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Pakistan Press (18 Jun 2016 NewAgeIslam.Com)

Living in a Fragmented Country like Pakistan: New Age Islam's Selection, 18 June 2016

New Age Islam Edit Bureau

18 June 2016

Living in a Fragmented Country like Pakistan

By Ammara Gul Mustafa

To Be Muslim in Trump’s America

By Zahid F Ebrahim

Orlando Killing: Murder Most Foul

By Syed Mansoor Hussain

Ramadan Today Unity In Hypocrisy

By Zushan Hashmi

Clueless In D.C.

By Irfan Husain

Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau


Living in a Fragmented Country like Pakistan

By Ammara Gul Mustafa 


The recent incident of a father murdering his daughter, Saba and her husband, Karamat Ali, happened within a few days of the incident of a mother who burnt her daughter, Zeenat Rafiq, alive for eloping with a man of her choice whom she wished to marry. This is just another incident amongst many in a series of violence against women. Approximately, 1,000 women were killed in Pakistan in 2015, according to the Pakistan’s Human Rights Commission. And they were killed by relatives who believed that the girls/women had “compromised” their family’s name. A majority of these crimes are known as “honour killings.”

We are plagued by a virus that is deeply embedded in the flawed thought processes of certain “identity groups.” Obviously, these parents were influenced by their own dysfunctional mindsets when they committed these deplorable crimes. Were these so-called parents oblivious to the fact that they took a human life and the law in their own hands? Were they unaware of the fact that 1,400 years ago Islam gave women the right to choose whom they wished to marry? And they certainly did not care that the law of our state has legalised women to marry whomsoever they wished to once they reach adulthood.

According to some surveys conducted recently, such acts are less common amongst the educated/liberal’ segment of our society. These crimes are more common amongst the ones living in remote rural areas or those who have been deprived of proper education and have been raised in a male dominated, patriarchal set-up. In such set-ups, women are taught from a young age that their brothers have a right to education and a better standard of living, and they are being raised merely as chattel that are there only to be a submissive species amongst males.

It is strongly ingrained in these women that their main purpose in life is to be obedient towards their husbands, parents and in-laws, no matter how extreme the torture bestowed upon them is. Their own views, preferences and outlook on how they wish to live their lives are denied to them from the very beginning. I’ve heard, many times, what is said to a number of women by their own parents once they are married, “Do not come back here unless it is in your Janaza (funeral).”

Whereas, education does play a role in grooming a person’s personality and way of thinking, and it is one very important factor that contributes to a person’s upbringing. Social environmental factors and cultural and religious elements that they are raised in are very important attributes that form and shape an individual.

Hence, it is justified to say that this society is divided not only in terms of its diverse cultural aspects, way of thinking, and social and religious standpoints, but also in terms of knowing what fundamental human rights actually are in the true sense of the word. Whereas one segment of our society consisting of male-female human rights activists and parliamentarians are working towards eradication of these crimes, yet another group believes them to be un-Islamic due to their own system of beliefs.

The passing of Women Protection Bill has been a long-awaited step towards empowerment of oppressed women. However, similar bills were passed during the tenures of governments of Asif Zardari, Pervez Musharraf and Benazir Bhutto as well. Having a bill passed is an easy step, having it incorporated and implemented is an entirely different matter. This new legislation faced criticism from some parliamentarians who publically stated that this law would only lead to further divorces.

It is a matter of common sense that no happily married couple opts for divorce, and any parliamentarian suggesting that women should remain in shackles of torment and suffering even if they are being oppressed is of course wrong. All who oppose bills like the Women Protection Bill should be aware of the rights bestowed to women 1,400 years ago by Islam, but alas, they seem to be oblivious to the fact that Islam gave women the clause of khula (right of divorce), and that Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) himself married a divorcee. Zaynab bint Jahsh married Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) after her previous marriage ended. (Source: Sahih al-Bukhari)

In Sahih al-Bukhari (Volume 7, Book 63, Number 197) Ibn Abbas narrates: The wife of Thabit bin Qais came to the Prophet (PBUH), and said, “O Allah’s Apostle! I do not blame Thabit for defects in his character or his religion, but I, being a Muslim, dislike to behave in un-Islamic manner (if I remain with him).” To that, Allah’s Apostle said, “Will you give back the garden that your husband has given you [as mehr]?” She said, “Yes.” Then the Prophet (PBUH) said to Thabit, “O Thabit! Accept your garden, and divorce her at once.”

In Pakistan, there is a strange law that the families of those who murder a human may be granted forgiveness by the other party and reach a mutual agreement. This is another hindrance in decreasing these crimes. Perhaps if a severe penalty was given without any right of negotiation or compensation then others would be hesitant in committing such aggravated acts of murder in the future.

