Our Inner Demons

By Adnan Syed

It has been 30 years since Pakistan took the fateful steps of sponsoring the Jihad on a state level. The fight against the Russian aggression in Afghanistan was probably justified. It was a blatant attack on a sovereign nation by a teetering super power. However when Pakistan went on to label the fight as a state sponsored Jihad, flock of die hard Islamists started congregating in Pakistan to fight the godless communists. This was precisely the turning point in Pakistani history when all the internal confusion of Pakistan’s relationship with Islam translated into a thoughtless action by the state that still haunts us to this day.

We can blame General Zia-ul-Haq or Jamaat-e-Islami, or our dreaded indescribable “establishment” for pointing out the path of state sponsored armed Jihad. General Zia and his protégés have already begun feeling the stiff verdict that history has begun recording in its annals. Yet, the conflict was the physical manifestation of Pakistan’s unresolved relationship with Islam. This confusion was fully exploited by Al-Qaeda, Afghan-Jihad oriented splinter groups, and their affiliates in Pakistan. As an internally bankrupt USSR retreated from Afghanistan, the Jihad slowly turned towards the West, the infidels and the vague alliance of Yahood-o-Hunood (Jews and the Hindus).

As West fought back, and Pakistan realized its massive miscalculations, Pakistan quickly chose its official side. Pakistan turned against the very Frankenstein that it nurtured. Maybe officially Pakistan had no choice. Its northern province and the western neighbour were becoming failed states, ruled by the Jihadis who were training thousands of graduates to go out and wreak havoc across the globe. The destabilization of Pakistani society was also underway as the country started showing wear and tear across the religious fault lines.

The retreat from its state sponsored religious conflict strategy began post September 2001. Yet old habits seldom die quickly. Pakistan was unable to shake off the humiliation and despondency of reversing everything that it worked over the past decade in the name of strategic depth, and a pliant western neighbour. It was not a linear reversal; pockets of Pakistani establishment and its feared intelligence agencies kept in touch with its strategic assets. It was not until the year 2007, when Pakistan went on to firmly tackle the Jihadis that had formed their Islamic Emirate in the lawless tribal regions. 6 years is probably not a long time in a country’s history; but these fateful years ensured that the Jihadis could regroup, rearm and attack the western military machine that had arrived there to dismantle the Jihadi infrastructure.

It remains painfully clear that Pakistan’s role was reactive throughout the last 10 years. Not until its follies were called out and hung in public that Pakistan retreated one by one from the mistaken adventures that it had perpetrated in the name of strategic depth strategy and state sponsored Jihad. Up to the year 2006, President Musharraf kept publicly differentiating between good and bad Taliban. It was not until the overtaking of the Red Mosque that the state finally realized that the goal of Jihadis was not to just fight the infidels. It was the fight between the righteous and the others. And unless Pakistan supported the righteous ones, it was just one of the others.

But can we honestly just blame our government and our short sighted leaders for our mistakes? Up to 2006, more than 60% of us thought Taliban were the good guys. In 2002, Osama Bin Laden was a hero for most of us for standing against the US. The military excursions into the Jihadi lairs were routinely condemned by the mainstream media in the years leading up to 2007. It was only when Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto was assassinated, Swat was overrun and Jihadis started coming down to the plains that Pakistan finally woke up to the nightmare that was brewing in its backyard for at least last 20 years.

It was our failure that led us to become the most dangerous and (probably) one of the most hated nations on earth. But are we really that bad? Are we the evil ones that the world loves to hate? Why is our land infested with Jihadis who plan attacks on Mumbai, Zahedan, Europe or the United States?

We have conjured enough of various boogeymen in our collective psyche to conveniently ignore our own mistakes. When terrorists bring carnage to Mumbai, we blame the Hindus. When suicide pilots slam their planes into the towers, we blame the Jews for that. When Tehrik-eTaliban threatens to bring destruction to our homes, we call them RAW agents.

We have been at it for so many years. We have seen these stories appearing on PTH where our nation’s confused psyche is laid bare. Where an average man on the street sees Islam in danger, and gleefully exhibits his paranoia about India and Israel. Where every single failure of our nation is attributed to “them”. There is no shortage of conspiracy theorists around the globe. Yet why does our nation embrace it so wilfully? Where is an average man’s due diligence when it comes to the daily carnage that was brought to our streets for the last 15 years by the very own co-religionists.

At PTH, we have never shied away from showing our contempt for the blatant mixing of religion and state that many of our weak-kneed rulers perpetrated to prolong their rule, or to cater to their own insecurities. We have talked again and again about the founding father who unequivocally said that no religious theocracy will be allowed in Pakistan. We can blame Jinnah for not forcefully making it clear to his colleagues that ambiguity between a religion and a state is a recipe for disaster down the road. But we hear him clearly in his first address to the constituent assembly, his interviews, his actions and his deeds. He remains our guiding light, a man beyond his era who embraced the equality of man and stood for a state that would ensure this very equality.

Yet within six months of his passing, the Prime Minister was yielding to the right wing religionists on the streets who now wanted to make Pakistan an Islamic state. The same ones who called Jinnah’s Pakistan a devil’s creation or NaPakistan now wanted to overturn the Muslim nationalism cause into an Islamic theocracy.

This is the confusion that has stayed in our psyche for the past 60 years. It was laid bare in the Justice Munir-Kiyani report as religious right talked of the vague concept of an Islamic state, Khilafat and how it would run against the very principle of equal man, regardless of his colour, faith or caste. In the coming week, we will run a series on PTH summarizing the interviews Justice Munir and Kiyani conducted with the religious leaders of the 1950s Pakistan. Many of their protégés still dream of Pakistan to run along the undefined idea of an Islamic state.

We will see that the armed Jihad was an integral part of those plans for an Islamic Pakistan. It was a chilling glimpse into the future as one after another religious leader talked about establishing Pakistan as the land of the faithful that will wage war against the land of the kufr, until the kufr is subdued. Not surprisingly, as soon as the meek dictator of the 1980s propped up Pakistan as a pseudo Islamic state, Pakistan started becoming a hub of every resident Iihadi from all across the globe.

