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How many in Pakistan are sympathetic to the extremists?

March 13, 2009

Pakistan, some say, is on the brink, and extremists are gaining control of the country. The Swat Valley takeover by the Taliban has come on the heels of the Mumbai attack by Pakistani terrorists and then there was the recent attempt to murder the Sri Lankan cricketers. No doubt the Taliban wants to take over Pakistan. As I have mentioned before, I do not believe that a country founded on, or based on religion, can succeed. I mean, as a democracy. MJ Akbar has articulated this very well in a recent article:

Multi-religious, multi-ethnic, secular, democratic India was an idea that belonged to the future; one-dimensional Pakistan was a concept borrowed from the fears of the past. India has progressed into a modern nation occasionally hampered by backward forces. Pakistan is regressing into a medieval society with a smattering of modern elements…His [Mohammed Ali Jinnah’s] heirs began to concede space to mullahs like Maulana Maudoodi who asked, in essence, that if Pakistan had been created to defend Islam, then who would be its best guardians?

And when the first Constitution of Pakistan (1956) proclaimed Pakistan as an “Islamic” state, the seeds for the future were sown, even though those who founded Pakistan would have been horrified if they saw Pakistan today. Horrified by the violence in the name of religion, and horrified by the suicide attacks that have killed and maimed thousands of people.

Not that many in Pakistan support suicide attacks. Considering that there have been about 120 suicide attacks in Pakistan in the last two years, it’s not surprising that there is little support today for suicide attacks in Pakistan (details here.) But suicide attacks are one thing, and the Taliban, another.

Even if Pakistanis don’t support suicide attacks, do they support the religious extremists?
None of us want to believe that the average Pakistani supports the extremist elements in Pakistan, but it is believed that there is some support. One reason why the Pakistani Army is finding it difficult to combat the Taliban is because the armymen see the extremists as a lesser evil than the United States. Also, many of the extremists are not really the hardcore Taliban, but just religious mullahs who are mostly anti-America.

Not just the Army, but ordinary Pakistanis also distrust the US and are not keen on cooperating with it, something that seems  necessary if Pakistan has to get rid of the Taliban. A US government poll in 2008 revealed that as many as 63% of ordinary Pakistanis were opposed to cooperating with the United States, but well, this was down from the 71% the previous year!

The more violence there is on Pakistani soil (by the extremists) the more the Pakistanis lean away from the Taliban. And on the other hand there are the US missile strikes which damage the Pakistani ego and fuel hatred for the United States. That these strikes have been successful in disrupting the Taliban of that there is no doubt, because the Taliban they say is running away from the border areas…into the heart of Pakistan!

A Pew survey conducted last year (predominantly urban) showed a fair amount of sympathy for the Taliban and the al Qaeda in Pakistan, although it is the older Pakistanis who are more sympathetic to  the extremists.

As Pakistan seem to be divided on this issue (partly because of their distrust of the US), the Taliban has taken full advantage of it. The fact that the Taliban hates India and has vowed to “free” Kashmir is also something that might make some people more sympathetic to the Taliban.

The good news is that with the recent violence in Pakistan, there is every likelihood that the support for the terrorists has decreased significantly from last year. The figures above are a year old and one hopes that more people from across the border will realise that their enemy’s enemy is not necessarily their friend.

Related Reading: Muslims turning away from terrorism but the world is against them
Some opinions of India from Pakistan
Top ten myths about Pakistan unraveled
Failed States of the world
Benazir’s assassination benefited Musharraf
Kashmir – where are you heading?

62 Comments leave one →
  1. March 13, 2009 6:18 pm

    How does it matter how many extremists exist in Pakistan when we have enough of them here in India?

    • sunil kumar permalink
      March 14, 2009 9:09 am

      very very true… I always wonder that…!! Really there are lot of supporters in India too…

    • March 14, 2009 10:42 am

      🙂 I loved that one-liner…

  2. Milind Kher permalink
    March 13, 2009 6:23 pm

    There is a definite wane in support for the extremists. The attack on the Sri Lankan cricketers was widely condemned in Pakistan.

    Also, the desecration of Rahman Baba’s shrine has met with a substantially hostile reaction. With the growing influence of the Taliban posing a danger, Pakistanis want to strengthen the forces of democracy.

    Kashmir is not right now a burning issue. They are more concerned with saving Pakistan.

  3. March 13, 2009 6:26 pm

    http://bostonreview.net/BR34.2/mohsin.php

    go through this link for insight look at pakistani condition and history.
    your article was good and keep this streak going on.There will be always men/women on extremism path in any society.Just have to control them wisely.

