Changing the old order

EVENTS of September 11 have been commented on in many ways but essentially suggesting that the underlying factors were denial, deprivation, and frustration of certain groups with the hegemonistic style of Western foreign policy.

There is a more dangerous angle to it that maybe lost in the haze of such tradition-oriented interpretations; the individual’s loss of faith in the system of governance of the state. He has risen against it often in the past, though not as ferociously.

Since WW-I, and more visibly after WW-II, monarchy went out of fashion. It was overtaken by democracy, supposedly replacing the king’s despotism with the caring attitude of the people’s democratic governments. In less than half a century, that caring image stands scarred almost beyond recognition, though not completely.

Events of September 11 are only a landmark in the rising disenchantment of the individual with the state. Before these, there have been many in the enlightened West - the bastion of democracy. Beginning with the rebellion by the Sicilian mafia to the now forgotten Red Brigade and the Black Panthers, and the continuing terrorism by ETA and the IRA, there have been many movements that racked havoc within the West.

The tragedy is that the inspirations behind these movements were brushed aside over-simplistically as being crime-motivated, or bordering on treason, and hence punishable by decimation. But the disillusioned individual keeps rising against the state over and over again because democracies tend to be inflexible, uncaring and often inhuman in their approach to resolving the problems of their electorates.

Increasingly, democracies seem to be siding with the high and mighty few at the expense of the ordinary millions. The semantics of modern theories of financial management of the state seem a cover for behind the scene the unholy compromises with the rich. The “ordinary” individual, who is virtually taken for granted in the affairs of the state, is now gearing up to take his revenge on this system of governance. It is time the world leaders took note of the failure of the modern democratic welfare state before more countries descend into total confusion (as in the US now) leading eventually to a semi-anarchical state.

Unbridled and over-confident advancement in technology has placed at the disposal of the individual weapons that can shake the state, as they recently did to the US. Events of September 11 were unfortunate indeed but as long as this colossal loss of innocent lives serves to open the eyes of the leadership to brewing frustrations among the poor of the world, the great sacrifice will have served its purpose.

But, seemingly, it hasn’t. The self-defeating manner in which the US government has gone about withdrawing the constitutional liberties of its individuals speaks otherwise. Instead of listening to them, it has chosen to suffocate them, especially the immigrants. It has once again launched McCarthy-style witch hunts that made communism the formidable force it became. Let us see what it breeds this time. Osamaism, perhaps?



Chomsky and Afghan crisis

THE profile of Noam Chomsky (The Review, Dawn, Nov 8-14) mentions “he has broached barriers between the sciences and humanities”. Ranking with Marx, Shakespeare and the Bible as one of the ten most quoted sources in the humanities, Chomsky emerges in the present Afghan crisis as the only American dissident widely recognized. Bertrand Russell’s intense campaign against the Vietnam war and Chomsky’s honest criticism against US strategies are prominent examples of eminent philosophers standing opposed to ‘unaccountable power’.

The most significant remark is by John Pilger: “He strips away layers of propaganda not recognized as propaganda, brilliantly sifting through political discourse.” This eye-opening remark reveals the worldwide state of affairs in the war against terrorism. The Afghan war propaganda is being convincingly disguised as facts of the situation. Even the governments in line with US war strategies are closing their eyes on human sufferings in Afghanistan.

It is easy for people in secure positions to take civilian casualties as ‘casualties’. But in the name of humanity one can just ask them to imagine themselves along with their families in place of those who are mourning over dead bodies of their families. What would they feel and think about the whole power strategy then?

The closest tie between science and humanities can be through ‘empathy’ and not merely sympathy. To empathize with the sufferers is the only human quality that could bring peace and harmony in all brutal situations. But when propaganda takes over, then truth is lost in statistics.

The situation in Afghanistan calls for the world community to take people like Chomsky more seriously than other cool-minded political analysts. Listening to philosophers speaking against war is of great significance. Their critique is not bathed in strategic analysis. Rather, they may succeed in making the collective consciousness to realize and repel greater human tragedies. Human sufferings in massive scales are grimly predictable in the ongoing war strategies in Afghanistan in the near future.

I would request our electronic media to show Chomsky’s forthcoming lectures live on the screen. But given the US war strategies, I doubt whether it would be possible. Still I hope that our media would not lose this opportunity to try to prove its acclaimed freedom in depicting reality. After all, there must be a public awareness regarding the distinction between reality and, to borrow one of Chomsky’s term, “manufactured” reality.



Blasphemy law

THIS is with reference to Mohammad Ismail Qureshi’s letter “Blasphemy law” (Nov 12). The Constitution of Pakistan specifies the Quran and Sunnah to be the two equally valid sources of Islam. Sunnah according to the Ulema is what is embodied in the six books of Ahadith called ‘The Correct Six’.

