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Books and Documents

Islam and Sectarianism

The Curse of the Minorities
Yaqoob Khan Bangash

Pakistan is the creation of a minority complex. The Muslims in India were fearful of the numerical majority of the Hindus, post the British departure, and therefore wanted a separate homeland for themselves so that they could safeguard their interests. So, in the words of the Muslim League, India was inhabited by only two communities: Muslim and Hindu, where both needed separation. What the Muslim League forgot in this ‘Two Nation’ theory was the fact that the Muslims were not a homogenous community. There were a lot of internal fissures amongst the Muslims and several sections of the Muslim community were oppressed and discriminated against. The Hazaras of Balochistan (and Afghanistan) are one such community. They are Muslim, but they are Shia. They are Pakistanis, but they are of Mongol descent. These simple, yet critical sect and ethnic descent disparities have made them an easy target of Taliban’s attack, both in Afghanistan and Pakistan. -- Yaqoob Khan Bangash

 

Sectarian conflict is not foreign to our historical experience. There was rioting between the more passionate members of the Sunni and Shia communities occasionally even during British rule in India. But for the most part the two communities lived together peacefully in the same neighbourhoods one generation after another. The fact that one person was a Sunni and another a Shia did not stop them from building friendly and cooperative relationships. During the first several decades after independence, folks did not carry their religious belief on their sleeves. They took it in stride. He told them, for instance, that secularists in Pakistan were snakes in the grass who must be located and crushed. This attitude of mind travelled beyond theological interpretations. It endorsed intolerance of the dissident in all areas of social interaction. -- Anwar Syed

 

Three conclusions are obvious. First, the size of the population threatened by the wave of sectarian violence has increased by a wide margin. Secondly, the targeted groups are no longer threatened with loss of job or property; their right to life itself is denied. And, thirdly, the addition of minority-bashing to the Al Qaeda’s agenda has greatly enhanced the strength of the forces that are challenging the state of Pakistan in this regard. Discrimination including violence against communities that are non-Muslim by choice (Hindus, Christians, Sikhs et al) and those put in this bracket against their will (Ahmedis) has been on the increase for several years. That meant about five per cent of the population, or nine million people, were threatened. Even that was not a small number. The addition of the Shias to the people earmarked for extermination should raise the figure of endangered Pakistanis to 15 to 20 per cent of the population — 27 to 36 million people. Does it not put the need to combat sectarianism at the top of the national agenda? -- I.A Rehman

 

On September 20, 2011, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) militants shot dead 29 Shias in two separate incidents in Balochistan. In the first incident, a bus carrying 45 Shia pilgrims, travelling from Quetta, the provincial capital, to Taftan (Iran), came under attack in Mastung. About 10 assailants, riding on a twin-cab pick-up and armed with AK-47 rifles and rocket launchers, intercepted the bus, ordered all the passengers out and then opened indiscriminate fire, killing 26 and injuring another five. An hour after the first attack, militants killed another three Shias, who Police said were relatives of victims of the first incident en route to collect their bodies, on the outskirts of Quetta. Claiming the attack, LeJ 'spokesperson' Ali Sher Haideri declared that his outfit would continue to target people from the Shia community. The lethality and operational successes of the LeJ, over the years, are substantially attributed to its multi-cell structure, with each maintaining limited contact with the others. Each sub-group is responsible for carrying out activities in a specific geographic location. Reports indicate that, after each attack, LeJ cadres disperse and subsequently reassemble at the various bases/hideouts to plan future operations. --Tushar Ranjan Mohanty

 

Over 500 Shia Hazaras have been killed in Balochistan by Sunni extremists in the recent past. In the latest massacre last week, a bus was waylaid 40 miles from Quetta by Lashkar- i- Jhangvi terrorists who lined up its Shia passengers and mowed 26 of them down in cold blood. Two months ago, an extremist leader of a banned organisation was set free from prison because the multi- murder charges against him couldn’t be proved — eight witnesses had been murdered during the trial, the police wasn’t ready to testify and the judges were scared out of their wits. Assassination is the name of the game. In Karachi, over 400 people were killed in the most recent wave of inter- party killings over August and September. -- Najam Sethi

 