It was no coincidence that Aymen-al-Zawahri invoked the Nazaria-Pakistan six times in his address to the Pakistanis in 2008. For a religious extremist and a mass murderer to blackmail Pakistanis in the name of Islam is not a reflection on Zawahiri’s guile; it is a reflection of a society that is torn from within as it doesn’t know how much valid the Nazaria Pakistan is.

Pakistan has now embarked on a tedious and often painful process of unloading the massive religious baggage that almost destroyed the nation from within. For a country to pass through so much pain and destruction, we have shown a strange trait of bouncing back, reject the obscurantism, implement democracy and allow our society to begin talking more freely about its inherent contradictions.

This process will eventually require that we just don’t embark on shallow introspection. There is no question too great or too sacred to ask. Are we going to keep the thousand pound religious gorilla wandering in our collective psyche, or we discuss it openly and deal with it firmly once and for all. We probably need to begin thinking about letting go of all pretences that the remnant of these Jihadis can any way be amenable to Pakistan developing into a progressive, secular and plural state.

We are probably closer to the end of the armed Jihad that we nurtured two decades back only to attack us with vengeance later. The Jihadi remnants are now assembled in the North Waziristan, and based on the report from the New York Times below; Pakistan is preparing to go after them in their final lair. Yet thousands of our military men and civilians died fighting these zealots for what? The final resolution of this struggle is not based on a military victory. It will be decided when we tackle our internal demons head on, refuse to get blackmailed in the coming decades in the name of Islam, and realize that unless we completely separate the mosque and the state, and establish the complete rule of law mandated by the power of individual vote, the fight will come back to us, in one shape or form.

This struggle in the coming years will decide how Pakistan will be viewed fifty years from now. Nations pass through critical times that either destroy them or bring out their true mettle. And our nation will only decide for itself now where it would stand in the future.

Notes:

1) The New York Times story about Pakistan pondering upon attack on North Waziristan was published today on PTH at the following link. https://pakteahouse.wordpress.com/2010/04/30/pakistan-weighs-attack-on-militant-lair/

2) The series summarizing the religious leaders interviews with Justice Munir and Kiyani would be published on PTH in the coming week.

41 Comments

Filed under Afghanistan, Al Qaeda, Army, Benazir Bhutto, Constitution, Democracy, FATA, Islamabad, Jinnah, Jinnah's Pakistan, Justice, Liberal Democratic Pakistan, Pakistan, psychology, Religion, secular Pakistan, state, strategy, Taliban, Terrorism

41 responses to “Our Inner Demons

  1. ned

    “The final resolution of this struggle is not based on a military victory. It will be decided when we tackle our internal demons head on, refuse to get blackmailed in the coming decades in the name of Islam, and realize that unless we completely separate the mosque and the state, and establish the complete rule of law mandated by the power of individual vote, the fight will come back to us, in one shape or form.”

    Well-said. This is, at heart, a culture war.

    I don’t comment here very often, but I just want to say that I commend Pak Tea House for having the courage to stand for the kind of moral integrity exhibited in this article. Thank you for your efforts.

  2. Bciv

    “It was no coincidence that Aymen-al-Zawahri invoked the Nazaria-Pakistan six times in his address to the Pakistanis in 2008. For a religious extremist and a mass murderer to blackmail Pakistanis in the name of Islam is not a reflection on Zawahiri’s guile; it is a reflection of a society that is torn from within as it doesn’t know itself how valid the Nazaria Pakistan itself is.”

    great example of how we have left ourselves so vulnerable and prone to manipulation by the worst of the worst due to our own illusions about a top-down, manufactured, farce of an identity. this example puts it in black and white. is there any excuse left not to engage in some ‘deep introspection’ even now?

  3. Straight-Talk

    Very in depth analysis of the current problems, Pakistan is going through. At least there are people who has courage of calling a spade a spade and this makes us more hopeful of Pakistan coming out of this mess more strongly.

    In India there are plenty of problems, which we are often trying to swap under the carpet, take the example of Naxalism, nobody want to look into the root cause of the problem and think why the tribal and poor people (Men, Women and Children) of regions have been wielding the arms against the state? Why the rights of jungle have been taken away from tribal and why the land of poor farmers are devoured by big fish?

    In Hariyana the Khap Panchayats acting as parallel courts, undermining the law of land. Why in Mumbai, a part of India, the people of other states are being beaten back and hated so much so that they feel alien in their own mother land, again going against the very basic right to earn lively hood in any part of India given by constitution.

    These are the some most pressing questions, we have to deal with directly, but our government is following an ambiguous policy. Dealing some with force (which shouldn’t have been required if dealt with clear understanding) and in other places just shying away from its responsibility (where real force is required).

  4. Mustafa Shaban

    I think we dont look at the root of our problems. Religion or no religion, whether its TTP , Naxalites or other militias, any form of ideological or religious extremism takes form in the absence of good governance, lack of education, and poverty. The massive curroption of wealthy elites in different countries creates these conditions which make people prone to violent tendencies. So its not exactly about religion as much as it is about bringing good governance and actually offering people a good life and something to live for. Otherwise why in the world would a teenager want to commit suicide bombing or embrace something like Islamic extremism? Or why are they so easily brainwashed? The answer lies in reforming our political, social and economic structure to stop the extremists and to better the lives of the people. We should look at the root problem rather than the symptom. Islamic extremism and naxalites are symptoms not the root problems. Ofcourse it would be wrong to shift the blame to outside forces, we obviously have a fault and only we can fix it from within but let us not at the same time be naive and think that outside forces wouldnt have a role in backing these groups. It may or may not be the case but its definitely a possibility.

  5. Bin Ismail

    @ Mustafa Shaban

    The factor of good governance, most certainly cannot be underrated. In the case of Pakistan, the factor of religious intolerance has not only preceded bad governance – or no governance – it has also coincided with it. Indeed, the debate as to which of the two is the cart and which is the horse could go on forever, but evidently, the horse and cart do coincide perfectly. A symbiotic relationship appears to exist between the emergence of mullaism and the disappearance of good governance.

