Oriental Magick

in homistan

The ads were in the magazine section of Pakistan News – an Urdu weekly for diaspora desis in NY, Chicago etc. In breathless prose they invited broken hearts and spirits to have their problem solved within “two and half minutes”. One promised a reward if not successful, another lauded his experience of 55 years. In tone, or in content, these ads were apace with any psychic, Dionne Warwick-style salespitch that you may encounter elsewhere. Except for one garish detail – all three ads were explicitly selling services of Kala Jadoo, black magic.

Lost in the noise of “wahhabisation” of the Pakistani publics, are some really interesting changes which accompanied the seasonal migration of Pakistan’s labor force to the Gulf since the 1970s. Broadly understood, “wahhabisation” denotes the growth of parties/philosophies in Pakistan who share the stringently narrow-minded Sunni sectarianism from Saudi Arabia, along with some attendant thoughts on anti-imperialism of a local or global kind. Often, the calls for a resurgent Caliphate, or destruction of Israel become à la carte additions.

But one particularly pernicious long term side-effect of this seasonal migration has been the disruption of the varied local traditions of charismatic and spiritual leadership in Pakistan – specifically the heterogenous sufic traditions. The explicitly “local” site – whether a shrine, a seat or a house of a Sufi – where the community would go for counsel, help, adjudication and spiritual growth was rapidly overwhelmed by a new generation of preachers. This new breed was freely entrepreneurial – tying the remittances to moral panics in the domestic sphere. How do you know if your wife was faithful to you?. The cash-for-salvation business has many, many facets. Clerics like Hafiz Saeed, etc., have done wonders within this ‘emerging market’.

The “Black Magic” industry is another, less-frequently mentioned, outpost of this wild capitalism. It operates through a network of intermediaries in the foreign city (be that Doha, Qatar or New York, USA) who identify the marks and get them hooked through a nominal fee. A local payment, in dinars or dollars, gets the troubled soul a special phone number to call. On the other end, is another intermediary who will solicit all your sordid details. The client is usually strung along for months, doing mind-numbing spells and sacrifices and paying small amounts. Eventually, desire and despair forces the client to ask for the ultimate – a direct audience with the ‘Amil (Knowledge Bearer). It is perhaps needless to point out that this ultimate round of communications has its own price bracket.

The practitioners use specialized constructions to lure in their clients. They situate themselves, explicitly within the Islamic cosmology, as “outsiders” and mimic a parallel genealogy of filth, as sufis have a genealogy of pure. Alistar Crowley would easily understand. Note that the ads above name the practitioners as either “Massih” or “Bengali” – that is, Christian or Bengal (it has a long history of being associated w/ the darker arts in certain traditions). Additionally, they explicitly name “demonic” beings – some are standard (Kali, Churail, Nag,جیسے ہنومان ،کھیترپال ،بھیرو، ناگ دیوتا ، لوناچماڑی، چڑیل، لکشمی دیوی ، کالا کلوا ، پاروتی دیوی ، کلوسادھن، پیچھل پیری ،ڈائن ،ہر بھنگ آکھپا etc.), and some rather inexplicable (Hanuman!). Graveyards, become the counterpoint to the sufi shrine. Lest we think that this is merely defrauding money from suckers, there are constant reports in the media of child abductions and mutilated corpses being used in such rituals.

What to make, then, of these ads which tout their particular other-ness with such aplomb? How do we fit this utilitarian embrace of the Christian and the Hindoo within the same fold as the shrine-hating “wahhabisation”? Theoretically speaking, we have to conceive of a landscapes that accommodates spirituality post modernity. Second, we have to discard the notion of a uniform process of “wahabbisation” (I am tired of putting in the quotes).

Things are way more, um, diabolical.

Below the fold, the actual ads.



Additional Reading: A fascinating report by Muhammad Haroon Abbas on Black Magic as well as a report from Dubai where police arrested an “Asian” who was fleecing hundreds of immigrants by promising them riches through black magic.

PS. Do note that I have translated bits of the ads on the Flickr site. Just move your mouse over the image to reveal the notes.

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