I am writing this article as a rebuttal to Khuldune Shahid’s article “Jinnah’s Pakistan a mirror of his contradictions.” It is necessary because if you do not counter a falsehood in public domain over time it is taken to be the truth. It is sad that there are many OpEd writers who when writing on this topic do not check their facts or at least try and understand what the point of view is that they are challenging. Khuldune’s article is no exception. It draws on several strawman fallacies which have nothing to do the argument that Jinnah’s vision for Pakistan was a secular one.
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against the Taliban by shutting down jihadi militant groups are not equating the Taliban’s political violence with outdated tribal customs, Imran Khan is.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.
A famous quotation attributed to the British political philosopher Edmund Burke says that “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing”. That may be the least that is necessary, but it’s not the only path. Evil can also triumph when good men undermine their own cause by taking a page out of evil’s playbook. Unfortunately, that seems to be happening among some in PPP, and it’s a losing strategy.
As elections draw near, politics naturally takes a turn for the worst. Disgust at the now well-known YouTube video was justified, but the hijacking of the people’s sentiments by religious parties and banned groups was not. By calling for a national holiday, PPP’s strategy to limit these group’s ability to exploit the situation was not only too clever by half, it actually played into the hands of extremist groups.
While most people have focused on the holiday’s giving legitimacy to the demonstrations, what has been largely overlooked is that the national holiday gave extremist groups cover to carry out violent attacks. By nightfall on Friday, groups like Jamaat-e-Islami and Jamaat-ud-Dawa took to the media to proclaim that any acts of violence were not carried out by their organisations who protested peacefully. As proof, they dared anyone to provide evidence of JI or JuD supporters doing such acts while they provided photos and videos of their supporters waving flags and chanting peacefully.
Of course this is a classic smoke and mirrors operation. All these groups had to do is make sure to document their supporters with flags acting peacefully, while their supporters without flags created mayhem. With the entire nation on holiday, it would be impossible to sort out who is who. Before you think this is going a step too far, keep in mind that we’re talking about groups that claim they don’t engage in violence and believe they’re telling the truth because they have redefined violence.
Unfortunately, some PPP leaders didn’t stop with the passive strategy of declaring the national holiday that gave cover to the extremists, they started parroting them themselves in order to appeal to the national mood.
Headlines reporting Rehman Malik’s telling the West to stop supporting Pakistan’s enemies sounded more like a speech at a DPC rally than the statements of a Federal Minister. Of course, this isn’t the first time that Rehman Malik has ventured off of his script in an attempt to appease the right wing – the worst episode being when he threatened to kill blasphemers with his own hands following the murder of one of his own party leaders by a crazed lunatic.
Then there’s Ghulam Ahmed Bilour who sounded more like Mullah Yousaf Qureshi than a Federal Minister when he announced a bounty of $100,000 for murder of the maker of the offensive video. Granted Bilour is ANP and not PPP, but as the leader of a coalition government, the PPP must take responsibility for his presence in the Cabinet.
That these statements and the national holiday are poorly thought out should be obvious. Not only do they undermine the PPP’s position as a modern, progressive political party, they also gain nothing. Let’s face reality – no matter how much support PPP leaders give for right-wing issues, they will never be enough to win the support of the right-wing.
Munawar Hasan and Hafiz Saeed attack the PPP as irreligious not because they want PPP to accept their positions. They do it because they have nothing to offer the people and therefore have to rely on attacks. Giving in to their demands will not neutralise their attacks, it will only make their demands more extreme. Today it is protests against an internet video clip, tomorrow its funding for jihad…then what? Continue down this path for very long and at a certain point, the PPP becomes completely irrelevant.
And this brings us to the point. If the PPP leadership does not have the courage of conviction to sack Federal Ministers who cross the line to openly advocate murder, on what moral authority are they asking for our support?
The PPP became the most popular political party across the nation not because it campaigned on religious symbols, but because it campaigned on the substance of our religion. What is ‘Roti, Kapra aur Makan’ if not the command of almighty Allah to care for the poor of society? Just as Islam was spread across the region not at the tip of a sword but by the demonstration of tolerance and love that was shown by earlier Muslims, the PPP’s popularity was gained not through threats and intimidation but by fighting for the rights of the country’s poorest and least powerful.
