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Wake up Pakistan ! Presently the Muslim societies are in a state of ideological confusion and flux. Materialism, terrorism,...
Monday, February 28, 2011
لماذا التطرف في الولايات المتحدة وباكستان
COMRADE Stalin must be laughing in his grave. The two states, the US and Pakistan, that collaborated to bring down the empire he had assembled, are now being threatened by the monster they had created together — religious radicalism — to dismantle the `evil empire`.
Two recent events bring home the truth more poignantly than any number of books and speeches. The cold-blooded murder of Governor Salman Taseer by a religious fanatic in Pakistan, and the near-fatal shooting of liberal Congresswoman Gabrielle Gifford and the killing of six others in the US by a right-wing fanatic, Jared Loughner, happened at about the same time. This is not the only similarity.
Let`s see how these events were seen in the two countries. The religious conservatives in Pakistan haven`t even condemned this act of unmitigated murder, nor have they expressed any regret for the constant drumbeat of hateful rhetoric against the voices of moderation. The reaction of the right-wingers in the US is not that bad, but is not entirely different either.
As journalist Michael Tomasky has observed, the Republicans who have condemned Loughner “are silent on the question of violent rhetoric that emanates from the right-wing American society”. He goes on to say that “for anyone to attempt to insist that the violent rhetoric so regularly heard in this country had no effect on this young man is to enshroud oneself in dishonesty and denial”.
What we are looking at today in the world, especially in the US, has been in the making in the course of three ideological conflicts that took place, one after the other with hardly a pause, during the last 70 years —perhaps the most violent 70 years in human history. These three conflicts, where the US assumed a dominant role, happened in this order: first, the conflict with the fascist alliance; second, with the communist Soviet Union; and now with the Muslim extremists. These conflicts played on the psyche of the antagonists in a way that has not even been noticed, let alone understood. Let me make an attempt.By a little understood working of the human psyche, the antagonists in a mortal combat absorb part of the personality of the adversary through a process that can best be described as `psycho-osmosis`. Having gone through this process, the oppressed become the oppressors, as for example the Zionists; the law-enforcers become the law-breakers, like the police and intelligence agencies; and freedom fighters become ruthless dictators, like so many post-independence leaders in Asia and Africa. The Americans having been a party to all three conflicts and have undergone that transformational experience thrice.
In the conflict with the fascist adversary, the American society absorbed a part of Nazi worldview — racism. During the war with the fascists and the Japanese the US did not act against the Italian or German Americans, but did so against the Japanese Americans. By the executive Order 9066 of 1942, President Roosevelt gave army the power, without warrant or indictment or hearing, to arrest every Japanese American on the west coast — 110,000 men, women and children — and intern them in camps under prison conditions. It was later upheld by the Supreme Court on grounds of military necessity. Reminiscent of that racist policy is today`s `profiling` by the US security agencies.
The second phase of psycho-osmosis was experienced by the American society during the Cold War. While opposing a totalitarian regime, the US produced its own version of commissars, prosecutors and ideologues, vividly portrayed by persons like John Foster Dulles, Joseph McCarthy, Edgar Hoover and Billy Graham, who almost succeeded in turning America into an ideological police state. In the Muslim world too the US allies grew closer to the totalitarianism they were supposed to fight against, and persecuted the liberals and secularists so relentlessly and ruthlessly that even today, two decades after the end of the Cold War, the liberals remain weak and almost irrelevant in most of the Muslim societies.
In the third phase, the Christian fundamentalists and the Muslims radicals have locked horns, and have assimilated part of each other. In response to Osama bin Laden, Mullah Omar, Ayman al Zawahiri, Baitullah Mehsud and others, the US has produced its own version of religious fanatics — Franklin Graham, Jerry Falwel, Pat Robertson, Rush Limbaugh, George W. Bush and others who have laid the foundations of the `American theocracy` as Kevin Phillips calls it in his book of that title. Holy war has been declared by both sides, and the crusaders and the jihadis ride again after 700 years. There are other similarities too, including the one that is rather comic.
Donald Rumsfeld, himself a crusader, believes that this is a clash between Good and Evil, and would continue for a long time, maybe for ever. Bin Laden also believes that this is a clash between Good and Evil, but he is more optimistic. Islamists, he believes, would prevail over the infidels in not too distant a future. Then there is that curious case of statues. While Mullah Omar had the statues of the Buddha at Bamiyan blown up to establish the piety of his rule, George Bush`s attorney general, John Ashcroft, also found the statue of justice at his department quite improper, but stopped short of blowing it up. Instead, he had the bare upper portion discreetly covered with blue cloth, and covered it stays even after his departure.
