New Age Islam
Thu May 30 2024, 06:43 AM

Indian Press ( 26 Dec 2020, NewAgeIslam.Com)

Comment | Comment

Indian Press on Muslim Daughters, Modi’s AMU Pitch To Muslim And Trump’s Martial Law Option: New Age Islam's Selection, 26 December 2020

By New Age Islam Edit Desk

26 December 2020

• Education and Empowerment of Muslim Daughters: Back PM Outreach with Sincere Action

The Times of India Editorial

• In Modi’s AMU Pitch To Muslims, Retreat From Party Politics Hurting Foreign Policy Interests

By Shekhar Gupta

• PM Modi, Thanks For Recognising AMU As Mini India And Not Pakistan

By Nishtha Gautam

• As India Bolsters Its Anti-Muslim Credo, Where Is Hindu Society's Outrage?

By Apoorvanand

• Trump’s Martial Law Option

The Statesman Editorial

• Growing A Movement

By Nadeem Paracha

• Despite Trump’s Exit, Belief in a Benevolent US as Leader Of the ‘Free World’ Lies In Tatters

By Vinay Lal


Education And Empowerment Of Muslim Daughters: Back PM Outreach With Sincere Action

The Times of India Editorial

December 25, 2020

Speaking at the centenary celebration of Aligarh Muslim University, Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid a special stress on the “education and empowerment of Muslim daughters”. The dropout rate of Muslim girls had decreased from 70% to roughly 30%, he said. He pointed out that schemes like building more toilets and starting new gas connections help all households, and also mentioned the triple talaq law the government had brought in.

Any effort to soften the mutual hostility and suspicion between the government and the Muslim community is worthwhile at this point. But if the PM sincerely cares about Muslim women, a lot remains to be done. Muslim women are triply disadvantaged in India – on account of being female, from a minority community, and overwhelmingly poor. While the discourse often focusses on religious conservatism or personal law, attributing great disempowerment to cultural markers like the hijab, the fact is that Muslim girls need the same things other girls do – to study, work, and explore the world.

The increased presence of Muslim girls in school is the consequence of concerted policy. The Right to Education Act, minority scholarships, schemes like bicycles for girls and free sanitary pads did a lot to increase retention. Today, when these gains are being lost in the pandemic, the government would do well to widen opportunity with targeted policy. Their wellbeing is also linked with that of their families and communities. If the government cares about Muslim women, it must show that it cares more about Muslims.


In Modi’s AMU Pitch to Muslims, Retreat from Party Politics Hurting Foreign Policy Interests

By Shekhar Gupta

26 December, 2020

Prime Minister Narendra Modi chose the last full week in 2020 to launch some important outreach to two sets of angry constituents: Muslims and the farmers.

It is his first outreach, to India’s alienated Muslim minority, that we are more interested in. First, because, as in 2019, he concluded the year with a pitch to India’s Muslims. Second, because, somewhat serendipitously, he chose 22 December to do so. Remember, last year, he had similarly spoken at Delhi’s Ramlila Maidan when the anti-CAA agitation was at its peak. Third, because his tone and political proposition to Muslims again seemed contrary to his party’s politics and actions. And fourth, because it followed a very significant statement by his home minister, and deputy any which way, Amit Shah, who stated clearly during his West Bengal visit that the process of implementing the Citizenship Amendment Act has been put off for the time being.

The deadline for framing rules under the new law is long over and now the government will have to go back to a Parliamentary committee for a third extension. How could we implement the law when the pandemic is raging, Shah said, adding that it’s better to wait until the vaccination process starts.

We will risk inferring from this that the government has realised the downside — for international relations, and even internal security — of pushing too hard with this strategy. Because, whatever the arguments on either side, it is seen internationally, and by a critical mass of people at home, as a policy of Muslim exclusion.

The prime minister’s choice of Aligarh Muslim University’s annual day for making this outreach was significant. Earlier this year, the same university was caught in a maelstrom of protests, police high-handedness and calumny. Now, Modi has described it as “mini India” and asked its students and faculty to present a good and fair picture of the country to the world.

The reference was obviously to the many foreign students who routinely come to study at AMU. At this point, the number, ThePrint reporter Fatima Khan tells me, is about 615 in a total of 22,000, besides the NRIs. The larger contingents come from Afghanistan (42), Bangladesh (68), Indonesia (66), Jordan (49), Nepal (20), Palestine (13), Iran (15), Thailand (117), Turkmenistan (21), Yemen (151), and Iraq (29).