  6. Mustafa Shaban

    @Bin Ismail: You may be right but in order to destroy both are atleast progress towards removing both you must atleast eradicate one of these 2 problems. Mullahism is harder to solve, good governance however can be strengthened with a strong civil society, political activism , strong media and judiciary. Once we solve this problem the other problem will automatically reduce in magnitude and then we can remove this cancer easily. So lets take the first step and lets improve the governance. All the major parties, PMLN , PPP, MQM , ANP have shown thier performance in thier respective terms and provinces, and they are curropt and dissapointing hence now new candidates and other groups need to be given a chance to prove that they are capable of running the country.

  7. Bin Ismail

    @ Mustafa Shaban

    I see your point. It may be worthwhile, however, to appreciate the fact that good governance entails both separating religion from statecraft as well as permanently keeping the clergy at bay. Without ensuring these two, good governance itself, even if achieved, would remain a hostage to vulnerability.

  8. Relationship between poverty and supporting militancy is ambivalent (as demonstrated by Christine Fair and Shapiro in their Belfer center paper at Harvard). Most of these askari tanzeems were funded by donations made by middle-class households across Pakistan. Qurbaani kee khaalein for Kashmir Jihad etc. The 9/11 bombers and the London attacks were perpetrated by educated middle-class individuals.

    The only way to counter ideological hegemony is to posit a counter-hegemony. War of position and war of maneuver must go hand in hand. The problem is a lot more complicated because when we suggest good governance as a solution, we’re trying to counter the spiritual with something that is inherently material. As if to say that if everyone has a good standard of living, nobody will want to pick up a gun in the name of religion. Frankly, i don’t buy such a simplistic argument. I think we all need to reconcile with the fact that to counter the ideology of ‘Mullahism’ we would need to appropriate religion ourselves. present a different version of Islam, which condemns all forms of militancy regardless of whether its in Kashmir or in Afghanistan or within our own borders. The problem has been that we’ve been historically selective with our interpretation of Jihad whereby the Jihad in Kashmir is legitimate but a Jihad in our own country is illegal because it challenges the writ of the state.

    Finally, the emergence of Mullahism is not a function of bad governance. Its a function of an alternate governance. Mullahism represents the best example of both materialism and spirituality in one domain. The Mullahs present a structure of governance themselves complete with laws, civil codes, morality, ethics, institutional arrangements etc.

  9. AZW

    Umair:

    Generally agree with your drift here, but I would like to point out the following:

    1) I would venture that the portion of Muslim population living in the west that believes in violent Jihad is less than the Muslim population living in say Pakistan, Yemen or Saudi Arabia. Further, the pockets of Jihadi movements in Pakistan thrive not in affluent neighbourhoods, but in poverty stricken parts of the country. Southern Punjab, Northern NWFP are good examples. Even in Karachi, the areas that are known as Taliban strong holds are not the middle class neighbourhoods, but poor locales around the city.

    There have been various anecdotal stories in NY Times that have been reproduced here at PTH where it was observed that most young suicide bombers belonged to dirt poor families, or having broken homes. For them, life offered little, while martyrdom seemed a superior option through and through.

    One cannot deny that British bombers were educated Muslims, so were the 9/11 pilots or the Canadian wannabe bombers (who have mostly been convicted). Yet as a percentage of population, they seem to belong to a minority. The anecdotal relationship between poverty (on a relative basis) and the alternative of religious Jihad seems quite strong.

    2) The idea of violent Jihad has always been with us and seems to thrive in unstable societies where economic upheavels are the norm. The invasion of Mongols in Baghdad was a followup to breakdown in the governance there and it resulted in the Muslim community in the Middle East taking a turn towards fatalist school of thought and extinguishing the vestiges of free thinking forward looking segment for the next 800 years. The collapse of Mughal empire resulted in Shah Wali Ullah and others coming up with their call for reversion to true Islam.

    At the end, it is my view that state has to be seperated from the mosque. But that requires society to sit back and freely analyze its options, without any regard for the society’s failings around it. I would be the first one to admit that the seperation of mosque and state looks nice on paper, but would take decades or maybe centuries to happen. Either way this is probably putting the cart before the horse. The logical sequence would have to be democracy, rule of law, society stabilization, education and guarantee of basic rights of education, property rights and health care. Once the society is open enough to debate its options, it will evolve into (hopefully) something more progressive for all of its members.

    I don’t think that mosque and state seperation can happen overnight therefore your idea of freeing religion from extremists by making religion more mainstream is probably the only option.

  10. Farukh Sarwar

    What we can do now is to formulate a strategy to counter these Jihadi elements within our country; we are confident that our army is capable enough to do so, but another important thing is the rehabilitation of those who are captured, so that they become a more useful asset for the country.

  11. Vajra

    @Bin Ismail

    At the cost of seeming pernickety and cantankerous, I don’t see Mustafa Shaban’s point.

    His entire structure and his social and political architecture have been based on the availability and rule of ‘good’ men, and, presumably, women. He is perfectly right in arguing that political and religious extremism is born out of social inequity, and glaring differences in the condition of the ruling classes and the vast masses of those ruled. But this state of affairs can’t be set right by some kind of moral rearmament movement among ruling classes. This is not going to happen, not unless we can figure out how to turn human nature inside out.

    Shaban would be much better off if he contemplates a social and political system which acknowledges that human beings are weak and infirm creatures, not just physically but in the matter of ethics and morality as well.

    It is only this, this realisation that there will always be a ruling class, that will bring in a touch of reality to structural and procedural schemes for governing a polity, any polity. It also needs to dawn on us that this ruling class can have its weight and influence minimised and democratised only by long years of steady effort by the citizenry as well as by democratically minded leaders of the citizenry. There is little or no possibility of angels from heaven descending upon us and taking over the reins of government.

