I was working late and had just stepped out of my office on a Friday. It was a windy night and I could smell the distant rain catching up with me. I waved my hand for an auto and a young Muslim guy with big beard and skull cap stopped. As the ride proceeded and I convinced him that route no.1 was the shortest instead of the one, which he was taking; I made an important discovery that was the start of a very interesting evening. I found out that he was generous with words. The unending traffic jam was bugging the hell out of both of us and the pleasant weather was washing away the weariness of the day. He said, "Sir Bangalore has changed a lot. It wasn't like this some years back. We hardly ever went beyond Koramangala. We used to finish our work by 9pm and then have a sound sleep back home. We used to get the desired money and save time too. These days it is only by 12 that our work gets over, money is stiff too due to competition, and dinner has shifted post 12. Most of the time is killed at signals and one ways have become awfully painful."
I asked him for how long has he been staying in Bangalore. He told me he has stayed in Bangalore all his life and was driving auto since he was 18. I also came to know that he has four sisters, one elder brother, and one younger. Two sisters were in a govt. school and two had left studies and were waiting to be married. I saw in him a distorted face of developing India, the only thing I could think of then was how much people sacrifice, how hard they work to make ends meet. It makes me dizzy because until now it has been an easy ride for me. I never thought about these issues. I was in an opaque box and the world around was taking a spin. He told me about how hard he had been working all these years and I was happy to hear that.
Then it was traffic jam again. A beautiful couple, the guy a little 20th century and girl in complete 21st century outfit stopped right next to us. Immediately I realized the contrast. Wasim (the auto guy) gave a shocked look at them for they were hugging and cuddling and being the satisfied after work ready for party enjoying a blessed life couple. Wasim gave a silent humph noise that denoted sarcasm. I asked him what the matter was.
He told me "sir apocalypse is knocking on our doors. It's not very far."
I exclaimed WHAT! From where did Qayamat come into picture? He said, "there are some signs in QUARAN-E-PAK".For E.g.
1. Man will have abundance of money. Money that far exceeds his requirement.
2. There will be 5 women for every man. He will get deep into adultery.
3. Women will start participating in politics and will assume a bigger role in society. Women empowerment is anti-God.
4. A musician will appear in future who will drive everyone nuts with his music and people will fall for him. Finally, God will intervene to kill the embodiment of Satan.
All those who fall prey to his music will rot in hell and all the rest will go to paradise.
5. The sky will turn black.
I listened to all of this very patiently and dropped in some of my questions too for a better understanding. I asked do you see any indicators. He said look sir you just saw that woman on the bike. See all pollution that is also a sign. Look at the number of women leaders rising. I am telling you sir I have read about this and now I can see it happening.
I asked him what are his views on America and war on terror. He said this is a war for taking the oil from Middle East so that we become poor. This is a plan for deislamification of the world. They want everyone to be Christians. They can't even control their women how they will control us. You know sir when they went to moon they heard AAZAN there. The voice of God. This proves that our religion is the best and final word of god.
What caught me was that though this guy was uneducated and didn't have any clue about the world but his knowledge of the most recent/important political events was astonishing. From where was he getting these stories? Who was giving him this viewpoint? Though he is unaware of IT being in a place like Bangalore he is fully aware of the political issues. How is that possible?
However, I didn't explain or argued with him. I didn't tell him that sound cannot travel in space since it requires a medium. I didn't tell him that this entire world and all the beautiful things in this world were not created in a day but are a part of process that involved millions of years of reproducing and failing, struggle, things that are measurable and whose effects are experienced even in daily life. Things we tend to overlook and assign a divine reason to. I didn't tell him that yes still there is place for God in this world but as far as the universe is concerned even God is working according to certain laws certain rules and never deviates from them. I wanted to talk so much I wanted to explain him relativity, evolution, sociology, philosophy, mathematics the beauty of equations, the satisfaction of experiments, and the art of logical deduction. But I couldn't and now I feel sorry for it.
My fare came out to be 73 rs. However, I gave him a hundred because he taught me something that day. With that "Shukriya" He painted a picture of uneducated below poverty line youth for me. When I was watching the Mumbai attacks on TV last month and all the very necessary email forwards that came after them I connected the dots. I saw how all of this fits together. I saw the circle complete itself before me.
We used to play this game in school. One person draws a line on the paper and he challenges you to make this line small without rubbing it or cutting it or doing anything to it. The solution is drawing a bigger line next to it. So relatively, that line becomes smaller. An extension of this analogy is if you are in a hole with no one to help you out and are too egoist to call for help you out of that hole, you drag the first person passing you by in the hole too. Why, because, how can he be out of the hole when I am happy to be in it. That's exactly what Islamic terrorism means to me. According to the "Global Arab Human Development " report Arab countries produced 171 international patents in 2002. South Korea alone during that period registered 16,328 patents. HP registers 11 patents per day. Average number of scientists and engineers working in R&D in Arab countries is 370 per million people, while the world average including countries in Africa, Asia & Latin America is 979. In short, most of the technologies are imported to the Arab world but almost none is supplanted by Arab innovations. Between 1995 & 1996 almost 25 percent of university graduates from Arab world migrated to some western country. There are just 18 computers per one thousand people in the Arab region today, compared with the global average of 78 per one thousand, only 1.6 percent of the Arab population has internet access. While Arabs represent almost 5 percent of the world population, today they produce only 1 percent of the books published and of those published triple the world average are religious books. Of the 88 million unemployed males between 15 & 24 worldwide almost 26 % are in the middle east and North Africa (according to International Labor Organization , Associated Press , December 26, 2004).
