Extremism of the Pakistani Expatriate

Daily Times, March 28, 2006
SECOND OPINION: The extremism of the expatriate — Khaled Ahmed’s TV Review

We are all aware that our brother Muslims living abroad, particularly in the secular West, have become intensely Islamic. This is quite natural when you are living abroad and wish to retain your identity. But religious extremism has cut two ways. Sectarian feelings are alive too and that should worry us.

Digital TV (February 8, 2006) showed clerics in the UK discussing Muharram in a spirit of Shia-Sunni amity. They highlighted the common points of devotion in both sects. The programme was interactive. When the calls came in they were mostly Sunnis raising objections to the Shia faith. The clerics on the show kept reminding the callers of the goodwill-orientation of the programme but the callers insisted on asking about the “fact” that the Shias had killed Ali and his offspring and that the narrative of Karbala was not real but concocted.

GEO TV (February 9, 2006) faced the problem of identifying Yazid today. The politicians kept identifying each other as Yazid while the combined opposition identified Musharraf as Yazid.

It is obvious that the callers were deep into the Shia-Sunni rift and were quite taken up with their “new knowledge” of the heresy of the sect. Their knowledge was acquired from the cleric in the mosque and religious discourse at home. Once again the dominance on them of Arab Islam was clear. The Shia callers did not ring because of the presumed prejudice of the channel, which was in fact airing a non-sectarian worldview.

The switchover from Barelvi Islam to Deobandi Islam in the UK has resulted in the conversion of the mystically minded Kashmiri expatriates to hardline Muslims. The reason was import of wrong mullahs from Pakistan by the UK government and by the influence wielded on the mosques by rich Arabs scholars. Back in Pakistan the person of Yazid was being abused for the service of a brand of politics that lacks morality.

BBC (February 8, 2006) re-ran its interview with Abu Hamza al Masari who was sentenced to seven years in prison in the UK for inciting people to terrorism. Out in the streets, BBC showed Al Masari’s supporters condemning the British Muslim Council for not favouring the vandalism of Muslims in the UK protesting against Danish cartoons. The protest was led by a Pakistani Muslim Anjum Chaudhry speaking for Al Fuqara organisation. Anjum Chaudhry was condemning the sentencing of Abu Hamza al Masari.

Al Fuqara was/is the outfit run by Gilani who trained the British shoe-bomber Reid who was sent by Al Masari to Pakistan for training. Journalist Daniel Pearl was trying to meet Gilani in Karachi when he was killed.

Labbaik TV Channel (February 9, 2006) had Allama Tahir ul Qadiri lecturing on the sacrifice of Imam Husain. He said Muhammad (peace be upon him) was created before the creation of the Universe. Allah did hamd and Muhammad was created. Then Muhammad did hamd and Ahmad was created. When Allah loved, Mustafa was created. Hasan and Husain as names were coined in Paradise. These names had never appeared among the Arabs in pre-Islamic times.

This was a good programme by a Sunni scholar. Typically a Barelvi scholar like Mr Qadiri will reach out and try to play down the sectarian rift. His audience was mixed because Barelvis and the Shia are known to mix better than Shia with Deobandi. In the Digital TV discussion and BBC news referred to above, the Barelvi influence in the UK appeared to be definitely in decline.

ARY (February 9, 2006) Dr Shahid Masud asked Oriya Maqbool Jan if the riots in the Muslim world had scared the Europeans sufficiently about the Danish cartoons. Oriya said the Europeans had got scared of the Muslims but the Muslims of the world should unite and collectively boycott the West and inflict economic damage on it. He lamented the fact that the rulers of Pakistan were not sufficiently naraz (angry) with Europe. The narazgi (anger) of the people was not officially expressed by the governments the way it should have been.

The presumption here is that the violence resorted to by Muslims in their own countries will somehow scare the Europeans. Why should the Europeans be scared of us while we kill ourselves and destroy our own property? The argument here is quite convoluted. It goes like this. The European civilisation is based on humanism and therefore tends to be feminine as opposed to our own which is masculine. The Europeans have the tendency to cringe when they see violence even to their enemies. Hence, let us kill ourselves to make the Europeans cringe and finally surrender.

HUM TV (February 12, 2006) Naeem Bukhari talked to Rahat Kazmi about his life and times. Rahat recalled that to get married to Sahira he had to become a civil servant. He got in together with his two other friends Aitzaz Ahsan and late Asif Sajjad Jan, but the two did not join the academy as he did. Later he too ducked out. Rahat spoke about his career in the films and then on TV as an actor in plays when they reached their climax. The show was frank and sincere.

Rahat Kazmi is one of a group of rare persons in Pakistan who have developed as deeply cultured human beings. As an actor, his grasp of the Urdu language is correct. His civilisational perspective is inclusive rather than paranoid. People like him make one wonder why most actors are so inarticulate in contrast? A true actor will always be (or should be) a great communicator. *


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