Democracy and Islam

With the current debates about democracy, religion and politics happening all over Twitter, Facebook and other social media outlets, I couldn’t help but think about the amalgamation of these factors that has lead to the current status of Pakistan.

I’ll start from the regular demonizing of democracy that has become a norm by the right wing debaters swarming Facebook. I remember one of them actually called democracy and haram and even implied that it is a tool by the Zionists and westerners to make us forget about our religion. “Sharia law is the only way for true Muslims”, he said. I couldn’t help but point out to him that Islam has nothing against democracy and in no way is democracy un-Islamic. Islam’s fundamental corner stone has the same values as that of democracy but to no avail.

The problem with the traditionalist view is that secretly hoping for the ‘golden’ era of the prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is unrealistic. Not only will we have to re-create the prophet himself but also the sahaba and not to mention the exact same geo-political circumstances and scenarios and hope that each and everything happens the same way it did back during the 7th century. We’ll also have to degrade the technological advancements that have been made till date and get rid of everything that is present today but wasn’t there during the prophets time.

We also keep forgetting that after prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) death, with the prophet not there anymore to guide the ummah, a khilafat system was created by the sahaba. This khilafat system, considered to be the most Islamic system, was based in Democracy. Hazrat Abu Bakr (ra) became the first Caliph because he was elected by the sahaba of the time not because he had at army at his disposal.

My point here being that this khilafat system worked at the time only because it was the correct adaptation for the time for the ummah. With the guidance fresh from the prophet, the sahaba had the means to create a system that would work well whilst following the traditions of Islam and the practices associated with it. Today the circumstances have changed, and the same system that worked under those circumstances is no longer a system that will suit the needs of today. And by saying that I’m in no way implying that a khilafat system with shariah law is bad, just that it will not serve the greater purpose of serving humanity. Fact is that a new system is required that will work today and democracy is that system.

Democracy and fundamental teachings of Islam are intertwined. An ideal Islamic state is a Muslim-majority country that respects freedom, the rule of law, global human rights (including religious freedom), social welfare, women’s rights and the rights of minorities. With democracy doesn’t happen overnight, it takes time just like any other constitutional system.

It is also important to note that the first constitution of Medina declared the state of Medina as a political unit and that the constitution declared the indivisible composition of the Muslim nation or Ummah. Islam encourages political activity. In fact, the sovereignty of God’s law (the Quran and Sunnah) equates to the state law that is obvious from the encouraged political participation.

An example here to show that Islamic law is not suitable in our country is the interview clip of Munawar Hassan (the JI head) regarding his take on women & rape. According to Maulana Munawar Hassan sahab, a woman should not report rape if she doesn’t have four witnesses. If she still does and cant produce witnesses, she will be tried for adultery according to Sharia law.

My question to the readers is this: Do you think this rational and just in today’s era? That incase a woman cannot produce four witnesses she should either not report the rape, or be willing to bear the consequences. What message does that send? See the video for yourself and then decide how wrong it will be for innocent women.

Another example is that of general Zia-ul-haq and his so-called Islamization. He introduced discriminatory legislation against women such as the set of Hudood Ordinances and the Qanun-e-Shahadat Order (Law of Evidence Order). He banned women from participating and from being spectators of sports and promoted purdah. He suspended all fundamental rights guaranteed in the Constitution that had been adopted in 1973, including the right to be free of discrimination on the basis of sex.

Democracy, on the basis of Islam, gives all of these rights back to women. Just last year, the Pakistan National assembly passed a bill to punish acid throwers, which shows a big problem in our society. Our own Shirmeen Obaid Chinoy received an Oscar for her movie on the issue as well. It was because of democratic system that women got empowered and were able to raise a voice against such an inhumane act. In a democratic system the plight of the people is always a concern, which relates to the fundamental teachings of our religion.