  4. March 13, 2009 6:27 pm

    well you put it well,is there anything called a modern religious state? But one thing which I found funny,U.S. which is a democracy,during the oath taking ceremony of Obama,hda some Christian prayers read…

    • March 13, 2009 7:57 pm

      All inaugurations have Christian prayers and Presidents always place their hands on a Bible when taking their oaths…Obama is therefore not an exception…Democracy doesn’t mean citizens have to be atheists or can’t broadcast their beliefs, it means citizens have the freedom to believe in whatever they want to without the fear of being persecuted…

  5. wishtobeanon permalink
    March 13, 2009 7:10 pm

    Good article, Nita. If Pakistan and India were not at loggerheads all the time and forget their past, both countries would make a marked improvement as far as development is concerned. But the religious extremists will not allow it to happen unfortunately!

  6. neel123 permalink
    March 13, 2009 7:37 pm

    Pakistan’s nationalism is India centric. It does not matter what the polls show, when India is brought into the equation, the number of Pakistanis supporting bad elements like LET will always be sky high !
    India has no soft options against Pakistan.
    It can not let its guard down.
    It can not trust Pakistan’s words, and only go by the evidence on ground.
    Pakistan has made its intentions clear, through its actions of last several decades.
    India has the Pakistani trained terror modules at all corners of the country. They are just waiting for their masters in Pakistan for signal to strike.
    India’s incompetent rulers, without any vision, have turned the nation into a soft state, that has always embolden the enemy !
    As long as the killers of Mumbai are not punished by Pakistan, India must keep all options open.
    When the enemy is bent on harming you, you can not wish it away, talking and cojoling only emboldens the enemy, and you must be prepared to give it a crushing reply.

  7. openlight permalink
    March 13, 2009 7:38 pm

    Common man needs peace to carry n his daily routine. Due to weak government pak is having, feeling of uncertainty has crept in and being fully exploited by taliban.

    Taliban has a lot of support in ISI, pak army, attack on cricketers showed that.

    Regarding local people like / dislike, who cares for that stuff when it is not taken into account in India?? Criminals are elected, scandals are just newspaper clippings,..

    Common man is meant to be kicked around (just try to lodge an FIR) hence, common man’s view is of no use but, good for research, getting funds (NGO), time pass, and everything boils down to whether you are having power (money/ links) then you are an citizen else just an empty orphan bottle to be kicked by any person capable of kicking.

    Further when an common police inspector is killed (M C Sharma) no one enquired about two terrorists who fled but, his shootout needs to be inquired ?? — that says all for congress and its secular image.

  8. March 13, 2009 7:55 pm

    Hmm it looks more like my enemy’s enemy is my friend sort of thinking in people of Pakistan.

  9. March 13, 2009 10:21 pm

    I find the anti US stance in Pak quite interesting. The people seem to be anti and the Govt seems to be friendly!! I find the attitude of the Indian people and Govt towards US policies equally interesting!

  10. March 13, 2009 10:42 pm

    Nita,

    I feel differently.

    Years of of emphasis on Islam in education and in institutions like the Army, governance, political process has meant atleast two generations have grown up on staple diet of extreme Islamic thinking.

    When Lal Masjid was stormed, there was a groundswell of support for the mullahs and the so-called “students” inside and this was from ordinary Pakistani people.

    I do not think people like Asma Jahangir, Imran Khan and others like them represent the common Pakistani.

    Call them extremists, terrorists or Taliban. It would be safe to paint them with the same brush and not be wrong. These elements are gaining wider control of Pakistan.

    This cannot be attributed to only a lack of will to fight. There is support for them and that is why they are able to spread their tentacles.

    If it was a fringe element, the Army and local authorities would have ruthlessly destroyed them. The Pakis have no qualms over killing such groups. The fact is they are incapable of doing so.
    SWAT is one such example.

    Regarding religious states, Malaysia, Indonesia, are Islamic states but have done better. Probably they are a homogenous societies…but all the same they are religious states.

    Let us not forget, the Taliban / extremist element have not materialised out of thin air. They are the product of many years of Pakistani mentoring. The general Pakistani may have been a willing collaborator in this or perhaps he had no choice but today they cannot disclaim responsibility.

    • Milind Kher permalink
      March 13, 2009 11:02 pm

      Mavin,

      Below is what the people of Pakistan have to say abou the Taliban and the terrorists.

