of the statements by the three men of Islamic reaction -- Abul Ala Maududi
of Pakistan, Syed Qutb of Egypt and Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran -- on the
duty of Muslims to spread Islam all over the world should leave no doubt
that they did not overrule such expansion through force; on the contrary,
the language and vocabulary they employed is unabashedly violence-prone.
Therefore, the fear about an Islamist takeover in Pakistan is
understandable, but its chances of succeeding are greatly exaggerated.
In any event, Qazi Hussain Ahmad, the head of the Jamaat-e-Islami, founded
by Maududi, and currently the head of the main clerical coalition, the
Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal, has in an article published in this newspaper on
Sept. 9 made a strong statement purporting to dispel such a view about
He wrote that Muslims are God-fearing people who can never think of
causing death and destruction of innocent human beings by using nuclear
weapons against them. He said that on the contrary, such evil acts are the
doings of materialistic forces like the United States, which dropped
atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and caused the death of hundreds of
thousands of innocent Japanese.
I think Americans would mind being described as a materialistic nation if
that word is used as an antonym of 'religious' or 'spiritual'. After all,
the US is the most devout Christian nation with the highest rating of a
regular church-going population among all the advanced Western polities,
and under George W. Bush any pretence of materialism in the sense of being
non-religious has been put aside as he openly professes a messianic
fundamentalist Christian commitment purporting to save the world from
alleged evil forces.
It is possible that Qazi Hussain Ahmad has had a real change of heart and
he no longer subscribes to the use of force in general (and not just force
through nuclear weapons) to solve political disputes or to achieve
justice. In that case, it would be important that he condemns the
terrorist attack in the United States on September 11, 2001 without any
qualifications. While some weird argument can be made about an attack on
the Pentagon since that is where the US military establishment resides,
there can be no justification at all for killing nearly 3,000 men and
women who were working in the World Trade Center buildings or were
traveling in commercial aircrafts. I remember seeing a Pakistani father,
Syed Tariq, crying hysterically on television because his daughter was
working there and she was killed. Many Bangladeshis working in restaurants
that day were also killed.
It turned out that the 19 men involved in those outrages were Arabs, 15 of
them Saudi citizens. Anybody who has looked at the textbooks used in Saudi
Arabia would have no difficulty in establishing that one main objective of
such education, is to create citizens who hate everyone who does not
subscribe to their narrow and bigoted ideology. We know that acts of
terrorism are not natural or normal occurrences. They begin with
indoctrination that inculcates a sufficiently impaired worldview and
creates a mindset that given an opportunity, can be easy bait for
recruitment by terrorist organisations.
What we always forget is that if the Americans have dropped atom bombs on
Hiroshima and Nagasaki once, they will do it again if they feel their
vital interests or existence is gravely threatened. It is, therefore, not
wise to provoke a conflict with the United States. Somebody has rightly
pointed out that millions of Muslims, including several hundred thousand
Pakistanis, work and earn a decent living in the United States and help
their families. Their lives are already menaced by security checks and
other forms of harassment. There is absolutely no reason to invite a
full-fledged American military reprisal.
Therefore, I believe General Pervez Musharraf acted most wisely by joining
the war on terror. I do believe, however, that while tracing down alleged
Al Qaeda operatives in Pakistan was correct, handing them over to the
Americans in lieu of handsome rewards was unbecoming of a sovereign state.
Those individuals should have been put on trial in Pakistan and given a
fair chance to prove their innocence. Handing them over to the United
States was too mercenary a way of doing things.
On the other hand, it was good that the Pakistan Government moved quickly
to remove nuclear scientists from their jobs in the Pakistan nuclear
bureaucracy and technocracy, when the Americans provided evidence that
they were involved in extensive illicit trade in nuclear technology and
equipment with states that the Americans consider rogue, in the
international state system such as Iran and North Korea.
Weeding out generals and other bureaucrats suspected of harbouring
Islamists or Al-Qaeda sympathies has also been a correct calculation. This
is because if anything, we need to make sure that the Americans do not
attack and occupy our country, which they will do, if they feel that the
nuclear facilities are in the hands of terrorists.
Surely, Qazi Husain Ahmad will agree that the Lal Masjid insurgency was
nothing but a typical manifestation of strong-arm tactics by extremist
Muslims that could not have been allowed to succeed. The student wing of
the Jamaat-e-Islami, the Islami Jamiat-e-Tulba, already terrorises liberal
students on university campuses throughout Pakistan. Keeping such
terrorism out of the streets of Islamabad and other towns and cities of
Pakistan is most important if Pakistan is ever to start behaving like a
civilised society that allows dissent and pluralism to flourish.
Qazi Hussain Ahmad writes, 'Islam is a religion of love and peace, which
invites all human beings to live like brothers and worship one God so that
the entire world could become an abode of peace'. I think if we can begin
to live like brothers and sisters among ourselves first, the rest of the
world may be also be encouraged to do so. As a minimum, we should stop
sectarian killings. Also, it would not be bad if we encourage our women
and non-Muslim citizens to feel that they are equal before the law and
have the same rights as Muslim men. Therefore, Qazi Hussain Ahmad should
join the ranks of those who want to repeal all laws that create a society
article was first published in the News
International on 15th September 2007. The author is a visiting
senior research fellow at the Institute of South Asian Studies (ISAS),
National University of Singapore on leave from the University of
Stockholm. Email: email@example.com.