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Are we innocent?

July 27, 2011

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THE carnage in Norway last Friday shocked the world’s conscience. It has also posed some extremely tough questions for European societies, the world’s Muslims in general, and the people of Pakistan in particular.

Europe will do itself and the world at large great injustice and harm if it dismisses the matter as the isolated work of a deranged mind. It must look deep into the factors that led to Anders Behring Breivik’s reliance on perverted intelligence.

The unpardonable doings of Al Qaeda, the other so-called jihadists and Muslim megalomaniacs have certainly contributed to the spread of Islamophobia in Europe and other parts of the western world, but it would be wrong to limit the list of culprits to them. It may be necessary to probe the extent to which the tone and tenor of the war on terror may have contributed to the growth of both militancy in parts of the Muslim world and reckless Muslim-bashing in the West. The idea is not to shift blame from one party to another, it is only a plea for keeping the indigenous sources of terrorism in Europe also in mind.

The world cannot possibly forget the rise of European fascism that built its power by fanning racism and persecuting certain religious and ethnic communities (Jews and Blacks). Nazism is a disease many parts of Europe are still afflicted with. The Norwegian people themselves have had anxieties about neo-Nazi and other extreme-right gangs for more than a decade.

These facts make it necessary for European societies to take note of elements who may be exploiting the public sentiment against terrorists and immigrants to impose on them new and more horrible forms of right-wing tyranny.

The leaders of Islamic thought and Muslim public opinion on their part cannot shun reality by simply telling the Europeans to put their house in order. Nor can they get away by declaring that terrorists constitute a small minority among Islamic scholars and lay Muslims both, however true this statement may be.

They must not ignore the high percentage of Muslims among the terrorists, nor the flurry of edicts issued by recognised Muslim authorities that not only condone and justify acts of terrorism, including the killing of innocent people in suicide bombings, but also exhort the believers to take part in such acts and win a place in paradise.

Regardless of the degree of the Muslim people’s involvement in terrorism that their ulema and political leaders may be prepared to concede, they have a duty to contribute to a solution to the problems created by groups and individuals claiming to be soldiers of Islam. The most important fact to be realised by the Muslim peoples is that they and their next generations will be the biggest losers if the mischief spread by their fanatic fringe is not quickly suppressed.

The people of Pakistan have to do more soul-searching than others because Breivik has blamed this country as the cause of his heinous crime. They should be shocked because besides being a responsible promoter of peace in the world, Norway has consistently been good to Pakistan. For many years, Norway has been helping Pakistan significantly in all areas of economic development, electoral reform, education, culture, heritage, women’s empowerment and human rights. It has been fair and generous to Pakistani immigrants who have been able to achieve distinction in Norwegian society and have been remitting sizeable funds to Pakistan year after year.

All this makes it necessary for Pakistan to make sure that the people of Norway are not influenced by the vitriolic outpourings of Breivik and the like. The critical question is: are we innocent? Can we say that we the Pakistanis have done nothing to offer neo-Nazis or other right-wing extremists an excuse to go out and massacre people?

One of the greatest ironies in the Pakistani people’s collective behaviour is that while the state is engaged in a grim battle with militants in religious garb and we keep telling the world of the number of lives we have lost, Pakistan has never challenged the so-called jihadis at the intellectual or even theological level. On the contrary, state institutions, political parties and the media have been promoting, some of them partly and casually and others wholly and by design, accommodation with terrorists, if not outright collusion with them. Is this not grist to the mills of hate the neo-Nazis are running across the globe?

Breivik has made a distinction between Pakistani immigrants who have integrated themselves with their host communities and those who haven’t. There is a need to look at the conduct of the latter. There have been occasions when Pakistanis have shocked the Norwegian authorities and citizens by killing a woman for ‘honour’, by abducting and forcibly marrying their daughters against their will, and by cheating Norwegian and Pakistani girls. The Norwegians, or any other host society for that matter, will have cause to consider such crimes as an abuse of hospitality and brand the whole Pakistani community as a pack of criminals and swindlers.

There is also need to take a look at the doings of Pakistani visitors to Norway who claim to be on religious missions. We have seen the havoc done in England by the so-called religious preachers. They have divided Muslim immigrant communities, fought battles to capture mosques, exploited the credulous ones and set up extortion rackets. Are Pakistani missions in Europe charged with the task of monitoring such unsavoury activities or with taking steps to ensure that Pakistanis in European countries respect the hosts’ laws and culture instead of propagating their dreams of world conquest?

Recently, the Norwegian public was considerably incensed when one of their nationals, Ehsan Arjumandi, was picked up, allegedly by security agencies in Balochistan, and all efforts by the Norwegian government to have him recovered failed to elicit from Pakistani authorities a response the matter warranted. The publicity this case received in Norway could not have presented Pakistan and its people as friendly, or even responsible, actors. These matters not only bring a bad name to Pakistan, they frighten away investors and traders and materially affect its economic interests.

Of course, the agent of death on the small Norwegian island was not a Pakistani; nor were his weapons of Pakistani origin. But it is very difficult to say that Pakistanis have made no contribution towards making the world increasingly unsafe for the human family. Will history pronounce us innocent? Let all Pakistanis ponder and find a way to avoid being treated as international pariahs. There are quite a few lessons we may learn from the spirit of discipline and forbearance the Norwegian people have demonstrated in their hour of unmitigated tragedy.