comment: Between violent and silent jihad — Suroosh Irfani
Daily Times, April 9, 2009
Lashkar-e Tayyaba’s emergence as perhaps the best organised jihadi outfit committed to violent global jihad on the one hand, and Pakistan’s role as the kingpin in international counter-terrorism on the other, are two sides of the same coin: betrayal of Jinnah’s Pakistan
From a promising developing state in the 1960s, Pakistan’s descent into swamps of terrorism has been phenomenal. Pakistan is grouped with some of the most unstable countries in the world today: Somalia, Niger and Mali, besides Afghanistan and Iraq.
However, even if Pakistan’s dream to be in league with model developing economies has run aground, it is the centrepiece of the United States and Britain’s new counter-terrorism strategies unveiled last month.
Such dubious distinction, however, is not without some irony. A breeder of violent jihadi groups for almost a generation, Pakistan’s fight against terrorism today is more about its own survival than international security.
The question, however, is whether Pakistan has the political will and vision to pull off this fight: the conviction the war it is fighting is her own war, and that the vision underpinning Pakistan’s creation has gone awry — and must be reclaimed.
At the heart of Pakistan’s crisis lies the infusion of radical Islamic conservatism into state and society over the last three decades, ever since General Zia-ul Haq staked Pakistan’s future on the jihadi politics of Afghanistan and Kashmir. At the same time, with the virtual collapse of state education, religious schools linked with jihadi outfits rapidly expanded as breeders of violent jihadi culture. This altered the ethos of public education in Pakistan, and radically transformed the historical nexus of education and politics that underpinned Pakistan’s genesis.
Such linkage of education and politics goes back to 19th century India, when a ‘silent jihad’ for educational reform led by Sir Syed Ahmed Khan (d.1898) began transforming the Muslim consciousness. While Sir Syed’s movement founded new schools, colleges, scientific journals and a university, its centrepiece was Madrsatul Ulum Musalmanan, better known as the Muhammadan Anglo-Oriental College.
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