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The War Within Islam

We have powerful, all-knowing ringmasters, caged lions, knife-throwers; trapeze artists flying from perch to perch, even cruelty to animals are included. Ours is a circus which looks to be performing its last show before it shuts down – evidenced most clearly by its last act, the clown. The political record of the former cricket star Imran Khan, who is thought to be near to victory due to the backing of Pakistan’s powerful military establishment, has long been one of opportunism and obeisance....

 

Throughout the polling period reports kept coming in, mostly from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, that, women were not being allowed to vote. A few days before the poll the ECP was approached with a complaint that in four districts of KP, the various political parties had signed a compact, ie they had conspired to keep women away from polling stations. Election 2018 did not bring an end to the organised denial of women’s right to franchise. It was, as usual, a contest limited to privileged moneybags and owners of hereditary privilege....

 

It is because as a society, we have internalized and normalized the unfair treatment towards minorities who do not ascribe to the religious beliefs and ethos of our entitled Sunni majority- may it be Ahmadis, Parsis, Christians or Shia Muslims. It is deemed acceptable that a candidate may be harassed regarding his personal views for a religious minority while campaigning in a so-called “democratic state”....

 

Khan’s new Pakistan was going to be a bit like Sweden and a bit like Singapore — or, really, like old Medina: According to him, all welfare state models are borrowed from early Islamic empires. He supports the blasphemy law and has defended the justice system adopted by the Taliban from Pashtun tribes....

 

But Turkey may have bitten off more than it can chew. Security in Afrin is getting worse. A double bombing in June killed nine people. Reports of infighting and looting continue to surface. People in Afrin chafed under YPG rule, a local resident says, but the insurgents who followed are worse. “The Turks must make these monsters go home.”...

 

Against all odds she is struggling to establish secularism and democracy. Though personally she is a practicing Muslim, she believes that religion is for individuals and secularism is for all. To achieve this goal in Bangladesh in its present social and political condition will take time. My Iraqi journalist friend was satisfied but asked me, 'Why don't your government propagate this truth strongly in the world especially in the Middle-east?...

 

In 1924, when King Abdulaziz conquered the Hijaz, one of the most important regions of the Arab peninsula where Mecca is located, he promised an elected council, participatory politics based on the Islamic doctrine of consultation, and absolute freedom. King Abdulaziz denounced fake elections, a nominal parliament and unfulfilled promises to the people. In the elected council that he proposed, the elected members would have the power to check executive action, approve the budget and propose legislation. In 1926, King Abdulaziz drafted a constitution-like document that provided the theoretical framework for a degree of accountability and power-sharing....

The army has also been more visible this time. In 2013, when terrorism was a bigger problem, it deployed 70,000 soldiers to polling stations. There will be 370,000 of them on July 25th. The Election Commission of Pakistan, which oversees the vote, has granted army officers the power of magistrates. This will give them control over proceedings in polling stations....

 

The MML isn’t the only unregistered or proscribed group that is using a different platform to compete in the upcoming polls. A faction of the Ahle Sunnat-wal Jamaat, the political face of the banned Sipah-i-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP), for example, is in the electoral race from the platform of the Pakistan Rah-e-Haq Party. The Tehreek-i-Jafria Pakistan has registered its political front with the ECP as Islami Tehreek Pakistan (ITP)....

 

The rural people of Pakistan don’t have the luxury of weighing ideologies and campaign promises of political parties. Who they vote for is determined by a smile, by a disapproving look from the feudal lord. Tens of thousands of votes are cast for the political party the overlord favours — a choice he always makes after weighing the balance of power. The practice of democracy in the countryside is almost invisible to the television anchors and columnists and other influential urban compatriots who pay American prices for a cup of coffee in Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad....

 

Significantly, TLP, an Islamist party, erupted against the alleged change in the Khatm-e-Nabuwwat [finality of Prophet-hood] clause, and has now underlined its extremist-terrorist orientation. TLP chief Maulana Khadim Hussain Rizvi, who has fielded as many as 152 candidates for the General Elections 2018, declared on July 9, 2018, If they give me the atom bomb I would remove Holland from the face of the earth before they can hold a competition of caricature. I will wipe them off the face of this earth.....

 

This does indeed seem like the only possible course of action left for religious minorities in Pakistan. Perhaps they should leave while they still can, because the Muslim majority in this country will ultimately turn to genocide against them before ultimately killing each other. Ghulam Abbas, the great Urdu short story writer, predicted this much in his classic Hotel Mohenjo-Daro in the 1960s. Soon there will only be ruins left in what was once a young country with great potential....

