New Age Islam Edit Bureau
3 December, 2015
• A matter of shame
By Ikram Sehgal
• War on terror: more of the same — I
By Dr Saulat Nagi
• Thoughts at a productive Muslim workshop
By M Bilal Lakhani
A matter of shame
By Ikram Sehgal
December 3, 2015
The Pakistan Penal Code must introduce draconian punishments for bearing false witness
Falsely accusing an employee of burning pages of the holy Quran, a violent mob consisting of people from adjoining villages attacked the Pakistan Chipboard Factory in Jhelum on November 20, 2015. Sent by Chief Minister (CM) Shahbaz Sharif when the riots broke out, MPA Mehar Muhammad Fiaz claims most men in the mob were drunk and were only there to steal valuables. According to the Punjab lawmaker, “Though it had nothing to do with religion, they stormed the factory on the excuse of blasphemy allegations.”
The police arrived too late to prevent the mob from vandalising the factory and premises on an organised basis, and taking away every usable item. By the time the military arrived at around 12:30 am the factory had burnt down to ashes. Taking advantage of the inefficiency/indifference of the law enforcement agencies, mobs also torched Ahmedi places of worship in Jhelum over those false blasphemy allegations the next day.
The Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) must introduce draconian punishments for bearing false witness. In a past article, ‘Perjury’ (February 12, 2010), I said that “giving false statements under oath is perjury plain and simple, and perjury is a punishable offence. The Oxford Dictionary defines perjury as ‘an act of willfully telling an untruth when on oath,’ and goes on to use the words, ‘lying, mendacity, mendaciousness, falsification, deception, untruthfulness, dishonesty and duplicity’. A perjurer is a criminal and must be treated as one.” In most countries, perjury carries exemplary punishment, ruthless enough for people to try and avoid giving a statement under oath lest that statement (or part thereof) be detected to be false.
To quote another one of my previous articles ‘Targeting perjury’ (July 15, 2010), “Loss of faith in the judicial system can become a very potent breeding ground for vigilantes. Social upheaval turning violent can spill over into the Pakistani heartland. In criminal trials, the punishment should be exactly what the accused would have got if the evidence had been held to be correct.” At the same time, we must avoid polarising society by fuelling the controversy of amending/changing the blasphemy laws. Both Benazir and Musharraf tried this without success. If the laws are made strong enough against bearing false witness, miscarriages of justice will not take place, and it will not be confined to blasphemy alone.
Consider the sacrifices rendered by our minority communities in the wars that Pakistan has fought: Captain (later Lieutenant Colonel) Javed Jalal, given up for dead with 27 bullets in his body or Major (later Major General) Julian Peter, wounded commanding a rifle company and refusing evacuation, fighting on till surrender on December 16, 1971. One of the few Nishan-e-Haiders awarded in 1971 went to Lance Naik Mehfuz of 15 Punjab, the unit Colonel Cyril Leonan was commanding in battle. Late Group Captain Cecil Chaudhry more than deserved his Sitara-e-Jurat (SJ) in 1971 for pressing home his low-level attacks on Indian air bases despite heavy ground fire. Other than religion, nothing is more sacred to Pakistan than our nuclear assets, explaining why Brigadier (retd) Simon Sharaf, an esteemed colleague in the Pakistan Ex-Servicemen Association (PESA), was trusted by the GHQ to help craft our nuclear policy. One can go on and on.
