Dawn News

Be critical

-Illustration by Khuda Bux Abro

In spite of the gradual infiltration of ubiquitous religious symbolism and mentality in the social spheres of everyday life, Pakistan has managed to remain afloat as a dynamically pluralistic society comprising various ethnicities, religions and Islamic sects.

However, starting in the late 1970s, an anti-pluralistic process was initiated by the Zia-ul-Haq dictatorship that soon spiralled beyond mere posturing and sloganeering.

With the ‘Afghan jihad’ raging against the former Soviet Union, Zia, his intelligence agencies, and parties like Jamat-i-Islami and Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam started embracing a narrow and highly political version of Islam.

This was done to radicalise large sections of the Pakistani Muslims who had historically been a part of more apolitical strains of the faith — the kind that over the centuries had evolved within the largely pluralistic milieu of the subcontinent.

Most Pakistanis were historically related to the mazaar and sufi traditions of the subcontinent, and thus, were least suitable to fight the ‘jihad’ that Zia was planning to peddle in Afghanistan. Their beliefs were not compatible at all with Zia or Abul Ala Maududi’s version of Political Islam.

To compensate this ideological ‘deficiency’, the Zia regime sprang up indoctrination centres in the shape of thousands of madrassas. Almost all of them were handed over to radical puritans. These were preachers and ‘scholars’ who had become critical of those strains of Islam that most Pakistanis adhered to. After accusing these strains of being ‘adulterated’, they fell instead for the assertive charms of the Political Islam of the likes of Maududi, Syyid Qutb and Khurram Murad.

What was worse was the eventual degeneration of this Political Islam which, by the late 1980s, had steadily regressed to become the kind of totalitarian dogma we now associate with monsters like the Taliban and al Qaeda.

The impact this process had on society was catastrophic. The dividing lines between various Muslim fiqh (sects) in Pakistan had for decades remained blurred due to a vague consensus of tolerance between the sects. But these divides became politicised when they were exploited to put forward a prejudiced line of thought. This thought now propagated ‘real Islam’ to mean violent jihad, xenophobia, isolationism, coercion, and at times sheer barbarism that was proudly explained as acts replicating the mythical ways of ancient Muslim heroes.

Since this new meaning of the faith did not exhibit any tolerance whatsoever for any debate or self-critique (scholarly or otherwise), the tradition of meaningful debate on matters of religion too got lost. The open debate culture was now labelled as ‘a conspiratorial secular tool to defame Islam’.

Pakistanis eventually gobbled up a myopic and unthinking brand of religious logic. So much so, that today the overall intellectual faculties of critique in the society have been overpowered by loud discourses that are incapable of ever venturing outside the jaded clichés about the faith that has been fed to us since the 1980s.

These clichés and notions were cleverly engineered into our system by years and years of misinformation on the subject. That’s why most Pakistanis today, both young and old, become like social time bombs, always going off the moment anyone dares question these notions. The truth is, these retaliatory sparks are nothing more than what has been uncritically lapped up as Islam and Islamic history.

Political Islamists and their followers have a habit of invoking events and memories from the early Islamic history, but none of their listeners bother to realise that this history that is taught to us in schools and via the TV is mostly derived from documents written by men who were writing this history as a way to guard the political and dynastical interests of the caliphs that these men were serving.

In such a distorted scenario, when certain disturbing events start taking place in the name of faith, how can one expect Pakistanis to react accordingly? Most of us just distract ourselves by blaming the ‘enemies of Islam’.

By continuing to tolerate a rabid fringe for so long, we have actually helped it metamorphose into an unrestrained monster that has zero tolerance for what most of us think or do.

To tackle and face it, we will have to liberate our minds from the concoctions we’ve been fed in the name of faith and history. We need to become critical again, so we can escape the unfounded guilt many of us feel in responding rationally to anyone calling for the implantation of ‘divine laws’ and ‘holy writ’.

Today this insecure, uncritical and yet arrogant thought has only created grave social and political dichotomies between not only the Pakistani Muslims and other religions, but among various Muslim fiqh and sects as well.


Nadeem F. Paracha is a cultural critic and senior columnist for Dawn Newspaper and Dawn.com



The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

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Nadeem F. Paracha is a cultural critic and senior columnist for Dawn Newspaper and Dawn.com

He tweets @NadeemfParacha

The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.