      “Enemies of Pakistan are at it again. After blowing up girls schools in North West Pakistan, forcing traffic to drive on right hand side instead of left in Malakand, digging up the grave of a minority sect leader and hanging the already dead person in the public square in Swat, militants have now started blowing the resting place of those who are already dead.”

      So, you have a lot of sane voices in Pakistan. The stereotype of the fanatical, India hating type is incorrect. The rank and file want to be normal people and get on with their lives. They do not want to be in the grip of the fundamentalists.

    • March 14, 2009 7:47 am

      Mavin, I agree that Pakistani textbooks have a lot of stuff against India, many of which is distorted. So if you say the majority of Pakistanis either dislike, distrust or even hate India I would agree with you. About the majority being of an extremist idealogy, I guess that is where I differ.
      Also, I am not sure whether it is written in the constitution that Indonesia for example is an Islamic state but I do know that Islamists have started to gain ground there. But yes ofcourse Indonesia has been a successful country and I always thought it was because it was not founded on religion. But I need to find out out more about these countries before I give my opinion on this.

      • Milind Kher permalink
        March 14, 2009 10:46 am

        Nita,

        Today a very major problem facing both the countries is terrorism.

        Whereas we were painfully aware of it, in Pakistan too, people ARE beginning to feel the impending danger.

        I would still maintain that now is the time for the peaceloving forces to get together to combat this menace. That process will continue to be hindered till the respective nations harbor animosity towards each other.

        I know such views are called “bleeding heart liberal” views, but these are driven by a large element of practicality too.

        • March 14, 2009 11:05 am

          Mlind, I am not sure how practical it is because I think you might find that more Indians are willing to forgive and forget even though we have been attacked! I doubt that there they (Pakistanis) will be soft towards India, and a lot of it is that the moderates there are afraid of the extremists. Even those with moderate views dare not speak out so the peace process will never work. Any leader of Pakistan who tries to be friendly with India will be hooted out. Such is the situation. The solution, a practical one in my view, is to finish off the Taliban and the extremists so that moderates in Pakistan can speak up and make their voices heard.
          Also I do not go for the view that both countries are victims of terrorism in the same sense. If Hindu groups were going to Pakistan and blowing up their people, as well as our cities, would Pakistan have said that we too are victims? Obviously not.

          • Milind Kher permalink
            March 14, 2009 2:03 pm

            Nita,

            I agree with you about eliminating the Taliban and terrorists. They are a scourge, and need to be eliminated.

            HOWEVER, this can be achieved only with the consent of Pakistan. To launch an attack without their consent would tantamount to an act of war.

            The actual logistics and modus operandi is a conundrum.

            On another note, the best thing would be for the terrorists to start losing support the way it happened in Punjab.

            Julio Rebeiro advocated a “bullet for a bullet” strategy and failed. KPS Gill made people buy into his strategy and succeeded. That (in my opinion) is how it will have to be worked against the terrorists in Pakistan too.

            • March 14, 2009 2:11 pm

              Milind, Gill suceeded because he was violent with the terrorists, going as far as to kidnap the terrorists families because they kidnapped police officers families. Gill also tried a lot of cunning strategies too, the details of which I do not have right now. That is how Gill made them “buy” into his strategy, by blackmail and coercion! Rebeiro did not fully succeed as he was too soft. It was Gill who got rid of the Khalistanis because he was violent, more violent and cunning than Ribeiro.
              I wonder if you have read the history of the Khalistan movement. Gill was under fire for his heinous ways of controlling them. You can read a bit here. It was because of Gill’s ruthless tactics that the Khalistanis were finished.
              And when you say with the “consent” of Pakistan, I guess you mean the Army and ISI. Which ofcourse will never happen. If the Pak govt. could consent, then they would have been able to get rid of the taliban themselves. But obviously they can never consent, because a part of them is the Taliban.

              • Milind Kher permalink
                March 14, 2009 2:37 pm

                Nita,

                I am aware of the Khalistan movement.

                Post Blue Star, the biggest militant leaders were Gurbachan Singh Manochahal (Panthic committee) and Wassan Singh Zafarwal (KCF and parallel Panthic committee)

                The drift between these two favored Gill. Thereafter, Manochahal was killed in an encounter. A considerably weakened Zafarwal was arrested in Majitha.

                So, besides the violence, a lot of thinking and also good fortune, operated in Gill’s favor.

                Let us see how it works out against the Taliban. The destruction of Rahman Baba’s shrine has set off immense anger against them. A few more brutal acts like this and people will be baying for their blood. It just needs political will. If they could be hit badly in Afghanistan, it could be done in Pakistan too.

      • March 14, 2009 11:36 am

        Sane voices are in a minority and count for nothing.

