August 19, 2012

From: Mohammed Rafiq Lodhia
To: My Fellow Muslims
Subject: “A DEEP DISTRESS HATH HUMANIZED MY SOUL”

My Fellow Muslims,

As-Saleem Alay-Kum

Charles Kingsley, an English priest of the Church of England, once made a truly refreshing comment on the subject matter “Book” as follows:

“Except a living man there is nothing more wonderful than a book!

A message to us from the dead, from human souls we never saw,
who lived, perhaps, thousands of miles away.

And yet there, in those little sheets of paper, they speak to us,
arouse us, terrify us, teach us, comfort us, open their hearts to
us as brothers.”

How true are these striking words about what we humans call a “Book”! One such book which profoundly touched my heart was titled “Massacre – The tragedy of Bangladesh and the phenomenon of mass slaughter throughout history” by Robert Payne. Here is how Mr. Payne eloquently gave a most fitting description of “The Terrible Art” in the following words:

“Massacre is an art, not a science, and it is carried out by men
possessing recognizable qualities. Among these qualities is an
overwhelming contempt for humanity, which extends not only
to the victims but to the soldiers ordered to massacre them,
so that the general who orders a massacre is likely to turn
against his soldiers once they accomplished his purpose. Since
he despises all men, he inevitably despises himself and is never
far from suicide. Though he regards himself as a man who
exists beyond good and evil, with no feelings of morality, he
is nevertheless haunted by the knowledge of guilty and by
obscure fears that the dead will take revenge on him, and
therefore takes care that he is well guarded. But since he
despises his guards and is always at their mercy, his sense
of insecurity only increases. He, too, is a victim.”

What was terrifying to read in the book was when General Yayha Khan during his military conference held in February 1971 gave orders as such: “Kill three million (Bengalis) of them and the rest will eat out of our hands.” What a grossly deplorable evil intention? Reflecting upon the little sheets of paper in the book penned by a famous Russian novelist, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, “The Brothers Karamazov” and in the chapter “A Little Demon,” one can take a quick glimpse of the very question that strikes a human heart. “Why do evil?” asked Alyosha and the reply given by Lise was, “So that everything might be destroyed. Ah, how nice it would be if everything were destroyed?” Better yet, Robert Payne has brilliantly described the very nature of the “Massacrer” as follows:

“Drunk with pride, the massacrer does not know where he is
going and does not care, and it is precisely because he does
not care that he is absolutely evil. He is the artist in destruction,
scrawling meaningless symbols on a bloody canvas, crying
out that the world does not understand him – is he not doing
all this for the world’s good? Obsessed by death and terrified
by life, incapable of living in a normal human way, he attempts
to reduce the world to his own nothingness and despair.

The evil he does outlasts him, for grief is one of the most
powerful and enduring of human emotions. Ultimately the
burned villages are rebuilt, the land is cultivated, children
are born. But the grief remains like a poison, and generations
pass before the poison vanishes. Then the people look back
and ask: “Why did it happen? Why couldn’t it have been
prevented?” and they know that as long as there are men
who obey the orders of conquerors, the massacres will go on.”

It’s not surprising that Mr. Payne dedicated his book “Massacre” – ‘For Andre Malraux.’ And why not? Andre Malraux was not only one of the most influential supporters of the “Liberation War of Bangladesh, as pointed out by Asrar Chowdury, a university academic in Bangladesh, in his article “Friends from the West, 1971” published in The Daily Star, but he was also known as a “Tragic Humanist.” His famous novel “Man’s Fate” won the “Prix Goncout” award and made him the lion of French literary society for a time as implied by Charles D. Blend.

Friends of the west are the ones who have remained much more vigilant to raise their moral voices first whenever there is such a calamity known as genocide, massacre or manslaughter. How can the world forget the small gang of ruthless Hutus militias, soldiers and ordinary citizens who used machetes and guns to slaughter 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus? The radio station was a brilliant instrument of propaganda for the Hutus as stated by Lt. General Romoe Dallaire (Ret.), UNAMIR Commander, and he went on to say that “Voice of radio was nearly the voice of God.” The killers took sheer delight in announcing the slogans such as, “The graves are not full yet. Who will help us to fill it?” Their actual campaign was to demonize the Tutsis by calling them snakes and cockroaches. In short, the observation of Andre Malraux that “The attempt to force human beings to despise themselves is what I call hell” was all the more visible in Rwanda.

Editorial page of The Economist (March 27, 2004) commemorating the ten years of the gruesome genocide in Rwanda summarized that “The grimmest lesson from 1994 is that men are capable of evil most people would consider ‘unimaginable,’ had they not seen the rows of punctured skulls. From a litigany of horrific events which included Holocaust, Cambodia, Yugoslavia and Rwanda which left behind so many thousands of archives of bones and skulls in the pages of the books for the humanity at large to see with their own naked eyes, the brutality inflicted by a few powerful men and with a gasp of awe the combination of two powerful words – NEVER AGAIN was born.”

