The forces of evil have struck again. They have killed the very young and the very happy in Manchester. They have, in their demonstration of macabre villainy, taken the lives of twenty-two individuals and have left fifty-nine others badly wounded. And they did it at the end of a beautiful concert by the young rock star, Ariana Grande.
This morning, here in London and indeed all over the United Kingdom, and all across the western world, grief overshadows everything else. Campaigning for Britain’s general election, scheduled for June 8, has been suspended. The Trump visit to the Middle East has been pushed to the sidelines by all these deaths in Manchester. And the vile men who in the name of Islam are responsible for this carnage have been celebrating the tragedy they have caused. They celebrated earlier too, in Brussels and Paris. That is their sinister way of professing their faith. They put all Muslims to shame. They cause justified outrage among non-Muslim communities.
The irony is that only a few days ago Donald Trump, an unlikely voice of reason and moderation, lectured the leaders of more than fifty Muslim and Muslim-majority nations in Riyadh on the need for Islamist terrorism to be dealt a hard blow. You may disagree with Trump over a host of issues, but when he speaks of the dangers that ISIS and its adherents represent, you know he is touching the right chords. You tend to think that his warnings need to be taken seriously, not least by nations, which regularly hold forth the message of Islam being a religion of peace.
This morning, as the world broods on the deaths in Manchester, there are all the questions that rush in. All this violent demonstration of Wahhabism, or this modern interpretation of Salafism, today threatens to push our world back into medieval darkness. President Trump spoke of the need to destroy these terrorists, but he carefully steered clear of asking the Saudi royals, his hosts, to draw their version of radical Islam to an end. We have a whole world busy trying to contain terrorism based on faith, on the false notion that Islam encourages violence. But there are not many among us ready to make public our concerns that for terrorism to be curbed, it is the Saudis who must first be brought to heel, perhaps even to justice
This irrational desire to promote extremist Sunni Islam has been causing havoc all over the globe. Afghanistan is a mess. Iraq has gone haywire. The Syrians are being pounded by Saudi jets. The Taliban have as good as begun to treat Pakistan as fair game. And all over Europe, there are bands of violent Muslims lurking in the bushes for a chance to murder innocent men and women and children --- because these innocent people do not share their faith.
There are the villains in ISIS, forever ready to abduct Christians, Yazidis, foreigners and so many others, and take them to scorching deserts --- to behead them and let forth a horrific cry that they think is an invocation of Allah.
These are the elements the world needs to strike down without pity. It is especially for Muslim societies to formulate the ways and means by which these apostates of Islam can be identified, located, and put out of their evil living. It is not enough for Muslim spokespersons to come forth with platitudes, to inform the world that terrorists have no religion.
These men who have killed in Manchester, in Paris, in Brussels have all claimed to be Muslims. They are bad Muslims, a lowly and insidious class among the Islamic congregation. For Muslim leaders and intellectuals around the world, the objective ought to be clear and without ambiguity: these killers are not good Muslims and should be treated as criminals. And anyone trying to defend their murderous acts should equally be considered a criminal, for it is such defenders of religious criminality who tar the good religion of Islam with their notoriety.
These purveyors of religious violence must be neutralized if the sanctity and philosophical underpinnings of Islam are to be restored. This morning, as the tears flow in Manchester, it becomes a moral duty for all Muslims --- their societies and nations and governments --- to hunt down these elements of medievalism ruthlessly, to bring them to justice in any of the many ways in which the law operates in defense of human life and dignity.
Beyond and above everything, it is Islam that, in all its glory of liberalism, needs reassertion. The many Islamic scholars who have through the centuries upheld the beauty of the faith must be recalled through the passages of history. The Sufis who have added to the richness of the faith propounded by the Prophet of Islam have to be remembered at this time of peril.
The Muslim faith must be seized back from these Wahhabis and Salafists, ruthlessly and with steely determination.
Syed Badrul Ahsan is the Associate Editor of Asian Age