There are smaller contingents even from the US, Mauritius, New Zealand and Nigeria. Each is a friendly country and of vital national strategic interest.

Just for the record, AMU also has a Pakistani woman student, in the dentistry college. The impressions these students take back of India are mostly formed on the AMU campus.

For the past year, that impression has been overwhelmingly negative. And young, aware Indian Muslims, who constitute a majority of its students and faculty, have had reasons to feel angry and alienated.

Yet, why should Modi bother? Muslims do not vote for him. If anything, the coming elections in West Bengal and Assam will bring back the need for polarisation, the tip of the BJP’s electoral spear.

The BJP under him and Amit Shah has done an incredible electoral job of collecting votes in a narrower catchment, excluding the minorities. They’ve made the Muslim vote irrelevant in the big picture. Why should they then bother to reach out to them now? Angry, frustrated, alienated and isolated Muslims may indeed cheer their base.

We have to go back exactly by a year, to 22 December 2019, and Modi’s speech at the Ramlila Maidan, for a clue. In that speech, he took appreciative note of the fact that Muslim protesters were using the Tricolour and the Constitution, and then qualified it by suggesting that they should, at the same time, be speaking against terrorism. That is the usual BJP/RSS Tebbit test for India’s minorities. For those of younger generations or not interested in cricket, this refers to British Conservative politician Norman Tebbit, who, infamously, put British citizens from the cricket-playing former colonies to the test of whether they supported England or their native countries’ teams in a Test match.

But Modi got off that kerb quickly, kept his tone friendly and benign, asserted that none of his welfare policies discriminated against minorities. Which, to be fair, is correct. Then, he topped that cake with icing of his choice: By listing all the prestigious national honours and awards he had been honoured with by important Muslim countries. That is what we see as a possible clue to his thinking.

Everybody likes awards, honours and adulation. Yet, whatever these mean to Modi personally, more important is that this was part of his very significant reaching out to Muslim, especially Arab, countries. This was a deft outflanking of Pakistan to its West. What he tried to the East, with Xi Jinping, failed.

Now, if the move with China failed — and at this point we have troops eyeball-to-eyeball and Pakistan has more or less ‘progressed’ to becoming a Chinese client state or protectorate — it is because Xi Jinping saw more value in that. The ploy with the Arab world, meanwhile, has worked so far. Saudi Arabia and the UAE, Pakistan’s closest friends, patrons and moneybags, have drifted far away. So far, that Saudis are demanding their loans back, China plays the white knight to rescue Pakistan, and the UAE has stopped issuing visas to Pakistani workers.

This is not a gain Modi wants to squander, particularly with a rapidly changing global environment. There has probably been a sizeable pushback from the friendly sections of the Islamic world on this.

How do they continue backing India against Pakistan, if the BJP’s politics moves on the pivot of polarisation? This, while they also deal with many fissures and challenges within the Ummah, with both Iran and Turkey jostling for influence, and US ‘persuasion’ at the same time to normalise relations with Israel. At a time when even Malaysia and Pakistan seem to be warming up to Israel, the last thing India needs is to put its Arab friends in a spot.

The world has also changed because Trump is going and Biden will be in the White House in three weeks. He’s committed to re-engaging with Iran, and that will open other possibilities in the Islamic world, east of the Persian Gulf as well. Although not nasty like Erdogan or Mahathir, Iran’s Khamenei has also lately been critical of India’s treatment of its Muslims. And Iran is a friendly country with many shared economic and strategic interests.

Closer home, it is Bangladesh. In the run-up to the AMU speech was the summit between Modi and Sheikh Hasina Wajed. The effort to repair India’s most important strategic relationship in the neighbourhood after damage done by the CAA-NRC rhetoric — the talk of throwing the “termites” into the Bay of Bengal — was evident. Now, India was offering everything, from onions to vaccines. Both the Chinese and the Pakistanis are exploring the space created by the anti-Bangladeshi (Muslim) rhetoric in India.

