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Islam and Sectarianism ( 29 Oct 2015, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Suicide Attacks Against Shias: New Age Islam’s Selection From Pakistan Press, 30 October 2015

New Age Islam Edit Bureau

30 October 2015

 Suicide Attacks against Shias

By Syed Kamran Hashmi

 Jihad Packets

By Tammy Swofford

 When rape is not considered rape

By Zeeba T Hashmi

 Obama’s Decision and Taliban Reaction

By Zafar Iqbal Yousafzai



Suicide attacks against Shias

Syed Kamran Hashmi

October 30, 2015

Every year, Pakistani Shias risk their lives during Muharram when they join the processions commemorating the martyrdom of Imam Hussein (RA), a centuries old religious tradition that helps them understand that death can sire eternity if one sacrifices his life for a divine mission, a cause that can inspirit generations to stand up against tyranny. Every year, the government reassures them about the preventive measures it has taken to ensure their safety and vows to enact a foolproof security system that will thwart any assault on the pilgrims.

These foolproof measures are typically limited to blocking mobile services throughout the province for a day or so, implementing a ban on motorcycles with double passengers and negotiating the route for the procession with religious authorities. In addition, a police patrol stands near them to illustrate the commitment of the administration and, in case of a misfortunate event, to put blame on the most ill-organised law enforcing agency of the state. In short, no serious plans are made to maintain peace; instead, the administration relies upon its centuries old non-innovative techniques to manage the crowds and nothing else.

As such, every year, suicide bombers find a way to orchestrate deadly attacks on the peaceful congregations. This time though, not once, terrorists have struck twice, first in Balochistan by attacking a mosque, killing 10 people, followed by another blast in Sindh the very next day where the death toll rose above 20. You can see the streets filled with pools of blood yourself in the pictures printed on the 10th day of Muharram — the day when Imam Hussein was martyred — the walls sprayed maroon read, the roads strewn with small pieces of human flesh.

By taking the lives of innocent people who are fulfilling their sacred duty, the attackers repeat what happened to Shias centuries ago in Karbala. His sacrifice, we can agree, irrespective of one’s sectarian preferences, promotes one thing above all: it separates good from evil, innocent from guilty, prey from predator. Representing the good, there was the family of the Prophet (PBUH), a small circle of men, women and children. And on the side of evil, there was a group of wild animals, ruthless beasts that wanted to kill everyone who could challenge their authority, even the neonates.

Now, do I have to tell you who is who in the current wave of suicide attacks? We all know that innocents follow the footsteps of the grandson of the Prophet (PBUH). They join his brigade by laying down their lives but whose brigade do the perpetrators and the conspirators of these attacks join? I also want us to ask ourselves whose battalion we belong to? The indifferent majority that does nothing to protect its minorities?

On the one hand, when it comes to financial corruption we do not find ourselves to be dispassionate or indifferent at all. Outraged by such an offence, we demand to bring every single penny from the Swiss accounts of the corrupt politicians and the bureaucrats. Hang them, throw them in the dungeons, harass them or torture them; we are open to all ideas to get our stolen wealth back. Yet, at the same time, when human beings are torn into pieces for attending a religious ritual, our hearts do not flutter. It just keeps us numb, mute or maybe blind, unable to see that we may be next in line.

To me, it seems that we have accepted defeat as a nation from a few hundred extremists who have seized control of our religious narrative, determining what is permissible in the name of religion and what is not. They issue religious decrees declaring someone as an infidel while proclaiming others as Muslims. They decide about the size of your beard, the length of your pants, the fitting of your trousers and the colour of your caps. Either that or we have surrendered to the idea that this is the price we will have to pay in order to establish a favourable government in the neighbouring state of Afghanistan. If this is true, then tell me how are we different today from the Yazidi forces back then? All he wanted to do was establish his rule throughout the empire and, like us, he opted to pay ‘a little price’ for security. Does this not shake your soul?

People will tell you how hard it is to control sectarianism. That animosity between Shias and Sunnis runs throughout the world and it has done so for ages. That the mullahs do not want to unite the sects; they kindle the fire everywhere. And that foreign countries are also involved in such actions. Do not fall into this trap.

Explain to them that law and order is a political issue, like financial corruption, not a religious one. So, politicians have to come out of their closets and take the bull by the horns as they cannot escape evading responsibility. Just issuing a press release condemning violence will not work, nor would it help to send a tweet or update a Facebook page. They will have to make it a priority like the PTI made one of election rigging, the Muslim League made of electricity shortage and the People’s Party made of the policy of reconciliation.

Secondly, every single Sunni needs to get up and stand as a human shield to safeguard the procession despite his/her personal disagreements with the way Shias beat their chests or wail in public. It really does not matter anymore what Shias think of Sunnis or what Sunnis think of Shias; what matters is that both of them can live together with their disagreements.

