Sunday, March 8, 2009

An Indian's View of Iqbal, Jinnah and Pakistan

By Aakar Patel
Allama Iqbal imagined Pakistan as a utopia in northwest India where Punjabis would do ijtihad and read Nietzsche. The Quaid-e-Azam ordered a Pakistan where religion would cease to be a matter for the state. But both men saw something magnificently dormant in the character of India’s Muslims, which would flower in isolation.

Iqbal returned from Europe in 1908 ashamed by the fall of Islam. He thought its return to glory could come through expelling the polluting influence of Indian culture. Iqbal understood our culture. In 1904, he wrote the song that still defines our culture best (Tarana-e-Hindi), and he translated Gayatri Mantra, the talismanic chant of the Upanishad, from Sanskrit. But Europe taught him that our culture was unable to compete. Muslims needed to break out. In 1910, he wrote Tarana-e-Milli.

Jinnah didn’t understand our culture much, but he thought that Muslims were a separate nation from Hindus, and could become modern once they were separated from India’s archaic culture. Both the poet and the lawyer thought that the solution to progress was to stop being Indian.

Iqbal died in 1938, Jinnah died in 1948. It would be illuminating to see their reaction as they flipped through a current issue of Nawa-i-Waqt (would have to be translated for Jinnah), the guardian of the ideology of Pakistan.

The Pakistan of Iqbal won against the Pakistan of Jinnah. Jinnah’s imaginary Pakistan was sent into the night with a pat on the head by Liaquat and the peerless Shabbir Usmani chanting their Qarardad-e-Maqasid, 60 years ago this month.

Now full-dress Sharia is upon Swat and the Punjabi’s head is cocked towards the frontier in curiosity. The world holds its breath.

The danger of Talibanization to Punjab does not come from the Pakhtun and his gun. Pakistan is 60 per cent Punjabi. Pakhtuns are only 15 per cent of its population and 20 per cent of its army. The danger to Pakistan comes from its inability to resist the pure ideas of the Pakhtun, of whom the Punjabi especially is enamored. Talibanization is happening in the mind. There is no resistance to it for two reasons: one is the lyrical call of Sharia which Muslims are drawn to in their quest for utopia. This will not change.

The second is the deliberate amputation of its own culture by the Pakistani state. This can change. Those who think Pakistan can resist the Taliban intellectually should look at the sequence on culture that unfolded after 1947.

Jinnah, one could say, stifled the voice of culture by giving Urdu a monopoly in 1948. Those who followed him beheaded it by banning freedom of religion (Liaquat in 1949), Indian cinema (Ayub in 1965), alcohol (Bhutto in 1977) and immorality (Zia in 1979). Under Nawaz Sharif in 1992, Pakistan banned the economy citing Riba, but the deranged state saved itself by lying, acting on the instinct of self-preservation, which by now was in short supply. The jihad in Kashmir under Benazir and then Musharraf completed the project of India as foreign and enemy and Indian culture as ‘kufr’, in the Pakistani mind.

But what is the culture of Pakistan? Do Pakistanis own a tradition of music and dance that is separate from India’s?

Mehdi Hasan and Ghulam Ali (who told me this on a flight to Bombay from Ahmedabad) enjoy performing in India because Pakistan’s middle-class is mostly illiterate about raag and taal. But this is our inheritance from the Sam Ved and from Amir Khusro. Why should it be disowned by Pakistanis?

High culture is rooted in tradition, and that is the first thing the religious state attacks. There is no culture of north Indian classical dance, Kathak, in Pakistan. Dance in general is absent (though apparently it is quite popular with Mehsud men, presumably grooving to the rhythm of pop-popping Kalashnikovs) because physical expression tends to be sensual and therefore deemed un-Islamic.

Culture is expression: the expending, the release of emotion that is drawn out through the desire for expression. Through words, through movement, through emotion, through music. Its expression is unique to cultures and in north India and Pakistan we have our unique culture: Indo-Persian (with stress on Indo).

Culture does not directly resist extremism; it only makes extremism difficult to penetrate by diverting the mind. The only way to fight extremism is through reason, but South Asians are not particularly good at reason because we don’t understand its vocabulary. Culture softens us, not in a bad way, and makes us less suicidal, which is a state where pristine religion leads us through its demand of purity.

We have no capacity to soften religion through reason because of our dependence on the great jurists of the 8th and 9th centuries. Iqbal spoke of the possibility of ijtihad, but how much ijtihad can happen in Pakistan, and for that matter in India, in defiance of Imam Azam?

The BBC carried a report last month titled ‘Can Pakistan’s Sufi tradition resist the Taliban?’ No, it can’t. Sufism can no more fight the Taliban than Mickey Mouse. Sufism is flight. It is escape. Those of us who have watched the ecstasy unfold at Nizamuddin Awliya and Baba Shah Jamal and a million heretical shrines in India, Hindu and Muslim, know that most of us can only be weekend Sufis. Sufism’s message of wahdat ul-wajood leads us away from doctrine, and that is an intellectual journey.

Sufism cannot fight because it makes no demands, and it has no daily ritual. It also respects Sharia, and can live besides it quite comfortably. The great Chishti Sufis of Delhi were namazis.

But the Talib cannot live beside Sufism. He will bomb the shrine of Rahman Baba. And now he has brought his war to Lahore’s Liberty Chowk. The message will come through to Punjab as it did in Swat: peace through Sharia.

How will Pakistanis resist the Talib’s hypnotic call? The problem in Pakistan is not that the Sri Lankan team got attacked; terrorism is truly global and affects us all. The problem is that Pakistanis are the only people in the world still unconvinced about who did it. Even intellectuals who are published in its newspapers convinced themselves through a convoluted or paranoid logic that ‘Muslims cannot do this’.

