Books and Documents

The War Within Islam

Denial is not just a river in Egypt. It has become something of a personality cult in Pakistan. Nowhere is this cognitive dissonance more visible than amongst the educated who refuse to accept facts and logic, clinging instead to a neurotic persecution complex. Columnist Khaled Ahmed says: “The vast majority of literate Pakistanis take comfort in ignorance, skepticism and conspiracy theories. The self-glorification of an imagined past matched by habits of national denial have assumed crisis proportions today when Pakistan’s existence is under far more serious threat from fellow Muslims than it was in 1947 from rival non Muslim communities.”

What lies beneath this inability to critique and lack of intelligent analysis? Undoubtedly, one’s education influences views on politics and society. As Robert Frost aptly puts it: “education is the ability to listen to almost anything without losing your temper or your self-confidence.” … History was rewritten to redefine Pakistani as an Islamic society, and no research on ancient India, the medieval period or the colonial era. Our history was linked with the Umayyad and Abbasid caliphates, thus alienating it from ancient Indian history. This interpretation creates a Muslim consciousness that seeks it’s identity outside India. --Maheen Usmani

PTV’s ‘Jihadi Plays’ Help Army to Maintain Control over Society
Farooq Sulehria in an interview with Ayesha Siddiq

In the 1980s and the 1990s, the PTV aired plays like Sunahary Din, Alfa Bravo Charlie, Nishan-e-Haider series etc that glorified the Pakistan Army. If PTV being state-owned institution was bound to glorify the army in the 1980s when there was a military dictatorship, why the trend continued in the 1990s when there were elected governments running the country? Films like Khak-our-Khoon (based on Naseem Hijazi’s novel), Ghazi IlmudDin, International Gorillay (themed on Salman Rushdie affair) etc were also produced in the 1980s. – Ayesha Siddiqa in an interview to Farooq Sulehria (Photo: Ayesha Siddiq)


The present spell of violence, which started as business and smuggling related clashes between the Barelvi Mohajirs of the MQM and the Deobandi Pashtuns of the ANP, has since assumed a wider dimension with Mohajirs killing Mohajirs. The ethnic and sectarian strife, which one saw at the beginning of the present spell of violence, has been aggravated by gang warfare between rival Mohajir mafia gangs. It is pure and simple criminal violence not motivated by any political ideology or religious goal. The violence is about who controls the mafia economy of Karachi. Pakistan is not unravelling. The cycle of violence in Karachi — sometimes up, sometimes down — will continue, ...-- B. Raman


Deoband has never been free from such fierce inner wrangling, but a new bench mark has been established. During the controversy, dissensions were also hotly debated among the ordinary’ Muslims, unlike in the past, when these issues had remained largely limited to the insular clerics themselves. His appointment and removal is internal matter of Darul UIoom as well as an indicator of how the Indian Muslim community is grappling with the visible change in the leadership. Being the first outsider to head the important institution, liberal Vastanvi is also the first non north India, non Sayed and non Shaikh person to head the seminary. Many students, who remained his silent supporters, were hoping that he would somehow be revamping the old, uninspiring syllabus and make it more in tune with demands of time. --M. Singh


Asked to describe his way of leadership, Kato was quick to say that he is very religious. “Everything that we do and must do are based on the Koran. Politics, economics, and how we relate to others—everything must follow what Allah told us to do. Our faith is our life,” he said. The “purpose of jihad,” he said is to “make the words and will of Allah over anything.” -- Jeffrey M. Tupas

Saving Jinnah’s Pakistan
Farooq Hameed Khan

The Quaid’s love and hope in Karachi’s future is evident from the speech he made at the civic reception at Karachi Municipal Corporation on 25th August 1948:  “Let us strive to make this beautiful town a great metropolis, a centre of trade, industry and commerce and a seat of learning and culture. Karachi has the distinction of being the only town of importance where, during these times of communal disturbances, people have kept their heads cool and lived amicably and I hope will continue to do so. I visualize a great future for Karachi, it always had immense potentialities”. Can Pakistanis ever forgive themselves for the death and destruction brought about in Karachi, the city which is the birth and final resting place of Mr Muhammad Ali Jinnah? Karachi, once the city of peace and lights has been plunged into one of intolerance and darkness. -- Farooq Hameed Khan

It is really unfair to attribute such acts to the people who are fasting and to raise propaganda about religious fundamentalism over such incidents. Relying on an isolated incident to disrupt the social harmony and peace is an unpleasant attempt that is likely to have an ulterior motive in an environment where people who want to fast do so, while those who don’t want don’t. Besides, it became evident by eyewitness accounts that the incident did not start over wearing shorts. I would like to say that people who are fasting have to respect others who are not. But those who are not should be empathic towards religious people and try not to irritate them.--Ekrem Dumanli


