Monday, August 29, 2005

On Local Elections in Pakistan, Musharraf, and Other Modern Dictators

Okay, this might be simplistic, but someone on a list I am on asked what we Pakistanis think of the local elections in Pakistan recently--and Musharraf.

Attitudes to Musharraf range from the "necessary evil" as you said about the Saudis (not being sarcastic here; just commenting) to a straight "any diversion from democracy is bad in the long term". And that tinges most reactions.

My personal take is that dictators (military or otherwise; generally people who don't want to give up power--Pakistan has had one civilian Martial Law Administrator) like this have a productive, progressive phase and then, as time passes, the exegiencies of keeping power lead to their making compromises and deals that make things, on balance, worse for things like human rights, the rule of law, and so on. I think it was on this list that someone pointed out that even Saddam had a phase that built up Iraq into an industrial power with pretty good social indicators. But the later phases lead to unhealthy distortions in the rest of society. The same would apply to what limited knowledge I have of the arc that the regimes of Anwar Sadat, and Siad Barre, for example, took. Or even elected parties in democracies that decide they don't want to let go. Take a look at what happened in Mexico when the PRI held on to power for decades. Or in India with the Congress. In those two cases, things are turning around now; but the unhealthy things that have come up are complicating things.

That's why, IMHO, a healthy democracy is better in the long term--even if right here, right now, it's rather dysfunctional. And that is what leads people like me to say that things we might see as temporary "necessary evils" like the House of Saud, the Shah of Iran, Zia, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, Marcos--dare I include Saddam in the list; for the West's support of him was also based on similar logic--are NOT what people who want to support "freedom and democracy" should condone.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Back from Vacation

For anyone reading this and who might have been wondering where I'd disappeared to, my apologies for not explaining. I have been distracted for a couple of personal reasons and then took a week's vacation for a week--practically my first since the late spring/early summer of 2001.

I will now try to make up for lost time. Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

CAIR's Anti-Terror PSA...or is it Anti-Violence...

Been meaning too post this for a few days. Since the PSA was released. But now, with the recent "Terrorism Defense" mounted by a London Non-Bomber, it is even more urgent.

> CAIR to release English, Arabic, Urdu radio versions of anti-terror PSA


> (WASHINGTON, D.C., 7/27/05) - On Thursday, July 28, the Council on

> American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) will hold a news conference at the

> National Press Club in Washington, D.C., to release a fatwa (Islamic

> religious ruling) against terrorism and extremism. The fatwa is being issued

> by the Fiqh Council of North America (FCNA) and endorsed by major U.S.

> Muslim groups.


> Representatives of the Fiqh Council, an association of Islamic legal

> scholars that interprets Muslim religious law, and leaders of several
> leading American Muslim organizations will take part in the news conference.

> (The term "fiqh" refers to Islamic jurisprudence.)


> WHAT: Release of Fatwa Against Terror and Extremism/Release of CAIR Radio

> Anti-Terror PSA

> WHEN: Thursday, July 28, 10:30 a.m.

> WHERE: National Press Club (13th Floor), Murrow Room, 529 14th Street NW,

> Washington, D.C.

> CONTACT: CAIR Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper, 202-488-8787 or

> 202-744-7726, E-Mail:


> At Thursday's news conference, CAIR will also release radio versions of its

> 30-second "Not in the Name of Islam" television public service announcement

> (PSA) in English, Arabic and Urdu. The PSA campaign ties into CAIR's "Not in

> the Name of Islam" online petition drive designed to disassociate the faith

> of Islam from the violent acts of a few Muslims. To view the television PSA,

> go to:


> CAIR, America's largest Muslim civil liberties group, has 31 offices and

> chapters nationwide and in Canada. Its mission is to enhance the

> understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower

> American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual

> understanding. To read CAIR's Mission, Vision Statement and Core Principles,

> go to:

> - END -

> CONTACT: Ibrahim Hooper, 202-488-8787 or 202-744-7726, E-Mail:

>; Rabiah Ahmed, 202-488-8787 or 202-439-1441, E-Mail:


Okay, let me try to say this as clearly as I can. I know there might be consequences, but staying silent or beating about the bush is not an option. I have been trying to get the text of the Fatwa issued in Britain a week or two ago, because I thought I saw the same problem there that I see here.

I find it very vexing that this ad (which I watched online) uses "violence" and "terrorism" almost as synonyms. The ad ends with
"Islam is not about hate and violence; Islam is about peace and justice."
Am I to understand that Islam is pacifist in all circumstances? Does it say not to take arms in the face of violent oppression and aggression? Does an ad that implies that have much hope of being taken seriously—or will it inevitably be dismissed as apologist eyewash?

I write this not to endorse terrorism--but to point out that terrorism is a more specific issue than "violence"; that Islam makes a distinction between honourable striving for a just cause (aka jihad) and the use of morally, ethically, and legally reprehensible tactics, even when used in a just cause.

I write this to point that a knee-jerk, not very-well-thought-out statement that oversimplifies an issue is bound, in the final reckoning, not to be useful either in countering the propaganda of those who want to tar the community as following an evil faith; or in convincing young, impressionable Muslim minds (if that is an aim to begin with) that Islam is a faith that can engage with the 21st century's issues without the necessity of resorting to terrorism.

I write this because I have great respect for what CAIR has done in a lot of cases, and CAIR doing good work and making a positive contribution to this discussion is what I would really love to have happen—but in this case I disagree that this is a positive contribution.

Wallahu Aalam, as we Muslims say; only a Supreme All-Encompassing Deity can have full, or real, knowledge, the rest of us are just blind folk trying to feel up the Cosmic Elephant.

[...and the "Fatwa" by the Fiqh Council does not say, by the way. Which makes it a bit suspect in terms of being a formal, real Fatwa...but more on that later. Though one has to note that the Fiqh Council Fatwa does a better job of not conflating "terrorism" with "violence".]

The Terrorism Defense

You will have heard of the man arrested in Italy for the second bombing attempt in London. From what I have heard in the press, his lawyer is using a rather interesting defense--that he hadn't meant to kill anyone; just scare them. (See for example, "UK Bomber: Act Was in Protest of Iraq War" at Or, in other words, his defense is that he only meant to terrorize...huh?! What?!

Though, seriously, when you come to think about it, for quite some time now, everyone (and I mean everyone, including American Muslim groups like CAIR; see their latest Public Service Announcement) has equated "terrorism" with "violence" and defined it as just being "all violence against civilians" (or some times, just all violence one does not like). Can we then complain when someone turns around and says that his act isn't terrorism because it wasn't violent?

Excuse me while I take a break to puke.

Karl Rove, Scott McClellan and the (belatedly) Free Press Day 9


It seems the press has given up the ghost. Nary a mention of the Rove issue. I guess I will only continue this series as and when they do ask.

It's been fun following one story. And having had to actually file some stories to real media outlets over the last few months (after a long time), I have developed a healthy respect for what folks in the press do. Individually, we can mouth off about this person or that organization, but when one is faced with filing a coherent, complete story, it is difficult to express opinions. Of course, this is a comment about people trying to file real news stories, not opinion pieces or fluff.

For the complete series, see:

Tuesday, August 02, 2005


So, will John Bolton be given an office in one of the top ten stories of the UN Building?

Monday, August 01, 2005

Karl Rove, Scott McClellan and the (belatedly) Free Press Day 8

The Karl Rove issue seems to have become part of the background (Helen Hunt's voice can be heard asking a question about it), but the press does seem to have become a little more daring over all. Or is it because we are not paying attention?

For the complete series, see: