There is a stage in every individual’s life where they need to look up to somebody as the benchmark for definition of their personality. They differ from person to person, community to community. One community that has consistently failed to produce any personality to be considered as a global role model is the sprawling Muslim world.
The Nelson Mandela’s, the Mother Teresa’s, the Martin Luther King’s, the Churchill’s – cannot be found anywhere in the world of the Muslim Ummah. On the contrary, Osama Bin Laden, who is more an anti-thesis of all things good in the world, is synonymous with the word Muslim.
Indeed, the conspicuous lack of worldwide personalities emanating from the Muslim world is a question of some concern for the estimated 1.5 billion Muslims around the globe. Not that the options on the table are any less in standard or caliber, they lack that Islamic approach which has that added appeal. The last person who had a charismatic personality that melted hearts, stood firm on principle matters, and was a Muslim, was arguably Yasser Arafat. The manner of death faced by the former President of Palestine also symbolized a nail in the coffin of Muslim culture. Pushed into a corner like a rat by the Israeli forces, Arafat died in defiance, eating week old rotten potatoes but not bowing to a Zionist agenda.
This is not to say there have not been others who pose a contention. Mahatir Muhammad was a cult figure in the 90’s and early 2000’s as he reaped rewards of 25 years of rebuilding Malaysia. He created an envy of the West in the East, single-handedly pulling the multi ethnic nation into the new millennium. Suddenly everyone wanted to go to Malaysia. Having rich natural resources in oil deposits, commerce began to flourish in capital Kuala Lumpur, challenging regional business centers like Hong Kong and bitter rivals Singapore. The slogans of “Malaysia truly Asia” were ringing throughout the region, sounding in a paradigm shift. By the time old age had caught up with this iron hand ruler, Malaysia had been transformed from a third world developing nation into a developed world attracting the biggest businesses and the world’s tallest man made structure.
Benazir Bhutto of Pakistan threatened to take over that spot for a while; however her untimely death also robbed the Ummah of an enigmatic world leader. A maverick for all intents and purposes, she was among the first Muslim women to be elected in to office. Progressive, stylish in an Islamic way, she had the will to drive people through sheer motivation. When she spoke, people more often than not listened. A trait perhaps she inherited from her charismatic father, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto who showed the strength of a nation by walking out of the UN Security Council in the midst of a war with India in 1971. Aggressive and boisterous, the Bhuttos’ never minced their words about what displeased them, cunningly tying the needs of a nation to their entire personality; they pumped up people enough to be ready to embrace death on their behalf. Their person embodied the will and desire of an entire nation.
Muhammad Yunus of Bangladesh revolutionized the micro finance model. His system brought steady livelihood to millions of homes, and an unprecedented prosperity in a third world country heavily dependent on its agrarian economy and subject to flash floods. He negotiated corruption, rife in South Asian countries, and managed to offer his people a ray of hope. Awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts in 2006, he offers a near perfect model of ingenuity utilized for the greater good, without fostering any biases. However, he is nowhere near King or the Dalai Lama category.
King Hussein, the late King of Jordan is another name that pops up as a person who tried to help his people live a better life despite the atrocities of war around him. Deeply embroiled in the conflict with Israel, staking a claim to a part of the historic city of Jerusalem, Jordan was always in the middle of the great Middle Eastern battle. He is also a beacon of human rights, making Jordan an example of civil rights and democracy in the conservative Muslim bloc. The small Hashemite Kingdom continues to show the world that Muslims are not all just terrorists or warmongers. His death drew the leaders of the free world to converge in mourning – in part for the demise of the hope for peace in the Middle East.
The Muslim world in the past 50 years has failed to produce a personality to whom all races and religions would look up to as leaders in human evolution. Mandela and Martin Luther King became the universal face of civil liberty and independence. Mother Teresa was synonymous with humanity without reproach. True, it seems that the only significant people as such created within the Muslim dominions today are Osama Bin Laden and Mullah Omar, both hell-bent on taking the world into the dark ages. This is a sign, surely of the demise of the rich Muslim culture. In fact the effect is more apparent in the 53 individual Muslim countries where internally they all struggle to find leaders who would unite all factions and groups together.