        The point that I was making is, if the Taliban does not enjoy the support of the people (may not be overwhelming majority) how is it that they are spreading their tentacles.

        In the past thirty years the normal people are those who have been schooled in a rigid Wahabi school of Islam. They are not vocal opponents of the Taliban.

        If the Taliban was only a fringe group, the Army would have isolated and destroyed it. The fact is it is not.

        The moot question remains unanswered – If the majority is against Taliban, then why is it so difficult for society, government and the Army to uproot this evil from their soil.

        As Nita says – Pakistan’s main enemy is Taliban and not India but this is from our viewpoint. Pakistan, itself, should recognise that. I am sure they are smart enough to do that.

  11. March 14, 2009 10:49 am

    I wish people had started reading about the origin and promoters of Taliban ,before they made sweeping statements..

    I should apologize for my reply to Reema’ comment..I don’t think an average Pakistani would simply bother to hate a nation and would rather be worried about his own life and its issues..

    and oh well,aren’t we indians too pakistani haters??I have seen many people hating,just for the sake of it..All haters ,in pakistan and in india,should be deported to Swat valley…

    • March 14, 2009 11:00 am

      Nimmy, I do not think it is possible to equate the dislike that Pakistanis have for India to the dislike that Indians have for Pakistanis. In fact a whole lot of articles by eminent people have been written on this, so this is not really my view but an accepted view in India. There is evidence that Pakistani textbooks distort history, even mainstream ones and a lot of misinformation is spread. Also they are very India-centric, in the sense they see everything from the point of view of India, either negative or positive. I mean, they think of India much more than we do of Pakistan. I think I am not expressing myself well, but when I have a little more time I shall send you links on this issue. In fact there are far more positive feelings in India towards Pak than the other way around although now with the Mumbai attacks this has almost gone! Also it is amazing that we have any sort of liking for Pakistan (ethnic similarities with the north of india is a reason) despite them being responsible for terrorism in India for the last 2 decades. It is amazing, we Indians, I mean. We have a lot of love overall, but now I don’t know. As for Pakistan, there is no reason for them to hate us, we have never attacked their cities. They have been responsible for every single war.

      And whatever the origins of Taliban, does it matter now? It’s like when a badly behaved child keeps blaming his parents for his upbringing even when he is 40. Today the people who are in the taliban have to take responsibility for it.

      • Nimmy permalink
        March 14, 2009 1:15 pm

        hmmm,I totally i agree with you… I am just back after reading a fanatic muslim say that taliban is the real muslim group–baaah… I wonder why people have gone insane over a small period of brainwashing ..The real enemies(taliban here) have turned the anti-islam activities into their favour by making people have an illusion that they are the real saviours..i hope people open their eyes and wake up for peace … **sigh***

  12. March 14, 2009 11:34 am

    I’d read a report few years back, before the descent of Pakistan started which compared loyalties of the people of India and Pakistan.

    A majority of Pakistani citizens felt religion comes before country while India was the exact opposite.

    Secondly, a majority of Pakistani citizens believed more in religious leaders (Mullahs) while the Indian citizens were divided between Political and Business leaders. Sports personalities came third with religious leaders coming in last.

    So that tells you something.

    For years, Pakistan, as a part of its foreign policy has nurtured radical elements, provided grants to Madarsas who impart ‘fighting’ training. General Zia’s dictatorship openly promoted radical Islam. Those who kept a beard and prayed 5 times regularly were given top posts and promotions in the Army as well as Police force. The more liberal people where sidelined. That sowed the seeds of radical Islam.

    And liberal voices of Pakistan are very few and far in between. Coz any liberation of Pakistan is understood by their people as sleeping with the west.

    Arresting terrorists in connection with 26/11 will be seen by the majority of the people there as sleeping with India.

    This, as mentioned in the comments above, is a result of years of conditioning and hatred fed in their minds through anti-India textbooks, anti-Hindu texts and what not.

    • March 14, 2009 2:12 pm

      Rakesh, thanks. I agree with most of what you have said, particularly this:

      Coz any liberation of Pakistan is understood by their people as sleeping with the west.

      Arresting terrorists in connection with 26/11 will be seen by the majority of the people there as sleeping with India.

      • Milind Kher permalink
        March 14, 2009 9:50 pm

        The fact that there will be people like al Qaeda and the Taliban had been predicted long back in the ahadith.

        Given below are some Sunni ahadith (from Sahih Bukhari) which record this.

        This entire mischief was largely created by Lawrence of Arabia. These modern day day Khawarij are major enemies of Islam.