We will have to make the people in power accountable for their inaction against sectarian outfits, the failure of their foolproof systems and their lack of intelligence efforts. We cannot let them get away with not doing their jobs.

Syed Kamran Hashmi is a US-based freelance columnist. He tweets at @KaamranHashmi and can be reached at


Jihad packets

Tammy Swofford

October 30, 2015

November of 2008: The Conficker worm emerged from the cocoon of her creator and infected her first computer. The dynamic of infiltration and subsequent growth of a massive botnet astounded those who followed Conficker’s movements and upgrades. Hassen Saidi (PhD in computer studies) was one of the many researchers involved in studying the worm. He dissected the various strains of the worm. His analysis provided insight into the progression of the Conficker infection. Within a month of the initial digital incursion, 1.5 million computers in 195 countries were compromised.

In the world of computers, malware is compressed into small data packets for rapid dissemination across the internet. Malware is also shielded with self-protective measures to avoid detection. When the Conficker worm made an initial appearance it barely registered any activity. But for those tasked with monitoring the same, the stakes were high. The behaviour of the Conficker worm provides an uncanny parallel with the manner in which jihad recruitment moves forward with the delivery of tiny packets of information. The stakes are incredibly high in this line of work. Tracking is 24/7 by the alphabet security agencies. When a jihad malware infection occurs the recipient may register minimal online presence. An observable digital footprint can still obscure movement towards an operational attack. Semper Vigilans.

Observing the object code and electrical charges (translate: emotional charges) associated with jihad recruitment, code never ceases to amaze me. The host for a malware infection is not only a programmable machine. Incursions with greater complexity are in flux. The 21st century host resides within a small space known as the human skull. The combination of a mind, free will and human emotion provide multiple avenues for agitation propaganda, exploitation and adaptation of the subject.

During the early years after 9/11, the malware activity at work on human brains increased significantly via internet jihad forums. My daily leapfrog across jihad portals gave me the ability to monitor the emotional pulse generated from the sites. This activity within the sites was not yet infecting within the tens of millions. But, over a period of months, there was the steady appearance of a remote thread injection — a hidden code — that executed itself within a legitimate address. That remote thread was based on an understanding of hadith and the historical battles of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). My own intellectual ability to follow along required immersion studies into the tiny data packets of information known as hadith and their smaller packets known as isnd and matn (chain of transmitters and text, respectively).

Webmasters expanded their realm of influence. Avatars used by webmasters hearken to seventh century romanticism. I have read the thoughts of Khalid ibn al-Walid. Abu Bakr made an appearance long before another man named Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi burst onto the scene. Webmasters are digital amir for the geospatial land of jihad. The amir command their soldiers to ambush innocent civilians with acts of asymmetrical warfare. And these digital commandos do it without breaking a sweat. Just as the Conficker worm was crafted to create an exploding botnet, recruiters seek to do the same. Sadly, enslaved computers and enslaved human minds are equal in one regard: few recognise the moment of their enslavement.

Revisit the fatwa of Osama bin Laden, the father of 21st century jihad. He joined colleagues to craft a grievance document. It was enough to inspire 19 enslaved men to hijack commercial jets and use them as missiles with human components. This act heralded the recrudescence of jihad. And, in a digital age, “the child” is more sophisticated than the father. Your progeny might just be the offspring of Osama bin Laden.

Twitter functions as a viral platform that infects by activation of grievance. The recruitment industry is dependent on unhealed emotion. “Help your fellow Muslims! The ummah are suffering! All of this — the fault of everybody but me!” Once the ‘viral load’ is sufficient the host is overtaken by rage, a base animal instinct. Hold a grudge, let the grudge reach a boiling point, purchase a couple of pressure cookers. Jihad fever now overwhelms the host! First it kills the cerebral cortex. The primordial urge to kill is unhindered by higher logic.

The intelligence sector remains hard at work. Jihadi sites are scrubbed, some sites monitored and others are acquired, and used as honey pots. But with the advent of Twitter, infection is spiking. Consider the forensic evidence against Alaa Abdullah Esayed. In less than a year she posted 45,600 tweets supporting Islamic State (IS). We are tracking an epidemiological crisis. My view has changed drastically over the years regarding aspects of jihadi recruitment. I used to imagine that micro-aggressive statements could only harm in aggregation. I now believe that even a solitary micro-aggressive statement is sufficient to infect a weak, susceptible host.

Al Qaeda was the precursor to IS. Both terror aggregates seek to calve nations from a dead empire. The process appears to be working splendidly well. The Balkan nations are the latest acquisition target. This activity will affect maritime activities in the Black Sea and reactivate conflict within the Caucasus. India is in the cross hairs. Aspirations abound.