More than a change of heart, we are probably seeing a shift in tactics, for a time when the global picture is changing, and India’s own cache value has diminished with its economic growth. The downside of letting internal political actions play havoc with larger strategic interest and foreign relations is stark. This is just when India’s vulnerabilities have risen as a frontline state against China, and the need for allies is greater than in five decades.


PM Modi, Thanks for Recognising AMU as Mini India and Not Pakistan

By Nishtha Gautam

 22 Dec 2020

As a proud ‘Alig,’ I was delighted to hear you, Mr Prime Minister, addressing us as ‘partners’ today. A welcome change from ‘anti-nationals’, ‘jihadis’, ‘Jinnah Ki Aulaad’, and more such epithets that have now become synonymous with AMU students, current or graduated.

Mr Prime Minister, it was, indeed, reassuring to hear your assertion that AMU is not a cluster of buildings but an integral part of India’s history. What we know about history is that it doesn’t judge its good, bad, and ugly aspects and remains agnostic. People do. And ill-informed people are adept at twisting history to suit agendas. AMU has seen and suffered it all.

You start your speech commending AMU’s role during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and a little later you say how the university has been elemental in strengthening India’s foreign policy because of its Islamic research projects. I can’t help but think of the foreign members of Tablighi Jamaat who were wrongfully detained for intentionally spreading the virus. Can we ever forget how Muslims—citizens and foreigners alike—were demonised for even demanding food? Everyone jumped this bandwagon of diatribe but stayed silent when the Supreme Court acquitted 36 foreigner Tablighis.

This also caused us diplomatic embarrassment that you, an astute diplomat, are already aware of. You are proud of the 1000 foreign students at AMU and want them to carry all that is roseate about India and its people back to their motherlands. I’m a little concerned about the baton charge and indiscriminate police action against protesting students during the CAA protest this time last year. It is difficult for ‘soft power’ to obliterate hard state actions from the hearts and minds of witnesses.

I’m glad that you underscore the importance of teaching Urdu and Arabic alongside Hindi and Sanskrit. Hopefully, this will translate into ending vilification of madarasas scattered across India, which are, often, the only accessible education institutions for students in the dark pockets of our country.

You want the pluralism that AMU stands for to never get weakened. Hope is a beautiful thing and I choose to cling to it. It, however, gets pale when I see an irresponsible hounding of minorities merely on grounds of difference—in attire, food, forms of worship or even appearance.

Mr Prime Minister, you reiterate your mantra of ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas, Sabka Vishwas’ to decry any discrimination in either the intent or the policy of Indian government. You rightly list how your government has facilitated new bank accounts for more than 40 crore citizens, house allotments to more than two crore citizens, gas connections to eight crore women, free foodgrain to 80 crore people during the pandemic and so on sans discrimination. Why, then, are so many Indians still insecure about their lives (CAA protests) and livelihoods (farmer protests)?

Mr Modi, as an educated, enterprising, and empowered woman I was heartened to hear you acknowledging the contribution of women like me in giving a direction to family and nation. But how can a woman steer a country when she is not even free to decide who she can fall in love with and marry? The bogey of Love-Jihad seeks to deny women this agency.

Do women have to continually live in fear? Of losing their husbands to jail and unborn children to miscarriages? This gravy train of homogenising has reached Jalesar, my hometown in UP, where six members of a Muslim family have been jailed because an adult woman decided to elope with an adult man.

Mr Prime Minister, you want AMU’s hostel students to spend time researching the contribution of lesser-known freedom fighters. It is a noble thought. However, how does a university deal with this suggestion when its students are made to be ashamed of, even attacked for, its history? I’m sure you are aware of the fracas over Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s portrait in 2018.

You also share your vision about ancient manuscripts in the AMU library that deserve to be digitised and made accessible to the world at large. What if there is something ‘objectionable’ in their content and hurts a group’s sentiments? Or worse, what if one discovers something even remotely considered as ‘seditious’? After all, countless students, academics and activists have been arrested for possessing seditious literature.

For example, Delhi Police chargesheet against Sharjeel Imam, an ‘Alig’, for sedition and unlawful activities mentions possession of Forms of Collective Violence, Riots, Pogroms and Genocide in Modern India by Paul Brass and notes the following:

“By reading only such literature and not researching alternative sources, the accused became highly radicalised and religious bigoted.”