There is loads of data like this scattered all over to help us see what the actual being in a hole situation is.
3. Anger leads to misinterpretation of facts. The youth is not able to decide between the "God's true" word and how it fits with the modern worldview. He knows deep inside that something is strange, maybe it can't' be done but feels social and moral obligation to comply.
4. Since the world is so much connected these days, youth obviously must have contact to western way of life and the scale with which is begin adopted in the developing world. This leads to humiliation which is exploited by the terror gurus who give them a false sense of being responsible for all the Muslims in the world and that by killing people and destroying buildings they are sending an excellent 7th century message i.e. islamification of the world. This gives them the feeling that they are in control and maybe not as helpless and hopeless as they actually are!
So all the recent elements combined with past glory and humiliation faced when being exposed to the developing and developed world makes a powerful recipe for rage, anger, and frustration that is like an active volcano just waiting to burst out, killing in effect thousands of their own clan.
As an example of frustration, here is an excerpt from Bin Laden's taped message issued on 4 January 2004 through Al Jazeera. Full text can be found at "Islamic Studies & Research Center."
"Thus, the situation of all Arab countries suffers from great deterioration in all the walks of life, in religious and worldly matters. It is enough to know that the economy of all Arab countries is weaker than the economy of one country that had once been part of OUR world when we used to truly adhere to Islam. That country is lost Andalusia. Spain is an infidel country, but its economy is stronger than our economy because the ruler there is accountable. In our country there is no accountability or punishment, but there is only obedience to the rulers and prayers of long life for them."
The radicals are actually searching for a perfection of the Muslim world that existed in 7 century. They want to return to the perfection of seventh century and dominate the 21st century and are somehow misjudging or misinterpreting the doctrine as the last testament of God to man. For how this illusion works and what comes out of it click here. Now, I don't have a problem if they want to live by the 7 century rules and I shouldn't lose my sleep over it if they are doing it quietly. But the problem is they want everyone to do the same on some insane illusion that their last testament is true and I am an Atheist so I must be converted.
I personally witnessed this frustration & humiliation in the eyes of that young, dynamic, & loquacious auto driver Wasim. I could see the energy bubbling in him, just waiting to do something. If this energy is channelized and a good hand helps him, it might turn into a positive contribution to humanity if the same energy is used by radicals it might lead to another 9/11 or 26/11. He was a "Tabula Rasa," a blank slate in which anyone could write but the scribbling that I saw in it was an indicator of a terrible future. What if he is promised money sufficient to get his sisters married and educate his younger brother, will he take the opportunity to topple into a very dangerous territory. Then he will have a double initiative, one of doing well for his family, two, doing the work of God. For him this is the best a man can do in his lifetime. He will eagerly take this opportunity because he is an honest man, he is a good man. But also because it was not his fault being born in poverty, it was not his fault being pulled out of school so early to contribute to his family income. When he sees the Bangalore of today, he sees opportunity he sees hope but none of it is for him. He looks youth working hard, spending fanatically enjoying the sensual and material pleasures all around him. He knows he can't do this; he knows that his basic necessities aren't yet completed. He knows that neither his brother nor any of his sisters will ever have an equal opportunity to compete in this world. SO he takes refuge in the "Other world" a world which at best is a fabrication a self made illusion, a lie, the pursuit of this lie will surely lead Wasim and his family into a darker and deeper hole for life and condemn them to a hellish fate.
When I reached home after the ride, my head was swirling. I couldn't concentrate on anything. I could see thousands of Wasims all around me. I could see this situation amplified to an extent unimaginable. In the wake of Mumbai attacks, this is not the time for us to go into civil disobedience nor is it the time for Gandhigiri but it is the time to contribute and collaborate and find all those Wasims whom we pass everyday but never notice. Understand them, explain them, and help them. This is the time to destroy the seed of terror at its initial level and plant a sapling of hope, because one such sapling affects the lives of 7 more individuals, which in turn creates a garden of opportunity. And imagine this is just one family what happens if we identify 10 more Wasims. What happens when all of us make an individual commitment not to bother about Hinduism, Islam, or Christianity but enroll in a movement of hope, participate in a revolution against all false ideologies and light up the day by helping all Wasims. This is a big change. A change, which is not the work of a single individual or a single community. It is the change for which all of us, who are privileged to be living in a 21st century world, provide a little money a little help to the less fortunate ones.
No matter how diverse our cultural, moral or ethical backgrounds are we still belong to one race we are still more than our religions, more than our locations, more than our designations , more than our investments; if we are the face of 21st century we are also the mistakes of a falsified ideology. Where were our predecessors when the Arab- Muslim world was in need of helping hand? Why was all the attention focused only when oil was discovered there? What do you think will happen to Zimbabwe and many other countries that are on a similar path today? It only takes a couple of intelligent and resourceful men to start a terror recruiting consultancy in Zimbabwe which has the man power and a very serious hunger problem and they will join in the ranks of Afghan warriors to feed their families so at least they may live better lives. Then this problem will move beyond our control because then we will wake up from a century old sleep, just in time to witness the Armageddon, the biggest firework in all of humanity. Then it will not be only an Islamic Apocalypse but the last show. In all this chaos, let us not forget that religion was made for man; man was not made for religion. Let us not forget that not all these problems will be solved in a day or a year or through a legitimate regime but one-step at a time; for success is the sum of small efforts repeated day in & day out.
PS: "The Unflat World" from "The world is flat by Thomas Friedman."