Nawaz Sharif has accused the deep state of rousing central Punjab’s shrine-connected feudal PML-N loyalists to rebel against him. He alleges that his government was nearly toppled by a foul-mouthed, wheelchair-riding imam of a Masjid heading the Tehreek Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), Khadim Husain Rizvi. Rizvi staged a violent encounter with the police near Islamabad because “the PML-N government had insulted the Holy Prophet”....

 

Pakistanis will not waste a second criticizing Myanmar for their appalling treatment of the Rohingya – and rightly so. The cause of the Palestinians is loudly proclaimed, as are those of Chechens, Bosniaks and Albanians. But on the Uyghurs, all are silent. So what about Muslim solidarity? Muslim solidarity certainly makes for a good and popular slogan for political leaders. And the people are all in favour of solidarity, so long as this requires little sacrifice on their part....

 

The conviction of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif by an accountability court last Friday has set the stage for him to portray himself as the latest martyr for democracy. He has argued, as others have done before him, that he is being punished not for corruption but for standing up to Pakistan’s invisible government — the military-intelligence combine that has dominated the country effectively since 1958....

 

How is it possible for us and the government who always wanted to be seen at the forefront, championing the rights of the Palestinians and other persecuted Muslims, not to feel anguish and pain for the Uighurs and their present state of affairs, their trials, tribulations and torture? If these Uighurs were simply escaping the political persecution of the CCP, they should be protected at any cost, even if it upsets the Chinese to whom the previous government was indebted due to the hundreds of billions in loans. But this is a new dawn for a new Malaysia!...

 

In all this, the highest judiciary of the country has become the butt of jokes on social media, and the society at large. It seems to be collapsing under the weight of its current partnership with the military establishment in the civil-military battle. While taking “Nawaz Sharif to task”, it allowed former dictator Pervez Musharraf to leave the country. It even found a way to force the government to issue Musharraf with a new passport and identity card.....

 

Majlis-e-Ahrar-e-Islam was a religious party closely allied with Indian National Congress during the 1930s and 1940s. While its president Mazhar Ali Azhar himself claimed to be from a Shia background in evidence before the Munir-Kayani Inquiry Committee after partition, the party by and large was a Sunni-supremacist party. In the curious political permutations of pre-partition British India, Ahrars being fiercely anti-British found themselves in alliance with secular socialist Jawaharlal Nehru. One of the key agenda items of the Ahrars was the idea of Khatm-e-Nabuwwat....

 

For the first 23 years after independence in 1947, Pakistanis were denied the right to vote. Since 1970, they have been allowed to vote intermittently but they are still denied the right to vote freely. The upcoming July 25 election in Pakistan has been marred by a series of attacks, some by the judiciary and others by the country’s ubiquitous military-intelligence machinery, aimed at politically decapitating former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his Pakistan Muslim League...

 

Riyadh has not officially announced its quest to wrest control from Jordan of the Temple Mount, home to the al-Aqsa Mosque, Islam’s third most holy site after Mecca and Medina, but evidence is piling up against a backdrop of ever closer relations among Israel, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Bahrain....

 

The military is Pakistan’s most powerful institution which uses both populism and democratic cover to legitimate its dominance, while the civilians are left with little option but to depend on the military to stay in power. Pakistan’s military elite in a furtive understanding with religious right-wing parties uses the weapon of Islamic ideology to tame Afghanistan, ‘bleed’ India and provoke the gullible masses against domestic opponents to the military’s dominance....

 

After all, the “mainstreaming” of terrorists without de-weaponisation, de-radicalisation and re-education could have disastrous consequences for the polity. While India will have to deal with whichever party comes to power, ultimately it will, as always, have to contend with the army’s mindset. What needs to be watched is the depth and breadth of the political footprint of the religious parties, especially the LeT. This will have long-term implications for India....

 

After the Arab uprisings of 2011, King Abdullah bin Abd al-Aziz requested the religious establishment’s support to thwart the challenges that the uprisings posed to Saudi Arabia. The clerics helped him out but got him to increase the budgets of religious institutions, allowing greater repression of any breach of the Sharia in public space, promoting anti-Shiite discourse and muzzling secularist ideas....

Not a single resolution or official document of the Muslim League contained any reference to a promise of an Islamic state. This is a most significant fact given that the voters who were actually going to vote for the elections were not swayed by Barelvi Pirs in remote areas of Punjab but actual literature being circulated. These voters were the men and women of the world who saw in Muslim League an opportunity to build up a strong counter-force to what they feared would be caste Hindu domination at the centre....

 

The Erdogan Revolution is likely to continue in the foreseeable future, but it can’t go on forever. Ultimately, when Old Turkey fully fades and the tide turns against the reactionary excesses of Mr. Erdogan’s New Turkey, a third Turkey may arise: a Turkey where no group is hegemonic, no one feels like a “pariah in your own land” and finally every person is free....

 
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