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Denial, confusion and obfuscation


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EVERYONE it seems has questions this week.

Some are of the stupid variety. What kind of human being would shoot a 14-year-old? Answer: a monstrous one. And there are a lot of monsters here.

How can anyone call themselves a Muslim and do this? Answer: Because they believe they are the true Muslims, not the weak-kneed moral relativists who pretend to be Muslims. A true Muslim does what needs to be done for the glory of Islam.

What kind of society teaches people to kill little girls trying to get an education? Answer: a sick and troubled society. A society that is in denial of the sickness in its midst.

Other questions are asked with a sly innocence. These are the more malign ones.

Why can’t we condemn all violence, by drones and by guns? Haven’t we had enough of killing? Can’t we now find a more humane way of ending the violence? Why don’t we try and understand this mindset instead of trying to destroy it?

These are malign questions because they are asked with a specific purpose.

The purpose is not to end jihad and violence, but to enable it, to perpetuate it, to make Pakistan the custodian of Islam, to create the perfect Islamist state in an imperfect world.

The trick the men with the malign questions have perfected is to sound reasonable.

See, we’re here on TV, talking things out, making our case, condemning all violence, trying to do our bit to make Pakistan peaceful and calm.

We all live here, we’re all the same. Let’s learn to understand why this is happening to us. It’s the Americans. It’s the Jews. It’s the Indians. Get rid of their influence and the wayward souls here will return to the fold.

They’re right about one thing: we all do live here. But we’re not the same, we don’t want the same things, and the men with the innocently asked but malign questions are not on the side of those asking in fear why this is happening to us.

Denial, confusion and obfuscation have meant that the difference isn’t as obvious as it should be.

Surely, both sides are well-meaning, people will ask. Surely, we can figure out a way to all live alongside in peace and happiness, people will say.

Yes, we could. But not if the rules are set by the other side.

Denial, confusion and obfuscation have meant that Pakistanis are not clear there is a continuum from the religious right to violent Islamism. It is not a difference of kind, only of degree.

The religious right creates an enabling environment for violent Islamism to recruit and prosper. And violent Islamism makes state and society cower and in doing so enhances the space for the religious right. One feeds off the other and together they grow in strength.

Denial, confusion and obfuscation have meant that the continuum from Jamaat-i-Islami to Al Qaeda, from Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam to the Taliban is barely recognised, let alone understood.

If there is outrage at that statement, at conflating the two, that is a testament to the success and deep-rootedness of the denial, confusion and obfuscation.

The mullah of today is the same as the mullah of yesterday. What’s changed is that the mullah of today has his goal in sight and the means to achieve it. The means is the continuum from the religious right to violent Islamism — one feeding off the other and together edging closer to their goal.

For years now, the problem of Pakistan has been seen as a problem of the state. But perhaps what it really is is a problem of society. A decrepit and broken society whose decrepitude and brokenness the denial, confusion and obfuscation have masked.

There is surely a problem of the state too. A certain poverty of imagination and moral bankruptcy have fashioned a state that can no longer do what is right and necessary.

It’s not always about complicity and sympathy. Often it’s just about fear. In Balochistan, I have wondered why the state doesn’t just take out the Lashkar-i-Jhangvi killers. After all, there can’t be more than a few dozen of them.

I asked and asked until someone finally offered, “They’ll never forget. You take them on and eventually they’ll get you. Maybe while you’re serving, maybe when you’re retired, but they will get you and probably your family too.”

The same question I’ve asked in KP and Fata. Why can’t they wipe this out? This isn’t a foreign army operating; these aren’t alien areas; yes, it was always going to be a slow grind, but why are the results so obviously patchy? Ask and ask and eventually — after theories and philosophies of missing holistic strategies and drivers internal and external — an answer comes. “Because they don’t know. They don’t know if that’s what’s really wanted. And because they don’t know, they’d rather live to see another day, to go back to their families.”

The state is a broken project. The foot soldiers are fearful because the high command is locked in denial and the certainty of old ways.

But perhaps it is society that is broken too. A society that laments its misfortune but can’t see the cause. A society that sees evil in its midst but never its facilitators. A society so manipulated by denial, confusion and obfuscation that the grotesque can masquerade as salvation.

