Paleo-Talibothra Found!!

paleotalibothra2

A chance conversation reminded me of something, which led to another trip down the ‘stacks in Reg and Google Books and, lo and behold, I may have hit at the birthplace of TALIBOTHRA! Now, understand that this is an exercise in what professional historians call “speculative scholarship”. As a professional historian, I believe it is my right to engage in such activities that are strictly off-limits to the lesser yous.

We all know that the word Taliban is plural of the Arabic Talib meaning “one who seeks”. Most commonly it is a contraction of Talib-i ‘Ilm, “one who seeks knowledge/learning” aka “student”. Our current Taliban got the moniker because they belonged to a particular generation of seminary/madrasa students in Pakistan (’86-’90). So, Taliban = Talib-e ilm. All good? Now check it:

I. “The Talib ilm or Student in Affghanistan is very different from the same species usually so called in India and Sindh. Like the members of our European Universities in the middle ages, the Affghan Student carries about his sword and dagger, and is fonder of broil than he is of his books. The duello of course is unknown, as the usual way to resent an insult is to draw a sword and cut the opponent down. As Mussulmans, they dare not openly indulge in the “wine and wassail” but the “emerald cup”, in other words Cannabis sativa under the forms of bhang and charas, forms no contemptible succedaneum.”1

II. “One evening in the month of September 1853 he had completed his day’s work, and as he was seated outside his house receiving and hearing petitions, a man came up and handed to him what appeared to be a petition. As Mackeson was examining it, the miscreant drew a dagger, either from his sleeve or beneath his shirt, and stabbed him. He lingered some days, but the wound was fatal, and he died on September 14, 1853. The assassin was a Talib-ul-Ilm (a searcher after knowledge, i.e. a religious student), a resident of the Kuner Valley.”2

III. “Everywhere Mullahs, Shekhs and Sayads are objects of reverence, whose temporal wants are freely attended to. Mullahs of note attract to their mosques a number of wandering adventurers from other countries known as talib-ilm or seekers after learning; but who are most frequently idle vagabonds, ready to join in any piece of mischief which comes in their way: and sometimes the regularly employed spies of robbers and dacoits.

The Talib-ul-ilm, or ‘seeker of wisdom’ is the name applied to a mixed class of vagrants and idlers who, under the pretense of devoting themselves to religion, wander from country to country, and on the whole lead an agrreable and easy life.”3

Say what you will, those British were preceptive people.4

Related: Check Talibothra here.

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  1. Richard F. Burton, “Notes and Remarks on Dr. Dorn’s Chrestomathy of the Pushtu or Affghan Language,” The Journal of the Bombay Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, Jan 1849. []
  2. Robert Warburton. Eighteen Years in the Khyber, 1979-1898. (London: John Murray, 1900) []
  3. Gazetteer of the Peshawar. 1897-98 (Lahore: Sang-e-Meel Publications, 1989): 102-12 []
  4. I can’t help but share some other gems from the Gazetteer about the Pathans: “Their superstition is incredible and knows no bounds”. “The Pathans are a lively people, superstitious beyond belief and proud to a degree but brave and hospitable, two virtues compensating for many vices, among which may be mentioned distrustfulness, envy, resentment and vindictiveness.” “The Pathans are said to be naturally very avaricious and grasping, selfish, merciless, strangers to affection and without gratitude.” And perhaps my favorite colonial recommendation ever: “The poetry (of the Pathans) possesses some merit, and is worthy of attention from us by way of encouragement. Their music, too, though noisy, and the result of vigorous performance, is not without its peculiar merits, to judge from its exciting effects on a Pathan audience.” Good Times, yeah? []

122 Replies to “Paleo-Talibothra Found!!”

  1. Empire’s Paranoia About the Pashtuns
    A Century of Frenzy over the North-West Frontier
    by Juan Cole
    http://www.commondreams.org/view/2009/07/28