At around midnight on December 12, 1971, Lieutenant Colonel (later Brigadier) Mohammad Taj SJ and Bar, Commanding Officer (CO) 44 Punjab (now 4 Sindh) assembled his orders ‘O’ Group adjacent to Sanohi village near Chor. Sixty Bde of 33 Div had been moved post-haste from Rahimyarkhan to reinforce the Chor-Umerkot line and stop the rot that had made 55 Bde almost non-existent, at least for some time. HQ 33 Div had taken over operational responsibility from 18 Div on December 12. Until we were force-marched to Chor under incessant air attacks, there was no infantry between Sanohi bridge and the guns of 26 and 40 Field. Among the grim faces in the semi-darkness were Lieutenant General K M Azhar, the governor (then) of NWFP, and Major General Nasir GOC 33 Division. Both had been wounded during an Indian air attack during the day. The mission given to 44 Punjab was rather desperate: capture the ridge overlooking Sanohi village in a two-company attack before first light on December 13 so as to deny the Indians physical domination of Chor and the area surrounding by direct fire. In many ways it was a last throw of the dice; it was do or die. When the CO asked for questions, one of the company commanders excused himself for having heart pains, another said his ankle was badly sprained. There was stunned silence in the makeshift dugout.
Colonel Taj calmly turned to Captain (later Major General) Fahim Akhtar to take over the left forward Alpha Company. He ordered my Delta Company to replace Bravo Company as the right forward company. Contrary to all our teachings, our Forming Up Place (FUP) was next to a battery of 40 Field commanded by Major (later Lieutenant General) Hamid Niaz. Offering us “tea, sukhi roti and daal,” Hamid Niaz cheerfully announced we could not be martyrs on an empty stomach.
Captain Naseer Tariq and Second Lieutenant Hanif Butt (or Singawala as we affectionately knew him) vociferously volunteered to go with us into the unknown. To quote my article ‘The Ides of March again’ on March 2013: “A captain and second lieutenant stood out cheerfully brave in the Chor desert in December 1971, fighting for their country and willing to die for it. Being ‘Ahmedis’ they left the army a few years later as majors, retiring as outstanding soldiers. One is proud that these courageous sons of the soil are still my friends 42 years later; notwithstanding their shortened career they still swear by the uniform they wore and the country they boldly defended, and later again in Balochistan in 1973. Where were ‘the defenders of the faith’ (of the warped version that is) when these two were willing to give the ultimate sacrifice?”
Leaders must take action to protect minorities. Realising their responsibilities they must have the courage to go forward with conviction. To quote David Seabury, “Courage and conviction are powerful weapons against an enemy who depends only on fists or guns. Animals know when you are afraid; a coward knows when you are not.” Those that raise their hand against the weak and helpless are nothing but animals and cowards.
Naseer Tariq is the owner of the ashes that is left of Pakistan Chipboard. Tariq, you were there when this country and we needed you; we can only hang our heads in shame because neither this country nor we were there for you when you needed us.
Ikram Sehgal is a defence analyst and security expert
War on terror: more of the same — I
By Dr Saulat Nagi
December 3, 2015
To enhance the servitude of the workers and to influence the social impotence of critical thought, each calamity turns out to be an opportunity for the ruling class
For all the wrong and tragic reasons, France is in the limelight yet again. In Paris, an impulsive fit of paranoia, an outrageous act of violence, consumed more than 100 innocent lives in just a few chilling moments. Bullets were fired, blood spilled, death roared and the bodies fell. Regardless of colour, caste, creed and even ideology, madness, certainly not without a method, prevailed. Well fed hate, a kind of eternal atrophy that destroys everything but itself, won the day.
In a world based on profit, all relations and emotions are subjected to a single motive, the motive of profit, which is divine gospel. This incident can be no exception. It is only a matter of time before some Snowden will reveal the profit figure and the name of the beneficiary to all and sundry. With every calamity, the market reacts immediately, dividends rise, sometimes after a fall, but the trend invariably goes upwards. On the contrary, whenever or with whatever motive these gruesome attacks are carried out, the bosom of one of the gallant proletariat, a fighter of the future, is pierced, one who finds himself caught unaware between the terrorists and the bourgeois state.