Bilawal’s passionate speech on the martyrdom of Salmaan Taseer Shaheed exemplified the type of courageous and inspirational leadership that the people are desperate for – one that stands up for justice without fear, not when it is toeing the popular line, but when it stands out. In this, he has reminded the people of his mother who never pretended to be an extremist to gain popular support, but rather watered the roots of tolerance and democracy with her own life’s blood.
We have seen this courage in other recent PPP leaders, also: Salmaan Taseer Shaheed, Shahbaz Bhatti Shaheed, Sherry Rehman, Farahnaz Ispahani. We have heard it in the statements of Ahmad Mukhtar and Nadeem Afzal Chan, both of them unwavering in speaking out against the sectarianism that is ripping our nation apart at the seams. This should be the public face of what is supposed to be the nation’s largest liberal party, not appeasement and parroting.
There is another, less popular quotation from Mr Edmund Burke that bears remembering as well: “I take toleration to be a part of religion. I do not know which I would sacrifice; I would keep them both: it is not necessary that I should sacrifice either.” The PPP does not need to sacrifice tolerance to align itself with the religion of the masses, it only needs to faithfully stick to its founding principles. Doing otherwise is a losing strategy.
The latest in a long line of vigilante attacks in retaliation for a perceived slight to the Ummah resulted in the deaths of several American diplomats, including the American Ambassador to Libya. The spark that triggered this latest fire is an amateur video linked to the provocative American Christian Minister who gained notoriety when he threatened to burn a copy of Quran. After seeing scenes from the offensive video, rioters in Egypt and Libya stormed the American embassies in their countries. The Afghan Taliban has called on militants to take revenge for the video.
I can’t speak to how offensive the video is since I haven’t seen it. I haven’t seen it because I’m not interested in watching offensive videos, so I don’t go looking for them. So my first question when hearing this news was, how did these rioters know what was in this video? Did the American embassies broadcast it in those countries? Of course, they didn’t. People became enraged after “a scene from the film was also was broadcast on the Egyptian television channel Al-Nas”. Not only that, but it was never even aired in the US.
The New York Times reported that the film excerpt had drawn little attention since being posted in July, but was picked up after a version dubbed into Arabic was put online last week.
Bacile said the film was produced in English and he doesn’t know who dubbed it in Arabic. The full work has been shown once, to a mostly empty cinema in Hollywood earlier this year, he said.
I was stunned when I read this report. If the film was so offensive, why did they dub it in Arabic and broadcast scenes from it? The more I read about the situation, the less makes sense. According to news reports:
For several days, Egyptian media have been reporting on the video, playing some excerpts from it…with ultraconservative clerics going on air to denounce it.
If these ultraconservative clerics were so offended by the video, why did they keep showing it over and over? This also raises some interesting questions, doesn’t it? If attacking an embassy is justified for airing videos that defame the Prophet (PBUH), should the devout and faithful defenders attack the Egyptian embassies? Should they be attacking these clerics for projecting the defamatory videos? Without them, nobody would have had their religious sentiments hurt.
It also raises the question of what these clerics hope to gain from showing this video and inciting anti-American anger. Could it be the case that they are using the video to provoke anti-American sentiments so that their own power is strengthened? How convenient that this Israeli Jewish American businessman has handed them such an offensive video to do it!
Oh, and just who is this Israeli filmmaker? Well, other than a couple of phone calls, there seems to be no trace of this man.
Consider all the contradictions: small ones, true, like in one account he is 52 and in another he is 56. To the AP he is “a California real estate developer who identifies himself as an Israeli Jew” and to the Times of Israel he is “Jewish and familiar with the region.” And what about that bit at the end of the statement to the Times of Israel—that “even Jesus” should be “in front of the judge”? That sounds like someone who is trying to provoke more than just Muslims. A lot of things don’t add up here about the claimed identity of the filmmaker.
UPDATE: A detail I failed to note earlier this morning from the AP story: “Israeli officials said they had not heard of him and there was no record of him being a citizen. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not permitted to share personal information with the media.”
As the mystery unfolded, reporter Laura Rozen checked the California real estate licensing records and found no trace of anyone named ‘Bacile’.
An offensive video appears from nowhere produced by a mysterious man that nobody can find and ends up dubbed in Arabic and shown on Egyptian TV by ultraconservative clerics who use it to stoke anti-American sentiments among the masses. How bloody convenient.