Back in the 20th century, Therese Nyirabayovu, a Hutu women who hid and cared for the refugees in Kigali town remarked, “In Rwanda, one person’s God is another person’s Satan,” whereas, in the 21st century, we have witnessed the new breed of killers known as “Janjaweed, the literal translation is “Devils On Horseback. These bloodthirsty militiamen are fully supported by the Sudanese government and are all “Arab Muslims.” The entire world is acutely aware that President Omer al-Bashir of Sudan has been responsible for instructing the killing, ethnically cleansing, raping, torturing and terrorizing the people of Darfur. Like Bashar al-Assad of Syria, Sudan’s al-Bashir targets his own unarmed civilians systematically and with impunity. As early as 2012, al-Jazeera broadcast a video of Ahmed Haroun, appointed by Sudanese President Umar-al-Bashir to be the Governor of South Kordofan, ordering the government troops and the Janjaweed militias with the following deadly instructions: “When you go on your mission, if you find them, kill them, sweep them away, eat them. Do not bring me any prisoners of war. We have no quarter for them.”

Shameful Hypocrisy” has plagued the Muslim minds. Hasham A. Hassaballa, a Pulmonary/Critical Case physician in “Beliefnet.com” wrote the article and summed up as “The Muslim World” has failed its brothers and sisters in Darfur. The Prophet would be disgusted and horrified at its impotence.” Another outstanding article “Disgrace in Darfur” by Aijaz Zaka Syed, an opinion Editor of The Khaleej Times dated October 31, 2006, he sounded a big wake-up call with a simple question, “When will the Arabs and Muslims wake up from their slumber of indifference to stop what is going on in Darfur?”

One classic example of a Muslim leader’s “Indifference” can be seen on YouTube (watched by 1,523,392 people at this writing) when Brian Williams, an anchorman of NBC news politely answers to the question of the leader “Why is that only a select group of those who were killed have become so prominent and important?” as “because of the difference humankind draws between warfare and genocide.”

Truthfully speaking, those Muslims who are so quick to blame the West ought to watch another YouTube video of Brian Steidle, a former U.S. marine, and an unarmed military observer in Darfur who found himself becoming a witness to the destruction of civilians. Are we, after watching this video, still going to dwell in our usual so-called “Conspiracy Theory”? Oops! Be aware that the presentation given by Mr. Steidle was recorded at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

“A DEEP DISTRESS HATH HUMANIZED MY SOUL, proclaimed William Wordsworth, England’s Poet Laureate. That’s exactly how I, Mohammed Rafiq Lodhia, feel while I am in the midst of writing this letter to “My Fellow Muslims.” Nothing is more appropriate at this point in time than to listen to one of the most heart rendering songs of late great Mohammed Rafi (May Almighty Allah rest his soul in peace) from the movie “Haathi Mera Saathi.” One fine actor Rajesh Khanna who played in the movie is no longer with us, but how can those of us who hail from the Indian subcontinent forget Anand Bakshi’s lyrics as follows:

Jab Jaanwar Koi Insaan Ko Mare
Kehte Hain Duniya Mein Wehshi Use Sare
Ek Jaanwar Ki Jaan Aaj Insaano Ne Li Hai
Chup Kyon Hai Sansaar

“Chup Kyon Hai Sansar” can rightly be termed as “Why are Muslims silent?” My past experiences of jotting down my thoughts were appreciated hardly by a handful of my fellow Muslims. This humble writer was born in Rangoon, Burma (Myanmar). Without a doubt, the headline news about Rohingya Muslims deeply saddens me. Nonetheless, being an optimist, I am sure that “Our Fellow Humans” will play their respective roles in raising their moral voices to halt the persecution. It was Prime Minister U Nu who officially recognized Rohingyas as an ethnic group within Burma and that status was revoked by General Ne Win. “The Lodhia Family” became “Refugees” and migrated to the country of Pakistan back in the year 1965. Our family hailed from the “Memon” community residing in Rangoon. Since September 1970 when I arrived in America until June 1987 when I became a U.S. citizen and even up until this day, I have always held a firm belief which is deeply embedded in my heart that we, the people of the United States of America, will always remain at the forefront in the cause of “Human Rights. The recent poll conducted by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum shows the key findings of the poll indicating that 76% of the Americans believe that education about the history of genocide can help prevent future atrocities.

