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Dhaka, Sunday, August 1, 2010
Down the slippery slope
From tolerance to terrorism
THE May 28 carnage at two Ahmadiya mosques in Lahore, which left more than 80 people dead and over 100 wounded, has shaken the masses. Ahmadies are a peace-loving, law-abiding and disciplined community. Despite all the atrocities and excesses perpetrated against them they have suffered in silence. They have not taken to the street, nor organised any agitation. They have not taken the law in their hand, nor have they burnt any tyres or buses. Such an attack on a peace-loving, non-violent community is a challenge to the conscience of civil society and a wakeup call for the government. Accusing fingers have been raised at the government for incredible negligence and utter failure in providing protection to its citizens.
The present-day Pakistan has come to be perceived as a breeding ground for terrorism. The society is fragmented and sectarian hatred and violence have become the order of the day. The society is virtually a hostage to the forces of extremism. This situation has not come about overnight. The gradual drift of the country from tolerance to terrorism calls for an analysis. Let us follow the drift and view things in a chronological order.
The founding fathers of Pakistan envisioned her to be a modern democracy and a secular state. They were very clear that it will not be a religious or a theocratic state. The Quaid-i-Azam in his memorable speech of August 11, 1947, to the constituent assembly of Pakistan, while stating the principle on which the new state was to be founded, said;
‘We are starting with this fundamental principle that we are all citizens, and equal citizens, of one state.’
He went on to say:
‘Now I think we should keep in front of us as our ideal and 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 it is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the state.’
The Quaid-i-Azam was the founder of Pakistan and the occasion on which he thus spoke was the first landmark in the history of Pakistan. The speech was intended both for his own people including the non-Muslims, as well as the outside world, and its object was to define clearly as possible the ideal, the attainment of which the new state was to devote all its energies.
In 1949, ‘The Objectives Resolution’ was adopted by the constituent assembly of Pakistan. This resolution marked the first departure from the vision of the founding fathers. During the assembly debate the minority representatives took strong objections to the ‘objective resolution’. However, Liaqat Ali Khan was at pains to explain that Pakistan will not be a theocratic state and that, ‘If there are any who still use the word theocracy, in the same breath as they polity, they are either labouring under a grave misapprehension or indulging in mischievous propaganda.’
The clerics in Pakistan, however, continued to pursue their agenda. In 1953 anti-Ahmadiya agitation was purposefully started and a religious issue was debased for political purposes. It was a struggle for political gain between the Punjab provincial government of Mian Mumtaz Daultana and the central government of Khwaja Nazimuddin. The agitation organised by Majlis-i-Ahrar and Jama’at Islami reached such serious dimensions that martial law had to be imposed. During their agitation, the demands put up by the ulema were that:
Ahmadies should be declared Non-Muslims.
That Chaudhary Zafarullah Khan should be removed from the office of the foreign minister of Pakistan.
All Ahmadies should be removed from key government posts.
An inquiry commission was constituted to look into the anti-Ahmadiya riots in Punjab, which is commonly known as the Munir inquiry. The inquiry report is a revealing document and an indispensable reading for any student of history interested in the present-day religious extremism in Pakistan. About the Ahrar and the Khatm-i-Nabuwat movement, the report observed:
‘Khatm-i-Nabuwat is the rebirth of Majlis-i-Ahrar, which was a political party of nationalist ulema sponsored by the Indian National Congress. They were a subversive element in Muslim politics of India. They were fire brand demagogues adept at stirring mob agitation on any issue that came their way. They had launched a virulent anti-Pakistan propaganda roundly abusing the leaders of Pakistan Movement. They had lost their credibility in Pakistan on account of their anti-Pakistan stance.’ 1
The report further says:
‘The partition of 1947 and the establishment of Pakistan came as a great disappointment to Ahrar because all power passed to Congress or Muslim league and no scope for activity was left for Ahrar in India or in Pakistan. The new Muslim state had come to them as a shock, disillusioned them of their ideology and finished them as political party. For some time they found themselves in a state of frustration, completely bewildered as to their future.’ 2
‘There is no doubt that Ahrar workers and leaders are out to sabotage the safety and peace of our state and miss no chance of creating disaffection against Ahmadies.’ 3
‘The conduct of Ahrar calls for the strongest comment and is especially reprehensible. We can use no milder word for the reason that they debased a religious issue by pressing it into service for a temporal purpose and exploited religious susceptibilities and sentiments of the people for their personal ends.’ 4
In 1954 Majlis-i-Ahrar decided to put on a religious cloak and declared that it would no longer take part in politics and would confine itself to evangelical movement. This decision was formally recorded in the proceedings of central Majlis-i-Shoora and its successive amirs were all members of Majlis-i-Ahrar. 5
Before the Munir Inquiry Commission, the ulema took the position that the Quaid-i-Azam’s conception of a modern national state had become obsolete with the passing of ‘The Objectives Resolution’ on March 12, 1949.