Let me start with the oddest: in Somalia, the group of Jihadi terrorists calling themselves al-Shabab have banned the humble samosa. What these holy warriors objected to was not some forbidden filling in the triangular savoury pastry, but its shape. Apparently, they consider its ancient, three-cornered design to be “too Christian”: according to them, the samosa symbolises the Holy Trinity. Never mind that the familiar snack first appeared in Central Asia in the 10th century, and made its way to India in the 13th. Since then, it has been carried to all points of the compass by migrating South Asians. Nobody had thus far spotted the secret Christian symbol concealed in its shape, so well done, al-Shabab. From Ghazni in neighbouring Afghanistan comes the news that the local Taliban have imposed a ban on selling or cooking frozen chicken. More and more, the ideas and ideals of groups like the Taliban and al-Shabab are seeping into the mainstream of the Pakistani public discourse. -- Irfan Husain

This was not the secular place Ms. Constable once knew. The student’s argument, she noted, “came straight from the Taliban worldview.” Less than a year later an extremist bodyguard assassinated the governor of Punjab, Salman Taseer, a man who belonged to the old Lahore of tolerance. The killing was bad enough. More disturbing was the celebration of the killer among lawyers, police officers and clerics as a defender of the faith. “A so-called moderate Muslim society was proving far more fanatical than either its political elite or Western backers had suspected, while its authorities were too intimidated to take on the religious mob,” she writes. She deals with feudalism, the deplorable situation of most Pakistani women, the rotten justice system, the powerful military, the relentless march of religious extremism, and she weaves in interviews, news events and a touch of history.-- Jane Perlez

Turkey: Beware the Champion of Democracy
Arshad Alam, New Age Islam
Turkey: Beware the Champion of Democracy
Arshad Alam, New Age Islam

... Erdogan’s call for rescuing democracy is ironical. For in the name of democracy, he has been able to liquidate all opposition and decimate all institutions of checks and balances which are so essential in a democracy. Under his reign, democracy will go only in one direction: downhill. For all those rallying in his favour, he might be a champion of democracy, but all indications tell us that he is the biggest threat to democracy in Turkey. ...

The beheading of Ruyati binti Satubi — executed in June for the killing of an allegedly abusive Saudi employer — stirred such revulsion here that even the most strictly observant Indonesian Muslims now ask how the guardians of Islam’s most sacred sites can be so heedless of their faith’s call for compassion. “Some Indonesians began to think that Wahhabism is the true teaching of Islam, but thanks to God, there has been a change of thinking,” said Siraj, who heads Nahdlatul Ulama, an organization with about 50 million members and 28,000 Islamic boarding schools. “Mecca is a holy place, but the people who live there are much uncivilized,”.... Andrew Higgins


The recent slaughter of defenceless civilians in Pakistan has prompted politicians to seek accountability from the military and security forces. Nawaz Sharif's transformation has been surprising,...  .... gradually he developed differences with the military and the wedge between them widened when General Musharraf staged the 1999 coup and removed Sharif from power. His views have greater significance because he belongs to the Punjab, which is Pakistan's biggest province in terms of population and provides the majority of soldiers to the armed forces. The brutal murder of Saleem Shahzad, the bureau chief of the Hong Kong-based Asia Times Online in Pakistan, who wrote on terrorism and security issues, wasn't the only case in which a journalist was attacked and silenced. Seventy-six journalists have lost their lives since January 1, 2000 in Pakistan, mostly in violence linked to the so-called 'war on terror'. The last ones to die were two young journalists, Shafiullah Khan and Asfandyar Abid Naveed, who were killed on June 11 in a suicide bombing in Peshawar.-- Rahimullah Yusufzai (Photo: Syed Saleem Shahzad)

“I foresee the borders that were the foundation of the Middle Eastern order in the past almost one century -- since the collapse of the Ottoman Empire -- being redrawn,” says Aluf Benn, editor-at-large for the Israeli daily Ha’aretz. “Certain states, which aren’t really ethnically or politically united but comprised of different tribes or different ethnic groups fighting for their autonomy or power, will eventually separate.” The process of fragmenting began in Iraqi Kurdistan and in Sudan even before the Arab Spring erupted in Tunisia last December. Kurdistan embarked on the road to quasi-independence from Iraq as far back as 1991, while South Sudan fought a decades-long war with greater Sudan and is slated to become the newest of the world’s 200 countries when it formally declares independence on July 9. -- Arieh O’Sullivan


New Delhi: Darul Uloom Deoband’s Mufti Mohammad Ismael, Convenor of the Committee asked to look into allegations of misconduct against its vice-chancellor Maulana Vastanavi has revealed that Vastanvi’s sacking from the post was a pre-planned event and had nothing to do with the investigation. Clearly there was no investigation worth the name. The reformist cleric was removed following a farcical investigation to mollify the national conscience and reformist Muslims who wanted him to continue and had brought him there in the first place.

