Monday, March 7, 2011

Muslim Scholars Must Fight Hate in Pakistan

The recent assassination of Pakistani federal minister Mr. Shahbaz Bhatti of Catholic faith is a tragic event that has been widely condemned in Pakistan and abroad.



Bhatti's is the second assassination of a prominent politician of the ruling Pakistan Peoples' Party in the relatively muted debate on anti-blasphemy law in Pakistan.

As we mourn these tragedies, it is essential that the ideology of hate that inspired these murders be countered effectively by all Pakistanis, including the government, the leading politicians, the mass media and the civil society at large.

Unfortunately, however, people like late Punjab governor Salman Taseer, late federal minister Shahbaz Bhatti and Ms. Sherry Rehman, a former minister whose life is under threat from the extremists, can not fight this war by themselves because they can easily be dismissed as secular, liberal or kafir by the violent heretics who falsely claim to be the sole thekedars of Islam.

This war will require a powerful team of established, competent and respected Islamic scholars who can make a difference by offering strong fatwas (religious edicts) denouncing as "heretics" the clerics and their misguided followers who are responsible for murder and mayhem in the name of Islam.

Along with the need to bolster security for those who speak out against hate and intimidation, this anti-hate campaign must be orchestrated by the top political leadership and the mass media acting in unison by forming religious coalitions to mobilize public opinion to isolate and marginalize those who support this carnage.

Strong and well-publicized fatwas from established Islamic scholars need to be an essential part of the mass education campaign against the violent radical minority within Islam that is causing murder and mayhem.

These killers and their supporters are heretics who must be exposed for who they are by showing that they are violating the explicit injunctions of the Quran itself.

Among the Quranic chapters and verses that can be cited in this national campaign are the following:

There is no compulsion in religion. 2:256

Killing one human being is killing humanity as a whole. 5:32

Whosoever will, let him believe, and whosoever will, let him disbelieve. 18:29

Unto you your religion, and unto me my religion. 109:6

As Pakistanis discuss the anti-blasphemy law, it is more important than ever for Muslims to make a serious effort to understand what Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) stood for and how he lived his life. The issues of education, faith, reason and compassion need to be understood in the light of the Quran, the Sunnah and the Hadith. It is this understanding that will help guide the Ummah out of the deep crisis it finds itself in.

Here is how I remember the Prophet I know from my reading about his life:

Secular Education:

The Prophet I know instructed Muslims to "go as far as China to seek knowledge". It was clear at the time that China was not a Muslim nation. It is therefore safe to conclude that the Prophet encouraged all necessary efforts to seek all knowledge including secular education.

Faith and Reason:

The Prophet I know brought the Holy Quran to humanity, the Book that repeatedly and emphatically challenges readers to "Think" and "Ponder" for themselves. This is the best proof that Islam wants Muslims to embrace and reconcile faith and reason. It was this teaching that brought greatness to Muslims in seventh through thirteenth centuries following the death of Prophet Muhammad.

Compassion:

The Prophet I know showed compassion and understanding when a Bedouin person entered the Prophet's mosque in Medina and urinated, an act that infuriated the Prophet's companions. He restrained his companions and asked them to show understanding for the ignorance of the Bedouin.

Brevity:

The Prophet I know spoke softly and briefly. His last khutbah was a mere 430 words lasting a few minutes. He did not make long, fiery speeches.

Response to provocation:

The Prophet I know responded to abuse by prayer. When the people of Taif threw rocks at him, he responded by praying to Allah to give guidance to those who abused him.

Respect for Life:

The Prophet I know brought the Holy Quran, the Book that equates " unjust killing of one person" with "the killing the entire humanity". It commands respect for life.

The need for an effective broad-based campaign to reclaim Islam from the violent heretics is extremely urgent. Failure to fight the spreading hateful ideology in Pakistan will only encourage more death and destruction by the modern version of the "Hashashin" (Assassins) who went on a killing rampage from from 1092 to 1265.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Fighting Agents of Intolerance in Pakistan

South Asian Christians Celebrate Christmas in Fear

Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah's Vision

Fighting Agents of Intolerance

Remembering Sikh Massacre of 1984

Gujarat in 2002

21st Century Challenges For Resurgent India

Radical Hindutva Government in Israeli Exile?

India's Guantanamos and Abu-Ghraibs

Gujarat Muslims Ignored by Politicians

Rise of Hindu Fascism in India

The 21st Century Challenges For Resurgent India

Hindu Rashtra ideology was driving force for Malegaon conspirators

The Rise and Rise of Mangalore's Taliban

Who Killed Karkare?

Hindutva-Military-Intelligence Nexus

Malegaon Files

Samjhota Express Blast

Muslims Falsely Accused in Malegaon Blast

Hindu Nationalists Gang Up on Musharraf at Stanford

Christmas Greetings From Pakistan

Can India "Do a Lebanon" in Pakistan?

Muslims in India: Twocircles.net

All India Christian Council

Violence Against Indian Christians

Priest Survivor: Hindu Radicals are Terrorists

Gujarat Pogrom of 2002

Haq's Musings

South Asia Investor Review

39 comments:

little_saturn said...

It is the duty of blogger like yourself to raise the concept of live and let live rather than get into the rampage of killing human in the name of prophet. Peace is the prerequisite for growth and prosperity

Wasim said...

Riaz,

I will add translation of one more ayat here.

"And there is no burden on you(o Muhammad SAWS) other than to convey to them what has been given to you.

Your kind(I belong there) has tried before what you are saying, may be the difference it made was too localised, and it was nullified by the kind who believed in oppsite.

It took us till 21st century to stand against the autocrats, dictators etc to seek freedom from them, the evolution is visible now, another 50 years will see the religion in it,s true form of being a uniting and peace message for humanity.

Wasim

Riaz Haq said...

Wasim,

Thank you for your comment and suggestion.

