Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Sinister face of Islamism

Horrific bloodshed in Sufi shrine, mosques

Muslims kill Muslims in name of Islam!

On July 2, suicide bombers attacked Daata Darbar, an ancient Sufi shrine in Lahore, killing at least 44 people who had come to seek blessings. For the first time in 927 years, langar was stopped at the shrine. Some news reports say there were three suicide bombers, others say there were two.

Earlier, on May 28, two Ahmedi mosques in Lahore were attacked by suicide terror squads, owing allegiance to Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, resulting in the death of at least 95 worshippers who had gathered for Friday prayers.

There have been similar terror attacks on mosques and shrines in Pakistan, including a mosque in Rawalpindi frequented by Army personnel and their families -- a 10 year old boy was killed, along with scores, in that attack.

Instead of looking within and coming to grips with the grim fact of Islamist terrorists turning on Muslims in Pakistan, most Pakistanis and the Government of that country continue to live in denial. The Jamaat-e-Islami blames Americans and Blackwater for killings by Islamist terrorists. Others blame India!

Arifa Moen, 32, a teacher in the central city of Multan, told the Pakistani newspaper Daily Times: "Washington is encouraging Indians and Jews to carry out attacks in Pakistan." If a teacher has such perverse views, what will Pakistani children learn? And who will save Pakistan's children from the monsters who kill so remorselessly?

And while denial rules the collective Pakistan conscience, the terrible slaying of Muslims by Muslims continues, ironically in the name of Islam.

Worse, if you dare criticise the outrages, you are labelled an Islamophobe.

Here's my commentary on the issue:

"We Muslims are one community... (my goal was to) injure people or kill people... One has to understand where I’m coming from, because… I consider myself a mujahid, a Muslim soldier.” It’s unlikely the American judge presiding over Faisal Shahzad’s arraignment was quite prepared for such a candid admission of Islamism ├╝ber alles by the would-be Times Square bomber. But this is not the first time that the jihadi impulse has been so baldly stated by those who believe that bloodshed serves the cause of Islam — the more horrific the bloodletting, the greater the piety of the perpetrator of what others consider to be both a crime and a sin.

The Fort Hood killer had no qualms about killing fellow soldiers; the underpants bomber was prepared to die to bring down a trans-Atlantic passenger plane, and Faisal Shahzad was comfortable with the idea of blowing up innocent people in New York’s fashionable Times Square. Before them, Mohammed Atta al-Sayeed had led a dozen hijackers on a suicide mission to terrorise America; in London, young Muslims of Pakistani origin had stuffed their backpacks with explosives and pulled the trigger in crowded compartments of underground trains.

We in India have known for long what the West has discovered to its horror after the twin towers of New York’s World Trade Center were felled on 9/11. Mohammed Ali Jinnah’s sophistry was useful distraction from the Muslim League’s coarse politics of separatism premised on the fundamentals of Islamic exclusivism, intolerance bordering on hatred of the ‘other’, the ummah’s presumed right to rule the world and hoist the banner of Islam atop every capital.

Tragic as the violence that accompanied partition may have been, far worse has since been witnessed. Islamists from Pakistan have struck again and again, in more ways than one, from Kashmir to Kanyakumari. When excessive attention is focussed on 26/11 because it was jihad brought live on television screens, their other crimes tend to be glossed over. For instance the ethnic cleansing of Kashmir Valley. Or the subversion of the Indian Muslim’s mind.

Jinnah was given to lofty speech if not noble thought, but the lesser among the ranks must have sniggered when he declared on August 11, 1947, in a speech that is often quoted by those untutored in Islamism: “You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place of worship in this state of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed that has nothing to do with the business of the state... You will find that in course of time Hindus would cease to be Hindus and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense, because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the state.”

That state is today rapidly sinking into the quagmire of Islamist fanaticism. Pakistan’s citizens have neither ceased to be Hindus and Muslims “in the political sense” nor has the Pakistani state steered clear of religion. The degeneration began within months of the Quaid-e-Azam’s death; a decrepit, derelict Islamic Republic of Pakistan, variously described as the “most dangerous place in the world” and an “international headache”, is now engulfed in the very jihad which it thought would destroy India.

Jinnah was able to wrench out of India what he despairingly (some would say, disparagingly) described as “a moth-eaten Pakistan”; what remains of Pakistan is being gnawed at from within by those who are so consumed by hate that they find the idea of Muslims cohabiting with Muslims an intolerable idea. Nothing else explains why suicide bombers should target worshippers at Daata Darbar, an acient Sufi shrine in Lahore, drenching a saint’s dargah with the blood of the innocent last Thursday, or kill believers gathered at a Rawalpindi mosque. Since by law Ahmediyas are not considered to be Muslims in Pakistan and treated as heretics by mullahs, their slaughter while at prayer, as it happened on May 28, is considered to be nothing extraordinary in the ‘land of the pure’.

So, when Faisal Shahzad says, “One has to understand where I’m coming from,” he means one has to look at Pakistan to understand what drives Pakistanis to kill with such ferocity and cite Islam as the reason. But Pakistan alone does not breed such monsters; look around and you will find that rare is the Muslim-majority country untainted by the violence propagated by Islamism and perpetrated by Islamists. Secular Egypt thought it would render the seeds of Islamism planted by Syed Qutb sterile by executing the man who called for “offensive jihad” as the true assertion of the Islamic identity. But the Ikhwan-ul-Muslimeen has flourished, carrying forth Qutb’s message that “true Islam will transform every aspect of society, eliminating everything non-Muslim”, and that Islam is the “ultimate solution”.

It would be a folly to believe that every Muslim subscribes to Qutb’s interpretation of Islam or that behind every Muslim name lurks a terrorist waiting for an opportunity to strike. For evidence of the deep schism that sets Faisal Shahzad and his ilk apart from those who just want to get on with their lives and live in peace we just need to look at Pakistan. For every suicide bomber there are thousands who are repelled by his act of terror, who weep at the sight of so much blood being shed for nothing. Muslims in Mumbai, let us not forget, refused to allow the bodies of Ajmal Kasab’s slain colleagues to be buried in their graveyards. Such examples abound.

Yet, it would do us no good if we were to gloss over the reality. Islamofascism exists and those who subscribe to it are unfortunately also those who are fashioning policy and influencing society in Islamic countries — individually and collectively. The Organisation of Islamic Conference bears evidence to this: Every time it demands the criminalisation of criticism of Islamist excesses and crimes against humanity because it allegedly “defames Islam”, it strengthens those very elements whom it should be condemning before anybody else does so but won’t because it conflates Islamism and Islam and views the former as a triumphalist, faith-driven assertion of the latter.

It’s easy to demonise critics of Islamism as ‘Islamophobes’ and call for global legislation to curb free speech. But if conceded, this will embolden the Faisal Shahzads and the suicide bombers and the fanatics for whom hate is a virtue and tolerance a sin. Rather than lash out at those who find Islamism abhorrent, its champions should ask themselves a simple question: After “eliminating everything non-Muslim”, what shall happen to ‘everything Muslim’? The terrible sight of Muslims killing Muslims in Pakistan, which was supposed to be the homeland of the Indian sub-continent’s Muslims, should provide a clue to the answer to that question.

[The comment originally appeared as my Sunday column Coffee Break in The Pioneer on June 4, 2010. (c)]

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