Who Speaks for the Flesh and Blood 1.6 Billion Breathing Muslim Souls?

compassion for twitter

Unless you deeply care for each of the 1.6 billion Muslims, you do not speak for them

Written and collected by Zia H Shah MD, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times

The Quran describes the holy prophet Muhammad, may peace be on him, as mercy for the whole mankind. He is famously reported to have said, “He or she is not a believer whose stomach is full while his or her neighbor sleeps hungry.”

How many of the 14 million displaced Syrians end their tragic days by going to bed hungry? No one has cared to compile the data! But, it is fair to assume a very large number of them do.

The population of Syria before the civil war was 28 million. Thanks to the civil war and bombing by so many different countries half of them have lost their homes. Half of these displaced people are refugees in different countries and almost half of them are displaced internally.

If their plight and this human catastrophe of mammoth proportions does not keep you awake at night, you do not speak for the 1.6 billion Muslims.

If you have not learnt that thousands of them have been denied asylum in Europe, you do not speak for the Muslims.

Several million more have been displaced in Libya, Yemen, Afghanistan and Sudan. Another tragedy of gigantic proportions is unfolding in Myanmar. In October 2015, researchers from the International State Crime Initiative at Queen Mary University of London released a report drawing on leaked government documents that reveals an increasing “ghettoisation, sporadic massacres, and restrictions on movement” on Rohingya peoples. The researchers suggest that the Myanmar government are in the final stages of an organised process of genocide against the Rohingya and have called upon the international community to redress the situation as such.[12]

Matthew Smith wrote in an article, Is genocide unfolding in Myanmar?, in CNN in December of 2016:

Four years ago, I was in Myanmar’s Rakhine State soon after deadly violence erupted between ethnic Rakhine Buddhists and stateless Rohingya Muslims. It was a horrendous scene. And it’s happening again.

Back then, Buddhist civilians and state security forces unleashed coordinated attacks against Rohingya and other Muslims. I documented pre-dawn raids and cold-blooded massacres.

In a small village in Mrauk-U Township on October 23, 2012, 70 Rohingya were killed, including 28 children — 13 under the age of 5. Children were hacked to death. Some were thrown into fires.

Entire villages were razed; smoke billowed from homes and mosques in 13 of 17 townships statewide and bodies were disposed in mass graves, none of which have been exhumed for forensic purposes. I personally documented four separate mass gravesites.

At the time, an unpublished United Nations investigation obtained by Al Jazeera’s investigative unit, found more than 100 Rohingya women and girls were raped. The authorities then corralled more than 130,000 Rohingya into more than 40 squalid interment camps, where they remain confined today.

If this has not given you a few sleepless nights, you do not speak for the 1.6 billion Muslims.

If you do not know some basic demographics about the Muslims, you do not speak for them. According to the Pew Research Center, as of 2010, there were an estimated 1.6 billion Muslims around the world, making Islam the world’s second-largest religious tradition after Christianity. And although many people, especially in the United States, may associate Islam with countries in the Middle East or North Africa, nearly two-thirds (62%) of Muslims live in the Asia-Pacific region, according to the Pew Research Center analysis. In fact, more Muslims live in India and Pakistan (344 million combined) than in the entire Middle East-North Africa region (317 million).[1]

If you see the 1.6 billion Muslims as monolithic and have not taken the trouble to find out about their sects, their theology, their nationalities and other differences, you do not speak for them, as you may be merely stereotyping against them and defining them by the worst elements, however small and trivial, among them.

The Muslims now make roughly 23% of the global population – according to a Pew Research Center estimate. But while Islam is currently the world’s second-largest religion (after Christianity), it is the fastest-growing major religion. Indeed, if current demographic trends continue, the number of Muslims is expected to exceed the number of Christians by the end of this century.[2]

In India the Muslims live in a secular country and have lived there coexisting peacefully with the majority Hindus and other smaller minorities, since 1947. Indonesia is currently the country with the world’s single largest Muslim population, but Pew Research Center projects that India will have that distinction by the year 2050 (while remaining a majority Hindu country), with more than 300 million Muslims.[2] If you lump the Indian Muslims with those living in Muslim majority countries, you do not speak for the 1.6 billion Muslims. Likewise, there is a sizable Muslim community in China, who are concentrated in two of its provinces. If you do not know about them you hardly speak for all the Muslims.

