Ahead of the FIFA World Cup, humongous cutouts of Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar propped up mid-river in Kerala, a state in India’s southwest corner. In a country crazy for cricket, its fan wars and soccer frenzy have been making headlines and social media chatter over the past few weeks.
In any society, certain things have to be coercively “commanded,” such as honesty in trade, or “forbidden,” such as theft, murder or oppression. These are literally maaruf, in terms of being “known” to all humanity as common sense. But how people believe in God and worship him are matters of their own conscience, which should be left to their private minds to freely determine.
“The nature of war is hatred and fury, but it’s mitigated very quickly when a new enemy comes to the scene. The idea that we should chase all of these Nazis and punish all of them, was wrong. Because it meant that while there was still rage, while the war was still remembered, the Allies wasted their time hunting all sorts of small fry. If you really want to punish war criminals, choose the people who were the worst and focus on them. The people who operated the gas chambers, the concentration camp guards — if those people were executed, I would have been happy to pardon all other Germans.”
The fate of the Babri Masjid has become a touchstone for the narrative of Islam in India. Thirty years after its destruction may be the right time to look southward for an alternative. Another significant monument tells a very different story of Islam’s advent and importance across history in the subcontinent.
A Muslim intellectual known for his personal devotion, the new Malaysian prime minister’s perspective on faith has also helped define the possibilities of political Islam in his country, as well as the broader Muslim world. Over a generation of intellectual evolution, it can be said that Anwar Ibrahim is today among the world’s foremost advocates of the compatibility of Islam with democracy.