UPDATE: Another journalist trying to locate the mysterious ‘Sam Bacile’ uncovers even more…
As part of my search for more information about Sam Bacile, the alleged producer of the now-infamous anti-Muhammad film trailer “The Innocence of Muslims,” I just called a man named Steve Klein — a self-described militant Christian activist in Riverside, California (whose actual business, he said, is in selling “hard-to-place home insurance”), who has been described in multiple media accounts as a consultant to the film.
He said the man who identified himself as Bacile asked him to help make the anti-Muhammad film. When I asked him to describe Bacile, he said: “I don’t know that much about him. I met him, I spoke to him for an hour. He’s not Israeli, no. I can you tell this for sure, the State of Israel is not involved, Terry Jones (the radical Christian Quran-burning pastor) is not involved. His name is a pseudonym. All these Middle Eastern folks I work with have pseudonyms. I doubt he’s Jewish. I would suspect this is a disinformation campaign.“
UPDATE 2: Professional media producer Sarah Abdurrahman found that the audio track was manipulated.
If you watch closely, you can see that when the actors are reading parts of the script that do not contain Islam-specific language, the audio from the sound stage is used (the audio that was recorded as the actors were simultaneously being filmed). But anytime the actors are referring to something specific to the religion (the Prophet Muhammed, the Quran, etc.) the audio recorded during filming is replaced with a poorly executed post-production dub. And if you look EVEN closer, you can see that the actors’ mouths are saying something other than what the dub is saying.
UPDATE 3: The phone number used by the person claiming to be ‘Sam Bacile’ was traced to an Egyptian man living in the US named Nakoula Basseley Nakoula. The phone number was originally given by another Egyptian man named Morris Sadek.
UPDATE 4: Al Jazeera reports that the film was promoted on Egyptian TV by hardline host Khaled Abdallah on 8th Sept. Posted on YouTube 9th Sept.
The Arabic version of the trailer received heavy media coverage in Egypt last week, including by controversial hardline TV host Khaled Abdallah, who reported on the film on September 8.
A clip of the show was posted to YouTube on September 9, where it has received almost 400,000.
The struggle for independence started on a violent note in which the people were subjected to untold miseries on each side of the line of divide. The dichotomy of the subcontinent let out a river of blood, which had to be crossed before the independence became a reality. Once the most sought after separate homeland was secured, it was expected that we shall set up a society where there will be enormous scope to cultivate communal harmony among the people of different faiths and thus shall be able to present to the world a model civic structure where everybody will be in a position to live in perfect peace regardless of the color of his skin and the nature of his religious precepts.
Unfortunately, we failed to achieve what we had envisioned and the storyline of our ideology never really produced the final effect in the form of internal peace that had been so circumspectly scripted. Let alone promoting an understanding with the people of other faiths, our internal strife within the framework of our religious beliefs was overplayed by the politics of the time so much that the situation often became tense and the excesses now being relentlessly carried out against Shias, Qadianis, Christians etc. are a fallout of the past political blunders. Even after over 60 years, we are nowhere near living in peace with each other. Being the majority, it was our responsibility to create conditions for the people of other faiths to feel at ease while living with us. On the contrary, the minorities are now living in fear. There is not only clear discrimination in providing economic opportunities to all the citizens, minorities are treated with scorn, they are looked down upon and live under a veritable threat ad infinitum. We have failed to extract anything positive not because of the smallness of means available to bring peace but only for lack of will to succeed in setting examples for others to follow. Nothing succeeds like success but to achieve success you have to sometime move the heavens and earth to meet the demands of a colossal task on hand.
There are some basics to bring peace in the society. First of all we must make sure that access to law is easy for everyone and no one is treated with bias as redolent as is the case with us. There are allegations of forced conversions/marriages and we need to satisfy the affected families. Basic necessities of life and opportunities of education must be commonly available to all the citizens regardless of their religious attachments. Employment in civil and defense areas should be open to all the communities and not forbidden on the basis of their communal identity. Patriotism of minorities should not be questioned. In India, Gen. Manekshaw was a Parsi and Abul Kalam a Muslim. There patriotism was never doubted. Cecil Chaudhry, a Christian and 1965 war hero, stood out in the aerial combat at a time when we had our backs to the wall. We have before us the living example of Euro-American societies where millions of people from all over the world, belonging to different faiths and cultures, are living in peace and sharing the windfall of civil rights and social privileges equally with the autochthonous people. In case of any discrimination the local law is invoked and the situation redressed. The local people, in general, are not ethnocentric and education/employment opportunities are in easy access to immigrants as much as they are available to the locals.