    This was the context in which Hayyer, in a private mail, made a powerful and moving argument for democracy, which is worth reproducing in full. However, that should happen at his initiative; all that can be said here is that democracy works even in adverse moral conditions, and that its levelling effect is a powerful antidote to the venality and corruption of elected and appointed representatives of the people alike.

    It is for the most difficult and adverse conditions that systems have to be built, unfortunately, not for ideal conditions. They have to be designed to work in spite of the Mr. Ten Percents who exist in every country. Until now, the only political system that performs, however badly, in such difficult conditions is democracy. My advice to your interlocutor: give it a try, without putting in conditions and hedging statements. There isn’t an alternative, as it happens.🙂

  12. Bin Ismail

    @ Vajra

    Neither do you seem pernickety nor cantankerous. The “point” I saw in his comment was not with reference to the availability of good men, but to the unavailability of good governance. It was also in relation to abandoning despondency and being prepared to at least start doing something. However, I do believe he is placing the cart before the horse. I also have a feeling that he’s underestimating the potentials of mullaism.

  13. AZW

    Vajra:

    His entire structure and his social and political architecture have been based on the availability and rule of ‘good’ men, and, presumably, women

    I don’t know if you were cantankerous there or not. But that sentence, especially the last part was hilarious.

    As far as MS goes, who is who of his heroes (Imran Khan, Zaid Hamid) shows a naïve idealistic streak that quickly yields to empty rhetoric that fuses religiosity with caricatures of evil non Muslim entities. Not much has changed in his perspective for the past one year and surely that will count as a resounding failure on all of our part who have tried to reason with him on and off on this forum.

  14. Vajra

    @Bin Ismail

    I hasten to clarify that the ‘point’ you saw seems equally valid to me: good governance is an issue, and certainly at some point of time, we need to stop contemplating our navels and take action. Not for nothing did the Greeks define those citizens disengaged from politics as ‘idiots’.

    He does seem to have got this right, but judging by his previous posts, and his incurable icon-worship, it is almost impossible to cure him.

    @AZW

    Alas, these posts are written from Kolkata, not Bengaluru, hence the peevish, acid tones of the abandoned middle-aged.

    It is sad that the youngster doesn’t change; he does seem to have a core of sanity and balance, and that is what led many of us to hope for him.

    But there are others who more than make up for this.

  15. Bciv

    @MS

    I hope you’ll see this as your chance to explain the ‘checks and balances’ within the system you have proposed off and on but never answered any questions that were raised about it. perhaps you can take this opportunity to show how it does not rely on arbitrary power. how it is not based on subjectivity that is only capable of being differentiated in terms of the actual power to do physical violence that it enjoys, regardless of what rhetoric or other disguise or discourse is employed. i expect that you will describe for us the basics of your model of government that achieves agreement on what is and is not law and whether or not it considers, explicitly or implicitly, any one – any entity – to be above the law thus agreed. i look forward to learning something new from you. i hope you’ll be able to take some time out for this.

  16. PMA

    What makes an extremist – poverty, illiteracy, lack of opportunities, bad governance, religion, politics etc. etc. – the debate can go on forever. We can blame any one or all of the factors we can think of. In Europe it is said to be societal alienation of and discrimination against the Muslim youth. But in North America most Muslims and Pakistanis enjoy a relatively better life and opportunities and most are well adjusted in their new home. None of the traditional factors applied to extremism in poor countries apply in the case of North America. Yet we see Abu Nidal, Zazi and now Faisal Shahzad. May be the ultimate responsibility lies with the individual and not with the social, economic and political factors. May be it the internal demons of the individual and not that of the religion or the society. Any thoughts?

  17. Bin Ismail

    @ PMA

    What makes an extremist? If I don’t appear to be over-simplifying an acceptedly complex question, it’s hatred. Hatred deprives the human mind of rationality, objectivity, justice, honesty, care and love. Hatred renders the human eye blind towards the sanctity of human life and dignity. Hatred renders the human ear deaf towards unwanted truths and inconvenient facts.

    What gives birth to hatred? Arrogance. Arrogance – whether religious, racial or ethnic breeds and nurtures hatred.

    I believe the internal demons alone, without external demons to instigate them, cannot do much. A clergy that preaches hatred and propagates intolerance is one such demon. Political forces that employ religion, race or ethnicity to promote hatred are all external demons.

    In my opinion, the state and society both have to sensitized with reference to these external demons.

  18. PMA

    Bin Ismail (May 4, 2010 at 11:57 pm):

    ‘Extremism comes out of hatred and hatred comes out of arrogance.’

    As you said, it is an “oversimplification of an acceptedly complex question”. Why it is that a number of individuals may attend “A clergy that preaches hatred and propagates intolerance” but only some act upon their hatred. The faceless clergy may be responsible for the evils of the society, but what about the individual responsibility. And what about the political forces that employ neither religion, nor race nor ethnicity yet promote hatred.

  19. Mustafa Shaban

    @Vajra: You suggest that I am being unrealistic when I do not see people as weaklings physically or morally and that I am beng unrealistic if I think its possible to reform the parasatic elite class.

    I completely disagree with you, people are only strong when you have a strong system, when you have a curropt system people become weaker over time. Despite that there are many occurences in history of people being strong, and reforming or changing the elite class. The reform of arab society by Prophet Muhammed SAWW is an example. Another is the reform of Malaysia by Tun Mahathir Muhammed who managed to change things despite the obstacles. Another example is of Nelson Mandela and how he changed South Africa. How Fidel Castro brought change and revolution to Cuba, Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, Imam Khomieni to Iran, Evo Morales to Bolivia and many more examples exist in history and in modern times.

    Point is people are not necessarily weak morally or physically and the elite class is nowhere are powerful as it looks. The elite class is like Wizard of Oz, they look powerful because the masses fail to excersize thier power by mobilizing against them, either out of fear or indifference. The elite class cannot function without the cooperation of the lower classes.

    @AZW, Vajra: I have every right to my point of view, I have never suggested that your point of view is wrong or illogical. I dont need to be ”cured” for anything neither do I need to be changed, I have my own view and its perfectly fine that I stick to my stances.