It is appalling to see popular public figures mislead the public and glorify misogyny, when another segment of men and women and parliamentarians are trying their best to enlighten citizens. A famous person like Junaid Jamshed, on national TV, stated that women “should not be allowed to drive cars.” Such views only serve as a catalyst for those elements that already hold women as a “root cause from which all evil is derived.” How is driving a car un-Islamic? It is a historical fact that Hazrat Ayesha (RA), daughter of the first Caliph Abu Bakr, and widow of the Holy Prophet (PBUH), commanded an army battalion in the battle of Jamal (The Camel). Hazrat Ayesha (RA) mounted on a camel, and marched from Mecca at the head of 1,000 men. (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 9, Book 88)

If a camel was the mode of transport for women in Prophet Mohammad’s (PBUH) era, then I cannot comprehend what that makes a car. Is a car something other than a mode of transport, commutation and travelling?

Honour killings are crimes of passion, revenge and show of misplaced manhood, where thinking faculties of people become dysfunctional and they are only overpowered by an emotional reaction, based on their faulty idea of “honour” instilled in them from an early age. Crimes against women can be eliminated from society with the help of inter-governmental organisations, NGOs, human rights activists and clerics of Islam who can propagate enlightened concepts and condemn these outrageous acts as strictly un-Islamic. When severity of punishment is strictly granted to criminals instead of a pardon, things will change. A pathway towards a secular society that Mohammad Ali Jinnah intended to lay the foundations of can be achieved. This would be a society where people of different sects and religious beliefs are free to practise their religion, and live with freedom, unless they are sabotaging another’s right to live with dignity.

Ammara Gul Mustafa is a lawyer, social activist, and an aspiring author

Source: dailytimes.com.pk/opinion/18-Jun-16/living-in-a-fragmented-country


To be Muslim in Trump’s America

By Zahid F Ebrahim

June 17, 2016

In 1944, the US Supreme Court upheld the decision to detain Fred Korematsu under Executive Order No 9,066 issued by President Franklin D Roosevelt. Korematsu, 19 years of age, was among 120,000 US citizens of Japanese ancestry who were removed from their homes and detained at internment centres in California and Arizona. Most Japanese-Americans detained were Christians. Three-fourths were born in the US. Many thousands could not even speak Japanese. But they all looked like the enemy who had bombed Pearl Harbour.

There are no points for guessing who looks like the enemy today for many Americans. If you are Muslim, born in America or have emigrated from Pakistan, Afghanistan or the Middle East, then you fit the description. No amount of Facebook posts condemning the savage attack in Orlando or highlighting the fact that Omar Mateen’s faith had nothing to with the teachings of Islam, a religion of peace, will make much difference.

Omar Mateen mercilessly killed 49 innocent people in a gay nightclub, which he used to frequent himself. The killings are cited as the worst terrorist attack on American soil since 9/11. According to his Afghan immigrant father, it was homophobia that led his son to violence. His former wife cites mental illness. Gun control activists bemoan the ease with which he was able to access deadly automatic weapons. But according to the next president of America, whether Democrat or Republican, the cause is “radical Islamic terrorism”. Under pressure from her rival, even the reluctant Hillary Clinton is now pointing fingers at ‘radical Islamic terrorism’.

According to the presumptive Republican nominee for US president, Donald Trump, “what has happened in Orlando is just the beginning. Our leadership is weak and ineffective. I called it and asked for the ban. Must be tough!” The ban Trump wants is on the entry of all Muslims into America. He also wants to be tough on those who have already gotten in.

How do you get tough? Well, one idea peddled on the fringes of US politics till now, is to repeat what the US did to its Japanese-American citizens after the Pearl Harbour attack. In the aftermath of the San Bernardino shooting last December, where a young immigrant couple from Pakistan shot and killed 14 fellow Americans, Trump was “asked whether he would have supported Japanese internment camps”. He said that he “could not say for certain”.

Despite being investigated and interviewed three times, Omar Mateen was not deemed to be terrorist material by the FBI. It is the failure to understand what drove the New York-born Mateen to commit mass murder in a gay club and the unfortunate inevitability that others may follow in his path that makes the unthinkable thinkable — forced relocation of a stigmatised community.

Trump has not called for interning American Muslims. At least not yet. But, there were other voices, even before Orlando, who supported such proposals for individuals if not the entire community. According to the Oxford-educated, US General Wesley Clark, “It is our right and obligation to segregate [radical Muslims] from the normal community for the duration of the conflict.”