One of the more frustrating refrains uttered since Gaddafi's disappearance is that his legacy in Africa is something to be lauded. Like most of Gaddafi's policies, the overtures to black Africa were rooted in clumsy experimentation, and watered by the man's soreness at having being rejected as leader of the Arab world. When his pan-Arab project failed, he turned to non-Arab Africa and set about appointing himself as the magnanimous Arab who had deigned to lead the hapless Africans, a "king of kings". He cynically exploited the historical tension between Arab and black African by playing on emotion and apologising for how Arabs treated Africans, for the invasion of their land, and for the slave trade. Then he set about meddling in their internal affairs, supporting rebel groups and inciting internecine conflict, not out of any loyalty to a cause, but to whichever party flattered his ego and needed his lucre most. -- Nesrine Malik

 

They realise that they belong to a country where apostasy means inviting the risk of death – even if spared by government authorities and courts, a fanatic mob would certainly not. They first tried to make their presence known two years back by making a page about their group on Facebook. On August 14 this year, they launched their website www.e-paa.org that was literally an instant hit. It received more than 17,000 hits in just 48 hours after its launch from 95 countries, including Saudi Arabia. How did the idea to bring together Pakistani atheists on a single platform come up? “When I became an atheist, I honestly thought there were no others like me in Pakistan. Through discussions on various social networking groups and forums, I found a few others like me. So we decided to make this group to find out how many more were out there,” says Hazrat NaKhuda, one of the founding members of the group. For obvious reasons, the PAA members go by pseudonyms to protect their identity. -- Bilal Farooqi

As if widespread kidnappings and deteriorating law, order and sanitation were not enough, the Khadim-e-Aala-led Punjab government, on September 7, allowed yet again a large mass of Ulema to gather in and terrorise the Ahmedi community in Rabwah — officially known as Chenab Nagar lest we recognise that those forced non-Muslims may also worship the same god. In 2002, General Musharraf restored the joint electorate system but the irony is, that while Shias, Sunnis, Christians, Hindus and Sikhs, etc, were put on one general list, a supplementary ‘non-Muslim’ list was prepared for the Ahmedis in particular. In other words, only the Ahmedis are, for purposes of voting, non-Muslims. -- Yasser Latif Hamdani

Since Karachi is facing threats to its multicultural identity, perhaps the most relevant example of its culture of social service is the Orangi Pilot Project. The months-old lawlessness has tested the mettle of Akhtar Hameed Khan’s successors in all the areas of their work — schools, health, micro-credit and urban facilities (water supply, drainage, etc) and they have come out with flying colours. They are helping provincial and local governments with surveys, maps and technical assistance in remodelling urban settlements and designing new ones. Above all, they have offered models of multicultural settlements. Everyday many of their workers travel from one ‘ethnic zone’ to another on their way to office. They do not claim to be free from fear, only their commitment to their mission is stronger. Here is a framework for restoring peace and order in Karachi. (Other cities are not barred from profiting from this model.) -- I.A Rehman

The report is aimed at justifying the establishment’s long-standing Afghan policy, the strategic depth policy that has brought nothing but destruction to the Pakhtun and has created religious bigotry in Pakistan. It is thus no wonder that this elite presents the Pakhtun and the Taliban as a synonym and argues for the accommodation in the future Afghan government set up of those fringe elements of the wider Pakhtun society, the Haqqani Taliban and Mullah Omar’s Quetta Shura, all of which are hardly anything more than proxies of the military establishment of Pakistan. Basically, the report is aimed at justifying the establishment’s long-standing Afghan policy, the strategic depth policy that has brought nothing but destruction to the Pakhtun and has created religious bigotry in Pakistan. The elite is using the notion of the ‘not antagonistic to Pakistan’ government in Afghanistan to camouflage the notion of strategic depth in Afghanistan. They are using the name of the Pakhtun nation to camouflage the Taliban terrorists. -- Farhat Taj

 

Some top level office bearers of PML-N are engaged in supporting the armed persons of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Sipahah-e-Sohabaha Pakistan....... All praises are to God, today they are all armed while some political parties have also perceived this reality that Kalashnikov is a necessary tool to have political supremacy in Pakistan instead of a manifesto. There is no party in Karachi which has no thousands of armed valiant guards. In fact, this armed pollution in the Pakistani political environment has been brought by some military adventurists, who needed support of political and religious parties for the justification of their power. First Jamaat-e-Islami [JI] and other smaller outfits benefitted from this drive. Amongst this anarchic situation in Karachi, the existence of sectarian elements, Taliban and Al-Qa'ida, which are making their presence in the force, cannot be ignored. -- Mujahid Hussain

 

Rwanda? No. It’s Karachi, the financial hub and largest city of Pakistan. The citizens, the traders, the MQM and the ANP may want the army to come in and cleanse Karachi but the government doesn’t want to make that call. It knows it can control the situation because it has a plan. One argument in favour of army deployment is that at least it will quell the current violence. That may be true but the issue is not about mopping the floor, it is about turning off the tap. The last time the army came to Karachi the situation was bad. The operation only created more problems. -- Ejaz Haider