  20. Bin Ismail

    @ PMA

    Allow me to repeat: “I believe the internal demons alone, without external demons to instigate them, cannot do much.”

    “Both” and I repeat both factors need to be taken into account.

  21. PMA

    Bin Ismail (May 5, 2010 at 5:47 pm):

    I was hoping that you would say that “the external demons alone, without internal demons to act upon ones own impulses, cannot do much.” But that is OK. I know where you are coming from.

  22. Mustafa Shaban

    In order to defeat extreme mullah ideology, all you have to do is propogate a alternative islamic ideology, one that is more logical, makes more sense, and is in line with the Quran and Sunnah, most people alwayz go for whats better. In a way this is also a war of ideas and hence in order to weaken the extremist ideology you would need to present a more superior ideology and attract people towards that.

  23. Bin Ismail

    @ PMA (May 5, 2010 at 6:16 pm)

    Well said. In either case, both demons, internal and external, are complementary.

  24. Bin Ismail

    @ Mustafa Shaban (May 5, 2010 at 6:18 pm)

    You propose an “…alternative islamic ideology, one that is more logical, makes more sense, and is in line with the Quran and Sunnah, most people alwayz go for whats better.”

    A Sunni will contend that the Islamic ideology, as understood by him is more logical, makes more sense, and is line with the Quran and Sunnah. The Shia will claim the same. The stand of the Ahle Hadees and Ahle Quran will be no different.

    At the level of personal faith, each will cling on to and argue in favour of his own version of Islam. In a pluralistic society this diversity is natural. The problem starts when you allow this “ideology” that is susceptible to so many interpretations, into politics, and worse into statecraft.

  25. Vajra

    @Mustafa Shaban

    Your name came up only because people had hoped that a core of integrity and honesty that had showed itself would prevail over the incorrect outer shell in time.

    Unfortunately, this is not going to happen. The evidence is clear and unmistakable.

    You mentioned certain countries where ‘reforms’ took place, apparently, since you have set out to refute the argument that a political or a social system needs to be for the lesser, not the greater human being, these ‘reforms’ were for the putting in place the greater human being.

    Look where each of these is now: Arabia, South Africa, Malaysia, Cuba, Venezuela, Iran and Bolivia. Are these the examples of just societies that you hold up and hope that all will join you to create a similar?

    The choice of countries is as erratic as the arguments that justify their excellence. The first two cases at least were noble initiatives and led by princes among men. As for some of the others, is it that you wish to see posturing mountebanks at the helm of affairs? Be careful what you wish for, lest it become reality.

    As in large matters, so in small. For nearly a year now that you have been participating, you have not managed to correct a minor spelling mistake, and continue to inflict ‘curroption’ on us.

    What hope is there for someone to correct his serious mistakes when he cannot correct his minor ones, when it is clear that he can neither recognise his mistakes nor correct them?

  26. Mustafa Shaban

    @Bin Ismail: I understand the divisions within Islam, each sect needs to propogate its true ideology and principles. Sect is not really an issue, every sect can adress its members. Some issues are sectarian but most islamic issues are general and are same or similar among sects, propogating a very general yet progressive concept of Islam is not difficult or complicated and can be achieved if we pool our resources together and adress the masses.

    @Vajra: Not sure what you mean , I believe that the system must serve the weak , poor and needy first and bring them up . But I do not believe people to be weak morally or pschycologically.

    Let me expand on my examples:

    Arabia: The Prophet Muhammed SAWW brought a system of justice, economic prosperity and humanity. Unfortunately due to a number of internal problems and corruption it lost its way and forgot its teachings. Over time it turned into the abysmal mess it is today. So I am not in favor of what Arabia is today as the behaviour of these governments is actually very anti Islamic, what I am propogating is completely different.

    South Africa: Its definitely not perfect, and in fact has become worse in recent times, but what I was pointing out is the end of Apartheid which is the result of Mandelas efforts. The point I was making is that people can change things that seem impossible to change. However we need to keep perfecting ourselves and improving on that change.

    Malaysia: Before Tun Mahathir Mohammed came Malaysia had a lot of corruption and the average incomes were very low. He brought great economic progress to Malaysia and improved living standards twenty fold. There are problems in Malaysia but overall doing much better than before.

    Cuba: Fidel Castro overthrew the repressive US backed dictator Baptista. Fidel Castro brought huge reforms , the literacy rate in Cuba is very high , much higher than US with high quality education. Cubas health care system is one of the best in the world with equipment and quality comparable to that of UK and US yet at almost zero prices. Cuba sends doctors around the world wherever natural disasters take place unlike the US which only sends it soldiers. Over 80% approve of Fidel Castro. The Western MSM like Fox, NYT , CNN, BBC, Washington Post, NED, RWB, and other western institutiions have blasted Cuba for all kinds of violations of rights and problems, most of which are not true, the western media only acts as a forieng policy arm of the western world. Cuba definitely has issues here and there but overall it is doing good, a lot of economical problems in Cuba are due to sanctions.

    Venezuela: When Hugo Chavez came to power, he challenged the domination of the US backed rich elite and thier oppression of the people, he is much more democratic that any US president and Venezuela has one of the most credible elections, Chavez dusnt ban the TV stations and Radio stations that openly attack him. In the US you cannot do that in the way they do to Chavez in Venezuela. Again the western organizations that I mentioned above regarding Cuba in general also attack Venezuela , while almost none of it is true. Chavez also has an approval rating a little over 80%. That definitely says something, not to mention that when making changes to legislation, the important ones, he asks the people via referundum. Doesnt happen this way that much in US by the way.

    Iran: I disagree with the over conservative fundamentalist tilt of the Iranian regime regarding domestic policy but what I wanted to highlight is how one man conquered the ruling elite and the Shah and his secret police. I wanted to demonstrate that things can change and that people, especially the poor masses can mobilize and be strong together and bring change.

    Bolivia: Evo Morales did an amazing job coming into power, and like Chavez he challenged the elite class who not surprisingly are also backed by the US. The experience of Bolivia is similar but not as radical as to that of Cuba or Venezuela.

