Oceans of hatred and ıgnorance

THINKING ALOUD: Oceans of hatred and jahiliya —Razi Azmi
Daıly Tımes February 22 2007

Extreme conservatism, the preaching of jihad, Islamist supremacist chatter and terrorist attacks in Europe and America have allowed one Israeli academic to advance a theory that life can become untenable when the Muslim population of a non-Muslim country reaches about 10 per cent

Sixty-six mostly elderly people from India and Pakistan visiting or returning from a visit to their relatives across the border were incinerated on a train. Not by accident, but by design. The carriage they were travelling in was firebombed by people who do not approve of the process of reconciliation and normalisation of relations between the two neighbours.

No one has yet claimed responsibility and probably never will, for the crime is too ghastly to claim credit for. But one can easily surmise that the perpetrators are religious fanatics or religio-nationalist extremists. They could be Pakistani jihadists graduated from the many madrassahs that dot the land or Indian Hindu extremists from the Sangh Parivar.

The perpetrators may choose to hide because of shame, but they stand stark naked before the bar of public opinion. In the name of religion they worship hatred, and are happy to sacrifice innocent human beings at its altar. “I haven’t seen anything like this. Some bodies were burnt beyond recognition, and I saw one pair stuck to each other at the stomach,” said a railway police inspector, Shiv Ram.

Zille Huma, the Punjab minister of social welfare, has just been shot dead by a stonemason for simply daring to be a minister and not putting on the veil. Sarwar Mughal, fittingly known as Maulvi Sarwar, believed that a woman’s place in Islam was in the home and behind veils. And having arrogated to himself the role of lawmaker, judge and executioner, he killed the mother of two in Gujranwala, the political and cultural heartland of Pakistan.

And why not? Maulvi Sarwar, like many before him, had a few years ago murdered six women for being ‘immoral’, but the case against him had been dismissed for “lack of evidence”. When it comes to women in Pakistan, especially poor women, it seems that men have an open season. Women are even less protected than the Hubara bustards.

Brainwashing can do wonders. We have seen evidence of it throughout history and all around. North Korea is a good current example. Its starving and deprived people have successfully been led to believe by their despotic and totalitarian government that they live in a lucky country.

But brainwashing in the name of God and with paradise as an incentive can achieve even greater results, as is obvious from the jihadists’ romance with murder, mayhem and suicide. No city, no country is safe from their grip: New York, London, Madrid, Bali, Nairobi, Casablanca, Riyadh, Cairo, Baghdad, Bali, Islamabad and Kabul. The list lengthens.

Suicide bombings are now occurring in Pakistan almost on a weekly basis. As in Afghanistan, the Pakistani Taliban are making short shrift of all kinds of ‘infidels’ –teachers, social workers, women activists, shi’as, army recruits, judges and lawyers.

Further afield, Iraq is in the throes of a civil war and a sectarian conflict so gruesome as to defy imagination. Multiple suicide bombings of markets and buses occur every day and the monthly death toll is in the thousands. On Tuesday, in one attack, thirteen members of a family from a tribe known to oppose the actions of Al Qaeda in Iraq were killed on the road to Falluja.

If fantasy and hatred are the end-products of indoctrination, then ignorance is their breeding ground. The parents of 24,000 children in the tribal areas in northern Pakistan have refused to allow health workers to administer polio vaccinations. Rumours are rife that the vaccine is a US plot to sterilise Muslim children, the aim of which is to depopulate Muslim countries.

Imams and maulvis in the NWFP used loudspeakers, sermons and illegal radio stations to spread this message to villagers. The scare-mongering and appeals to Islam echoed a similar campaign in the Nigerian state of Kano in 2003. The disease then spread to 12 polio-free countries over the following 18 months.

Dr Abdul Ghani Khan, chief surgeon at the main government hospital in Bajaur, was killed when a remote-controlled roadside bomb exploded as he was returning from a jirga (tribal council) to debunk rumours of an ‘infidel vaccine’ and persuade people to immunise their children against polio.

Paramedic Hazrat Jamal, who is one of the three injured in the explosion, said that the residents of Mullah Said Banda were against the polio campaign. “As soon as we reached there, an armed prayer leader warned us against visiting the area. Some locals said: “On one hand, our enemy (a reference to the United States) is bombing us for no reason while on the other hand you are coming here disguised as polio campaigners to spread vulgarity,” he told Daily Times at the hospital.

One recalls that when the US government first introduced the Diversity Visa lottery programme in the early 1990s, many people in Pakistan, Bangladesh and elsewhere refused to believe that the US government could mean what it said. It was widely suggested that the DV programme was a conspiracy and a trap to blacklist applicants for visa purposes.

The fact is that the Washington was perfectly honest and truthful in this matter. Thousands of Pakistanis, Bangladeshis and others have been able to migrate to and settle in the US by being successful in the draws. In other words, while the programme sounded too good to be true, the US government acted faithfully and implemented it just as it said it would, year after year.

Nobody should be surprised that resistance to the polio vaccinations is highest in areas where conservative clerics and self-styled ‘Pakistani Taliban’ hold sway. It is worth mentioning that everywhere and always, Muslim ulema have consistently opposed the spread of science and education.

Also worth mentioning is the fact that some women have been brave enough to defy their men on the issue of polio vaccination. According to a report, “up to 200 babies a day are vaccinated at the Khyber teaching hospital in Peshawar, where burqa-clad women arrive with children in their arms. Some arrive in secret, slipping into the clinic in defiance of male relatives who oppose vaccination.”

Extreme conservatism, the preaching of jihad, Islamist supremacist chatter and terrorist attacks in Europe and America have allowed one Israeli academic to advance a theory that life can become untenable when the Muslim population of a non-Muslim country reaches about 10 per cent. Professor Raphael Israeli, who specialises in Islamic history at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, said Muslim immigrants had a reputation for manipulating the values of Western countries, taking advantage of their hospitality and tolerance.

Professor Israeli said that in France, which has the highest proportion of Muslims in Europe at about 10 per cent, it was already too late. There were regions even the police were scared to enter, and militant Muslims were changing the country’s political, economic and cultural fabric. “French people say they are strangers in their own country. This is a point of no return.”

The Jewish professor may simply be advancing Israeli interests in promoting this theory, but the world is listening, for there are a lot of worried people out there. Irrespective of what the people of the world may think of jihadists and extremists, surely the masses of Muslims present a picture of backwardness and ignorance, best captured by the Arabic word ‘jahiliya’.

The writer may be contacted at raziazmi@hotmail.com

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