Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Moderate Islamists and Evolving Revolutions

For those who've wondered over the years why I have sometimes said that the ideological neo-purists are more dangerous than the militant fanatics because they provide the intellectual, ideological and social cover for the latter, here's a news item from today's (Nov. 27, 2012) Jang:
Usama's Intention was Okay; he's a Martyr (Shaheed). Suicide Attacks against the Enemies of Allah are Jihad (Just War)—Qazi Hussain [Ahmad]  
Lahore [Jang News]: Former Ameer (Leader/President) of the Jamat-e-Islami, Qazi Hussain Ahmed has said that killing the Enemies of Allah by suicide attack is a form of Jihad. Those who blow up bazaars and buses with bombs are not Mujahideen (holy warriors of a jihad) but agens of America and Israel. Usama bin Laden's intentions were correct and for that reason I call him a martyr (a shaheed)...

[Translation my own.
Source: http://jang.com.pk/jang/nov2012-daily/27-11-2012/main.htm
Specifically: http://jang.com.pk/jang/nov2012-daily/27-11-2012/topst/main5.gif]

The reason I bring this up is that the phrase "moderate Islamist" keeps coming up and I have talked about it before (for example here and here). And with the events in Egypt this month, with President Morsi making a power play, a New Republic writer has written an article saying "Shame on Anyone Who Ever Thought Mohammad Morsi Was a Moderate". But of course, there's more "bughz-e-Muawiya" in there than "hubb-e-Ali", as we say in the Muslim world. Or Bugz-e-Hussein.

So one thing I think is clear. When Pakistanis like me wondered after the January 25 Revolution whether Egypt was 40 years ahead of us or behind us, we were not wrong. The Egyptian struggle for good, accountable governance of the type they aspire for is just beginning, as Kareem Malak says on Open Democracy today.

PS: As for Revolution in Pakistan, check out old posts on this blog. And we can talk about when this train gets to the Hejaz later.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Islam and Democracy Episode Next

At some point I am going to start sounding like a broken record--but one can only hope.
"It is clear that the fundamental principle laid down in the Quran is the principle of election."
Too many people today take it for granted that "Democracy and Islam are opposites". These people exist as neo-purist-influenced (often young) people within the Ummah; they exist as modern "English Medium" (Western Educated) modernists that are ready to throw 1450 years of Islamic history out with the Wahhabi bath water; they exist as Islamophobic bigots that are just, well, xenophobes.

So, as a reminder, via Khurram Ali Shafique, here is one of the most seminal documents in the political history of Muslims in South Asia, as we transitioned from the Age of Empire to what the author (elsewhere, in his poetry) describes as "Sultani-e-Jamhoor", the Rule of the Masses:


Monday, November 19, 2012

Stop Picking on My Nation

Updated: November 20, 2012.
"As the world celebrated Malala Day, we as a nation remained reluctant to stand against extremism that surely is not an effect of the war on terror but a mindset to maim, execute and terrorise the resistant Pakistanis for political power under the garb of religion."
Thus spake an activist friend of mine. A Pakistan-American, in fact.

And he's not alone. There are a lot of people out there picking on "the Pakistani nation" or "Pakistan" or "Pakistanis".

Why don't they fight back? The question often not-quite formed in their minds is "What's wrong with these coolies? Why are they not standing up, "Spring"ing up?"

From Arabs to Indians—Indian Muslims even more so, because they feel we walked out on them and left them shorthanded in their political struggles—from American progressives (again post-9/11American Muslims most of all) to Pakistani Leftists themselves, they're all saying, mumbling, thinking it.


We're the ones who've spent 3+ generations dealing with "them" while "the world" was in bed with them, from Israel to Washington to Riyadh to Islamabad to Hyderabad in the Deccan.

Whether it is the student that got threatened 20 years ago with a "KK" (we have our own slang for the AK47, usually paid for by "the world") for trying to organize a "musical evening" on a campus where student representation was banned by the local client tyrant of "the world"; or the college principal from the generation before that, threatened by a student for implementing the official state policy; or the All India Muslim League official from the generation before that, standing in opposition to the Jamaat-e-Islami's position during the independence movement, our nation has been fighting this.