What I am suggesting in my post is a highly concerted national effort that includes top ulema and the top political leadership as well the mass media and civil society joining hands to fight this growing menace of hate that has the potential to destroy Pakistan.

Sher said...

Haq Bhai:

Your article, though a good one, has been uttered by many politicians before, to be of no consequence whatsoever. No country in the word has progressed by making religion a part of people's life like in Pakistan. Religion should play no role in day to day life of people, in international politics, in commerce (it already does not), in food, in any thing whatsoever. Religion should be treated like sex. As you do not tell your friends how many times you made love, similarly you should not talk about how many prayers you offered. It is between you and your God. I saw in "kaaba" people walking in front of namazis while travih were in progress. The religion has therefore been made artificially more stringent by people living in eastern countries.

The title of your article shuld be "Muslim Scholars Must Speak Out Against Religion In Pakistan"

Sher

Riaz Haq said...

Sher Bhai.

You are offering a radical secular solution that will have no support in Pakistan's deeply religious society.

Instead of helping, it will make matters worse by aiding the killers and their sympathizers.

What I am suggesting in my post is a highly concerted national effort that includes top ulema and the top political leadership as well the mass media and civil society joining hands to fight this growing menace of hate that has the potential to destroy Pakistan.

Riaz

Mohammad Shafiq said...

Merely fatwas being pronounced does not bring in line the extremists. They have their own agendas and if they are prepared to disregard the Qura’n, the word of God, fatwa is not going to change their stance.
What is required is that the scholar, instead of issuing fatwas change their mindset but that does not give them any political leverage. So no hope there and gladly will issues fatwas but do not put it into practice the teaching of the Qura’n

If you are interested in history of extremism in Pakistan have a look at my view.

http://mohammadshafiq.com/blog/2011/03/02/is-the-murder-of-minister-final-nail-by-the-extremists-in-the-voice-of-moderation/

Pradeep From India said...

Sir,
While it is commendable the efforts that you have taken in this post to denounce the violence in the name of religion, I would be interested in knowing your opinion about the existence of the law.

I fully understand that one does not need to have an opinion on any issue to write about it as a reporting of events. However, given that you have indeed voiced an opinion on what should be the course forward, I would expect you to have an opinion about the law as well.

Riaz Haq said...

Shafiq: "Merely fatwas being pronounced does not bring in line the extremists"

I agree. But it has to be an essential part of the campaign in Pakistan where people are deeply religious and need to persuaded based on the Quran and Sunnah.

Please read my post again to understand the full extent of the effort required.

Riaz Haq said...

Pradeep: "I would be interested in knowing your opinion about the existence of the law."

Laws on the books have to be enforced, and the killers of Taseer and Bhatti have to be brought to justice.

But legislation by itself does not solve any problems, particularly related to social issues, if the people do not broadly accept it.

Laws in a democracy have to have the support of the people to pass and be effective.

Laws banning discrimination exist in many countries, including India, but such laws are widely ignored.

Anonymous said...

Laws banning discrimination exist in many countries, including India, but such laws are widely ignored.

True just like anti racism laws do not end racial discrimination in the West HOWEVER the far far right aside nobody in India is campaigning for caste based historic Hindu laws to replace the constitution on grounds that manu smriti etc are divinely revealed and the present Indian constitution is man made.

PAkistan OTOH has a very wide segment of the population that DO NOT want secular laws but shariah.
And riaz shariah like ANY OTHER religios law does indeed discriminate against non adherants.

Kindly read relevant sections against:

1.Infidel man marrying a muslim woman is a crime/illegal.The muslim woman CANNOT convert to non muslim religion HOWEVER the converse is permitted.

2.A non believer cannot be the head of state

just to give two obvious examples.

My point being you don't get a little bit pregnant.

If you want secularism you say so explicitly otherwise your pseudo secularism i.e justifying secularism by quoting some sections of koran,hadiths etc is bound to misfire as there are other sections in theological literature that DO NOT concur with secularism and will certainly be used as justification by regressive sections of society.

Riaz Haq said...

Anon: "HOWEVER the far far right aside nobody in India is campaigning for caste based historic Hindu laws to replace the constitution on grounds that manu smriti etc are divinely revealed and the present Indian constitution is man made."

It's absolute nonsense to compare Shariah laws with the abhorrent caste system in India.

Shariah laws are not fixed forever. Shariah has within it a process called Ijtihad to re-interpret and recast the laws based on context.

gunam said...

@sher

You have put it simple and blunt. Every human life is relationship of him /her with the almighty. Ritual and other sectarian views need not come in between.

Honesty and love is more important in the relationship rather than hatred in the name of love

gunam said...

@riaz

Problem is the law based on relgious text. Where as india has moved away from the hindu text which had discrimination among the hindus.

Today sc /st in the city is well placed than any other community. IN the same note there are violent aggression which happens against sc /st in villages. However they are not punishable by law and law does not discriminate is the fundamental difference between indian and pakistan.

Riaz Haq said...

gunam: "Where as india has moved away from the hindu text which had discrimination among the hindus."

Anti-discrimination laws have good pr value, but laws alone are not sufficient to curtail discrimination.

Anti-discrimination laws in India have failed to protect hundreds of thousands of minority victims, like Delhi Sikhs in 1984, Gujarat Muslims in 2002, and Orissa Christians in 2008.

Over 250 million people are victims of caste-based discrimination and segregation in India. They live miserable lives, shunned by much of society because of their ranks as untouchables or Dalits at the bottom of a rigid caste system in Hindu India. Dalits are discriminated against, denied access to land, forced to work in slave-like conditions, and routinely abused, even killed, at the hands of the police and of higher-caste groups that enjoy the state's protection, according to Human Rights Watch.

As the framer of Indian constitution Dr. Ambedkar put it: “Democracy in India is only a top dressing on an Indian soil, which is essentially undemocratic.”

gunam said...

