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Saturday, February 12, 2011

Australia : Too decadent for Muslims ?

I am hurt. 

When they talk of banning burqa, of course as a Muslim I am hurt.

That wearing burqa has never been irremissible in Islam, is known to all and sundry. It has always been a controversial issue. A considerable number of Islamic jurists do not support it. Millions of Muslim women do not practice it. Millions of Muslim women, cutting crops in agricultural fields, picking cotton in South Pakistan, handling herds in Central Asian pasturelands, teaching in universities, working in banks and elsewhere do not wear burqa nor hijab. Billions of Muslim women, while performing pilgrimage in Holy Mecca, have never, and will never, cover their faces. Yet, when they talk of banning burqa, as a Muslim I am hurt.

I hear that a rally is being organized to protest against the abortive bill, which was moved to ban burqa. The sense of allegiance sends me there. I hear speeches. The speakers, one after another, come and slate the flawed western secular values. There are two options for Muslims, I am told. Either they should espouse the Western secular way of life, or should go for Islamic environments. It makes impression on me. I melt away. I am swayed.

I recall the opinion of fellow Somalian Muslims who, according to the recorded conversation, were planning to attack the Holsworthy army barracks in Sydney: “ Australia is too decadent for Muslims.”

Why should I live here? I decide to pack up and leave. I must go to a land where flawed Western secular values do not plague my life. I must rescue my kids. I must take them to an Islamic sanctuary where they are away, at safe distance, from the decadent Australia.

My natural and logical choice is Saudi Arabia, the affluent oil kingdom and the spiritual center of Islam. It is our holy land, where the two most sacred cities of Muslims are located. I plan to migrate to Saudi Arabia. My kids will bask in a life full of real Islamic values and will perform pilgrimage every year.

However when I make inquiries, I am told that nobody is allowed to migrate there. Not even the most devoted Muslims! So is the case with other oil emirates in the region. Millions of Muslims, since the discovery of oil in the Middle East, worked for decades in these states but ultimately had to migrate to Canada, US, Australia, and Europe. They were not allowed citizenship. Even from the viewpoint of temporary living, there are no educational facilities. My daughter-in -law, who drives in Australia, tells me that no woman is allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia. It was in 1990 when late Sheikh Abdullah bin Baaz, the religious authority in the country, issued Islamic decree (fatwa) against car driving by females. In the same year 47 ladies demonstrated car driving in Riyadh. They were thrown out of their jobs and were, along with their families, barred from leaving the country.

My kids tell me something more. Every non-local in Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar, and other neighboring states has to have a “guarantor” who must be a local. It is the guarantor (Kafeel) who actually owns the business. Documents are held in his custody. Barring a small group of foreigners who are highly qualified and sponsored by major companies, the rest of the non-locals are virtually hostage to the kafeel (sponsorship) system. Nothing belongs to you except your passport, which you have to carry wherever you go. “When employers have near-total control over migrants’ ability to change jobs, and sometimes to leave the country, workers can get trapped in exploitative situations in which they are forced to work without wages, get beaten or face other abuse”, says a Human Rights Watch (HRW) report.
Now I think of going to Pakistan. Since it is the only nuclear Muslim power, it must be developed and be able to offer a living standard comparable with that of other nuclear countries. I make inquiries. I find out that Pakistan is one of the most corrupt countries where political elite is notoriously known for stashing the ill-gotten wealth away in foreign lands. There are horrible power outages in summer when the temperature touches 50 degrees. There are long queues of citizens to buy sugar and wheat flour, which has acute shortage and the members of mafia responsible for this are reported to be sitting in the Cabinet and the Parliament. Petrol prices are raised on monthly basis and CNG is rationed. Teaching staff of the universities of the country protest on the Finance Minister’s refusal to provide the required funds for education. “I will prefer to produce fifty welders to one surgeon”, he tells them in a meeting. All this is besides the insecurity prevailing in the country where kidnapping for ransom is virtually an industry and private armies are thriving.
Why millions of Muslims have migrated to Australia, US, Canada, and European countries - all non Muslim- with “flawed secular values”? They have flocked to these lands in search of better living, secure future for their next generations and, above all, religious freedom. I try desperately to find a Muslim country, which may provide this to my family and me. I fail miserably. No Muslim country, from Morocco to Indonesia, can bring home the beacon. Hence 365,000 Muslims in Australia; 281,000 in Belgium; 657,000 in Canada; 3,554,000 in France; 4,026,000 in Germany; 946,000 in Netherlands; 650,000 in Spain; 1,647,000 in UK; and 2,454,000 in USA. Millions are settled in Italy, Greece, Scandinavia, Switzerland, Austria, Japan and New Zealand.

Many more are struggling to follow.

Will my kids get the education of the same standard in a Muslim country, which they are enjoying in Australia? There is not a single university in a Muslim country in the list of the top 500 universities of the world. What is the contribution of Muslims in having discovered and invented what the world is enjoying today? Not a single invention! Whether it is aspirin, penicillin, light bulb, airplane, refrigerator, telephone, Internet, or any other invention, excogitation or discovery, has been contributed by non-Muslims. It is funny that those who urge their fellow Muslims to boycott Coca Cola and Nike products continue to benefit from mobile phones, cars, airplanes, and medicines invented and produced by “infidels”.
Baroness Saeeda Warsi, the chair person of British Conservative Party, while addressing a welcoming crowd in her ancestral village in Pakistan in July 2010, told her admirers that Britain followed Islamic principles and Pakistan should also do the same. She said that equal opportunities for progress were available to everyone in the UK, minorities were enjoying equal rights and honor of women was safe. “Everybody in Pakistan wanted to go abroad but the progress and prosperity attained by developed nations can also be achieved here if the golden principles of Islam like honesty, equality, justice, tolerance, and love for mankind were adopted.” Saeeda Warsi, daughter of an ordinary immigrant, a factory worker, reaches the top slot of chairperson of one of the two major political parties of the UK. She could not even think of attaining this position in a Muslim country. Australia is too decadent for Muslims! Those who are telling this to Australian Muslims, I wish, suggest at least one Muslim country, which is a better place to live!

(Muhammad Izhar ul Haq is a freelance writer who lives in Islamabad and Melbourne. http://www.izharulhaq.net/)
Published in " Pakistan Link " USA ,12 Feb 2011


Anonymous said...

So these are the reasons, why you lived in Australia??????????????
And by the way who have to change all of this? Angels??????

John Francis said...

Thank you Izhar. As an Australian who is wishing to build his understanding of the Muslim world, and the way my country and so many other countries are changing as a result of the growing number of Muslim immigrants, your perspective is welcome.

Regarding the Muslim contribution to the modern world: what you have not mentioned, given the necessary brevity of your column, is the pivotal contribution Muslims, and indeed the Arab world in general, made to the philosophical and scientific development of our world, in centuries past.

It makes me so angry when, as I have today, picked up my local Melbourne tabloid newspaper and seen more fear-raising about Muslims. It is so counter-productive. Having said that, we live in a country where we can openly debate issues - including that of the burqa - and can also openly question religious or cultural practices (regardless of the faith) as fearlessly as we can discuss what's for dinner. I'm so grateful for this.

Debate however, should be open-hearted, with the aim of deepening understanding, allowing for new perspectives, and preparing us to live productively alongside each other in a changing world.

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