You rightly pointed out, Mr Prime Minister that politics can wait, society can wait, but development can’t. The weak and the marginalised cannot wait. Why, then, are we still stuck compelled by ruthless electoral gains at the cost of what India stands for fundamentally, constitutionally?


As India Bolsters Its Anti-Muslim Credo, Where Is Hindu Society's Outrage?

By Apoorvanand

As 2020 passes by, two things can be said with certainty about India.

One, the state and nearly all its institutions have made it clear that the Muslims would be treated as subjects and not citizens with rights equal to Hindus.

Second, there is a growing realisation among the Muslims that the task of affirming their rights and rejecting the subjecthood imposed on them is something they cannot abdicate and leave for the future.

As the state, through various legal instruments, wages a war against Muslim men, there is, unfortunately, no outrage in the wider Hindu society.

The agency of Muslims is being taken away from them and they are being robbed of their autonomy as citizens in multiple ways and they are seen as perpetually unlawful. The very existence of Muslims is now under serious threat in India but no political party thinks that it is as serious an issue as the anti-tiller farm laws. The most recent instance being the so called anti-conversion law of the Uttar Pradesh . 

The travesty of the law was laid bare in the case of Pinki or Muskan and her husband Rashid Ali.

The miscarriage that a pregnant Pinki suffered  while in the custody of the state should be seen as a definite and decisive change in the relationship between Muslims and the Indian state and its institutions. It is also changing the relationship between Muslims and Hindus. But most of us are not recognising the seriousness of the message from this incident. 

We know that Pinki or Muskan  was forcibly moved to the Nari Niketan after the police arrested her Muslim husband and his brother under the newly enforced Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance, 2020. She had married Rashid Ali In July this year, six months prior to the promulgation of the said ordinance.

The union of the couple was their choice. She converted to Islam.

The court came to their rescue but only after the police submitted that there was no evidence to prove the allegation of forcible conversion. The young woman was allowed to rejoin her husband after she declared that her marriage had her consent. Rashid and his brother spent 15 days in prison.

The media reported that Rashid was happy that he was free, “We got married with mutual consent. I have already spent 15 days in jail. But today I am happy as I have been released,” said Rashid after stepping out of the prison. When asked if he felt the police had misused the new law, he chose to keep mum.

That he chose to ‘keep mum’ must worry us. A Muslim’s inability to even express anguish when subjected to injustice has now become routine. 

One must not forget that at least 11 Muslims have been arrested after the ordinance was announced. Hours after the new ordinance came into force, a most absurd arrest was made. Ahmed, a 22-year-old man was arrested as the father of a married woman alleged that he was threatening to kidnap his daughter and convert her. The woman is married and is living with her husband and here is the father alleging that Ahmed wants to convert her after abducting her! The police promptly swings into action, forms several search teams and “nabs”Ahmed.

The latest is the arrest of a Muslim man in Shahjahanpur. A 42-year-old married Hindu woman, a mother of two children, accompanied by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad members went to the police alleging that the man had established a physical relationship with her using a Hindu name and was forcing her to convert with the intention of taking her property.

The man was promptly arrested and different IPC sections were slapped on him. How do we see this complaint? Are relationships – pre-marital or extra marital – between Hindu women and Muslim men now being tracked by community spies and the vulnerable women blackmailed to charge Muslim men with forcible conversion and abduction?

Muslim men are being placed in an impossible situation. How would he prove that the woman was  lying?     

These arrested Muslims are not as fortunate as Rashid and Muskan. Himachal Pradesh has also enacted a similar law. The BJP leaders are demanding it in other states as well.

Let us return to Muskan.

She has alleged that the doctors and authorities should be held responsible for the miscarriage. First, they denied it, but now that it is confirmed there is no response to the charge made by Muskan.

The crime is serious. A forcible abortion should be treated like murder. Would the people responsible be held accountable and made to face law? Again, an absurd question. It sounds distasteful but one cannot but remember that one of the main features of the propaganda of marriage between a Muslim man and Hindu woman, which allegedly makes this alliance more sinister, is that the wombs of Hindu women are used to produce Muslims. The reverse is not only allowed but desirable. So, the destruction of a yet-to-be-born Muslim becomes a duty.