@riaz

You are mistaken and parroting the writing of the west. In india there are only rich, middle class and poor. Caste has more meaning in the rural areas. You can count on so many upper caste people on the roads.

Curse of democracy is that the money of the government is looted by the crownie capitalist. Invariably the so called social reformer or fighter of the poor conveniently becomes the captialist in the long run. Best example are lallu of bihar, karunanidhi of temil nadu, ysr of andhra.

Haseeb said...

I fully support your drive to get media, ulama, politicians, and masses behind this just cause. Passion, humility, plurality and kindness are Muslim traits and somehow we have lost them. Haseeb

Riaz Haq said...

Haseeb,

A recent Pew survey shows that deeply religious people are also deeply ignorant about religion. What is even more surprising about this poll is that atheists are more knowledgeable about religions than the self-professed deeply religious people.

I think the answer to many of Pakistan's most serious problems is education to remove ignorance that cases bigotry among its people.

http://www.riazhaq.com/2010/09/deeply-religious-people-profoundly.html

amir said...

The reason why Pakistan is considered a failing state is not because of the resiliency of it's people to weather problems but, because it's government cannot and will not or is subservient to the theocracy who constantly invokes fear in the general population!!

Pakistan and most of it's scholars, intellectual, military or religious, are even today focused on the wrong foes -India primarily.

The greater problem resides internally.

The mindset and the focus needs to realign.
Will it change?

Amir Karim
Infosys
Los Angeles

Pradeep From India said...

Mr.Haq,
Sadly you have pussyfooted around the issue. In any case I would like to respond to your comment.

While it is true that anti-discrimination laws by no means guarantee justice in everyday life, discrimination laws on the other hand give state sanction to the very people who the anti-discrimination laws try to stop (and perhaps fail) from performing their hateful acts.

The blasphemy law is a discrimination law. I am not asking for your opinion about laws protecting minorities in Pakistan. What I am asking you is your opinion on what you think about the existence of the blasphemy law. Do you think that it should exist or not.

Looking forward to your response.

Riaz Haq said...

Pradeep: "What I am asking you is your opinion on what you think about the existence of the blasphemy law. Do you think that it should exist or not."

Blasphemy laws have existed for over a century in South Asia and continue to exist in India and Pakistan in various forms to this day.

In a democracy, people get to decide what laws the society needs, and Pakistanis have chosen to have such laws on the books.

The offenses relating to religion were first codified by India's British rulers in 1860, and were expanded in 1927.

The laws banning cow slaughter in many Indian states are part of it.

Riaz Haq said...

gunam: "You are mistaken and parroting the writing of the west. In india there are only rich, middle class and poor. Caste has more meaning in the rural areas. You can count on so many upper caste people on the roads."

Denying a problem or blaming the West is nit going to make the pervasive problem of caste go away in India.

Talking about rural vs urban, there was a recent case of honor killing of a promising young Delhi journalist by her parents because she had a relationship with a low-caste male colleague.

Almost every matrimonial ad in India specifies caste as a key requirement for suitors.

And Mrs. Navi Pillay, the South African Indian head of the UN Human Rights Commission, is not a westerner, and she calls rampant caste discrimination in India a form of Apartheid.

Caste is now on notice: the UN has failed, she said, to educate people and change mindsets to combat the taint of caste. "How long is the cycle going to go on where those who can do something about it say, We can't, because it's the people, it's their tradition; we have to go slowly.

"Slavery and apartheid could be removed, so now [caste] can be removed through an international expression of outrage."

Read more about it http://www.riazhaq.com/2009/11/dalit-victims-of-apartheid-in-india.html

Anonymous said...

The laws banning cow slaughter in many Indian states are part of it.

A cow slaughter ban is not a blasphemy law for god's sake!!
MAny countries have laws preventing the slaughter of a wide variety of animals.

A blasphemy law seeks to punish people for insulting a religion.

Riaz Haq said...

Anon: "A cow slaughter ban is not a blasphemy law for god's sake!!"

Are you denying the existence of the concept of "sacred cow" in Hindu religion?

Aren't the Indian laws banning cow slaughter motivated by Hindu religion?

Aren't the right-wing Hindus of the Sangh Parivar the most ardent supporters of the ban on cow slaughter in many Indian states ruled by the BJP?

In fact, an Indian writer Satya Sagar has argued in a recent Countercurrents article that cow rights trump human rights in India:

Even today in many parts of the country while there is a ban on ‘cow slaughter’ that is effectively implemented there is no such privilege for people from the Dalit, Adivasi or Muslim communities. In that sense these hapless people do not even have ‘cow rights’ leave alone the more esoteric ‘human rights’.

I think Satya Sagar has been proved right by the fact that Gujarat CM Narendra Modi and his gang of Hindu thugs have gotten away the slaughter of thousands of Muslims but no one can get away with cow slaughter in the state of Gujarat.

Yusuf Abraham said...

People in Pakistan are afraid. I am a christian who visited the country to pay my respects. Please do not speak for the country from your Ivory Tower because nothing will EVER change in Pakistan - one the reasons we left the country.

Racism and intolerance exists in all countries but ultimately it is not allowed to triumph at the polls. Republicans were set aside in the US and liberal Obama was elected, BJP was replaced in India
and Sikh became the PM and, a muslim it's President.

Pakistan is staring into an abyss. Even the few good Pakistanis are afraid to be seen among Christians out of fear. Many Christians have recieved death threats. Things are bleak.

Riaz Haq said...

Yusuf: "Pakistan is staring into an abyss. Even the few good Pakistanis are afraid to be seen among Christians out of fear. Many Christians have recieved death threats. Things are bleak."

While I feel your pain as reflected in your comments, I do not share your pessimism.

The violent heretics in Pakistan will succeed and your worst fears will materialize only if everyone begins to accept defeat as you suggest.

There are many brave souls refusing to conceding defeat. The fight is on and you see many Pakistanis standing up to the extremists at great risk to themselves just as Taseer and Shahbaz did.

