Daily Archives: July 13, 2008

Jihad and retribalisation in Pakistan – Ayesha Jalal’s new book

This is an important book. We are posting another review by Khaled Ahmed here. This review also cites some revealing passages..

BOOK REVIEW: Jihad and retribalisation in Pakistan

Partisans of Allah: Jihad in South Asia
By Ayesha Jalal
Sang-e-Meel Publications, Lahore 2008
Pp373: Price Rs 695
Available at bookstores in Pakistan

Not far from Balakot, the votaries of the Sayyid are fighting on the side of Al Qaeda against ‘imperialist’ America and its client state, Pakistan, and killing more Muslims in the process than Americans, just as the Sayyid killed more Muslims than he killed Sikhs

Ayesha Jalal studies the jihad of Sayyid Ahmad Shaheed (1786-1831) in India as the most immaculate articulation of the theory of jihad in Islam. Sayyid Ahmad may have conceived his holy war against East India Company while living in Rai Bareilly in the central region of northern India, but he moved his warriors to where Pakistan’s North Western Frontier (NWFP) province is today because he thought that the Pashtun living in the tribal areas under non-Muslim Sikh occupation were better Muslims than the settled Muslims of the plains.

Here was the first indication that Islamic utopia could be constructed more easily in a tribal society. He probably wanted to take on the British after creating a mini-state on the pattern of Madina in the NWFP and probably hoped to reform the contaminated Muslims of the plains as a means of enhancing his challenge to the British. Al Qaeda too discovered the Pashtun straddling the border of Pakistan and Afghanistan as the tribal matrix where an Islamic utopia would grow into a centre of the global caliphate devoted to reforming and uniting Muslims living unhappily as subjects of today’s nation-states. Continue reading


Filed under Afghanistan, History, Islamism, movements, Religion

It Takes a School, Not Missiles

Since 9/11, Westerners have tried two approaches to fight terrorism in Pakistan, President Bush’s and Greg Mortenson’s.

Mr. Bush has focused on military force and provided more than $10 billion — an extraordinary sum in the foreign-aid world — to the highly unpopular government of President Pervez Musharraf. This approach has failed: the backlash has radicalized Pakistan’s tribal areas so that they now nurture terrorists in ways that they never did before 9/11.

Mr. Mortenson, a frumpy, genial man from Montana, takes a diametrically opposite approach, and he has spent less than one-ten-thousandth as much as the Bush administration. He builds schools in isolated parts of Pakistan and Afghanistan, working closely with Muslim clerics and even praying with them at times.

The only thing that Mr. Mortenson blows up are boulders that fall onto remote roads and block access to his schools.

Mr. Mortenson has become a legend in the region, his picture sometimes dangling like a talisman from rearview mirrors, and his work has struck a chord in America as well. His superb book about his schools, “Three Cups of Tea,” came out in 2006 and initially wasn’t reviewed by most major newspapers. Yet propelled by word of mouth, the book became a publishing sensation: it has spent the last 74 weeks on the paperback best-seller list, regularly in the No. 1 spot.

Now Mr. Mortenson is fending off several dozen film offers. “My concern is that a movie might endanger the well-being of our students,” he explains.

Mr. Mortenson found his calling in 1993 after he failed in an attempt to climb K2, a Himalayan peak, and stumbled weakly into a poor Muslim village. The peasants nursed him back to health, and he promised to repay them by building the village a school. Continue reading

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Filed under Afghanistan, Education, Islamism, Pakistan