Muslims from childhood just grow up hating the Jews. As soon as Muslim kids begin to understand things, they start hearing the propaganda of how the Jews of Medina had insulted and fought with our beloved Prophet. This at an early age when they haven’t grown old enough to know how to question things. So, they never get to know the details. They just grow up with that hatred for the Jews ingrained in their heart and mind.
I personally grew up as a believing Muslim but practising very little the rituals and learning the scriptures (which was the case with more than 80% of the young people during that time). Still, I also grew up with that hatred against the Jews without ever meeting one, nor knowing the circumstances that had led to the conflict between the Jews and our Prophet. For the first time, I raised the question of why Muslims see the Jews as enemies when I was a third-year undergraduate student, while discussing about an event that took place in Israel/Palestine with a few friends (more religious and knowledgeable in Islam). The answer I got was that the Jews fought and insulted the Prophet and Allah says in the Koran that Jews are a cursed people who will never find a abode to live in peace (my recent investigation into Islam finds it absolutely true). That was a good enough reason; when Allah (the Creator) has said so, it must not be questioned further or explanation sought. I didn’t question it for another 15 years until the following experience that changed my life significantly.
Before I paid a visit to Bangladesh in early 2002, a few months after the parliamentary election, I was already saddened by what had happened to the Hindu minorities in the post election days. The Jamat-e-Islami aligned nationalist coalition, led by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), which had trounced the pseudo-secular incumbent Awamy League party, then in power. Following the election, the victorious party cadres went on a rampage against the people aligned with the defeated party. The ever insecure Hindu community, which traditionally votes for the secular parties, had to bear brunt of this horrendous campaign most. Rapes (including gang-rapes), torture and humiliation (with incidence of stripping and parading the Hindu women around the village) became widespread according to media reports. One investigative report by the most popular English newspaper in Bangladesh, Daily Star, cited they had interviewed nearly 1000 Hindu women and girls, who had been raped or gang-raped in a single district. The age of the victims ranged from an 8 year-old minor to a 72 year-old grandmother.
When I arrived home, I had more to learn about. I learned how activists of the defeated party, even of the Muslim background, spent months in terror. Some of them, who did not have tribal muscle-power and got caught, were paraded around the locality with garland of shoes round their neck. The subsequent media outcries and international condemnations forced the government to crackdown on the horrendous violence and violations, after a barrage of defiant denials in the initial weeks.
This left a lasting mark on my mind which probably changed me forever. Instituting a government based on the Islamic ideals is the vision of the Jamat-i-Islami party. BNP is the slightly moderate Islamo-nationalist party; its founding father changed the constitution of Bangladesh from secular (instituted in the 1970s by the founding father of defeated Awamy League) to an Islamist one in the 1980s. These two parties combined represent the Islamic face of Bangladesh. All these flagrant violations of human dignity and rights happened under their stewardship and patronage. Whether real Islam had anything to do with it or not; what struck me most is that so long there will be divides between people, like Hindu-Muslim barriers, such things will continue to happen. Whatsoever the true Islam may represent is not worth it.
Earlier, I knew how the Hindus had to move out of East Bengal and later Bangladesh in tens of millions to India because of the treatment they received from the majority Muslims. I myself had the experience of foiling a bid to kidnap my Hindu classmate (girl) to force her into marry a Muslim thug (who had dropped out from my class a few years earlier). I played a crucial role in foiling the bid by alerting the girl and her family and helping them escape to India. I considered my effort in this incident a great gesture of kindness to my classmate, without realizing for a long time how much distress and pain the whole thing might have had caused to the victim, who had to abandon their ancestral homes of centuries forever.
Although my outlook on life took a humanistic turn after this, I did not leave Islam for the fear of being roasted by Allah in the fire of hell. I still thought, there was probably something very worthwhile in Islam. Else why would so many people believe in it? Why were so many people converting to Islam? Why is it the fastest growing religion? And why are so many Westerners, including some famous ones like Cat Steven, also converting to Islam? But what ensued in the Organization of Islamic Conference (O.I.C.) meeting in Kuala Lumpur in March 2003 changed my life decisively.
Mahathir Muhammad was my hero, whom I used see as a model for the Muslim world’s progress towards moderation, prosperity and development. Never did I realize that there was so much poison (Islamic) in the mind of this highly acclaimed leader—both in the East and the West. That Mahathir speech, loaded with vicious Jew hatred, definitely changed my perspectives of the world forever. I decidedly lost my religion. I became more sympathetic to the people of other religions (including Jews) than I was before, which they definitely deserve. The terrible treatments doled out to the Hindus, Buddhists, Christians and Jews etc. in any Muslim-dominated country in the world on a daily basis even today would easily justify my sympathetic views of them by any standard of logic.
This also marked the commencement of my journey of finding out what is there in Islam that can fill the mind of 1.4 billion Muslims with such poisonous and cruel thoughts and utter degree of irrationality as was spelled out in Mahathir’s speech. After studying Islam (the Koran and prophet’s biographies) to a great deal, what I found is that it all comes from these books. I also found out that the Jews had did nothing wrong to Prophet Muhammad and his treatment of the Jews was nothing less than barbaric. The hatred Muslims entertain towards Jews today is totally undeserving of them.
[This essay was published in Islam Watch (www.islam-watch.org) on 14 Feb, 2007]