Comments (123) Closed

Sep 14, 2012 07:43am
What a naive view. this philosohpy could only come from a theocrat or king who believes that people are foolish and incapable of making choices. Do you consider yourself literate? doesnt look like. Go and read for your own mental peace.
Sep 14, 2012 02:49pm
Hits the nail on the head. Read it again and reply logically
Sep 14, 2012 10:25pm
Any dogma that is inflexible cannot and should not be allowed to be political. A political system has to allow for change based on changing circumstances, cultures, technology and time. A system that attempts to impose the inflexible dogma of a vocal minority over a passive majority or the will of a powreful majority over a helpless and powerless minority should be brought into check before it spirals out of control. If debate and reform are crushed the populace is doomed to a system that results in stagnation while the world moves on. A dogma that causes violent hurt feelings at the slightest slight is ripe for reform. The Hindus were fortunate to have reformist leaders like Raja Ram Mohan Roy that resulted in the elimination of Sati and the gradual change in attitudes toward the caste system. fortunately it was not allowed to become an inflexible political system. A political system needs to create laws based on the people's needs that are a result of intense debate by the people's representatives. Fear a dogma whose adherents are so insecure that that cannot civilly counter criticism.
Sep 14, 2012 07:34pm
Farsi had become the official language for almost one thousand years in India uptil 1832 when the British replaced it with Hindi-Urdu (then called Hindustani). Although the local folks in and around Delhi and modern day Hindi belt spoke Hindustani and its cousin dialects, the official court language remained Farsi. There used to be a 'muhawra' , Parhe likhe ko Farsi kya...meaning for the educated there is no 'Farsi' because the educated people knew it...just like today almost all educated people know atleast some amount of English (in the subcontinent). Infact few generations prior to Zafar, Hindi-Urdu had already grown as a common lingua franca and lot of colloquial phrases, eg. "Shah Alam Dilli Se Palam" became commonly used, indicating the growing popularity of Hindi-Urdu
Fazil K.
Sep 13, 2012 05:30pm
Excellent article, although I concur with other comments that the religious radicalization of Pakistan has been a process started before Zia but catalyzed by the latter. Religion is faith based and it is better to leave everyone to his faith (including all sects and minorities). Today we live in a knowledge based world. We are a long way off from one or two centuries ago; mankind has made a lot of progress. So we should move on and leave religion to the private sphere. Europe understood this long ago and went on to build the most advanced known civilization. Today everyone (especially Muslims) want to flee to the West. But will Islam, that is a political religion, allow its followers to do so?
Sep 13, 2012 03:50pm
Great point well made!
Sep 14, 2012 01:39am
Dear Anwar, Please please google Temurleng / Nadirshah / Abdali etc. and see what they themselves have written about their victories and then think again and again.
Agha Ata
Sep 14, 2012 07:18pm
Wars are usually political not spiritual, despite the word we like to use, JIHAD. The early history of Islam is heavily punctuated by wars. Thats why it has been difficult t to separate religion from politics.
Raja Islam
Sep 13, 2012 07:09pm
Some of it was started by Liaquat Ali Khan
Sep 13, 2012 07:13pm
All this violence is because of the absence of entertainment and aims for this nation. Let's get them busy. Sports and Education should be the first priority to take their minds off.
Sep 14, 2012 05:44am
The greatness of a religion is not seen in the holy text that it preaches but in the followers of the religion. How ignorant are you about the atrocities perpetrated by the Muslim rulers on Indian masses,mostly Hindus ? The massacres perpetrated by invading Muslim armies on local population were adequately documented in history, only you need to have patience and courage to find them. "Militants were created by Western intelligence agencies" - how conveniently you excused your big brother Saudi Arabia ? This shows that you are brainwashed enough and believe that a Muslim can do no wrong. Can you answer me one simple question ? Why are there no Hindu or Christian militants or terrorist groups in Pakistan despite the atrocities perpetrated on Hindus and Christians ? A honest answer will get you understand why Islam is blamed world wide. Next, there is no sky to fall even if Sharia rule is implemented or not. If you pick up courage to read the conditions in Afghanistan and the suffering of local population during Taliban rule, you wouldn't argue for Sharia anymore. Agree that there are thousands of non-Muslims in Saudi (not millions), but just question how many non-Muslims are happy there and would like to take Saudi citizenship,if offered ? Also, think, why Muslims all over the world are ready to settle in Australia, Europe and America, despite being Christian territories ? Why don't they choose Saudi Arabia or Egypt or some Arab country ?
Sep 13, 2012 03:29pm
That is your opinion. I think people who are reading an english newspaper in Pakistan do accept the self introspection.
hira lal deb roy
Sep 13, 2012 03:14pm
Religion evolved with the evolution of man and society. Many concepts of religion have changed and are changing. Scripture based religion are organised and change of concepts and interpretations are difficult when followers are poor and illiterate. Science (Mankind) progressed much since the days of prophet. It has challenged many religious concepts which other religion accepted though reinterpretations which Islam failed to accept or stubbornly refused to allow a discussion (Taslima Nasrin, the Bengali Author advocates).Science (Reason) is a challenge to religious beliefs. If Religion is private this conflict is least visible. But Islam is based on State (society) and governance. It tends to interfere with the governance. Modern ideal government is pluralistic (democratic), based on tolerance and human rights (rights of minorities). Monotheist religions are less tolerent than polytheist religions.So, Islamic states are lagging behind science and military power. These contradictions are to be understood in evaluating the stae of affairs of most of the Muslim countries.
Sep 15, 2012 06:31am
firoj gandhi was not muslim he was parsi.
Que Zee
Sep 13, 2012 11:16am
I honestly didn't know about the different sects in Pakistan till i came back around 7 years ago. Religion is between Man and God and the people meant to offer guidance (when asked) have transformed into a religious police... live and let live...
Sep 13, 2012 12:17pm
To politically correct the writer, Zia was not the first who initiated anti-pluralistic process of Pakistan. Bhutto was another major factor, which writer usually tend to ignore in his/her pseudo intellectual discussions about Pakistan
Sep 13, 2012 11:14am
Well written NFP! I particularly liked your assertion that the Islamic History was written by men working for their employers (the caliphs of the time).