Blasphemy is defined in section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code in the following words: “Use of derogatory remarks, etc in respect of the holy Prophet (PBUH) by word, either spoken or written, or by visible representation or by importation, innuendo or insinuation, directly or indirectly, defiling the sacred name of the holy Prophet (PBUH) and shall be punished with death or imprisonment for life, and shall be liable to fine....”

This concept of blasphemy and the prescribed punishment are both contradictory to the Quran and the holy Prophet’s conduct. No doubt this law is being used as vengeance. The Quran prescribes restraint, and distancing from the blasphemous persons or situations. The emphasis is on restraint and forgiveness. A study of the following verses should bear this out:

“When ye hear the signs of Allah held in defiance and ridicule, ye are not to sit with them unless they turn to a different theme,” (Quran 4:140).

“And when they hear vain talk, they turn away therefrom and say: ‘to us our deeds and to you yours; peace be to you.’ (Quran 28:55).

“Hold to forgiveness, command what is right; but turn away from the ignorant.” (Quran 7:199).

“Have patience with what they say, and leave them with noble (dignity).” (Quran 73:10).

“And the servants of Allah ... are those who walked on the earth in humility, and when the ignorant address them, they say ‘Peace’” (Quran 25:63).

“Allah is with those who restrain themselves.” (Quran 16:128).

“... But they uttered blasphemy ... if they repent, it will be best for them, but if they turn back, Allah will punish them.” (Quran 9:47).

In the presence of so many verses of the Quran ordering Muslims to restrain and forgive, the supporters of the blasphemy law provide one or two weak traditions whose narrators are even considered not up to standard by the scholars. And such traditions are not even remotely present in the “the correct six” books of traditions.

In short, nowhere in the Quran and Sunnah, and even in Islamic history, has blasphemy law or any such law or punishment been defined. These are foreign concepts for Islam and should be abrogated as soon as possible.



Child marriages

THE photo (Nov 13) of a young girl, cooking rotis and married to a man far older, smoking a hookah, could not be a better illustration of the unfortunate practice of child marriage. What can be the life of this little one — robbed of her childhood, of her right to study and to play — and instead, encumbered with all the adult cares?

This problem has been ignored both by the government and the NGOs. The officials seem to take the view that child marriage is not an issue that deserves their attention.

Fining the parents of a girl married under-16 is unheard of — the law against child marriage is just confined to the law books. Undoubtedly, poverty and a large family size are responsible for the practice of early marriages.

But all the same, it is still essential to raise awareness about the law on the media which may help some parents to desist from the practice. Further if the government undertakes to make primary education free and compulsory as was being planned, it will go a long way to help alleviate the problem.



Pakistani hotels abroad

THIS is with reference to a news item (Nov 12) “Chinese want more Pakistani restaurants”. This should be quite encouraging for the people who are related to food business.

An official of the ministry of foreign trade and economic affairs of the Peoples Republic of China has reportedly said that “if a chain of restaurants, serving Pakistani traditional food is opened in China, they can attract good business”.

Pakistani traditional food is also served in many parts of the United Kingdom and the USA.

It is upto those who are already in the food business, to introduce Pakistani food under a franchise name in those countries where people love to eat Pakistani traditional food. This will also help meet the needs of many Muslims living abroad who often find it difficult to get “Halal food”.

Any one taking the lead in introducing Pakistani food franchise abroad would certainly make a fortune.



Diabetic patient’s plea

I am a diabetic patient now on insulin for the last two years. Doctors prescribed me insulin (Mixtard 30/70 — pen). The only convenience in this dosage form was that a patient could get the accurate quantity of insulin by using the ‘pen’ herself/himself. It have been costing Rs 150 to 180 then became Rs 200 per pen. Now the manufacturing company changed the packing and Mixtard injection became available ranging from Rs 200 to 230 which contains 1.5 ml of insulin.

For the last two months I am running from pillar to post to get my Mixtard insulin pen but in spite of my best efforts could not find it. My sugar level has gone up to ‘random 380’.

Is there any accountability of the concerned officials of the Ministry of Health (Drugs Control Administration) or are they exempted from such accountability? Why is action not being taken against the manufacturer for not providing the medicine?



Disservice to a good cause

THIS is regarding a “show” which I had the misfortune of attending at a hotel in Karachi on Nov 11. The show was organized with the objective of collecting money for the victims of American air strikes against the innocent civilian population of Afghanistan. It was supposed to be a fashion show but it was not. It was a display of vulgarity for a supposed humanitarian cause. I staged a walkout in sheer disgust.

What were the organizers of this “show” trying to achieve? Did they truly want to collect money for the poor victims of American bombings or was it to promote vulgarity. No Muslim would approve of such a gross misrepresentation of Islam.