A normal and well-adjusted Muslim in the west just might be receiving a remote thread injection from Mosul. But there is a greater unthinkable scenario. An infection might be coursing through a mosque. The aforementioned is an inconvenient truth. But it is also a tragedy. Houses of worship are meant to provide pasture and a place of repose for members of a faith. A focus on anarchy is fraudulent use of the same.

What initiates as a barely noticeable jihad packet can transform into a malignant programme that burrows into leitmotifs of harmful ideology. How long does it take for a balanced individual to turn into a maladjusted predator? Only as long as it takes to read micro-aggressive statements coming off a Twitter feed in London.

Tammy Swofford is a freelance journalist and author of the novel Arsenal. She can be reached at


When rape is not considered rape

Zeeba T Hashmi

October 30, 2015

One inspiring, out of many voices against misogynistic tyranny, is that of Kainat Soomro, who has refused to go silent about her rape. She has in fact shown her resilience against her tormentors and fought against a patriarchal society with courage. What she endured during her gang rape in 2007 in rural Sindh cannot be related to. It has been eight hard years since she filed against rape in the courts but she still awaits justice. With her having to flee to Karachi and a brother murdered in the backlash, there are many loopholes in the justice system and society stand exposed, needing our attention.

Where the victim is blamed for a crime against her, there is an urgency to look into the perilous ways a society looks into transgressions against the weaker sex. Rape is quite often loosely defined so that the perpetrator finds an easy exit without even being held accountable for it, resulting in his act of crime going unrecognised. This presents a moral predicament where the laws of the land are tuned to the traditional dictums that have allowed for defence of the perpetrators because holding the rapist responsible for the crime, instead of blaming the victim, would mean the patriarchal values that depend on the ‘conduct’ of a woman are directly being challenged. Nothing has caused more damage to our collective sense of empathy than the permeation of the idea that justifies rape because of the way women act or dress.

Opening up about sexuality is supposed to remain a taboo subject, resulting in higher probability of sexual violations. This is when some sexual acts are accepted to be a norm in society, for example marital rape and child marriages. The paradigm of consent alone, in this regard, is not enough to ensure a person’s complete willingness for sex. To understand what constitutes rape and what does not is a complicated issue but it really takes no rocket science to know that a lack of willingness for sex is definitely not consent.

In Pakistan, we have a disturbed history of laws in practice. The Zina Ordinance, introduced by General Ziaul Haq was out rightly unjust because an act of rape was equated with an act of Zina (fornication or adultery), which ended up in persecution of the victims instead of safeguarding them because of their failure to bring the required four male witnesses to the crime. The draconian law was changed when the Protection of Women Amendment Act was approved under which crimes of rape were to be tried under Sections 375 and 376 of the Pakistan Penal Code 1869. Though the current law has eased the evidentiary processes for the victim, attempts are still being made to change that. In recent memory, the Council for Islamic Ideology (CII) issued a statement on how the submission of DNA samples as rape evidence is not Islamic. Though the good council is not legally binding, such a dangerous decree is bound to influence the verdict in a court of law under a non-secular judge. There are protections enshrined for women in the present law but there is no practical awareness about the applicability of the law favouring women who are the direct victims of sexual abuse by their husbands. The unwillingness of the law authorities and poor institutional legal apparatus have all failed to deliver for the victims.

A victim is discouraged by society from speaking about the violence she has suffered at the hands of her violators. This is so because all matters of sexuality are related to the concept of shame and those who struggle to voice against sexual perversions are dehumanised and isolated. Religious and political parties like the JUI-F, Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), PML-N and PTI have historically expressed their sheer opposition to any pro-women bill being introduced in parliament. They downgraded the Domestic Violence Bill to be a western, anti-Islam conspiracy aimed at disrupting the social fabric of Pakistan. The former JI chair also once advised the victims to stay silent about the rape they endured.

Many rape victims here, unlike those in the developed world where they face less legal and social impediments, choose to remain silent for the sake of their family’s honour and pride in society. It is the culture of silence that is endorsing the culture of rape. It is therefore wrong to presume that incidents of rape here are much lower in comparison to other countries. In fact, our ratios might be much higher than those reported, given how easily rape is protected here.

A way the social system defends a rapist by downgrading an act is when it frantically tries to compare the rape experience of a victim with others. What makes rape in third world countries, like India and Pakistan, so different from the same occurring in the developed world? Though it is not incorrect to say that every victim has felt differently about his/her experience, it does not mean we measure their grievances to prove that all rapes are not that bad. Yes, the idea is ridiculous. Instead of worrying about the rapist, we should be asking if we are doing any justice to rape victims by comparing who felt more horrified by receiving unwanted and undesirable penetration.