 
Karachi Burning
Najam Sethi

The three- way struggle for turf and power in Karachi among the PPP, MQM and ANP overlaps with violent gang wars among the criminal drug, extortion, arms and land- grab mafias that have come to dominate the underworld of Karachi and established quid pro quo links with each of the three parties. The situation is markedly different and more explosive and complex today. The demographic profile of the city has changed in the last two decades with a steady stream of armed Pashtun migrants from the NWFP, FATA and Afghanistan. These Pashtuns have acquired great clout because of the boom in transportation trade triggered by the American pipeline of 500 container- trucks per day in the last decade to Afghanistan. If the MQM balks at joining the PPP government and refuses to accommodate the legitimate demands of the PPP and ANP in exchange, the stage will be set for fresh bloodletting in Karachi. -- Najam Sethi

 

The general consensus among Karachi'ites and elsewhere is that the violence has its roots in crime because of the covert and overt support extended by the state and almost all political parties to mafias and powerful predatory groups that have largely come to determine the highly weaponised city's urban infrastructure development. The weaponisation can be traced back to U.S. transit of arms to the Mujahideen from the port city during the fight against the Soviets in Afghanistan. While politicians play out their games of survival in the multiethnic city of 17 million people, the writ of the state is nowhere to be seen. --Anita Joshua

 

Although presented in the usual xenophobic and sectarian style of the Urdu Press, the following article tells us how much Mahatma Gandhi and other Indian luminaries respected Maulana Mohammad Ali’s beautiful translation of the Holy Quran, even though any write-up by an Ahmadi scholar is anathema to our illiterate ulema (religious scholars) who are incapable of appreciating anything worthwhile beyond their microscopic vision. Incidentally, Maulana Mohammad Ali is also famous for his excellent exposition of the tenets of our religion in his book “The Religion of Islam”. This book is far more relevant in our times than it was even when it was written. Maulana Mohammad Ali was a contemporary of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad and considered him a Mujaddid (renewer) of Islam rather than a non-law-bearing prophet as many Ahmadis do.  But our so-called ulema do not have the ability to recognize even that distinction. Any appreciation for Mirza Ghulam Ahmad’s brilliant exposition of Islamic tenets is considered blasphemy. New Age Islam posts articles of different points of view for free debate and discussion. In principle, no article should be taken as an endorsement of a point of view. -- Editor

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The recitation of the Quran, Geeta and Bible every morning was a part of Gandhiji’s daily routine. Every day, he studied Muhammad Ali Ahmadi’s English translation of the Quran. It is a matter of research as to who advised him to read Muhammad Ali Ahmadi’s Quran because Muhammad Ali Ahmadi was the greatest flag bearer of Qadianism in the subcontinent who promoted Qadianism with his venomous English writings despite the fact that the English translations of Mohammad Marmaduke Pickthall (1930), Abdullah Yusuf (1934) and Maulana Abdul Majid Daryabadi (1941) had already been published. Notwithstanding this, Gandhiji read only the Quran translated by Muhammad Ali Ahmadi. As a result, the English Quran of Md Ali Ahmadi got wide publicity.This went on.  --- Athar Siddiquee [Translated from Urdu by New Age Islam Edit Desk]

(Photo: Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi)

 
Critiquing Communalism: Re-Thinking Religion
Yoginder Sikand, NewAgeIslam.com

It is crucial, however, that such fairly dominant understandings of community and religion be forcefully challenged, not only because of the very real potential for violence that they contain, but also because more often than not such definitions of community and religion do not at all correspond to empirical reality. Textbook definitions of each religion that such notions of community are predicated on assume that each religion is a homogenous, well-defined entity, which is completely separate from and has no overlaps with other religions, defined in this reified way. This assumption is wholly erroneous. It overlooks the fact that every religion is diversely understood, often in very contradictory ways, by those who claim to be its adherents.  Often, intra-religious sectarian rivalry is much more acute than inter-religious rivalry, a fact that is cleverly concealed when we talk of each religion as a monolithic entity and of each community constructed on the basis of this notion of religion as a single whole containing no internal divisions. This fact very clearly challenges the monolithic notion of religion that forms the basis of the ideology of religious communalism.-- Yoginder Sikand, NewAgeIslam.com