Supposed investigation Committee members were not even allowed to meet the students who had caused disturbance or who had supported the Maulana, perhaps for fear that the real truth will come out and the powers-that-be at Deoband will not be able to misuse the students and teachers in future for any such undignified activities, says Mufti Ismael. The investigation committee had been asked to find out the truth of its vice-chancellor Maulana Vastanavi’s remarks allegedly exonerating Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi from atrocities against Muslims in his state and the disturbances caused in the wake of this alleged statement by students were supporting or opposing the Maulana. -- New Age Islam News Bureau

Photo: Sacked vice-chancellor of Darul Uloom Deoband, India's largest madrasa, Maulana Ghulam Mohammad Vastanavi.

Most students, when contacted, were confident that Vastanvi would be able to make the new syllabus more meaningful and useful for students, something that the Madanis had never thought of doing. Shakil Khan of New Age Islam website stated that the ouster of Vastanvi exposes “the moral and intellectual bankruptcy“ of his critics and that the Madanis thrive on political machinations and a culture of factionalism no matter what damage all this does to the common Muslim. What is most shameful is the bad name this sordid chapter has brought to India's Muslims and the venerated Darul Uloom... -- Firoz Bakht Ahmed in Hindustan Times


When the moment of reckoning came, Justice Sayem did not and would not listen to his conscience. It was then fairly easy for Zia to ease Sayem out of the presidency and take the job for himself as the nation's first military dictator. Stories of how many hundreds of soldiers and air force men died at the hands of the Zia regime are legion. That was the point where Bangladesh's history first came under systematic assault, a scandal we are yet engaged in trying to put behind us. Professor Iajuddin Ahmed's occupancy of Bangabhaban was, in the end, a tale of deep embarrassment for the country. Suffice it to say that he was stopped, to the nation's immense relief, from doing what he set out to do, at the eleventh hour -- in January 2007.-- Syed Badrul Ahsan


I am deeply pained that prominent and rich Muslims such as Maulana Vastanvi have gone out of their way to rehabilitate Narendra Modi, and make him acceptable to Muslims. This has resulted in the weakening of the Supreme Court monitored cases. This is the time to fight for justice. This is not the time for personal benefits from Modi. Allah will never pardon you, however high a Maulana you may be in the eyes of Modi.

Maulana Vastanvi is a very gifted man. He has build up an educational complex that is admirable. He receives huge amounts of donations and zakat, which he has utilised to the modernise the madrasa system. That is why we feel so bad about opposing him. But we had no choice. The Modi remarks and the manner in which the BJP used those comments, has caused much damage to the demand for justice in Gujarat. -- J.S.Bandukwala for NewAgeIslam.com

Sir Syed Ahmad Khan’s education movement was based on his view that science, reason and the idea of development in the contemporary world were not in conflict with Islam. Indeed, for Muslims to progress and be free it was necessary to embrace modern education and to engage politically with the contemporary world on the basis of shared principles. Sir Muhammad Iqbal’s luminous poetry served to remind Muslims that humans are made in the highest mould. Therefore, the existential challenge is to apprehend our God-given freedom, and to achieve a connection with God through self-actualisation in the pursuit of truth, beauty and love. It was this insight that informed his famous line: “Take selfhood to such a high level that God may ask man what is your will”. Hence, we are led to Iqbal’s murshid, Jalaluddin Rumi: “There is no law in our religion except love”. -- Dr Akmal Hussain

Syria awakes again
Mohammad Ali Atassi

The President “remembers seeing a big bottle of cologne on a cabinet next to his father’s desk”, Mr Belt wrote. “He was amazed to find it still there 27 years later, practically untouched.” The bottle can be seen as an allegory for Syria itself — the Syria that has been out of sight for the 40 years of the Assads’ rule, a country and its aspirations placed on a shelf and forgotten for decades in the name of stability. Now this other Syria is appearing before our eyes to remind us that it cannot be forever set aside, that its people did not spend the decades of the Assads’ rule asleep, and that they aspire, like all people, to live with freedom and dignity. I remember my father, Nureddin al-Atassi, who himself had been President of Syria before he was imprisoned in 1970 as a result of Gen. Hafez al-Assad’s coup against his comrades in the Baath Party. The next time I visit my father’s grave, I will tell him that freedom is reviving again in Syria.  -- Mohammad Ali Atassi