    “In trying to puzzle out — like modern analysts — why the predecessors of the Pakistani Taliban posed such a huge challenge to empire, Churchill singled out two reasons for the martial prowess of those Pashtun tribesmen. One was Islam, of which he wrote, ‘That religion, which above all others was founded and propagated by the sword — the tenets and principles of which are instinct with incentives to slaughter and which in three continents has produced fighting breeds of men — stimulates a wild and merciless fanaticism.’ “

  2. Kasab is little bit pregnant, THE PROSECUTER’S TAKE,

    “Prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam offered a sceptical take on Kasab’s confession, arguing that he had made only a partial and ‘half-hearted’ admission, which did not cover all the charges. He said only parts of the confession that are consistent with the prosecution’s evidence should be accepted. ‘The rest of the things that he has said are so many total lies,’ he told reporters later.”

    http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/news/world/18-go-ahead-and-hang-me-kasab-am-03

  3. Wanted to be a bandit ,end up being Jihadi? How credible?

    “He said he had become unhappy with his low wages as a shop assistant in the Pakistani town of Jhelum and left, with a friend, for Rawalpindi hoping to become a bandit.

    In search of weapons and training, they wandered around Raza Bazaar looking for men with long beards, Kasab said, and were directed to a house on the corner of a small lane. Kasab knocked on the door. “I told him that we had come for Jihad. Therefore, he allowed us entry,” he said.

    http://wire.antiwar.com/2009/07/21/mumbai-gunman-describes-indoctrination-in-pakistan-4/

  4. Re: “On the “deracinated” religiosity of the disapora, that dovetails with my experience as well. One often meets American Muslims (of desi origin/ethnicity) who: (a) look down on Islamic practices in their parents’ homeland, as impure/corrupted/not real Islam, etc.; and (b) seem to see Islam itself as a kind of ethnicity (perhaps influenced by the Jewish immigrant experience). ”
    *****

    “Today’s religious revival is first and foremost marked by the uncoupling of culture and religion, whatever the religion may be. This explains the affinities between American Protestant fundamentalism and Islamic Salafism: both reject culture, philosophy, and even theology in favour of a scriptural reading of the sacred texts and an immediate understanding of truth through individual faith, to the detriment of educational and religious institutions.

    The first point, essentially linked to the issue of Islam in Europe, is the uncoupling of Islam, on the one hand, and a given territory and culture, on the other. In countries with a Muslim tradition, both the believer and the non-believer, or the less convinced believer, experience religion as some sort of cultural given: by and large their society organizes and provides the space for religious practice. It is easy to fast during Ramadan in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Egypt, even if a person does not want to. Anybody wishing to observe Ramadan can do so without any problem, as society is organized around it for as long as necessary, and there are even instances of societies like Iran, where, in fact, very few people practice it, but where, officially, everything is done in order for believers to observe Ramadan.”

    […]”In our contemporary world we are now witnessing the uncoupling of religion and culture, in other words, contemporary believers put far more stress on faith, on spiritual experience, on individual and personal rediscovery of religion, than on legacy, culture, transmission, authority, and theology.

    Today, we see forms of religious revival leading to the “born again” phenomenon, in other words, people are born again into their religion. It is perhaps the most striking phenomenon of contemporary religiosity in all denominations. It is these “born again” believers who now define religious belief, for the large part, and not what we call the sociological believers. A born again believer is someone who rediscovers faith and decides that from then on his or her life will be put totally in the perspective of this rediscovered faith, in other words, he or she will rebuild his or her self in his or her relationship to that faith. This is what I call ‘religiosity.'”

    […]”Therefore, what we have is not a contradiction, but two totally different trends: one is the crisis of religions as institutions and cultures, the other is the return of religiosity. The return of religiosity acts against religion. It is very visible, for instance, among the charismatic fundamentalist protestant movements, where faith is first of all experienced as an individual experience and a break with tradition. Today, religious revival everywhere takes the form of a break with tradition, rather than a form of continued legacy.”