What should be said instead is: this is not us. And it really isn’t.

We have one of the world’s richest cultures of literature, music and dance. Pakistanis need to embrace it; it lies across the border. Bollywood is not just a film industry; it is the dispenser of Indo-Persian culture, and its voice; it is not in Bombay by accident. Shahrukh Khan and Kareena Kapoor would spend more time in Lahore’s courts defending themselves against fahashi, as did Manto, than on sets shooting. This difference in environment is not limited to cinema.

Pakistan can legitimately claim to have produced better classical poetry than India. But why? Independent Pakistan’s great poets, Faiz and Faraz, sang of protest, because they had much to protest about. Independent India’s great poets, Gulzar and Javed Akhtar, Shailendra and Anand Bakshi sing of love, because they operate in the natural cultural environment of South Asia. Pakistan’s poets do not. But its being across the border doesn’t mean that what’s produced in Bollywood is not Pakistani culture. It was before 1965.

Musharraf opened up Pakistan’s media, Zardari should open up India’s media to Pakistan. Not the news channels, the entertainment ones. He should leave in place the ban on India’s news channels (for that matter, being deprived of their news channels for a while would benefit Indians also). And he should open the borders more generally.

Pakistan should not wait for this to be reciprocal. After the savage attacks in Bombay, India will not immediately let Pakistanis freely onto its soil. But Pakistan should open itself up to India’s people, culture, tourists (they will come in droves) and trade. This does not mean surrender. Pakistan should remain a strong, sovereign Muslim nation.

But it must let loose its secret weapon on the Taliban. And that is our culture, our Indo-Persian heritage. We built it. We own it; we should own up to it.

Forget Tarana-e-Milli. Let’s sing Tarana-e-Hind-o-Pak. Allama Iqbal would approve, and so, I suspect, would Jinnah.

Source: The News

Related Links:

Jinnah's Vision of Pakistan

Pakistan's War is Cultural, Not Military

Musharraf's Legacy

Learning Facts versus Reasoning

Pessimist Pundits Gaining Strength in Pakistan

FATA Raid Charades Endanger Pakistan, World


Anonymous said...

Riaz, Patel's analysis is spot on, but i doubt whether reconciliation is just an utopian fantasy going forward. I think the foreign policy of state sponsored jihad instituted by Gen.Zia did more harm to the structural foundation of Pakistan than it's intended aim of weakening India from within. Jinnah was an urbanite. A fundamentalist islamist state was perhaps never on the mission statement when pakistan was founded. Tragic, the way things turned out. There is hope for a turnaround only if the state of Pakistan, civilian and military, act in concert to not let the events of 1971 dictate foreign poicy going forward.
Otherwise Pakistan runs the risk of being run over not by India but fundamentalism that it tried to export to Afghanistan and Kashmir

Anonymous said...

Indian tourists will come in droves to pakistan?????Some one writing this is out of his mind! What does pakistan have to show the world forget about Indians????Will australians come??Will americans come???For what ?To see islamic terrorists sitting in cafes with politicians?You need get out of your muslim mindset to embrace the world as it is .People visit nations that have similar values not similar culture or roots.Indian today are very very different from Pakistan and lets keep that way.You do not have to visit each others nations to be good.Being decent neighbours is enough without bombing or using islamic ticket to appease just about any thing that moves on earth!I.A progressive pakistan can work within its islamic ideals because thats what it wanted.As long it does not follow a set of rules that includes respecting other religions and following the rules of humanity and not religion,Pakistan will be shunned not only by Indians but by english or americans.Values are needed not religious insane thinking!

Riaz Haq said...


You question whether "Indian tourists will come in droves to pakistan?????"

I wonder if you even understand the meaning of "Indo-Persian" heritage of India. I think you are so limited in your comprehension that you have missed the whole point of the author's intent and analysis. You typify a narrow minded view of Muslims, Islam and Pakistan that led to the partition of India and creation of Pakistan in the first place.

Anonymous said...

Well well well...there you go again..safron clad talibans..precisely [period]. India and Indra Gandhi was helping Pakistan when India invaded east Pakistan and when India annexed the independent states within India and when India denied Kashmiris their right to choose. Stop directly jumping at Zia or Talibans and mind your own dirty laundry first.

Riaz - keep trying... "Bhains key aagey been bajana".

Anonymous said...

Indian tourists will come in droves to pakistan???

Yes they will. My wife would give an arm and a leg for some of the clothes produced in Pakistan. I would love to visit Karachi and see just how similar it is to Mumbai. I'd love to visit Lahore and eat the kababs I've heard so much about. My in-laws would want to visit Nankana Sahib only a wee bit less than the Golden Temple - besides places of their birth. Many friends of mine from Mumbai have families split between Mumbai and Karachi. They'd all go in a heartbeat. Millions would find reasons - cricket or no cricket. No question.

Riaz, thanks for this post. Aakar Patel has done a brilliant job of sifting the chaff from the grain. But the Salman and Deepak duo have neither the intellectual depth or the clarity outline it.

Anonymous said...

Anon [March 8, 2009 4:54PM] You have not only spoken for Indians like you but you have also spoken for the majority of Pakistanis. I was recently on a call with a help desk call center guy for my company from Delhi and we spoke in English, Urdu, and Punjabi (I am not a Punjabi). We just fell short of agreeing on time when he goes to see his relative in Karachi from Delhi and when I go to Karachi next time to visit my parents that we could meet as well.

We all belong to a troubled generation and the trouble must stop...the key is in our hands!

Anonymous said...

To the gleeful anonymous who is so eager to send his wife to pakistan-make sure she has her hand and leg back.Silly emotions will not help your cause or truth.Do you not know what happened to Srilankans??No one is showing hatred to people but the what matters is current crisis that is due to venom of religion.Again what matters is values not religion or similar roots.When values are gone-what you see is terrorists running the show.