Sep 13, 2012 11:13am
spot on NFP, But not just Religious notions, the two nation thing is and will haunt us forever. Saudi infulence needs to be sorted out, but we also need to sort out the two nation thing as well. And mind you the start is always with two nation theory, first chapter of Muashrati aloom or mutalea Pakistan in each school level. At least put it to the end, and bring those chapters about janglaat and city administration to start, the first thing we learn will not be hatred then, and not our purity :D
Sep 14, 2012 12:46am
Would you rather have another 60 years of army rule that has brought Pakistan the fruits that we are enjoying today? You make a valid point about letting kids decide the budget. But democracy essentially provides a feedback mechanism and allows people to let off steam gradually thus allowing leaders to be accountable and replaceable. Dictatorships and monarchies allow pressures to build up and then the leaders go by way of French guillotine or by being shot as in Libya.
Sep 14, 2012 02:43pm
By the way, does anyone know how many of these Muslim rulers spoke any Indian language (I know Bahadur Shah Jafar II did and I do know Baba did not, how about the rest), ate any Indian food, read any Indian book. I am not a historian, but I believe all their lives they remained foreign minority rulers ruling over the majority by force. Exactly same as the British, except they did not have an England to go back to. Please correct me if I am wrong, but with historic evidence not just shouting.
Ejaz Butt
Sep 14, 2012 02:22pm
@ Captain C M Khan & Naim S Said: You both have put it very beautifully. I have seen the eara when everyone was free to practise whatever they believed but fortunately, I left Pakistan in 1980's and here I am free to practise my Sunni Muslim belief but at the same time I respect other faiths and live happily in the UK's pluralistic society. Neverthelss, you have both pointed out to the fact taht M.E. countreis and Saudia in particularly spewing the venum in Muslim World as I see youths in this country are being radicalised by the Saudi Scholars' doctrine. God help us here as well.
Masood Hussain
Sep 13, 2012 02:59pm
Debate on various sects fiqaa's or any social and political aspects of Islam is very difficult You keep on speaking On some hitorical facts or on some recent happenings,analysing different issues becomes irrelevent,the maulana tells n it is against Islam. [
Sep 14, 2012 05:37pm
islam and science are on the same page unlike other religions.quran has described scientific facts 1400 years ago which the modern science is endorsing now.so kindly donot mix islam with other religions and go and read quran,you will embrace islam like millions are accepting in the scientific west
Sep 14, 2012 07:41am
You mean to say that Secularist cannot be sincere to Pakistan! I wonder why U.S. dosent stop emigration from a country where people have such mentality.
Sep 14, 2012 03:42am
Sep 14, 2012 02:54pm
Reply to Coolguy ! If Hindus were not peaceful then your name would have been CoolHindu. Unfortunately, your grandma was raped by muslim invader and your family were bron. Just test your DNA and the truth will come out.
Sep 13, 2012 09:11pm
Well, most of the Muslim kings in India ruled by the sword. There was no love between the majority Hindu and minority rulers. Any Hindu desirous of getting a state job had first to convert. Yes, during Akbar's time, there was respect for the majority. But then Akbar was hardly a hardly a Muslim himself and was disliked by the clergy. Spain and Turkey did have some enlightened Muslim rulers. Saudi Arabia keeps its religion separate from its dealings with the west. Oil is a big friend of the west. You take away oil wealth then Saudi society will just fall apart. OBL was Saudi and so were 16 hijackers. Saudi money is mainly reponsible for radicalizing Pakistan. When half the population can't even drive, is that the society you want?
Sep 14, 2012 01:45am
Very well said. Ideological changes take couple of generations, it will happen in Pakistan too, sooner or later.
Zalim Singh
Sep 13, 2012 02:53pm
Zia was the biggest monster sub-continent ever saw.
Sep 15, 2012 07:01am
Eh? Are you serious? Jinnah was of Gujarati birth. His ancestors had been forced out of Afghanistan because they were Hindu - Hence his ancestors Hindu community was called Lohana ( Loha meaning Iron) I understand that he spoke Gujarati and Hindi. The reason that they turned to Shia Islam is because his Grandfather's trrade in Fish was not accepted by the Lohanas who are staunchly vegetarian but more accepting today
Anwar Amjad
Sep 13, 2012 06:43pm
Islam has always been a peaceful and tolerant religion. Otherwise Muslims could not have ruled for one thousand years in India and hundreds of years in Spain despite being in minority. Muslims entered Makkah, the centre of Islam through a peaceful treaty without any bloodshed. They were in a position to kill all non-Muslims and occupy it but they kept peace. Islam has been there for fifteen hundred years but the story of militancy we see in Muslim countries is only a few decades old. These militants were created by the Western intelligence agencies to be used as fodder in their proxy war against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. After the Soviet defeat they were abandoned by their sponsors and now the Muslim countries are facing the consequences and Islam is getting a bad name. Another point just for sake of argument
Sep 15, 2012 07:09am
Honestly - Subhendu - You need to straighten out you facts. Nehru had only one daughter and she married a Parsi man called Feroz Gandhi. Feroz is an Iranian name - which is where the parsi's come from. A lot of them continue to have Iranian names, although they tend towards kindness, intelligence, and entrepreneurial. the reason that Jinnah did not allow his daughters to marry a Parsi is because they had been born Muslim
Sep 14, 2012 10:02pm
The 'rabid fringe' does need confronting, but here is the difficulty: the media machine is the most effective way of doing it but those dominating many key areas are unsuited to the task. You have to isolate the truly rabid from the deeply conservative from whom they receive varying degrees of support. These conservatives see both the 'rabid fringe' and the secuarists as a threat - but the secularists worry them more. Just like the middle classes of Germany sided with Nazi thugs to prevent a communist takeover, the conservatives can see that once the 'rabid fringe' are gone, their own way of life will come under sustained attack by the secularists. The secularist who are fed up of pariah status for their lifestyle are understandably pushing to become the new mainstream. Neither side sees an easy compromise. No easy solution to this but the problem needs to be acknowledged.
Sep 14, 2012 12:32pm
@ Peacenik
Fazil K.
Sep 13, 2012 05:18pm
Well said!
Sep 13, 2012 05:41pm
....and that being???
Sep 13, 2012 05:58pm
Another good article.
shaukat ali chughtai
Sep 13, 2012 05:48pm