Mercifully, the violent Islamists aren’t very bright. The shoot a little girl, they flog a teenager, they do terrible things that make Pakistanis recoil in horror.

But perhaps they can afford to not be very bright. Because they have the men with the innocently asked but malign questions.

They have the mullah to deny, confuse and obfuscate and lull society into believing the problem is without when it really is within.

The writer is a member of staff.

Twitter: @cyalm

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

Comments (35) Closed

AustralianMuslim Oct 14, 2012 10:02pm
I'm afraid I'm not going to agree with the way you are characterising the issue. We Pakistanis decided that our most intelligent and capable children should be doctors, lawyers and engineers and our most incapable children should pursue a career in religious doctrine. Now we complain when we find the flag of Islam held by the likes of the Taliban. When Allah wants to humiliate a people he gives the reins of leadership of the people to the worst among them and when he wants to assist a people he gives the leadership to the best of them. I sense you are trying to say Islam is the problem. I think it is your poor understanding of the Sunnah of Allah (the laws promulgated by Allah that stay consistent over time).
Cyrus Howell Oct 14, 2012 09:41am
"Any man who has once proclaimed violence as his method is inevitably forced to take the lie as his principle." -- Alexander Solzhenitsyn
lionel Oct 15, 2012 03:42am
this is the truth. the once proud people of Pakistan are afraid of these cowardly killers who defile Islam by claiming that murdering children who don't wish to be forced to remain ignorant is what Islam requires.
Kharpainch Oct 14, 2012 01:29am
Cyril you've captured the argument perfectly as always. I hope this article could be put every where, so that all those apologists could read this. Not just the mullahs but even those amongst us, who are not exactly sure how they feel about all this. There is only one stance and that this thought process is abhorrent and needs to be stamped out now! Excellent!
G.A. Oct 14, 2012 02:47pm
Why is it that people are willing to unite and defy their government and even take 'lathi' charges and bullets but are not willing to do the same against the Taliban and their ilk?
Sultan Oct 15, 2012 11:53am
Great poetry, no substance!
Yogesh Oct 14, 2012 02:05pm
An overdose of Islam is the problem. The solution is what Ataturk did in Turkey.
NASAH (USA) Oct 14, 2012 12:47pm
"Denial, Confusion and Obfuscation" -- what a great title of the status of the great state of Pakistan -- thank you for your keen analytical eyes my friend Cyril Almeida. Every column of yours is an education.
Azam Oct 14, 2012 04:15pm
Cyril Almeida you have come up with an absolute masterpiece today. First step in solving any problem is to recognize there is one. But unfortunately we are in a constant state of denial which doesn't allow us see the evil around us.
Not hopeful Oct 14, 2012 02:24am
An excellent narrative of what is exactly happening to this country. Another few tottering steps downhill and then it's over the precipice. I am shocked at how narrow minded and intolerant beings we as a nation have turned into.
Saeed Oct 14, 2012 01:33pm
The end is nigh, wake up Pakistan. Jago Pakistan before it is too late.
Yogesh Oct 14, 2012 02:10pm
Religion should be a strictly private affair. Nothing to do with state. Also, treat all human the same irrespective or religion or sect.
Joe Highlander Oct 14, 2012 06:48pm
I guess this is not a civil war; not yet anyway. But, it is many criminal gangs out of control. What they need is fearless judiciary and law enforcement agencies that will use the proper tools to deal with the criminal gangs. Use methods that suite the situation- drone strikes, snipers and other out of uniform or in the dark of night actions. The highly regarded intelligence agencies must have enough data to go by.
BRR Oct 15, 2012 12:05am
Cyril's best - a lament of the inconsolable. The lament of the fearful and distraught. A soul-stirring narrative.
AHA Oct 14, 2012 01:21pm
And Sultan, what solutions do you have???
AHA Oct 14, 2012 01:29pm
Cyril ? I have always admired your writings. I am really impressed today by the clarity and precision of the answers you gave to the question at the beginning of this article
Cyrus Howell Oct 14, 2012 10:09am
"We the People are the rightful masters of both congress and the courts -- not to overthrow the Constitution, but to overthrow the men who pervert the Constitution." -- Abraham Lincoln
Cyrus Howell Oct 14, 2012 10:12am
"Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it." --Thomas Paine