Rape is not just about inflicting physical pain. It is the ultimate soul crushing humiliation of the victim. Men get raped as well. And it is unfair to say minors who willingly said yes, unbeknownst to what they were being engaged in, are not raped. In societies where loopholes in the law allow for the rapist to go unpunished, this crime is more rampant and open than in countries that have progressed, where a perpetrator has to plan and execute it. It is a crime of lust, misogyny and control. There are a few brave fighters, like Kainat, who have decided to speak up and fight the system. But women choosing to live in circumstances or situations that leave them vulnerable to rape and remain silent about it does not mean that their rape should be acceptable to society. No matter how one would like to describe, compare and measure it, a rape will remain rape, no matter how hard one tries to justify it.

Zeeba T Hashmi is a freelance columnist and may be contacted at


Obama’s decision and Taliban reaction

Zafar Iqbal Yousafzai

October 30, 2015

The US troops’ extension seems to have had a deteriorating effect on the security situation in Afghanistan rather than bringing peace and stability to this war-ravaged state. Obama’s decision of a US pullout extension has been severely looked at by the Taliban. “It is a joke. They will have to leave Afghanistan but they will damage the peace process through these tactics” the Taliban said in a statement. This statement shows that the Taliban are willing to dupe as again with a peace process but for that a US withdrawal is a pre-requisite.

In addition, the Taliban chief, Mullah Akhtar Mansour, reciprocated President Obama’s decision as: “this means they are not sincere about a peaceful solution to the Afghan crisis”. The US’ 9,800 troops had to leave Afghanistan before 2017 but now 5,500 troops will remain in Afghanistan beyond 2017. On one side, the US supports the peace process while, on the other hand, Obama’s pullout extension may halt the future of the negotiation process as the Taliban have shown severe reservations.

Since August, security in Afghanistan has been worsening every day. The capture of Kunduz on September 28 was a shocking defeat for the unity government of President Ashraf Ghani and his unity government. Although, the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) along with US forces have recaptured Kunduz the Taliban have showed their rigorous posture. Reports say that Baghlan and Badakhshan provinces are also under threat from Taliban occupation, as there too the fight has been started albeit on a small scale.

Indeed, the occupation of Kunduz by the Taliban was an unprecedented victory of the Taliban at a time when there were reports of a split in their ranks after the demise of Mullah Umar, especially over the leadership of Mullah Akhtar Mansour, the newly elected leader of the Taliban. In the last 14 years since 9/11 the Taliban had never managed to occupied any province, hence this move to capture Kunduz was an alarm warning for the Afghan government, which has experienced the weakness of ANSF.

Earlier, the demise of the Taliban supreme leader, Mullah Muhammad Umar, the legitimacy of the new Taliban leader, Mullah Akhtar Mansoor, the rumours of differences among the ranks of the Taliban and the Islamic State (IS) threat to the Taliban were the only questions about the Taliban’s near demise (or what seemed like it) but the Taliban seem to be in higher spirits after the Kunduz occupation.

In the current flux of events, the Afghan president, Ashraf Ghani, seems stuck between the devil and the deep blue sea. On one hand, he is under pressure from inside the country and in parliament regarding his overtures to Pakistan while on the other hand he sees that without Pakistan’s cooperation achieving peace and stability in Afghanistan is impossible. Hence, he has no choice but to bridge his differences with Pakistan and stop the blame game that may pave the way for peace talks with the Taliban.

In the spring offensive this year, especially in the last few months, the Taliban have seemed more organised when fighting against the ANSF. In addition, Mullah Umar’s son and brother, Mullah Yaqoob and Mullah Abdul Manan, last month declared allegiance to Mullah Akhtar Mansoor; in the beginning they had been against Mansoor’s leadership. This shows that Mullah Mansoor is the person who can effectively lead the Taliban. The Taliban leadership postponed the second round of peace talks after the death reportw of Mullah Umar. This move too fell victim to rumours about the differences in the ranks of the Taliban, albeit the current activities of the Taliban have proved they are united among their ranks.

IS was also considered a serious threat to the Taliban in Afghanistan. Most experts believe that IS may take advantage of the Taliban’s transition. Nevertheless, as the previous rumours regarding the Taliban have been nullified, such will be the case of the IS threat to the Taliban as well. Although some low-ranked Taliban leaders may have joined IS, it cannot be considered a serious threat and blow to the Taliban. It seems that the Taliban are mainly organised in their ranks.

After the US withdrawal from Afghanistan — albeit incomplete — the Taliban leaders have realised that the ANSF are not capable of defending every area. Both the Afghan government and the Taliban should learn a lesson from the Iran nuclear deal. The reconciliatory process should start at any cost to reach an agreement. It is the only to bring peace and stability to war-torn Afghanistan as well as end the decades’ long crisis. Moreover, there should be a complicit agreement between the Taliban and the US on the US troops’ withdrawal schedule. For that, the US will have to be a party to the negotiation process rather than just an observer.

Zafar Iqbal Yousafzai is a Peshawar-based researcher and political analyst. He can be reached at