As a consequence of this clash of faiths with a medieval mindset, the two societies, the American and the Pakistani, are now the most intolerant within their respective civilisations. That this should happen to the Pakistani society is a regional disaster. That this should happen to the American society is a global calamity.
The writer, Iqbal Jafar is a retired civil servant. firstname.lastname@example.org
The discourse of double-critique, which is an attempt to carve out a critical space for dissenting against religious authoritarianism as well as American imperialism, is becoming widespread in contemporary Muslim thinking. Tariq Ramadan and Sheikh Hamza Yusuf are two prominent examples. Chandra Muzaffar’s work, Muslims Today: Changes within, challenges without, is part of the reformist tradition of Islamic thinking with a staunch emphasis on human rights, democracy, gender equality, tolerance and freedom. What is also remarkable is Muzaffar’s [ Malaysian Muslim political scientist, and an Islamic reformist and activist. He has written on civilisational dialog, human rights, Malaysian politics and international relations.] analytical and stinging critique of American-led globalisation and its eco-nomic and political hegemony over certain regions of the Muslim World.
Muzaffar’s work is a lucid example of Islamic liberalism — searching the Quranic text and religious scriptures as well as using contemporary political moral philosophy to find the moral foundations for a democratic order. For Muzaffar, faith should be a source of inspiration and provide the moral substance for democratic initiatives. Theocracy is not a path for spiritual renewal and the contemporary failures of self-styled Islamic governments is discussed throughout the book. The so called “Islamic states’’ have failed to come up with economic solutions and political ideas and have seen their living standards fall as their populations sink into deeper and deeper poverty. Muzaffar’s critiques of the Islamic world have a certain socialist edge about them, lambasting the excesses of neo-liberal economic frameworks which erode the traditional lifestyles of Muslim communities. The economic ideas underpinning Muzaffar’s work are critical of globalisation in its economic and cultural manifestations.
Muzaffar’s vision of a just world is compromised of a core set of virtues and universal values which he says can bridge the differences of faiths and doctrinal sectarianism. Clearly, the empty moral discourse of procedural secularism does not do enough to provide a source of ethical reflection, so instead Muzaffar looks back to the spiritual wellsprings of faith traditions. He articulates an alternative narrative, where faith as a transformative force can guide people to a consensus about a transcendent moral ideal. It is an inclusive message grounded in Islamic theology, but there is a gap in Muzaffar’s work.
Like all other Islamic modernists, Muzaffar takes the phrase “the spirit of Islam’’ for granted, and rather than elaborate an alternative legal philosophy to base his theological project, he simply resorts to quoting religious scripture. This is classical Islamic modernism at its best — plenty of free-flowing rhetoric about the “spirit of Islam” peppered with references to religious scripture and history. But there is a deeper more fundamental question which plagues all attempts of Islamic modernity.
Why should we interpret the Quran historically?
Why should we interpret the Quran in its historical context?
Why do we have to question religious authority and religious tradition?
Why can we not stick with the traditional framework of Islamic law?
Muzaffar’s justification is based solely on the classic appeal that we must change our conceptions of religious knowledge to follow “the spirit of Islam’’. Just exactly what this “spirit’’ is and why we should agree with Muzaffar’s views on critical issues of human rights and democracy (which are eminently sensible) is a theological question which he does not answer. How and where we locate the “spirit of Islam’’ in Muzaffar’s theology is really left up to the moral intuition of the reader who is already assumed to believe in the core moral message of his work.
And here is where all attempts at Islamic modernity collapse. There is no systematic legal methodology to Muzaffar’s ethical project. There is no interpretive scheme that justifies Muzaffar’s progressive interpretation of the Quran. What is lacking is a legal methodology and hermeneutical scheme which give theological rigour to his progressive and pluralistic positions. The way Muzaffar tackles the dogmatism of conservative jurists is not to directly challenge their philosophical foundations, but rather reframe the whole debate. Instead of focusing on rituals and laws, Muzaffar urges us to focus on the more pressing priorities of social injustice, poverty, education and development. This shift can be seen in Muzaffar’s incredibly rigorous analysis on economic structures and economic inequality which is a rarity among Muslim intellectuals who instead get bogged down in technical debates.
Though Muzaffar has no alternative legal methodology to offer, he does ask us to reconsider the very nature and purpose of faith. Is faith meant to be a strict set of rules, regulations and laws, or is it meant to inspire us to seek a higher moral ideal in cooperation with other human beings? This work offers us a theology of humanity, which grounds the dignity of all men and women into the fundamentally egalitarian message of the Quran.
