A reader sent me a link to a video titled ‘Disco Mullah.’ The video showed some members of a ritualistic Muslimi sub-sect, indulging in some kind of a highly animated trance dance.
It was a fascinating sight. Nevertheless, the dance is not what really whetted my curiosity. It was the title of the video, ‘Disco Mullah’ that the reader used to define the spiritual boogie that caught my attention.
This term is not a new one. It’s been around for quite a while now. Or at least a variation of it.
According to Shaukat Nasir, a former student of the University of Karachi (between 1975 and 1979), a similar term, ‘Disco Molvie’ was doing the rounds decades ago.
It was a tongue-in-cheek expression that was first coined by leftist/liberal student activists at the University of Karachi (KU) sometime in the late 1970s.
It was mockingly used to describe the more modernly attired and beardless members of the right-wing Islami Jamiat-i-Taleba (IJT).
“In those days,” says Shaukat, “even some Jamati members would dress in western clothes and listen to music, but were still committed to propagate Jamat-i-Islami’s philosophy. We began calling such IJT activists Disco Molvies!” Shaukat added, smiling.
In turn, the term is believed to have been a spin-off of yet another similar label, ‘Maulana Whiskey’ - a term coined by IJT members in the Punjab to describe the allegedly whiskey loving former Jamat-i-Islami (JI) leader, Maulana Kausar Niazi.
According to Bilal Kidwai, a former member of the IJT (in the late 1970s) at a Lahore college, it was members of IJT at the Punjab University who coined the term ‘Maulana Whiskey’ for Niazi when (in 1969) he decided to quit JI and join Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s socialist/secular Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP).
However, prolific author and former left-wing student activist, Tariq Ali, in an interview that he gave to India Today in 1989, claimed that the term was actually coined by Z A. Bhutto himself.
“Kausar Niazi was called Maulana Whiskey by Bhutto ,” Ali told India Today, while talking about how Niazi abandoned Bhutto in 1978.
“He (Niazi) was either drunk or surrounded by dancing girls and then began masquerading as the guardian of Islam,” Ali had added.
But Shaukat Nasir is not sure who came up with the term, Maulana Whiskey: “I personally think it were the Jamaties who after being incensed by Maulana Kausar Niazi’s decision to quit JI and join PPP, taunted him with this title. But it is also true that Bhutto sahib started calling Niazi, Maulana Whiskey.”
Interestingly, the term, even if coined by the IJT members alone, eventually became part of the still on-going tradition in Pakistan where clerics are mocked through satire and jokes.
Niazi was a staunch member of the JI and passionately followed the party’s anti-Socialist line. However, when in 1967, Z A. Bhutto formed the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), Niazi became attracted to what the party’s largely Marxist ideologues were attempting to do.
PPP ideologues like J A. Rahim, Shiekh Mohammad Rashid, Hanif Ramay, Meraj Mohammad Khan and Dr. Mubasher Hassan (all committed leftists), were working on an ideological fusion that tried to compliment the Qu’ranic ideas of compassion, justice and equality with the economic and social doctrines of Socialism and Marxism. They called it ‘Islamic Socialism.’
In 1969, Niazi quit JI and joined the PPP. The party’s ideologues opposed his entry, but Bhutto reasoned that the presence of a former JI man in the PPP would suit the party in its propaganda war against the religious parties.
When the PPP swept the 1970 elections in the two largest provinces of West Pakistan (Punjab and Sindh), Niazi won his National Assembly seat in Sialkot by getting over 90,000 votes!
Running on a PPP ticket, Niazi was up against some stiff opposition. But ironically, though he had followed JI’s anti-Ahmadi line when he was in that party, as a PPP candidate in 1970, he courted the Ahmadi community of Sialkot and promised it that the PPP was committed to continue recognising the Ahmadis as a legitimate Islamic sect.
The Ahmadis of the area voted for him in droves and he was able to defeat his rivals with a huge margin.
Niazi was made Minister of Religious Affairs by Bhutto when he took power in 1972. But in spite of the fact that Niazi’s growing liking for alcohol attracted taunts from JI, it was Niazi who convinced a reluctant Bhutto to agree to the religious parties’ demand of deeming the Ahmadis a minority and a non-Muslim community.
Then, when religious parties were agitating against the Bhutto regime in 1977, Niazi advised Bhutto to ban the sale of alcoholic beverages, nightclubs and bars so that the religious parties could be brought to the negotiating table.
After General Ziaul Haq toppled the regime in July 1977, some surviving founding members of the PPP accused Niazi of ‘taking Bhutto for a ride.’
Niazi quit the party in 1978 and formed his own party. But as a politician, his career was as good as over and he returned to being an Islamic orator. He passed away in 1993.
Between the emergence of the term ‘Maulana Whiskey’ (in the early 1970s) and ‘Disco Moulvi’ (possibly in 1977), another term in this context became popular. It was ‘Maulana Hippie.’
Hippies – a freewheeling cultural phenomenon that emerged in the West in the 1960s – spread out in the rest of the world when young Western men and women began travelling to non-western countries to look for the kind of ‘spiritualism’ that they believed their post-industrial societies had eschewed.