Giving up will be a betrayal of their legacy.

These murderers will be defeated just as their predecessor Hashashin (The Assassins) were defeated earlier in Muslim history.

As to the polls, the right-wing religious extremists in Pakistan get very few votes, a lot fewer than the BJP and their Sangh Parivar in India.

And many of the killers of Sikhs and Muslims and Christians have never been brought to justice. In fact, Modi the mass murderer still rules Gujarat, as do many of his BJP allies in many other Indian states.

ali said...

Wrong solution and appeasing never works. Political and Military leadership needs to show some courage and stick their necks out. There needs to be a law to criminalize advocating or celebrating murder on religious ground. Then it needs to used against mullahs advocating it. Staying in denial and hoping "education" will solve it will be disastrous.

Anonymous said...

fightin scripture wid scripture ..hmm..intresting

Riaz Haq said...

Here are some excepts from Sherbano Taseer (Salman Taseer's daughter) interview with Pakistani Islamic scholar Javaid Ahmed Ghamidi as published in Newsweek Pakistan:

Are Islam and democracy compatible?

Yes, of course. Islam favors democratic societies. In the West, they have created democracies, which may have their shortcomings, but where people listen to one another, tolerate each other's opinions, and engage in dialogue. The majority opinion is made into law, and these laws can be criticized, debated freely, and amended based on people's beliefs.

There is furor in Pakistan over the blasphemy laws. What does the Quran say about punishing those who are proven to have committed blasphemy?

There is no punishment prescribed for blasphemy in the Quran or in the sayings of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him). Some clerics cite the case of Ibn Akhtar, but they misinterpret that incident and make it about blasphemy. Man can make laws, and these should not be misused to unfairly target or victimize anyone. Islam specifically says that taking the life of an individual is tantamount to taking the life of all humanity. It is a crime. It is wrong. Allah says true Muslims are those in whose hands others are safe.
---
Do you feel Pakistan can contain the extremist threat?

Let's start by not losing hope. We can contain it if we unite. There needs to be a new movement, by educated people, who can put pressure on the government so that, for one, education returns to being the responsibility of the state. Otherwise, this cancer of extremism will continue to spread. Pakistan has over 12,000 madrassahs with more than 2 million students. The countless clerics at these schools have immense sway, they have formed communities around themselves and they have weapons. And when power comes into the hands of such people—when we give them that power—you get what we have happening right now. There is nothing in the Quran or the Prophet's (peace be upon him) sayings to justify what the extremists are doing. We need to enter the playing field and correct this, and turn their arguments on their head. I have challenged them on every occasion for the past five years or so, and told them what they are saying is incorrect. They can only stay silent in return. Even in the matter of blasphemy they could not refute me, but I feel I am alone in this.
--------
So how do we change things?

People need to understand Islam themselves, there is no other way. We need to understand the religion and launch a movement to reform society. In the West, there was a reformation movement which needs to be replicated in the East. There is strength in our arguments. You can reason with these people if you reason strongly and with facts. Islam was initially spread by a handful of people. This is how you will get success and nobody will be able to refute it. The media has a lot of power and must use this power positively, spreading the message from house to house. But the reality is that we are not ready to take up this cause. The secularists and the elite are not ready to take this up, they are not ready to talk and engage especially about beliefs.

What role do you see religious scholars playing to improve our society?

They, like doctors and engineers, are experts in their field. Their role is not to pick up guns, but to argue with facts and to present their arguments logically and calmly. Their role is not to threaten or to preach in a hostile or forceful manner in the streets, but to inform and show people the right Islam. The unfortunate reality here is that those who claim to be adherents of Allah's word are actually quite unfamiliar with the faith.

Riaz Haq said...

Here are some excerpts from an interesting post by Prof Juan Cole of Univ of Michigan on what he calls "hand-wringing about religious extremism in Pakistan".

There has been a lot of hand-wringing about religious extremism in Pakistan in the wake of the assassination of Punjab governor Salman Taseer. On Sunday the fundamentalist religious parties held a rally some 40,000 strong in the southern port city of Karachi against repealing Pakistan’s blasphemy law, as the Pakistan People’s Party MP Sherry Rahman proposes.

It would be foolish to deny that Pakistan has a problem with religious extremism. But outsiders do not actually understand the country very well and have no sense of scale, so it is hard for them to judge the significance of these events. Here I want to offer five ironies of religious extremism in that country, in an attempt to signal that the story is more complicated and requires more nuance than you find at typical American anti-Muslim hate blogs. Let me just signal the important difference between religious traditionalism and religious fundamentalism. Many Pakistanis are traditionalists– they attend at saints’ shrines, pray, sing religious songs (qawali), etc. Fundamentalists reject the idea of saints, of shrines, and of spiritual music. So on to the ironies:

1. The Pakistani parliament never passed a blasphemy law. It was promulgated in the 1980s by fiat by military dictator Gen. Zia ul-Haq. Gen. Zia made a coup in 1977 against the populist and left-leaning Pakistan People’s Party, and received the warm support of the United States, especially after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Gen. Zia was a fundamentalist who sought support in civil society for his illegitimate regime among small fundamentalist parties such as the Jama’at al-Islami. The US raised no objections.

2. The murderer of Taseer, Mumtaz Qadri, is not a fundamentalist. He had a long affair with a lover in Karachi before marrying about a year ago. He is no puritan. He sometimes trimmed back his beard, something Pakistani religious conservatives usually avoid. He sometimes went to saints’ shrines, which fundamentalists would denounce. He has no connection to any known terrorist group, and says he acted alone. He belongs to a moderate school of Islam. Many press reports have said that Taseer’s murder points to the rise of Pakistani fundamentalism, but you could not prove it by Qadri’s profile. He seems to represent no one but himself.