    The Latin American countries I mentioned are usually demonized in the media and by different so called ”NGO’s”. But the reality is very different.

    Different researchers and academics have confirmed this such as James Petras, Michel Chussodovsky, Eva Golinger, Fredric Feuntes , Stephen Lendman and many more proffesional people. Micheal Moore also confirmed the facts regarding Cuba in his film Sicko.

    What I wish for is for people to bring change and challenge the parasitic elites and become free of thier domination and determine thier own destiny. That is what I wish for indeed.

    As far as improving is concerned, thnx for pointing out my spelling mistake, like that really puts into question my honesty and integrity, and as far as large matters are concerned I have alwayz been open to your ideas and the only thing I have done is disagreed and propogated my view, your rejection and the rejection of other PTH members in that way shows that there is little tolerance for different points of view.

    Having a different view is not wrong neither is it a mistake to look at things differently, I just dont take what I am told over the TV or in the education system without question, I am a critical thinker. So certainly being different is not a mistake. I am alwayz willing to correct my mistakes.

    As far as yours and others reponses are concerned over the past year, the only thing I see is liberal arrogance and chauvanism and not true liberalism. Liberal people always appreciate and accept diversity not condemn it.

  27. Vajra

    @Mustafa Shaban

    Let us look at the country examples you have cited, first. What was your original point?

    Despite that there are many occurences in history of people being strong, and reforming or changing the elite class. The reform of arab society by Prophet Muhammed SAWW is an example. Another is the reform of Malaysia by Tun Mahathir Muhammed who managed to change things despite the obstacles. Another example is of Nelson Mandela and how he changed South Africa. How Fidel Castro brought change and revolution to Cuba, Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, Imam Khomieni to Iran, Evo Morales to Bolivia and many more examples exist in history and in modern times.

    It was about the ability of individuals, necessarily backed by a movement, usually led by them, to overthrow an unjust society or social order and replace these with ‘good’ ones. In the present instance, what we mean is that the social order which came to be as a result of these revolutions or reforms was far more just and fair than those they replaced. The key part being not the good, the hopeful aspect of the successor society, but the fact that individuals of a noble or elevated aspect brought it about.

    I think that you will agree that this is a reasonable interpretation of your point of view.

    However, there is some confusion in your analysis, because while in one passage, you attribute these sweeping social changes to the imperious leadership of a small elite body of reformers, in this case, indeed, single individuals, in another passage, you seem to imply that groups or alliances of individuals are those responsible for these changes.

    This is quite a different matter. See, for instance, your argument below:

    What I wish for is for people to bring change and challenge the parasitic elites and become free of thier domination and determine thier own destiny. That is what I wish for indeed.

    Not noble individuals, catalysts for change, but people.

    There is a reason why this discrepancy is important.

    Your original interpretation was correct. With the exception of Arabia, almost all the social re-ordering that you cited was the result of the efforts of individuals, certainly individuals backed by mass movements, but individuals far more responsible for the turn of events than groups had been.

    Please understand what was argued against your examples, and against the underlying thinking.

    It was not that there was not a dramatic improvement in the situation, at the time when the social transformation was fresh and new.

    Of course there was. It would be a perversion of history to claim otherwise.

    However, because these were dependent on individual effort, largely, rather than a coherent organisation, even considering the Communist Party in the case of Cuba, or the ANC, in the case of South Africa, these efforts failed. They were, and remained isolated examples which failed to perpetuate themselves.

    Do you see the validity of the counter-argument? In fact, let us start one step further down: do you see the counter-argument itself? For the sake of remaining connected, let us re-visit this: the counter-argument was that these brilliant coups by individuals could not sustain themselves.

    From that, the conclusion was drawn: it is not from the efforts of brilliant individuals, or of an elite, that societies get their momentum or sustainability. It is from the thousands of small, very small actions, taken by thousands, even millions of people, over thousands of days that societies gain strength and grow in sustainable ways. This may not have the high voltage and the dramatic content of posturing and self-seeking individuals, like, for instance, Chavez, but it is lasting change, and change in a direction, not random change.

    If you look at the history of your own country, it was set up by the heroic and almost super-human activities of a small group; some say, with a lot of justification, of one individual. It needed the efforts of all to become visibly sustainable and sound. Instead, what it got was rule by an elite, and that is simply not enough to meet the objective of achieving a social order that is fair and just. No system of politics or ordering of society dependent upon an elite can survive.

    The argument against your views was that a miraculous cleansing and re-awakening of a ruling elite is in the highest degree unlikely to make a difference. Instead, using democracy is the best way to manage a political system or a social system. Again and again and again, you have argued with fiery eloquence for the emergence of a leadership of the elect (not the elected – as you know, the two are hugely different). It is this argument which is flawed, and which you need to review with a stern and strict gaze. No Zaid Hamids will bring about change. It is you and people like you, voting at a civic, provincial, and national level, running for election at these levels, doing your best to run affairs at these levels, with whatever errors or shortcomings that you carry with you, that will create a real, sustainable just society. Nobody will step out of a pumpkin-coach, or ride up on a white stallion and rescue you; you have to do it with your own lily-pinks.

    I hope that you understand that a support for elites, for heroic individuals, is the foundation for dictatorship and for an authoritarian order. You have the live example in front of you.

    There is another matter which needs to be addressed.

    As far as improving is concerned, thnx for pointing out my spelling mistake, like that really puts into question my honesty and integrity, and as far as large matters are concerned I have alwayz been open to your ideas and the only thing I have done is disagreed and propogated my view, your rejection and the rejection of other PTH members in that way shows that there is little tolerance for different points of view.

    No, not at all. It was never your honesty and integrity in question. Indeed, it was precisely your honesty and integrity that gave many others hope that you would get over your hero worship, and your veneration for ‘The Man on the Horse’.