Sultan Oct 14, 2012 09:56am
Problems, problems, problems. No solutions, whatsoever!
Agha Ata (USA) Oct 14, 2012 03:05am
"They have the mullah to deny, confuse and obfuscate and lull society into believing the problem is without when it really is within." WOW! That explains everything. Great!
ahmed41 Oct 14, 2012 05:02am
All this is, more or less, well known~~~~~~but how to solve this problem ? Tell us HOW ?
zahid Oct 14, 2012 05:18am
Very thought provoking article . Its true that pakistan is bewlidering in wilderness and there is no goal in sight. but im very hopeful that its not all doom and gloom for this country till the time its blessed with free thinkers and intelectuals with moderate thoughts....CHEER UP EVERY ONE..days of misery are numbered! long live pakistan
aslam minhas Oct 14, 2012 05:38am
The enemy within is difficult to crush but if we don't act with full might of political and military force, we will put the very integrity of the country is at stake. Taliban have converted their tribal traditions into Islam. They are violent, rabid and scary. They have to be rooted out along with their sympathizers, the politico-religious leaders. After Malala incidence, a clear line has been drawn between the evil and good. The time to act is now. The whole nation is united on this issue.
malik Oct 14, 2012 02:45am
With our present mindset we are never going to win this war against terrorism. End of story. But there is one solution. We might as well hand over country to these religious zealots who in turn would declare a global jihad and the world would take care of them.
g m patra Oct 14, 2012 01:42pm
it is not just the masjids and madrasa alone. it is the Govt who has been using them to do their dirty work. The country who teaches their children to hate one more religions is going to get it back in some form or the other sooner or later. All people must look at all issues thru HUMANITY not religion as all religions do that but the mullaha, priests, pandits, ...etc misuse religions. I cried for Malala but how many Pakistanis have cried for non-suni girls in Pakistan.
P N Eswaran Oct 14, 2012 04:00pm
A vast majority of Pakistanis think that the problem is from outside. The opposite is true. The problem is within and the solution lies outside of Pakistan.
Kharpainch Oct 14, 2012 12:32pm
Why don't you suggest one instead of being a broken apologist record?
Sohaib YAHIA Oct 14, 2012 06:18am
More of a broken society than an incapable state - the affairs in this unfortunate country could not have been better depicted than this article.
Sultan Oct 15, 2012 12:50pm
Agreed. The chakra and saffron colour should be immediately removed from the Indian flag.
Sultan Oct 15, 2012 12:52pm
Agreed. Secularisation is the answer. The chakra and saffron colour should be immediately removed from the Indian flag.
Kallu Mama(India) Oct 14, 2012 04:52pm
You rightly said "The whole nation is united on this issue." sadly then the whole natin goes to sleep.....good night folks
Rathindra Nath Sen Oct 14, 2012 08:33am
Pakistan, with all its problems, is still probably the only intellectual powerhouse in the Muslim world. Writers in DAWN (and the Express -Tribune) have already addressed almost every aspect of the problem. It is, however, necessary to put everything together. A task force of Pakistani intellectuals should be able to do it. But it has to be a private initiative...
JNC Oct 14, 2012 02:56pm
"Other questions are asked with a sly innocence. These are the more malign ones." Thanks! You just proved the author right.
Abdullah Oct 14, 2012 07:47am
Very well written and articulate. We in Afghanistan as your younger brothers look up to you and pray that may we all have sense to take advantage of the vast opportunities that are available. It's very disheartening to hear people like Imran khan declaring that it's Jehad in Afghanistan while forgetting or knowing history well. The Taleban were in power before 2001 and they banned all girls school, destroyed sufi shrines and the Buddhas of Bamyan. We lived under them and we know how fanatic and ignorant they were and still are. Afghans will never want bad for Pakistan as most of us know the good and enlightened masses of Pakistan. Likes of Imran Khan and Taleban apologists stop the double standards and wake up.
Qasim Oct 14, 2012 06:59am
Isolation of the monsters and military action is a definite start. But for a long-term solution the war has to be declared on the mindset factories; the masajids and madarsah's controlled by illiterate hate preachers. It has taken 2-decades to reach this point and will probably take another 2-3 decades to reverse the slide.