These laws have a provision that if one of the couple returns to the ‘parent religion’ or mool dharm, it would not be treated as a crime. One need not guess which religion would get this exalted status of being the original or parent religion of this country. If a Hindu man marries a Muslim woman and she converts to his religion, it would not be a crime under these laws. Instead as we saw in case in Uttar Pradesh, they would get protection from the law.

These laws against marriage for the purpose of conversion are the most potent tool after the anti-cow slaughter laws to criminalise Muslims, primarily Muslim men. The Triple Talaq Act was a precursor in this respect.

It has been pointed out that these laws are against the right to choice, against love, against the agency of Hindu and Dalit women. All this is of course true.

The law will definitely impact them but we also need to remember that it would be only Muslim men who would face criminal charges. It is they who would be jailed. They will have to fight a long battle, ruin themselves and their families to prove their innocence.

The women in question would need to be extraordinarily courageous like Muskan to save their Muslim partners from the Indian state.  Would all Hindu women be able to resist organised groups like the Bajrang Dal and Vishwa Hindu Parishad? Would they not be forced to criminalise their ‘lovers’ to save their honour or lives?

The anti-conversion law is based on a lie. It says that marriages between Muslim men and Hindu women are done for the purpose of conversion.

We are aware that what happens usually is that such couples are discouraged when they want to use the route of the Special Marriage Act.

Their names are publicised and they become vulnerable as the RSS, VHP, Bajrang Dal people keep an eye on the marriage registrar offices and track Hindu man-Muslim woman couple applying for marriage. Moreover, such couples have also to save themselves from their own families. The fastest route is therefore conversion.

Marriage in an Arya Samaj Mandir or Nikah are the easiest way of getting a formal validation of their relationship. To claim that Muslim men marry Hindu women with the aim to convert them is perverted logic. But the courts also accept it.

The lie in the case of the Triple Talaq Act was visible on its surface. But even progressives went to this government pleading for this law. Muslim men leaving their wives without due process, i.e. using instant triple talaq, would be jailed. What about non-Muslim husbands deserting their wives without any due process? Why do they not fear going to jail?

Muslims have been thus placed in an unequal situation in India with all agencies and laws arranged against them. Their rights as individuals and their rights as members of a religious community are being curtailed consistently.

Lies and deception are being used to do this. But most of us call them anti-constitutional, anti-human, and anti-Indian but cannot muster courage to say that they are anti-Muslim and the fact that the anti-Muslimness of these moves should be sufficient to fight against them.


Trump’s Martial Law Option

The Statesman Editorial

December 26, 2020

In what is described as unprecedented craziness, Donald Trump has suggested a new and severe attempt to impose martial law as part of a desperate initiative to overturn Joe Biden’s victory in last November’s election.

The move, raised in a reportedly chaotic meeting in the Oval Office, is both disingenuous and laughable. Now going through the wrap-up motions of his presidency, he is said to have raised the possibility of using the military to enforce a second term as President of the United States of America.

He was rebuffed by many of his closest advisers, but the fact that it was raised at the Oval Office serves to underline his desperation to defy the verdict. Sidney Powell and Michael Flynn, two of Trump’s closest public advocates, were at the meeting.

Powell is a lawyer who has led many of the failed court attempts to allege voter fraud. Her conspiracy theories ~ for instance that Hugo Chavez, the former Venezuelan President who died in 2013, was part of a plot to swindle Trump out of his victory ~ caused the rest of the President’s legal team, led by Rudy Giuliani, to cut ties with her last month.

Trump’s advisers, including Giuliani, have opposed the idea of martial law, and suggested instead the seizure of voting mahines to investigate possible fraud. The idea was also “aggressively” opposed by Mark Meadows, Trump’s chief of staff, and Pat Cipollone, the White House counsel. The Oval office meeting is said to have become raucous and involved people shouting.

Clearly Trump is fighting a losing battle though his legal advisers, pre-eminently Powell and Flynn, have suggested, that Trump “could take military capabilities and could basically rerun an election in each these states”. With less than four weeks to go for the transition, Trump’s desperation seems to be growing. For all that, the US government is facing the prospect of a year-end shutdown with Trump threateninng not to sign a $2.3 trillion package that includes government funding and coronavirus assistance.

The package was the outcome of months of negotiations between Conngressional Democrats and Republicans. It also funds goverment operations till September 2021. This would mean that if Trump blocks the assistance, then large sections of the government could shut down.

