Note: The views expressed are author’s,PTH does not necessarily agree with all the views expressed.Some names have intentionally been omitted to protect privacy.
It was a long afternoon,with cricket T20 in the background, and the location was a Lebanese restaurant in St. John’s wood, in the shadow of Lords cricket ground in central London and we were enjoying a long outdoor meal.
My guest was a childhood friend (alumni of “Physics under Hoodbhoy” and Islami Jamiat Talba), now an analyst with an American Bible-Belt Neo-Con Think-Tank, visiting London for a seminar on “Preventing Islamist Extremism” in the disenfranchised Muslim youth of U.K. He also ran a blog called “Friends of Pakistan” before the name was artfully stolen by President Zardari’s team (Allegedly by Ambassador Haqqani, who is rumoured to ghost-write Zardari articles in NYT, WP and WSJ).
The background of my friend and his father (still working for JI relief in N.W.F.P), like Hussain Haqqani (the current Neo-liberal Pakistani Ambassador to USA), is from the Islamist- Nationalist Jamaat-i- Islami(JI) of Pakistan. In his youth (student activism) he sent me few fiery emails, lamenting my Infidel, irreverent views and lifestyle.
It was good to reminisce about past memories after five years; a lot of water has passed under the bridges and it was an informative and candid chat. I was more interested in hearing his current world view, since those hot tempered university days.
Pakistani analysts are a highly sought commodity for American “War on Terror” policy makers. In the Scholastic Aptitude Test, if you can tell the difference between JI, JUP and JUI. You are In [Honestly, Mrs. Smith?].
I was more interested in understanding the Young Urban Professional JI, because the newly elected head of JI Mr. Munawar Hassan is a highly sophisticated English speaking born again Pan-Islamist, who in his previous life used to be a student activist for NSF (read Communist) in Karachi University. Mr.Hassan replaces the old guard of populist firebrand Qazi Hussein Ahmed who comes from hard-line N.W.F.P. While Qazi was a flamboyant champion of poor Islamists from the pashtun North(the area of Taliban and US drone attacks), Munawar Hassan’s cultural background is North Indian (steeped in Persian and Sufi poetry and influenced by Shia’ism of Lucknow).he is much more articulate (yet ideological and right wing) about his views on international Pan-Islamism. These subtle differences in styles will only become visible with the passage of time and policy change.
Coming back to the meeting, the food was delicious Lebanese variety of meat dishes ranging from lamb delicacies to beef regulars, the aroma and the taste encouraged my “selective” vegetarianism to sin towards the stray path of the Meat-Eaters (staple diet in my Pakistani Muslim background).
My childhood friend started off with a long monologue on Islamic moral values and Pakistani societal norms of joint family and tribal structure being the best in the world and that Pakistani Muslims will always be strangers in Europe and America.
On marital front, he said why you are so worried about the “Love of your life”, for as Muslims we are ordered by the religion to take risk and should at least have four chances. His wife is a stay at home, look after the babies, MBA finance. He quoted the example of Imran Khan’s failed marriage to a Jewish Heiress as a cautionary lesson for my benefit. Allah has created Muslim male for procreation and increasing the flock for paradise?
I started talking about poetry and Andalusia, my aim was to get views on Tariq Ali’s Islam Quintet. He advised me to read Iqbal(Goethe of Asia and philosopher poet) and read Quran cover to cover with English translation. My friend gets fresh intellectual stimulus, every time he reads Quran. I quoted Ahmed Faraz the left leaning romantic poet, “If we part our ways today, we will only meet again in pages of history”. I wanted to save this memorable interaction for posterity.
Meeting with Ann Coulter of Pakistan(a title given by great journalist late Khalid Hassan), Imran Khan’s policy guru and elocution coach, the Lady owns a right-wing Think-Tank. He was sympathetic in assessment of Imran Khan’s political failures, in his opinion there are no real policy differences in JI and Mr. Khan and that Imran khan does not want to talk about his genuine Islamist credentials in public because of fear of upsetting liberals and intellectuals within and outside his Justice movement.
He was critical of Arabs for their racist attitude towards Pakistanis; his stay with English News in Saudi Arabia was not particularly a pleasant one. The American and British expatriates get 10 times the salary he was getting. According to him the Palestinians living in Arab countries are lazy beggars, impotent to fight for the liberation of the holy Mosque in Jerusalem. He is also a member of a inter faith group for Muslims and Jews in America and he proudly eats kosher (Halal) meat with Jewish friends.
He is happy to be in Obama’s America, fully furnished accommodation and maintained car, although things stay the same for Pakistanis suffering American drone attacks and Muslim suicide bombers. About the Speech he said,” Obama is “His Masters’ Voice” and essentially an infidel because of his middle name Hussein, which I think is a betrayal of the faith of his ancestors”. At least my friend jokingly saw something common in my situation and Mr. Obama. I joked back, “I don’t know about the presidency, but the bestseller status has done wonders for Obama’s bank balance”.