NFP wrote this narrative several times from different hidden corners of intellect. Anyhow, the prblem has emerged during the last fifty years and we never looked at it seriously. The whole ducational system needs to be overhauled, all madrassashs should be made middle, and secondary schools with the islamic studies as suhject. We should not teach arab history we should emphaszie on spirtual achivements we made and how and when we revolted against rituals, customs and traditions. We have to revisit and revisit to make people of the world know the truthful message of islam which directly relate to dignity of human being.
Sep 14, 2012 01:53am
Anwar, Islam may be religion of peace, but most followers are not. The fact that whole of India is not muslim does not deny the fact of what Arungzab like people did, Aurngzab like people exists mostly in religion like Chirtianity and Islam (religion of book), which consider no other path other than their own even possible. While other belief systems such as Sinto, Buddism and what is called Hinduism, have primary focus on attaining Nirvana kind of state (mental peace) but do not deny many path, including that of Islam or Christianity, which automatically results in the followers not looking down on people of other faiths.
Sep 13, 2012 09:24pm
Very good observations and That makes it two in a row--ZIA and ZAB and the guess who is the third biggest monster in the making in the smoking corner multiple choices take your pick and be practical not just be critical like NFP. LOL
Sep 13, 2012 03:06pm
Exactly. Well said. That's typical of us. Bypassing self-reflection is a national pastime.
Sep 13, 2012 06:14pm
Yes you are right, people have grown from non violent protests to destruction and killings.A real progress.Moududi and Zia must be dancing with joy in their graves.
Sep 14, 2012 04:28am
Slim, unless thw soil is fertile, the seeds sown by outsiders cannot take and sprout. Maybe Zia did that or maybe Jinnah that . . . no one will ever know.
taranveer singh
Sep 14, 2012 07:54pm
Nehru s daughter married to parsi man not to Muslim
Sep 14, 2012 12:48pm
Hira - You had hit the nail on its head - again and again. Conflict resolution would have been so easy if religion was a personal affair only. One could interpret ones beliefs as one becomes more and more of the
Naim S Syed
Sep 13, 2012 11:38am
I'm reading a lot of enlightened articles about the radicalization of Islam not only in Pakistan but in the entire world. We know the malaise; we know that followers of Prophet (PBUH) are going down the self-destructive path; we know that the money flowing from the monsters of middle east is spreading hate and venom between Muslims, we know that they are supporting the fanatics clandestinely and at the same time able to fool Americans about their real intentions, we know that they have been sowing the dragon's teeth among Muslims and rest of other faiths; we know that these so-called scholars, like in past, are leaving no stone unturned to make us - the Muslims the most unwanted loathed creatures upon earth. Unfortunately, no solution seems to be there at the horizon ! Where an ordinary Muslim has to look for guidance ? You are helpless; I'm helpless. Every school of thought is curious to send to hell, here and hereafter, to anyone who differs slightly from their opinion. They tell us about the heaven and Jihad but they fail to tell us how to live with dignity in this pluralistic society today. I don't know if the religion has failed us we have failed the religion. God help the true Muslims. Amen
Sep 15, 2012 09:44am
Very frankly I am sure living in India they did eat Indian food, I mean they did not have macdonalds delivery back then to the best of my knowledge but then again I am not a historian. And please don't shout I am still recivering from last nights hangover
vijay dixit
Sep 15, 2012 11:14am
Any religion to move with time requires reformers.However when Muslims shout that their religion is the last word & needs no revision it stagnates & does not meet the needs of its followers.Just closing your eyes does not solve the problem.What is required is deep introspection which is lacking in the followers of Islam.Open debate is a must.More power to the pen of NFP & others like him who are few but are giving a wake up call to the asleep Muslims.
Sep 13, 2012 04:32pm
Excellent analysis!
Sep 14, 2012 02:46pm
Agree, I had applied for a job in Gulf and was offered Saudi, I never went though I was looking forward to apsoting in Oman or Dubai which along with Saudi were the locations available. And in those days I was economically not doing well, even then I decided not to go. Had I got the other two places I would be on the next flight out.
Sep 14, 2012 02:58pm
well few of the rulers did managed to convert a vast majority of the people by the sword.. although its the resistance of the majority that didn't let their evil desires fulfil even after 1000 yrs... i think you need to get some facts rights before quoting certain events.. and who are these american academicians and intellectuals you talking about.. guess they are few of your brothers from middle east who like to cook conspiracy theories in everything... if you think they need to kill 3000 of their own men to attack a particular country then you are wrong, i bet they can do it without even dropping a single drop of blood from their own citizens... so all your cooked up stories doesn't hold much water to me... irrespective of what OBL was before, his death was inevitable once he took the gun against his own masters... after 9/11 it was the good relations of Saudi with the US that they were saved and instead afghanistan too the brunt... Had they were Iran or any other US hatter countries, i bet you would have seen another Afghanistan over there.... if you want the US and western imperialists to stop looting from oil rich muslim countries, then get your respective countries to raise a voice against them and be strong.... cooking up conspiracy theories and taking crazy wont take you anywhere.
Sep 14, 2012 03:05am
OK~~~~~a lot of damage has been done since the * DAZE* of Zia. However, tell us what steps are being taken to re-make the society on lines of tolerance.
Sep 13, 2012 03:49pm
Very well clothed in diplomatic language,I must adopt this method,in dealing with the readership of Pakistan,the Dawn is very enlightened publication,they have duel job,be in the business make money at the same time not offend its base,which is after all Islamic,which is there bread and butter audience,we in West and else where are frosting on the cake,not cake itself,we have to bear that in mind,there you have done very well,and threaded very gently on Islam,well done,after all,people of good will want Pakistan to get some where where they are contributing to common human progress.I have to learn that,some time dedication to truth & plain writing and speak without being hypocrite,often make my comment not pass mustard with Dawn,often fault is mine.I will try your mode of writing,Thanks,life is about lesson learned and spirutal & mental growth,Thanks once again.
Sep 14, 2012 10:48am
That is not why Muslim Extremists kill Non-Muslims. And if I remember correctly before the separation of India and Pakistan, many Hindus too did terrible things to Muslims. Every religion has its bad apples. You can't just generalize like that. I'm sure not every Hindu thinks like you either.