In a video posted on social media earlier this week, the outgoing President has sought the bill be revised to include the payment of $2000 to every American.

This is more than triple the $600 person included in the bill. Federal funding is due to expire on Monday if Trump does not sign the bill into law. A funding lapse would furlough millons of federal workers and shut wide segments of the US government at a time when it is rushing to distribute two coronavirus vaccines. The catastrophe has killed more than 323,000 Americans, and left millions jobless.


Growing A Movement

By Nadeem Paracha

26 December 2020

Nawaz Sharif is promising a democratic and political system that will not be rigged, engineered or tampered by non-civilian elite

On December 13, the 11-party Opposition alliance, the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), held a large rally in Lahore. It marked the completion of the first phase of the alliance’s agitation against the Imran Khan Government which saw the PDM hold anti-Government rallies in six cities in Pakistan.

The next phase of the movement was kicked off by the PDM holding a rally in Mardan on December 23 despite a ban imposed by the district administration amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The protesters, led by Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam(F) and PDM chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, senior Pakistan Peoples Party leader Yousuf Raza Gilani and Pakistani Muslim League (Nawaz) vice-president Maryam Nawaz, gathered at the Gaju Baba Khan flyover to address a huge crowd. The rally in Mardan would be followed by another public meeting in Larkana on December 27 on the eve of the death anniversary of Benazir Bhutto.

The PDM has demanded that Prime Minister Khan’s Government quit by January 31 or face intensified movements by Opposition parties. This  includes a “long march” towards Islamabad in late January or early February  and possible resignations of Opposition members in the Assemblies. The PDM has decided to focus on smaller cities for public meetings and protests will be held in Bahawalpur on December 30, Malakand on January 3, Bannu on January 6, Khuzdar on January 9, Loralai on January 13, Tharparkar on January 16, Faisalabad on January 18, Sargodha on January 23, and Sialkot on January 27.

Political pundits and analysts are already outweighing the chances of both the PDM and the Imran Khan Government. Heated debates are taking place about whether the Opposition alliance would be able to dislodge the Pakistan-Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Government that is already besieged by a faltering economy, rising inflation, a lethal pandemic and the Government’s own blunders, which are many.

In his characteristic style Khan stepped up his efforts to silence the voice of the PDM, along with the voices of thousands who criticised his Government. Despite such attempts, the PDM has held its ground and organised five major rallies in Multan, Peshawar, Gujranwala, Karachi, and Quetta since October 16. Now it is upping the ante even further.

Most commentators are of the view that, even if the PDM is unable to outright force Khan’s departure, it can create a serious constitutional and political crisis, which will not only bog down a troubled regime but can also create issues for the military establishment that is overtly backing the present set-up in Islamabad.

The most worrisome aspect of this is that the military establishment has begun to be seen as a visible party in the conflict between the PDM and the Khan Government. The kind of political crisis the PDM’s agitation is expected to create can be detrimental to a highly polarised polity. There have been five major anti-Government movements since Pakistan’s inception in August 1947. The first such movement was able to force the military dictator, Ayub Khan to resign in 1969. Though the second one managed to stall Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s bid to rule as the Prime Minister of Pakistan for the second time in 1977, but it also saw the imposition of the country’s third and perhaps harshest, military regime.

The third major movement was made up of a cluster of movements between 1981 and 1986, against the General Zia-ul-Haq dictatorship. Even though intense and at times extremely violent, this movement failed to dislodge the dictator. He died in a plane crash in 1988.

The fourth movement rose up against the General Musharraf dictatorship in 2007 and succeeded in ousting him through a forced resignation.

Ironically, the last major anti-Government movement was led by Imran Khan’s PTI against the third Nawaz Sharif regime. It was unsuccessful but it did manage to create enough space for the PTI to squeeze through during the controversial 2018 elections.

The PDM has succeeded in holding impressive rallies. But it is still not a full-fledged movement. It is expecting to evolve into becoming one during its next phase. However, it is still too early to predict whether the PDM will succeed in removing the Imran Khan Government or, especially, if it can actually achieve its second and more ambitious, aim to neutralise the self-appointed political role of the military-establishment.

