Monday, December 14, 2015


This is a good time to bring about change
If you are forced to stick your head in the water closet now and then, that would be unfortunate, but thenceforth you would make sure the loo is clean. The situation on the ground is similar in that it makes you examine and hopefully fix some issues. A year ago, on 16th December, there was a terrible massacre at the Army Public School in Peshawar. In fact, all across the world, from the shootings in California to the blasts in Beirut and the carnage in Paris, people are living through awful events. If there is anything positive about such things, it is only that they make people more prone to introspection which makes this a good time to bring about change, to achieve peace in the region and in the world.
A retired army officer was shot dead in Lahore last week. His first name was Ali. The TTP claims responsibility. Until investigations say otherwise we presume this was a sectarian murder. At the Army School in Peshawar, 144 people were killed, 132 of them schoolchildren. Remember the time when you and I played cricket and badminton, ran around and climbed trees? Remember how young, innocent and harmless we were? These children were that age.
In the West, the attacks in Paris and California, following on the heels of the massive influx of refugees from Syria, have linked violence and refugees in the public’s mind. They are linked but not in the way the public perceives it because these refugees are not the perpetrators but the victims. The refugees attempting to enter Europe and North America in such numbers are fleeing from radicalised militants, the product of decades of bungled interference in the Middle East, Asia and Africa, and a result of the disorganised American withdrawal from Afghanistan and Iraq after an uncalled for occupation which created a power vacuum.
Just as following the death of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) his followers used the vacuum created by the dying Byzantine and Persian empires to spread out, this contemporary withdrawal worked for the less benevolent followers of radicalism. It is these militants, created by the US against Russia and others, who are now pursuing their own agenda which was never hidden in the first place, and that we don’t like. It is their actions that have created that huge refugee crisis. Security has obviously been increased and Western societies have arrived at a crossroads: turn right for zero tolerance and to push the flood of migrants away from the door, or turn left for a more compassionate stance. Paris appears to have chosen the first route with the rising popularity of the Nationalist Party’s Marine Le Pen and her anti-immigration stance. Germany, led by Merkel, and Canada by Trudeau after voting out Harper, appear to have chosen the second.
That refugee crisis is for the West to deal with, coupled with the question of whether or not to interfere in the affairs of nations by toppling regimes and bolstering rebellion. These ought to be uppermost in the minds of the Allies and Russia at this time.
We get to deal with the blowback and with the problem of the support given to radical groups right here at home. The question that needs to be topmost in our minds is: where did we go wrong and what to do about it? Because, as mentioned before, this is a good time to bring about change.
In one of his articles Irfan Husain recounts that when a young suicide bomber’s vest failed to explode, he was questioned about his motives. He pointed towards a young woman saying that his teacher had promised that if he succeeded in his violent endeavour, ‘I would be propelled to heaven in a rocket where I would get houris like this lady.’
Such opportunistic manipulation of the compulsions of youth, poverty and ignorance and God knows what else, coupled with an almost morbid propensity to blame the West for everything, has given rise to groups such as the TTP and the willingness of its members to kill and be killed. Obviously, it is not only the West that is to blame; it is the support that such groups find within our public right here that is equally at fault. This makes it easy for radicalism to take root and find a cause because causes are there for the taking, most often related to religious, sectarian and gender issues well fostered by madrassas, other religious groups and the average school. The remedy lies with more lasting measures, with education rather than force, police and Ranger action. Force is a band-aid measure only and while it has its place in the scheme of things, its effect is never lasting. How can it be since it cannot address the root cause?
To re-examine what is being taught not just in religious seminaries but in schools throughout the country should be the first priority, and then to produce a counter-narrative, teaching it in an interesting fashion. To counter arguments for khilafat with those supporting modern states, to clarify issues such as those relating to blasphemy, apostasy and the punishments believed to accrue to them, to foster tolerance, enlightenment and justice, to produce a better understanding of the rights of citizens and the duties of the state, and to disabuse people of the advisability of taking the law into their own hands; this is what will make a difference. A debate to this end has to be undertaken giving all persons an opportunity to speak. I am no great fan of Geo television but its show ‘Report Card’ is a great example of a forum where people speak and allow others to do the same. Recommendations should be acted upon, and then and only then can we look forward to peace in the region, and in the world.

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