    […]”What we today label as Islamic fundamentalism, the re-Islamization, is happening not only in the Western world, but also in a lot of Islamic countries, under the same conditions as the revival of religious belief in Christianity, be it Protestant or Catholic. Therefore, far from witnessing an expansion of Middle Eastern and traditional Islam, which would assert itself against an equally traditional Christianity, what we are seeing is the globalization and Westernization of Islam from within, including in its most fundamentalist forms.”

    http://www.eurozine.com/articles/2007-05-03-roy-en.html

  5. Re: :”I loved your post and have been thinking about the term “liminal.” I have not read, and don’t know, much about liminality or what the term means and signifies (Reading suggestions are welcome). Is liminality/permanent liminality the same as syncretism?”

    To be honest, I prefer “marginal” and “liminal” to “syncretic” for basically the same reasons Metcalf mentions in her first paragraph in your most recent comment. IMO, marginal/liminal are more neutral and less essentialist, inasmuch as they point to the “subaltern” status of various traditions, how they are not considered part of the mainstream discourse, etc. — whereas “syncretic” suggests to me that something that is Islam is being mixed with something that is not (one thereby falls into the essentialist discourse of the orthodox; the secular “moderns”; as well as Islamophobes).

    As for suggested reading, I can’t really offer up anything like a theoretical recommendation, but I do recommend the works of Sikand (“Sacred Spaces”) Shail Mayaram (“Resisting Regimes”), for two relatively recent books on the experience of some communities. You might also want to check out Amitav Ghosh’s novel “The Hungry Tide”. Mayaram’s is a rigorous study of the Meo of the Mewat region; Ghosh’s novel is set in the Sundarbans of Bengal; Sikand’s book has the obvious (if implicit) aim of contrasting “tolerant”/pluralistic forms of worship with the “bad” Hinduism/Islam, and can come across as an exercise in liminal tourism (each chapter deals with a different site). Nevertheless, I find the book to be very useful and significant, especially inasmuch as it talks about forms of worship that don’t get much play. [Disclaimer: Yoginder is an e-friend of mine, and a great guy; his books are far too expensive in the USA, but can be obtained from India quite inexpensively (he also has a history of the Tablighi Jamaat); in general, if you google him, you’ll find a number of essays that he has written. Sikand also performs the valuable service of translating the Urdu writings of certain Islamic scholars in order to disseminate them to a wider audience.] I guess the Vaudeville book is also one I find useful: “Myths, Saints and Legends in Medieval India.” Heck, although far from a concern with “liminal” communities per se, anything by Barbara Metcalf, and Robinson’s “The Ulama of Farangi Mahall”. Finally, I find Nicholas Dirks’ book “Castes of Mind” to be very useful (and pertinent to this discussion), although I know some people see him as espousing an extremist who lays modern caste-ism on the doors of the British (I don’t think that’s a fair reading of Dirks’ thesis, but enough have made the point (most recently, among stuff I’ve read, John Darwin in “After Tamerlane”) that I would be remiss if I didn’t mention it. I know sepoy is getting ready for his move, but I imagine he is a far better person to offer recommendations on this issue…

  6. Qalandar,

    I loved your post and have been thinking about the term “liminal.” I have not read, and don’t know, much about liminality or what the term means and signifies (Reading suggestions are welcome). Is liminality/permanent liminality the same as syncretism? Or does it, like syncretism (as far as I understand the term) imply that a certain religious practice or an observant Muslim (for instance) is not completely/”purely” Muslim.