Anonymous said...

To the gleeful anonymous who is so eager to send his wife to pakistan - make sure she has her hand and leg back.

Yes, I'll let her know. Also, she wants to go, I'm not sending her.

Do you not know what happened to Srilankans?

Yes, likely better than you do.

No one is showing hatred to people but the what matters is current crisis that is due to venom of religion.

I cannot connect that with wanting to visit and enjoy Pakistan. My issue is almost entirely with the Pakistani state. It's hardly with its people - who are getting a raw deal from a dysfunctional state. A personal visit is to the land itself and to enjoy the culture.

Anonymous said...

The culture is so deeply interwoven,
the river who gave India his name and identity now flows through pakistan , ??

How hard we try on whatever basis , it is simply not possible to seggregate.


Munna Bhai said...

Oh! Aakar Patel is certainly polite when he says this “But both men saw something magnificently dormant in the character of India’s Muslims, which would flower in isolation.”
Another way to say would be the country came into being because a bunch of losers couldn’t hope to compete on a level playing field…
Frankly, Islam was the raison d’être for Pakistan and Jinnah was less than honest when he went off on a tangent with his ‘secular’ speech. It turned the very basic principle on its head and it was not for him to do so. For one, the original idea was certainly not his; he only got on to the bandwagon much later. So if people in Pakistan look towards Islam for succor, it’s perfectly natural and what’s more, entirely legitimate to bring in developments that reinforces this identity, including sharia. Anything less, would be a mockery and reinforce the view that the country was formed for the well being of opportunistic few. But, if preferences of neighbours count for anything – I would wish for a liberal, decadent if you please and a fun loving Pakistan.
As to the culture bit, Patel oversimplifies it. I’m not sure how much commonality persists after 60 odd years of separation. Even if there is some, it really is no basis to get back together. Both the countries, India certainly, are better off in their respective spaces. Among the Pakistanis, other than the Punjabi and to an extent Pashtuns, the others most certainly have been short changed. But that is their problem and they have to deal with it.
As to about visitors to Pakistan tripping over themselves to get across, is as fanciful as the present day ‘rush’ to Bangladesh, once the initial euphoria wears off. A case in point is access to writings from Pakistan. Ten to fifteen years ago, I would slaver over a Pakistani article reprinted in an Indian publication, but having access to it through the internet makes it appear rather common. It is also another reason, (internet is a great leveler) why I feel that getting back together may be the stupidest thing we could do. On the other hand if we can get on with our respective lives without having to look over our shoulder to check if our neighbour is planning to shaft us, would by itself be no mean achievement.

Anonymous said...

This is one of the best articles I have read in the Pakistani media. It is better for India and Pakistan to cooperate in this fight for terror. But the problem is no one in India is clear about who can be depended upon in Pakistan. The deafening silence of the Pakistani majority to the religious fanaticism overwhelms any serious effort from the Indian side. There is still a huge amount of denial seen from the Pakistani side including the notion that it is America's war in Afganistan and not Pakistan's. Until that realization steps in nothing major will materialise and Pakistan will always be suspected as a accomplice of terror.

Vikram said...

I have been reading Aakar Patel's views on the South Asian Idea. I think the mistake that he and a lot of other, elite Indians and Pakistanis make, is that they do not really understand Indian nationalism very well.

There are four major variants of nationalism in India that I have been able to discern.

One is the 'Bollywood' nationalism of India's English-speaking elite, which principally views the nation as something to be consumed.

The other of course, is the right-wing Hindu nationalism which views India as an essentially Hindu nation (also quite popular among the elites, but real base is lower-middle class urbanites)

But the two dominant variants are Gandhian and Ambedkarian nationalism. You dont hear much about them, because they predominate in rural India and among the urban poor. Among these, it is the Ambedkarian version that is becoming increasingly dominant.

The clever reader will be able to identify India's political parties as manifestations of these ideas of Indian nationalism.

It seems to me that a Jinnahian or Iqbalian nationalism has failed to develop in Pakistan. In such a situation, an Indian's view of Iqbal and Jinnah is not very important. What is significant is the average Indian's view of Pakistan, and from virtually every survey I have seen, most Indians have an extremely negative view of Pakistan.

This would cut across the different kinds of nationalists, but I think the Bollywood nationalists would have the most positive attitude towards Pakistan, and the Hindu nationalists would have an extremely aggressive, negative attitude. As for the Ambedkarian and Gandhian nationalists, they would probably view the Bollywood and Hindu nationalists with as much distrust as they would Pakistanis, this is because neither shares their values or interests.

Anonymous said...

It is also another reason, (internet is a great leveler) why I feel that getting back together may be the stupidest thing we could do.

Munna, agree. But I don't think that's what Aakar Patel is advocating. He's making the case that Pakistanis need to acknowledge their subcontinental heritage as the primary one. Given the Pakistani need to carve a distinct Pakistani identity - and the attendant overboard revisionism on any link to India, it's a hard task. I suspect that for many Pakistanis, acknowledging links to India - especially non-Muslim links - are nearly as bad as abandoning religion.

Riaz Haq said...

Thanks for your insights and analysis on "four variants Indian nationalism" and views of each on Pakistan.

Clearly, Aaker Patel's view in not representative of all of India, but it is a view that Aaker has articulated well with good reasoning.

Of the "four variants" you describe, where do you put the Indian cable channels that have been the most hostile and instrumental in creating "extremely negative views of Pakistan"?

Vikram said...


India's cable 'news' channels mostly cater to the Bollywood nationalists, but I guess when it comes to representing Pakistan, there is not much to differentiate them from the Hindu nationalists.

