Books and Documents

Radical Islamism and Jihad

Islamists’ deceitful politics of death

Pro-Islamist media have been helping to ensure that the venom spreads as far as possible. In a June 16 article, Riyaz Masoor, editor, Rising Kashmir, suggested that the victims “represented the nation Kashmir and the rapists represented the state of India; it was the Hindu India raping the Muslim Kashmir.” Mr. Masoor accused the Indian Army, which until now has not been alleged to have played any role in the Shopian deaths, of going “on a raping spree.” “Let them carry a poison pill with them,” he advised the State’s women: “if, God forbid, they are caught, let them swallow the poison and embrace death and defeat the evil military man of the world’s largest democracy.”…

Last year, Kashmir’s people decisively rejected Mr. Geelani’s communal chauvinism and defeated his demand for a boycott of the Assembly elections. The candidates they elected, though, have so far shown little integrity or commitment to those they represent: both the National Conference and the PDP have sought accommodation with Islamist secessionists. They must summon up the courage to take on Mr. Geelani — or risk being swept away by the rising tide of hate. -- Praveen Swami


History is bunk, said Henry Ford. To which another aphorism could be added: literature is literature, and shouldn't be mistaken for reality. Historical and literary precedent is freely and mistakenly being bandied about in a good deal of international commentary on Afghanistan, whose thrust is that modernity is fated to fail in that country (even if the rest of the world has embraced it). Putting material and human resources at Afghanistan's disposal, such 'liberal' opinion claims, is a futile attempt on the part of the international community. ...

Obama's Af-Pak strategy, however, brings about a shift of focus that could reverse some of the damage done. What's needed is patient and open-ended engagement with the people of the region, whether in Afghanistan or in Pakistan's tribal areas. They must be provided security, along with help in building roads, schools, hospitals and modern state institutions. That's what it will take to turn the tide against transnational jihadis operating out of the region. Leaving South Asia at peace, while Kipling's ghost could finally be laid to rest. -- Swagato Ganguly 

In a thoughtful 2002 essay, scholar Saeed Shafqat noted that groups like the Jamaat-ud-Dawa had profoundly influenced Pakistan’s “process of identity formation.” “Negating Islamic identity,” he argued, “is equated with opposing Pakistan.” “Over the years,” Shafqat argued, “the religio-political groups have become not only militant in responding towards imagined or real enemies — ‘the West’ or ‘India’— but have also become the champions of ‘Pakistan ideology’.”

Elite-led political organisations have failed to mount a coherent ideological challenge to this project — or to address the conditions in which Islamist groups have flourished. Lashkar recruitment in southern Punjab is known to prey on the increasingly angry children of landless peasants and the urban poor. In Pakistan’s north-west, too, disputes over land, resources and development have fed and informed the rise of the Taliban.

Handing out aid will do little to solve these crises. Writing in The Washington Post, scholar C. Christine Fair noted that the U.S. handouts had “allowed Pakistan to avoid having to choose between guns and butter.” “Such choices,” she argued, “define the democratic process. But successive Pakistani governments have successfully wagered that chronic instability and the imminent dangers of terrorism and nuclear black-marketing would leave the world with no choice but to bail them out, regardless of their failures.” She concluded: “The world needs a smarter way to help Pakistan.” -- Praveen Swami


What is being overlooked, meanwhile, is the fact that what the world is fighting against in the Af-Pak area is a dangerous ideology. The terrorists believe it is their manifest destiny to spread their cult around the globe, and that this agenda can be achieved through terrorism.

The US, by proposing the contact group consisting of the European Union, Russia, China, India, Iran, Central Asian Republics and Saudi Arabia, has already acknowledged the global nature of the problem. The contact group could develop a global approach, on the basis of which various nations facing the jihadi threat could offer specific help. India, on its part, has invested a billion dollars worth of aid in the development of infrastructure in Afghanistan and has lost its people to terrorism.

