Understanding the history of religious conflict
A lack of knowledge will hinder peace efforts, believes Manzoor Moghal
The extremists in the world of Islam spring from the school of thought that emerged in India after the Great Indian Mutiny of 1857 known to Indian Nationalists as the first war of Indian Independence.
The Mughal Emperors of India who ruled for over 300 years mostly treated Hindus as equal partners in their governance of the country, which evolved a strong bond between their Hindu and Muslim subjects in their loyalty to the Emperors.
The British systematically destroyed this pluralism and successfully used the strategy of divide and rule by pitching Muslims against Hindus and Sikhs and vice versa.
After putting down the uprising they slaughtered thousands of Indian Muslims. As a consequence the Muslims became disillusioned with the whole concept of Pluralism and broadly divided into two groups.
The Anglophile Sir Syed Ahmed Khan believed that the best way for the advancement of Muslims in India was for them to acquire Western education, and founded the Aligarh Anglo Mohammedan Oriental College later known as Aligarh Muslim University.
The other group who were the followers of Shah Waliullah, a Wahabist founded the Deobandi school of thought in 1866 in Deoband.
Their principle ethos was to create a pure Islamic society unadulterated by any Hindu and Western practices. They believed that it was the dilution of Islam with Hindu and Western values that had resulted in the demise of Muslim rule in India.
It is from Deoband that Madrasahs across Pakistan and Afghanistan sprang up, teaching their extremist brand of Islam. From this erupted the repressive regime of the Taliban in 1996. Afghanistan then became the crucible for Al Qaeda who unleashed a most ferocious attack against the West in retaliation of their invasion of Muslim countries.
Historically Islam and the West have been locked in conflict for centuries. The West continues its aggression by attacking and invading Muslim countries and treating Muslims as fiends because of the violent extremism from the likes of Al Qaida. Western foreign policy towards Muslim countries provides fertile breeding ground for violent Muslim extremism. American and European foreign policies in dealing with Muslim countries are seen by Muslims as deliberately provocative and anti-Islam. Unfortunately, Western actions backfire and continue to aggravate matters between the two opposing camps.
Unless the phenomena of extremism is fully understood in its true historical contacts and genuine efforts are made for rapprochement between the two sides, there seems to be little hope of any solution.