        See a couple of the ahadith below:

        The Prophet [May Allah bless Him and grant Him peace] stated: I fear from the Najdi’s.

        [Bukhari Chapter on Jihad]

        The Prophet [May Allah bless Him and grant Him peace] stated: That the Fitnah will emerge from the east. [Bukhari, Kitab-ul-Fitnah]

        Abdullah Ibn Umar narrates:

        The Prophet [May Allah bless Him and grant Him peace] made Du’a for Syria and Yemen, some people asked him: “Ya Rasoolallah (Sallallahu’ aliahi wa sallam) pray for Najd.” The Prophet [May Allah bless Him and grant Him peace] again repeated Dua for Syria and Yemen. They again requested for Najd. Upon the third time the Prophet [May Allah bless Him and grant Him peace] said: “There will be earthquakes there, tribulations will emerge there and a horn of Shaytan will emerge from there”. [Bukhari, Kitabul Fitan]

        The brother of Muhammad bin Abdul Wahab al Najdi, Shaykh Sulaiman bin Abdul Wahab, said about his brother, “The horn of Shaytan which the Prophet (Sallallahu’ aliahi wa sallam) referred to is you.”

        • Vinod permalink
          March 16, 2009 7:38 am

          Milind, I’m impressed that you are among the few Indians (I assume you’re Indian and non-muslim?) like me who have bothered to read up on Islam about these matters. You probably know that those ahadith are open to a varied interpretation. In opposition to these, there are also other ahadith on the matter that talk about the rise of the army from a place in Afghanistan with black flags that will follow the ‘true sunnah’ and bring back Islam into the world. I’m sure you’ve come across those too. How the ahadith are going to be used in viewing the current political and religious trends in the muslim world will determine what the future holds for them?

          By the way, have you heard of Javed Ahmad Ghamidi Saheb in Pakistan? Look him up in youtube. You may find his talks quite promising for muslims.

          • Milind Kher permalink
            March 16, 2009 9:16 am

            Vinod,

            Thanks for the kind words. Yes, I am an Indian.

            The study of ahadith is a very complex science, the study of which can take several years before one gets a grip on the subject.

            Describing the various kinds of ahadith would not be really feasible for me here. However, principally, there is a very important point to understand.

            Hadith commentators consider the isnad (chain of narrators) to rely on the authenticity of a hadith. They are not so strict in reviewing the matn (content) of the hadith. This is where the scope for a lot of error comes in.

            The Quran is the only document that is authentic from end to end, with the ahadith it is not necessarily so. Even the Sihahe Sittah (six most authoritative compliations of ahadith) are not error free.

            • Vinod permalink
              March 16, 2009 9:50 am

              Yeah, I’m aware of that. But you’ll agree with me when I say that orthodoxy does not quite view ahadith with that much an open texture as you’ve laid out. Especially given such oft repeated statements as – “Ahadith are the second revelation”.

              • Milind Kher permalink
                March 16, 2009 10:05 am

                Vinod,

                There is a hadith that best describes the so called “orthodoxy”.

                ALLAH WARNED ME THAT THE DAY WOULD COME WHEN NOTHING WOULD REMAIN OF ISLAM BUT ITS NAME. MOSQUES WOULD BE ABUNDANT, BUT (TRUE) WORSHIPPERS WOULD BE FEW.

                THAT DAY, THE MOST EVIL CREATURES UNDER THE DOME OF THE HEAVENS WOULD BE THE RELIGIOUS LEADERS. FROM THEM, FITNAH WOULD ARISE, AND IN THEM IT WOULD ABIDE.

                So, you see, one of the biggest challenges facing the Muslim world today is a clutch of bigoted theocrats.

                • Vinod permalink
                  March 16, 2009 10:47 am

                  I couldn’t help wonder with the capitalization in your post whether I have antagonized you in anyway. I hope not. I believe that your voice needs to be heard.

                  But I look around the muslim world and find the current orhtodoxy to be the only accepted form in the minds of the muslim masses. The kafir-muslim worldview that orthodoxy weilds is very divisive and abrasive in character. It just saddens me, Milind. No doubt, there are alternatives to the current orthodoxy that also relies on the source texts, but they are usually not given any more support by the masses than a mere word or two of appreciation.

                  • Milind Kher permalink
                    March 16, 2009 12:11 pm

                    Vinod,

                    The capitalization is only because I am quoting. Maybe I should have used Parantheses. No issue, so chill🙂

                    The obscuntarist Mullahs need to step aside, so that the community can progress.