Mind you, the English media and the Hindu nationalists usually do not get along well at all.

I guess, to a certain extent, demonizing Pakistan (or even rural India and the politicians that represent it) sells in India's news space. Quantity cannot make up for quality, and India is far from producing a journalist of the caliber of Rageh Omar and his likes.

Btw, to read a more informed Indian opinion on Pakistan, I would recommend "A Journey Interrupted" by Farzana Varshney.

Ray Lightning said...


What would Gandhian nationalists (or Gandhi himself for that matter) have against Pakistani people ?


Aakar Patel has only half the story. India is much much bigger than being a definitive representation of Indo-Persian culture.

The funny thing is this, what defines Pakistani identity : its music, dance, architecture, food and even attitude has its imprint in India, and that imprint is sometimes even stronger.

But India has much more than that. India has 8 officially recognized classical dances, and Kathak is not even the important one. India has 2 distinct and highly developed systems of classical music. The variety of folk dances and music is astronomically high. And the variety of cuisine should only be experienced to understand.

Probably what sums up the spectacular diversity of India is its wild life. Sure India has mountain goats and leopards. But it has elephants, tigers and rhinoceros.

Ech said...


You have hit the right chords. Thanks for your thoughts. I couldnt agree with you more.

Vikram said...


Well, Gandhian nationalism seems opposed to the entry of religion in national identity. Although, Gandhi himself intalled some 'spiritual' content into his nationalist discourse, he was staunchly secular for the most part.

Dont forget that he was assassinated by a religious hardliner, and due to the fact that Pakistan was created on a religious basis, many Indians are likely to see Pakistanis as religious hardliners.

You are absolutely right about India's diversity, it is unmatched and very hard for an outsider to comprehend. It is quite ironic that the aspect of India, most Indians are most proud of, is virtually unknown to the outside world !

smartannabeth said...

A horrible thought but perhaps the only way is that millions of Pakistan men arm themselves and shoot every Taliban in sight - before they get a grip on all of Pakistan. Better have a civil war now than to become the victim of Talibanization.

Teach those Talibans their own lessons using Kalashnikovs against them! As théy think they have the right to terrorize Pakistan - men, women, children - they have given yóu the right to terrorise them!

Hallo Aakar Patel

In response to what you write:

"Allama Iqbal imagined Pakistan as a utopia in northwest India where Punjabis would do ijtihad and read Nietzsche".

That is an odd as Nietszsche and muslims on 'ijtihad' (I understand that to be: 'the good path of the muslim'?) is a contradiction in terms as Nietszsche rejects God completely; and specifically mentions that he doesn't admire Muhammed; why Nietszsche must be 'haram' for all muslims.

"He thought its return to glory could come through expelling the polluting influence of Indian culture"

May I remind you that 'the glory of Islam in India' came at a very high price for Hindus as thousands ++++ of Hindus were murdered at the time by muslims armies invading from Persia but who subsequently used the Indian culture in order to established themselves 'grand style' in India; and that Pakistan; and Afghanistan's disaster 'fundamentalist Koran = sharia are also the result of muslims armies attacking Afghanistan?

'The character of muslims"? How do you propose to describe that in generic terms? Is that Saddam, Ammajinnidad, or mrs. Bhutto, or Mo & Mrs Mo, a 'martyr', another muslim amongst millions ....?

Are you you suggesting that 'the character of muslims' is per definition 'muslim' better than the character of other people?

"Now full-dress Sharia is upon Swat and the Punjabi’s head is cocked towards the frontier in curiosity. The world holds its breath."

Indeed. But who's fault is this other than of the Koran=sharia; and of your 'prophet' who also had people stoned to death? Just a few examples:

Muslim 680 The Prophet said: "When an unmarried couple fornicate they should receive one hundred lashes and banishment for one year. In the cases of a married male committing adultery with a married female, they shall receive one hundred lashes and be stoned to death. If one of the pair is unmarried, one hundred lashes and exile for a year.

Hadith Malik 493:1520 Ma'iz bin Malik came to Abu Bakr and said: "I am a base fellow for I have committed adultery."

Abu Bakr replied: "Repent before the Lord and tell no one else." The man still felt guilty and went to Umar who gave him the same reply. Still feeling guilty he went to the Prophet who asked if he was ill or mad, married or single. On hearing that Ma'iz was healthy and married, the Prophet ordered him to be stoned to death.

Narrated Abu Huraira and Zaid bin Khalid:

"Two men had a dispute in the presence of Allah's Apostle. One of them said, "O Allah's Apostle! Judge between us according to Allah's Laws." The other who was wiser, said, "Yes, O Allah's Apostle! Judge between us according to Allah's Laws and allow me to speak. The Prophet said, "Speak." He said, "My son was a laborer serving this (person) and he committed illegal sexual intercourse with his wife, The people said that my son is to be stoned to death, but I ransomed him with one-hundred sheep and a slave girl. Then I asked the learned people, who informed me that my son should receive one hundred lashes and will be exiled for one year, and stoning will be the lot for the man's wife." Allah's Apostle said, "Indeed, by Him in Whose Hand my soul is, I will judge between you according to Allah's Laws: As for your sheep and slave girl, they are to be returned to you." Then he scourged his son one hundred lashes and exiled him for one year. Then Unais Al-Aslami was ordered to go to the wife of the second man, and if she confessed (the crime), then stone her to death. She did confess, so he stoned her to death.

and why stoning to death by muslims still can happen and why it happens is that the Koran=sharia.

What I am saying that muslims refuse to look at the root causes of Talibanization, Khomeini's talibanization; S.A. talibanization ... who apply the fundaments of the Koran/Muhammed supported by hadiths - they 'follow the example of the prophet' who also waged jihad'.

