Thursday, January 24, 2008

Kabul; Britain; Putting a Face on Blogging and Civil Society in Pakistan...

Sorry I have been MIA for a bit. A couple or three things jump out from the New York Times, NPR and the 'Net this morning.

Firstly, there's an op-ed in the NYT this morning by the country director for the Institute of War and Peace Reporting providing his personal perspective about the bombing of the Serena Hotel in Kabul, a watering hole (and just a place to hole up) for expats, particularly. And there have been other stories about Afghanistan in The Times, on NPR, other places in the last few days. It seemed to hit me; is it a coincidence that the Western Media and Zeitgeist is sitting up and noticing--or should I say acknowledging, since some information has always been around--that Afghanistan is down the tubes because the Taliban, as Mr. McKenzie tells us, have now started a policy of targeting westerners?

The other thing that jumped out at me was from a series that NPR is doing on Muslim Women in Britain.

As I have said umpteen times, until we sit up and notice that the folks who are adopting the niqaab in Britian today are not adopting the traditional ways of Muslims, but something new, we are only going to continue headlong towards the abyss as a planet. After all, does it make any sense to, on the one hand, say that the radicals are a throw-back to medieval times and that "[o]ne meets an increasing number of British Muslim[s]... who are saying … you should go back to the veil, you should go back to our traditional ways" on the one hand and then admit that, for one, the "Hizbut Tahrir's goal is to promote a global Islam, cleansed of all ethnic or cultural traditions." I mean, think about that!

As I have acknowledged before, it is good to see folks (including Muslims, especially in Britain--the US is a generation or so behind in these matters, but what can one do about that? some things just have to run their course) finally engage with the fanatical tendencies within Muslim communities in a more detailed way. But until and unless we all--both outsiders and within the community--stop framing the discussion as, how did Sylvia Poggili put it? being the discussion between people who are "secular" and those who are "devout"; between those who think Sharia is a good idea and those who are against it, we are doomed to have the "Clash of Fundamentalisms" be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Until we start to think about what parts of the Muslim Ideological landscape--like the equivalents in other faith communities and ethnic groups and so on--are the ones from which terrorism and militant, inflexible fanaticism stem and until even us Muslims stop saying this is just about Islam versus the West or that this modern neo-purist strain that is so dominant today is the same as "traditional Islam"--or, worse, The One True, Pure Islam as practised by The Prophet--we're up the wrong creek without a paddle.

And lastly, a shout-out to my peeps, so to speak. There's a clip on Google Video today of an interview with two of Pakistan's most prominent bloggers on an English-language breakfast show. Well worth watching, what with Pakistan in the news in such a big way.

[Original at The Teeth Maestro's blog.]

Cross-posted on the iFaqeer, Wadiblog,, and Pak Tea House, blogs.
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