In the months since the terrorist attacks in Paris last November and the mass shooting in San Bernardino last December, “reports of attacks and threats against Muslims in the United States have surged” according to The New York Times. The level of ignorance involved in such attacks is such that vandals spray-painted abusive graffiti that referred to the Islamic State on a Sikh temple.

The American people face a great challenge. In the battle against terror, they must fight the flames of ignorance and fear lest it engulfs their most cherished ideals of freedom. There is much to be learned from the lessons of 1942 when an entire community was stigmatised with collective guilt for the actions of a criminal few.

The voice of Fred Korematsu, the 19-year-old Japanese-American who refused to be detained under Executive Order No 9,066, bears repeating. Many years later, Korematsu told reporters, “I didn’t feel guilty because I didn’t do anything wrong… Every day in school, we said the pledge to the flag, ‘with liberty and justice for all’ and I believed all that. I was an American citizen and I had as many rights as anyone else.”

Source: tribune.com.pk/story/1124841/muslim-trumps-america/


Orlando Killing: Murder Most Foul

By Syed Mansoor Hussain


Politicians in the United States (US) keep asking: why do they hate us? The “they” is all the people in the rest of the world that are directly or indirectly responsible for terrorist activity directed against US “interests.” These politicians conveniently forget all the countries the US and its allies keep bombing into rubble. The only major act of terrorism committed over the last many decades inside the US by “foreign” nationals is obviously what happened on 9/11. Since then most major “terrorist” actions have been carried out by US citizens. As such the question that should be asked is why so many US citizens are so full of hate that they are willing to commit random murders.

Hate crimes are pretty common in the US. And the Lesbian-Gay-Bi-Trans (LGBT) communities have been frequent victims of hate crime. The latest attack on a gay club in Orlando is really a hate crime. There are reports that the attacker, a native born American Muslim, declared his sympathy and allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) just before the attacks, but there is no evidence that he had any direct connections with them. Because of these “declarations” the attack is also being classified as terrorism. Reports have brought out a history of spousal abuse and homophobia. Without indulging in armchair psychoanalysis, it is still fair to say that Omar Mateen had a troubled past. But then everybody with a troubled past does not pick up an automatic rifle and go on a killing spree.

In the minds of most people living in the US including Muslims the big question is what Islam as a religion has to with such outbursts of violence committed by Muslims and directed against fellow Americans. The term used by officials is “radicalisation” of Muslim youth that leads them to terrorist activity. So far most of the Muslims involved in such activity were grown men and not “youths.” In my opinion, radicalising grown up men is rather difficult but what does happen is that as these men grow up they do accumulate grievances against a society for real or imagined slights. And of course, if they are living in the US they do confront things that they believe to be contrary to Islamic values. And that in my opinion is the major problem. The Islamic values being imparted to Muslims in many mosques and Islamic centres in the US are quite conducive to extremist thought.

Many of the older members of different Muslim religious congregations in the US do not pay much attention to what the prayer leaders in these mosques are saying. Many in the first generation of American Muslims grew up in Muslim majority countries, and for most of them what was “happening” in the mosques constituted a relatively small part of the Islamic environment that they lived in. But younger people born or growing up in the US are more susceptible since they do not have a large Muslim society around to balance out what they hear in the mosques. In time these young people absorb these ideas and start to accept extreme points of view. What the Islamic preachers in the mosques are pushing is the lifestyle acceptable to those running Saudi Arabia. Why they do that is an interesting question, and perhaps US authorities need to concentrate on that a bit also.

Here I must blame some of us among the older generation of American Muslims, at least a little bit. Most of us are comfortable with our religious feelings and have little need to monitor what goes on in the mosques and the Islamic centres. So, many of us abandon our children to the sort of extremism being peddled in many of these “Islamic” centres, and don’t really think much about what they are learning. When these otherwise “well-brought up” children suddenly want to emulate men and women in Saudi Arabia, we get confused and cannot figure out why this happened.

When parents abandon their children’s intellectual needs, strange things can happen to those children. Not just that they might become radicalised but they could well swing to the other end of the spectrum. Of course, I am not talking about children being brought up in broken homes or in great poverty and deprivation. Most incidents of excessive religious zeal leading to terrorist attacks in the US have not been committed by people coming from poor backgrounds. The poor have no time for morality; they are just too busy trying to survive.