" one is the lyrical call of Sharia which Muslims are drawn to in their quest for utopia. This will not change."

'lyrical call"? where and how? surely not 'lyrical' for women!

"Those who followed him beheaded it by banning freedom of religion"

Freedom of religion is 'haram' in the Koran and by Muhammed. There is only one (early) surah which says: 'you your belief, and I mine' - but otherwise the Koran bears witness to numbers of surahs not allowing freedom of religion - on the contrary; and Muhammed said: "There are three reasons why a muslims blood can flow: 1: for murder; 2) for infidelity 3: that of he muslim who leaves Islam.

and why ex muslims get the death sentence under sharia.

"High culture is rooted in tradition, and that is the first thing the religious state attacks."

Indeed a Theology is a dictatorship that pushes everbody into the same theological harnass; and Talibans and other fundamentalists forbid music as their complete Theological dicatorship and why also music is 'haram'; but like thousands of classical music European compositions also classical Indian music is deeply spritual and is also performed by muslims in India.

"Dance .... (though apparently it is quite popular with Mehsud men, presumably grooving to the rhythm of pop-popping Kalashnikovs)

Hahahaha! They pop-pop-pop their Kalashnikovs to the tune of pop-pop-pop music! But obviously they cannot hide what lives in all people - wanting to dance, make and listen to music.

"The only way to fight extremism is through reason,"

Your problem is that you are not allowed to "reason", that is criticise- the Koran/Muhammed (Imam Azam) - and anyone who does - get his/her throat slit by Talibans - or punished by Islamic State legislation.

Unfortunately you lot are a) in the grip of the fundamentalist Koran/Muhammed/hadiths b) Have to be afraid of Pakistan's Islamic State legislation - and the Talibans - why the lot of you keep silent out of fear - and why change is impossible.

"which is a state where pristine religion leads us through its demand of purity."

There is no Utopia! A government 'under one God' is always a dictatorship; and a 'state of purity' cannot be imposed nor attained upon upteens millions; as but few can reach that state as attained by saints and hermits in isolation from society.

Sufies are not even recognised by muslims as muslims (are even persecuted for being sufis); Rehman Baba was a sufi - but not a muslim which this line from one of his poems proves:

"Within this frail body my soul
Lies visible, like pure wine in the glass."

"pure wine' is 'haram' alcohol.

"What should be said instead is: this is not us. And it really isn’t."

Not yóu, nor millions of muslims, but all (!) jihadis/Talibans/Islamists world-wide derive their inspiration from the Koran/Muhammed/hadiths - including Ben Laden Ammajinnidad, S.A. ....; and that is not a matter of 'interpreation' but of yes/no accepting, yes/no applying what is in de Koran/Muhammed/hadiths.


Riaz Haq said...


In her last book " RECONCILIATION: Islam, Democracy, and the West", Benazir Bhutto quotes passages from the Koran in support of her argument that Islam preaches tolerance and pluralism (“You shall have your religion, and I shall have my religion” and "There is no compulsion in religion"), and she compares Osama bin Laden’s “attempt to exploit, manipulate and militarize Islam” to terrorist acts committed by other religious fanatics: “whether Christian fundamentalists’ attacks on women’s reproductive clinics or Jewish fundamentalist attacks on Muslim holy sites in Palestine.”

The actions of Bin Ladin and the Taliban are a perversion of Islamic faith.

I suggest that you read BB's spirited defense of Islam to help put your own understanding of Islam in better context. You may not be persuaded but you'll still learn somethings that you probably don't know or understand.

Anonymous said...

It would wrong to say didnt didnt understand us much. He has done more for us than anyone in history but sadly his dream of pakistan was not continued...

Riaz Haq said...

Here are excerpts from a Wall Street Journal Op Ed by Rupa Subramanya Dehejia on potential for India-Pakitan trade:

How does India fit into this picture? And can two nuclear-armed rivals with a fraught relationship meaningfully engage in trade and commerce with each other?

Trade is one of the engines of growth and development but in the case of Pakistan, this potentially important link with India is virtually missing. At present trade is roughly $2 billion a year.

Pakistan accounts for less than 1% of India’s trade and India less than 5% of Pakistan’s trade. Contrast this to the bilateral trade relationship following independence, when 70% of Pakistan’s trade was with India while more than 60% of India’s exports went to Pakistan.

According to Mohsin Khan of the Peterson Institute, economists estimate a “normal” trading relationship would be five to 10 times larger than the current amount.

There is also an estimated $2 billion to $3 billion a year in trade that takes place unofficially through third countries, especially the United Arab Emirates.

If this could be normalized as bilateral trade, it would occur at a much lower cost and therefore greater economic gain.

I’d argue that we must at least try to improve our economic relationship even if the political relationship is still frosty. The great exemplar here is the European Union, which was built on the premise that binding neighbors together economically was a prerequisite for ensuring peace and prosperity for all. We in India have yet to fully absorb this lesson. A prosperous Pakistan will not only be good for Pakistanis themselves but also good for us in India.

It’s time for the liberal commentators on both sides of the border to stop wringing their hands about the demise of a secular liberal democracy, because Pakistan hasn’t been that for some time, if it ever was.

While the support that the Indian intelligentsia has offered their counterparts in Pakistan following the assassination is heart-warming, it’s not consequential in the big picture. Liberals in Pakistan may fight on but it’s time for us in India to accept that Pakistan is an Islamic state with Islamic values and laws.

The crux here is that trade and commerce know no religious boundaries. We must work towards building a stronger bilateral relationship on that basis.