If you are a Muslim, but have never met and been friends with a Muslim, who is not from your denomination, you may speak for your own denomination, but you do not speak for all the Muslims, perhaps you do not care for other Muslims or at least do nothing to know their religious sentiments and passions and their concerns, fears, hopes and ambitions.

If you are a non-Muslim and an ‘expert,’ on Islam but you are for President Trump’s ban on the seven Muslim countries, like 47% of the Americans, you do not speak for the Muslims.

In a wonderful article in New York Times, Husbands Are Deadlier Than Terrorists, Nicholas Kristof outlined that in the four decades between 1975 and 2015, terrorists born in the seven nations in Trump’s travel ban killed zero people in America, according to the Cato Institute. Zero.

In that same period, guns claimed 1.34 million lives in America, including murders, suicides and accidents. That’s about as many people as live in Boston and Seattle combined.

If you live in America and do not realize, “Last year Americans were less likely to be killed by Muslim terrorists than for being Muslim, according to Charles Kurzman of the University of North Carolina. The former is a risk of approximately one in six million; the latter, one in one million;” you are under the influence of propaganda of the national television media and do not speak for the 1.6 living souls, who call themselves Muslims, for you have been indoctrinated to put them in a lesser basket, not shared by the rest of humanity. You do not speak for them.

If you are a blind Trump supporter and would have voted for him even if he shot someone on the 5th Avenue, then you do not speak for any reality. You pretend as if he is infallible and you believe in the “alternative facts,” which he or his apologists may bring out from time to time. You obviously do not speak for the 1.6 billion Muslims.

Talking about ‘infallibility,’ even if you are a Muslim, but belong to a small minority group, who considers its leader to be ‘infallible,’ your understanding of reality is very vulnerable. If your leader were to make a negative remark about the other Muslims, even if it is not true, unfortunately, it becomes Gospel truth for you. Your black and white reality takes it as a “fact.” This is why you may speak for your own denomination, but, you do not not speak for the 1.6 billion Muslims. You do not know them or care enough for them.

If you are able to pull some media trick to create impressions for naive Western audience to conflate all Muslims with terrorism, you do not at all speak for the 1.6 billion Muslims.

The Pew Research Center has conducted scientific polls to try to precisely define what proportion of the Muslims, in different countries may condone some form of terrorism in certain circumstances. The Muslim Times whole heartedly condemns each and every act of terrorism for whatever reason, without any exception what so ever. However, here is what Pew Research Center found:


The above slide shows that the Muslims in the countries, which have seen some positive Western influence, a very large majority, 82-95% is against the menace of terrorism.  The evidence is clear and need not be embellished or misquoted.

If you condone taking of innocent human lives, whether you are a Muslim or a non-Muslim, for your political, religious or any other agenda, in any shape or form, you do not speak for the 1.6 million Muslims, for a very large majority of them, do not want to do anything with the menace of terrorism, whatsoever.

If you want to exclude the Muslims from your circle of empathy, for you do not like some of their dogma, then you do not speak for them. Each group of almost any faith may have their share of irrational ideas that do not strip them of their basic human rights. Many a Catholics may believe in or condone exorcism and a significant majority of the Evangelist Christians may not accept the facts of evolution, as the majority of the biologists see them, yet no one proposes curtailment of their religious rights or other basic human rights for their partial commitment to what most of the educated college graduates will perceive as an irrationality. Why not stand up for the the rights and basic freedoms of each and every Muslim as well? Don’t they deserve our empathy?

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a milestone document in the history of human rights. Drafted by representatives with different legal and cultural backgrounds from all regions of the world, the Declaration was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in Paris on 10 December 1948 (General Assembly resolution 217 A) as a common standard of achievements for all peoples and all nations. It sets out, for the first time, fundamental human rights to be universally protected and it has been translated into over 500 languages.

You have to care for the Muslims and their God given human rights as spelled in the Universal Declaration to speak for them.