The commission asked the ulema ‘whether this conception of the state was acceptable to them and every one of them replied in an unhesitating negative, including the Ahrar and erstwhile Congressites with whom before the partition this conception was almost a part of their faith.’ The view of Jama’at Islami, a state based on this idea is the creature of the devil and he is confirmed in this by several writings of his chief, Maulana Abul Ala Maudoodi, the founder of Jama’at. None of the Ulema can tolerate a state which is based on nationalism and all that it implies; with them millat and all it connotes can alone be the determining factor in state activity.’
At the time, the founding fathers of Pakistan and lieutenants of the Quaid-i-Azam were alive. They stuck to his vision of a secular democratic state and refused to give in to these demands.
In 1974 a secular leader like ZA Bhutto fell a prey and passed the second constitutional amendment in 1974. This was the turning point in Pakistan’s history which fragmented the Pakistani society and polarised the radicals and the liberals. It provided space for fundamentalism to flourish and Pakistan was turned into a breeding ground for misconceived Jihad and terrorist organisations. Pakistan’s track record of militancy and terrorism are bound to lead to similar consequences in the shape of Jihad and terrorism anywhere. The movement and manoeuvres are bound to weaken the resolve of newly born democracies and the state is likely to fall in the hands of extremist elements.
In 1984 General Zia ul Haq promulgated Ordinance 20 of 1984 and singled out Ahmadies as a target for criminal action and introduced section 298 (B) and 298 (C) in the Pakistan Penal code. These sections proscribed certain epithets and provided punishment for Ahmadies for preaching and propagating or in any manner outraging the religious feeling of Muslims. These provisions were a blatant violation of religious freedom and fundamental rights.
The Ordinance XX was challenged in the Shariat Court as being against the teachings of Qur’an and Sunnah. The Shariat Court, however, validated the Ordinance as a constitutional fiat. The Supreme Court of Pakistan by a split judgment validated Ordinance in Zaheer ud Din Vs The State. The judgement is a virtual diatribe against the Ahmadiya belief.
There is a long history of persecution of Ahmadies. The persecution has been well documented by various human rights organizations. There are first information reports of cases registered against Ahmadies in all the four provinces of Pakistan. There are government circulars, newspaper clippings, editorial comments, and reams of documents spread over the last three decades. The successive change in governments has not improved the situation. We may only refer to the events of 2008/2009 to show that the persecution not only continues unabated but is assuming new dimensions. The Ahmadi elite is being targeted and eliminated. In the year 2008 alone, 15 Ahmadi doctors were killed. Similar target killings continued through 2009 and 2010 until the Lahore massacre.
The judiciary has also contributed to encouraging extremism, not only by abdicating their powers in the Ahmadi cases, but also generally in the constitutional jurisdiction. In the case of Aasma Jhangir, the Supreme Court of Pakistan declared ‘the Objectives Resolution’ to be the ethos and conscience of the constitution and a grundnorm of Pakistan’s legal order. This also marked a definite shift toward the religious overtones of the legal system. Fortunately in Hakim Khan’s case Justice Shafi ur Rahman took the air out of the over-inflated balloon of ‘the Objectives Resolution’.
The Ahmadies, however, continued to be persecuted with impunity. Thousands of Ahmadies were arrested and put behind bars for wearing badges inscribing the Kalima Tayyaba. The Kalima was erased from the faces of Ahmadiya mosques. In places where the Kalima was inscribed or written in concrete, it was broken with chisels by instruments of state.
“The slide along this slippery slope culminated in complete abdication of the judicial function and capitulation in the face of usurper regimes and religious orthodoxy. By recognizing validity, legitimacy and unfettered legislative power of the extra-constitutional regime in 1977, the courts had now become the mechanism behind their own impotence.
‘It is imperative that the superior judiciary retrace its steps to provide robust and unequivocal protection of religious freedom in tune with the symphony of the constitutional mandate, international legal obligations, and terms of the covenant with religious minorities. This is indispensable, if Pakistan’s judiciary is to regain its prestige, integrity and power and reclaim its role as the guardian of constitutional governance and the law.’ 6
Motivating ideology — worldwide context
THE religious extremism has assumed such dimensions globally that its ideological basis needs to be discovered. Extensive research has been carried out in recent years to trace the roots of extremism and violence in some Islamic organisations and movements.