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 façade 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 Aaakar Patel on Punjabis and Urdu-speakers of Bollywood:

The dominant communities of Bollywood are two: the Urdu-speakers of North India and, above all, the Punjabis from in and around Lahore. They rule Bollywood and always have. To see why this is unusual, imagine a Pakistan film industry set in Karachi but with no Pashtuns or Mohajirs or Sindhis. Instead the actors are all Tamilian and the directors all Bengalis. Imagine also that all Pakistan responds to their Tamil superstars as the nation's biggest heroes. That is how unusual the composition of Bollywood is.

A quick demonstration. Shah Rukh Khan, Aamir Khan and Salman Khan are the three current superstars. All three are Urdu-speakers. In the second rung we have Hrithik Roshan, Saif Ali Khan, Akshay Kumar, Shahid Kapoor and Ajay Devgan. Of these, Hrithik, Ajay and Akshay are Punjabi while Saif is Urdu-speaking. Shahid Kapoor, as his name suggests, is half-Punjabi and half-Urdu-speaking.

Behind the camera, the big names are Punjabi: Karan Johar, Vidhu Vinod Chopra and Yash Chopra of Lahore.

The Kapoor clan of Lyallpur is the greatest family in acting, not just in Bollywood but anywhere in the world. It has produced four generations of superstars: Prithviraj Kapoor, his sons Raj, Shammi and Shashi, their children Rishi and Randhir, and the current generation of Ranbir, Kareena and Karisma.

Bollywood is a Punjabi industry. We have Dev Anand of Lahore, Balraj Sahni of Rawalpindi, Rajendra Kumar of Sialkot, IS Johar of Chakwal, Jeetendra, Premnath, Prem Chopra, Anil Kapoor and Dharmendra who are all Punjabis. Sunil Dutt of Jhelum, Rajesh Khanna, Vinod Khanna, Vinod Mehra, Suresh Oberoi of Quetta, and all their star kids are Punjabis. Composer Roshan (father of Rakesh and grandfather of Hrithik) was from Gujranwala.

What explains this dominance of Punjabis in Bollywood? The answer is their culture. Much of India's television content showcases the culture of conservative Gujarati business families. Similarly, Bollywood is put together around the extroverted culture and rituals of Punjabis.

The sangeet and mehndi of Punjabi weddings are as alien to the Gujarati in Surat as they are to the Mohajir in Karachi. And yet Bollywood's Punjabi culture has successfully penetrated both. Bhangra has become the standard Indian wedding dance. Writer Santosh Desai explained the popularity of bhangra by observing that it was the only form of Indian dance where the armpit was exposed. Indians are naturally modest, and the Punjabi's culture best represents our expressions of fun and wantonness.

Even artsy Indian cinema is made by the people we call Punjus - Gurinder Chadha, Deepa Mehta and Mira Nair.

Another stream of Bollywood is also connected to Lahore, in this case intellectually, and that is the progressives. Sajjad Zaheer (father of Nadira Babbar), Jan Nisar Akhtar (father of lyricist Javed and grandfather of actor/director Farhan and director Zoya), Kaifi Azmi (father of Shabana), Majrooh Sultanpuri and so many others have a deep link to that city.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an Op Ed in the News criticizing of Nawaz Sharif's Aug 13 speech at SAFMA:

Nawaz Sharif’s speech on Aug 13 at the Safma seminar “Building Bridges in the Subcontinent” continues to make waves two weeks later. Media attention has focused mainly on some of his observations which seem to question the basis of Pakistani nationhood. These remarks have caused surprise and consternation even among some long-standing supporters of the PML-N, which claims to be the successor of the party which led the Pakistan movement in pre-partition India. Hardly anyone from the top ranks of the PML-N, apart from the newly appointed spokesman, has sought to defend the party leader’s verbal escapade.

Pakistan and India, Nawaz said, had the same culture and heritage, ate the same food, spoke the same language and shared the same way of life. Despite the many things the people of the two countries had in common, he said, they were now separated by “a border”.

Even when allowance is made for the fact that Nawaz was addressing a mixed audience of Pakistanis and Indians on building bridges between them – in itself a totally desirable enterprise – his statement is offensive. And it is untrue because, though the Muslims and Hindus lived on the same soil for centuries, they inhabited two different spiritual worlds. Nawaz was in fact repeating many of the points made by the Congress Party of India – and refuted by the Quaid-e-Azam – during the Pakistan movement.

Almost as outrageous as Nawaz’s assertion about the Indians and Pakistanis having a common culture is his assertion that they worship (pujte hain) the same God. The Quran says something very different in Surah al-Kafirun: The believers worship not that which the non-believers worship, nor do the non-believers worship that which the believers worship. Nawaz should also know that the Muslims do not perform puja, as the Hindus do, but ibadat.
Nawaz’s political judgment – never very sound, as seen in his selection of Musharraf as the army chief and then in the ham-fisted manner in which he tried to fire him – has been warped further by the trauma of his overthrow in 1999 and subsequent forced exile. That may be understandable at a human level. But such a flaw can be fatal in a national leader. If Nawaz cannot overcome this shock, he should return fulltime to his family business and leave politics to others.

The Indian government and media are delighted, and understandably so, at Nawaz’s Safma speech. But so also is a small section of the Pakistani media and “civil society” which labels itself pretentiously as the “liberals”. The newly coined English word lumpen-intelligentsia would be a more appropriate description for them. One of them, a star TV commentator, claimed last week that 99 percent of the people of Pakistan agreed with what Nawaz said. The remaining one percent, whom this analyst dismissed as the thekedar (self-appointed guardians) of the two-nation theory, were itching to nuke India, as he claimed. So much for objectivity and informed analysis.

