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Smokers’ Corner: The lost plot


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Even 68 years after the Second World War folded with the terrible spectre of two mushroom clouds over Japan, a disturbing thought has continued to haunt the people of Germany, rest of Europe and the United States of America.

This thought, or more so guilt, has made the state, governments and the media in these countries adopt certain political and social narratives and stances that are commendable.

These have gone a long way to nourish the respective societies in these countries with a consciousness that is largely based on intellectual faculties such as rationalism and an emotional disposition that is readily empathetic towards victims of mass violence and immediately repulsed by those who inflict such acts of ferocity.

Nevertheless, the mentioned remorse-ridden thought has at times also seen some European nations and the US overcompensate in this respect.

But what is this thought? For the Germans it’s about how the bulk of its society remained soporifically quiet when Adolf Hitler’s Nazis were marching thousands of men, women and children of the country’s Jewish community, along with the gypsies, communists and the physically and mentally handicapped to the harrowing gas chambers and twisted torture cells set up by the Nazis to ‘cleanse the country from impure Germans’.

For the rest of Europe (especially the United Kingdom), and for the US, the disturbing thought is about how for quite some time their governments decided to simply ignore the rise of fascism in Europe and as a matter of fact, at one time, even submissively engage with fascist regimes in Germany and Italy, simply discounting the fact that these were violent, racist and aggressive regimes with some rather twisted ideas about racial purity, governance and dominance.

Indeed over the decades, these thoughts made many European countries and the United States instil anti-racist and anti-hate aspects into the mainstream narrative, that began to appear in these countries after the war. A narrative in which the ‘civilised man’ did not mean a Christian out to colonise barbarians and teach them the ways of the civilised Caucasian races.

A civilised man now meant a tolerant, democratic and progressive person who was empathetic towards the plight of those suffering from the effects of dictatorships, corruption, racism and bigotry.

But whereas this narrative did help many European governments to engineer genuinely progressive societies and strong, caring states, some myopia did set in to define the new civilised and empathetic man.

For example, driven by the guilt of the past, the US and Europe went all out to accommodate the Jews who had suffered at the hands of the Nazis.

But in case of the Jewish state of Israel, the US and Europe looked the other way when (this time) the previous victims of fascist savagery disturbingly began to adopt some questionable methods of their former tormenters in their tussle against the Arabs.

Things got a lot more ironic and complicated when, at the same time, the new, tolerant and democratic man was asked to denounce the violent totalitarianism of communism by embracing the Arabs and the pious, Godly Muslims against the ungodly communists — in spite of the fact that the pious ones clearly had bigoted, delusional ideas about the glory of their faith and most even thought that Hitler was a rather fine gentleman.

Today, such topsy-turvy and inherently contradictory dictates of post-war Western thought have suddenly converted the once pious allies into dangerous barbarians (‘Islamo-fascists’).

Western fascism erected by the likes of Hitler, Mussolini and Spain’s Franco did not fragment into oblivion. It was displaced and became an organisational and operational inspiration for a number of mad men in Africa, Latin America and Asia/Middle-East, most of who were supported by the US and various European countries to keep the violent spectre of vicious, inhuman communism at bay.

The funny thing is, in the context of the Muslims, though they continue to be pushed aside and scorned at for being anti-Semitic, the West and the US still believe that their respective societies’ democratic and tolerant values will be successful in turning angry bigots into allies to oust anti-West/Israel regimes in the Middle East. The West’s on-going misadventure in Syria is a recent case in point.

On the other hand, it is perhaps the guilt of nurturing whole chunks of Muslim societies into becoming psychotic hoards of sectarian and religious bigotry and hatred during the fight against the evil communists that many Western countries today can be seen looking the other way when extremists wag their fingers at ‘Western debauchery’ in mosques within European capitals.

Ask any liberal Pakistani or Arab journalist or columnist and they are more than likely to tell you that most of the hate mail that they get comes from Pakistanis and Arabs living in the US, Canada and especially the UK.

Apologetic behaviour and narratives born from guilt, political cynicism or a distorted understanding of religious text, all contribute to the disquieting slumber, silence and confusion that follow a terrorist act.

It can be a military atrocity inflicted by the Israeli military against unarmed civilians in Gaza; a vicious, primeval blow against men, women and children by ‘Islamo-fascists;’ or mad men spewing utter hatred on TV, in a mosque or on the social media.

The West and the US must escape from the stranglehold of its guilt-ridden disposition because the key to solving such problems still lie with the developed countries, as the states in countries facing the major brunt of bigoted violence from Israel and religious extremists in Muslim countries are empty shells ruling over thoroughly (and dangerously) confused societies.