    The remarks about your spelling mistake (not mistakes; if intended in a spirit other than I am about to elaborate, there would have been many more examples) were intended to sting and to get your attention sharply. It was intended to remind you that stagnation, a failure to correct or re-orient oneself, is an evil thing in itself, and that a failure to correct or re-orient oneself in small things is a symptom of a failure to correct oneself in larger things. That was the beginning and the end of the remark – it was, if you like, a wake-up call, only it was delivered with far greater emphasis and sting than a call, in order to draw your attention to it.

    It is not openness to others’ ideas that is desirable; there is no merit in your agreeing with me – or anybody else – for the sake of agreeing with me or anybody else, and of course, you are right in disagreeing if you have a different point of view.

    But is it unfair to ask you to pay attention to some aspects or some defects in your own arguments that have been pointed out?

    Before you turn this around and accuse me of being blind to alternatives or to other points of view, let me admit freely that your view that a corrupt elite or socially eminent layer is a drag on society is unexceptionable. It is just that the converse is not necessarily true: a wholesome, ethically- and morally-sensitive elite is not necessarily a guarantor of a good society. In fact, the existence of a powerful elite is inimical to the common people; these elites tend to monopolise power and the perquisites of power, and do common people out of their rights. That is what happened in the countries you mentioned. In contrast, in another country which managed by great good fortune to keep their commitment to democracy, is doing better than your examples; in spite of the desperate deeds of a corrupt elite in that country, the country survives and even, in some small ways, shows signs of doing well.

    Regarding appreciation of diversity, the answer is yes and no. In some matters, diversity and the encouragement of diversity is healthy and to be encouraged. Not in all matters. If the Weimar Government had not encouraged diversity, we would not have had a Nazi Government in that country subsequently. Some thoughts, some sentiments that are harmful, the propagation of the idea, for instance, that a religious elite, the learned in theology, should distort the views and the interests of the masses and promote their own distorted visions, should be severely discouraged.

    Your own thinking, expressed however politely and with passion and ardour befitting a much larger issue, was dangerous, insofar as it was based on a belief in the ultimate reliability and the desirability of an elite, and it is for that reason that it is opposed, and opposed vehemently (not, please note, violently, and with no element of personal spitefulness or rancor).

    It was opposed because in that thinking lies the seeds of fascism, of a totalitarian world-view. It was not opposed because of personal rancor against you.

    If anything, time and again, it was said (by others) that your transparency deserved a patient effort at correcting what were seen as incorrect, even dangerous for yourself and for others, your views, to be specific, favouring a religious-cum-militaristic elite over a duller, dustier, grayer preference for democracy.

  28. Bin Ismail

    @ Mustafa Shaban (May 6, 2010 at 7:47 pm)

    “…..propogating a very general yet progressive concept of Islam is not difficult or complicated and can be achieved if we pool our resources together and adress the masses…..”

    1. The Sunni ulema will tell you that they are the most progressive. The Shias will claim the same. The same applies to the remaining 70 or so sects. Do you seriously expect a certain group to acknowledge that they are not progressive?

    2. If the resources of all religious denominations are pooled together, who will be the treasurer? Who will decide what to spend and where? Who will have the last word?

    3. You may like to test your own nerves by undertaking a study of the fatwas issued by the leading authorities of each sect about the other. If you ever succeed in conducting and completing this excruciating study, I believe you will begin to see the wisdom in segregating Religion and State.

  29. Mustafa Shaban

    I am having a problem with my computer, the formatting of the page is hard to read, the entire page is extremely thin/narrow , and the font size is huge, this only happens on my computer, cant seem to fix it, any ideas?

    @Vajra: You are absolutely rite, change only comes when individuals reform themselves and take personal efforts to improve the situation. I am not saying that some hero or some elite that is good will change anything. I do not beleive one person can bring change. However the posotive efforts of people need some sort of direction and outcome which is electing the right person or the most best and sincere person. People need to unite and should focus mainly on bringing up technocrats and not politicians if you know what I mean. So mass political activism and reform is the answer, which translates itself into good people in government and hence good governance. The examples that I gave are mixed in a way. Some changes come from the masses who act to change things and then one way or another find someone who can lead this change and transformation. Another way things change is when a person or group presents an alternative political, social and economical order that is much better than the one in place. The person or group inspires the masses who may have been very inactive and indifferent a while ago to become more active and implement this change , either through revolutions, elections or other methods. The point is either way, things only get better when the masses get involved. I think there is nothing wrong with both the processes. However I understand your point regarding Islamic fundamentalism and fascism, how to tackle these in open societies is a different challenge and discussion in itself. There are solutions for this as well.

    Regarding the spelling mistake, I fixed it after Iwas made aware of it, the comment ws the first time I was made aware of it, hw can I fix something if I am not aware of it being wrong? And I do thank you for that and I see the bigger point you are trying to make, that one must be open minded and correct oneself. I am not closed to criticizm even when regarding my own points of view.

    As for the superiority of democracy, its not that simple, I agree ofcourse that in many ways some of my examples are not doing well as some democracies. But let me tell you its not democracy as a political system in itself that makes some countries better than other, there are also many other factors also . Which I will point out, however there is one point that is very important to our discussion, the involvement of the populace in politics, which is essential. There is one trend that is disturbing in western countries, actually on a global scale even if the country is doing well. It is the politicization and the indifference of the masses to social, economic and political science or you can say lack of interest in styding ones environment. Because you told me that diversity can be a problem regarding perverted ideologies, the opposite is also true, lack of discussion and debate is also another way perverted ideologies find thier way into nations. For example if I said the US was going towards fascism the average American would probably laugh at me and ridicule me. In the mind of average Joe, rightfully so in some ways the US is the most progressive, liberal democratic society in the world. However the same thing was said about Germany before the advent of Nazism. It was extremely liberal and democratic, homosexuality was not a problem and it was very open. However before the advent of fascism anywhere in history in the world, certain things happen, a certain process or blueprint must be put into place to transform and open society into a closed society and certain trends and similar event must take place, thing is I see this happening in a lot of places and not just the US, my argument sounds crazy , unless ofcourse you see the common trends , legislation and processes taking place. I myself cannot explain but I heard a lecture from a learned scholar. And I will post the link in my next post, in order to understand you will have to for a while go against some of your beliefs and put urself in her shoes, you may not agree with me but you will notice things going in the wrong direction.