Pakistan and India should indeed give up confrontation, learn to live as peaceful neighbours and try to build bridges of understanding. But denying the foundations of Pakistani nationhood, ignoring the threat posed by India and abandoning the Kashmir cause is certainly no way of going about it, as Nawaz seems to think. If he does not retract the unfortunate remarks he made on these issues, it is to be hoped at least that others in his party would disown them.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an excerpt from a piece by Pankaj Mishra published in Businessweek:

Nov. 18 (Bloomberg) -- During the worldwide depression of the mid-1930s, the poet and Islamic modernist Muhammad Iqbal, often called Pakistan’s spiritual founder, wrote a poem dramatizing the inadequacies of Western political and economic systems.

Democracy and capitalism had empowered a privileged elite in the name of the people, Iqbal felt. But he was not much fonder of Marxism, which was then coming into vogue among anti- colonial activists across South Asia and the Middle East:

But what’s the answer to the mischief of that wise Jew That Moses without light, that cross-less Jesus Not a prophet, but with a book under his arm For what could be more dangerous than this That the serfs uproot the tents of their masters

(Rooh-e-Sultani Rahe Baqi To Phir Kya Iztarab
Hai Magar Kya Uss Yahoodi Ki Shararat Ka Jawab?

Woh Kaleem Be-Tajalli, Woh Maseeh Be-Saleeb
Neest Peghambar Wa Lekin Dar Baghal Darad Kitab

Iss Se Barh Kar Aur Kya Ho Ga Tabiat Ka Fasad
Torh Di Bandon Ne Aaqaon Ke Khaimon Ki Tanab!)
In any case, Tunisians voting for Ghannouchi and Pakistanis flocking to Khan’s rallies are not the radical revolutionaries or closet theocrats they are often made out to be by a paranoid local elite and a global liberal intelligentsia. Rather, these are people who have simply failed to develop the habit of seeing Islam as a purely religious phenomenon, separate from economics, politics, law and other aspects of collective life.

Whether liberal and secular elites like it or not, there are a large number of socially conservative Muslims who wish to see the ethical principles of Islam play a more active role in public life. The mind-numbing division between “moderates” and “extremists” that often passes for profound understanding of Islamic societies in the West simply fails to account for this invisible majority of Muslims, who are unlikely to plump for secular liberalism either now or in the near future.

For many nationalist and reflexively conservative Pakistanis, Imran Khan’s belief that “if we follow Iqbal’s teaching, we can reverse the growing gap between Westernized rich and traditional poor that helps fuel fundamentalism” is not the empty rhetoric it may sound to a Westernized Pakistani.

Indeed, the history of South Asia and the Middle East has repeatedly shown that the failure of modernizing endeavors, and the widespread suffering it unleashes, has always enhanced the moral prestige of Islam. In the eyes of its victims, the debacle of modernization and secularization has also diminished the credibility and authority of local elites as well as their Western sponsors.

The classic example, of course, was Iran. Visiting the Islamic Revolution after the fall of the secularizing Shah, the French philosopher Michel Foucault claimed that “Islam -- which is not simply a religion, but an entire way of life, an adherence to a history and a civilization -- has a good chance to become a gigantic powder keg, at the level of hundreds of millions of men.”

The 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran that Foucault rashly cheered on has, in another generational shift, run its course. And revolution per se may be far from the minds of young Pakistanis and Tunisians trying to regain control of their national destiny. But the powder keg of political Islam that Foucault spoke of remains dry elsewhere in the Muslim world; and its potency is only likely to increase as Western political and economic systems and ideologies seem, to many Muslims, feeble, and yet so malign.

snigdha dhal said...

Riaz saab! You are listening and voicing the reason in you. But have you heard what they speak about Indian culture.Its all chhichhorapan. The whole world sings paeans to our culture. In a Discovery channel documentary they described it as a glorious saga of 3000 years. But these people of pakistan are so mypoic that they view India as Hindu. Even I replied in a comment that India is a country not a religion. We have 28 states, about 1618 languages, 18 official languages including Urdu, 6 major religions including Islam,29 national festivals including Id.Pakistan people have been fed and nurtured with opium of hatred. It is a country which has done irreparable damage to Islam also. Whatever the world thinks of Islam by associating with Fundamentalism, Xenophobic,merciless killing of anybody that differs from you, mediavelistic mindset etc. it all is the contribution of pakistan. I think the Muslims in India who are educated, liberal, good human beings are the only hope to redeem the bad connotation they have given to Islam. They are being punished by Allah for breaking their motherland, this land of 3000 years' civilization, and at last shrewdly exploiting the garb of religion(Islam)to meet their narrow political ambitiion.

Riaz Haq said...

Op Ed by Uday Mahurkar:

It is said that to label a patriot as non-patriot is one of the greatest sins. Against the backdrop of this adage there is the curious case of Abul Kalam Azad, India’s first education minister and a nationalist Muslim credited with steering the boat of the Congress and, by that virtue, of India during the most difficult phase of the Pakistan movement from 1939 to 1945 under the shadow of World War II. There is a significant section of responsible Indians who believe that Azad and his ideological friends belonging to the Wahabi stream - the Deobandi Muslim leaders of that period - opposed Partition because they felt territorial nationalism had no place in Islam since the faith stood for converting the entire world and that the division of India would divide Muslim strength and awaken Hindus from a deep slumber under Muslim rule to the dangers of Pan-Islamism.