He loves “American Pragmatism” because everyone has short, medium and long term goals and every thing is fair in achieving these goals. Pakistanis and Americans are religious and stubborn people and will do everything to defend their Faith and National (Kashmir and Iraq respectively) interest. Common man on the streets (of Pak and USA) is naïve and gullible. The middle class (Black, White liberals and Asians) university professors (Obama supporters) are isolated from White Evangelical working class and farmers. The Church (GOP) and the Mosque (JI) are the stepping stones to Politics and Power. What do you think of Rev. Jesse Jackson? Jackson who, Michael? Oh, he has converted to Islam, atoned for his sins and now lives in Bahrain, I was quiet.
Mohammed Ali Jinnah, the Founder of Pakistan gave the motto of Unity, Faith and Discipline and according to my mate, the Jewish Nation from Tel Aviv to AIPAC Washington and from Golders Green North London to the diamond traders of Antwerp is the best example of solidarity. Why in his view, is the Jewish Nation so successful? His idea was simple, because they own all the banks and monetary system and adhere to their tribal loyalties.
We need to keep “Pakistan First” when we are abroad. Pakistan is Islamic nuclear nation (like Israel is a state of the Jews, by the Jews and for the Jews) and we need to keep Pakistani expatriates together and not splinter into useless political parties. We are not right or left wing when we come outside Pakistan, we should only be Pakistani. I thought, who says that Pervez Musharraf‘s neo-liberal agenda, “In the Line of Fire”, has no friends in Pakistan.
Why is the west so successful? Simple he said, they live for Today and current time. We cannot separate our Religion from our Politics. Islam is a complete way of life and the Americans are “reverting” back to the only Natural religion, the Islam, in hundreds of thousands. Pakistani Muslims in USA are educated, professional middle class unlike the uneducated Mirpuri (Pakistani Kashmiri) immigrants to UK who can only drive taxis or run takeaways. You see! He said without any bitterness, the question is of loyalty. We east Punjab Muslims (JI was founded in Pathankot India in 1946) have always been loyal to Moughals, Sikhs, English, India and Pakistan. American Muslims are loyal to the stars and stripes and the American constitution. You Kashmiris (referring to my mother’s side of my family) have never trusted anyone; your loyalty is always in doubt whether Indians, Pakistan or United Kingdom. I thought of Lord Norman Tebbit.
The Muslim cultural centres of Islamic Mission (NGO linked with JI) are peacefully colonizing the vast areas of North America. Pakistani Association of Islamic M.Ds in America (PAIMDA is an affiliate of JI) is donating millions (earned from billing Medical Insurance Inc.) to build mosques for American salvation. Ah ah, where have I heard this one before? Yes this utopian vision was earlier on the “Peace TV” by Saudi inspired televangelist Dr Zakir Naik.I was amazed to find that his views on “American sex idol” were slowly becoming liberal, though not in Pakistani context, sorry but we are Muslims our sex is strictly after marriage.
I asked him, why was Pakistani politics in such a mess? Despite (because of) the fact that JI founder always worked with dictators and nearly all of the current 40-70 age range politicians, journalists, ambassadors and army generals were trained in student politics and through the Islamic study circles run by JI. His answer was simple,” Hussain Haqqani (the Ambassador),Javed Hashmi(rightwing Politician),Irshad Haqqani(Journalist) and Dr. Israr Ahmed(Televangelist and Theologian)were all traitors and turn coats and JI is still the Gold-standard on religious and moral indoctrination in the youth and student activists for Pakistani brand of Pan-Islamism”.
I came to the last issue still troubling me, why America? Why work with the “Great Satan”? I conveniently forgot that JI and America have worked together before and have shared guns and dollars in 1970s, 1980s Cold War and Afghan Jihad.
His Personal pragmatism (like Imran Khan’s) baffled me. He wants to stay in America long enough to claim his American passport, until his kids finish primary school and his family perfects their American accents. After that he can walk on the streets of Saudi Arabia and Pakistan with pride (American Citizen) and 10 times Salary.
Apparently the American society is decadent and ridden with sex and crime. USA is no proper place to raise kids (especially young Muslim girls) in Islamic moral and cultural values. Pakistan is the best place to give a right balance of eastern and western values to the young impressionable kids. He wants to earn as much as possible in the land of free opportunity before he turns 45 and then return to Pakistan to open an Islamic college for poor students .I joked, you mean like the “The Reluctant Fundamentalist”.
He hugged me and said, See You later brother! In my heart, I know probably not in a million years. I have also heard the rumour circulating in Pakistani circles that after the famous speech , President Obama is reopening American Green Card visa lottery and university scholarships for suitable liberal (minus beards and long fashionable Arabic kaftans) Pakistanis in 2010 as part of aid package.Land of oppotunity and plenty, The Great and Glorious America we are coming( reminds me of a poster in 1990s in his hostel room with Holy Quran in one hand and Gun in the other).
Only Allah knows Best.