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?