Sep 14, 2012 04:35am
Islam is the BEST religion but it was bestowed by Allah on the worst people!
Sep 14, 2012 02:11pm
Nicely put. Similar sentiments were expressed by Hillary Clinton yesterday. Foster: Forget every Hindu, I think every rational human will agree with Raj. IMHO all religions are crap. But a religion that always needs to defend itself from critics by killing them is definitely not worth following.
Sep 13, 2012 03:30pm
So was ZAB
Sep 14, 2012 05:49am
I guess then it's OK to be critical of "Secularity" as well and question the sincerity of Secularists towards Pakistan !!!
Abdul-Rehman Khan
Sep 13, 2012 07:08pm
"Democracy" is a foolish system developed by the Monarchs of the past to provide the illusion of participation while keeping the Rich and Powerful ABOVE any sort of accountability for their actions. It was "Democracy" that lead the US to illegal wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Blind following of "Democracy" that leads to enormous injustice. "Men should be weighed, not counted." Allama Iqbal. Would you let the kids in your household vote on the budget? If they approved Candy and XBOX to be the priorities over Groceries and Savings you would follow them because they outnumber the parents?. Every human in a society has the right to be protected from those who would exploit them. That is what the Caliphate did and ensured. That is what it will do again. And it will stop allowing the rich and powerful to dictate the terms, opress the weak, and then call the very people they oppress "terrorists".
Sana Haq
Sep 13, 2012 04:06pm
true that..the divide couldn't be more obvious..
Sep 13, 2012 12:56pm
Dear NFP You are still living in the age of 80s and havent realized that peoples have grown now. Stop criticizing jamat e islami and zia every time you write an article. There are million of other issues which you dont event dare to touch
Sep 15, 2012 05:44am
Absolutely true. They are right men at the wrong place. These guys can do more good to pakistan and its society by living elsewhere and writing articles to enlighten their people than staying in pakistan and facing the danger of being targetted by extremists.
Capt C M Khan
Sep 13, 2012 11:43am
My biggest disappointment in Life is my people who have allowed the Saudi Missionaries to come and snatch away our thousands of years old Loving Sufi Culture with their hundred year old Deobandi culture.Shame on me and all persons like me who just ignore this invasion and submit to it. Mr Paracha excellent article.
Sep 13, 2012 12:46pm
Ya. live and let live. Religion is between Man and God. Well said Que Zee.
Raoul Ciao
Sep 15, 2012 09:22am
Religion IS the opium of the people.....and when , from a matter of personal faith, it becomes one which rules the political and social needs of the faithful anywhere, it becomes as arrogant as the "corrupt politicians" we love to hate. So it is with Islam, going through a revival of sorts last 25 years, as preached by a reactionary, medieval bunch as "true" or "correct" Islam as per, say Tableeghi, and against the basic belief systems of personal faith. This has also happened with organised religion elsewhere, whether the extra piety and fanaticism of christians during the renaissance and post it, or in spurts, in other religions organised around becoming ideologies and politics as against personal faith. It is going to take some more head butting by the medieval priesthood to finally draw out the reaction of irrationality rejection by a tired faithful, give or take a decade. Post that, hopefully, more moderation and self analysis as well as critical thought on how the faith should act upon the faithful, shall take force. Till then, expect extreme reactions including "kill the apostate" for those who do not agree that the faith be apolitical. And, oh, watch the next elections for the chest thumping by some of the religion to justifty their piety and "purity" as against the rest of the "corrupt politicans" ;-)).
Sep 14, 2012 10:18am
The rise of a political Islam is a process which is linked to modernity and has been ongoing in the whole Muslim world. Like political/reformist Islam, Sufi Islam is not a monolithic entity. However certain strains are steeped in superstition, culture and have been manipulated by certain leaders/families as a means of control. It is apolitical, does not really address the issues modern society and the educated. Therefore it remains confined to rural areas and not the small urban centres in Punjab/Karachi, where reformist political elements are stronger as result of migration and modernity. Sufi Islam is romanticised by those such as NFP because it is apolitical, not concerned about scripture/regulation therefore allowing Liberals to reconcile it with their lifestyles, by relegating these matters to the personal sphere. I am generally receptive to political Islam; however I do find the narrow minded strain as described by NFP as abhorrent.
Sep 14, 2012 12:55pm
I do not have any faith in any Islamic scholar of any denomination. Therefore, I am actually glad that there is no worldwide Islamic body to interpret religion.
Sep 13, 2012 03:30pm
what is this sir?
Sep 13, 2012 12:37pm
Pakistani moslem do not have faith in their relegion called Islam !!!This is a big statement but think over it. If they believe in themselves and in their relegion then they should not worry about Islam's extinction. They should not afraid about their own existance without killing other faith people. Look at Hindu relegion, It was tormented for so many centuries eventhough it lives and going to live forever. I being Hindu knows and believe from bottom of my heart that Hinduism always remains and never ever disappear. For that I don't have to convert anybody or don't have to kill other belief people.
Sep 14, 2012 04:32am
If Muslims and Hindus represent two different civilizations, then why not Muslims and Christians or Muslims and Buddhists, etc.? Why do Muslims want to emigrate to "Christian" nations of the West knowing full well those are alien civilizations and conflict will arise just as surely as Jinnah/Iqbal projected it for a united India?
Sep 13, 2012 11:05pm
It's thanks to Khomeini, Saudi Arabia and it's intelligence services, Uncle Sam and the CIA and our intelligence services for the "holier than thou attitude" of Pakstanis who carry religion on their sleeve, for the distorted version of religion being pedalled these days.
Sep 13, 2012 12:16pm
I have no problem with faith or Faithful as long as they do not impose it on me and make life difficult.I have been with the mother of my 2 sons for 45 years,a very good person,very religious,brings coffee every morning freshly brewed,goes to prayer room first,light' diya',offer the coffee to deity,then says good morning,she is the first person I set my eyes on ,then goes to work,as I have retired and she has few more years to go,in USA you can work as long as you want to.Nadeem Bhai,as long as there is Dawn,& guys like you write,Pakistan will be ok.It boggles my mind,why we have allowed things to go this bad in Pakistan(I have to say India,too,it is not whole lot any better,the only reason,it still floats,it is her 200 million hard working middle class,who refuse to quit,if Pakistan had middle class like that,it would be better in Pak too).Keep up the good work.Thanks Dawn,I check it every morning,if there any good news,at least not more killing.Good day.