                    And who professes what religion does not matter. It is their equation with God, He will judge.

  13. March 14, 2009 11:55 am

    Nita,you seem to have done a lot of research on this subject.”Support Extremists”in Pak is based on various factors.Unresolved Kashmir issue,Defeat in 1971,Kargill,India’s progress etc are few issues as far is it is India/Pak.Then you have the American factor.Pak,except for few in the civil society,hates US involvment in all the issues concerning Pak.Like this one can list a number of factors.
    However,it really is the frustration on all the fronts,be it economic,social, international relations.

  14. Sudhir Jatar permalink
    March 14, 2009 1:26 pm

    The common person in Pakistan does not hate India. A person from Pakistan Occupied Kashmir also does not. The Government of Pakistan hates the Government of India. The Pak government is nothing but the Army and the ISI. Both have vested interests to keep the tension so they do not lose power. Would you have any tension between India and Pak, if say Kashmir problem is resolved? The Pak Army and the ISI would never let it happen.
    In fact, Bhutto had agreed with Indira Gandhi at Shimla that he would try and persuade the Pak people to formalise the Line of Control as an international border. He did not live long enough to fulfil that assurance. This is one of the biggest strategic errors of Indira Gandhi that she agreed for the repatriation of 92000 prisoners of war without gaining anything politically or strategically.
    As for Talibanisation, it would happen not voluntarily but compulsorily if the Pak Army finds that it is the only way to retain power.
    I feel that an average Pakistani has a lurking admiration for India’s strides in economic development and its open society.

  15. Vinod permalink
    March 16, 2009 7:57 am

    Nita
    I think the problem may lie with the premise of your article itself – that a society based on religion cannot succeed. While I too hold the scepticism about religion to some extent, my exposure to Islam and muslims has taught me that if we’re unable to give up that scepticism then we don’t even have a starting point for furthering relations with the muslim world. I believe that the muslim world is uniquely different from the rest of the world because, as a whole, they never divorced themselves from religion. They never secularized. Religion has and is always prominent there. A large majority of them cannot conceive a political system that they can trust which is not based on religion. The liberal and secularized voices are only the minority. While that thought may send a shiver in us, there is also the countervailing fact that there are numerous interpretations of what a muslim state is. Ofcourse, it is still insufficient to comfort us. But can we not contain our nervousness about a religious state and engage in a dialogue with the muslim world to see the details of such a state and how outsiders fit in it? Do we have to assume that all religious states have to be draconian? If we do that, then I don’t know how we can even begin to engage with the muslim world. I really don’t know.

    • March 16, 2009 8:21 am

      Vinod, I guess I do think that all religious states tend to be dictatorial, in the long run. But I do not think that Muslims are incapable of a secular democracy as you seem to think. I think the majority of Muslims want it, the population I mean. Because like all human beings they too want to live in peace with their neighbours, and overall live with freedom. However, there is a problem with some of their religious leaders, who unfortunately want political power which in the modern age of globalisation will not work as people of other religions and states will not feel comfortable in this kind of system. If a state has to be modern and secular, it needs to divorce itself from religion and yes I think it is possible where there majority of the population is Muslim. I think they need to throw out the extremists who are more interested in political power than God. And I do believe it will happen. I feel it is all going to reach a peak, and then the population will realise that they have to shed the fear they have, mostly the fear of being ex-communicated and ostracized. I don’t see why this will not happen. Eventually, the people triumph. The Muslim world has already realised the dangers of extremism and that is a begining. You yourself have said that there is hope, and I agree with that. But I do not agree that a religious state can be a successful democracy.

      • Vinod permalink
        March 16, 2009 10:40 am

        I don’t know where you derive your optimism about muslims becoming secular. While there is disapproval of terrorism by muslims that is not leading to any disenchantment with religion at all. They are able to do that by relying on religion itself. I think what the secular world needs to open to is the notion that a religioun-based political system can be inclusive and pacifist in character. I know that it is difficult to entertain such a notion as there are no examples of that today. But there are scholars of Islam who do give such a texture to their interpretation of religion.

        • March 16, 2009 10:50 am

          Vinod, if a religion based political system is inclusive of other religions, then no more will the political system be religion based.

          • Vinod permalink
            March 16, 2009 10:56 am

            There are degrees of inclusiveness.🙂

          • Milind Kher permalink
            March 16, 2009 11:52 am

            Nita,

            Religion can never be a unifying factor, shared values and common interests are a unifying factor.

            The people of Pakistan have seen this, and are willing to work for a secular state.
            If the binding power of professing the same religion had reallybeen so powerful, you would have seen a single Dar ul Islam from Morocco to Malaysia.