The US's staying power in Afghanistan, and its ability to mobilise meaningful international support, will depend on how it conceptualises the global nature of the Taliban threat, and Washington's ability to persuade the Pakistani army to accept such an assessment. While the Pakistani army was responsible to a large extent for nurturing this Frankenstein, the US, too, bears significant responsibility. Today, to save Pakistan, Afghanistan, the rest of the world, and the fair name of Islam, the jihadi threat has to be fought against in a spirit of global cooperation. And in this campaign, Pakistan and Afghanistan are the main battlefields. -- K Subrahmanyam

Let’s just say it: The U.S. first allowed Pakistan to acquire the nuclear bomb by turning a blind eye to its illicit procurement of blueprints and items during the 1970s and 1980s. Then, when the clandestine nuclear importers morphed into covert nuclear exporters, the U.S. admittedly failed to detect their proliferation activities for 16 long years. Worse still, as shown by A.Q. Khan’s release from house arrest and the collapse of international investigations, Washington has not been interested in fully investigating that ring or in bringing its ringleaders to justice.

Safeguarding WMD demands a stable, moderate Pakistan. That, in turn, calls for sustained international political investment in building and strengthening civilian institutions. But is that possible without a clear break from politically expedient U.S. policies that continue to prop up a meddling army, fatten the ISI and encourage the military, intelligence and nuclear establishments to stay not accountable to the elected government? Even Secretary Clinton was constrained to admit that “our policy toward Pakistan over the last 30 years has been incoherent.” The most likely scenario of Pakistani WMD falling into Islamist hands is an intra-military struggle in which the jihadists gain ascendancy. -- Brahma Chellaney

"They call everyone else a kaafir", said a typically conservative looking young man at an anti-Taliban protest in Islamabad the other day. Sporting a skull cap, a beard and ankle-high shalwaar — he spoke confidently, "They are the state, the Constitution and the judiciary and what’s worse is that they use guns to achieve their goals". Contrary to what many urban dwellers think about the "religiously" attired people, there are numerous religious schools and organisations that stand against the philosophy of the Taliban. ... ... Abu Bakr, a boy of class 8, spoke fluent English and talked about the destruction caused by the Taliban: "I think there is not a single Pakistani who says that terrorism is right because it is damaging our country and as far as I am concerned I’m really conscious about what is happening to my country".

There will always be grey areas when it comes to religion. But in a time when we need general consensus against extremists, it is important to separate the extremist fringe from the truly devout Muslims who believe in tolerance, peace and compassion for all mankind. -- Nosheen Abbas

Controversial ideologue Abdul Aleem Islahi helps make sense of Indian Mujahideen story

By January 2007, Islahi was alarmed enough by these activities to suggest (Mufti Abdul) Bashar leave his job. Bashar then started work at the magazine Nishaan-e-Rah — a name from Islamist ideologue Sayyed Qutb’s seminal work, Milestones, which fired the minds of figures such as Osama bin-Laden and Abdullah Azzam. Later that year, Bashar moved to New Delhi, resuming contact with city-based SIMI cadre — who, the Gujarat Police say, he motivated to join the Indian Mujahideen.

Islahi appears to have little sympathy for the jihadists who disregarded his advice. “These young men,” he says, “had little of the training needed to understand Islam. They did not know Arabic, and had never studied theology. And they did not understand that the purpose of Islam is not to subjugate the infidel, but, rather, to change his outlook and world view.” -- Praveen Swami


They are creating a widening pool of young minds that are sympathetic to militancy…. education has never been a priority here, and even Pakistan’s current plan to double education spending next year might collapse as have past efforts, which were thwarted by sluggish bureaucracies, unstable governments and a lack of commitment by Pakistan’s governing elite to the poor.

… But if the state has forgotten the children here, the mullahs have not. With public education in shambles, Pakistan’s poorest families have turned to madrasas, or Islamic schools, that feed and house the children while pushing a more militant brand of Islam than was traditional here.

The Islamic schools are also seen as employment opportunities.

“When someone doesn’t see a way ahead for himself, he builds a mosque and sits in it,” said Jan Sher, whose village in south-western Punjab, Shadan Lund, has become a militant stronghold, with madrasas now outnumbering public schools. Poverty has also helped expand enrolment in madrasas, which serve as a safety net by housing and feeding poor children.