3. The rally of 40,000 in favor of the blasphemy law just isn’t that big in Karachi, a city of over 15 million people. The 9/11 Commission estimated that there are some 200,000 students in the religious academies or madrasahs in Karachi, so the rally did not even attract very many of them, much less a significant number of the religiously committed persons in the megalopolis.

4. The people of Karachi vote for the militantly secular if rather thuggish MQM (Muttahidah Qaumi Movement) party, which runs their municipal government and represents them in the national parliament. The MQM vehemently denounced the killing of Taseer. Fundamentalists are not important in Karachi politics, except insofar as they are violent infiltrators....

Riaz Haq said...

Arab protesters demand democracy, but not secularism, says Michael Scheuer, former Bin Laden hunter at the CIA:

The Arab world’s unrest has brought forth gushing, rather adolescent analysis about what the region will look like a year or more hence. Americans have decided that these upheavals have everything to do with the advent of liberalism, secularism, and Westernization in the region and that Islamist militant groups like al-Qaeda have been sidelined by the historically inevitable triumph of democracy—a belief that sounds a bit like the old Marxist-Leninist claptrap about iron laws of history and communism’s inexorable triumph.

How has this judgment been reached? Primarily by disregarding facts, logic, and history, and instead relying on (a) the thin veneer of young, educated, pro-democracy, and English-speaking Muslims who can be found on Facebook and Twitter and (b) the employees of the BBC, CNN, and most other media networks, who have suspended genuine journalism in favor of cheerleading for secularism and democracy on the basis of a non-representative sample of English-speaking street demonstrators and users of social-networking sites. The West’s assessment of Arab unrest so far has been—to paraphrase Sam Spade’s comment about the Maltese Falcon—the stuff that dreams, not reality, are made of.

A year from now, we will find that most Arab Muslims have neither embraced nor installed what they have long regarded as an irreligious and even pagan ideology—secular democracy. They will have instead adhered even more closely to the faith that has graced, ordered, and regulated their lives for more than 1400 years, and which helped them endure the oppressive rule of Western-supported tyrants and kleptocrats.

This does not mean that fanatically religious regimes will dominate the region, but a seven-year Gallup survey of the Muslim world published in 2007 shows that a greater degree of Sharia law in governance is favored by young and old, moderates and militants, men and even women in most Muslim countries. While a fa├žade of democracy may well appear in new regimes in places like Egypt and Tunisia, their governments will be heavily influenced by the military and by Islamist organizations like the Muslim Brotherhood and al-Qaeda. If for no other reason, the Islamist groups will have a powerful pull because they have strong organizational capabilities; wide allegiance among the highly educated in the military, hard sciences, engineering, religious faculties, and medicine; and a reservoir of patience for a two-steps-forward, one-step-back strategy that is beyond Western comprehension. We in the West too often forget, for example, that the Muslim Brotherhood and al-Qaeda draw from Muslim society’s best and brightest, not its dregs; that al-Qaeda has been waging its struggle for 25 years, the Muslim Brotherhood for nearly 85 years; and that Islam has been in the process of globalizing since the 7th century.

As new Arab regimes develop, Westerners also are likely to find that their own deep sense of superiority over devout Muslims—which is especially strong among the secular left, Christian evangelicals, and neoconservatives—is unwarranted. The nearly universal assumption in the West is that Islamic governance could not possibly satisfy the aspirations of Muslims for greater freedom and increased economic opportunity—this even though Iran has a more representative political system than that of any state in the region presided over by a Western-backed dictator. No regime run by the Muslim Brotherhood would look like Canada, but it would be significantly less oppressive than those run by the al-Sauds and Mubarak. This is not to say it would be similar to or more friendly toward the West—neither will be the case—but in terms of respecting and addressing basic human concerns they will be less monstrous.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an interesting Op Ed by Leonard Pitts published in the Miami Herald:

OK, put your books away. We’re having a pop quiz.

Below are four quotes. Each is from one of two sources: the Bible or the Koran, although, just to make things interesting, there’s also a chance all four are from one book. Two were edited for length and one of those was also edited to remove a religion-specific reference. Your job: identify the holy book of origin. Ready? Go:

1) “. . . Wherever you encounter [non-believers], kill them, seize them, besiege them, wait for them at every lookout post . . .”

2) “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.”

3) “If your very own brother, or your son or daughter, or the wife you love, or your closest friend secretly entices you, saying, ‘Let us go and worship other gods’ . . . do not yield to him or listen to him. Show him no pity. Do not spare him or shield him. You must certainly put him to death.”

4) “Now kill all the boys. And kill every woman who has slept with a man, but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man.”

All right, pens down. How did you do?

If you identified the first quote as being from the Koran (9:5) and the other three as originating in the Bible (Matthew 10:34, Deuteronomy 13:6-9, Numbers 31:17-18), I congratulate you on that degree in theology. If I have guessed correctly, most people will not have found it easy to place the quotes in their proper books. If I have guessed correctly, most people will have found a certain thematic similarity in them.

Yes, there is a point here: I wish people would stop cherry-picking warlike quotes from the Koran to “prove” the evil of Islam. You see this stuff all over the web. Just a few days ago, some anonymous person, angry with me for defending “Fascist/Nazi Islam” the writer says is trying to kill us all, sent me an e-mail quoting Koranic exhortations to violence to prove that Islam is a “religion of hate and murder.”

As rhetorical devices go, it is a cheap parlor trick, a con job to fool the foolish and gull the gullible and for anyone who has spent quality time with the Bible, its shortcomings should be obvious.

If not, see the pop quiz again. The Koran is hardly unique in its admonitions to take up the sword.

It is not my intention here to parse any of those troubling quotes. Let us leave it to religious scholars to contextualize them, to explain how they square with the contention that Islam and Christianity are religions of peace. For our purposes, it is sufficient to note that, while both Christian and Muslim scholars will offer that context and explanation, only Christians can be assured of being taken at their word when they do.

