Some Muslims, unfortunately, have a fixation with things western including ideas. The assumption is that since the west has made material progress, it must be the result of their superior thought-process. Currently, there is much talk about the millenium. Apart from the mad scramble to ensure that all the hi-tech electronic gadgets do not suddenly stop working - the superior thought process had somehow failed to take into account the most elementary point of math - the millenium bug is affecting people in other ways as well. There are conferences and seminars in which Muslims also join their Christian colleagues to talk about the millenium. What life would be like in the next millenium? is an oft-repeated question. A safe bet is that it would be no better than the present one. After all, the twentieth century belonged to the west, more precisely the US, about which Oscar Wilde had said, it is a country that has gone from barbarism to decadence without the intervening stage of civilization.
But the millenium question needs a little more reflection. Does it start on January 1, of the year 2000 or 2001? Even more serious is the issue of how accurate these dates are. In October 1582, Pope Gregory decided to abolish 10 days from the calendar. This ‘correction’ was needed to bring the calendar in line with the seasons from which it was slipping by a day every four years. October 1 to 10 of the year 1582, therefore, do not exist in the calendar. Since then, the Gregorian calendar is adjusted every four years by one day. So much for their scientific progress.
Some Muslims, unfortunately, have a fixation with things western including ideas.
Calculations aside, Muslims need to reflect on why they should get excited about the millenium when it has nothing to do with their calendar (The current Islamic calendar year is 1419 Hijri). The record of the technologically advanced west must be scrutinised to see what it has offered to mankind. More human beings have been killed in the twentieth century than in all the wars throughout history. And in the last eight years, another five million people - the overwhelming majority of them Muslims - have been killed by the west. This century has been a nightmare for Muslims.
The year 1998 is also the 500th anniversary of Vasco da Gama’s voyage to India. In western (European) mythology, he is projected as a great adventurer and voyager. The truth is a great deal less pleasant than this sanitized image. Vasco da Gama, like Columbus a few years before him, was a thief and a terrorist. At a time when the west brands every committed Muslim a terrorist, some of da Gama’s exploits need recalling after he landed at Calicut in May 1498. Great civilizations flourished around the Indian Ocean rim at the time.
Into this world burst a gang of Christian fundamentalist terrorists from Europe led by Vasco da Gama. He belonged to the Order of Christ, a religio-military society established in Portugal in 1319 specifically for the purpose of attacking Muslims in their own lands. One of his ideologues wrote: ‘The Moors [Muslims] and the Gentiles are outside the law of Jesus Christ.’ This justified a policy of terror and plunder. After bombarding the defenceless city of Calicut for three days, Da Gama ordered the ears, noses and hands of prisoners be cut off before burning them alive. Off the coast of Arabia, when he intercepted a large ship carrying cargo and pilgrims, he fired upon it, sinking it with its 700 passengers. Da Gama then sent out his crew in longboats to spear the survivors in water. One of his specialities was hanging Muslims from masts and using them for crossbrow practice.
These exotic practices were further developed by the British in India. They invented the technique of driving a stake through their victim. Lest someone gets the idea that it meant thrusting a wooden stick through the stomach, they had better think again. Driving the stake meant pushing the stake up through the rectum, rupturing the stomach and lungs, leaving the victim to die a horrible death. Da Gama’s successor, Alfonso de Albuquerque, was no less sadistic. He sacked Goa for four days and slaughtered its inhabitants, burning mosques and those seeking shelter inside them. These horrible acts, by the Portuguese and British, were not done through impulse but as part of a calculated policy to instil terror in the populace.
Does the west behave any differently today? In 1991, tens of thousands of Iraqi soldiers were buried alive by US troops without giving them an opportunity to surrender. The Serbs burnt thousands of Muslims alive in Bosnia during the 1992-1995 war. Muslims had better think again what precisely is it they are joining to celebrate about the millenium.
Muslimedia: December 1-15, 1998