In short, God has given us brains so that we may reason and make decisions, not follow blindly. Islam is a religion that is not rigid and it lets people adapt without changing its basic and fundamental teachings. And with democracy as the system of the people, I think Democracy and Islam suit each other perfectly.

Defense of Pakistan?

The incident at Salala in which NATO forces killed 24 Pakistani soldiers was termed as proof of American deviousness and a turning point in relations with the difficult ally. Whether the attack was deliberate, accidental, or the result of a plan by militants to draw American fire on the base as a means to ‘divide and conquer’ the alliance, it caused national outrage as people demanded justice. In response to the deadly attack, a group of religious parties and mullahs formed the Difa-e-Pakistan Council to advocate against allowing NATO supply routes through Pakistan and siding with the West in the war in Afghanistan. Eventually, the Americans apologised for the incident. But as I thought about those brave soldiers who embraced martyrdom defending their country, I couldn’t help but also think about another attack – one that happened just last week and killed 23 innocents.

The attack last week was not carried out by NATO forces, but by Taliban. They did not carry out their attack along a porous border in the remote tribal areas, but in Rawalpindi, right under the nose of GHQ. And they did not target the security forces, but innocent women and children.

A Taliban suicide bomber has struck a Shia Muslim procession near Pakistan’s capital, killing 23 people in the latest in a series of bombings targeting the sect during its holiest month of the year.

The bomber attacked the procession around midnight on Wednesday in the city of Rawalpindi, next to the capital, Islamabad, said Deeba Shahnaz, a rescue official. At least 62 people were wounded by the blast, including six police officers. Eight of the dead and wounded were children, said Shahnaz.

There can be no mistake about this attack. It was no accident, no case of mistaken identity. The attackers knew their target, admit their deed, and have vowed to continue to murder Shias until they are wiped from the Earth – also known as genocide.

The Pakistan Taliban claimed responsibility for three attacks carried out on the eve of the D8 summit and said more would follow.

“People belonging to Shia community are infidel and blasphemous and we will not spare them,” said a spokesman.

“You will see further attacks in coming days.”

Apologists often make excuses for these Pakistani Taliban by saying they are different from foreign Taliban fighting jihad ‘justified by Islamic law’. But the facts are stubborn things, and the facts are that these foreign jihadis have close relationships with the Pakistani Taliban who share their ultimate goals.

The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), a militant group based in Pakistan’s tribal agencies, has suffered a series of major battlefield setbacks over the past year. But despite the loss of several senior leaders and a key media operative since 2011, the group remains one of the most militarily capable and media savvy militant outfits operating in the region. It maintains working relationships with a number of other Sunni militant groups active in the region including al-Qaeda Central, Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), and the Afghan Taliban. The IMU has particularly close ties to the TTP, with whom it has launched joint military operations against Pakistani military targets inside Pakistan, as well ISAF and Afghan government targets in Afghanistan. In April, an estimated 150 IMU and TTP fighters launched a successful attack on Bannu Prison in northwestern Pakistan, freeing nearly 400 prisoners, including Adnan Rashid, who was convicted in 2008 of involvement in an assassination plot against then-Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf. Rashid was subsequently featured in videos released by the IMU and TTP.

Thousands of people protested the re-opening of NATO supply routes in July led by clerics and religious parties who claimed to be acting in ‘defense of Pakistan’. Today, jihadi militants continue to murder innocents and where is ‘Difa-e-Pakistan’ now?

If Pakistan is to survive, we must face the fact that we are being attacked from within. The foreign agents trying to destroy Pakistan are not invisible Raymond Davises, but the jihadi leaders holding conferences in our own capital. The foreign forces killing thousands of innocents are not CIA drones, but jihadi suicide bombers coming from Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, and beyond. If we are truly patriots who want to defend our country, this is the enemy that we have to defend against. Otherwise, I fear we are lost.