The irony is that here in this country we do not want to drink water from the same jug a Christian is drinking while overseas we sit smugly, sharing the same table, for dining with the people of those countries. Fortunately, there has been no such tragedy as Gothra in this country. Yet, isolated incidents like those of Rimsha and Aasia are enough to trigger of friction and defame us. There has, in general, been soft-pedaling and in the absence of an effective mechanism, it has always been infinitely impossible to deal with communal fermentations. If the communal tension then runs high, it can easily be understood. The politicians do keep contacts with unruly religious elements to utilize them against their political opponents. Take for example Rana Sanaullah’s close ties with Maulana Ludhianvi, which is a well-known secret. Sh. Rashid is going in tandem with the extremists like Hafiz Saeed whose byword is that all the nations in the world should pay jizzia or the poll-tax to Muslems and live as passive subjects in deference to their authority. Can there be anything more stupid than this? Who created the Arab countries after Balkanization of the Turkish Empire and is still providing protection to all of them? Did anybody ask Osama as to why did he come all the way down to this part of the world to wage an unwarranted holy war against Russians instead of taking to arms against Israel on his native soil? He created troubles against Qadhafi, Asad and Saddam, the leaders of the frontline Arab states. Who benefited from his desperate desire to become a knight errant? He destabilized and devastated this region whereas Israel still stands towering over the Arab countries. I know neither Hafiz Saeed nor anybody else has a satisfactory answer to this serious enquiry.
The time has come now to take over the religious institutions and work them on the lines Arabs are doing (ironically). There are no private madrassas in the Arab countries. The mosques are built and Imams are appointed/paid for by the Government. All the running expense is met from the national treasury. Friday sermons are prepared by the Auqaf Department in written form, which are confined to the basics and never allowed to run even a trace over 10-15 minutes. Imams only have to read them before the allocution (khutba). They are not supposed to add a word to them. Compared to this discipline, the speeches in this country in Friday’s congregations are generally prolonged, boring, irksome and provocative. Our holy book does not tie down the people unnecessarily, as it says “when the call is proclaimed to prayer on Friday”, the Muslems are admonished to leave off business but after the prayers they are advised “to disperse through the land and seek of the Bounty of Allah”. In addition, the so called religious nurseries and academies in this country have clear commercial overtones. If we succeed in realizing this end, a set-up like that of al-Azhar can be founded to provide education to all schools of thoughts under one roof. In-house discussions, debates, disputations and/or bickering disallowed on even the smallest theological issues. We are living in the 21st century, after all, and not in the dark ages. Tolerance should be the keynote of our education and the students infused with the spirit of leading the life by example so that the people of other communities are drawn closer to look at us with envy and admiration instead of choosing to stay away like the birds keep their distance from a scarecrow.
Unless, we are prepared to reform our system on the above lines, make no mistake that the peace in our society shall remain elusive as ever and that the incidents like those of Aasia and Rimsha, Qadianis and Shias shall continue to hang around us and the minorities left to live in horror. The latest twist is that the Hindus from Sindh currently on a visit to India are not coming back. I am not overambitious but the reforms can be made if we have the will to do it. There will be resistance, no doubt, but somebody has to come along the line and introduce these reforms for the good of the country. It is a common knowledge that in the absence of a complete harmony among the people of this country, regardless of their creed and color, the progress and development will remain a distant possibility. A strong hand is needed to come down heavily on disruptive elements operating unchained in the country, foster amity among the people belonging to different hues so that the country retraces its steps and gets back on track to flourish while at peace with itself.
To qualify for a benediction, I would rather end the discourse on a religious note: “Blessed are the peace-makers, because they are the children of God”. Follow the farewell words of Jesus, the prince of peace, to his disciples “Peace I leave with you”. So, bring peace to the people of this earth and the Almighty will reward you immensely in the heavens. God is love and He wants His people to love each other so that paradise is brought right down to the earth. Paradise – an epitome of peace and tranquility, with streams of milk and honey to boot! Bridal chambers are guaranteed in the list of trappings and the celestial company assured to enliven the solitude.
The writer is in his mid 70s and has to his credit a vast experience of working with national and international business executives. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org