What kind of a nation are we? On the one hand, we want to be Islamic and, on the other we are impressed with only the dark side of the West.



Ads on TV

I fully endorse the views of Mr M. Saeedullah expressed in his letter (Nov 10 ) on the captioned subject.

It is evident that some Pakistani commercial concerns have no national feelings. They are simply concerned with making money even at the cost of national interests.

I, therefore, urge upon Pakistani citizens to consider whether it would still be proper for them to buy the products of those Pakistani concerns which are utilizing the hostile Indian electronic media for advertising their products.



Human rights abuses in Afghanistan

I am deeply touched by our government’s concern about human rights violations under the Northern Alliance rule.

Till September 11, it had, in the name of ‘stability’ kept into power a regime that violated every single human right and code of human decency. We also now know how ‘stable’ that regime was as soon as its patrons withdrew support under international pressure.



Service lane encroachment

THE road in Gulistan-i-Jauhar which goes from Jauhar Mor to Jauhar Chowrangi and then towards the Karachi University has wide service lanes and footpaths on either side. In fact, it is one of the best planned roads.

But due to encroachments by restaurants and unauthorized occupation by fruit vendors, it is no longer possible for the pedestrians to walk through it comfortably.

The service roads, too, which were meant for the cars and motorcycles of those coming for shopping, have been occupied by tikka restaurants, tyre vulcanizers and even motor workshops. This has caused so much congestion that it is almost impossible to drive through these service lanes.

It is understood that these illegal occupants of footpaths and the service lanes collectively pay an enormous amount of money to the KMC personnel, the district administration staff, police and various middlemen acting on their behalf. As a result of this, this once neat and clean area has become dirty and congested. Also, it has become extremely hazardous to drive on these service lanes.

Would the concerned Nazim or any other relevant authority look into the matter ?



British Muslims and Afghan war

THERE are active Muslim politicians in our country, including hundreds of elected councillors, mayors, and five parliamentarians — two MPs and three peers. We are no wiser than other Muslims in Britain but at least we have gone through the democratic electoral process. Our obligation is to separate myth from reality, lies from truth and start making clear judgements on where we see our duty, responsibility and future.

Let us look at some of the myths now being peddled about the conflict in Afghanistan.

Myth No. 1: this is an assault on Islam. Wrong. Hundreds of Muslims died in Manhattan. The only assault on Islam was that launched by Osama bin Laden. The world’s leading Muslim nation, Pakistan, is at the centre of the coalition against terror. King Abdullah of Jordan spoke movingly to MPs last week about Jordan’s commitment to bringing bin Laden to justice.

Myth No. 2: Muslims oppose air strikes on principle. Wrong. During the 1990s, Muslims wanted Britain to take tough military action against the butchers sent by Milosevic to terrorise Balkan Muslims.

If it was right to use military force against Milosevic’s terrorism, how can it be wrong to deploy the same tactics against the Al Qaeda network?

Myth No. 3: There is no proof against bin Laden. Wrong. His number two, Abu Ghaith, advised Muslims to avoid using aeroplanes and tall buildings.

Myth No. 4: There is no debate on alternative options. Wrong. The House of Commons has had five long debates, with nearly 200 speeches by MPs. No other parliament or congress in the world has discussed the conflict at such length.

Myth No. 5: The concerns of Muslims about Palestine and Kashmir are not being addressed. Wrong. Blair and Bush have called for the creation of a Palestinian state. US Secretary of State Colin Powell has rightly described Kashmir as ‘central’ to the resolution of the tensions between Pakistan and India.

There are in Europe an estimated 15 million EU citizens of Muslim faith. Only in Britain does one see Muslims running town halls, being selected and elected as MPs, named as peers and rising through the professions and offices of public life.

Only in Britain does the state fund Muslim schools on a par with Catholic, Anglican and Jewish schools. Only in Britain are there tough anti-racist laws.

If I phone 100 Downing Street I can talk to a fellow Muslim who is one of Blair’s key political advisers. Only Britain’s Foreign Office employs enough diplomats of Muslim faith to be able to send a team to Makkah to help British Muslims during the Haj. Since Sept 11, the leadership offered by Pakistan’s President Musharraf and other heads of government in the Islamic world demonstrates how modern Muslim states can work as allies with the United States, Britain, Europe and Commonwealth nations to forge a coalition against terror.

Of course, as Foreign Secretary Jack Straw has pointed out, there must be a political solution to the failed Taliban state in Afghanistan and it must include the majority population there.

I respect all those who oppose war as a basic pacifist principle. But today we must support the United Nations, Pakistan and the brave men and women who risk their lives to seek justice. A world free of terror is a world safe for Muslims in Britain and everywhere else.


M.P. Birmingham, UK


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