“How can someone who earns 200 rupees a day afford expenses for five children?” asked Hafeezur Rehman, a caretaker in the Jamia Sadiqqia Taleemul Quran madrasa in Multan, the main city in south Punjab. The school houses and feeds 73 boys from poor villages.

Former President Pervez Musharraf tried to regulate the madrasas, offering financial incentives if they would add general subjects. But after taking the money, many refused to allow monitoring.

“The madrasa reform project failed,” said Javed Ashraf Qazi, a retired general who served as education minister at the time.

Suicide bombings were neither encouraged nor condemned. The ideology may be rigid, but it offers the promise of respect, a powerful draw for lower-class young men. -- Sabrina Tavernise


The music market vanished, too. All 400 shops. The owner of one had converted it into a kebab joint. "This is sharia," he spat at his grill, which hissed with more smoke than fire. Across from his stand, a barber had hung the obligatory "No un-Islamic haircuts, no shaves" sign and was taking an early morning nap, his face covered with a newspaper. This, I was told, was the price of peace.

As a Taliban insurgency gains strength in Pakistan, my country seems to be preparing to surrender. In areas where the Taliban formally hold sway, such as Swat, people have bowed to their guns. And in the heartland, in Punjab and other regions, there is a disquieting acceptance of the inevitability of the Taliban's rise to power. Over the past two years, Pakistani civil society has driven a military dictator from power and managed to force an elected government to restore our top judges to the bench. But when it comes to the Taliban, it seems incapable of speaking with one voice. - Mohammed Hanif

The Talibans’ excesses and their threats to impose their brand of Shariah on the whole of Pakistan have not gone unchallenged. Intellectuals have been very critical. But the Pakistan government seems confused. On the one hand, it has signed an agreement with the Taliban; meanwhile, it bombs Taliban targets in other parts of the country. It almost appears to be a clever move to use the Taliban threat to secure billions of dollars in aid. But perhaps such strategies too have nothing to do with Shariah. -- Ishtiyaque Danish


Pakistani state seems remarkably unwilling to fight back Islamic fundamentalism

“Whosoever takes part in jihad against India, Allah will set him free from the pyres of hell” Lashkar-e-Taiba ideologue Muhammad Ibrahim declared a decade ago. For years, the Pakistani state used its resources to ensure that jihadists like Ibrahim did not have to wait until afterlife to profit from their actions. Nurtured by power, Pakistan’s jihadist movement grew into a formidable beast. Now, the beast appears poised to bite the hand that has for so long fed it.

Despite the threat, the Pakistani state seems remarkably unwilling to fight back — a phenomenon that has caused no small amount of bewilderment among analysts and commentators across the world. In fact, the military-dominated state apparatus could prove to have a better comprehension of reality than its critics. Pakistan’s jihadist movement does indeed seek power, but not a state. It poses no threat to the alliance of the military and the mullah, which shaped Pakistan’s destiny. -- Praveen Swami


Islamist movements will succeed or fail largely "on the basis of their ability to offer a clear alternative social and economic vision from the Western model for the distressed and poor in their societies," he writes. The Islamist revolution is in its early days, he concludes, and the coming period will see considerable fluidity, tension and change.

This is one of the most substantial and useful books on Islamism to appear in a generation. It may not change many minds among those who support or oppose Islamist movements, but it will provide a combination of clarity and factual information about this phenomenon that has been sorely missing from the debate. -- Rami G. Khouri


If Obama is going to talk about "good Taliban" in Afghanistan, Pakistan certainly has the right to make political negotiations to get a cease-fire. The human impact of the last 3 years on Swat valley has been intense - over 300,000 have fled.... So, there is no love lost between the centre and Baluchistan. ... Sindh, Karachi, and the Mohajir Qaumi Movement (MQM) are another beeswax. Only recently, rumours were afloat that Musharraf was cutting a deal with MQM and giving them autonomy under a federated Pakistan. ... there is a world of difference between a specific political group, however broadly defined, which can be numbered in the thousands and a state of 160-plus million people.

