Category Archives: Extremism

The Good and the Evil of the Militants

Why is the Pakistani Society ambivalent about the militants? The fact is that a large number of Pakistanis see Taliban doing what they think are some extremely good and some extremely bad things which cause them to not be able to decide whether they are on the balance a blessing or an evil. A brief analysis of the two aspects of them would help in understanding the real problem many Pakistani Muslims are going through in their minds.

Most of the Pakistani Muslims have formed an idea through their religious learning of what a good Muslim is. They see in the extremist militants living examples of what a devout Muslim should be like, both in appearance and religious commitment. While ordinary Pakistanis would like to be practicing Muslims themselves, saying their prayers regularly, leading a simple life, following God’s law completely, they find the ideal difficult to be achieved either because they are not strong enough or because their environment is not conducive or because of a combination of both reasons. While they see that they are struggling to come closer to the ideals of religion, Taliban are leading a very tough life following them to please their God. They conclude that they have no right to criticize the militants who have achieved a very high level of religiosity to which they can’t even imagine to come anywhere close.

The majority of ordinary Pakistani Muslims consider Jihad as an important part of the requirement of their faith. They are not very clear about what it entails but they vaguely know that it is a holy war that is fought against non-Muslims to achieve supremacy of Islam. While they are unsure of what the conditions of Jihad are, they don’t want to blame their Muslim brothers who have decided to put their lives at stake for it, supremacy of Islam, and dominance of Shari’ah law over the entire globe. Rather than criticize the militants for what they are sincerely doing even if their arguments are not fully clear, they want to quietly admire them.

Another merit they see in Taliban is that they aren’t hypocrites. Unlike many Pakistanis, they speak what they believe is the truth no matter what the consequences are. They are willing to lay down their lives for what they consider to be the truth. The Taliban also promise quick justice which ordinary Pakistanis don’t get in their society. It is an attractive slogan for a justice-starved nation which sees quick and genuine provision of it as a basic requirement of an Islamic society.

Perhaps the most significant aspect of the situation that confuses many Pakistanis is that while Taliban always quote Qur’an and Hadith to justify their acts, Pakistani politicians, journalists, and even scholars are either avoiding to present any religious arguments or even if they are doing it, they are not as clear and to the point as Taliban are. Since these sources are considered the right way leading to the true understanding of our religion, their commitment to the cause of Islam appears to be far more impressive than that of the rest. Even if they are making mistakes of interpretation and judgment, they still don’t deserve condemnation and annihilation, especially when the ones they are fighting with seem no where close to them in their religious commitment.

However, the Taliban have another side of them as well which is what makes Pakistani Muslims not fully convinced that they are genuine representatives of Islam.

One huge problem with the Taliban is their disrespect for human life. Their inhuman, barbaric, and beastly attitude towards human life is what threatens to wash away every aspect of their apparent virtue. Killing innocent people on the basis of irrelevant, unconvincing arguments and disrespecting corpses has become such a norm for them that a common Muslim feels disgusted and wary of their existence. The fact that they cause innocent minds to be brainwashed to resort to suicide bombing is a further evidence of their disrespect for human life. Their barbaric acts make a mockery of their ideology. They have in fact caused rewards of the paradise to be mentioned as a joke by some people who quite often see those rewards mentioned as the motivation behind their insane acts.

The brand of Islam they have presented is so impractical and rigid that it has become very difficult for a common, intelligent Muslim to associate himself with it. Women seem invisible in their societies. Education of girls seems to threaten their sense of dignity. Extreme punishments of Shari’ah which were meant to be given in an ideal society where inclination to do evil was minimal are inflicted by them after following a very shady investigation process. Music and images of living beings are not allowed by them even though Hadith condemned only their evil aspects. Their leaders destroyed statues in Bamyan, Afghanistan even though the companions of the prophet didn’t touch the religious statues of the places they invaded.

Another ugly aspect of the Taliban is their unbending attitude. Whenever they would appear on media it would seem that discussion with them is not getting through anywhere. They seem to have made up their mind on the matters they deem are their ideals. If Qur’an and Hadith are presented to them from the other side, they have a ready, firm answer already prepared with them. They consider all religious views other than their own untenable, worthy of condemnation, and heretic.

Indeed one of the biggest problems of Taliban is that they are not prepared to see the point of view of others if it is different from what they have already learned. This one problem has caused them to be highly stubborn in their approach. However, one can’t blame just the Taliban for showing that approach. Most religious people of our society are afflicted with it. In the case of Taliban however the evil of this irrational religious approach has gone beyond acceptable limits which is worrying religious Pakistanis, even though they themselves are unmistakable models of it at less damaging levels.

