BY YASSER LATIF HAMDANI
My article last week
on Faisal Shahzad’s radicalisation elicited unprecedented response on the
issue of Islamic organisations operating in the US, thereby necessitating
this sequel. There are things that need to be said before it is all too
Faisal Shahzad’s e-mail to the “peaceful ummah” as
published in the New York Times leaves no doubt about Shahzad’s
state of mind. It was his association with Islamic organisations in the
West that transformed him into a global jihadist in the classical
Qutbian mould. His language, his denunciation of the West and of
hypocritical governments in Pakistan, his appeal to “Khilafah” had
all the fingerprints of a campus or a local Islamic body, possibly one
infiltrated by the Hizb ut-Tahrir and/or global activists of the
All this however should not mean that we should shut
ourselves off from the reality of religious extremism in our own neck of
the woods. The lashkars and the mujahideen Pakistan’s cynical and
wretched establishment prepared against the Soviets, with American
blessing, are obviously one part of the overall story. Religious extremism
in Pakistan has a sordid history, one of the state’s constant retreat in
the face of religious parties — the same religious parties that had
opposed the very creation of Pakistan — and horrible compromises with
extremist and fascist elements.
To recap, Islamic religious organisations have been part
of the political landscape of the subcontinent ever since Indian
independence leader Mahatma Gandhi brought them into politics under the
guise of the Islamist ‘Khilafat Movement’. It bears repeating that when
Gandhi first encouraged Islamic religious clerics for his own
anti-imperialist goals, the lone dissenting voice of reason was that of
Pakistan’s founding father Jinnah who told Gandhi not to bring
“unwholesome elements into public life”. Yet it is Pakistan — ironically —
that has come to be associated with the same unwholesome elements today.
After partition, religious extremism in Pakistan reared
its ugly head when Majlis-e-Ahrar, a vociferously anti-Pakistan
Islamic party during pre-partition days and an erstwhile ally of Gandhi,
in 1953 started its campaign of terror against a hapless sectarian
minority (Ahmediyas) with the help of another witchdoctor of dubious
history, i.e. Maulana (Sayyid Abu A’la) Maududi, who till then had become
completely irrelevant after his opposition to Jinnah and the Muslim
League. To the credit of Pakistan’s judiciary, it swiftly handed down a
death sentence for the person (Maududi) who is single-handedly responsible
in providing the ideological foundations for not just the Islamisation in
Pakistan but the global Islamic jihad.
Nevertheless the Maulana’s sentence was commuted and it is
Pakistan that has suffered as a result. Subsequent to commutation, his
book, Islam and Communism, was picked up, reprinted and distributed
allegedly by CIA’s JI desk all over the Muslim world. The idea was to use
Maududian extremism to stiffen resistance against Soviet expansionism. It
is therefore ironic that the JI, Maulana Maududi’s enduring creature,
which in 1977 received funds from quarters in the US to overthrow the
increasingly pro-Soviet Bhutto, is today the bastion of anti-Americanism.
Wonders never cease.
The fountainhead of religious extremism in our country is
Mansoora, the headquarters of the JI, in Lahore. Unless Pakistan and the
US seriously take a look at the activities of the JI, any meaningful
progress in stopping extremism feeding this terror will be impossible. The
JI actively works on Pakistan’s largest university campuses to spread its
doctrine of hate and bigotry not just against other countries such as the
US but religious and sectarian minorities in Pakistan.
Its student wing, the Islami Jamiat-i-Talaba (IJT) is
modelled after the (Hitler’s) National Socialist Party. The JI seeks to
infiltrate the army, the air force and the civil bureaucracy to weaken the
state’s resolve against extremism in Pakistan. Key members of the JI sit
in departments such as education to introduce nothing but poison in
Pakistan’s young minds.
The JI’s mouthpiece, the Daily Ummat, is full of
(fifth) columnists who advocate not just extremism but open violence
against minorities. Maududi has inspired a generation of Islamists
globally. His exegesis of the Holy Quran is widely read and followed by
the Salafi Islamic order, predominantly found in the West and the main
source of terrorism in the name of religion. Along with Sayyid Qutb of
Egypt, Maududi remains the most widely read Islamist ideologue for
relatively more affluent Muslims in the west. Within Pakistan too, the
target audience is the middle class.
It is, therefore, not uncommon to find inter-city bus
services advertising during their in-coach entertainment the publications
containing “sagacity and wisdom that defeated Communism, Secularism and
Capitalism, which flowed from the pen of Sayyid Qutb and Sayyid Maududi”
(direct translation). In the triumphalist Islamist narrative, Qutb and
Maududi are prophets without parallel.
Pakistan — if it is serious about tackling terrorism —
will also have to undo the Maududian infiltration of its state and
society. It means liberating our campuses of organisations like the IJT.
It means purging the state and its machinery of elements that are
furthering the Jamaat’s hate-filled agenda instead of doing their job. The
time has come to take stock of the damage this body of conspiratorial and
bigoted men has done repeatedly to the body politic of Pakistan.
It must be remembered, for those who still care about the
reasons why we made this country in the first place, that Jinnah’s
Pakistan and Maududi’s Pakistan are mutually exclusive. Pakistan must
decide here and now: do we wish to make Pakistan a prosperous and
democratic state, which is at peace home and abroad ala Jinnah? Or
do we wish to make Pakistan a violent dystopia run by maniacs and
religious extremists with twisted ideas about religion ala Maududi?
The former route shall save us a lot of heartbreak and
humiliation. The latter will ultimately lead to our destruction.