Succeed or not, once the PDM does evolve into becoming a movement, there is every likelihood that things will begin to alter, for good or otherwise. In a 1973 essay for the Annual Review of Anthropology, the American sociologist and anthropologist Ralph W Nicholas writes that political and social movements may have varying degrees of success (or, for that matter, failure) but they leave behind societies that are never quite the same.

Nicholas describes movements as “liminal” or “the interim between the end of the old and the beginning of the new.” According to Nicholas, movements may evolve into becoming successful uprisings, or they may be crushed but, no matter what the outcome, they always have what it takes to become contagious. He adds that they also have the seeds to become “successive.” By this Nicholas means that even movements that are crushed or collapse become paradigms for future protests.

As long as there are conditions for a movement to emerge, they will, despite being repeatedly vanquished. According to the “political opportunity theory”, if a political system seems vulnerable, there will emerge challengers who would move to use this vulnerability as an opportunity to push for political or social change. The American political scientist and historian, Charles Tilly is often credited as being one of the foremost pioneers of the aforementioned theory.

The theory is not as much about why movements emerge, as such, but rather what course they take once they get going. Reasons behind the why, generally speaking, can be economic or to do with repression. Interestingly, the theory states that democratic pluralism too, can become a factor.

For example, all these factors can be seen as playing a role in the large pockets of protests emerging in India recently. An economic downturn, coupled with political repression of liberal voices and the country’s long-standing democratic systems, are allowing these protests to take shape, so much so that some members of the Government are now lamenting that “too much democracy” is a problem. This could be understood as meaning that democracy is hindering their desire to fully implement the Government’s contentious projects.

However, the theory is equally applicable in regions where there are economic issues and repression but too little or no democracy. The theory states that agitation against these or other issues brews in pockets that continue to expand even when these pockets are repressed. Their consistency eventually begins to sap the energy of the State and this creates opportunities for pockets of resistance to mobilise from within and outside their circle until they merge to become a people’s protest.

The conditions for a movement in Pakistan are ripe. Economic meltdown, State repression, bad governance and political polarisation are now pitching one chunk of the polity against the other. The PDM’s agenda is thus clear — to exhaust its opponents, so ample opportunities emerge to further expand and grow the movement. But according to Nicholas, politics alone will not be sufficient. Disillusionment against an existing governing ideology needs to be replaced by a new promise to invigorate a disillusioned polity.

The anti-Ayub Khan movement offered various forms of economic equality to inspire the people to come out and protest. An “Islamic” system of Government was promised by the movement to bring people out against the ZA Bhutto regime. The idea of “tabdeeli (change)” was floated by Imran Khan during his party’s street protests. And now Sharif is promising a democratic and political system that will not be rigged, engineered or tampered by non-civilian elite.

Promising democracy alone would not have been able to draw the kind of attention that the PDM has managed to attract. This promise needed a new angle which Sharif has ingeniously provided.


Despite Trump’s Exit, Belief in a Benevolent US as Leader Of the ‘Free World’ Lies in Tatters

By Vinay Lal

December 24, 2020

It scarcely seems possible that it was a mere 30 years ago, as the Berlin Wall came crashing down, the Soviet Union crumbled, and what Winston Churchill had famously called the “Iron Curtain” was lifted from eastern Europe, that commentators in the West were jubilantly pronouncing (to use Francis Fukuyama’s phrase) “the end of history”. The supposition was that the entire world seemed on course to accept the idea that the liberal democracies of the West and, more particularly, the United States, represented the pinnacle of human achievement and that the aspirations of people everywhere could only be met through the free market. It mattered not a jot that, precisely at this time, the US was cajoling nations into joining an international coalition designed to bring Saddam Hussein to heel and bomb Iraq “back into the stone age”. Those who saw ominous signs of what unchecked American power might mean worldwide, and in the US itself, for democracy and social justice were dismissed as pathetic remnants of a warped communist vision that could not recognise the dawn of a new age of freedom.

The First Gulf War was followed by another a decade later, and still a decade later the Arab Spring came and went. The promise of revolution was everywhere but it was thwarted by dictators, warlords and religious fanatics, who did everything they could to sow terror and exact the submission of ordinary people. But it was not only the Middle East that was imploding, aided by inept American foreign policy and the presumption that what is good for America is good for the world. The last decade has seen a large number of countries—Hungary, Poland, Turkey, Brazil, India, the US, among others—take the turn towards authoritarianism. Russia has been inventive in transforming Stalinism into oligarchic despotism and China seems determined to let its heavy hand fall where it will. At no other time since the end of World War II has so much of the world seemed so susceptible to political authoritarianism. That may be one reason why many people are rejoicing that the US, after the nightmarish years of the Trump presidency, seems set after Joe Biden’s triumph to rejoin “the international community” and assume leadership of the “free world”.

