Jaahils and Jihadis

Following the barbaric attack against 14-year-old Malala Yousufzai, Taliban apologists have been working extra hard to split hairs and convince people that we should not unite against the jihadi elements that continue to carry out such attacks against innocents. The Taliban’s most vocal defender is Imran Khan, who likes to condemn specific acts, while at the same time defending the groups who perpetuate these attacks by pretending that there are no jihadis, there are only jaahils who are misunderstood. But two events this week prove him wrong.

1. A tribal jirga traded girls to settle blood feud. This represents the jihaalat mindset and must be addressed.

2. A young man stopped a bus and asked for someone to identify Malala Yousufzai. He then proceeded to shoot Malala to stop her political work. This represents the jihadi mindset and must be stopped before the jihaalat mindset can be addressed.

Imran Khan likes to say that liberals are mistakenly equating the Taliban and the tribal mindset. This is not true. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Liberals who call for a strong defence against the Taliban by shutting down jihadi militant groups are not equating the Taliban’s political violence with outdated tribal customs, Imran Khan is.

Tribal customs do not include bombing Sufi shrines, murdering Shia pilgrims, killing schoolgirls, and attacking military and police posts. Suicide bombing is not a tribal custom. These are the legacy of a twisted interpretation of religion that goes as far back as the medieval era when Ibn Taymiyyah introduced the takfiri ideology as a justification for carrying out jihad against Mongols even though they had converted to Islam. To get around this problem, Ibn Taymiyyah appointed himself as God and pronounced his enemies as fake Muslims, arguing that they can’t be real Muslims, ironically, because they have a jihaalat mindset. This jihadi ideology was reintroduced in Egypt by Sayyid Qutb in the early 20th century when he began preaching violent jihad against Muslim governments that he believed were too subservient to Western powers, and has been propagated by later writers like Jamaat-e-Islami founder Maulana Mawdudi and al Qaeda’s Ayman Zawahiri. These men do not preach any tribal customs – actually they are against tribal customs and the jihaalat mindset. Imran Khan thinks they are the same because both have roots in medieval thinking. But there is a big difference.

Taliban and other jihadi militants hide behind the language of religion, but their real interest is politics and power. They want to be unquestioned rulers, not saints. Like their ideological ancestor Ibn Taymiyyah, they are simply twisting religion to justify violence as means of consolidating their power. Actually, the tribal jirga is a perfect example of how the tribal leaders and the Taliban are fundamentally different. A jirga is based in reason and compromise. The tribal elders who sit on the jirga might have jihaalat mindset, but they are at least willing to sit and discuss the situation and try to work out a solution that fits all parties. With jihadis, on the other hand, there is no room for discussion. You either accept their rule, or you are declared as wajib-ul-qatl.

People with a jihaalat mindset can be reasoned with. They can be educated. And, over time, tribal customs and thinking can be brought into the modern era of reason. This does not mean that they will lose their way of life or religion. It just means that certain customs – like trading girls to resolve blood feuds – will be replaced with more humane ways of resolving conflicts.

People with a jihadi mindset cannot be reasoned with. Ironically, many of them are already very educated. Certainly the jihadi mindset is spread through some madrassas, but these are mostly educating the poor who accept these lessons in exchange for food and shelter. But what is the excuse of people like Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh – an Aitchisonian with links to militant groups including Jaish-e-Mohammad, Harkat-ul-Mujahideen and the Taliban? What is the excuse of Osama bin Laden who had everything handed to him, only to turn into a mass murdering maniac? Or our own young who attend English medium schools, travel the world, live urban, Western lifestyles…and support militant jihadi groups?

Imran Khan thinks that, to change the jihaalat mindset, we should first let the jihadis take power over the tribal areas. This makes no sense. If jaahils are living under the threat of jihadi violence, there will be no room for cultural evolution. The tribal areas will not just be frozen in time, under the jihadi regime, they will be transported backwards even further. This was demonstrated by the Afghan Taliban who, far from being a force reacting to the US invasion in 2001, had controlled Afghanistan in a reign of terror since 1996. When the Soviets left Afghanistan, the Taliban didn’t go back to being simple tribal villagers, they carried out a murderous reign of terror against their own people.

This time, as the Americans are preparing to leave, the Taliban see an opportunity to not only re-take Afghanistan, but to expand their control over Pakistan also. Will we defend ourselves or continue to hide our heads in the sand? Only time will tell who is the real jaahil.

We have to protect our women and children

O ye who believe! Ye are forbidden to inherit women against their will. Nor should ye treat them with harshness…on the contrary live with them on a footing of kindness and equity.
Qur’an 4:19

The peaceful religion of Islam came to be known at a time of much oppression against women. Its teachings sought to directly stop the brutal treatment against women that was so common in society. Holy Qur’an, as revealed to the Prophet (peace be upon him), emphasizes again and again the value of women and the respect and love with which all people should treat one another.

