How earthquakes and terrorism are connected

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Hundreds of people have died from the massive earthquake that hit the country on Monday. This is tragic enough, but adding salt to the wound is the tragic response that is taking place which is telling the people that the earthquake was Allah’s warning to us. This message is being spread by religious leaders from all sects, threatening the people that if they do not change their behaviour than Allah will unleash more punishment. Actually, we know what causes earthquakes. It is a simple question that science answered long ago. Since we already know this, why are religious groups trying to scare people by telling them that Allah is punishing them? The answer is because it is a proven way to control their behaviour. It is religious blackmail. Think about it: Will these clerics tell the people that Allah is punishing us for how we treat Ahmadis and other minorities? Will they tell the people that Allah is punishing us for continuing to use blasphemy laws to settle scores and intimidate people? Will the clerics tell the people that natural disasters are Allah’s punishment for our nuclear weapons program which threatens to kill millions? Never. The reason given will always be something that advances their own agenda, not Allah’s.

The same week, a new survey has found that maximum number of Pakistanis believe that foreign powers are behind terrorism in the country.

According to the survey, about 55 percent of respondents believe India is involved behind terrorism in Pakistan. Another 29 percent blame the US for sponsoring terrorism in Pakistan. Overall, 79 percent of the respondents see a foreign hand behind terrorism in Pakistan.

This belief is firmly held even though the people caught for committing the terrorist acts are never Indians or Americans but always Pakistanis. Salmaan Taseer killer? Pakistani. Sabeen Mahmud killer? Pakistani. PAF Badaber attackers? Pakistani. APS Peshawar attackers? Pakistani. Wagah bomber? Pakistani. Jacobabad attackers? Pakistani. The list goes on and on and on.

So why do so many people believe that it is foreign powers and not extremist mindset spreading among our own society that is responsible? The answer is because they are told so over and over and over again. Aizaz Chaudhry declares it from the government. Even Army has declared it. Army Chief Gen Raheel Sharif has even declared that terrorism in the country was defeated months ago, but terrorist attacks continue. And they continue to be done by Pakistanis, not Indians or Americans. Why are we told that foreign powers and not extremist mindset? Because it advances an agenda: Unifying the country.

While everyone is sacrificing the truth for their agendas, the people are suffering. Earthquakes and terrorism become connected because religious clerics use earthquakes to promote an extremist mindset that serves their agenda, and the powers that be ignore the extremist mindset being spread by these clerics because their agenda requires attacking India and America, not clerics. The cycle continues, and the disastrous result really is a punishment for for our own behaviour.

Why Varsity Students Are Vulnerable to Extremism and How To Change It

Saad AzizSaad Aziz is an unlikely poster boy for terrorism. The son of a good family, educated at some of the nation’s top schools, Aziz appeared to be everything that any parent would want for their child. Inside, though, a terrible storm was building. How did this promising young man turn into a monster? This is a question that must be dealt with because, as is finally coming to light, Aziz is not the only well-educated jihadi in our midst. We look for answers to this question not out of mere curiosity, but in hopes of finding a cure for the disease. Thankfully, it might be easier than we think.

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We don’t need no education

Last night, I got a phone call from a friend who wanted to know if I was watching Capital Talk and told me to turn it on immediately. Why? I asked. What’s happening? I thought it was going to be something shocking. I guess it should have been, but unfortunately it wasn’t. Agha Waqar was back on the air peddling his science fiction water kit, this time facing Dr Pervez Hoodbhoy and Dr Shaukat Hameed Khan. Obviously, the water kit is old news, and why Hamid Mir gave this charlatan guy more publicity, I don’t understand. But it wasn’t just the water kit that sent my friend over the edge, it was the way Agha Waqar arrogantly dismissed the other guests as they questioned the scientific validity of his methods.

At one point in the programme, Waqar says:

“Inko mei aaj ye prove karkay dikhaonga ye nonsensy nahi hai, jo khood keh rahay hain ya tou unki aqal kaam nahi kar rahee, humary pooray muashray ko inhon nay aik circle hole mei band kiya hua hia ye ke hadood hain aur insay bahir apnay nahi jana.” (I will prove to them that this isn’t nonsense. What hes saying he doesnt have knowledge. He has put our entire society in a closed circle and said these are the boundaries you can not cross them.)

The ‘boundaries’ that he’s describing are the principles of science – something he claims is being imposed on our society by people like Dr Hoodbhoy.

The rise of the anti-science mindset such as Agha Waqar’s is often blamed on the poor state of education, particularly in science. That’s certainly part of it, but it’s not just uneducated people who have adopted this way of thinking. Consider Imran Khan, who accuses his critics of being ‘Westoxified Pakistanis’ and urges people to read his book to learn his true beliefs. Well, I did read his book, and what I found sounded a lot like Agha Waqar.

Page 51 of Imran Khan’s book says:

Our Western education also laid emphasis on science, which based everything on the premise that what could not be proved, did not exist.

This is, of course, utter nonsense. I was not privileged to attend Aitchison and Oxford, so I can’t speak to the quality of education provided by those institutions, but science does not hold that ‘what could not be proved, does not exist’. To the contrary, while there science includes laws, which have been proven, it also included theories and hypothoses which have not been definitively proven. For example, Darwin’s theory of evolution. It is worth noting that Imran Khan rejects Darwin’s theory of evolution, terming it a ‘half-baked’ philosophy. What evidence does the cricketer base his conclusion? Well, none, really. Apparently unable to reconcile both religion and science, Imran Khan rejects science. He explains this on page 111 of his book, where he says:

For someone who believes in reason and logic, it is difficult to blindly believe that the Quran is the word of God.