“The war,” according to Howard Zinn, “is a class phenomenon. It is the poor who go to war, who get wounded and die in war. War gives the government a reason for existence.” Loss of life never remains a physical phenomenon; it transcends spiritual and psychological boundaries, leaving a wound on the soul, which, contrary to Hegel, does not heal without a scar. Mayhem of this magnitude widens the gulf in an already cleaved unity of the value producing class, the real owner of this globe that, on one pretext or another, is held back in perpetual penury and pauperisation. To enhance the servitude of the workers and to influence the social impotence of critical thought, which is already rife, each calamity turns out to be an opportunity for the ruling class. It provides an extremely fertile land to sow the seeds of suspicion in the hearts of the people while helping to divert the attention of the workers from class to race, religion and other rigmarole. The sanctity of nation, values and blood ties, which otherwise are mere empty vessels, are filled with abstract historical notions through ‘false consciousness’. Hate helps capital to squeeze the labour of the worker with the latter’s consent. Alienation is converted into a wilful, conscious servitude. By squeezing out this enhanced surplus, capital builds its bulwarks; through their blood it paints its cities red. To raise its stature it stands over their cadavers only to gloat about its racial, intellectual and class superiority.
While the stench of gunpowder was still lurking, the poodle press and the ‘socialist’ (listless about socialism) president of the republic of France swiftly fixed responsibility. His verdict charged Islamic State (IS) as guilty, a rag tag group of terrorists that allegedly he and his other allies helped finance. Certainly “a comfortable, smooth, reasonable, democratic un-freedom” along with crafty guileful indoctrination prevails in developed societies. The godfather of imperialism did not lag behind. Without mincing words, the leader of the ‘free’ world — where the gun rules and the blacks succumb — Obama condemned both terrorism and the massacre in no uncertain terms.
A cancer, regardless of whether it afflicts an individual or a society, is a serious cause of concern; if its name is terrorism it must be condemned as well. But does mere condemnation heal an ailing society? Certainly not; even Obama will have no cause to reject this contemplation. Every cause has its effect, nothing falls from the blue; both philosophy and science have a unanimous belief in this reality. People are born as innocent human beings and not as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ guys. It is society, circumstances, objective conditions and their class that determine the fate of a human. Obama will have no qualms in accepting the first premise of this sentence though the second half may not be palatable since it bears a ‘stench’ of Marxism. Long ago, doctors established an authenticated link between cigarette smoking and lung cancer but the tobacco corporations came up with their dazzling ads of a charismatic man infused with vitality, accompanied by the seductive smile of a charming girl, who after every adventure demanded cigarettes. The tempting fragrance of a cigarette barely mattered since manipulation of thought worked. This made scientific evidence advanced by doctors sound baseless and unfounded. The denial did not change the reality; instead it increased mortality while sustaining the rate of profitability.
In Paris on that fateful day more than half a dozen youthful humans (at least they looked like humans) in a grisly and hideous act turned more than 100 fellows of their own species into cadavers. Later, apart from one or two, the rest blew themselves up into ashes leaving families to mourn, humanity to grieve, analysts to ponder and opportunists to fix blame. From Islam to race, every possible reason of hate was kept on the dice loaded with one dimensional thought where every issue could be freely deliberated except ‘class’. Allude to this taboo and get accused of committing calumny against national integrity. One wonders why class is so antagonistic to the concept of a nation and if so why blame Hitler for declaring Aryans a superior nation, which according to him was immune to the ‘class’ phenomenon? Is it not true that the bourgeoisie of whatever hue believes in the same values that Hitler is blamed for?
Who were the murderers? Why did they commit this gory crime? These are very pertinent questions that need concrete answers, yet they will never get it because “truth is to be desired not for its own sake but in so far as it works best, as it leads us to something that is alien or at least different from truth itself” (Horkheimer). For some, these killers were asocial. If one accept this frivolous hypothesis, the diagnosis becomes convenient. By neglecting the essence, the superficial analysis of the phenomenon makes it easy to lay the blame on the individual’s perverted psyche. It is convenient to separate the individual’s personal discontent from the malaise and aggression sickening society. Once general affliction is limited to the individual’s anxiety, the case can be easily handled. Society becomes too perfect to be blamed. Yet again the question who perverts this psyche remains unanswered. Does it have to do with Freudian aggression that needs catharsis? Yes and no. It is affirmative since in the presence of the cause, persistent repression, aggression cannot be denied. It is negative since Freudian aggression needs a sublimated Eros to satisfy the desire that prepares the human to re-embrace the performance principle.