If there is an alternative, it is less of a methodology and more of an attitude and means of moral reasoning. The “Maqasid al Sharia’’ approach has been very popular with contemporary Islamic modernists and has been given serious treatment by eminent authors like Mohammad Hashim Kamali and Jasser Auda. This methodology focuses on the “aims’’ and “priorities’’ of an Islamic applied ethics rather than the rules and regulations.
The Sharia is no longer a rigid set of rules and injunctions, but is rather transformed as a guiding moral force which shapes and cultivates virtues of love and tolerance. The Sharia is a path which fosters dignity and prevents injustice. The powerful combination of dignity with Muzaffar’s brand of passionate liberation theology makes for an animated and dynamic challenge to defenders of American globalisation and religious orthodoxy.
But there is still the massive edifice and theology that provides the foundations for classical legal theory and theology that Muzaffar leaves untouched. This is clearly in line with a decisive shift in the way reformists and modernists deal with questions of religious reform. The new emphasis is on shaping a new vision of “post-legal’’ ethics, where Muslims shed their fiqh based moralisms and embrace a wider more universal narrative for ethical reflection in partnership with other faiths. The emphasis on inter-faith relations and working towards an ideal of ecumenical cooperation is reminiscent of the Catholic theologian Hans Kung’s declaration, “No world peace without peace among religions; no peace among religions without dialogue between religions’’.
This collection of essays released by the Iqbal Research Institute demonstrates the impressive depth and sophistication of Chandra Muzaffar’s learning, philosophical sophistication and concern for justice. It is a powerful selection designed to make us think about the gross injustice and inequality that we see and experience in the world around us. What Muzaffar offers is a powerful spiritual antidote premised on the sacred notion of human dignity with the aim of forming a powerful coalition of faiths and peoples united on a core set of virtues.
Muslims Today: Changes within, challenges without (SOCIOLOGY) Book By Chandra Muzaffar
Emel Publications, Islamabad, ISBN 978-969-9556-00-5 , 282pp. Price not listed
HISTORY as part of the curriculum in the education system of a nation state is vital for creating an understanding of its roots and identity for its populace as well as pride in its past. It was in a recent teacher training workshop on Pakistan Studies for secondary school teachers that a heated argument arose about whether the Mughals had contributed to India anything other than buildings and gardens while praising the British rulers for developing India through education, roads and railways.
Both sides were unwilling to give in to the other and, finally, the matter was left unresolved. This perception is prevalent among history school teachers who, perhaps, have not read widely on the subject to form such an opinion. What is not delved into here is the fact that history has to be a balanced account or narrative and students must be made to use their thinking skills to analyse and evaluate historical facts rather than be swayed by foregone conclusions.
More recently, with the decline in education standards in Pakistan and history textbooks being used for ideological purposes, the perception and knowledge of history as a discrete subject discipline has deteriorated considerably. Consequently, history lessons can be used for either eulogising the British colonial rulers; for the defamation of the Hindus; or belittling our Mughal heritage.
K.K. Aziz, a Pakistani historian, in an interview shortly before his death had said that the Mughals had left nothing behind except for monuments and gardens. The neglect of the Social Sciences in our educational policies has had a detrimental effect on the importance of historical research and the writing of historical accounts post partition. It is only historical scholarship which can project a balanced view of the Mughal Empire in a detached way using primary sources to explain the era.
Historians such as Percival Spear use a sensible way of approaching the study of Mughal and British rule of India. In A History of India (Volume II) he takes a look at both the periods separately as two different entities and says that the Mughals and the British each ruled India for approximately two hundred plus years. However, with the rise of the technological age coinciding with British rule, the status of Mughal India is relegated to a decaying state and deteriorating society.
This assumption throws up the impression that it was always like that under the Mughals. Conversely, when studying both Mughal and British periods separately, Percival Spear says that British India is greatly indebted to Mughal India in many ways on the one hand while on the other, the impressive Mughal dynasty surpasses any other in the previous thousand years.
Akbar S. Ahmed’s well-researched and insightful Jinnah, Pakistan and Islamic Identity — The Search for Saladin (OUP) terms the Mughal Empire as the “super power” of their age. In modern language that would mean economic superiority and prosperity of the people of that nation state. It would also mean, in today’s context, a large arsenal, technological advancement and a stable, viable, democratic governance with a literate population. When we look at the historian’s view of labeling the 17th century as “the great age of the Mughals”, the underpinning is that their rule matched the might of the other powers of their age such as the great Sophia of Constantinople and grand Cham of Persia. Nevertheless, Mughal India from the layman’s perspective is often denigrated to a baser level and the British rule of India highlighted as being the real benefactor of the modern states of Pakistan and India.
