New Age Islam Edit Bureau
December 11, 2015
• Islamism versus liberalism
By Zeeba T Hashmi
• The lost souls of Tashfeen and Rizwan
By Sherezade Tabrezi
Islamism versus liberalism
By Zeeba T Hashmi
December 11, 2015
The propagation of hardline Islam was, in fact, vehemently purported by the military regimes, the politicians and the feudal lords to keep their masses under control and introduce policies that could help them accomplish their objectives
This week, religious parties affiliated with the Tuhaffuz Nazria Pakistan Council (TNPC) have announced conferences on December 15 in Lahore and December 16 in Islamabad to dissuade any idea that has been posed by the government to liberalise Pakistan. In the backlash from the religious parties over Nawaz Sharif using the term “liberal”, which sent a shock wave through the hearts of our religious parties, Maulana Fazlur Rehman of the JUI-F and Maulana Sirajul Haq of the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) have both denounced the dreaded word that our poor Prime Minister (PM) perhaps in his obliviousness dared to utter.
The concern in the liberal world of Pakistan has risen, not on political grounds, but over the demise of basic rationality. The Tuhaffuz Nazria Pakistan is a network of religious parties that defend the Two-Nation Theory, which they affirm to be the national ideology of Pakistan. To them, Islam was the basis of Pakistan, as Muslims were very different from the Hindus of pre-partitioned India. Not only is this political philosophy outdated, keeping it alive and making it still relevant today is dangerous especially because there are non-Muslim minorities living in Pakistan that have been deprived of basic political, social and economic rights. Their discrimination is, unfortunately, laid down in the very Constitution of Pakistan and any criticism against it by liberal factions is vehemently opposed and demonised through effective social mobilisation and media campaigns by the religious parties. One is awed by the ridiculousness of the logic presented by the religious right to thwart any idea they consider to be a ‘liberal’ conspiracy threatening their Islam.
The roots of Islamism were laid when PM Liaquat Ali Khan laid down the Objectives Resolution in 1949, which stated that the sovereignty of the country rests with Allah and all the laws were to take guidance from Islam. The Objectives Resolution was criticised heavily by the minority leaders who feared this would steer the country towards radicalisation and they were right. The propagation of hardline Islam was, in fact, vehemently purported by the military regimes, the politicians and the feudal lords to keep their masses under control and introduce policies that could help them accomplish their objectives.
Indeed, right wing logic thrives strongly on social media where a majority of the literate Pakistani youth presents and expresses their views. You can witness a string of abuses and bad language used against the minorities and the dissenting voices that call for social reforms in the nation. The stringent educational spaces and the brainwashing through textbooks and schools are so entrenched that it will take a generation or two to undo the intolerance they have been fed depending only on whether drastic educational and curricula reforms take place now amidst all the right wing resistance. The dialect is illogical and their tone is threatening with comments calling for the murder of those whom they consider to be anti-Islam or anti-Pakistan. Most of the youth using the internet in their rooms hardly go out and explore the issues that surround their world. Their lack of actual exposure to issues make them ignorant and brainwashed with Islamist logic, which they consider the equivalent to sin if one talks about undoing it. The bigotry and hate spread by the right wing media, sponsored by the religious-political parties has become too gigantic to be undone. Liberal voices merely call for a practical solution to create harmony and peaceful co-existence within a society by removing or amending laws that have been infringing on the basic rights of a person. From a logical point, a person who has been denied basic rights and dignity remains without justice, and this is a point of friction for the religious parties who want to keep that person devoid of any justice.
The great example we have is that of the Ahmedis, who are socially and politically boycotted for following their beliefs. They consider themselves Muslims whereas the mainstream Muslims consider them to be kafirs (infidels). They have successfully brought discriminatory and humiliating laws against them, which is beyond any sense of humanity. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, through a parliamentary vote, stripped them of their identities and, in 1984, inheriting this hate from his predecessor, General Ziaul Haq even criminalised their Muslim rituals like using the Islamic greeting and reciting the Kalma. This gross discrimination is a shame for Pakistanis for mistreating its citizens in such a harrowing way. Even the political leaders, to appease the clergy, have claimed to have categorically distanced themselves from the community. Imran Khan of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI), during his campaign for the 2013 general elections, had to clear his position that he has not backing Ahmedis when rumors came out on how Ahmedi Muslims were supporting him.