To get back to work, yet again to alienated labour. Here, in this case, there was no coming back. Anxiety had transcended all limits of sanity, hence an insane act was committed with absolute responsibility. These boys were not asocial; they were alienated by a brute society that Laing states “creates half crazed creatures” that could not adjust to a mad world of war and destruction.
(To be continued)
Dr Saulat Nagi is based in Australia and has authored books on socialism and history.
Thoughts at a productive Muslim workshop
By M Bilal Lakhani
December 2, 2015
“There are five misconceptions that are destroying productivity in the Muslim world,” shares Mohammed Faris, a motivational speaker, also known as Abu productive. I attended one of his workshops recently, which aim to inspire Muslims to be more productive in everything they do. There were some genuinely provocative insights in his thinking which I’ll share with you today. “The first reason why Muslims are unproductive is that we’re taught to actively neglect the dunya,” he shares. “But actually, God wants us to avoid the comforts of the dunya, not dunya itself. We must strive to be productive and successful so we can be leaders in this world. We can’t use neglect of dunya as an excuse to justify the fact that most Muslim countries rank at the bottom of the list of educated and productive countries in the world.
“Make duaa and all will be well! How often do we abuse this message as an excuse to be lazy?” asks Faris. “If you can’t find a job, just make duaa. If you can’t get married, just make duaa. While prayer is certainly an important part of achieving whatever you need, it’s not a replacement for hard work. Look at Prophet Noah, he took years to build Noah’s ark to save his people from a mighty flood, instead of only praying and taking no action. Similarly, Muslims need to stop using prayers as a crutch or excuse for not working. If you need a job, update your CV, go meet people, give interviews and then make duaa. Don’t make duaa and spend the rest of your day watching TV.
“The third concept which hurts Muslims is the maxim that when the going gets tough, have sabr,” shares Faris. “Again, we abuse the concept of sabr. Sabr is a sign of persistence and resilience in the face of hard work. The root word of sabr can be traced to the same root as the word for a cactus tree, which survives in the harshest of landscapes by trying to suck water and life from whatever it touches and then produces sweet water as an outcome. That is the essence of real sabr: working hard in extremely difficult circumstances to squeeze as much as you can from life — producing sweet water as an outcome.
“The fourth concept is that righteousness equals to and is limited to acts of worship,” shares Faris. “And the fifth concept is that everything is already written. How often do we abuse these concepts as Muslims? The reality is that life outcomes are a function of our free will plus God’s laws plus God’s permission. Free will is our own thinking and action. Usually, Muslims emphasise God’s permission and laws but forget that their free will is also an important part of the outcomes we see in our lives.”
Abu Productive defined productivity as being a function of energy multiplied by focus multiplied by time. “Productivity is a lifestyle,” shared Faris. “Not an event. Smart choices about how we spend our energy and time as well as what we choose to focus on is the essence of productivity.” He explained that good intentions and hard work are the roots of all success. There are three types of productivity according to Faris — physical, social and spiritual. “Do you ever wonder why people living in a big house have no happiness, while a family living in a small house is content?” asks Faris. “It’s because of their level of spiritual productivity or barakah. There are many ways to increase your spiritual productivity but it starts with having good intentions and respecting God’s laws.”
There are a couple of key points from his workshop that stand out. First, there’s no conflict between religion and productivity. In fact, now more than ever, the Muslim world needs individuals and leaders who can serve the community with their best efforts. Second, nothing good will ever happen without hard work. But hard work without pure intentions can frustrate one’s journey towards happiness and success. Finally, improving one’s life isn’t an event but a journey. The length and difficulty of this journey shouldn’t stop us from taking the first step.