Two encouraging news about the Rohingya Muslims should be welcomed by many Muslims across the world. One is an exclusive interview conducted by “Voice of America,” Burma Service chief Than Lwin Htun, and the other article was a real impressive one from Aung Aung Oo of Sittwe (Akyab) with a title “An Open Letter to the Buddhist World.” Perhaps, the famous Buddhist leader Dalai Lama, and another towering and renowned Burmese leader Aung San Suu Kyi, might have had their own reason to remain temporarily silent, but it is abundantly clear that the lack of “Political Will” is sorely missing. May I humbly ask, “How many of us are aware that today the country of Rwanda is tranquil and serene? President Paul Kagame won the election last year with 95% of the vote. Rwanda Trade Mission Website reports that “Foreign investors speak of it as one of the safest places in Africa as well as one of the least corrupt.” One of the best articles covering the progress of Rwanda after 16 years of genocide came from Josh Roxin, the Director of Rwanda Works. In his article “16 Years After The Genocide, Rwanda Continues Forward” which was published in The New York Times on April 6, 2010, he ended it with a resounding conclusion: “This nation has shown it can rise from the aftermath of unspeakable violence and is determined to keep that momentum going and taking the next steps forward toward real prosperity. If the past sixteen years are any indication, Rwanda can do it.”

Burmese President Thein Sein might well be considered an evil leader in the eyes of many Muslims. One thing is for sure, he and his faithful comrades in arms must have been well informed about the International Criminal Court which was established right after the genocide in Rwanda which jolted the world opinion. Several countries have passed laws allowing their courts to prosecute mass killers after they are indicted for their heinous crimes against humanity. Change of heart? Maybe! In fact, it is an encouraging news to know that President Sein is committed to opening schools for Rohingya Muslims to give them modern education. To put it in his words, “Once they become educated they will be more thoughtful and can decide what is right and what is wrong.” I say, why not?

“The Muslim Mind” a book authored by Charis Waddy, the first woman to study Arabic at Oxford University, reminded the Muslims one of the omnipotent Quranic verses in the chapter titled “The Health of Nations” as follows:

“God does not alter the state of a people until they themselves
make a move to change what is in their hearts.”

                       Surah: Al Ra’d (Thunde) ~ Chapter 13 – Verse: 11

Mrs. Waddy’s book was published in the year 1976, and as such, she referred to the contemporary Muslim figures of her time. One of them being Shaikh Mohammed Ahmed Surur, Secretary of Muslim Community of Asmara, the capital of Eritrea. He wrote:

“God has His ways with His creation. If nations are to live, they
must have among them a group of people who raise the challenge
of right and wrong. Such a group varies at different times, but in
every century we find people who dedicate their lives to guiding
their fellow men. Where no such group is found, the people perish
and chaos and corruption spread.

Those who put right what is wrong save nations from destruction.
They are doctors of men. A sick man who does not take his advice,
will die. This is the relationship between nations and those who
set out to change them.”

Eritrea

Today, Eritrea is considered as one of the excessively militarized and repressive regimes in Africa. More than three decades after the publication of “The Muslim Mind, 50% of the Muslim population were not able to find leaders who can change their conditions. Forget the fuzzy nature of human minds, but sadly the Muslims themselves as a whole have turned a blind eye to their own rich heritage of moderate social, political leaders and religious scholars. Simply search “google.com” and you all will find it real hard to find the name of Shaikh Mohammed Ahmed Surur. Why did we fail to write in the little sheets of pages the good name of leaders like Shaikh Surur? Charis Waddy did out of her respect for the religion of Islam. Who is to blame for this indifference? Not only this, why aren’t the demagogues who are running Sudan, Eritrea and Syria learn from the success story of Rwanda? Most importantly, why can’t the devout Muslims take to heart that Almighty Allah will not change the condition of a nation if we do not wish to change what is in our hearts?

Dr. Albert Schweitzer, a German philosopher, theologian and a medical missionary whom I greatly admired inspired a generation of humanitarians. He treated many patients with leprosy and the dreaded African sleeping sickness in his hospital located in Lambrene, Gabon. His passionate quest for to discover universal ethical philosophy earned him the 1952 Nobel Peace prize for his monumental work, “REVERENCE FOR LIFE. The words of Dr. Schweitzer are timeless. He was the one who pronounced that “The greatest enemy of morality has always been indifference. Undoubtedly, “The Muslim Minds” are severely inflicted with an “Indifference” attitude for quite some time now. In other words, if we are willing to furiously express our anger over the killings of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, then equally, our sympathy must also be directed towards those Muslims who are also mercilessly being slaughtered in Darfur by “Devils On Horsebacks. “All massacres are the same, the methods are the same, and the dead look alike,” wrote Robert Payne in his book “Massacre. He summed up the terrible art of massacre with the following sentence:

“Timurlane, Hitler and Yahya Khan greet each other across the
centuries, for they were the practitioners of a common art. They
glorified in their massacres and achieved the fame they desired,
but only a hair breath distinguishes them from common muggers.
They were the most evil of men, for they did more than murder –
they poisoned the springs of life.”

