Red, White and Black


Batons will do it!
9 February, 2007, 11:11 am
Filed under: Islam, Pakistan, Politics

This would probably turn out to be more of a rant than anything else. On my way back from work everday I pass Lal Masjid – the very same has been in the news a lot lately. For the last few days, I have been noticing that there are always 10-15 face-covered-baton-wielding young men standing on the boundary walls and the roof of the masjid. They are trying to ensure that the government does not demolish this masjid too – by taking to violence. Just like their female counterparts from Jamia Hafsa.

The sight did not rest easy with me. It gave me the creeps – just like this feature written upon a visit to Jamia Hafsa:

The students of the Jamia wake up every morning at 5:00 am. They are not allowed any games, out-door trips or TV. Watching TV, they said, was banned in Islam. They live in strict gender segregation and believe in the subordination of woman to man. They study Islam in its most extremist form. The students and teachers told me the madrassa is grooming wives and mothers for jihadis, female suicide bombers and female foot-soldiers who will clash with the law enforcement agencies of Pakistan, if necessary.

They said Osama Bin Laden and Mullah Omer were their heroes and they were ready to become suicide bombers to kill the ‘enemies of Islam’ in Pakistan and abroad. When I said that Bin Laden is a terrorist who is fighting for an Arab cause on our soil, someone shouted ‘Osama!’, and the rest yelled ‘zindabad’. This yelling went on for a while.

I had been mulling over this whole thing since I read the news yesterday that the government had agreed to rebuilt the demolished Hamza Mosque. And I thought: whither the state? Why is that the state agrees to the demands of a few baton-wielding extremists yet publicly humiliates innocent citizens who are protesting against the state enforced disappearance of their loved ones? And then we crib about our society turning into an increasingly intolerant one. Who is really to blame?

This TFT editorial [warning, PDF file] for this week strongly mirrors my own thoughts:

This episode raises questions of law, state and religion. It suggests that any extremist mullahs do not accept the notion of the “writ of the nation-state” and the laws of the land promulgated by parliaments and constitutions if, in their view, these are in conflict with their notions of Islamic law and life. Indeed, by their very definition and logic, not just Pakistan but the whole world belongs to Allah and they (the mullahs) have a right to build mosques (houses of Allah) wherever they like, regardless of the laws relating to land and property.

It concludes:

The Pakistani nation and state is therefore faced with a new and dangerous threat that represents a violent minority which seeks to exploit the values of liberal democracy to undermine majoritarian democracy. This threat cannot be thwarted by military means alone. The nation and the state will have to demonstrate a broad democratic mainstream moderate consensus to tackle their common enemy by political, legal and economic means. This is not just General Musharraf’s war. It is every patriotic Pakistani’s war who wants to protect and defend this nation.

But it gets me to wonder why wasn’t an equally strong condemnation issued when Muhammad Bin Masood was humiliated? [or was one?]

Our society is precariously placed – suicide bombers have wrecked havoc in the last forthnight. Who are they fighting? The state by targeting high profile locations and killing on-duty policemen? Or themselves by targeting other sectarian groups? A few days ago Daily Times reported that IJT students activists have been preventing Shia students from praying at the university mosque and I sat there for an hour, thinking: what the hell?! Since when have we started playing God?

I wonder how long we would be able to hold strong if this wave of religious intolerance and extremism is to continue festering in our society? And how the hell do you stem it when the state is busy appeasing it for political gains? Where exactly are we headed?

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10 Comments so far
Leave a comment

I read somewhere, an organized minority is actually a majority.

To understand why the Govt gave into their demands, let’s explore what the consequences would have been if they didn’t.

Comment by BD

BD, the government had demolished the mosques on the principled ground that a) it was built on encroached land and was not registered with the state and b) there was intelligence evidence that it was being used to train extremists.

I don’t really understand how negotiations could not have yielded a more favorable solution? As to what could have happened if the government did not agree – I don’t think anything major catastrophy would have resulted. But think of the symbolic value of the government backing down when bullied by some extremists?

Comment by ayesha

“But it gets me to wonder why wasn’t an equally strong condemnation issued when Muhammad Bin Masood was humiliated? [or was one?]”

Possibly because we feel victimised by what people like Masood (father of Muhammad) do. Extremists always seem to have the upper hand in our society. They go about violating everyone’s humans rights unabated but when get caught plead on the basis of the same human rights which they plundered at every instance.

Comment by tunha

Tunha, that man is innocent. He hasn’t been charged – he just *disappeared*! How can you feel victimised by such a person and NOT by the baton wielding extremists?!

Comment by ayesha

Ayesha, all I’m trying to do here is understand the interests of the administration in caving in to the demands of extremists.

For example in India, fundamentalist organizations — both hindu, muslim and christian — are used as a tool to amass votes in the elections.

Although I’m not sure if this is applicable to Pakistan. So what’s the real interest of the administration?

Comment by BD

All I’m saying is that, there has to be something more than just batons to do the trick 😀

Comment by BD

if u don’t mind , can i ask what is ur email address ?

Comment by Afaq

Ayesha.. u said that these Masajids were built on the encroached land, tell me why govt didnt react at that time when these Mullahs were buliding the Masjid? why they want to demolish it after so many years when 5 times prayers are being offered over there?
the 2nd point u said about the intelligence evidence of training of the extremists…. so that was authentic evidence like the Bajaur one??? everyone have the doubt on the authenticity of these reports…

Comment by RD Memon

Hi Ayesha,
Hope you are doing good. Its been a long time since I wrote anything here. I sometimes wished ..if you had banned me /rejected my requests for membership to SNOB/pakistan communities more frequently, I would have had more chances to write some totally unrelated things like this one. Sadly … you are not doing your part.

I hope you are working towards your admissions for grad studies. I’m wishing you the best. With your good GRE scores ( remember those orkut scraps of congratulations), you should be able to secure a good admit.

Be happy.

Comment by prabhu

The failure of the government to tackle these extremest elements will go down in history as the root cause of complete destruction of Pakistan. Today it is kidnapping people and trespassing on government property, tomorrow you will have baton wielding ninjas beating people on the streets for wearing jeans.

Mark my words that if this element is not eliminated now, then there will be a rain of tomahawk missiles on Pakistan sooner than you think.

Comment by Harris




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