Hasina abandons secularism
Sanchita Bhattacharya

In a dramatic volte face, the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina Wajed, has declared that she wished to keep Islam as the ‘State Religion’. The announcement is in complete contrast to the ruling Awami League’s declared pro-secular approach. Sheikh Hasina, who also leads the AL, appears to be targeting the support of some radical Muslim formations in a replay of her last tenure, 1996-2001. The present posture suggests that the AL Government may increasingly incline to the use of Islam for political manoeuvre. Meanwhile, the Dhaka High Court, on June 8, asked the Government to explain the legality of its standpoint on the status of Islam as the ‘State Religion’. Her Government immediately focussed attention on the challenge of tackling religious extremism and terrorism. At that time, the AL Government had made it clear that it would re-introduce the original ‘Four State Principles’ — democracy, nationalism, secularism and socialism. -- Sanchita Bhattacharya


Pakistan is a strange country; the people who garner maximum news coverage are often shady. It is even stranger that though all four of them were shady characters – murderers to be precise – the response of the popular media to their deeds, lives, and reasons have ranged from high praise to utter ridicule.  While Davis was lynched by our media for killing two Pakistani men, Qadri was praised by a certain section of media as the saviour who, by shedding blood of another human being, has somehow restored balance in the universe and saved the religion, humanity and galaxy. The kind of debate bin Laden and Kashmiri spark is the stuff of legends. People have called them terrorists, warriors, messiahs and everything in between depending on their ‘ideological’ and ‘idiological’ leanings. -- Tazeen Javed

War is weary of Kabul
Swapan Dasgupta

Over the centuries, Britons have acquired the ability to laugh at themselves — particularly when the going gets rough. When he was the British foreign secretary’s special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Sherard Cowper-Coles had an enlarged cartoon hung in his office. It showed an elderly man, just out of bed and drawing the curtains to let the light in while his wife looks on with her cup of morning tea. The caption read: “Another day, another Afghan strategy”. The US generals are right to question their President’s application of mind but the problem isn’t limited to one man’s disinterest. For the West, investment was often calculated in purely financial terms. Over the years, mind-boggling sums are said to have been “invested” in Afghanistan. -- Swapan Dasgupta


Most middle-class Pakistanis associate Malaysia and Indonesia with good family vacations where you can enjoy the beach and still eat halal burgers. The archipelago and peninsulas that constitute this far eastern frontier of Islam has kept an appealing balance between modernity and faithful tradition. Yet this ostensible moderation is eroding with the stealthy seduction of absolutist ideologies from Arabia that claim authenticity and exclude all dissent with their austere view of a joyless ephemeral world. Last year, Indonesia had an appalling spate of violence against Ahmadis and Christians, reminiscent of Pakistan. -- Saleem H Ali

Myths and Mindsets
Zafar Hilaly

...the one thing that we know for sure unites us and was indeed responsible for our creation, is our religion. We believe, as a people and a nation that our common religion – Islam – helps us gel. True we always had the lunatic fringe and the odd spat between shias and Sunnis would occasionally pull us apart. But these were exceptional lapses and would soon tide over. Today, however, Muslims are literally slaughtering each other and Pakistan is in danger of being rent asunder not in the name of ethnic or linguistic nationalism, but in the name of Islam itself. Faced with this dilemma we are at a loss when it comes to crafting a response, and unable or unwilling to identify the cause. We forget that while history is full of religious wars it is not the multiplicity of religions that produced these wars but the intolerant spirit which animated violence fuelled mostly by greed or ambition. -- Zafar Hilaly

In March 1977, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto spoke to the people of Lahore for the last time. National elections were only days away. He spoke to the people in the backdrop of a vicious one-point propaganda that his Islamist-opponents of the Pakistan National Alliance (PNA) had been spreading against him day and night: “Bhutto drinks alcohol!” His God-fearing opponents, backed by the equally God-fearing US, had been saying that the people of Pakistan must not vote for the party led by a sharaabi (drinker). “They [the mullahs] say that I drink alcohol. Yes I drink alcohol, but I do not drink the people’s blood!” At that, the people of Lahore gave him a very long and thunderous ovation. They had accepted Bhutto, the alcohol drinker, because they did not want a bloodthirsty ruler to replace him. But they were proved wrong within weeks. Little did they realise, including Bhutto himself, that within months an army-judiciary axis will legitimise, sanctify, and Islamise bloodletting and slaughtering, and wage a jihad against minor crimes like possessing liquor, just possessing, not its consumption,…-- Abbas Zaidi

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