Author Image

Nadeem F. Paracha is a cultural critic and senior columnist for Dawn Newspaper and He is also the author of two books on the social history of Pakistan, End of the Past and The Pakistan Anti-Hero.

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 (30) Closed

student Jul 07, 2013 05:47am

First comment! Yes.

This article is far more academic than NFP's last one (Eye-to-Eye..).

farji Jul 07, 2013 06:33am

It is hard to say something.

sms Jul 07, 2013 07:38am

Mr. Pracha, this is another wrong way to look at the issue. One flaw is that that Hindustan was "broken" for geopolitical necessity, human misery was not even a factor .. and it was done when you think the west was overwhelmed with guilt -- hardly! that said, the toleration of "hateful thought/speech" is not out of guilt, it's the "next level" of progressive thinking .. it has little or nothing to do with with WWII.

But what you point out is something else -- the question is not why west permits it .. but why does one espouse such thoughts -- the root of irrational thinking is buried somewhere else -- it will not disappear by "west" helping to curb it!

Abbastoronto Jul 07, 2013 08:51am

While Islam is guilt free, Christianity is ridden with it because Muslims avoid cardinal sins, Christians do not.

England, France, Holland, et al, those successful at the loot by pushing opium on China and de-industrialization on India ended with Democracy, the rules of the moneyed Demos. But failed colonists Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain turned to Fascism. Russia, a kind people, has a Revolution with workers in charge.

Guilt arises out of doing the wrong thing, and then repenting. Islam is the natural religion, so a Muslim strives to always do the right thing, and often succeeds. If he makes an occasional mistakes, he repents without guilt, and moves on because Muslim God is one who pardons again and again.

So Islam

krishnan Jul 07, 2013 12:24pm

Well written as usual.I am not sure religion has anything to do with what the West does- as friend from Toronto says.Let us not find non existent virtues in the current form of religions being practises by non westerners.It is all economic-oil et all.

Capt C M Khan Jul 07, 2013 12:54pm

Foundation stone of all religions is HUMANITY. Unfortunately all religious preachers manipulate the principals of HUMANITY to stay in power and ignore the sufferings of other humans. Then comes EDUCATION, lack of education or selective type of education makes the humans easy targets of MANIPULATIONS. 'MIGHT IS RIGHT and will always stay like that', unless all countries have gained equal Might and equal Education which seems IMPOSSIBLE.

Ozz777 Jul 07, 2013 01:52pm

Spain and Portugal....failed colonists?? Did you forget about Central and South America (as well as Mexico in North America and some countries - Angola and Mozambique - in Africa)?

zafarov Jul 07, 2013 03:58pm

@Abbastoronto: "So Islam

Rustam Jul 07, 2013 04:53pm

@Abbastoronto is a typical example of what NFP is referring to.

Raj Sharma Jul 07, 2013 05:09pm

@sms: India was broken because the Muslims wanted to break it and the West wanted to break it up. Had it not been broken up then there was a good chance that it would have become a major superpower.

The West did not want it because it would have eventually eclipsed the West. That is why when NWFP voted to stay in India Allan Dulles rushed to Pakistan and convinced Mountbatten to negate that vote and hold a second referendum which Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, for some unknown reason, boycotted. The second referendum voted for Pakistan. Dulles was chief organizer of the soon to be CIA which formally came into being in September 1947.

The Muslims did not want a United India because they were afraid that they would play second fiddle to the Hindus. Also the jagirdars of Pakistan had too much land that they could lose because land reform was already being talked about in India by the Congress Party.

Had India remained united it is likely that Afghanistan, Myanmar and Tibet would have also joined the union. It could still happen because a single commercial entity that includes all the countries mentioned and also Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh is the only common sense solution.

Khanzada Jul 07, 2013 05:32pm

@Abbastoronto: what do you think about Taliban?

Edmond Jul 07, 2013 05:39pm


zafarov Jul 07, 2013 06:49pm

@Raj Sharma: Yes, a confederation of peacefully coexisting autonomous states must be the future. That is only way, we can jointly wage war against poverty, hunger, disease, illiteracy, ignorance and dogma rather than wasting our resources on beefing up our military might to fight insane wars against each other.

Pankaj Jul 07, 2013 06:52pm

paracha sahab, Hats off to you. Very insightful and timely article. You are a rare example of a Muslim secularist. Putting reason and basic human values before religion and narrow nationalism, is the only way forward.

Pankaj Jul 07, 2013 07:08pm

Abbastoronto-" when asked of " civilization of the west" the venerable Mao deadpanned- it would be a good idea." Well , this was a quote by Mahatma Gandhi, not Mao. As far as your assertion that Muslims do not commit cardinal sins,It would be better for you to introspect honestly and try to rejoin with humanity rather than live in your fools paradise of Islamic supermacy. Clash of civilizations occurs when at least one party thinks that they are superior than the other ( the bane of Monotheistic religions taken litrally)

Paramjeet Jul 07, 2013 07:11pm

@Abbastoronto: Can you give me your address.

