Thursday, November 05, 2009

Illiteracy causes Terrorism--Wishful Thinking?

Every once in a while someone I know—not to mention a million others, often highly educated Pakistani expats and not a few caucasians both in Western governments and even progressive circles, but also people in Pakistan—will express the thought that what is really causing all this extremism and fanaticism is that Pakistan, for example, has an abysmal literacy rate. And all we have to do is start 3 million schools, and we "wild and wooly gentlemen" of those crazy parts will hold hands and chant Rumi, if not sing kumbaya. One do-gooder just a couple of days ago was saying on NPR that you could run a whole school for a year in the money spent on maintaining one foreign soldier in Afghanistan.

I am not sure I agree.

These are two separate problems. Illiteracy might be fueling extremism, but the ideology behind it is very much the product of literate brains. The inflexible, extreme attitudes we see in a lot of Pakistan's Youth--on Facebook, for example--is the product of the tinkering with the EDUCATIONAL system and society by Gen. Ziaul Haque and his regime, not of illiteracy. Making people literate--rather than enlightened--only gives them the means to read and absorb things like Farhat Hashmi, "disturbing" emails, and so on. [Which is not limited to Pakistan or Muslims; for every Geo TV there is a Fox News; for every Mullah Rocketi, a Franklin Graham. But I digress.] Just consider a few points:
  • Who was it that was most enamoured of the Sufis that brought Islam to what is today Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India? (At least one or two of them literally students and friends of Rumi.) The educated elite of the day, or the poor, illiterate working folk?
  • Who attends lectures by Farhat Hashmi and radical Western Muslim (like the Hizbut-Tahrir and some Americans I could mention) ? The taxi driver and the working class Muslim, or the professionals at some mosques in Silicon Valley and Toronto that I could mention?


Anonymous said...

am exploring the idea that muslim terrorist can be easily identified by a series of questions. These questions would expose the level of radicalism by admission to certain ideology. Let me start with the simple and work my way to the complex..
1.Do you believe that every word in Quran relates to all times?
2. Do you firmly believe that every sentence in the Holy Book be taken literally?
3. Can you read Quran and understand the language ?
If the answers are in affirmative to these questions the person is on his or her way to become a Jihadi. I am trying to find some lines between the radical, the regular and the real muslims, and so far what I have seen is that the regular and the radical are not too far apart in their ideology, and can easily be exploited on the basis of self-admitted beliefs. The reason why regular muslims do not exhibit the fanaticism of the radical is because they have not been shown the logical conclusion to their beliefs.
The next level would be questions on Jihad, the idea of farz and if there is any perceived danger to Islam. And if you do any research on the Quran the logical conclusion would be the same as the Mullahs.
I contend that it is literacy that causes terrorism, these Islamic Schools or Madaressa are contributing to an awakening based on the literal interpretation of the Quran combined with some tainted historical perspective and appeal to emotion. The real muslims, don't usually care about the finer details of what is in the Quran, they go by hear say, and what they were taught by their parents. They are just busy living their lives without making any waves. Notice that lately the terrorists are educated and are following some Logic all the way to their sad demise. This logical reasoning comes straight from the holy book and some mullahs are coached to answer logically all the possible objections that a Jihadi might have. The common starting point is the Word, and not allowing alternative interpretations, in a historical context.
My final comment for now is that if these so-called Jihadis were asked to place their hands on the Holy Book and asked if they were carrying any explosives they would be bound to tell the truth. So here is my suggestion to TSA, have a copy of the Quran, and make sure to take oaths from all suspicious parties, thereby eliminating the need for expensive equipment.

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