Friday, October 26, 2012

Daily Times editorial Oct 27, 2012

A sombre Eid This Eid-ul-Azha should be an occasion for us to introspect somberly on the state of the Muslim world in general, and Pakistan in particular. The Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, Abdul Aziz Al-Sheikh, in his Hajj khutba (sermon) reminded his three million audience from 189 countries physically present at Masjid-i-Namra in the plains of Arafat on Thursday, as well as millions more Muslims throughout the world of the teachings of Islam and the imperative of following these principles. These principles include peace, brotherhood, patience, tolerance and abhorring all types of violence in society. He further underlined that Islam could be implemented by following the Sunnah (practice) of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH). Admirable as these principles are, the question cannot be brushed under the carpet whether the Muslim world shows any signs or resemblance to the kind of society and community the Grand Mufti sketched. Ironically, the very country of which he is the Grand Mufti is held responsible for spreading an intolerant, literalist, narrow, fanatical and therefore violent deviant of the Islamic message. This Wahabi assertion through funding madrassas that impart such views to young minds, lubricating their transition to jihadi extremists and suicide bombers, is arguably at the heart of the Muslim world’s current paroxysms. Who knows this better than Pakistan, currently reaping the whirlwind of its decades-old project of using jihadi extremism as a tool of power projection in the region and setting the national political agenda at home. Admitted, our own ‘contribution’ to bringing us to this pass, particularly of our military establishment and its intelligence arms, cannot be denied. Nevertheless, the Saudi and Arab (Gulf) connection was, and arguably remains, the financial lynchpin of the whole jihadi project. Not only did the encouragement and support of extremism help military dictators like Ziaul Haq and Pervez Musharraf retain their grip on power for long years, it is responsible for the outbreak and spread of regional conflicts, whether in Afghanistan, against India in Kashmir, or in the Arab world. Little surprise then that the Muslim world portrays an ummah hopelessly divided, rent asunder with intra-regional wars and conflict, sectarian genocide and with increasingly aggressive assertion of their political agenda by extremists from South East Asia, across the expanse of the Muslim world all the way to Africa. What a Frankenstein’s monster has been unleashed by the Wahabi mother hen! Many of those three million performing the Hajj this year belong to countries that have gone through the Arab Spring, whose outcome has been more of a winter of discontent rather than any new beginning hoped for implied in the appellation ‘Spring’. Old established and hitherto repressed Islamist parties have been the main beneficiaries of the ‘Spring’, from Egypt to Tunisia to Libya (with help from the west). The Syrian conflict threatens regional spillover and even war because of the intervention of Muslim neighbours near and far in the civil war, with the west once again ‘leading from behind’ as in the case of the overthrow of Moammar Gaddafi in Libya. In Syria, however, the western, increasingly jihadi project for the overthrow of Bashar al Assad and the Baath Party rule has run up against unexpected resistance, causing a rethink in certain quarters that perhaps the Syrian case will not easily lend itself to the Libyan model and a negotiated political compromise may be better for everyone. The spread of Wahabi-inspired extremism emanating from Saudi Arabia first and foremost has over the years reduced some countries in the Muslim world to basket cases. Amongst these ‘shining’ examples of what extremism can do to state and society, with the possible exception of Afghanistan, it is Pakistan that has suffered the most from terrorism, law and order problems, and consequently a tanking economy. The cost of defeating Soviet and Afghan communism therefore has been unaffordably high and lessons should be drawn from gung-ho short term objectives at the price of a debilitating blowback from the extremist genie let out of the bottle. Where the Grand Mufti is correct in stressing the fundamental principles of Islam, practiced more in the breach, Muslims also must revisit their attitudes on blasphemy and respect for the Prophet (PBUH). Laws subject to abuse on blasphemy have taken their toll of Governor Salmaan Taseer and Federal Minister Shahbaz Bhatti, and continue to swallow up new victims every other day. They must be either repealed or safeguards provided against false accusation, a recurring curse in Pakistan. As far as the Prophet (PBUH) is concerned, our puny and misguided efforts to defend his respect and dignity and the ‘methods’ we are prone to applying for this purpose is having exactly the opposite effect. While the struggle to persuade western secular societies to avoid unnecessary provocation for mischievous purposes must be continued, we ourselves should look within and realise that the agents provocateurs are having a field day and are encouraged by our violent response. The Prophet (PBUH) and his response to provocation and insult, let alone attacks, should be our (Sunnah) guide: tolerance, patience, logical persuasion. Time to become mature societies, not the ‘wild people’ we are being painted as in western perception.

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