One of those who thought so was late retired bureaucrat, and a witness to the Partition, Yuvraj Krishen. His landmark book Understanding Partition is a good read on the actions and objectives of the Muslim League on one hand and, on the other, the Deobandis with their favourite Azad - who were in the Congress. Writing a guest column on the Partition for India Today in 2007, Krishen wrote:

"There is ample evidence now to prove that nationalist Muslims like Abul Kalam Azad and the then Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind president Ahmad Hussain Madani opposed Pakistan only because they felt that Partition would affect Muslim domination in the sub-continent and Muslims would heavily lose. Plus they tried to extract a heavy price from the Congress for their patriotism in the name of minority protection. Congress leaders have tried to hide the fact that as Congress president in 1945, Azad even went to the extent of agreeing to a proposal of rotating Indian headship. It meant India would have a Hindu and then a Muslim head of State and army chief by turns. So, eventually Gandhi and Nehru made Congress a hostage to ‘Hindu-Muslim unity at any cost’ which Jinnah skillfully exploited and got more concessions from the Congress to establish parity in numbers between Hindu and Muslim representation."

But a better way to look at Azad is from the eyes of secular and lslamic scholars/leaders of Pakistan. Amongst them the leaders of the Wahabi stream in Pakistan, generally opposed to Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s modernist approach, see Azad with respect while the Jinnah admirers see him as the representative of an unbending, orthodox and even retrograde brand of Islam and question Gandhiji for taking the support of retrograde Islamic forces. This can be gleaned from the writings and speeches of Wahabi stream leaders like late Tanzeem-e-Islami's (an Islamic socio-political body in Pakistan) Ameer Israr Ahmed and Jamat-e-Ulema-e-Islam president and Deobandi leader Fazlur Rehman and pro-Jinnah, liberal scholars like Ayesha Jalal - who teaches history in United States. Among other such supporters include Hamza Alavi, the eminent late Pakistani social scientist, Naeem Ahmad, an expert on the Pakistan movement and Sharif-Al-Mujahid, a well known Pakistani academic and freedom movement scholar.

Riaz Haq said...

Urging Jains not to provoke Maharashtra in the name of Paryushan, Saamna said the community should live in peace and harmony with the local residents of Maharashtra...Your financial empires will be nowhere if you sow enmity in Maharashtra, said Saamna.

In an editorial, Saamna reminded the Jains that Shiv Sainiks had protected them during the post-Babri communal flare-up in Mumbai in 1992-93. Many Jains would then call on Balasaheb Thackeray and thank him and the Sena for protecting their lives and properties during communal riots.

"Our Gujarati-Jain brothers were safe because Marathis countered the violence of religious fundamentalists with violence. And the Jains would be praising the violence which saved them," said the Shiv Sena mouthpiece and urged the Jain community to keep away from religious fundamentalism.

The Saamna editorial reflects the widespread ire in the Sena rank and file following the BMC administration's decision to keep the municipalised abattoirs shut for four days during the Paryushan Parva. BJP MLAs Atul Bhatkhalkar and Raj Purohit had written to the BMC seeking the shut-down of abattoirs in order to respect the religious sentiments of the Jain community.

"Till now, fundamentalist Muslims were flexing their religious muscles. If Jains too want to follow the path of religious fundamentalism then God alone should save them," Saamna said, adding, "The Jain community is indulging in uncalled for activities as it has wealth."

Riaz Haq said...

Iqbal: poor philosophy, rich poetry by Salma Khalid

The state and its propaganda apparatus have been a great hindrance in the development of an objective approach or objective approaches to Iqbal. Yet, one can ask whether Iqbal didn’t really come handy to a regressive state.

Letting Iqbal entirely off the hook and attributing the problem mostly to the state has been the tendency in influential segments of the liberal intellectuals and in the Marxist left in Pakistan, which suddenly discovered in Iqbal a philosophical genius that they had failed to spot before – when they were condemning him for what was seen as fascism and fascistic symbols adorning his poetry. All that changed after some Soviet scholars, perhaps working under Soviet state guidelines, saw in Iqbal a great anti-imperialist and ‘anti-capitalist humanist’.

An acute sense of social injustice is indeed powerfully present in parts of Iqbal’s poetry. What should be noted is that, despite using Marxist insights in those parts, Iqbal has no place for even a tinge of Marxism in his serious ‘philosophical’ efforts, as is evident from his ‘The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam’. In fact what these lectures make clear in places is that a fear of the spread of socialism is one of the factors driving Iqbal’s ‘Reconstruction’.

His reactionary idealism is positively at odds with Marxism. Our leftists confuse his poetic devices and a few romantic, and no doubt powerful, invocations by him of Marx and Lenin with what they call his philosophy. Often, these invocations serve to attack colonialism and fascism as evil fruits of secularism, nationalism, democracy, liberalism and reason.

What has been lacking in most of Iqbal’s admirers on both the Right and the Left is an intellectual commitment to the plain truth. Instead, what has proved irresistible is the desire to use Iqbal’s name to be acceptable to the people among whom Iqbal came to enjoy great ‘intellectual’ influence and popularity. As a result, with very few exceptions, little honest discussion on Iqbal’s lectures has taken place here.

Iqbal attacked reason, science, philosophy, literature, art and free thought at a very crucial stage of our social and political history. Which state using religion as ideology would hesitate in owning and using someone who proclaims that freedom of thought is an invention of the devil or that Muslims have no use for philosophy, literature and theoretical sciences or that Muslims should avoid studying astronomy for it renders men without courage? How far should our knowledge and understanding of the dynamics of progress and history have advanced in the 20th century for the Cambridge and Munich-educated Iqbal to know that these were dangerous utterings, of great disservice to Muslims?

Iqbal himself was candid about the fact that he was no philosopher. Still, that has not prevented us from taking him seriously as a ‘philosopher’. That also did not prevent Iqbal himself from using and abusing philosophy to demolish philosophy itself with unrestrained self-congratulation. He had the same self-defeating attitude to reason as all those before and after him who would demolish reason and philosophy but rely on reason and philosophy to do so, thus making a strange spectacle where philosophy does not remain philosophy but becomes unintelligible gobbledygook carrying little meaning and religion does not remain religion but becomes a caricature of itself.