            • March 16, 2009 12:00 pm

              Milind, I agree with you. Relgion can never be the unifying factor, but human values can be. It’s time the Mullahs realised that they can only hold together a religious state by force.

              • Vinod permalink
                March 16, 2009 12:20 pm

                Religion can providing governing principles that carry these human values rather well. In other words, these human values can be couched in religious terms well.

                The scary bit is that religion can be used to any end. Lots of violence can also sit comfortably in it. It comes down to who is driving religion and how broad his or her outlook is on life.

  16. Sudhir Jatar permalink
    March 16, 2009 9:57 am

    In fact, it is the dictatorial regimes e.g. Saudi Arabia, that have harmed the cause of Islam more than any body else. The Ulema in Saudi Arabia toes the government line and endorses all actions of the State. Like Thomas Jefferson of the US, bin Laden also stresses “the burden of government imposed taxes” and to “resort to arms after the failure of a long series of peaceful remonstrance by Saudi reformers to the King”, each of which had been rejected. Laden then went on to exploit the presence of American troops in the Land of the two Holy Mosques. The next step of Laden was to tell the Muslim world that Islam was in danger and that the Ulema has been betraying Islam by levying taxes , allowing foreign troops in the Holy Land, etc. The result is that country after Muslim country is returning radical political parties to power even in a democratic elections. So where is democracy leading countries such as Iran, Lebanon, perhaps Pakistan (Zia-ul-Haque and later Musharraf openly supporting the fundamentalists and the Taliban to break up secular political parties)?
    That is how the Laden terrorism started and has a fair amount of support even from moderate Muslims. And the Americans continue supporting Muslim dictatorial regimes while propagating democracy elsewhere! The Americans even invaded Iraq and destroyed a ‘secular’ dictatorial regime, the cost of which the whole world is now paying with the rise of insurgency/terrorism against the ‘infidels’ the world over, the internecine war between the Shias and the Sunnis and so on.

    • Milind Kher permalink
      March 16, 2009 11:22 am

      Vinod,

      Please see below what an average Pakistani wants.

      “I wish some day we can say that now Pakistan is a state which was dreamed for by Jinnah and all the progressive and liberal minded Muslims of sub-continent. Not a dream of Jamiat Ulami-e-Hind or Jammat-e-Islami brand as one can see how hypocratic ther behaviours was and are still in highlights in news. The most critical point that was highlighted and are still using by Army+Mullah+US alliance was ” Hate”.. Hate for India, Hate for Music, Hate for Leftist, Hate for any new development, Hate for Ahmadis, Hate for Shias, hate for Ismailis, and the word continues till to date…If we want to stand as a respectable nation, we have to see and analyize by an unbiased eye, what Quaid-e-Azam said, what is the myth of basic human rights a state has to deliver… We should stand now, we should spread our words out that we dont want Pakistan to be a Mullah state, we want to see Pakistan a liberal state, where all the human beings within its boundries are free to live
      according to their religious and political beliefs… May Allah bless Pakistan and save it from Mullah+Military+USA alliance.”

      • Vinod permalink
        March 16, 2009 11:58 am

        Milind, isn’t this only one side of the raging debate in Pakistan on what its founding principles were?

  17. Vinod permalink
    March 16, 2009 10:54 am

    I think the problem with the US intervention in the muslim world has been that they’ve tried to engineer democracy without paying attention to the voices on the ground. They’ve tried to force secularism on the muslim world. They’ve approached the matter with the assumption that Shariah and modernity cannot go hand in hand. Unfortunately, secularism is not a welcome idea among the muslim masses while they see no problem with religion playing a role in public life. Unless the western world is willing to actually look at the details in the Shariah – the various forms of it – an imposed secularism will not work in the muslim world. They have to engage with the Shariah and bring a reformation through its rules by appealing to the more inclusive texts of Islam.

  18. Vinod permalink
    March 16, 2009 11:05 am

    I think it is important to remember that the muslim world had a religious kingdom/state during the medieval period and that there were NO REBELLIONS to overthrow such a rule and establish a secular state. The religious rule was always disbanded by the colonial powers and not by the people themselves. In the modern age, secular/democratic states have always been imposed on the muslim masses. It was never an innate acceptance by the society. The imposition by the western world has also left bad scars that are not going to heal anytime soon.

    I cannot explain why the rest of the world were able to move onto a democratic form of governance other than to point to something about Islam, its history and sway during the medieval period and its pervasiveness in the everyday lives of a muslim. If somebody could offer an alternative explanation I’m open to it.