The present-day fundamentalists invoke Ibn e Tamiya who had justified war against Mongols recently converted to Islam. Ibn e Tamiya emphasised that Mongols did not apply the Shariah law and followed their own customary laws. He condemned the Mongols as worse than Khawarij and declared that it was the obligation of every good Muslim to fight against them. 7
‘Ibn e Tamiya put his anti-Mongol theology in such general and abstract terms that present day rulers in the Arab world can equally be regarded as apostates according to the norms which he created for the Mongols.’ 8
‘Ibn e Tamiya’s condemnation of Mongols was dictated by particular military circumstances of the Mamlook—Mongol wars of the time.’ 9
‘Ibn e Tamiya departed from the classical definition of Jihad by recognising the possibility of a jihad against “heretical” and “deviant” Muslims within dar ul Islam.’ 10
‘He therefore legitimised jihad against anyone who refused to abide by Islamic law or revolted against the true Muslim authorities. In his opinion the Mongol rulers were clearly at fault on both counts because they had overthrown the Abbasside Caliphate and had favoured their own customary law over Islamic law once in power.’ 11
‘The most striking parallel between the modern fundamentalists and the ancient Khwarij is the belief of both groups that whoever does not live by Allah’s Laws is a non-believer and thus excluded from the community. Exclusion from the Islamic Ummah implies being sentenced to death.’ 12
‘Syed Qutub was to become the main ideologue of the modern Muslim fundamentalism. Out of the ruins of the Afghani movement and with the help of Ibn e Tamiya’s war ideology, Qutub created a coherent ideology, which has shown itself to inspire many people to face their death calmly for the sake of Islam and to kill in its name.’ 13
Syed Qutab’s writings ‘transformed the fundamentalist Muslims from pious civilians into self-conscious conscript soldiers having no choice but to make war against the enemies of Islam.’ 14
Syed Qutub’s concept of the present-day jahiliyya as anti-Islamic, vicious and wicked, implying apostasy and, as a consequence, death penalty, is so completely shared with Maudoodi of Pakistan that it is difficult to make out who borrowed from whom.
‘Maudoodi’s ideology stems from a dialectical concept of history. It opposes Islam to all that is “non-Islam” and the struggle between the two must inevitably culminate in an Islamic revolution and the creation of an Islamic state, which will initiate in society large scale reforms leading to utopian Islamic order.’ 15
In Egypt, Syed Qutub was accused of having plagiarised from Maudoodi. Ironically, in Pakistan, Maudoodi was accused in similar terms. The most reasonable and charitable view would be that both of them were drawing on the same sources and had Identical views. It is quite obvious that thoughts of Maudoodi and Syed Qutub were inseparably identical.
Similarly the concept of modern-day jahiliyya is common between the two. Maudoodi does not believe in state nationhood and yet works within the state, without giving up his world view of modern jahiliyya and pan-Islamism. Ahrar and Maudoodi were, and continue to be, at daggers drawn and yet they worked together in the violent anti-Ahmadi agitation in 1953. There are other such parallels and intersections. In short militant organisations, political Islam and various other organisations, with variant sectarian theological moorings, converge at a point and work for a common militant fundamentalist agenda. It is this converging point that we are trying to determine and understand.
Elaborating his ideology and thesis Maudoodi argues that:
‘Human relations and associations are so integrated that no state can have complete freedom of action within its own principles, unless those same principles are in force in a neighbouring country. Therefore, Muslim groups will not be content with the establishment of an Islamic state in one area alone. Depending on their resources, they should try to expand in all directions. On one hand, they will spread their ideology and on the other they will invite people of all nations to accept their creed, for salvation lies only in it. If their Islamic state has power and resources it will fight and destroy non Islamic governments and establish Islamic states in their place.’ 16
He seeks to assure his readers that, ‘This was the policy which was adopted by the Prophet and his rightly guided caliphs. Arabia, where the Muslim party was first formed, was the first to be put down. After this, the Prophetsa sent invitations to all neighbouring countries, but did not wait to see whether these invitations were accepted. As soon as he acquired power, he started the conflict with the Roman Empire. Abu Bakar became the leader of the party after the Prophetsa and attacked both the Roman and Persian Empires and Umar finally won the war.’ 17
Quoting Maudoodi, Vali Nasar says, ‘In effect, the less than fully committed Muslims, who did not abide by Maudoodi’s conception of the Din were depicted as apostates.’ 18
Historically seen through its praxis, Jama’at Islami, ‘was not averse to using the coercive power of the masses or of the state to promote its program two incidents have been cited as evidence for this. The first was the role of Maudoodi and the Jama’at in the Anti Ahmadiya disturbances in 1953 and the second was Jama’at’s collaboration with the Pakistan Army in East Pakistan in 1971.’ 19
‘The activity of Jama’at had definitely established it as a party not loathed to utilise force when force was available.’ 20
Speaking of Jama’at’s temptation to take recourse to violence, Fredrick Grare writes, ‘The Jama’at or more precisely its student branch, the Islami Jamiat e Tulaba, which unleashed terror on university campuses at one time is also tempted to take recourse to such (violent) means.’ 21
‘The participation of the Jama’at in various conflicts and its collaboration with the army explains undoubtedly, this restricted use of violence.’ 22
‘It organised the sinister Albadar militia composed mostly of the students of the Jama’at, the Islamic Chatro Shango, which was equipped by the Pakistan Army.’ 23
The declaration of Ahmadies as non-Muslims in Pakistan was a fundamentalist conspiracy. Pakistan and Bangladesh must necessarily confront identical problems and handicaps. There are many lessons to be learnt. The motivating ideology behind terrorism and its modus operandi have been demonstrated in Pakistan. Bangladesh knows Jama’at Islami from its own experience. Now the other counterpart (Khatm e Nabuwat) is being exported to Bangladesh. The state of Bangladesh and the civil society needs to be sensitised and motivated to defend its secular pluralism, which is the real beauty of Bangladesh. The world community needs to be alerted about the potential danger in this region.
Mujeeb ur Rahman is a lawyer of the Pakistan Supreme Court