The “austere” brand of Islam that many of the Islamic centres are pushing and is also being glorified by ISIS and other Islamist sources in social media and on the Internet have some things in common: misogyny, gay-bashing and justified violence against “non-believers”. Mateen evidently imbibed all these lessons and then acted on them. Muslims insist that this particular “lone wolf” does not represent the Muslim community in the US, but they are not willing to repudiate the anti-women, anti-LGBT and pro-jihad sentiments that are openly expressed in the local Muslim environments. It is correct that very few if any Muslims in the US support ISIS or want anybody to commit acts of terrorism in the US. But they are not willing to entirely repudiate the religious ideology that motivates ISIS.

Muslims that call the US home must learn to live with the cultural values and legal norms that surround them. All citizens including women, members of different ethnicities and religious beliefs as well as members of the LGBT community are equal under the law. Unless American Muslims accept these values they will always be malcontent. And Muslim malcontents will be susceptible to radicalisation by extremists. If Muslims in Muslim majority countries can also accept these values then it will be much more difficult for ISIS to find recruits to fight its battles. But then that is a different battle for a different day.

Source: dailytimes.com.pk/opinion/18-Jun-16/murder--most-foul


Ramadan Today Unity in Hypocrisy

By Zushan Hashmi


The holy month of Ramadan (I assure you, Ramzan or Ramazan will suffice as well, I have opted to use Ramadan, though) has arrived once again. According to Muslims, it is supposed to be a time where the ummah (however much of it one believes to exist) comes together in fasting, prayers and communion. In the West, Muslims often go about promoting their belief in God to non-Muslims, along with tolerance and unity that exists within their faith, over the course of this month.

Unfortunately, before the month of Ramadan even begins, Muslims seem to be at each other’s throats, year after year. Therefore, as another year passes by, along comes another edict, issued by over 50 muftis, against Mufti Shahabuddin Popalzai of the Qasim Ali Mosque in Peshawar. Only this time, the Ruet-e-Hilal Committee has likened Popalzai to the Taliban, and also stated that having a dialogue with him “is a waste of time.” This of course, is nothing new, and protests against the Qasim Ali Mosque, in this regard, have consistently taken place for years. However, it does raise the question of why Muslims are not realising that such trivial matters are holding them back from coming closer together, and improving as a community of people.

Similarly, there are more inconsequential issues that often result in explosive barrages by Muslims, especially Pakistani Muslims, and tend to put them at loggerheads with each other. The most prevalent of these, is of course, the ever famous and often ridiculed, Ramadan versus Ramzan argument. This has to be one of the most absurd topics to argue about, anywhere in the world, yet unsurprisingly, it is a common argument in Pakistan. Nonetheless, people who do not understand it will more often than not be baffled by the existence of such a pointless debate.

In fact, a recent satirical video by Pakistani comedian, Junaid Akram, takes a dig at this nonsensical argument in hilarious fashion and perfectly explains this unnecessary conundrum that we have created for ourselves. However, if the argument that Ramadan is the only pronunciation of the word is pushed forth, several Pakistanis, including myself, will have to start pronouncing our names differently, because they happen to be words with Arabic roots, which cannot be “correctly” pronounced in Pakistani languages. Maybe, we can start using our minds for more important matters, such as eradicating such obstinate views from thought processes of our society.

Nevertheless, this miniscule example does help shed some light on why Muslims and Pakistan as a nation have fallen so far behind in pretty much every form of progress, be it through science, the arts or even sport. The fact that we are unwilling to accept positions of others on topics we ourselves do not seem to aptly understand is hypocrisy at its very finest. And this only leads us on a dangerous path towards bigotry, ignorance and intolerance. All of which disallows us from progressing as human beings. After all, interpretations, diverging views and differences in opinion, are an inherent part of human nature. And the history of Islamic faith has also served as an example in explaining this very aspect of human thought.

Since the passing away of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH), which took place over 1,400 years ago, there has been one consistency amongst Muslims, much like the aforementioned examples, and that is consistent arguments or differences (as mentioned, it is also the case with any other movement, faith or belief system). Only in the case of the Sunni-Shia divide it has expanded significantly, often through political manipulation, and has, unsurprisingly, resulted in violence, Takfiri (a Sunni Muslim who accuses another Muslim or an adherent of another Abrahamic faith of apostasy) and killings.

However, this is simply another example of how Muslims have become highly intolerant today, especially when it comes to divergence of opinion, amongst several other things, and the differences that will always manifest between people, no matter what situation is put in front of them. Rather than arguing over issues long past, would it be wrong to consider these differences in opinion, as the very essence of Islam, much like the diverse set of principles, values and ideals that Muslims across the world hold onto and believe in?

Maybe so, but until we do not stop worrying over who has sighted the Ramadan moon correctly, and whether saying Ramadan is better than Ramzan, and vice versa, it is difficult to see us breaking away from differences that have been justified as means to kill, shame and call others kafirs (infidels). Alas, another Ramzan will pass by, and we will be hiding our bigotry under so-called unity and communion, for several years to come.