The people of Pakistan have demonstrated, through a number of elections over the last 60 years, that they do not want their religious leaders in political power. There is no dismissing that reality. -- Manan Ahmed


The surrender of Swat politically was as humiliating as that of Dacca was militarily. It matters not that Adl is good or bad, barbaric or Islamic; or that court judgements will be super-quick or delayed; or whether presiding officials are called Qazis or Justices. What matters is that the agreement was extracted by force and specifically by the slaughter, amputations, abductions, rape and terrorising of innocent citizens.

Again it matters not that once upon a time the laws and practices under Adl existed as part of the customary law of Swat. So did suttee in India; infanticide in Arabia and karo-kari in Pakistan but they will never be enacted into law notwithstanding demands of locals or a parliamentary resolution. But it is unconscionable that Swati women should be denied education and work when no less a person than the Prophet (pbuh) permitted it in Islam.

Muslim Khan, the ubiquitous Taliban spokesman announced gleefully that there would be more executions, showing off a list of those the Taliban want to try under the new Adl Courts. His list included senior government servants, a woman whose husband serves in the US military and many others.

Already Swat is full of Taliban militants, who in due course will invite drone attacks. They will go about their deadly task; in which case Nizam-e-Adl will have brought death and destruction rather than peace to Swat. -- Zafar Hilaly

What has a bunch of dervishes whirling round a fire got to do with down-and-dirty politics and shady wars among nations? A lot, if you are fighting a lost battle in the area of darkness that stretches from Lahore to Mingora, to Jalalabad and beyond — where religion is used as fuel for the engines of war. As the Pakistani Taliban appears to tighten its noose around the country’s neck, Islamabad is trying to open a new front —faith wars between two strains of Islam. This lies in the hope that the deep-rooted Sufi tradition would help to halt the al-Qaida/Taliban juggernaut — driven by Wahabism. -- Shobhan Saxena


Mr Zardari wants nothing less than a Marshall Plan to bail out Pakistan and stabilise his PPP government. But the US is tying money and weapons to a proper quid pro quo from the army and ISI on the war on terror. But the army and ISI are not ready to accept Mr Zardari’s pro- US prescriptions because of long- held views on regional security and national interest that are not acceptable to Washington. So he is being compelled by the US to turn to Mr Sharif and bring him into the loop because of his popular backing. But Mr Sharif has his own agenda. He has the ear of the Saudis and is using their money and clout to guarantee a passage back to power at the expense of Mr Zardari sooner than later. Which power or actor will ultimately prevail and what will be the fate of Pakistan in these tumultuous times remains to be seen. -- Najam Sethi


The state will be punished for having allowed terrorist elements to rule Swat. In the coming days, the Taliban will institutionalise their presence and convert the region adjoining Swat into a satrapy completely insulated from the rest of Pakistan. The consequences of that will be predictably destructive for the state of Pakistan. -- Editorial in Daily Times, Lahore  Pakistan


What the Taliban ideology means

The footage recently made public showing the flogging of a girl in Swat and the execution of a man and woman in their 40s reportedly in the Hangu district must have sickened anyone with respect for human rights and dignity. As such, these videos constitute a graphic reminder of the fact that behind the rhetoric of religion, the real face of the Taliban is one of unmixed brutality and murderousness....

Given this, it is alarming that Pakistan’s state and society continue to bury their heads in the sand and resort to denial of either specific acts of brutality or the threat in general posed by the Taliban. -- Editorial in Dawn, Karachi


AUGUST 11, 1947, in the constituent assembly of Pakistan at Karachi: “You may belong to any religion or caste or creed — that has nothing to do with the business of the state.” — Founder and maker of Pakistan Mohammad Ali Jinnah.

Deliverance into the hands of the theocrats came a mere six months after the death of Jinnah, the delivery made by the man who had succeeded him as the leader of his nation. The Objectives Resolution was adopted on March 12, 1949 by the constituent assembly of Pakistan, proposed by the Prime Minister, Liaquat Ali Khan. It clearly and unambiguously declared that religion had much to do with the business of the state. There could be no recovery, as history has proven over the past 60 years.