    @Bin Ismail:

    1. I am not saying that the Ummah should follow one sect. Even if there are 70 sects the Ummah can still be united, it is up to the scholars and people of each sect to propogate the true progressive version of Islam. With the exception of the maybe 1 or 2 sects all the other sects are very progressive in thier nature and I dont think its impossible to eradicate any perverted ideologies in the followers of each sect. On the other hand most sects have many common beleifs and some differences which can be set aside.

    2. My point above again is that you dont need to centralize Islam, everyone can live together progressively . Like how Christians and Hindus and Jews and Muslims live together peacefully, each practising thier own beleifs, each sect can do that also.

    3. I dont need to go to deeply , because fortunately the problem is not as complex as you believe it is. In fact it is more simple than you believe and achievable. Just need to put some efforts and then its only a matter of time.

  30. Mustafa Shaban

    Sorry a typo , i meant politicization of people and not politicization which is actually a pretty good thing.

    @Bin Ismail: It is the mullahs that make things complicated, make it look complicated and make Islam complicated. I am sure you know what I mean, nothing is complicated.

  31. Mustafa Shaban

    Naomi Wolf, Americas descent into fascism, please view with open mind. She has other lectures as well.

  32. Mustafa Shaban

  33. Mustafa Shaban

    I have posted the link to Naomi Wolfs lecture and please view with open mind, I think its around an hour or 1.5 hour, so its not too big. I think it will take time to moderate my post and for it to come up, when it does you can watch it, you may not agree bt its definitely well researched and pretty interesting.

  34. Vajra

    @Mustafa Shaban

    Your very interesting, very meaty reply made fascinating reading. It will take a while to compose my thoughts and frame a reasonable response to it, which, btw, on the basis of a preliminary read, will probably agree with you in most respects. But bear with me, please, till it is ready.

  35. Bin Ismail

    @ Mustafa Shaban

    Artificially acquired unification, unaccompanied by conviction, is not viable on one hand and promotes hypocrisy on the other. Religion is all about honesty and kindness. In order to promote both interfaith and intersectarian harmony,the following five principles should be adopted:

    1. Religious tolerance and respect.

    2. Interfaith dialogue.

    3. Allowing each denomination free access to the “market of ideas”, where every seeker after truth can pick and choose from – freely.

    4. Secularization of the State, which means to keep Religion and State distinctly separate from each other.

    5. Considering all forms of Religious Persecution as a punishable crimes.

    This, in my opinion, will be the beginning of the beginning.

  36. Bin Ismail

    Erratum:

    5. Considering all forms of Religious Persecution as punishable crimes.

  37. Khullat

    @ Bin Ismail

    Well said indeed. These 5 principles do indeed lay the foundations of interfaith harmony. May God enable our nation to adopt them.

  38. Mustafa Shaban

    @Bin Ismail: Agree more or less with your points, religion should not be politicized.

    However when I am talking about religion in politics, I am not talking about what Bush and Ahmadenijad or the Taliban do. That is politicizing religion which is wrong, which takes place in a theocratic setup. What I am talking about is different. My model is based on Hazrat Ali (A.S) interpretation of administrative legislation , position of judges, treasury structure, basically an organized set of rules and regulations which are scientific in nature and not spiritual if you know what I mean. And the amazing thing is all communist and capitalist countries and democracies, take quite a few things from the Islamic model. What I am talking about is administration of economic resources and legislation. So in a way its not spiritual but more scientific. You can get this mostly from Nahj Ul Balagha (Peak of Eleqounce) written by Imam Ali (A.S). Some things however need to be found elsewhere. I would like to break it down but its very long , and complex, but not hard to understand, and I geuss who can better explain it than the book itself. I am not saying follow it exactly, but to take its principles and translate it into the modern world. Its basically another political , social and economic theory of governance like capitalistic democracies, and communist dictatorships and socialism but I find it most just due to its fairness and equality and its not hard to implement. However please do not cite Afghanistan , SA, as islamic countries, because I dont see anything islamic about them. I think you just need to read the book to understand. Cant put it better myself.

  39. Bin Ismail

    @ Mustafa Shaban (May 10, 2010 at 7:03 pm)

    When you will quote the noble words of Hazrat Ali before an orthodox Sunni audience, the first likely response you will confront is: are these words from a Sunni or a Shia source? Sunni ulema do not generally recognize the authenticity of Nahjul Balagha. They will argue that these words are only attributed to Hazrat Ali, not actually his. Now if this gathering happens to be a private one, your Sunni interlocutor, will expectedly show courtesy and the conversation will presumably fade away into some less controversial mundane theme. However, if this discussion is on a government platform, where decisions are bound to affect statecraft, the concluding moments, would in all likelihood, be not so mellow.

    I wholeheartedly appreciate the genuineness of your desire but sincerely doubt its practicability. Without any disrespect to your suggestion, I believe that the approach that Jinnah took was more pragmatic. The crux of Jinnah’s argument was that the essential elements of Islamic teachings, should be guaranteed by the constitution. Indisputably, these essentials also embody the spirit of all known revealed religions. These essential elements of Islamic teachings, according to Jinnah are:

    1. Equality
    2. Justice
    3. Fairplay

    Jinnah said, ” The constitution of Pakistan has yet to be framed by the Pakistan Constituent Assembly…..Islam and its idealism have taught us democracy. It has taught Equality of men, Justice and Fairplay to everybody…..In any case Pakistan is not going to be a theocratic State – to be ruled by priests with a divine mission. We have many non-Muslims – Hindus, Christians and Parsis – but they are all Pakistanis. They will enjoy the same rights and privileges as any other citizens and will play their rightful part in the affairs of Pakistan.” (Jinnah, February 1948).

  40. Bin Ismail

    @ Mustafa Shaban

    May I assure you that I have read Nahjul Balagha and consider it worthy of reading indeed.

    Regards.