Foreign Agents Spreading Fitnah

shariah4Pakistan poster

Before I saw the headlines, someone had emailed me the poster. I wish I could honestly say that I was shocked, but it’s hard to shock me these days. Certainly ‘Shariah4Pakistan’ is not a shocking conference name. We hear this regularly implied if not expressed openly on talk shows. Terming Qaid-e-Azam as a ‘Traitor of Islam’ is stupid, but even that is sadly not surprising as religious extremism has become more and more mainstream. No, the one thing I found interesting about the poster were the names of the self-appointed Sheikhs who are invited to speak.

Omar Bakri Mohammed, aka ‘Sheikh Omar’ as he likes to call himself, is a British extremist who helped start the Hizb-ut-Tahrir, which is banned in Pakistan, in the UK. Omar has praised terrorism and has even been convicted of terrorism in absentia by a court in Lebanon.

Another speaker is the Londoner student of Omar, Anjem Choudary, a takfiri who condemns moderate religious groups as kufr. In 2008, Anjem declared that the Muslim Council of Britain were ‘selling their souls to the devil’ after they condemned the September 11 and July 7 terrorist attacks.

This is the group that is holding a conference in Islamabad. They are, by definition, foreign agents. And according to their own words they plan to declare Qaid-e-Azam as ‘Traitor of Islam’, the Constitution as ‘Kufr’, and they plan to issue a fatwa against Malala Yousafzai for wanting an education. And they plan to do this at Lal Masjid, an obvious scheme to open old wounds in society and incite more violence in our country.

They are, by definition, foreign agents who are planning on sowing fitnah in Pakistan. Question is, who gave them their visa? Why are these anti-Pakistan foreign agents being allowed to come into our country and incite hatred and violence?

This is more than a mere academic question. Last month, Pakistan Ulema Council (PUC) Chairman Maulana Tahir Mahmood Ashrafi condemned the attack on Malala Yousafzai.

“Islam is the only religion which strictly prohibits violence of any sort in the name of religion. Our Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him) has strictly directed not to harm women, children and elderly and so much so has even directed not to damage trees and crops even during the ‘ghazwat’ that he fought against the infidels. How a person calling himself to be a Muslim can resort to such acts of violence and especially against an innocent minor girl of only 14 years? The perpetrators can not call themselves Muslims and this action of theirs has nothing to do with the teachings and preaching of Islam,” Maulana Tahir Ashrafi said.

He also urged the government to take every possible step to save the life of young Malala Yousafzai and at the same time take meaningful measures to promote the true teachings of Islam which preaches love, affection, tolerance, co-existence and abhor violence.

Will Maulana Ashrafi be made a fool of by these British Osama wannabes? Will the military stand by silently while foreign agents incite attacks and undermine our national security? Why are none of the self-appointed ‘defenders of Pakistan’ asking who issued these foreign agents their visas? How can we expect America to respect our sovereignty when we allow these militant ‘drones’ to threaten innocent girls?

These are not academic questions. They are questions of survival.

Lessons from US election

Romney and Obama

The American elections having successfully concluded with the re-election of President Obama to a second term in office, discussion will soon return to our own looming elections and what is at stake. As we prepare to immerse ourselves in the full depths of political rallies and electioneering, we should take a moment to reflect on some things that were said last night in America.

In his speech accepting the office of Presidency for another term, Obama made the following observation about politics in a democracy – even one as old as America’s:

Democracy in a nation of 300 million can be noisy and messy and complicated. We have our own opinions. Each of us has deeply held beliefs. And when we go through tough times, when we make big decisions as a country, it necessarily stirs passions, stirs up controversy.

That won’t change after tonight, and it shouldn’t. These arguments we have are a mark of our liberty. We can never forget that as we speak people in distant nations are risking their lives right now just for a chance to argue about the issues that matter, the chance to cast their ballots like we did today.

Obama went on to talk not about the differences between his Democrat supporters and their opponents the Republicans, but the hopes and dreams that they both shared.