Gen. Zia’s use of Islam for political purposes was meant partly to drum up support for the Mujahideen in Afghanistan, and partly to create terror and render the populace incapable of protest against oppression. This is what the Taliban are also doing. They have in the past deliberately videotaped such punishments and circulated the footage. In March 2007 Taliban in Khyber Agency publicly stoned and then shot dead a woman and two men on charges of adultery. They videotaped the shooting and circulated it — footage even the most sensationalist channel would think twice about broadcasting. The ‘Swat flogging video’ is an aberration only in that the local media broadcast it. One reason for the broadcast (conspiracy theories aside) was that the footage, while horrific, involved no blood or limbs being lopped off. -- Beena Sarwar


The Khilafah, the only choice, not a utopian dream

With NWFP, Balochistan and Karachi all teetering at the edge, the US has a once in a generation opportunity to turn Pakistan into a balkanised hell hole....

Only the tried and trusted Islamic system of the Khilafah (Caliphate) can succeed in the Muslim world. A coherent effort at re-establishing the Khilafah is now the urgent requirement and is gaining momentum. According to an opinion poll carried out by the University of Maryland, 74% of Pakistanis support the establishment of a unified Khilafah in the Muslim world, the establishment of such an entity is therefore not a question of if, but when....

Many cite the Khilafah as a utopian dream, yet those in the know are not so sure. A US government intelligence study by the National Intelligence Council in 2004 called “Mapping the Global Future” presented as one future scenario the rise of a new pan-national Caliphate. Thomas Ricks the Washington Post’s senior Pentagon correspondent in his book “Fiasco” says there is precedent for the emergence of a unifying figure in the Muslim world, a modern day Saladin, someone who can revive the region through combining popular support with huge oil revenues. A real “nightmare scenario” for the western world as Richard Nixon once described it in his book 1999.

One can understand a post-Iraq America's reluctance towards wars that seem straight out of Kipling. But we in the region have to live with the political consequences of superpower intervention, and the casual legitimacy that Obama is offering to a destructive ideology will create blowback that spreads far beyond the geography of "Afpak". -- MJ Akbar

...it is necessary first to appreciate the imagined Islam of the Taliban as an act of construction rather than reversion. Doing away with hundreds of years of jurisprudence of Classical Islamic law, of administrative procedures and methods of reasoning, of sources of law and juristic analysis, the Taliban has redefined Sharia as a performative tableau rather than a jurisprudential exercise. An entire judicial system thus is reduced to the application of hadd punishments, floggings, beatings and amputations. Thus the Qazi, arguably the most integral of those involved in justice provision, is nearly always invisible, while the crowd, the victim and those meting out a punishment play a central role. Justice is redefined as a means to subjugate and punish, with the entire collective crowd partaking in its pornographic enactment. There is no mention of the basis of the Islamic law applied, the deliberations which led to the application of the punishment, or any form of legitimacy that would associate the punishment with being Islamic. It is instead the anti-modernity of the whole spectacle, the absence of institutional safeguards, that makes the scene Islamic. The calculation is simple and persuasive: the more visibly different from the epithets of modernity that the Taliban can be, the more automatically Islamic it becomes. -- Rafia Zakaria

Time Sana’a reined in fundamentalists

What is more dangerous is that tribes legislate for the culture of violence both directly and indirectly. They target state interests and behave outside of the legitimacy of law. These tribes are assisted by some who use religion for their own twisted purposes. This is what happened when a man in the Ministry of Youth and Sports issued a fatwa stipulating that celebrating Mother’s Day is illicit because it imitates Jews and Christians, as he said.

In addition, a preacher at a mosque considered the Parliament members to be unbelievers (Kafirs) after they passed a law that determines the legal marriage age to be 17 years. He said that this act is blasphemy, as legislation comes only from God and not from human beings. Fatwas such as these prompt youths – particularly frustrated youths – to resort to violence and suicide.