Sep 13, 2012 11:01pm
A quick look at Pakistan and a lot of Middle Eastern countries such as Iraq are contemporary examples of ``peace``. Historians describe Mughal rule as conquest state. Most of Muslim rulers from Afghanistan were fighting with each other and used to be loot, ruin and return back with wealth and women. This is from Muslim historians - history was written by conquerors. One has to judge a religion from how the people behave. Aurangzeb had to move his capital to Aurangabad to manage the southern campaigns. Whatever is the religion in the subcontinent, everyone practices caste system. This is true from Afghanistan to Bangladesh.
Sep 13, 2012 10:06pm
I commend your thread.
Sep 15, 2012 12:31pm
Can you name one strain of political Islam that has led to a
Sep 15, 2012 12:27pm
Interesting observation., with a thought-provoking conclusion. I do not have any answer either, but would be very interested to know more about this
Sep 13, 2012 10:37am
Provoking this time.. Thanks
Sep 14, 2012 03:55am
"Not killing all when you could is bad argument for tolerance". If this was a good argument then americans have been very tolerant towards Iraqis, Afghanis and Pakistanis.
Sep 13, 2012 01:51pm
Well written article. I am surprised that any article that speaks of introspection,is not well accepted by most people in Pakistan-
Sep 13, 2012 12:01pm
When everything is supposed to be lost, try to salvage half.
Ali Ahsan
Sep 14, 2012 04:33am
"You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place or worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed that has nothing to do with the business of the State..... Now I think we should keep that in front of us as our ideal and you will find that in course of time Hindus would cease to be Hindus and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense, because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the State." Jinnah's address to the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan on 11 Aug 1947 http://www.pakistani.org/pakistan/legislation/constituent_address_11aug1947.html
Sep 14, 2012 05:20am
Well I would never like to work in Saudi Arabia and I know many who refused to work in Saudi Arabia because of their conservative set up and so called Islamic laws.
Sep 14, 2012 01:29pm
These are just empty words. I have never seen any secular muslim in my life (Except may be Javed Akhtar). jinnah was communal to the core. He married a Parsy, but he will not let his daughter marry a Parsy. This shows how secular he was. Compare with Nehru and you know who is sincere and who is hypocrite. Nehru married his daughter to a Muslim. Subhendu subhenduchat@yahoo.com
Sep 13, 2012 11:33am
Mr. Paracha do not put all the blame on Zia ul Haq. Majority of Pakistanis have provided the political space to Islamic extremists by tacitly or overtly accepting their demands. Much before Zia OBJECTIVES RESOLUTION was passed during Liaqat Ali Khan's time. And even before that the slogan that mobilized the support for Muslim League was " Pakistan ka mtlab Kia, la a Lana Il Lillah". It was a very secular Zulfiqar Bhutto who declared Qadianis "non Muslims", it was Benazir Bhutto's government that sponsored the Taliban in Afghanistan. and it were the secular democratic governments in the 90s that accepted the Sharia regime of Sufi Mohammad in Malakand division. There has never been a strong public voice against laws that discriminate against minorities, or women in Pakistan - a country where the murderers like Qadri are praised and little girls like Rimsha are jailed. These are not the exceptions rather the rule. So we all should take the responsibility for what is happening in Pakistan.
Yemeen Zuberi
Sep 14, 2012 09:12pm
Let me share this experience of mine with others. Returning from my recreational visit to Jamaica, at the airport I saw a Jamaican who was in a outfit of a Maulvi. On my inquiry he said he is a Jamaican Muslim Maulvi. During a discussion he said that Shia and Sunnis have no problem with each other, however, Salafis are creating lot of problem for other Muslim sects and Fiqhas. I think extremists must reset their priorities; do they want a (extremists) minority against all Muslims or all Muslims united?
Ejaz Butt
Sep 13, 2012 11:28am
Yet again another brilliant article by Nadeem F Paracha. The author has very competently analysed Pakistan's political and religious mind set. I live in the UK and I am afraid this kind of mindset has stated prevailing here. The overzealous youths and older folks affected by Saudi brand Islam are also not listening to any reason or rational. The foremost important issues in Pakistan are eliminating poverty and spreading the education. A tight control over the activities on Madrasas will also be very beneficial for the health of Pakistan. I wish more and more people could read Nadeem
Sep 14, 2012 08:27am
Rakesh, if Muslims in India would have ruled solely by the sword for close to a 1000 years, then your name would probably be Imran, Sultan and not Rakesh. You should read the history of Spain (Andulasia) where all the Muslims were forcibly converted after the Christian takeover. You should also know about the "Ghar Wapsi" in Kandmahal Orissa in 2008 where all the tribals were converted to Hinduism forcibly by Bajrangdal and RSS.Coming to OBL, 9/11 was a false flag attack, so you would have to really convince me since a lot of American academicians and intellectuals claim and prove the same. OBL was a CIA asset in the Cold war and it was only after he saw the American takeover of oil and other resources in Middle East and also their cultural aggression that he trained the guns against them. If US and other western Imperial powers stop looting the resources in Africa and Oil rich Muslim countries, all this would stop.
Sep 14, 2012 12:32pm
Of course it is, no one's going to slit your throat.
Keti Zilgish
Sep 13, 2012 11:24am
A workable debate between Shias and Sunnis will mean that both learn how to criticize themselves. No religion is willing to tolerate criticism within itself. Peace is thus clearly out of the question. If it was possible, police and armed forces the world over could easily be laid off and we could say good-bye to violence once and for all. During the past 4 years the Pakistani public has armed itself to the teeth with illegal and legal weapons and they are not just for marriage occasions but rather clearly for intimidating ones religious, ethnic and later even class opponents. Once we learn how to call a spade a spade we might get a chance at seeing a higher reality.
Sep 14, 2012 05:46am
First of all Sindh is not total India, So this 1000 years story is fairy tale to you. Secondly it took Marathas, Jats, Sikhs, Bundelas and other communities to break the back of Muslims and when britishers came 80% land of India was with Hindus. I can say - a military obsessed state like early Islamic state ruled India which was not obsessed with warfare and expansion. North Korea can defeat Switzerland at war. Buts still a sick state. And yes the final thing 90-95% of Subcontinent Muslims are converted. So Islam didnt rule us. Turks and Arabs Ruled over your forefathers whom they converted by force. Thankyou