    Another Metcalf piece that’s somewhat relevant to your post. http://www.columbia.edu/itc/mealac/pritchett/00islamlinks/ikram/part0_metcalfintro.html
    […] “ironically, the singling out of “syncretism” reinforces the image of an (unspoken) separate, non-Indian, negative “Islam.” As noted above, this emphasis may feed into a Hindutva notion that Muslims are really Hindu. It more clearly risks the assumption, evident especially in the introduction, that Muslims who preserve the scholarly tradition stand outside what is Indian. ”

    […] “Now, on to brief comments about the work of several other scholars that help, even if one limits the discussion to Sufis, in getting out of the “syncretism” box.
    I might begin with my own study of Deoband, published almost a quarter of a century back. I came to the topic of a new kind of modern organization for transmitting Islamic learning in the colonial period out of a desire to challenge the notion that only the Westernized who knew a metropolitan language were engaged, in the colonial period, in projects of intellectual and social reform. But in the course of my study of the scholarly leadership, I learned two things relevant to the issue of syncretism. One, made real through reading letters, notebooks, volumes of charms, and records of dreams of these Islamic scholars, was the extent to which they were immersed in the initiatory chains, disciplinary practices, and traditions generally of the Sufi orders. They were holy men as well as scholars, and their influence derived from both these roles. They were, to be sure, reformers, and part of that reform extended to issues surrounding the Sufi tomb shrines. But they couched their opposition to certain practices in terms of basic morality – avoiding display, showing off, eschewing doctrinal error (shirk, bida`, imputing partners to God) – not in terms of following Hindu practice. Their targets were internal: misguided Sufis, the Shi`a. Moreover, to the extent they were devoted to the elders, traveled to their tombs, invoked stories of their holiness, and so forth, they themselves cherished the tombs. As my former student Warren Fusfeld pointed out, moreover, in relation to the l9th century Delhi Naqshbandis, they did so on the grounds that this was their tradition, never with the argument that such practices were conducive to harmony with Hindus. They followed these practices because they were continuous with a sanctified past (1987). It continues to fascinate me that so much of colonial-period Islamic reform is intra-Muslim – yet the scholarly common sense that it must be anti-Hindu, drawing lines between Hindus and Muslims, always prevails.”

    […]”In concluding these thoughts on the “syncretic,” I return to van der Veer – my final story – and his material about a Gujarati Rifa’i tomb (published in the Journal of Asian Studies in the 90s). What is interesting about this study is that it includes extensive material on the Hindus who frequent the shrine, an element missing, for example, from the Amin study of Ghazi Miyan. At this tomb in Surat, the `urs is widely attendend, and it is understood as a day of powerful blessing. The descendant of the saint replaces the cover on the tomb and smears it with sandalwood. The disciples play with swords and pierce themselves, part of their practices toward inducing ecstatic experiences. Hindus are in fact the majority of those in attendance, not least because these practices have come into question on the part of many Muslims. But the Hindus who come do so on their own terms. They call the shrine a Samadhi (a Hindu saint in meditation), not a dargah. They do not participate in the activities inducing a trance or hal. They cultivate no relationship with the living descendant of the saint, and thus have no exposure to the discourse of Sufism. They do not join the Rifa’i who combine their procession with congregational prayer, the descendant of the saint serving as imam (so that for the Muslims present, the tomb does not exist in isolation from other Islamic practices).

    The Hindus attribute power to the saint, but do so specifically in relation to illnesses – above all, to misfortunes caused by spirits. For them, Muslims are held to be closer to a world of spirits and demons, and able to master it, like untouchables, who can also be specialists in exoricism. Saint worship is for them in that sense a lower and impure practice. There is no evidence of any conversion to Islam, nor of participation in any of the dimensions of the Sufi tradition other than healing and magic; nor, given the tensions about Islam, would they even talk of possible substantial influence on non-Muslims. “

  7. A long read, but quite a read indeed.

    “Traditionalist” Islamic Activism: Deoband, Tablighis, and Talibs
    Barbara D. Metcalf
    http://essays.ssrc.org/sept11/essays/metcalf.htm

