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Absar H. Kazmi exposes the new tactics of 21st century warfare and suggests the ways of curtailing its effects on Muslim society
In approximately 653 Hijri, Halaku Khan, grandson of Genghis Khan, attacked Iraq. He deposed and killed the Khalifah, plundered the vast resources of the Islamic State, massacred the citizens, and took complete control. For any common observer it was clear that a ruthless and powerful leader had taken advantage of his strength to conquer and oppress a weaker people. Halaku Khan himself would probably not have denied this.
A few years ago, Iraq was attacked again. The leader was deposed and recently killed; the vast resources are being plundered; the citizens are daily being massacred and raped. However, this time, strangely enough, the conquerors are claiming that they are not oppressing the people at all; rather, they are liberating them.
In these strange days, when the so-called ‘civilized’ nations have united in war against ‘terror’ (all those, who would dare to oppose their system), we see a conflict – both physical and verbal. Many of us fail to see that contrary to the days of old, today the greater war is not the physical war with guns, tanks, and cluster bombs, and it is not limited to any particular geographic location. Rather, the greater war of today is an intellectual war – a battle to win the hearts and minds, a war, in which the weapon is information. The true winner in this war of information is the one, who manages to control the public opinion. The physical battles we witness are merely symptoms of this deeper and much more sinister conflict.
Why things have changed? The ‘Halaku Khans’ of today have realized something very important – it is much more effective to enslave a people psychologically than physically. A people enslaved only physically may not be ready for an immediate revolt, but hatred for their conquerors would always remain in their hearts. However, a psychologically enslaved people will come to regard the ideology and culture of their conquerors with awe and admiration, while beginning to perceive their own religion, culture, and even race as inadequate and inferior. Thus, they will willingly accept subjugation.
Living in the age of information, we may feel that we are somehow more aware of what is going on around us. We must realize, however, that often it doesn’t really matter how much information we can access but how that information is presented. Information presented incorrectly or selectively can literally make the good seem evil and portray the oppressor as the oppressed. The following are some of the manipulation methods used for achieving this:
If two unrelated objects are shown together enough times, eventually, people will begin to associate them. In the 19th and early 20th century, black people were often illustrated and described in the American media as ugly and stupid; therefore, they came to be regarded as such by the common public. Over the past few decades, the same media has helped to change this image by portraying the blacks as attractive, intelligent, and creative.
An example of outright deception by the media is the recent uproar in Pakistan waged against the Hudood Ordinance. According to numerous local newspapers, many hundreds of women are currently serving time in prison, because they claimed they were raped but were not able to produce witnesses, as was supposedly stipulated within the Hudood Ordinance. The truth is that the Hudood Ordinance does not require any witnesses in the case of rape. Also, according to Mufti Taqi Usmani, a former chief justice, not a single woman was sent to prison for lack of witnesses, while he presided.
Playing with Words
In the media, people practicing Islam in its totality are often referred to as extremists, whereas those, who practice only selectively or do not practice at all, are referred to as moderates. The implication of this, of course, is that the Messenger of Allah (sa) himself was an extremist, because he brought these commandments and ordered all Muslims to follow them.
Another example is the recent war between Lebanon and Israel. For gaining public sympathy, the western media was constantly claiming that Israeli soldiers had been kidnapped by Hezbollah and Hamas. Soldiers do not get kidnapped – they are held as prisoners of war.
Selective Sharing of Information
There are numerous examples of half truths being used by the current American and British administrations in order to gain approval for their attack on Iraq.
The sudden exposure to western media coupled with such other factors as general lack of critical thinking, ignorance of Islamic ideology and history, as well as lack of Muslim role models, has had a devastating effect on Muslim societies. The Muslim youth have developed a major inferiority complex and have blindly begun to ape western culture. Many have also started calling for changes in Islam, in order to bring it more in line with western ideals. At the same time, these youth have begun viewing those working on promoting Islamic teachings as backward, naïve, and out of touch with reality.
It needs to be clarified that information, specifically the media, is a tool, which can be used for both constructive and destructive purposes. However, the way it is presently used, especially by the western powers, is clearly not in favour of Muslims or Islam. There are a number of things we can do to protect ourselves and our families from becoming casualties in this ideological war:
Specifically, Islamic history. Attacks are already being waged against the character of our Holy Prophet (sa) as well as other personalities from Islamic history. We must arm ourselves with information, in order to defend our faith.
Don’t just take information for granted. Question what you hear, if it doesn’t make sense to you. Question this article! Learn to ponder and think about what has been said to you. Do not place teachers and scholars on such high pedestals that you are afraid to question them (respectfully of course). Imam Malik was once sitting near the grave of Rasool Allah (sa). He pointed to the grave and said: “You can accept or reject from anyone, except the owner of this grave.”
Allah (swt) has commanded us in the Quran to verify information, when it reaches us. Don’t just sit in front of CNN or FOX news, accepting everything you hear; rather, verify it against other media sources, such as Al Jazeerah and even Haaretz.
Minimize Television Viewing
Television is not a very interactive form of media, as we really cannot control, what we are viewing. Therefore, we must try to narrow down television viewing only to educational content and always accompany our children, while they are watching television.
Become a Role Model
There are very few Muslim role models in the world today. Thus, if we do not take the responsibility for becoming a source of guidance and inspiration to our own children, they will probably find some other source, which, most likely, will not be a source we approve of.
Finally, we must constantly pray to Allah (swt) as our beloved Prophet (sa) taught us: “O Allah, help us to see the truth as truth and give us the ability to follow it; and help us to see the falsehood as falsehood and grant us the ability to abstain from it.”