Sep 15, 2012 02:14am
Please NFP for God sake forget history for a while. you should have written something about those people who died and how their lives could be saved.
Iqbal khan
Sep 13, 2012 11:30am
I beg to disagree with you sir,process of radicalization was started by Bhutto by introducing a certain amendment in constitution.
Krishna Bhagawan (@KrishnaBhagawan)
Sep 14, 2012 12:42pm
I completely agree with you. The people quoting a silly speech should realise they are just words. Jinnah's actions and words do not match at all. I rather go by his actions than his words.
Sep 14, 2012 05:31am
Yes Skies will fall if Muslim law is followed in Pakistan like Saudi. First of all, relationship of world with Saudi is because of Oil --- Pakistan does not have it... it will turn into Afghan if only Muslim law is followed. Secondly... Given a chance... NFP will work in US rather than Saudi.....
Abdul-Rehman Khan
Sep 13, 2012 07:32pm
This is your "Democracy" in action. http://dawn.com/2012/09/06/military-operations-tribesmen-threaten-to-migrate-to-afghanistan/ The people don't want the military intervention or drones. Who will listen? Will "Democracy" matter? No. But the "rich" and "powerful" will get their way. And no one will care or hold them to account.
Sep 14, 2012 03:02pm
good one NORI..
Sep 13, 2012 02:19pm
Self proclaimed mullahs with their own view of the religion without any unified worldwide muslim body to set conditions regarding the religion has made Islam a pariah in the non muslim world.Such a pity.
Sep 14, 2012 02:17pm
Muslims are intolerant of other faith. They are incapable of living in a secular society. General Zia merely gave them a platform to express that intolerance. Show me one place in the world where Muslims have willingly tolerated other faith.
Sep 14, 2012 04:54am
NFP, you are among a very small, liberal minority of people whose views and ideals are more in tune with secular India. Pakistan was not meant to be secular. You are right though that long years of indoctrination has subverted even the mind of the bureaucracy and polity. You only have to read the commentaries of Munir Akram, Tareq Fatami, Shamshad Ahmad etc to realize how deep the rot has set in. And these were your ablest diplomats! Not to forget the many journalists fronting for the ISI, including many of your TV anchors. People like you, Pervez Hoodbuoy, Najam Sethi, Kamran Shafi, Irfan Hussain etc really don't belong to Pakistan. You are in the wrong place. Get out. While you can.
Sep 14, 2012 07:17pm
All Pakistani must forget what happened in past and move forward.They must embrace Science,progress and adopt tolerance towards their fellow Pakistani.If they can be less Anti Indian or more really does not matter,it does not matter to India.It is my gut feeling it does more harm to Pakistan being Indian centric.Ignoring would be better option,they do,why not reciprocate?What have they done for you? ,Zilch.I'm not anti India,just practical,if I had any thing,I would advocate strongly,America all way advises India to be friendly with you,it all eye wash,nothing will come out of your detant with them,you are oil and water,they do not mix,that is why Pakistan was founded,the mistake you have made so far is,you not for any good reason started engagement,war etc,etc with them,I'm sorry to tell you,the truth,they are too big,you will come out second best,it no win situation,whatever is your problem,India in a weird way lot to do with it,you got to sit down and chill out and calmly figure it out,you will come to same conclusion.I will not give you any consul on Kashmir,that is also one factor you must think seriously over.You have wasted good 64 years,there are no more time left,before it is too late.Friends warn,enemy strikes.
Sep 15, 2012 10:34am
Political Islam is a dangerous phenomena, especially for the South Asians, who have been generally more tolerant and had a pluralistic society. That is why the partition of India was a good thing. If Political Islam and Political Hinduism had co-existed, it would have greatly marginalised the secular forces in India. Now, India doesn't have to worry about either and continue on its merry way. The problem with Political Islam is its hungry nature and quest for dominance. Political Hinduism is dormant now, doesn't threaten the secular fabric of the country, but Political Islam does.
Sep 14, 2012 02:39pm
No one reads this any more. Now you cant even be Muslim belonging to the wrong sect in Pakistan. The land of the pure is taking the purity thing very seriously and redifining what is PURE in a very narrow sense, Sunni muslim adhering to Wahabi stream of thought
Sohaib Khan
Sep 13, 2012 11:24am
NFP: You quite cleverly hide some facts while writing on issues like this. And, that fact is, "Use of Islam from Liberals to increase their political power". This includes Mr. Bhutto as well and that was before Zia era.
Sep 13, 2012 01:52pm
All great empires of all the times have blood and dirty politics at heart. All these great empires have something in common i.e. great visionaries who are ready do the any sacrifice(of their followers) and completely oppress(their opponents) to reach goals. Take an example of Roman, Greek, Mongol, British, Ottoman.. they were all revered as greatest in their age and even now among their countrymen but the truth is they all spilled blood and brutally oppressed any opposition to become the greatest. So don
Raheel Adnan
Sep 13, 2012 02:07pm
How come so many readers plainly ignore core of the article 'be critical' and emphasis on debating 'who started it - Zia or Bhutto or Liaqat A. Khan'? Quite ironic.
Sep 13, 2012 02:05pm
Along with the extremist ideology, the three forms of educational institutions are also pulling the society apart into three opposite directions. It's English medium for the small upper middle class; Urdu medium for the middle class ; and madrassas for the lower middle class and the absolute poor.
Muhammad Ahmed
Sep 13, 2012 07:14pm