    “Deobandis, Talibs, and Tablighis demonstrate pragmatic responses to the varying environments in which they find themselves. The Taliban surely represent an exceptional case both in their rigor – criticized for example in relation to women even by leading `ulama of the JUI – and in the deal they struck with Arab extremists, who were like them in embracing Islamic rituals and social norms, but so unlike them in their vision of global jihad. Even the Taliban, arguably, had moderate voices, as well as pragmatism in their alliances that might one day have made their society more acceptable in terms of international standards had that possibility not been foreclosed by the attacks of 11 September and the American ‘war on terrorism.'”
    […] “Aside from Deoband’s enduring influence, it exemplifies a pattern, represented in general terms in a range of Islamic movements outside South Asia as well, of a pattern of “traditionalist” cultural renewal on the one hand coupled with political adaptability on the other. This tradition, seen over time and across a wide geographic area, illustrates that there are widespread patterns of Islamic a-politicism that foster a modus vivendi with democratic and liberal traditions. It also demonstrates, most notably in the teaching and missionary dimensions of their activities, that the goals and satisfactions that come from participation in Islamic movements may well have little to do with opposition or resistance to non-Muslims or “the West.” Their own debates or concerns may well focus on other Muslims, an internal, and not an external “Other” at all. And what they offer participants may be the fulfillment of desires for individual empowerment, transcendent meaning, and moral sociality that do not engage directly with national or global political life at all.”
    […] “What is clear is that the formally a-political missionary tours, gatherings in local mosques and homes, and annual gatherings continue to be the routine of the movement, one that clearly offers meaning and dignity to many who participate. In themany goals fostered by these movements – social, psychological, moral, and spiritual – as well as in the political strategies adopted with such virtuosity, movements, in the end, turn out to be less distinctive than either they or outsiders often assume they are.”

  8. @ Qalandar
    http://essays.ssrc.org/sept11/essays/roy.htm
    “Parallel to the growing Islamist political contest of the seventies and eighties, a process of conservative Islamization has been pervasive among the Muslim societies, which means, among other things, more veiled women in the streets and more shariat in state law. This Islamization is a consequence of deliberate state policy as well as a social phenomenon. Confronted with the Islamist opposition during the eighties, many Muslim states, even when officially secular, endeavored to promote a brand of conservative Islam and to organize an “official Islam.” The first part of the program was quite a success, but state control has never been effective. In all these countries the impact of the development of a network of religious schools was the same: graduates holding a degree in religious sciences are now entering the labor market and tend, of course, to advocate the Islamization of education and law in order to get better job opportunities.

    Three elements characterize these groups (well embodied by the Taliban/Osama bin Laden coalition). First, they combine political and militant jihad against the West with a very conservative definition of Islam, closer to the tenets of Saudi Wahhabism than to the official ideology of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Nowhere is their conservatism more obvious than in their attitude toward women. While the Islamists strongly advocated women”s education and political participation (with the condition of wearing a veil and attending single-sex schools), the neofundamentalists want to ban any female presence in public life. They are also strongly opposed to music, the arts, and entertainment. Contrary to the Islamists, they do not have an economic or social agenda. They are the heirs to the conservative Sunni tradition of fundamentalism, obsessed by the danger of a loss of purity within Islam through the influence of other religions. They stress the implementation of shariat as the sole criterion for an Islamic State and society. This strict Sunnism also turned very anti-Shi”a. This anti-Shi”a bias was revived at the end of the eighties as a consequence of the growing influence of the Saudi Wahhabism and gave way to a low-intensity civil war between Shi”as and Sunnis in Pakistan, reflected in Afghanistan by the mass killing of Shi”as after the take-over of Mazar-i Sharif by the Taliban in August 1998. But they also are becoming strongly anti-Christian and anti-Jewish. In fact, they believe that Israel, the U.S. and Iran are united to destroy “true Islam.” ”

    […]”In fact, this new brand of supranational neo-fundamentalism is more a product of contemporary globalization than of the Islamic past. Using two international languages (English and Arabic), traveling easily by air, studying, training and working in many different countries, communicating through the Internet and cellular phones, they think of themselves as “Muslims” and not as citizens of a specific country. “

  9. The Global Ideology of Fear http://www.digitalnpq.org/archive/2006_winter/ramadan.html

    […] “The Israel Syndrome, whose characteristics are the state of siege and of the reversal of the power equation on the level of perception and symbolism, has come fully into play: The Other is no longer criticizing our policies, he is negating our existence; he detests our values, our very civilization. He must no longer be held responsible for his acts alone but for his hatred, his nihilism, his madness and “why not?” his beliefs and his religion.