If you genuinely believe in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and want these to be implemented in every country, then you are a universalist and you speak for every person of the human family and of course for every Muslim. But, if you do not believe in all the 30 Articles of the Declaration, with their details, then honesty to yourself and others demands that you should precisely define your position and not be deceptive by paying lip service to the highest ideals of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Please, carefully read the 30 Articles, it is not a longish document. Do you agree that  everyone, even if a Muslim, if charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defense, as provided in Article 11?

Do you agree that everyone should be safe from attacks upon his or her honor and reputation? Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks, as provided in Article 12.

Do you agree that everyone, even if a Muslim, has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution, as provided in Article 14.

Do you agree that men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution, as provided in Article 16.

Failing to promote any of these provisions in the Declaration, however knowledgeable or articulate or well published you may be, you are not a universalist by definition and you may speak for your parochial group only, however you define it, but you do not speak for the 1.6 billion Muslims.

If you do not believe in every person’s free right to change his or her religion, you do not speak for all the Muslims as some of them may want to change their inherited religion or sect or at least some of their ideas, at some point in their lives.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights provides for religious freedom of each and every citizen of our global village, including the 1.6 billion Muslims. Article 18 states:

Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

If you do not have the wisdom and moral courage to understand and declare that anyone who publicly declares himself or herself to be a Muslim is a Muslim, you by definition do not speak for all the Muslims. If you can choose to label some self-professing Muslims as non-Muslims, by the same token I call you a terrible Muslim not worthy of representing all of them.

Dr. Kashif N Chaudhry wrote in a recent article in the Huffington Post: Who Speaks for America’s Muslims? And why Americans Must Know:

Many Sunni clerics and activists in the United States also harbor deep prejudice against members of minority Muslim communities. Televangelist Nouman Ali Khan, preacher Yasir Qadhi, and the renowned Sheikh Hamza Yusuf are few of many prominent Muslims who have used derogatory language for Ahmadi Muslims, referring to them as Kafirs (infidels), or as a dangerous cancer within the Muslim community. In fact, Sheikh Hamza Yusuf’s official website has a full article dedicated to Ahmadi Muslims, labelling the Islamic sect a seditious cancer and its members infidels.

Many more Sunni Imams like Imam Dawud Walid (Executive Director, CAIR-MI), Imam Omar Suleiman, Imam Khalid Latif, Imam Suhaib Webb, etc, preachers such as Muhammad Sattaur, Faraz Rabbani, etc, activists including Hassan Shibly (CAIR Florida), Imraan Siddiqui (CAIR-AZ), Hussam Ayloush (CAIR-LA) etc, adamantly refuse to publicly identify me as a fellow Muslim. This refusal to identify another self-identifyng Muslim as part of the Muslim community is known as Takfir in Islamic terminology. Sadly, it is this anathematization and exclusion that is at the root of sectarianism and religious extremism across parts of the ‘Muslim world.’

Nu’man ibn Bashir relates that the Holy Prophet Muhammad said: The believers in their love, kindness and compassion towards each other are like the human body; when one of its limbs is afflicted the whole of it is involved in pain both in waking and in slumber. (Bukhari and Muslim).{3]

If you have not cultivated such love and compassion for each and every Muslim brother and sister, you do not speak for them.

Who Speaks For the 1.6 Billion Muslims? – The Muslim Times speaks for all of them for we fulfill all the criteria of being a universalist that I have laid down here. We care for all the Muslims and human rights of each and every one of them.

I conclude by paraphrasing the famous words about freedom of speech, whose author we may not precisely know, as I speak to each and every person, who professes to be a Muslim: “I do not agree with every thing what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.”

Suggested Reading

Collection of Ideas to Overcome Sectarian Divide Among the Muslims

A Simple Recipe to Unite All Muslims

Two Hundred Verses about Compassionate Living in the Quran

Forty Hadiths or Sayings of the Prophet Muhammad about Compassionate Living


  1. http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/01/31/worlds-muslim-population-more-widespread-than-you-might-think/
  2. http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/07/22/muslims-and-islam-key-findings-in-the-u-s-and-around-the-world/
  3. Gardens of the righteous; Riyadh as-Salihin by Imam Nawawi; translated by Muhammad Zafrulla Khan.  Curzon Press, Islam International Publication, 1989. Page 58.


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