Fanatic Muslims consider Hindu dominated India as "an unfinished chapter of Islamic conquests". I may be recalled that all other countries conquered by Islam became 100% converted to Islam within two decades of the Islamic invasion. India is the exception. Undivided India in 1947 was 75% Hindu even after 800 years of brutal Islamic rule. That is jarring for the Islamic fanatics. Fanatic Muslim attacks have been carried out to target and demoralise the Hindus, to make Hindus yield that which they should not, with the aim of undermining and ultimately to dismantle the Hindu foundation of India. This is the unfinished war of 1,000 years which Osama bin Laden talks about. In fact, the earliest terror tactics in India were deployed in Bengal 1946 by Suhrawady and Jinnah to terrorise Hindus to give in on the demand for Pakistan. The Congress party claiming to represent the Hindus capitulated, and handed 25 per cent of India on a platter to Mohammed Ali Jinnah. Now they want the remaining 75 per cent. -- Dr. Subramaniam Swamy

The Pakistani state’s ‘abduct and dump’ policy in Baluchistan continues as viciously as ever and the recent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) report was a lot of water off duck’s back. Those who put no premium on human lives exhibit callous indifference and care not a whit for reports. The established policy of immunity for state sanctioned atrocities perpetrated from day one is the real reason for continuation of this reign of terror in Baluchistan. Admiral Mullen said, and he must have had good reasons, that Saleem Shahzad’s murder was government sanctioned; he should also have mentioned killings in Baluchistan. In the last ten months, more than 180 such victims have been recovered and not a single case has been investigated, even the assassination of Professor Saba Dashtiari has been conveniently forgotten. -- Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur

 

The consequent and drastic demographic shift embittered the Mohajirs-dominated MQM, which accused the ANP of Talibanising Karachi. On May 11, 2009, the party’s Coordination Committee had alleged that PPP elements in the Sindh Government and ‘criminal elements’ in the ANP were “not only patronising ‘Talibanisation’ in the city” but also “harming the country’s sovereignty”; and further, that the ANP enjoyed the support of some PPP leaders in protecting Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) elements and patronising the drug and land mafia. The problem of violence in Karachi exacerbates further with a huge inflow and circulation of arms. Since 2009, there have been calls for de-weaponisation of Karachi, but the situation has only worsened. On July 6, 2011, Karachi Police recovered 87 Russian made hand grenades from a drum near a flood relief camp situated on the Super Highway near the Sabzi Mandi area. -- Ambreen Agha

Chief among the challenges, from the perspective of the Saudi royal rulers, are the difficulties of preserving stability in the region when autocracies that have lasted for decades are falling one after another; of preserving security when the resultant chaos provides opportunities to all kinds of groups deemed enemies; of maintaining good relations with the west; and, perhaps most importantly of all, of ensuring that Iran, the bigger but poorer historic regional and religious rival just across the Gulf from Saudi Arabia's eastern provinces, does not emerge as the winner as the upheavals of the Arab spring continue into the summer. .....Turki's implicit threat that if Iran looked close to obtaining nuclear weapons, Saudi Arabia would follow suit. -- JASON BURKE

On June 10, 2011, the All Pakistan Students Khatm-e-Nubuwat (End of Prophethood) Federation issued pamphlets branding members of the Ahmadiyya community as "wajib-ul-qatl" (obligatory to be killed). The pamphlet, circulated in Faisalabad District of Punjab Province, read, "To shoot such people is an act of jihad and to kill such people is an act of sawab (blessing)." To identify 1,468 news articles and editorials promoting hate, intolerance and discrimination against Ahmadis in 2010. The monthly Persecution Report for March 2011 stated that the figure of hate literature increased from 1,033 news items in 2008, to 1,116 items in 2009. For instance, Ilyas Chinioti, a member of the mainstream political formation, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), who visited Bangladesh as a lecturer on the "End of Prophethood" in 2005, condemned the Ahmadiyyas as the deviant sect. On January 14, 2010, he was quoted by Daily Ausaf as stating, "Qadianis (Ahmadiyas) are rebels of the country and the millat (Islamic society)." On September 7, 2010, Daily Nawa-i-Waqt, a competitor of the Daily Ausaf in obscurantism, quoted Maulvi Faqir Muhammad, a maulvi in Faisalabad District, declaring, "The penalty of death for apostasy should be imposed (on the Ahmadiyyas)." -- Ambreen Agha