To correct the obvious, let us take an overview of the life and times of the Mughals. One indicator of a civilisation is what it has generated in terms of knowledge and how literate is its population. William Dalrymple writes in his highly-regarded book The Last Mughal (2006) that Delhi was a celebrated intellectual centre and by about 1850 was at its cultural peak with “six famous madressahs and at least four smaller ones, nine newspapers in Urdu and Persian, five intellectual journals published out of Delhi College, innumerable printing presses and publishers, and no fewer than 130 Yunani doctors.” He quotes Colonel William Sleeman as admitting that the madressah education given in Delhi was “quite remarkable”. Sleeman himself wrote on a visit to Delhi, the Mughal capital:
“Perhaps there are few communities in the world among whom education is more generally diffused than among Mohammadans in India. He who holds an office worth Rs20 a month commonly gives his sons an education equal to that of a Prime Minister. They learn through the medium of Arabic and Persian, what young men in our colleges learn through those of Greek and Latin — that is grammar, rhetoric and logic.”
Leitner’s report of 1882 confirms the educational status of just the Punjab as having 330,000 pupils learning “all the sciences in Arabic and Sanskrit schools and colleges, as well as Oriental literature, Oriental law, Logic, Philosophy and Medicine were taught to the highest standard”. After 1857, when the British system of education took hold the number of pupils taking this form of education diminished to 190,000. Nevertheless, Leitner’s analysis of the indigenous system of education proved that it was far superior to that set by the British in 1835 with Macaulay’s Minute on Education for the Indian colony.
How then was education delivered in Mughal times? Firstly, schooling of Mughal princes was taken very seriously. Great importance was given to an all round education of the princes with the study of logic, philosophy, mathematics, astronomy, law and medicine. Particular emphasis was put on female education by Mughal emperors and most princesses were highly educated, too. Secondly, almost all Mughal emperors encouraged education by setting up schools and seminaries with generous grants to scholars, writers, poets and teachers to keep up the high standard of education.
Although Akbar was unlettered, he gave much thought to education, syllabi and their content, and the teaching methodology for his subjects. Ain-i-Akbari records that there were 52 universities in and around Thatta in Sind during Jehangir’s time. Poets and historians have left outstanding literary works in prose, poetry, history and religious study. Mughal emperors Babar and Jehangir wrote their own biographies — Tuzk-i-Barbari and Tuzk-i-Jehangiri. Under Aurangzeb, the Fatwa-i-Alamgiri was compiled which added to the literature on Muslim law. Most books were transcribed by hand, yet a personal library was essential for a Mughal scholar as well as a Mughal nobleman. In 1641, the library at Agra contained 24,000 volumes and was valued at six and a half million rupees. When the Imperial Library at Delhi was torched by the British in 1803, the vast accumulated knowledge of the Mughal Empire was lost forever.
Literacy in Mughal times is gauged by a reading public among whom the most commonly read books were Gulistan, Bostan, Akhlaq-i-Nasiri and Anwaar-i-Suhaili. Education is also visible in the conduct of governance and administration. Ministers were well read and the empire functioned effectively with separate departments dealing with Agriculture, Trade, Justice, Education, Military and the running of the royal households. Law and order was maintained throughout the empire with justice accorded by Qazis and Muftis, a system later emulated by the British.
Finally, the promotion of the arts and literature during Mughal times could not have been possible without a high standard of education. The historian Rawlinson says that “the high degree of culture in Mughal India was largely the result of the excellent system of education.”
Most civilisations such as the Greek, Egyptian, Persian and Byzantium are judged by their artistic expression in paintings, sculpture and monuments. The renaissance is mostly depicted in the myriad of paintings now on display in Florence, Italy. The undeniable flourishing of artistic expression through painting, poetry and architectural magnificence in the Mughal period is witness to the high degree of civilisation attained by them. The miniature school of paintings evolved in this period and the art form of calligraphy developed greatly and is beautifully evident in all their buildings.