Christians get the benefit of the doubt. Muslims get Glenn Beck asking a Muslim Congressman to “prove to me that you are not working with our enemies.”

Because Christianity is regarded as a known — and a norm. Muslims, meantime, have been drafted since Sept. 11, 2001, to fulfill the nation’s obsessive, historic, paranoiac and ongoing need to rally against an enemy within. We lost the Commies, but along came the Islamo-fascists. The names change. The endless capacity for irrational panic remains the same.

As in people who send out e-mails insisting upon the rightness of holding over a billion people — that bears repeating: over a billion people — responsible for the actions of, what . . .? A few hundred? A few thousand?

Some of us use lies, exaggerations and rhetorical gobbledygook to instill in the rest of us that irrational panic they breathe like air. Yes, it is only sensible to fear the threat we face from terrorism. But panicked, irrational people are capable of anything.

Might be wise if we chose to fear that, too.

Riaz Haq said...

The quality of primary and secondary education is clearly important in preparing students for higher education, and there has lately been a lot of hand wringing on about declining test scores in the US, particularly with respect to minority kids in schools.

Here are some of my thoughts on it:

1. I think the idea of pre-school education a la Sesame Street that reaches millions of kids in Pakistan is a very good one. And if it helps promote tolerance at a tender age, then that's even better. But it's not a substitute for good primary education.

2. With a PISA reading score of 500, US kids outperformed those in Germany( 497), France (496) and UK (494).

3. Based on PISA reading scores as analyzed by Steve Sailer, US Asians (score 541) are just below Shanghai students (556), US whites (525) outperform all of their peers in Europe except the Finns, and US Hispanics (466) and US Blacks (441) significantly outperform kids in dozens of countries spread across Asia, Latin America and Middle East.

For example, US Hispanics did better than Turks, Russians, Serbians, and all of Latin America.

In fact US Hispanics outperformed all BRIC nations with the exception of China.

And US Blacks did better than Bulgaria, Mexico, Thailand, Brazil, Jordan, Indonesia, Argentina, etc.

http://www.vdare.com/sailer/101219_pisa.htm

4. The only data available for India is 2003 TIMMS on which they ranked 46 on a list of 51 countries. Their score was 392 versus avg of 467. They performed very poorly. It was contained in a report titled "India Shining and Bharat Drowning".

I think Pakistani kids would probably also perform poorly on PISA and TIMMS if these tests administered there.

http://www.people.fas.harvard.edu/~tzajonc/india_shining_jan27_flat.pdf

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a BBC report quoting Pakistan Human Rights Commission claiming 2500 deaths in militant violence in 2010:

More than 2,500 people were killed in militant attacks in Pakistan in 2010, according to the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP).

Nearly half of victims were civilians killed in suicide blasts. There were 67 such attacks last year, the group said.

The report also said at least 900 people had been killed in US drone strikes during the same period.

The number of people killed by the army is not mentioned, but it estimated to be in the region of 600-700.

Pakistani troops are battling insurgents across the north-west. Many of those it has killed are believed to be militants, but civilian lives have been lost too.

The HRCP is the main human rights watchdog in the country. Its findings are often disputed by the authorities, the BBC's Syed Shoaib Hasan in Karachi says.

The group's findings show a rise in the numbers being killed in Pakistan's conflict.

BBC research published last July suggested 1,713 people had been killed by militants over the preceding 18 months, while 746 people had died in drone attacks during the same period.
'Increasing intolerance'

The HRCP released its data in its annual report on the state of human rights and security in Pakistan between January and December 2010.

"Pakistan's biggest problem continues to be violence carried out militants," HRCP chairman Mehdi Hasan said.

"In 2010, 67 suicide attacks were carried out across the country in which 1,169 people were killed," he said. "At least 1,000 of those were civilians."

Dr Hasan said that in all 2,542 people had been killed in militant attacks in the country last year.

He said the most glaring example of government oversight had been in Balochistan province, where targeted killings shot up rapidly with 118 people being killed in 2010.

Dr Hasan said the figure was set to increase in 2011, as the government seemed unconcerned about the unravelling of the law and order situation in Balochistan.

The HRCP report also spoke about increasing intolerance against religious minorities in the country.

It said 99 members of the Ahmedi (Qadiani) sect had been killed in attacks in 2010, while 64 people had been charged under the country's blasphemy law.

There was no immediate response to the report from the Pakistani authorities, nor was there any word from militant groups.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an article by Mehreen Farooq and Waleed Ziad in Foreign Policy Mag detailing campaign against radicalization in Pakistan:

In a pristine, remote valley in Kashmir, far from the theaters of war, some families are abandoning their religious and cultural traditions in favor of extremist ideologies. The trend began after the 2005 earthquake, when several Islamist organizations - notably Jamaat ud-Dawa (JuD) - came to the forefront, providing food, shelter and health supplies to devastated communities. A village elder lamented, "Many of us were impressed by their sophisticated ambulance services, and families willingly joined in their relief efforts." Most of these families had no idea that JuD was in fact a front for the banned militant organization, Lashkar-e-Taiba.

Pakistanis, particularly in such remote areas, require tools to recognize extremist ideologies and terrorist organizations so that they can create counter-movements within their own communities. We travelled throughout Northern Punjab and the Hazara region of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to learn how certain grassroots organizations have designed effective awareness campaigns within a religious paradigm that are palatable even to the at-risk population.

We began with the leaders of Pakistan's moderate religious networks. Since 9/11, dozens of religious scholars have issued public statements and fatwas against terrorism. Dr. Raghib Naeemi -- son of Dr. Sarfraz Naeemi who was killed in 2009 after he publically denounced terrorist activities as un-Islamic -- appears regularly on TV to promote peace and social cohesion.
---------
150 miles south, in a village near Bhera, a father learned that his son was being brainwashed by a fundamentalist community member to believe that he would enter paradise if he became a suicide bomber. The father, supported by the Dar ul-Uloom community, rescued the children by publically exposing the radical mullah. He challenged the mullah: "After sending my child to paradise, why don't you send your own son to join him so that mine won't be lonely?"