When there is a voice demanding such discrimination to be undone, it is meted out through strong opposition by the clergy, religious-political parties and even right wing intellectuals, who are heavily paid by the right wing parties, and even sometimes by intelligence agencies to create religious trends by strategically silencing liberal and secular voices. The liberals, as a result, become targets of religious extremists. This was perhaps why Sabeen Mahmood, a social activist and a proponent of free speech was killed; it is suspected that her holding an event on Balochistan was the reason behind her murder, the reason relayed by her killer was of her being too liberal.
The religious parties maintain that the Constitution of Pakistan is laid down on Islamic principles, therefore any attempt to secularise the Constitution should be thwarted. Laws, they say, that protect the sanctity of Islam (as per their version, of course) must be respected and the laws that are secular in nature must be abolished. The irony is that the liberals call for the exact opposite: that the laws should be made so as to provide equal opportunity and justice for all, irrespective of religion. There comes a dilemma of respect for laws, whether good or bad. That is where the religious right is on the heavy side of the balance and the liberals lose their ground but they are not deterred from calling for a change in the Constitution that is based on the discrimination and humiliation of others.
The lost souls of Tashfeen and Rizwan
By Sherezade Tabrezi
Some questions to both of you dead souls: what were you thinking? What was your agenda? What did you hope to achieve? What twisted version of Islam were you following? Were you dead when you were alive? Because you had to be dead inside to want to knowingly abandon your six-month-old baby, massacre and injure dozens and leave a heartbroken family behind; siblings who are left to face the wrath of your madness, and an entire religion left to explain the unexplainable. Do you know what you have done? You have made our worst fears come true.
Millions of Muslims live as immigrants all around the world. In the US alone, Muslims are believed to number anything between five to 12 million, according to PBS Frontline News and 99.9 per cent of these Muslim Americans are law-abiding, taxpaying and patriotic. Muslim immigrants are grateful for the opportunities that this land has given them, gracious in their appreciation, and honest in their love for America.
They say the following to the San Bernardino killers: “Our motherland keeps us humble and rooted, and we love it instinctively, but our adopted land is adored; it gives us wings to fly and nourishment to grow; hence we love it and that too, with a passion. I hate you for making people doubt my love for my adopted homeland and for maligning the name of Muslim immigrants the world over. The people you killed were among those who welcomed you to their country and invited you to make your home next to theirs. Because of your actions, hardworking individuals will now be viewed with suspicion. Immigrants will feel compelled to voice their loyalty to America, which is genuine, but is an emotion that Muslim immigrants should not be forced to wear on their sleeves. You chose to orphan your six-month-old daughter and left her stranded in the face of harsh scrutiny. She will now have to learn to survive alone.”
Today a non-Muslim friend of mine put forward this question to me: “As an intelligent, rational Muslim American immigrant, whom I respect, can you please give me your thoughts on recent world events, and the likes of the San Bernardino attackers as it’s hard to sort through the chatter?”
As a law-abiding, hardworking and practicing Muslim, I put thought into answering this question. I spoke to a scholarly representative of my community and religion, and sought his help in further understanding the twisted version of religion that inspires people to massacre. Here is what I, the immigrant, said to my friend: “These groups and individuals claim that they represent Islam — they do not. They pick and choose parts of the holy scripture and scholarly writings to serve their political agenda. Their problem is simple. They tend to view everything in the context of power, and not faith. In their view, every part of holy texts makes a political statement, while in fact every verse is a statement of faith. Muslim intellectuals and scholars have consistently questioned violent views and arguments, but tragically the political elite have successfully used violent groups to serve their own agendas. Majority of the recruits of these groups hardly have any intellectual exposure to the Holy Quran. They have been given a twisted interpretation of it by their leaders. The followers are unable to challenge their leaders’ ideology because they are ignorant of the truth and live in their own restricted world. Hence they remain unmoved by the critique offered by the rational population of the world, including Muslims. In their opinion, those critical of their world view are deviants and should be dealt with harshly.
“In their complete misunderstanding of religion, they resort to violence and bloodshed, and ignore some of the most essential teachings of Islam. They ignore the idea of free will and freedom of choice. They ignore the idea of the unity of humanity. They ignore the ideals of dignity, and the value of human life, mercy, compassion and justice. Who are these people, you ask me, and what does the peaceful Muslim majority call them? We call them what you call them: criminals, murderers, terrorists, who happen to be Muslims and cannot be stripped of their claim of belonging to their religion unless they renounce it themselves. Since mainstream Islam does not have a titular head, like the Pope in Christianity, there is no authority that could disassociate Muslims at large from the acts of these terrorists. I rest my case, with a broken heart, but a strong will to protect my religion of peace and my country. I am an American and I am a Muslim.”
Sherezade Tabrezi writer is a freelance columnist based in the US