the inclusivists and the exclusivists" (P-19). Though Akbar has demeaned the war between the West and Islam but predicted a civil or sectarian war among Muslims.
Akbar like all other intellectuals fails to describe the conditions which nurture and breed individuals whom the media calls "terrorists" who are ready to sacrifice their precious lives while resisting attacks on them be it Political, Literary, Social, Economic or Cultural by the oppressors and Usurpers. Are the Muslims going to abhor their resistive activities against what they see as Western Imperialism even if "Dialogue Of Civilizations"is preached to them? Will there be any change unless and until the Evil Empire doesn't stop its evil designs? Akbar seems to propagate solitarily to Muslims disregarding the fact that every injustice breeds resistance and Muslim nation is no exception to this Universal Principle.
In spite of these shortcomings the book seems to be readable and hope it attains the author's dream and our goal of mutual understanding and promotes trans-cultural,linguistic and regional harmony desperately needed for our peaceful co-existence for which the Holy Quran guides as
"Say: O People of the Scripture. Come to an agreement between us and you: that we shall worship none but Allah, and that we shall ascribe no partners unto Him, and that none of us shall take others for lords beside Allah. And if they turn away, then say: Bear witness that we are they who have surrendered (unto Him)".(Qur'an 3:64)