And before you raise the recently re-vivified and re-united Pakistani Left: they have been wandering in the wilderness for the last 2 generations bickering over which of their idols—Mao or Stalin or Lenin or Sajjad Zaheer—had it right, rather than doing the movement work that we all should have been doing for the last 30 years and more.

My nation has been in there mixing it up, taking our chops and rolling with the punches. And when I meet activists from the days of Gen Zia who are now cosmetic surgeons on Harley Street, or money-minting CEO's in Silicon Valley, the irony is not lost on me. But I don't blame them. I know they fought the good fight when it really could have made a difference. And they have the scars, physical and emotional, to show for it.

In the aftermath of "the cartoons", I went on WNYC (New York Public Radio) pointing out that this is an  ideological and political struggle of keeping back the neo-purists from taking leadership of the Muslim Ummah (global community). And I made it a point to not let a characterization of "them" as the faceless, otherized "enemy" go unchallenged. This has been, for a century or so, a struggle for the the hearts, minds, and leadership of the Ummah.

And "the world"'s solution was to help put in place and support client tyrants that raped, tortured, pulled out fingernails and generally made sure no hearts were won for moderation or good sense.

And that's why in the last few years, we've seen, I am starting to feel, that they have finally, after about a century or more of work, started winning: Egypt (remember the last elections?); Palestine (elections, again); Syria ("the Brotherhood is calling the shots" NPR tells us); ...

What y'all need to do is to stop picking on my nation, each of you, and do what you and your forebears should have been doing all along to stop this happening.

Look in the mirror.

My nation is not the one that dropped the ball.

PS: As for who to watch right now here's a list of previous posts:
and most important to answer those who think ALL Pakistanis welcome the military coup when it comes (or that we all should when it comes to Egypt because not doing so is supporting bad governance or the Islamists):

Friday, November 16, 2012

When faced with a cannon …

The trenchant quality of the work of Akbar Allahabadi and his relevance in any time, this time, of struggle against the powers that be gets only more palpable to me:
"Kheencho na kamaano ko na talvaar nikaalo
Jab top muqabil ho to akhbaar nikaaalo."
—Akbar Allahabadi (16 Nov 1846 - 1921)

Draw not any bows, nor take out your swords
When faced with a cannon, take out newspapers
—Akbar Allahabadi (16 Nov 1846 - 1921)
Kudos to http://www.facebook.com/indianislamic for bringing this sheyr--couplet--back to me

Translation my own.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

The Morning After: the Political Landscape in a post-2012 World

In a post-2012 era, I am looking at three things:

  • Immigration is now front and center.
  • The Republican Party, and the Right handside of the American polity is going to go through a reassessment and restructuring
  • We really, really need to get a party or two (I am thinking Green and Libertarian) to clear the 5% bar that gives a party a permanent slot in politics.

We'll get back to the others, but with regard to #2 above, someone mentioned Reihan Salam as an up-and-coming player in the Republican Party. Anyone heard, read, talked to, know him?

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Husn-i-Haqiqi: Real Love or Love of The Real, a Sufi Piece from Pakistan

This turned up in the feed. It's from a little while ago, but deserves mention. Kudos are due to Rohail Hyatt and the team at Coke Studio, Pakistan for the production/mixing/arrangement. And of course Arieb Azhar for the incomparable performance. 

This is the one piece that has most touched me amongst Pakistani and Sufi music so far in the 21st Century. And to those open to it, the language can be understood across several traditions; Punjabi, Urdu, Hindi, Sanskrit, Persian, Arabic... This is Pakistan at its most culturally solid and its most creative:


Sunday, October 21, 2012

Malala: The Next Phase of the Story

Folks are expressing surprise and disgust and even despondency about a thought represented by this New York Times article:
‘Malala Moment’ May Have Passed in Pakistan, as Rage Over a Shooting Ebbs
But this was never a straight "Oh, they shot a girl." story to begin with. It's a philosophical, social, political fight for the heart and soul of Pakistan and the Ummah in general. Now the "other side" is pushing back.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Pakistan and the US; A Conversation

The President of the United States at the 67 General Assembly of the United Nations:
It is time to heed the words of Gandhi: “Intolerance is itself a form of violence and an obstacle to the growth of a true democratic spirit.”
The President of Pakistan, at the same podium:
I remember the red carpet that was rolled out for all the dictators in our country - dictators who promised the international community the moon - while Pakistan was kept in the dark. 