AHA Jul 07, 2013 07:19pm

An excellent piece, yet again.

G.A Jul 07, 2013 08:33pm

@Raj Sharma If India hadn't split in 1947 it would be splitting today into even smaller pieces without a constant external threat from a Neighbor that brought people towards a sense of nationhood. Ofcourse, my thoughts are as speculative as yours suggesting that a united India, that was conquered by a handful of British troops, would've been a superpower today.

Krish Chennai Jul 07, 2013 10:06pm

@Raj Sharma: Even though you are nearly 70 years too late in your observations, hope that your prognostications bear fruit. Not only did Gandhi say that partition was nothing but the vivisection of the country, but the Frontier Gandhi, Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan, riled against the INC for accepting the partition plan, and ranted " You have thrown us to the wolves ". Alas, your comment on "common sense solution" seems far-fetched, even though worth aspiring for and working toward, as the Dalai Lama said "today different nations and different ethnic groups come together due to common sense". Brilliant article by NFP. We could have knocked off poverty, most diseases, and of course, hunger, by this time. Sad !

Krish Chennai Jul 07, 2013 10:08pm

@Raj Sharma: Even though you are nearly 70 years too late in your observations, hope that your prognostications bear fruit. Not only did Gandhi say that partition was nothing but the vivisection of the country, but the Frontier Gandhi, Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan, riled against the INC for accepting the partition plan, and ranted " You have thrown us to the wolves ". Alas, your comment on "common sense solution" seems far-fetched, even though worth aspiring for and working toward, as the Dalai Lama said "today different nations and different ethnic groups come together due to common sense". Brilliant article by NFP. We could have knocked off poverty, most diseases, and of course, hunger, by this time. Sad !

pathanoo Jul 07, 2013 10:25pm

WOW!!! Only from the brilliant mind of NFP. Never seen an analysis so well crystallized and accurate. The logic is absolutely irrefutable.

Abbastoronto Jul 07, 2013 11:17pm


It is unlikely that Gandhi would have come out of this deep thought.

First of all he was an anglophile (just look at his early dresses and life). Secondly, he had no sense of humour as Great Mao had. Thirdly, he was not even half as great as Mao is at world level, and Jinnah had a low opinion of him.

Gandhi might have repeated what the Great Mao had said, off course, so please give credit where it is due.

Dearborn Iffy Jul 08, 2013 01:02am

@Abbastoronto: How ordinary a reply - defying maturity.

BRR Jul 08, 2013 01:07am


Keep this up, you are likely to be given a Nobel prize for ignorance.

p r sharma Jul 08, 2013 01:30am

The author's whole idea based on the theory of guilt (arose out of ward war II )of Europe and USA is unsubstantiated. Author has assumed it . the process of growth/ prosperity led to acceptance of different ideas mooting out . this acceptance helped to respect humanity all the more. I feel guilt has one role . i.e to accelerate process of tolerance of different views( freedom of expression ) to realize the mistakes/misdeeds. . Islam has been hijacked by its manipulators long back and therefore the perpetrators of violence think it as justified resulting in no room for any remorse in their minds for their violent acts..

Ali S Jul 08, 2013 02:40am


I lived in Toronto for six years. Seeing your comments so often here on Dawn and on ET as well has made me wonder if you live in the Thorncliffe neighbourhood (lots of characters with your kind of views there)? I don't mean to sound disrespectful, but I won't be surprised if you aren't employed.

Capt C M Khan Jul 08, 2013 03:02am

@Abbastoronto: Gandhi refused to accept racially discriminatory law of the White South African minority government, he was thrown out of the train. This shows his COURAGE in a foreign country and his WILL of equality at a time when Indians were considered second class citizens. Even the South African Whites respect him now for his stand.

Jas Jul 08, 2013 03:12am

Abbas Toronto you should keep driving your taxi dont indulge in politics chat. Comparing Mao to Gandhi is like comparing India to Pakistan in world peace lol

Jas Jul 08, 2013 03:13am

Abbas Toronto is something we call namak haram .. Lives of white pple and back stabing them at same time Rolf .. Actually it's called Pakistani syndrome

xhizer Jul 08, 2013 03:22am

@Abbastoronto: I am curious. You are obviously convinced the West is evil, hypocritical & doomed to failure and yet you live in Toronto? Why? Does this not make you completely hypocritical? Why not move back to the Land of the Pure where people make no mistakes?? PS: Why will the moderator not post my comments? What is he afraid of?