Daash and Tashbash
By Farooq Sulehria
September 12, 2014
‘The Wind from the Plain’, a trilogy by master Turkish author Yashar Kemal, revolves around Tashbash. Faced with famine, villagers start believing in Tashbash’s saintly status. After all, during trying times, we need messiahs.
Tashbash, though, is no saint and is not willing to accept the position. However, on realising that he can help his fellow villagers by acknowledging the mythical powers they had come to invest him with, he reluctantly starts playing the role of the saint/faith healer. But when implicated in a police case, he escapes to a far-off town. In his absence, he assumes a holy status in the minds of his fellow villagers.
Lucky ones see him atop the snow-capped mountains in a green attire. Blessed ones catch his glimpse in their pure dreams. As the years pass by, the aura around his persona grows manifold while the miseries afflicting the village also multiply. However, his fellow-villagers staunchly believe that one day he will return and deliver the end of their unhappiness.
On the other hand, during his exile, Tashbash undergoes terrible times which take a toll on his health. When finally he returns to the village, a worn-out and old Tashbash is not merely only a shadow of his former self, his appearance betrays the holy image he had assumed in the imagination of his fellow villagers. They refuse to accept him. Disillusioned, they lynch him.
Daash, or Isis, and the ‘caliphate’ it has founded very much resemble Tashbash’s character. Mullahs have been telling us: a caliphate is the solution to all our ills. Ironically, in the Middle East what unites Washington and Moscow or Iran and Saudi Arabia is a pathological opposition to the ‘Islamic State’.
The absurdity of puritan utopia is evident from the fact that every time a Tashbash of an ‘Islamic State’ arrives on the scene, fellow Muslims want to lynch it in horror. In my view, the ‘Islamic State’ is an ephemeral phenomenon. Before it is consolidated, it will be eliminated.
The Taliban, in comparison, were able to maintain their caliphate for about five years. Not even the OIC allowed the Taliban to occupy Afghanistan's seat. Tehran was once about to attack the Taliban caliphate. Besides Pakistan (obviously), the Saudi kingdom and the UAE, no other Muslim country recognised it. When the Taliban were bombed out by the ‘Big Satan’, not a single resident of Kabul came out in their defence.
In the meantime, we have witnessed mini-caliphates of Al-Shabab in Somalia and Boko Haram in Nigeria. Everywhere a caliphate is mounted, residents of the area are seen fleeing the scene en masse. Massacres, beheadings, abduction of girls begin making headlines. Besides devastating the future, these puritan thugs make sure that the past is also destroyed.
While the Taliban earned notoriety by dynamiting Buddha statues in Bamyan, Isis’ holy warriors have literally bombed holy sites such as Prophet Yunus’s shrine. One may point out the case of Saudi Arabia and Iran.
It is true that both these ‘Islamic States’ have survived. But lest we forget, the birth of the Saudi state was assisted by British imperialism while Washington has sustained it ever since the 1940s. Black Gold proved yet another factor in its survival.
The Iranian case is more complicated. The Iran-Iraq war was an attempt to lynch it. But oil played a role in its survival too. None of the two offers a model worth emulating. Instead, both have aggravated the Shia-Sunni conflict across the Muslim world.
Understandably, the preferred destination for Muslim migrants (including the bearded ones) is the ‘infidel’ west instead of Islamic caliphates. Is it a coincidence that puritan utopia everywhere turns out to be a dystopia?
Farooq Sulehria is a freelance contributor.