As to the monuments, tombs, forts, and mosques that Mughal architecture left to India is a testament to the highly-skilled craftsmanship and engineering marvels of the era. The water systems of the gardens and forts were developed for the heat of the subcontinent and their planning can only be attributed to an educated mind. The architectural ethereal beauty of the Taj Mahal has not been surpassed to this day and has earned it the position of one of the wonders of the world. In modern times it has managed to contribute to the Indian economy as a tourist attraction that cannot be overlooked. Tourism relies on an exposition of a country’s visible achievements in the form of monasteries, churches, courts of law, palaces and museums. Hence, Mughal buildings and gardens are a valuable asset for Pakistan’s culture and history.
In spite of this, the legacy of the Mughals most relevant in today’s Pakistan is the religious tolerance for the other communities in India. The Mughals were imperialists or kings by profession and Muslims by birth and circumstance. The religious orthodoxy did play a part in their rule but it never interfered with the belief of the bulk of the population which was Hindu, Buddhist and Sikh. Their places of worship were respected and their customs and festivals upheld so much so that in 1857, both Muslims and Hindus rallied around the Mughal emperor to expel the British from India.
Accurate knowledge of the legacy of the Mughals in education is vital to our new generations as libraries and a reading culture is now missing in the lives of ordinary Pakistanis. Teachers need to have a holistic education encompassing a multi-disciplinary approach rather than just a command of their subject. In many cases, Pakistan Studies is taught by those who, perhaps, just have a working knowledge of History and Geography from their school days. Thus, knowledge from a biased history textbook is likely to be passed on to students by a teacher not too familiar with historical nuances and biases. Thus, the cultural and historical heritage of a nation must be safeguarded at all costs for its future depends on it.
The writer, Ismat Riaz is an educational consultant based in Lahore. email@example.com
गोधरा पर फैसला
TUESDAY’S order … for now decides one aspect of the infamous happenings in Gujarat in February 2002 — the burning of Coach S-6 of [the] Sabarmati Express at Godhra railway station, in which many kar sewaks returning from Ayodhya were travelling — which was followed by … brutal anti-Muslim violence in the state … and was widely alleged to have been facilitated with the complicity of the state government headed by Mr Narendra Modi.
The special court held that the burning of the coach was the consequence of a planned conspiracy — that it was not an accident. This is exactly the position maintained all along by Mr Modi and the BJP — and opposed by the Congress, the Left parties and many ‘secular’ and liberal-minded sections of society…. The BJP is naturally jubilant at Tuesday’s verdict…. But there are troubling aspects arising from the Godhra train-burning affair, and its echoes will … fade only when closure is applied to the numerous cases relating to that unfortunate period in Gujarat.
These cases are now being monitored by the Supreme Court and are being probed afresh by a special investigation team appointed by the court. Looking at the inordinately long time taken by the SIT in the Sabarmati Express case, there is no knowing when all the Gujarat cases will be concluded.
The second aspect of Tuesday’s verdict is that there should be little surprise if it is legally challenged on grounds of the nature of evidence that came to be relied on. Finally, India’s judicial process would also be in the dock for the extreme slowness that it exhibited. It permitted 63 individuals, who would eventually be acquitted by the special court, to remain in jail for nearly nine years along with the other accused who had been booked. The Supreme Court needs to answer why so many individuals — who have now been declared … innocent — have had precious years of their lives virtually snatched away…. Does this not amount to a travesty of justice?
The political issue involved is fundamentally this: was there a link between the burning of Coach S-6 … and the … murder and mayhem that followed? Mr Modi had unhesitatingly proclaimed then that “every action has an equal and opposite reaction”…. Leading BJP stalwarts had noted that “if there had been no Godhra, there would be no riots”, suggesting an intrinsic link between the two. The underlying thesis was that if “Muslims” had instigated the burning of the S-6 coach, then “Hindus” were right in avenging the dead. This shocking line of communal reasoning turns democratic ethos on its head…. The state should investigate and punish the guilty. The state is also duty-bound to prevent citizen groups from taking the law into their own hands, as evidently happened in Gujarat…
Saturday, February 26, 2011
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Friday, February 25, 2011
New Posts Update # 240211:
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- O' Oppressed people of
Africa, Middle East & all over the world Remain Steadfast in your peaceful Freedom struggle. peace-forum.blogspot.com/2011/02/suppor… Must Learn from the Egyptian Experience واشنطن يجب ان يتعلم من التجربة المصرية peace-forum.blogspot.com/2011/02/obamas… Washington
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- IslamicLaw [Shari'a] and its use in Muslim Politics.الإسلامي قانون [أحكام الشريعة] الإسلامية واستخدامها في السياسة مسلم peace-forum.blogspot.com/2011/02/islami…
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plans nation-wide Islam and secularism debate... peace-forum.blogspot.com/2011/02/france… France
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