Out in the open

April 19, 2014

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BY renaming the library at Lal Masjid’s Jamia Hafsa seminary after Osama bin Laden, Maulana Abdul Aziz has finally nailed his colours to the mast. According to a source at the institute, “He [Bin Laden] might be a terrorist for others but we do not consider him as a terrorist. For us he was a hero of Islam.”

While in a personal capacity one may be free to lionise whomever one chooses, the public domain is very different, particularly so when the individual being honoured was an internationally designated terrorist, and one who continues to be an inspirational figure for several militant movements wreaking havoc in many parts of the globe. In this case, it’s even more problematic, considering that Bin Laden was hunted down and killed by the US inside Pakistan, a fact that has attracted international opprobrium against the country.

Immediate notice must be taken of the library’s renaming, or else it would not only reinforce this negative impression but also encourage other similar ‘tributes’.

That said, why should the maulana’s latest move surprise us? After all, a policy of appeasement towards those who advance an extremist agenda only serves to embolden them further. However, it’s not only the state but the media too which is responsible for the invidious spread of this narrative.

Consider the resurrection of Maulana Aziz from the ashes of the Lal Masjid episode. The older, somewhat reserved brother of Maulana Abdul Rashid, who died in the Lal Masjid siege in 2007 from which the former tried to escape — rather ignominiously disguised in a burqa — has had his image burnished by the media’s excessive pandering to his views.

And these views, like those of others pontificating frequently on TV and in print these days, are nothing if not on the far right of the spectrum.

But for those who still had their doubts, the Jamia Hafsa library’s new name should be an eye-opener. Maulana Abdul Aziz has clearly thrown off his burqa.