Now, we will disagree, sometimes fiercely, about how to get there. As it has for more than two centuries, progress will come in fits and starts. It’s not always a straight line. It’s not always a smooth path.

By itself, the recognition that we have common hopes and dreams won’t end all the gridlock or solve all our problems or substitute for the painstaking work of building consensus and making the difficult compromises needed to move this country forward. But that common bond is where we must begin. Our economy is recovering. A decade of war is ending. A long campaign is now over.

And whether I earned your vote or not, I have listened to you, I have learned from you, and you’ve made me a better president. And with your stories and your struggles, I return to the White House more determined and more inspired than ever about the work there is to do and the future that lies ahead.

These inspiring words could be a clue to what has made America successful – their willingness to keep their commonality in view, even when they disagree. Even more amazing, though, was the reaction of the loser – Mitt Romney. When he was told that he had lost the election, he did not call for his supporters to take to the streets. He did not challenge the outcome in the courts. He picked up the phone and called Obama to congratulate him and said that he prays for Obama’s success.

I have just called President Obama to congratulate him on his victory. His supporters and his campaign also deserve congratulations…This is a time of great challenges for America, and I pray that the president will be successful in guiding our nation.

Then, Romney told his disappointed supporters this:

The nation, as you know, is at a critical point. At a time like this, we can’t risk partisan bickering and political posturing. Our leaders have to reach across the aisle to do the people’s work.

And we citizens also have to rise to the occasion. We look to our teachers and professors, we count on you not just to teach, but to inspire our children with a passion for learning and discovery.

We look to our pastors and priests and rabbis and counselors of all kinds to testify of the enduring principles upon which our society is built: honesty, charity, integrity and family.

We look to our parents, for in the final analysis everything depends on the success of our homes.

We look to job creators of all kinds. We’re counting on you to invest, to hire, to step forward.

And we look to Democrats and Republicans in government at all levels to put the people before the politics.

“Put the people before the politics.” Such a simple message, but one that can mean the difference between years of fighting and years of progress.

Our own national elections will begin soon. We will have the opportunity to choose our own leaders and to make our own future. When all the votes are counted, some of us will be satisified and some of us will be unsatisfied also. But instead of rejecting the outcome if it doesn’t suit our preferences, we should take a lesson from the American elections and in the words of Obama “make the difficult compromises needed to move this country forward” and in the words of Romney “put the people before the politics”.

Imran Khan a creation of Zia-ul-Haq

I love the music of Junoon, but Salman Ahmad’s politics are completely baffling to me.

Here’s what makes absolutely no sense about this Tweet – Salman Ahmad supports Imran Khan…who is a creation of Zia ul Haq. Really. And you don’t need to take my word for it, it’s what Imran Khan himself says. In his autobiography, ‘Pakistan: A Personal History’, which I’m increasingly convinced no one has actually bothered to read, Imran Khan discusses at great length his admiration for and recruitment into politics by Zia ul Haq. Page 63:

As the captain of the Pakistan cricket team, I had a good relationship with Zia. He used to call me personally when we won matches and when, in 1987, he asked me on live television to come back out of retirement for the sake of the country, I agreed.

Page 93:

Three months later, at a dinner given for the cricket team in Islamabad, General Zia asked me to take back my decision to retire for the sake of the country, and again captain Pakistan. Within weeks I was leading the national team on a tour of the West Indies…

Page 123:

In 1988, while I was playing for Sussex and living in London, I got an unusual call from Pakistan. It was my friend Ashraf Nawabi, who was close to Zia. He asked if I would become a minister in the General’s cabinet…Nawabi’s offer took me completely by surprise. I declined it politely, saying that I was not qualified for the job. A day later, Dr Anwar ul-Haq, Zia’s younger son, called me up and urged me to join the government for the sake of the country.