However, what 2020 has indubitably established is that the US is altered forever and cannot simply pick up from where, as decent people fondly imagine, it veered off course in a fit of absentmindedness, forgetful of its supposed mission as the world’s greatest democracy to serve as a beacon of light to the world. The dominant narrative that the US has been successful in circulating has American democracy being carved out of the enlightened thinking of “the founding fathers”, but the genocidal impulse is just as inextricably built into the history of the American nation.

The origins of the United States lie in the demographic holocaust perpetrated by the white man against Native Americans, whose annihilation was as much willed as it was precipitated by the “Old World” diseases from which the indigenous people had no immunity.

It is epidemic disease which, ironically, is leading to the unraveling of the United States. Most of the world is reeling from the coronavirus pandemic but the US is hurtling into the abyss of death. On one single day, December 16, over 3,600 Americans died and 17.5 million Americans have already been identified as COVID positive. It is baffling that the world’s richest and most powerful country accounts for almost a fifth of the global mortality of 1.675 million.

Healthcare expenditures per capita are significantly higher in the US than any other country, and it boasts of having half of the world’s Nobel Laureates in medicine and the sciences, and the most advanced laboratories for medical research. And, yet, for nearly 10 months, barring a short respite over the summer months, the country has been awash with news of shortages of essential medical supplies, personal protective equipment, ventilators and ICU beds. The dead have overwhelmingly come from the ranks of the very old, ethnic minorities—a heavily disproportionate number of African Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans—and prisoners. These are people who, as has happened so often in the American past, have been envisioned as disposable. Is it too much of a stretch to think that what is on witness in the US today is a permissive genocide?

Humiliation is a trifling inadequate to convey the extent of the spectacle that the US has become to people around the world to whom it is part of their national imaginary. They would like to put the misfortunes of the US down to the ineptness, even callousness, of Trump; among the more informed, there is also a greater awareness of how the federal structure of American governance, the strong traditions of states’ rights, and the deep suspicion with which many Americans view the state have contributed to the highly decentralised and chaotic American response to the pandemic. But the problems run much deeper: public political discourse in the US sometimes conveys the impression of being conducted by Rip Van Winkles who went to sleep and awoke 20 years later to find a world beyond their comprehension. While the pandemic has been raging on, Americans have been stockpiling on their guns. If only one could shoot the virus dead!

It is not, however, the coronavirus that fundamentally ails the country. The more sensitive Americans are aghast at how dysfunctional the political system has become and the deep divisions that characterise the political landscape. It is common to hear of the erosion of trust, the lack of “bipartisanship”, the frequent deadlocks in Congress, and the onslaught on civil servants. In truth, however much some would like to pin it all on Trump, the social and political ills that were always lurking in the shadows have become more visible and pronounced. It is no longer possible to speak of the Republican party as a legitimate political party. Its leaders are little better than hoodlums and mafia dons; they emit a stench not only of white supremacism but of self-aggrandizement, unchecked greed, and, most disturbingly, a total disregard for truth and utter lack of compassion for the poor, the weak, and the marginalised. Similarly, the “divide” between “red” and “blue” states, liberals and conservatives, and the hinterland and the coasts considerably understates the extent to which the US is unravelling. To be sure, the US will not crumble like a cookie: empires do not die overnight, and there is much resilience and goodness in the American character. Nevertheless, those who live and flourish by brutalising others are themselves brutalised. There can be little doubt that, to use the historians’ phrase, 2020 will be a “turning point” in American and thus global history.


Lal is the author of The Fury of COVID-19: The Politics, Histories, and Unrequited Love of the Coronavirus



New Age IslamIslam OnlineIslamic WebsiteAfrican Muslim NewsArab World NewsSouth Asia NewsIndian Muslim NewsWorld Muslim NewsWomen in IslamIslamic FeminismArab WomenWomen In ArabIslamophobia in AmericaMuslim Women in WestIslam Women and Feminism