Zushan Hashmi  is a research coordinator at the South Asia Study Group

Source: dailytimes.com.pk/opinion/17-Jun-16/ramadan-today-unity-in-hypocrisy


Clueless in D.C.

By Irfan Husain

June 18th, 2016

WHEN we have tense relations with three of our four neighbours, clearly our foreign policy cannot be deemed to be a brilliant success.

As a further mark of its abject failure, we have been unable to sustain good relations with our principal benefactor and the world’s sole superpower, the United States. The goal of any foreign policy is to maintain good ties with neighbours; to promote security and trade; and to enhance the country’s image abroad.

By all these measures, successive governments since the 1980s have failed. Even when 9/11 gave us a chance to rehabilitate ourselves in the world’s eyes, we chose to continue using jihadists and mercenary militants as proxies to further our agenda in Kashmir and Afghanistan.

One problem elected governments have faced in implementing a consistent foreign policy rooted in national self-interest is that over the years, the military has succeeded in wresting effective control of its direction and goals. And as we know, our generals view the world exclusively through the prism of the perceived threat from India.

Being without a lobbyist in the US has not helped us.

Thus, they have torpedoed Nawaz Sharif’s earlier attempts to promote trade with our neighbour, as well as India’s and Afghanistan’s request for overland transit. This has inevitably led to an Indo-Iranian deal for Indian access to Afghanistan via the Iranian port of Chabahar. Talk about own goals.

Another problem in fashioning a coherent foreign policy is Pakistan’s evolution into a security state. When we see threats everywhere, we lose sight of opportunities. There was a brief window, shortly after 9/11, when we could have cooperated wholeheartedly with the US in crushing the Afghan Taliban. This would have reduced the threat of the militancy that subsequently took root in our tribal areas.

By playing the ‘good Taliban’, ‘bad Taliban’ game that allowed groups including the Haqqani network to set up bases on our soil and use them to attack targets in Afghanistan, we have ended up with a lethal home-grown threat, as well as strained relations with Washington. So when we are unable to obtain the F-16s we sought from America, we know the reason.

Our other current gripe with the US is that country’s support for Indian admission to the Nuclear Suppliers Group. This, our Foreign Office argues, would tilt the strategic balance in India’s favour. We also resent the continuing American pressure to rein in our growing nuclear arsenal.

But we forget that these concerns spring from our past record of nuclear proliferation. After A.Q. Khan confessed to selling designs and equipment to Iran, Libya and North Korea, nobody believed the official line that he was acting alone. To demand admission to the NSG after this murky episode is to live in cloud cuckoo land.

Most countries base their foreign policy on self-interest. In Pakistan, apart from an overwhelming security dimension, ideology is also a dominant factor. Thus, while we rightly support the Palestinian cause, for example, we refuse to see that unnecessarily making an enemy of Israel weakens our case in Washington. Arab states, on the other hand, deal with Israel both formally and informally in their self-interest.

For some bizarre reason, this government has discontinued the practice of hiring a lobbying firm in Washington. When I worked at our embassy in the US capital in 1989-90, we dealt closely with Mark Siegel’s firm. Though he was a controversial figure in Pakistan due to his close friendship with Benazir Bhutto, the fact is that he had very close links with the Democrats, and counted many journalists among his friends. Our embassy received detailed reports on the thinking in Con­gress, as well as on media coverage of Pakistan.

American law permits paid professionals to lobby lawmakers on behalf of states, corporations and individuals. These lobbyists are often ex-congressmen and retired civil servants who know how the system works, and are often on first-name terms with key congressional committee members. These players are wined and dined by lobbyists at Washington’s best restaurants, and if the budget permits, are invited to expensive jaunts to regions where clients have an interest. If this sounds like institutionalised corruption, that’s exactly what it is.

Tariq Fatemi, the prime minister’s special assistant on foreign affairs, has worked in Washington and knows how the system there works. So the absence of a lobbyist is doubly surprising. Nawaz Sharif, despite his insistence on retaining the foreign minister’s portfolio, is generally clueless about international relations, so his decision not to appoint a lobbyist displays his insecurity. According to a report in this newspaper, he shot down a proposal from GHQ because he feared the lobbyist would promote our military in Washington.

Given this paranoia and our many hang-ups, it should surprise nobody that our foreign policy is such a mess. Ultimately, no diplomat or lobbyist can successfully market a bad product.

Source: dawn.com/news/1265485/clueless-in-dc

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