- A “Letter to the Editor” by a UK citizen named Mohamad Ali Gokal in the spectator, a journal known for its delightful if often uninhibited prose,pointed out that 113 of the Quran’s 114 chapters began with a pronouncement of Allah’s “limitless mercy and beneficience”. Gokal pointed out that the words “mercy” and “forgiveness” are mentioned roughly 200 and 100 times in the text, while an entire chapter deals with the quality of mercy. In the words of the letter writer, it was pointed out by the Holy Prophet (PBUH) that Allah forgives all sins and is “most Forgiving, Merciful” (39:54) and that “whoever forgives and amends,he shall have his recompense from Allah” (42.40).
Rather than confine himself to writing letters to the editor in a British journal, it is time that Gokal and the millions of others who together form the moderate majority in the Muslim world step forward and join hands with the still very small number of scholars who challenge more extreme interpretations of the fastest-growing faith in the world, and which is likely to spread across Europe, now that three million refugees from wars in countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya and Somalia are making (or have already made) their way into the borderless world of the European Union. Almost all the refugees are young, and can be expected to have a rate of reproduction far higher than the low levels witnessed in most European countries.
In particular, because of the humanitarian approach of Chancellor Angela Merkel, the Muslim population in Germany is likely to double before the end of next year, and go up substantially every year thereafter, thereby once and for all ending any chance that the country would revert to the monocultural model practiced within it for decades. France, Germany, Spain and Italy will soon have large Muslim populations because of the flood of escapees from war and poverty, and hopefully it will be the message set out so heart warmingly by Mohamad Ali Gokal rather than extremist and exclusivist interpretations that will form the foundation of the faith as practiced by these New Europeans.
Clearly,Chancellor Merkel has faith that the moderate majority will overcome the extremist fringe so as to ensure that the millions of future EU nationals she has ensured will lead productive lives in harmony with their Christian neighbours. It has to be this faith that made her persuade other EU leaders to provide additional facilities to migrants coming from across the seas, rather than turn them back the way Australia has Rohingya and other “boat people”. Had Germany responded in a similarly unwelcoming fashion as Canberra, many who made the journey may have had second thoughts.
It was Merkel’s smile of welcome that attracted hundreds of thousands more to risk the boat rides so that they could become part of the European family, as millions of others from affected locations already are Given the fact that the EU is borderless, it is likely that Germany and the UK will be the two favoured destinations for the New Europeans, as both countries possess opportunities in abundance for the educated segment of the refugee population, which is several hundred thousand strong. Because of its economic turmoil, as yet Spain is unlikely to witness migration on the scale of Germany and France, although in time, when the economy expands, it is very likely that more and more migrants will gravitate to a country so prominent in the history of the faith.
The failure to grasp the opportunity for migration was just an example of the manner in which the citizens of India have been short-changed by a governance system still based on the colonial model. Hopefully, now that Narendra Modi has taken over as the Prime Minister of India, organised efforts will be made to ensure a greater flow of population to under-populated countries such as Russia and ,Brazil, including by setting up centres to teach Russian and Portuguese to intending migrants with the skills needed to make them welcome in these two BRICS powers.
While on economic policy Modi has been cautious, relying on the team put together by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, in matters of foreign policy he has been innovative in a manner not seen since Jawaharlal Nehru and (to a lesser extent) Narasimha Rao, who agreed to Israel setting up its embassy in Delhi, and exchanged Representative Offices with Taiwan, besides seeking an alliance with the US, making overtures that were rebuffed by US President Bill Clinton, who continued to regard India within the Cold War box in which country had been placed by Secretary of State John F Dulles,a gentleman who was aptly named in view of his lack of imagination.
Seeing the destruction of the USSR in 1992,Rao understood that the vacuum (of superpower support) could only get filled by the US. However, Clinton treated India as a lesser power, visiting the country only towards the close of his second term. A similar mistake was made with Russia, with President Clinton leading the effort to consign Russia’s high-tech sector to the graveyard, thereby hoping to make the giant country a pastoral supplier of raw materials to more advanced economies.
While Boris Yeltsin was satisfied with such a subordinate role, his successor Vladimir Putin was not, and went about ensuring that Moscow’s geopolitical heft multiplied in his watch despite continuing US efforts at weakening it through sanctions and the expansion of NATO, both unnecessary and unwise steps in a context where a friendly and cooperative Russia would have secured US and overall EU interests far more than is the case during these days of US-EU efforts at weakening Moscow.
Meanwhile, the demographic changes which Angela Merkel has set off within the EU (and especially in her own country) continue to accelerate. Hopefully, it will be the vision of Mohamad Ali Gokal rather than that of Abubakr Al Bagdadi that will finally prevail,thereby ending the misery that extremism has caused to so many tens of millions of innocents.
—The writer is Vice-Chair, Manipal Advanced Research Group, UNESCO Peace Chair & Professor of Geopolitics, Manipal University, Haryana State, India.