Now or Never?

Now, or perhaps never
By Javed Hasan Aly, Dawn, August 29, 2008

FOR the last three decades the establishment has flirted with brinkmanship in exploiting religious passions to fuel a controlled delivery of exported political trouble. First it was in the form of mercenary support for one superpower. Then, using the residual, but battle-hardened firepower it perpetuated a simmering bilateral dispute heating it up to destructive temperatures. It is another matter that we then witnessed a complete somersault by surrendering the initiative and acquiescing to diplomatic browbeating.

Historically, controlled delivery agents have always grown larger and more powerful than their handlers in the cobweb-weaving agencies. As a result, Pakistan is being taken for a ride by some so-called Islamists, thriving on a conviction founded in ignorance and funded by domestic and foreign agents who fear the establishment of democracy in the country.

Ziaul Haq and his legacy of generals — autonomously wise, exclusively patriotic and entirely independent of the state — allowed a perverted perception of Islam to be owned and proliferated by a sizeable part of the gullibly unintelligent and economically vulnerable population. The perception grew out of dogma, ingrained in a past irrelevant to the present-day world. It was an attempted recall of days of yore, but without the accompanying political and material strength. This worldview was the creation of self-styled ideologues in the military and could be superimposed upon a corrupt political outfit.

The intention is now to inflict a perverted perception of Islam at gunpoint. We can be cajoled, blackmailed and coerced into a kind of social behaviour that may be a declaration of defiance, but that has nothing to do with real Islam. For decades, since Islamists, with poor intellectual content, acquired political clout, the agencies’ intelligentsia and their brilliant ideologues reposed their trust in these controlled agents of destruction within or outside Pakistan. Islamic knowledge was being measured according to the cut, size and extent of the dishevelled growth of facial hair.

It is an insult to intelligent and educated people that the interpretation of Muslim philosophy and Islamic behaviour is squarely the domain of the least intellectually equipped, and whose Islamic interpretation of political responses is entirely out of sync with the Quran and Sunnah. It is a shame that we are condemned to be led into social and religious behaviour which is condemnable in true Islam; merely because the brute force of the gun trained on Muslims prevents us from exercising the courage to defy the untruth. The brilliant strategists and thinkers of the agencies consider it a right to impose their wish on the will of the people.

What are the recent-day neo-Taliban of the NWFP doing now? Coercing fellow Muslims, abducting fellow Muslims, killing fellow Muslims — all in the name of an authority, discretion and privilege that do not vest in them! And the clergy that derives political influence from such pockets of indefensible insurgencies, does not have the courage to disown these irreligious, immoral activities.

Recently, scholars of the calibre of Muftis Munib-ur-Rahman and Rafi Usmani (only conditionally) and the rationalist scholar Javed Ahmed Ghamidi have distanced themselves from such untenable interpretations of Muslim behaviour. But the saddest part is that leaders of the religious political parties have not had the courage to demonstrate the knowledge and conviction to denounce such utterly un-Islamic acts and are unwilling to state the truth for the sake of political convenience.

Because the so-called religious political parties, averse to the cause of Pakistan before 1947, derive their strength from these bigots, these parties refuse to condemn what is obviously and outright un-Islamic. Every time there is a discussion on terrorism their favourite refrain is the cause of such terrorism. Its consequences are either lost on them, or are irrelevant to their politics.

We all know where the roots of Muslim defiance and mistrust of western capitalist hegemony lie. But can we forget the partners of the West in the destruction and denial of the Palestinian cause — Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, et al? And why should ordinary Islam-loving, practising Muslims pay a price under the hammer of illiterate Pakistani bigots with ill-begotten military hardware?

We know that even Maulana Maudoodi refused to sanctify the Kashmir jihad of 1948. Now his political progenies are unconcerned with the tenets of religion and are more mindful of political gains; and, therefore, refuse to make proactive pronouncements on the legitimacy of what insurgents in the NWFP are doing in the name of religion. At best, they offer reactive responses.

Religion is unfortunately becoming the proprietary domain of those who espouse a particular physical appearance. Without regard to any intellectual content they are willing to impose a particular social conduct upon the people, at the point of pain, in a perverted display of irreligious thuggery in the name of religion.

Whatever the causes of this terrible conduct damaging the noble concept of jihad, we must be mindful of the outcome of such pervasively destructive socio-political movements. The fair name of Islam cannot be allowed to be soiled by these negatively motivated and poorly educated exponents of Islamic militancy. More than others, it is the duty of the true scholars of Islam to proactively condemn such pursuits and help purge these victims of the indoctrination of untrue Islam.

Importantly, the leaders of religious political parties should rise above short-term political advantages and denounce these un-Islamic acts in a forthright manner. The time to do so is now. Later perhaps sanity may become unredeemable and the delirium now being demonstrated may become uncontrollable. Religious political leaders owe it to Islam and to posterity to act before it is too late.

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