Daily Archives: April 5, 2008

Remembering Bhutto: History,Clergy and Pakistan

By Yasser Latif Hamdani

The oddest point in Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s career as a politician and a statesman was when his National Assembly voted to constitutionally
ex-communicate the Ahmaddiya community from the circle of Islam. Odd because, barring Jinnah and some ethnic leaders from small sub-nationalities, Bhutto was till then the most secular politician in
Pakistan. His support base was mostly left and no where during the election campaign had the PPP given voice to the demand for Ahmadis to
be ex-communicated. There are many theories as to why Bhutto would do it, but an investigation into the history of Ahmadi conflict in Pakistan leads to some astonishing conclusions about the role of
Pakistan’s military and civil establishment and their blatant use of
religious clergy in creating the conditions which might have forced a
popular national politician like Bhutto to opt for such a drastic and
draconian measure.

Pakistan was created as a result of the inability of the Congress
Party to recognize the legitimate secular concerns (such economic and
political safeguards) of the Muslim bourgeoisie represented by the
Muslim League. Instead of relying on secular and liberal Muslim
leaders like Jinnah, who had for much of his career been described as
the Ambassador of Hindu Muslim Unity by the Hindu leadership, the
Congress co-opted the Muslim religious clergy to prove its secular
credentials. Soon the Congress found itself out of sync with the
mass of Muslims. Since Muslims themselves were fragmented into
several sects and schools of thought, Jinnah and the Muslim League
kept theological and purely religious issues out of the main political
discourse. This allowed Jinnah to bring Sunnis, Shias, Ismailis,
Khojas and Ahmadis on one table despite major doctrinal differences
between these groups. It was for this reason that after Pakistan was
created, Jinnah extended his policy of keeping religious doctrine out
to state governance. To drive the point home, he included in his
cabinet a Hindu (Jogindranath Mandal) as a law minister and an Ahmadi
Muslim (Ch. Zafrullah Khan) as his foreign minister.
After 1947, the religious clergy that had opposed Jinnah and the
creation of Pakistan found itself like a fish out of a pond. They
would have all but lost political significance had it not been for the
political weakness of the ruling Muslim League. By 1951 the Muslim
League was without both Jinnah and Liaqat Ali Khan, the two leaders
who had recognition and mass appeal. Khawaja Nazimuddin who took
over after Liaqat Ali Khan was known as a good honest man but was not
known as a decisive leader. That he was from East Pakistan was an
additional factor which made him undesirable for the West Pakistani
establishment. By January 1953, the religious parties including
Maulana Maududi’s Jamaat-e-Islami had formed the “Majlis-e-Amal” whose
demands were the removal of Ch. Zafrullah Khan as the foreign minister
and declaration of the Ahmadi community as “Non-muslim”. Khawaja
Nazimuddin refused to entertain this demand and when informed of the
chance of 100 000 crazed Mullahs marching onto the Prime Minister
House, merely ordered the doubling of his guard. Violence broke out
in Lahore and Karachi.
Iskandar Mirza, the then Secretary of Defense, took note and wrote to
the Prime Minister:

“The problems created by your personal enemies including Mullahs, if
not dealt with firmly, will destroy the administration of the country…
is religion to destroy the very foundation of the administration of
the premier Muslim state? In Cairo, Sir Zafrullah Khan is being
received with the utmost honour and respect… while in Karachi he is
being abused in public meetings and his photographs are being spat
upon… what then is the position of Pakistan today internationally… for
god’s sake become a courageous leader and take decisive action. Once
you do this, the whole country, with the exception of the rascals,
will really round you…” Continue reading


Filed under Democracy, History, Islam, Islamism, Politics, public policy, Religion

God Revisted

posted by Soniah

David Plotz knew religion in ‘bits and pieces’ –he knew a bit of this, he remembered a piece of that, the rest he picked up along the way. Then one day in adulthood he attends a Bar Mitzvah and picks up the Good Book and opens it and reads it and what he reads startles him enough to read more and record what he comes away reading. This record makes for a hysterical series called Blogging the Bible. Here’s an example:

“Moses leads the Israelites into the wilderness—Day 1 of their 40-year trek. They immediately complain that they’re thirsty and the only available water is bitter. We’re a grumbling people, aren’t we? Freedom after 430 years of captivity, and nothing to do but grouse. The Israelites had crabbed to Moses when Pharaoh made them gather their own straw. When the Egyptian army pursued them to the Sea of Reeds, they had griped to Moses that they would rather have stayed in Egypt as slaves than die by the sea. Now they’re fussing that they’re thirsty. God gives Moses a piece of wood that cleans up the water—the world’s first Brita filter. “

The whole series is laced with laugh out loud Brita filter moments, yet it never compromises on the serious subtext. How nice if the Quran/hadith/ Prophet Mohammed were explored in this fashion, moreover in my life time. But in my lifetime that might possibly continue to mean fatwah and who in their right mind would be up for that? Even if such an exploration wouldn’t necessarily mean a death sentence, it could never the less spell censure from family and friends. After all most us grow up being drilled with the instructions to obey God, obey elders, obey your parents, obey your teachers, obey Aunty, obey Uncle, obey everyone until obedience and conformity are the only thing one knows to do and feels very ill doing otherwise. In this case ‘thinking for one self’ amounts to which mosque to pray in and ‘individuality’ to which bag to carry with which dress, or music to listen to. Though non-conformity can come with its own headaches and individuality can be carried to extremes in its own right, as long as a herd mentality is encouraged by Mummy-Daddy-Society most will continue to ape the group with which they best identify, or are ‘herded’ into identifying with. But here’s cause to rejoice– a team of reformist Islamic scholars at Ankara University is breaking through the boundaries of what they should and shouldn’t do. They’d like to see Islam reformed and so are working towards reinterpreting the Koran and the foundations of the Sharia Laws.

“Turkey is engaged in a bold and profound attempt to rewrite the basis for Islamic sharia law while also officially reinterpreting the Koran for the modern age. The exercise in reforming Islamic jurisprudence, sponsored by the modernising and mildly Islamic government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is being seen as an iconoclastic campaign to establish a 21st century form of Islam, fusing Muslim beliefs and tradition with European and western philosophical methods and principles…Fadi Hakura, a Turkey expert at the International Institute of Strategic Studies, described the project as an attempt to make Turkish Sunni Islam “fully compatible with contemporary social and moral values. “They see this not as a revolution, but as a return to the original Islam, away from the excessive conservatism that has stymied all reforms for the last few centuries. It’s somewhat akin to the Christian reformation, although not the same.”

rest here

The chances of Islam being explored Plotz style in my lifetime just got one step closer.


Filed under Fiction, Humour, Islam, Pakistan, Religion, Society