This is utter nonsense, but it has become more and more mainstream way of thinking. There are even people who claim to believe in both science and religion, but seem to believe that this means they have to twist science to make it fit their religious beliefs instead of looking for how the two actually compliment each other. Anyone who has ever listened to the nonsensical ramblings of Zakir Naik should watch the following clip in which a group of young Muslims who, unlike Imran Khan, do not have a problem believing in both science and religion.

All of this is particularly sad considering that the golden period of Islam is filled with major scientific discoveries – often while Europe was stuck in its own ‘dark ages’. Here is Dr Hoodbhoy explaining for the website Islamopedia Online:

Science, logic, and reason are not a Western conspiracy. They are not even Western. Historically, they are woven into the intricate fabric of our own culture and religion. Abandoning them has opened the door to all types of charlatans and con men. Treating science, logic, and reason as foreign concepts is not strengthening our society, it is tearing it apart.

Training engineers when the nation needs poets

Pakistan was founded by poets. Our heritage is found in the words of those who understood and related to the world using their hearts as well as their minds. They understood that the world was too complex for easy answers, and they left a legacy not of formulaic solutions but of words that require thought and interpretation. Sometime ago, however, we began down another path. We saw the world breaking away in a technological revolution that seemed to provide better lives through science. As we sought the luxury and privilege that science could bring, our poetic heritage fell out of fashion. Today the dream of every family is for children to become doctors or engineers. But somehow this has not translated into the scientific utopia that we expected. Could it be that we have trained too many engineers, when what our nation needs is actually poets?

Hajrah Mumtaz’s column in Dawn is an excellent explanation of the problem that has resulted from our obsession with science over humanities.

Science teaches certainties that have the equivalent of a moral upper hand through being absolutely and invariably correct. In this way, we have in people the inclination to either totally accept as right, or totally reject as wrong, ideas and attitudes. And so, quite possibly, we have a society that is one step closer to allowing extreme viewpoints or ideologies to take root.

Students of the social sciences and humanities, by contrast, are taught to navigate their way through endless possibilities with no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ answer to light the path. Philosophy, history, literature, anthropology, etc are all areas that require the student to traverse the grey areas and the ‘what ifs’, where the only moral upper hand can be logic and rational, coherent debate. These subjects ask the student to take in context and connections and search for alternatives.

And Hajrah is not the first to notice link between engineers and an intolerant, unrealistic mindset

According to personality experts, engineers are more likely than humanities students to view society like a big machine. And when that machine breaks down, engineers often tend to think it can be fixed by eliminating the so-called bad parts and replacing them with good ones. This clear distinction between right and wrong, good and bad, broken and fixed, appeals to scientific minds, which are more likely to be troubled by the idea that life might have messy moral gray -areas. It’s a mindset of “either the equation works or it doesn’t,” says Mitchell Silber, head of intelligence analysis for the New York Police Department. Silber says this mentality helps explain why engineers are more likely to make literal interpretations of Islamic holy writings that appear to call for violence or jihad.

This is a mindset that I worry is becoming increasingly common: the view that if we can just fix what is wrong, then all will be fine in society. We even hear scientific analogies used to describe the problems: Corruption is ‘cancer’, politicians are a ‘weak link’. These analogies provide easy solutions: Cut out the cancer and we will be cured, replace the weak link of the chain and we will be strong.

But society is not a body or a bridge. Politics is not medicine or engineering. What we are suffering from is not a broken leg or a faulty carburetor that can be mended. Our ailment is in the soul, and the answer cannot come from science. There is no pill that can cure us.

Actually, this dilemma is not new. Prophet Sulaiman (PBUH) is revered for his wisdom and judgment, and this wisdom comes not from science but from the understanding of the human heart and the soul as given him by Allah. Approached by the shepherd and farmer, an engineer or a doctor might have advised as Prophet Dawud (PBUH) to give up the sheep as compensation though this would surely ruin the shepherd. This is the ‘black and white’ understanding of the case. But Prophet Sulaiman (PBUH) saw a better way – on that restored the farmer without ruining the shepherd in the transaction. The wisdom that Allah gave to Prophet Sulaiman (PBUH) was the wisdom of the poet, not the training of the engineer. Is it any coincidence that the Holy Quran was revealed in verse?

I have never heard a single person argue that any of the political parties are without fault. Political parties are made of men, and men are imperfect. Show me a man who has no mistakes in his past, who is thoroughly without fault. Show me the man of impeccable character in the world who does not, even only to himself, look back over his life with some feeling of regret over things done or not done. Show me this man, and I will eat my own shoe. So why do we keep looking for the leader of impeccable character, for the secret formula for success?

The body may be like a machine, with bones and muscles and organs that function together to keep us alive. But we are more than merely the bodies that we inhabit. Doctors and engineers play a vital role in our society. They fix the machines by keeping us healthy, giving us bridges that do not collapse, and buildings that shelter us from the elements.

But we must not neglect that other part of our selves that is not body but soul. Recall the words of Rumi, that deepest influence on our own Allama Iqbal.

“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I will meet you there.”

This field beyond the ‘black and white’ world of wrongdoing and rightdoing is the place not only for lovers and friends, but for politics especially. It is here that we will find the answers we are looking for over laughter and tears. It is in this field that we will come to understand not only each other, but ourselves also.