These dictators and their regimes are responsible for suffocating and throttling Pakistan, Pakistan’s institutions, and Pakistani democracy. 

I remember the judicial execution of Pakistan’s first elected leader, Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. 

I remember the jailing of Pakistan’s elected leaders. I remember the twelve years I, myself spent in prison. 

And I remember the billions provided by the international community to support those dictatorships. 

My country, its social fabric, its very character has been altered. Our condition today is a product of dictatorships.
The whole of President Zardari's speech is worth listening to:

It can be read (as a graphical file) on the UN site at:


or as text on the Associated Press of Pakistan site at:


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

On Responding to the "Craziness" Around Insults to The Prophet

Anything that doesn't at least have an internal understanding of the real issue is, well, at best naive. Here's a quote from your and my favorite former ambassador (material not in quotes is mine):
"...the mob violence and assaults should be seen for what they really are: an effort by Islamists to garner support and mobilize their base by exacerbating anti-Western sentiments..." Anyone not keeping that in mind and reacting in a knee-jerk manner, and staying in the frame they have set up is "unwittingly playing along with the ruse the radicals set up."
[quote from:
Manipulated Outrage and Misplaced Fury 
Wall Street Journal September 14, 2012
by Husain Haqqani
accessed at the Hudson Institute's site at

Support Pakistani citizens targeted for their faith

This is an initiative by members of Pakistani Civil Society, and I had the honor to contribute in a small way to drafting it.

You'll notice it is written specifically as a reaction to the recent church burning but addresses more than that.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Afghan "Withdrawal' Anniversary

It falls to the Jamaat-i-Islami of Pakistan to remind us (via Facebook, in my case) that today is the 132nd (they say 124th, counting from 1888) Anniversary of the Battle of Maiwand.

This was the battle that led to the Superpower of the 19th Century withdrawing from Afghanistan.

(For a graphic illustrating "Withdrawal Campaigns", see earlier post and a graphical compilation at: http://blog.ifaqeer.com/2010/12/afghan-exit-strategy-over-last-few.html.)

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

What Submission?

One keeps hearing that "Islam" means submission. That a Muslim is one who has submitted.

That's not my definition; for the last few years my definition had evolved from the patriarchal, hierarchical, top-down idea of submission to one of being at peace with, at one with, or just "with". For that is the literal translation of the word:

Just as Ma-Barak (or "Mubarak", as we say in Urdu in South Asia) means "with blessing"; one full of blessing; not "submitted and kowtowing to blessing", Ma-Salaam (and thus Muslim) says to me to be with Peace; to be one who has Peace. The semitic root S-L-M is also the root of "Musallam" which, unless I know wrong, means "to be complete"; "to be whole".

Thus a Muslim should be one who has at least declared an intention to be one with Peace, with The One, The Whole, The Unity (and thus one who believes in Tawheed).

What submission?

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

An Intellectual Map of Shāh Walīullah [d. 1176/1763] and Major Figures of Contemporary Islam

Here's a very important analytical work. (Click on the map to go to the blog post about it.)

Saving Lives, India and Global Leadership

Of late, particularly, I have been a strong critic of the Indian government, in particular, and the little-minded, juvenile moves they've been up to. But this. THIS is the kind of global leadership India, as one the largest countries in the world, should be providing. Kudos and congratulations to all Indians.
India Overrules Bayer, Allowing Generic Drug
In granting the nation’s first compulsory license of a patented drug, the government said a generic drug company can now sell the cancer pill for 3 percent of the price Bayer charges.

On the Passing of Encyclopedia Britannica

Yes, the Encyclopedia Britannica will be missed by us old farts. And being from a family of bibliophiles and trivia nerds, the memories of any tree-based encyclopedia are warm and fuzzy. So let's savor them today.

But let's not despair. For the next generation has an alternative; the Wikipedia, where they receive—and participate in presenting—a more complete picture of the world than we grew up having to read.