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War Against Militant Islam- the Ideological Frontiers

It all started in 1979 when the then Soviet army invaded Afghanistan. The US, the rival superpower, engaged the local traditional Muslims and many others who volunteered from outside Afghanistan to fight the invading army to throw them out. In the process they trained the local people in the art of modern military warfare, equipped them with military hardware, and called them the Afghan fighters of the holy war (Afghan Mujahidin). The US achieved its purpose of ousting USSR from Afghanistan culminating in the collapse of the Soviet empire. Both parties, the US and Afghan Mujahidin, were supremely confident that since they had defeated a super power, they had become invincible. In this war, they were ably supported by Pakistan who provided them the ideology, the manpower and the training ground for these Mujahidin.

The Afghan Mujahidin did not fight the Soviet army for the love of Americans. Their fight was a holy war for them which had its roots in their religious narrative that urged them to fight non-Muslim enemies until the entire globe was conquered for establishing the political authority of Islam. Not long after the collapse of Soviet Union, the Taliban established the first model of what they thought was the ideal Islamic state in accordance with their narrative. When a group of people caused 9/11 to happen and the US invaded Afghanistan on the plea that the alleged chief instigator, Osama bin Laden, was given protection by the Taliban government, the religious narrative was challenged. The Taliban took it as a further opportunity to realize their ideal. From then on, they are fighting, going by their religious understanding, the Kafir Americans who conquered their land and destroyed the Islamic regime in Afghanistan. Their first goal is to oust the Americans from Afghanistan and the next, bigger one, is to convert the entire globe into an Islamic state by invading it through Jihad (holy war). The fallout of that war in Pakistan is not coincidental. TTP is the Pakistani version of the group inspired by the same ideology.

The narrative the Afghan Taliban and their Pakistani counterparts are striving to realize is taught in the religious seminaries of Pakistan in a way that the Muslim world is described as Darul-Islam (or Darul-Salam, the land of peace) and the rest as Darul-Harb (the land of war). This war will continue according to the narrative until all territories of the world are subjugated and made Darul-Islam. A similar narrative was forcefully presented by Mawlana Maududi and his followers and Dr Israr Ahmad in the later half of the twentieth century. They quoted verses after verses from the Qur’an to show that the purpose of a believer’s life in this world was to ensure supremacy of God’s law over the entire globe. His task would remain incomplete until that goal is realized. Neither of them wanted their narrative to be realized through military adventurism of such devastating proportions as the TTP is doing. In fact, Jama’at e Islami decided after the creation of Pakistan to achieve that goal democratically. Dr Israr Ahmad resigned from the Jama’at in protest, declaring it as a deviation from the ideal Mawlana Maududi himself presented. No matter what these scholars had in mind, military adventurism of the Taliban has its ideological roots in their works.

The soldiers who are fighting for TTP are therefore convinced that what they are doing is the noblest of the causes their religion has taught them. They are engaged in a holy war (Jihad). But the narrative is not believed in by the Taliban alone. A substantial number of religious Pakistanis are influenced by the same approach. The non-combatant sympathizers are put off sometimes by the barbaric killing of the innocent civilians by the Taliban. Many of them also disagree with suicide bombing as a tactic for achieving this goal. Some also dispute their strategy of achieving their end by fighting fellow Muslims. But the ideal of ensuring supremacy of Islamic law one way or the other is shared by many as an undisputed ideal.

The war against the Taliban is therefore not going to be a simple affair. It has both military and ideological dimensions. The latter too has to be fought resolutely by presenting convincing arguments to show that the concept of Darul Harb is absurd, dangerous, and un-Islamic. It needs to be clarified that the battles fought against the non-believers at the time of the Prophet alaihissalam were mostly divine punishments for the people who rejected the messenger of God despite knowing him to be the true representative of God. The Qur’anic verses referring to those battles have nothing to do with later times. It also needs to be clarified that the task of introducing Islamic Shari’ah is not the direct responsibility of the masses. The elected representatives need to introduce it through mutual consultation. Muslims need to be convincingly reminded that fighting against Muslim rulers is not Jihad (a holy war); instead, it is fasad fil ard (mischief on earth). And above all, they should be made to realize that killing one soul is as big a crime as killing the entire humanity. Arguments for all these ideas are firmly rooted in the Qur’an.

If the outcome of the war against TTP is to be positive, it will have to be fought as much on the ideological frontier as it needs to be fought on the military front. No army can fight a war convincingly if it is fighting an enemy who enjoys considerable sympathies of many of its own soldiers and civilians.