Even some segments of the population that had been involved in militancy are now condemning extremism. Irfan, a former "toll collector" for a militant outfit along the Pakistan-Afghanistan Durand Line explained, "After the Taliban bombed the shrine of the Rahman Baba, the great Pashtun poet-saint, I realized that militants are destroying our country." Now as a taxi driver, Irfan makes it a point to lambast the Taliban in conversations with all of his passengers.


http://afpak.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2011/10/21/pakistans_most_powerful_weapon

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Huffington Post Op Ed by Saleem Ali on Pakistani media moguls using religion for ratings:

After the creation of Pakistan in 1947, the Mir family moved from Delhi to Karachi where they consolidated their media presence. Over the years, they branched into English print and eventually into television. Currently Geo News, the most successful of their ventures, is operated by a Harvard-educated grandson of the founder, named Mir Ibrahim Rahman (MIR). Under MIR's leadership, Geo News has treaded an ambiguous path of modernist advocacy on some issues and theocratic entrenchment on others. The channel launched a determined campaign to reform gender discrimination laws and the network produced the film Bol (Speak) in 2011 with a strong social reform message to promote family planning and to quell the persecution of transvestites and homosexuals. To its credit, the channel has also provided space for debate of tough theological issues with reformist scholars such as Javed A. Ghamidi (who had to flee to Malaysia to escape death threats from fanatics). The network has also led a peace-building campaign with the Times of India called "aman-ki-asha" (aspiration for peace).

On the other hand, the channel still tends to pander to dominant religious ethos and orthodoxy. Theology permeates the programming as a stark reminder that Pakistan and Israel remain the only two nuclear nations that were formed at the behest of religion and continue to be subsumed by theocratic influence. Most recently, the channel reinstated the show of a highly controversial former government minister and polemicist, named Amir Liaquat Hussain, who is adored by the religious establishment for taking a hard line on issues like blasphemy. Mr. Hussain and Geo had parted ways before for some of his insinuations against minority sects and his alleged fabrication of doctoral degree credentials. Off-air footage of his misogynistic invective was subsequently leaked online but no definitive investigation was carried out to hold him or the network to account regarding its authenticity.

Mr. Hussain captivates the theologically inclined with his monologues in polished Urdu, and facilitated discussions on the minutiae of religious edicts that give clerics the pomp and prestige of "expertise." To his credit, Hussain has tried to bring Shia and Sunni scholars together to discuss points of convergence and divergence in a fairly civilized format but that has been the limit of his tolerance trip. Other sects, and non-Muslims were frequently marginalized or dismissed with patronizing supremacist rhetoric.

Just before the start of the Holy month of Ramadan, reinstating Mr. Hussain is clearly a marketable decision on the part of Mir Ibrahim Rahman. His self-righteous equivocations, cinematic vocal performances and ingratiating servility towards the ulama (religious scholars) will win Geo an ace in ratings. Yet the mixed messages being sent by this network of "running with the hares and hunting with the hounds" continues to perplex those who strive for some sustainable path towards modernity in Pakistan.


http://www.huffingtonpost.com/saleem-h-ali/theocratic-journalism-pakistan_b_1686353.html

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistani televangelist Aamer Liaqat is back on GeoTV. Here's an NPR report on it:

As Pakistan's media has expanded in recent years, there's been a rise in Islamic preachers with popular TV call-in talk shows. And they've had their share of scandal. One famous TV host fled the country after embezzlement allegations. Others are accused of spewing hate speech.

That's the case for Pakistan's most popular televangelist, Aamir Liaquat, who's just been rehired by the country's top TV channel despite accusations that he provoked deadly attacks in 2008.

Liaquat, 41, is once again the face of Pakistan's biggest and richest private TV station, Geo TV. He also appears in commercials for everything from cooking oil to an Islamic bank. During the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, he's been broadcasting live 11 hours a day — while fasting — and drawing record ratings.

"I say peace be with you, from the deepest core of my heart, with all sincerity and respect," he says warmly to viewers.

But the beaming TV personality has not always sounded so benign.

Four years ago, Liaquat did an hourlong special on a religious sect known as the Ahmadis. They consider themselves Muslim. But under a constitutional amendment in Pakistan, they are banned from calling themselves Muslim.
-----------
He lost his job at Geo TV over the Ahmadi program and the violence that ensued. But a rival channel scooped him up before long. And this summer, Liaquat returned to Geo TV with fanfare — and an even bigger salary.

Nadeem Paracha, a Pakistani journalist, says the way Liaquat's comeback was advertised was "just sickening."

"How can you bring back a person who's been accused — not only by the Ahmadi community, but by a lot of people? There's so much evidence there," Paracha says. "How can you call the same guy back?"

That's a question for Liaquat's boss, Imran Aslam, the president of Geo TV.

"He is a broadcaster par excellence. But he must know his parameters," Aslam says.

He says he rehired Liaquat on the condition that he sign a new code of ethics.

"We wanted to know whether he had, I wouldn't use the word 'repented,' but certainly [would be] a little more careful," Aslam says.

till, the TV executive acknowledges that bringing Liaquat back could be a gamble.

"Not only the Ahmadis, but there's a large section of the liberal population of Pakistan, which is fearful of what he could unleash. So it's a double-edged sword," Aslam says. "The guy could become a Frankenstein monster — I don't deny that. But I think he's been chastised a bit — and chastened a bit, too."

So Liaquat is back on TV, more popular than ever. For the slain pediatrician's widow, Najm, that's scary proof that intolerance is accepted — even rewarded — in Pakistan's mainstream media.


http://www.npr.org/2012/08/18/158949900/pakistani-televangelist-is-back-on-air-raising-fears

Riaz Haq said...