    With Fear We Are All Victims | The first tragic consequence of the ideology of fear is to transform all societies and their members into victims. While in the West the idea of a civilization under threat gains currency, we can observe the same emotional reflexes, shaped by fear and victimhood, in majority Muslim societies, and even in the Muslim communities established in Europe and in the United States: “They” do not like Islam and Muslims; “they” have singled us out, discriminate against us; “they” are openly racist and xenophobic. “Their” war against “Islamic terrorism” is nothing but a “pretext for lashing out at Islam and at all Muslims.”

    Everywhere we find the same feelings, everywhere the same attitudes. Before our eyes an ideology is emerging, one that transforms us into “victims” incapable of viewing the Other except as a potential threat. Because we are colonized by fear, it has become impossible for us to enter into the Other’s reasoning, even to hear him or, in the most humane sense, understand his distress and frustration. We are all, each and every one of us, caught up in the same web—a web woven of narrow-mindedness and sectarianism.”

  10. Neda and Marwa: a Tale of Two Murdered Women

    “The absence of Marwa’s story from the mainstream media and the failure to start a debate about the immediate dangers of present European anti-Muslim racism shows the depth of the problem and draws us to expect a gloomy future for Muslims in Europe. Muslims like Neda only get to the news if their story serves the dominant narrative that presents Islam as the primary threat to freedom, while Muslims like Marwa who expose the pervasive racism of the West and challenge the existing stereotypes fail to get their story told.”

    http://www.counterpunch.org/walid07102009.html

  11. “we can’t afford” the populist measures, one is told, ad infinitum, with no discussion of how it is that “we” apparently CAN afford starvation, dispossession, etc. One startling — and revealing — moment occurred on CNN-IBN, when the anchor Rajdeep Sardesai said something like “well, the aam aadmi is happy, but what do the corporates say?”
    George Bush (whose favorite philosopher is Jesus) once said”Icannot understand how the poor mind works.”
    Off course neither do his likes because it need empathy.
    Here is a commentary on class anxieties in Pakistan.

    “What goes unnoticed and unrecorded is the narrative of underprivileged and poor Pakistanis. What has really changed for them? Only that they seem to be getting poorer and life’s basic amenities seem ever more elusive. People continue to die because private healthcare is too expensive and state hospitals have neither doctors nor medicines. According to one estimate, 250,000 child deaths occur in Pakistan annually due to waterborne diseases. More people commit suicide out of poverty than ever before. Pakistan is the only country in South Asia with sporadic polio cases in children vaccinated in large-scale anti-polio drives. Isn’t that violence built into our state structure and institutions? Yet, this continues to go unrecorded and unnoticed in our narrative. Suddenly, some of us are concerned about poverty because that seems to be driving people to suicide bombings. We want to deal with poverty because it has begun to hurt us. Suddenly, we are realising that children are sent to seminaries, our jihad factories, because they come from poor families. All of a sudden we “genuinely” feel that poverty needs to be tackled. Why? Because poverty is hurting our own freedoms, which come to us entirely because of our property relations with the rest of society.