Massacre

Finally, I have to end my humane thoughts which has been written with a heartfelt sadness for those untold millions of our fellow humans whom I have never known and who perished confronting the terrible and evil art of “Massacre. Books by dead and living legends poured upon us a whole heap of wisdom through the ages. The words in those little papers are nothing but genuine treasures which we Muslims must learn to cherish. I must now end this letter with one last quote of Erich Fromm, a German social psychologist and a humanistic philosopher, from his book “The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness” as his words are the key to changing the future course of most of the Islamic countries at large. It is as follows:

“The situation of mankind today is too serious to permit us to listen
to the demagogues – least of all demagogues who are attracted to
destructions – or even to the leaders who use only their brains and
whose hearts have hardened. Critical and radical thoughts will only
bear fruit when it is blended with the most precious quality man is
endowed with – the love of life.”

May you and your beloved family be blessed on Eid-ul-Fitr. May Almighty Allah help in softening the hearts of Muslims so that they can begin to learn the “Ethics of Compassion.” Lastly, my humble question to “My Fellow Muslims” is: “If we Muslims begin our five time prayers with the two words “Merciful” and “Compassion, then why on earth do we continue to display an “Indifference” attitude?”

Compassionately yours,

Mohammed Rafiq Lodhia
_____________________________________________________________________________________________

ETHICS OF COMPASSION

Reverence for life and sympathy with other lives is of supreme importance for this world of ours. Nature knows no similar reverence for life. It produces life a thousandfold in the most meaningful way and and destroys it a thousandfold in the most meaningless way. In every stage of life, right up to the level of man, terrible ignorance lies over all creatures. They can’t feel what happens inside others. They suffer but have no compassion. The great struggle for survival by which nature is maintained is in strange contradiction with itself. Creatures live at the expense of other creatures. Nature permits the most horrible cruelties to be committed. It impels insects by their instincts to bore holes into other insects, to lay their eggs in them so that maggots may grow there and live off the caterpillar, thus causing it a slow and painful death. Nature lets ants band together to attack poor little creatures and hound them to death. Look at the spider. How gruesome is the craft that nature taught it!

Nature looks beautiful and marvelous when you view it from the outside. But when you read its pages like a book, it is horrible. And its cruelty is so senseless! The most precious form of life is sacrificed to the lowliest. A child breathes the germs of tuberculosis. He grows and flourishes but is destined to suffering and a premature death because these lowly creatures multiply in his vital organs. How often in Africa have I overcome with horror when I examined the blood of a patient who was suffering from sleeping sickness. Why did this man, his face contorted in pain, have to sit in front of me, groaning, “Oh, my head, my head”? Why should he have to suffer night after night and die a wretched death? Because there, under the microscope, were minute, pale corpuscles, one ten thousandth, of a millimeter long – not very many, sometimes such a very few that one had to look for hours to find them at all.

This, then is the enigmatic contradiction in the will to live – life against life, causing suffering and death, innocent and yet guilty. Nature teaches cruel egotism, only briefly interrupted by the urge it has planted in creatures to offer love and assistance for their offspring as long as necessary.

Animals love their young so much that they are willing to die for them. They have this capacity for sympathy. Yet the self-perception of the species makes all the more terrible their utter lack of concern for those beings unrelated to them.

The world given over to ignorance and egotism is like a valley shrouded in darkness. Only up on the peaks is there light. All must live in the darkness. Only one creature can escape and catch a glimpse of the light: the highest creature, man. He is permitted to achieve the knowledge of REVERENCE FOR LIFE. His is the privilege of achieving the knowledge of shared experience and compassion, of transcending the ignorance in which the rest of creation pines.

And this understanding is the great event in the evolution of life. Through it truth and goodness appear in the world. Light shines above the darkness. The highest form of life has been attained, life sharing the life of others, in which one existence feels the pulse of the whole world and life becoming aware of its all-embarcing existence. Individual isolation ceases. Outside life streams life a flood into our own.

We live in the world, and the world lives in us. Even this knowledge raise a host of questions. Why do the laws of nature and the law of ethics diverge so sharply? Why cannot human reason simply take over and develop its discoveries into an expression of life in nature? Why must rationality come into such terrible conflict with everything it sees? Why must it discover that the law of its own being is so utterly different from the laws governing the world? Why must it be at odds with the world just when it discovers the principle of the good? Why must we experience this conflict without the hope of ever finding solution? Why instead of harmony, is there cleavage? And further, God is the power that sustains the universe. Why is this God who reveals himself in nature the denial of everything we feel to be ethical? How can a force rationally create life and irrationally destroy it at the same time? How can we reconcile God as a force of nature with God as ethical will, the God of love as we must conceive him when we have risen to a higher ideal of life, to reverence of life, to empathy and compassion?

Dr. Albert Schweitzer
REVERENCE FOR LIFE

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