The message of the Prophet (pbuh) was to all of humanity. The term “mankind” acknowledges no difference between man or woman.

O mankind: Reverence your Guardian Lord Who created you.
Qur’an 4:1

Islam firmly rejected the common practice of infanticide, and further still encouraged parents to love and nurture their daughters.

When the female (infant) buried alive is questioned for what crime she was killed.
Qur’an 81-89

When news is brought to one of them of (the birth of) a female (child) his face darkens and he is filled with inward grief! With shame does he hide himself from his people because of the bad news he has had! Shall he retain her on (sufferance and) contempt or bury her in the dust? Ah! What an evil (choice) they decide on!
Qur’an 16:58-59

Economically, Islam revolutionized property rights and inheritance by granting women what was owed to them and more. Not only did Islam grant women greater financial opportunity than had ever been known before, but it gave them pretty biased financial security! Along with keeping her inheritance, a married woman did not have to spend a penny on her household – she was to be entitled to all her husband’s earnings in the upkeep of her home. Muslim women were to be guaranteed safety throughout their lives – as daughters, sisters, wives, mothers and yes, even as divorcees.

Marriage, repeatedly described as a beautiful bond between two people, can only take place with the full consent of the bride and the groom. Divorce is allowed as an absolute last resort, but it is permissible in Islam.

And the believers, men and women, are protecting friends one of another; they enjoin the right and forbid the wrong, and they establish worship and they pay the poor-due, and they obey Allah and His messenger.
Qur’an 9:71

So why then have Islamic countries become so morally bankrupt? The same cruel attitudes towards women that Islam worked to eradicate are still in place – in the NAME of Islam. What an ugly twisting of Islam’s message.

Take for example the concept of “Jirga Justice.” In Pakistan, groups of men convene to discuss local issues and problems in an effort to resolve them. Sounds reasonable, doesn’t it? The only problem is that these jirgas are perfect examples of the violence and evils done to women in society.

In a recent jirga in Shikarpur, a tribesman accused two men of having improper relations with two of his wives. This tribesman had killed both those wives a month ago, but now wanted punishment for the two men as well. The jirga decided two girls, aged 12, and 9, would be married off into the complainant’s family. Thus, the matter was resolved.

In this scenario, we can see the disgusting disregard for the basic rights of women. It should be noted the jirga expressed no concern for the two women the complainant killed a month ago. There was no declaration of their rights. They had none. As for the two girls, 9-year old Shami would be married to a teenage boy and 12-year old Sadia would marry a man 30 years older than she was.

There is no Islam in a society that uses women as currency. There is no faith in a culture that allows jirgas to order murders and rapes as proper punishment. This reveals a gross disconnect with the Prophet’s message, one he not only preached but also lived. His first wife, (and the first woman to convert to Islam), was the esteemed Khadija. She was an intelligent businesswoman and respected in society. The Prophet’s daughter, Fatima, was beloved to him, and he cared for her just as the Qur’an asks all parents treat their children.

Thus, the practice of using women as currency is not just inhumane it is patently unIslamic. In today’s Islamic Republic of Pakistan, we can see much rioting and anger for the treatment of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui (a woman accused and then tried in a court of law), and complete silence for the millions of women who suffer within its borders.

Are they not “Quam ki Betiya,” or the nation’s daughters?

Perhaps the saddest thing about all of this is that there actually are laws against jirgas. Pakistan’s judicial system has found they usurp the power of the state and are therefore unconstitutional. Such was the ruling of the Sindh Court in 2004.

The struggle against oppression has begun. The courts have done their job and found that rulings that violate human rights are unconstitutional. Now it is up to the people to take legal action and raise awareness of such issues. The conclusion we can draw from this is that only through democracy can we protects the rights of all people. In Pakistan’s short history, the decades of martial law and military dictatorship have allowed governments to tread on the rights of anyone they dislike. In a successful democracy, that cannot be allowed to happen. It is a system of government that gives voice to the voiceless, and like Islam, does not differentiate between male citizens and female citizens. We have come very far in having these laws on the books but the work (evidently) does not end there.

Allowing such treatment to continue is no different than siding with the Taliban, for these are their practices, their perversions of our faith. Eliminating the chaos and killings the Taliban wreak on Pakistanis starts with the simple step of condemning their ideas. In a recent press release, the US State Dept strongly condemned the stoning of a woman in Orakzai, by members of the Pakistani Taliban. She was murdered as a crowd of onlookers watched, as though this was a form of entertainment for the public. In order to put a stop to this, the condemnations must come from within. Pakistanis must realize that the nation, its people’s safety and future depend on taking action now. At such a critical juncture, we must decide what our principles are and how to guard them against barbaric men.

We have to protect our women and children.

In the name of humanity, and in the name of Islam.

As Pakistanis, we should not see a difference between the two.