Page 136:

I had already retired following the 1987 World Cup but a year later General Zia requested my return to the sport on national television. At a dinner organized for the team he took me into another room and warned me about what he was going to do. “Don’t humiliate me by saying no”, he said. “I am going to ask you to come back for the sake of your country”. Touched by the appeal to my sense of patriotism, I of course had to say yes.

Gen Zia the man died soon after this, but his political legacy lived on – and Imran Khan was increasingly drawn to it. Page 146:

In the summer of 1993, I was asked to be a cabinet minister in the caretaker government of Moeen Qureshi that had been formed following the dismissal of Nawaz Sharif’s government by President Ghulam Ishaq Khan. Qureshi himself called me. Again, I declined. However, by now I was thinking about how I could make some kind of political contribution.

Page 147:

During this period I also started meeting a lot of politically minded people and held endless discussions on the state of the nation.

Page 183:

I had been hoping that certain people I knew would form a political party I could support, but in the end they had neither the financial resources nor the nationwide support to challenge the two established parties, the PPP and the PML. So that option was not available to me. I had also explored the possibility of supporting one of the religious parties.

Page 219:

After Musharraf had come to power in a military coup in 1999, many of us in Pakistan hoped he might bring a new lease of life to our country, following years of unstable and corrupt civilian governments…Yet even at my first encounter with him, in a secret meeting a few months after the coup, the alarm bells should have rung.

So now Imran Khan has admitted to holding secret meetings and talks with both Zia and Musharraf following their military coups. You would think that these experiences would have taught the man a thing or two, but his devotion to military rule continued. Page 222:

General Ehtisham Zamir headed the political wing of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency, and was tasked with bringing together General Musharraf’s ‘coalition of reform’. He was looking for my party’s support for the General, to give him ‘the strength to take on the crooked politicians’. After the referendum, in Spring 2002, designed to give legitimacy to Musharraf’s presidency, we met again and he told me of the ‘Grand National Alliance’, and that’s when the alarm bells started ringing.

Page 223:

I met Musharraf for the fifth and final time on 23 July 2002, when he invited me to President House in Islamabad; I was hoping to change his mind about making this coalition of crooks. It was then I realized how much those of us who supported him initially had been fooled by his promises to clean up the political system. Also present were Musharraf’s spokesman and national security adviser, along with the head of the ISI, and Zamir.

Imran Khan didn’t have a problem with Gen Musharraf and the ISI cobbling together alliances and manipulating politics – his only problem was that he wanted to choose the participants! That the ‘old guard’ of PTI was merely a creation of the ISI is even admitted – possibly unwittingly – by Imran Khan himself a few pages later. Page 225:

But now we were firmly out of the establishment-backed coalition. Consequently, a lot of potentially good candidates abandoned us. The ones that were left were turned on by the ISI.

How could the ISI ‘turn on’ PTI officials unless they were with them in the first place? Whether intelligence agencies ‘turned on’ PTI in 2002, Imran Khan certainly seems to be back in their good graces now. In 2011, Prince Jam Qaim told A. K. Chishti that “some well wishers in the military had advised me to join Imran Khan”, and in May of this year, former chief of General staff and Director General Military intelligence Lt Gen (R) Ali Kuli Khan Khattak joined PTI. While this does not mean that PTI is a being backed by ISI or the military, it is still interesting to think why Imran Khan is so popular among military and intelligence officers, particularly those from the eras of past dictatorships. It is also worth noting that, despite Imran Khan’s criticism of past dictators in his book, his criticism is always about how they turned out to be disappointing dictators – not that he had a problem with them being dictators in the first place. In fact, it seems like Imran Khan never met a dictator that he didn’t originally support and even have secret meetings with. None of this suggests that Salman Ahmad should or should not support Imran Khan, Nawaz Sharif, or any other politician. But, please, let’s not be selective in our memory of who was and who wasn’t given a place in politics by dictators. Imran Khan is many things, but he’s no angel. Gen Musharraf Imran Khan and MMA