    • Milind Kher permalink
      March 16, 2009 11:45 am

      Vinod,

      A prime example in the Muslim world of people clamoring for, and getting, a secular rule is that of Turkey.

      The states that emerged after the disintegration of USSR are also secular states. Today, many Pakistanis are also clamoring for a secular state.

      • Vinod permalink
        March 16, 2009 12:14 pm

        Milind, the secularization of Turkey is among the many sad stories of the muslim world. He brutally supressed any expression of religion by banning the wearing of scarfs in all govt depts, changing the call for prayer to turkish, and brutally crushing many of the religious institutions. The secularization of Turkey is not a victory for due process or a non-violent reformation. The brutal suppression of any form of religious expression continues to this day in Turkey. The recent re-emergence of religious movements in Turkey only goes to show that religious sentiments have been festering underneath.

        I cannot conceive an imposed secularism working in the muslim world. I simply cannot while religion is important to muslims both in the private sphere as well as the public sphere.

        • Milind Kher permalink
          March 16, 2009 1:16 pm

          Vinod,

          An imposed secularism will not work in the long run. However, if secularism comes in on popular demand, it will.

          Acts of ibadaat (worship) can be followed in a secular state. Acts of muamlaat ( human transactions) will not necessarily conform to Islam unless enforced.

          Then again, we come back to the eminently practical question Jinnah asked, “Whose Islam”?.

          • Vinod permalink
            March 16, 2009 2:10 pm

            Yes, indeed. That is the question. It comes down to *who* is behind the religious state.

            • Milind Kher permalink
              March 16, 2009 10:33 pm

              Mercenary mullahs funded by Saudi Arabia are the only people who want to enforce a theocratic rule in Pakistan. Beign flush with funds, they are able to beguile many an unemployed youth.

              Bring in education, and remove poverty, and a lot of these ills will vanish.

              • Vinod permalink
                March 17, 2009 8:33 am

                I believe that the desire for a theocratic state is more widespread than that.

  19. March 17, 2009 3:12 am

    The problem with people in Pakistan and India is that they start hating each other without an iota of reasoning. Its just a sort of tradition.
    We forget that there are people on both sides who care a damn about hatred and terrorism and just want to live peacefully with their families. Also, there are people who thrive on Murders and extremism. It is them we all have to hate.

    • sunil kumar permalink
      March 17, 2009 10:30 am

      ohh really!!! then who comes from Pakistan to blow out Mumbai in 7/11 and 26/11…?

      • Vinod permalink
        March 17, 2009 11:16 am

        Mostly people who have lost hope in a dignified life on earth and are indoctrinated with hope in a life after death that can be achieved through a cause that is grossly misrepresented and oversimplified.

  20. Sudhir Jatar permalink
    March 17, 2009 4:09 pm

    Below is an extract from “Indus Potsherd of our Times” by Anjali Puri (Outlook India, 23/03/09), which gives the present attitude of a Pakistani towards India and Indians. Aatish Taseer is born out of wedlock. His father, Salmaan Taseer and mother Tavleen Singh (both journalists but Salmaan is now Governor of Pak Punjab).
    He is wounded by reflexive anti-Indianism, which he encounters widely in Pakistan, and particularly among the young. (“The people I felt closest to,” he told Outlook, “was that older generation who had an idea of a mixed society.”) He laments the rejection he finds everywhere of a pluralist subcontinental past, and is dismayed by the growing spread of a narrow version of Islam. The anti-Indianism, he confesses, “made it very difficult to be both Indian and Pakistani.” And while stressing that he received great warmth from Pakistanis, he adds: “They would have liked me to turn my back on India and then be theirs. To keep the two was something that was strange and difficult for them.”
    The above is a telling commentary on present day Pakistan about which we have been discussing here. Aatish also says about his father, “‘He was Muslim because he doubted the Holocaust, hated America and Israel, thought Hindus were weak and cowardly, and because the glories of the Islamic past excited him…’

  21. Milind Kher permalink
    March 17, 2009 4:57 pm

    There is no doubt that there must be many who hate India and Hindus just like the Hindutvavadis hate Pakistan and Muslims.

    However, there is a substantial number on either side who do not subscribe to such views. Therein lies our hope.

  22. paddock permalink
    March 19, 2009 1:27 am

    Very good article.
    Can you write your opinion on the movie by Alex jones.
    OBAMA DECEPTION.People are talking all over the internet about this movie,cos its related to todays terrorismi,wars in Pakistan,Afghanistan and economic situation world over.

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