This is indeed well written article but clearly biased and with some missing pieces from historical puzzle of evolution of religiosity in Pakistan. I think a simple issue which author never touches is that the type of religious extremism which exists in our society because of economic reasons. The problem with sufi tradition in sub continent is that it has been exploited to nth degree and comparing that approach leaves us with a unique sense of hypocrisy. The caste system mentality of sub continent muslims was indeed challenged when majority got interaction with arabian society. Sadly, their interaction in 70s-80s in Gulf was not expanded to view more humane form of secular systems where similar level of equality could be witnessed in other places. The immigrants who were able to access USA and UK still had a broader interaction and they were able to acquire their own religious identities with a greater level of tolerance. The reality of 70s and 80s in gulf was quite different than present day racism and arab superiority complex which has slowly added a . The exodus of people back to Pakistan in late 80s and early 90s because of changes in Gulf politics and immigration restrictions allowed many people to bring back a sense of identity which could not be reconciled with their mazaars and sufis. It is also a reality that Zia played a major role in promoting jihadi ideology but most of the madrassas with more wahabi approach sprung because of backers from ex pats in the middle eastern and European communities. The ISI and CIA involvement in setting up the madrassas in north western region cannot be denied but the actual reason for flourishing of such institutions and constant student supply even at urban regions comes from economic and societal realities in Pakistan. I am willing to take a critical approach towards religion but it should not be lopsided to suit the need of a specific class of readers in Pakistan. It is sad that this convenient approach by liberal authors just adds to the divide by labeling people on right side of the fence as either terrorists or adherents of political islam. The intolerant lot which is indeed in much greater numbers on the right side needs to be engaged in this discussion. This will not happen in fortnight. People who have these delusions need to study apartheid in South Africa and conditions in USA during Jim Crows law. People question, become doubtful, experiment with ideologies and then slowly changes occur. It will even happen in Pakistan but at its own pace.
Sep 13, 2012 02:01pm
Nadeem Bhai,You are good columnist,your English is sound,simple,with clarity,without clustering several thought in a single column,without losing sight of the issue at the end,very few can do that,if you notice good ones like Brooks and Thomas Freidman of Times they take just one topic per column and are very articulate,but they are from the best school of journalism the best school this country has to offerBut you are good too.In my opinion,all good writers beside being good ,they had purpose for writing,mainly 3 goal,to make Love,possible,Justice desirable and readers understand Evil.If you analyze,their work such as Tolstoi or John Milton you will see,method to their madness.I'm terribly disappointed with some news outlet,as they let in way to many haters on concept of understanding of free speech,also out right lies,promoting lies is not good journalism,nor personnel opinion.Fact are not subject to opinion,it is tricky but it can be done by knowledgeable moderator.Ex-Ab Lincoln,very educated person,False,self educated yes,not formally educated,another Ex-Prophet Mohamud very literate Intelligent person in the world,False,fact,He was complete illiterate person,yes he was very intelligent person,how difficult was that?I'm disrespectful to these people,No.People say one must use common sense,unfortunately,common sense is not very common these days in the world.Good moderation is the way out not subjective to please all,not possible or desirable either if you want critical citizanary,that has been our problem since 1947,just think about it for a while,good day.
Sep 13, 2012 09:51am
may I call it " the NFP PARADOX", the writer clearly does what he accuses the others of doing...
Suren Sahni
Sep 13, 2012 10:28am
Obsession leads to fatal consequences. Live and let Live.
Sep 13, 2012 09:54am
Well written and well analysed. On a more pragmatic note, the whole education system is devoid of inculcating the critical thought and mind. Even as highly educated individuals we lack the "skills" or rather the notion of questioning and thinking for ourselves. Many have to teach it to themselves. No one questions the curricula at school or asks the relevance or the utility of the theories that are taught at universities. Just making it through the exams does not render one as a thinking productive individual for any walk of life. Mostly not at fault, the individual is them alarmed when confronted with an average and 10 years younger but a critically thinking counterpart from another part of the world who is much articulate and mature in his/ her approach to life and all its current issues.
Sep 13, 2012 10:24am
There is no threat to Islam from anyone but from the muslims itself..It is disheartening to see how such a beautiful, peaceful religion has been distorted, misinterpreted and therefore used for personal, political gains through out the history of mankind and history of Pakistan in particular...
Asad Shah
Sep 13, 2012 10:42am
Very well written. These taboo's should be discussed. E.g. Blasphemy laws, Ahtaram-i- Ramadan ordinance etc. Pakistani's as a nation are so confused that the majority thinks these are God made laws, in fact these are Zia made laws.
U gupta
Sep 15, 2012 08:17am
Way things are happening around the world, now I am really afraid. Whether we are moving toward 3rd world war of different kind.
Sep 13, 2012 11:09am
The world would be a much better place if there were people like Nadeem Paracha. I am an Indian and the only reason is go to this website is to read blogs by Nadeem and Irfan Hussain.
Sep 13, 2012 10:44am
NFP you cannot blame Zia only what is happening in Pakistan, America has lot to explain. Not only the Americans but the rest of the World knew exactly what was happening in Pakistan and they wanted Zia to enforce and put Pakistan in a situation it is today. On the hind side if the terrorist did hit America and instead hit some small irrelevant country would America and its Allies be interested to deal with terrorism.....the answer is No.
Sep 13, 2012 11:27am
"However, starting in the late 1970s, an anti-pluralistic process was initiated by the Zia-ul-Haq dictatorship that soon spiralled beyond mere posturing and sloganeering." - what about Bhutto and his wrong-doing of labelling a sect as non-muslims?
Sep 13, 2012 10:49am
thanks NFP for another succint but very clear analysis of the issues relating to religion at the source of Pakistanis society's problems.
Sohaib YAHIA
Sep 13, 2012 09:59am
Being critical is a sin now in this polarized society. There is only one view on religion, which is mine, period. You dare to differ and you are gone, literally. Salman Taseer, Shahbaz Bhatti and few others alike met the same fate. Slowly and gradually, we have become hostage to these illiterate, intolerant and radical hate preachers and their number keep on increasing. Thinkers like NFP are bound to take back seat sooner than later.
Sep 15, 2012 06:09am
ZIA and ZAB are no more. Don't talk about them. Now its the turn of the new generation to set things right. Now, the question is; Are pakistanis ready to acnowledge their mistakes, stop blaming others for their misery and take corrective measures?
Ajaya K Dutt
Sep 13, 2012 12:29pm
It is wrong to blame Zia. Zia was not the cause but a result. Root cause is far deeper that we all, including Hindus, do not want to see.
p r sharma
Sep 14, 2012 08:42am
secularist are always open to criticism supported by facts and figures& logic.
Sep 13, 2012 11:11am
All my muslim friend in india think like nfp and are always open to debate. Pakistan would be a much better place if people believed in debates on everything and put common sense ahead of their faith.