Politics of reclaiming Islam
On Tuesday, the Corps Commanders meeting at the GHQ in Rawalpindi resolved to fight terrorism, extremism and sectarianism without any discrimination. Recent events tell us that the commanders mean what they say and that their effort is producing results. They are our primary bulwark against barbaric imperial proxies out to turn our country to hell. We should thank God that this bulwark is strong. And pray to God that the other pillars of our society similarly rise to the challenge. Appealing to their reason is obviously not enough.
Unfortunately, the weakest links in Pakistan’s war against terrorism are those that should have been at the forefront: our political leadership and the brave new media. The nation is ready to rise to the challenge but the bulk of our established opinion leaders have miserably failed to channelize this widespread emotion towards constructive social change. They seem to be stuck in their privileged cocoons, oblivious of the strong refreshing winds of change, blowing not only across Pakistan but throughout the world.
The courage and determination with which the Pak Armed Forces have taken up the task of countering the terrorist threat is a source of satisfaction. For a change, terrorists are being nabbed, killed and hanged, and their hideouts are being smashed. The success of the military offensive can be gauged by the desperation on the part of the terrorists and their apologists and supporters of all variety; from the maulvis and maulanas in our midst to the democracy-spouting metropolitan intelligentsia bred by the empire.
The maulvis and maulanas running shops in our midst, selling God’s words for worldly rewards, are upset that their affairs might be scrutinized. They don’t like it one bit that there is talk about making them accountable for what they teach poor children in seminaries, flooding their brains with superstitions and ignorance, intolerance and hatred. They don’t want to be answerable for where they get the money from to run their establishments, preaching self-righteousness, bigotry and violence to innocent minds.
Ironically, they are being supported by the pillars of our oh-so-precious democracy. Far from reclaiming Islam from the clutches of a professional clergy by exposing the massive chinks in their pseudo-religious armors, we see our leaders of opinion pandering to and appeasing them. The Interior Minister comes up with a patchy list of seminaries receiving foreign funding, a list which tells us that out of thousands of seminaries in the province of Punjab, none receive it. Not one. Our media has continued to treat the self-proclaimed guardians of faith as if they are the last word on Islam.
Surely, the fight against terrorism can be fought effectively only if it targets extremism and sectarianism as well. However, our leaders of democracy seem to be confused about what really amounts to extremism and sectarianism. They are so used to outsourcing matters of faith to the extremist and sectarian clergy that they fail to recognize its menace. They don’t hear the bad breath of extremism and sectarianism emanating from the mouths of virtually every maulvi and maulana in our midst. These professional peddlers of faith are given the mic by our media to pontificate on religious matters and they are made respectable by our leaders who cut deals and fraternize with them.
So while much is said, nothing much is done. For all the rhetoric mouthed by political parties running various governments, a concerted action against the bedrock of extremism and sectarianism is yet to be seen. Seminaries are yet to be scrutinized for their sources of funding or for their curricula. Other than closing a few shops selling hate literature, there is no visible effort to get to the root of such publications and punishing the real culprits. No diplomatic initiative has been launched to curb the funding of extremism and sectarianism by countries we count among our brothers and friends, from monarchies in the Middle East to the so-called free world.
Our brave new media does not fare much better. It is yet to wake up to its serious responsibility in Pakistan’s war against imperial terrorism. Most of it shuttles between two extremes like a headless chicken; the maulvis and maulanas in our midst on one hand and the empire-bred metropolitan so-called civil society on the other. Caught between these manufactured extremes mouthing funded narratives, the media has generally failed to create an independent pro-people discourse that cuts through the blind-spots of both.
Progressive sources of Islam and non-professional unconventional men and women of faith are not given the space to become a part of the discourse. The mic is given to the maulanas. As if this and a bevy of televangelists on religious television channels were not enough, showmen are paid to pop-preach on mainstream channels to muddy the religious discourse further.
The media has refused to follow up stories of little children being raped and murdered in mosques by maulvis. After the usual breast-beating about the plight of minorities that ensues every time some barbaric crime is committed in the name of punishing blasphemers, the media slips into amnesia, forgetting to follow up the case. Whatever happened to the murderers of Prem Nagar? Has the maulvi who incited the mob been arrested? Extremism and sectarianism starts from the neighborhood maulvi, but the media is yet to connect the dots.
The corporate-funded metropolitan extreme is busy painting the Pak Armed Forces in dark colors avowedly to protect democracy and human rights. Like the imperial donors whose narrative they parrot, they define these shifty concepts as convenient and use them when needed. Scratch their selective conscience or their blind faith in all the politically correct theories about parliamentary democracy a bit and you see massive blind-spots.
The theories they peddle are credible only within their theoretical vacuum. They don’t wish to see facts about our world that belie their narrative. They are blind to corporate plunder and imperialism. Other than the maulanas, this corporate-funded intelligentsia is given the mic by our media, and to them, the emperor’s new clothes look great.