In fact, the government’s remissness with such people makes us suffer from a backward mentality that doesn’t believe in reason. Rather, such a mentality believes in killing and destroying the laws, principles, and values that are the basis of solidarity in society. Security forces are aware of what is going on, yet they believe that such groups don’t constitute a true security threat. However, many groups were weak in the past, but because they were left alone they turned into strong fanatics. -- Adel Al-Shuj’a

Don’t blame US drones for suicide bombers: they are the product of Pakistani policy of “strategic depth”

Baitullah is not the product of drones neither his suicide bombers nor the rest of his entourage……they are the products of the policy of “strategic depth” achieved under the successive reigns of the moguls of GHQ. While Pakistan Army is going low on testosterone Pushtoons are left to mend for themselves.  The supply lines for NATO didn’t create Taliban; supply lines were established with agreement of the so called representative government of Pakistan to fight against the Taliban. Those of you, who believe it’s only an American imperialist war, let me remind you that war in Afghanistan was sanctioned by the UN. Equating it to any other war is unreasonable.

In Pashto there is a saying “ Che Marg raashi no Sarey Tabaey Ta Ghara Kegdi”  “when faced with death and fever one ought to choose fever”  In the current context I would like to accept the “fever” of drones against an imminent  annihilation by the Taliban! -- Arshad Haroon


There is something sinister at work here. There is an unacceptable cruelty disguised as spirituality that is eating away at the fabric of our country and society. There has been a slow, steady, sustained hijacking of concepts of nobility in our religion to use them as tools of repression, oppression and fear. It is the logic and hypocrisy of the Taliban when they punish only girls and not boys for the same act of "immorality,” under the guise of Islam. It is the logic which says that televisions and videos should be banned, except when their spokesman has to give an interview, or the immoral women have to be given a dose of their version of Islam. It is the logic which prohibits vulgarity and obscenity to protect our morality, but circulates videos of beheadings and shootings to young children to show them the world in its complete and total horror.

The Taliban have fed off the United States’ unpopularity in Pakistan and the globe. They have fed off the hypocrisy in foreign policy that permits and endorses the massacre of Palestinian lives to protect Israeli ones. They have fed off the lies that were told blatantly to the United Nations Security Council as a pretext to invade a country inhabited by Muslims. They have fed off the swagger and arrogance of a president who tortured and drove pri

One of the major problems is that the Americans, in search of quick policy options, are considering opening negotiations with a section of the Taliban described, for the sake of expediency, as ‘moderate’ Taliban or ‘good’ Taliban. Should this happen, this would amount to a strategic defeat for the US, as it would be negotiating with weaker adversaries from a position of weakness, having failed to militarily defeat them. Pakistan, by being truculent and duplicitous with its main benefactor, will have achieved its strategic ambitions. If that were to happen, India would be the biggest geo-strategic loser in the Hindu Kush region. -- Vikram Sood

 It was only a few years ago that Laura Bush, who normally shied from causes that could be considered controversial, took up their banner. “The brutal oppression of women is a central goal of the terrorists,” the first lady said in a radio address shortly after President Bush launched the U.S-led invasion to overthrow the Taliban following the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. “The plight of women and children in Afghanistan is a matter of deliberate human cruelty, carried out by those who seek to intimidate and control.”

That was then. This is now: Afghan President Hamid Karzai has just signed a law that forces women to obey their husbands’ sexual demands, keeps women from leaving the house—even for work or school—without a husband’s permission, automatically grants child custody rights to fathers and grandfathers before mothers, and favors men in inheritance disputes and other legal matters. In short, the law again consigns Afghan women to lives of brutal repression. -- Marie Cocco

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  • At this rate Hats Off may soon get some insight into his unquenchable hatred of Muslims.
    ( By Ghulam Mohiyuddin )
  • This is the time when the anti-Muslim hate propaganda of the BJP/RSS is at full blast to cover up for the absence of any acchhe ...
    ( By Ghulam Mohiyuddin )
  • Excellent book review! As the reviewer says, "secularism cannot be used as a pretext to ignore discrimination on grounds....
    ( By Ghulam Mohiyuddin )
  • Very true.
    ( By Sahab Ali Khan )
  • Read Ghulam Mohiyuddin Sb's comment. He is saying the same thing. So, can you speak of acceptance rather than tolerance? Will the Muslims accept ...
    ( By Naseer Ahmed )
  • Naseer sb, You always express your wrath by the word ‘bigoted’. It is your style and I should ignore it with the faith in this ...
    ( By Ghulam Ghaus Siddiqi غلام غوث الصديقي )