Here's NY Times on Pak televangelist Aamer Liaquat Husain "the sinner-repenter":

Mr. Hussain, 41, is a broadcasting sensation in Pakistan. His marathon transmissions during the recent holy month of Ramadan — 11 hours a day, for 30 days straight — offered viewers a kaleidoscopic mix of prayer, preaching, game shows and cookery, and won record ratings for his channel, Geo Entertainment.

“This is not just a religious show; we want to entertain people through Islam,” Mr. Hussain said during a backstage interview, serving up a chicken dish he had prepared on the show. “And the people love it.”

Yet Mr. Hussain is also a deeply contentious figure, accused of using his television pulpit to promote hate speech and crackpot conspiracy theories. He once derided a video showing Taliban fighters flogging a young woman as an “international conspiracy.” He supported calls to kill the author Salman Rushdie.

Most controversially, in 2008 he hosted a show in which Muslim clerics declared that members of the Ahmadi community, a vulnerable religious minority, were “deserving of death.” Forty-eight hours later, two Ahmadi leaders, one of them an American citizen, had been shot dead in Punjab and Sindh Provinces.

Many media critics held Mr. Hussain partly responsible, and the show so appalled American diplomats that they urged the State Department to sever a lucrative contract with Geo, which they accused of “specifically targeting” Ahmadis, according to a November 2008 cable published by WikiLeaks.

Now, Mr. Hussain casts himself as a repentant sinner. In his first Ramadan broadcast, he declared that Ahmadis had an “equal right to freedom” and issued a broad apology for “anything I had said or done.” In interviews, prompted by his own management, he portrays himself as a torchbearer for progressive values.

“Islam is a religion of harmony, love and peace,” he said, as he waited to have his makeup refreshed. “But tolerance is the main thing.”

IN some ways, Mr. Hussain is emblematic of the cable television revolution that has shaped public discourse in Pakistan over the past decade. He was the face of Geo when the upstart, Urdu-language station began broadcasting from a five-star hotel in Karachi in 2002. Then he went political, winning a parliamentary seat in elections late that year. The station gave him a religious chat show, Aalim Online, which brought together Sunni and Shiite clerics. The show received a broad welcome in a society troubled by sectarian tensions; it also brought Mr. Hussain to the attention of the military leader Gen. Pervez Musharraf, who was reportedly touched by its content. In 2005, General Musharraf appointed him junior minister for religious affairs, a post he held for two years.

Mr. Hussain’s success, with his manic energy and quick-fire smile, is rooted in his folksy broadcasting style, described as charming by fans and oily by critics. By his own admission, he has little formal religious training, apart from a mail-order doctorate in Islamic studies he obtained from an online Spanish university in order to qualify for election in 2002.

“I have the experience of thousands of clerics; in my mind there are thousands of answers,” he said.

That pious image was dented in 2011 when embarrassing outtakes from his show, leaked on YouTube, showed him swearing like a sailor during the breaks and making crude jokes with chuckling clerics. “It was my lighter side,” Mr. Hussain said. (Previously, he had claimed the tapes were doctored.)

But that episode did little to hurt his appeal to the middle-class Pakistanis who form his core audience. “Aamir Liaquat is a warm, honest and soft-natured person,” said Shahida Rao, a veiled Karachi resident, as she entered a recent broadcast, accompanied by her 6-year-old grandson. “We like him a lot.”


http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/01/world/asia/a-star-televangelist-in-pakistan-divides-then-repents.html

HopeWins Junior said...

Dr. Haq,

Do you really think it is possible to fight this hate without going to its ROOT CAUSE?

http://www.riazhaq.com/2011/03/muslim-scholars-must-fight-hate-in.html
http://www.riazhaq.com/2010/05/pakistan-must-defeat-agents-of.html
http://www.riazhaq.com/2008/09/agents-of-intolerance.html

It is the festering wound of the unresolved Kashmir issue that is the ROOT CAUSE of all this venomous hatred in Pakistan.

Until the Kashmir issue is resolved, whether peacefully or by force, this hatred will continue to fester.

We must move beyond superficial attempts at treating these symptoms and go straight for the underlying disease: THE KASHMIR ISSUE.

Once the Kashmir issue is resolved, peace, tranquility, love and tolerance will definitely come to Pakistan.

Can you come with up with some ideas about innovative ways in which the Kashmir issued might be quickly resolved?

Thank you.

Riaz Haq said...

90% of Indians are idiots, says Justice Katju according to India Times:

NEW DELHI: Ninety percent of Indians are “idiots” who can easily be misled by mischievous elements in the name of religion, Press Council of India (PCI) chairperson Justice Markandey Katju claimed today.

“I say ninety percent of Indians are idiots. You people don’t have brains in your heads….It is so easy to take you for a ride,” he said at a seminar here.

He said that a communal riot could be incited in Delhi for as meagre an amount as Rs 2000. He said that all somebody has to do is make a mischievous gesture of disrespect to a place of worship and people start fighting each other.

“You mad people will start fighting amongst yourself not realising that some agent provocateur is behind this,”he said.

Katju said that before 1857 there was no communalism in the country but the situation was different now. “Today 80 percent Hindus are communal and 80 percent Muslims are communal. This is the harsh truth, bitter truth that I am telling you. How is it that in 150 years you have gone backwards instead of moving forward because the English kept injecting poison,” Katju said.

“The policy that emanated from London after the mutiny in 1857 that there is only one way to control this country that is to make Hindus and Muslims fight each other,” he said.

He said that then there was a propaganda that Hindi was the language of Hindus and Urdu of Muslims. “Our ancestors also studied Urdu, but it is so easy to fool you. You are idiots so how difficult is it to make an idiot of you,” Katju said.

Katju said that he was saying these harsh things to make Indians, whom he loved to understand the whole game and not remain fools.


http://articles.economictimes.indiatimes.com/2012-12-08/news/35689114_1_justice-markandey-katju-hindus-communal-riot