Though the history of caste movements among Muslims can be traced back to the commencement of the Momin Movement in the second decade of the twentieth century it is the Mandal decade (1990's) that saw it getting a fresh lease of life. This decade witnessed the formation of two frontline organisations in Bihar [All India United Muslim Morcha (1993) led by Dr. Ejaz Ali and the All India Pasmanda Muslim Mahaz (1998) led by Ali Anwar] and various other organisations elsewhere. Pasmanda, a word of Persian origin, literally means 'those who have fallen behind', 'broken' or 'oppressed'. For our purposes here it refers to the 'dalit' and 'backward' caste Indian Muslims which constitute, according to most estimates, 85% of Muslim population and about 10% of India's population. BY invoking the category of 'caste' Pasmanda Movement (PM) interrogates the notion of a monolithic Muslim identity and consequently much of 'mainstream' Muslim politics based on it. By and large, mainstream Muslim politics connotes to the elite-driven symbolic/emotive/identity politics (Babri Mosque, Uniform Civil Code, Urdu, AMU and so on) which thoroughly discounts the developmental concerns and aspirations of common Muslim masses. By emphasising that the Muslim identity is segmented into at least three caste/class blocks—namely, ashraf (elite upper-caste), ajlaf (middle caste or shudra) and arzal (lowest castes or dalit)—PM dislodges the commonplace assumption of any putative uniform community sentiment or interests of Indian Muslims. -- Khalid Anis Ansari

The Other Pakistan
Moazzam Husain

As the green revolution tapered off, a poultry revolution began; in the late 1970s. Ever since, Pakistan has been gnawing away at broiler chicken and there’s no turning back. Today a dairy revolution is sweeping Pakistan. As the world’s fifth largest milk producer, the country can only process three per cent of its milk production. Sitting in his factory office in Khanpur — one could have been in any plush office in a metropolis — we open his wireless notebook and download a pre-feasibility study for a milk pasteurising business from Smeda’s website. We glean through it, and at a Rs160m capital outlay it looks doable for him. The ‘go’ decision is made on the spot and my host asks me to recommend a good consultant. In 2009, an NGO distributed young cattle on micro-credit to 1,000 small farmers and built an apex organisation to collect and market milk from these grass-roots. The Dutch consultant for the NGO informs me that a modern farmers’ cooperative model is now evolving. Such models have long been in vogue in Europe and indeed in several developing countries. Usually the extended supply chain ends at farmer-owned retail outlets — co-ops. Why hasn’t this concept gained traction in Pakistan? Several of us seated around the conference table are unable to provide an intelligent answer until one of the NGO’s employee’s mutters something about biradari-based rivalries as the stumbling block. Indeed. After he hanged Bhutto, Ziaul Haq, to keep the PPP out of Punjab, had gone on to fragment politics in this province along biradari lines. -- Moazzam Husain

 
PAKISTAN: Tribal Sacrifice
Tushar Ranjan Mohanty

As the tribal Lashkars succeeded in evicting the TTP from certain settled Districts of KP and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), they increasingly attracted the wrath of the extremists. An unspecified number of tribal elders and pro-Government tribal militia members has fallen victim to a sustained campaign of annihilation that have virtually destroyed the structure of traditional tribal power in these regions. The South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP) database, relying on erratic reportage on the subject in the Pakistan media, records the killing of at least 90 tribal elders since 2005 in 58 incidents. At least 162 militia members were also killed and 172 injured in 38 extremist attacks over the same period. 126 militia members were abducted by militants, and their whereabouts are still unknown.

With the Lashkars at the very top of the TTP hit list, the Government’s apathy and neglect remain inexplicable. There is evidently a measure of mutual distrust and ambivalent loyalties on both sides, underlining, both, the risks of employing private armies of uncertain allegiance, on the one hand, and of state agencies deeply embroiled with particular shades of extremist formations, on the other. -- Tushar Ranjan Mohanty

An imam of an east London mosque has been subject to death threats and intimidation for expressing his views on evolution and women's right to refuse the veil.

Dr Usama Hasan, vice-chairman at Leyton mosque and a senior lecturer in engineering at Middlesex University, ceased delivering Friday prayers after 25 years of service when 50 Muslim protesters disrupted his lecture by handing out leaflets against him and shouting in the mosque for his execution.

Islamic Awakening and other members of the mosque could not be reached for comment. Hasan said the dispute over his suspension would be taken to the charity commission if it was not resolved soon.

"I've been a Londoner all my life and I grew up in that mosque," Hasan said. "I'm very passionate about living our lives in a modern way but, as far as they [my opponents] are concerned, that makes me an extremist. I'm going to have to live with extra cautions for the rest of my life." -- Rowenna Davis

Photo: Dr Usama Hasan has caused uproar with his views on women’s right to refuse the veil and the subject of evolution.

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