    What we fail to understand is that both poverty and religious fanaticism in Pakistan are contradictions within the state that have deliberately and carefully been nurtured over the years. Religious fanaticism can feed on poverty, but poverty cannot cause it. A suicide bombing is not the product of a contract but of a worldview cultivated with a conscious effort. Our state has for long actively supported that worldview, which has found poverty of some to be a willing partner. Are we willing to change the nature of the state that has caused all this? Do we even want to? ”

    http://www.thenews.com.pk/daily_detail.asp?id=187421

  12. PS — what I mean is that the link is of such a kind that makes the passage plausible (i.e. “modernist fundamentalism” wouldn’t work if it presented itself as completely new — as opposed to as merely a revival or renewal.) And again, the history of “revivalist” movements all over (from Hindu groups in India; to the Buddhist messianic cults in Burma that sprang up to oppose British colonialism) shows that this too has a wider history than merely the Islamic one. [And, in each case, the impact of colonialism has played a huge role.]

  13. On the “deracinated” religiosity of the disapora, that dovetails with my experience as well. One often meets American Muslims (of desi origin/ethnicity) who: (a) look down on Islamic practices in their parents’ homeland, as impure/corrupted/not real Islam, etc.; and (b) seem to see Islam itself as a kind of ethnicity (perhaps influenced by the Jewish immigrant experience). I am persuaded by the distinction drawn between “traditional” and “modern” forms of Islam that seek to de-link it from “the local”, but the two are also linked by way of the petrodollar: i.e. that spending advantage, the mosques that it has built, and the ideology it can propagate, gives it a vigor and advantage that the other sorts of traditional Islams have found it difficult to match. Thus traditional and modern “fundamentalism” (using Roy’s term, although I do not like it) aren’t the same, but there is a link, rendering the passage from one to the other, plausible. The figure of Osama bin Laden is symbolically quite apt, inasmuch as he touches upon (what Roy would consider) both the traditional and the modern.

  14. Re: “To the extent this move is credible, it is a master-stroke: because opponents of the ideology are always forced on the back foot, into a defensive posture (”hey we are not against Islam, we are only against x or y interpretation”).”

    That holds true for staunchly anti-imperialist Muslims that are opposed to state policies and see international politics and state policies as the primary cause for creating the circumstances under which “this ideology gains greater legitimacy and commands increasing numbers of adherents.” People who come to this conclusion are labeled Taliban-sympathizers/apologists and are on the back foot as well depending upon one’s environment (Hey we are not against the state but against its policy/military action etc).

    Some commentators on the Christian right and secular left, employ vitriol either on purpose or out of ignorance against the very religious concepts that are reformulated and used as a political tool by extremist groups. Sharia, and Jihad being two examples of the terms that rile people up. Some Muslims accept the politicized re-formulation of religious concepts, others don’t. Those that don’t are the center or “the hearts and minds,” that matter. But they don’t abandon the religious concept because it is being reformulated and used as a political tool. It is those people that get offended.

    Re: “The question one must engage with is (assuming one is opposed to that ideology) how and under what circumstances this ideology gains greater legitimacy and commands increasing numbers of adherents.”

    Well, I think it is a valuable question regardless of one’s opinion of this ideology. But then how does one disentangle the broader religious revival from this ideology (assuming one sees a difference), increased religiosity from identity politics (one can result from the other)?

    Increased religiosity and its public expressions, in many or perhaps most cases, is a show of Identity badge and as you so eloquently put “is hardly “about” Islam, except in the sense that is the vehicle it must adopt in a particular society.” Halal McArabia Burger etc is “Islamizing” modernity while the “secular”/”liberal” Muslims issue the calls for modernizing the fossilized Islam (“closing of the Muslim mind” etc.).

    http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/60445/mahmood-mamdani/whither-political-islam?page=3
    “In Globalized Islam, Roy tries to explain why jihadist Islam resonates in the communities in which it does. He sees the spread of jihadist Islam today as “a consequence of and [a] reaction to sociological changes,” rather than as “evidence of the permanence of unchanging values” (the culturalist view) or as a direct historical consequence of the Saudis’ and Reagan’s support for the Wahhabi project (Kepel’s view). Roy distinguishes contemporary neofundamentalists from traditional fundamentalists, such as Wahhabis who have tried “to delink Islam from ethnic cultures” for centuries and have everywhere “fought against local Islams”–“Sufism in South Asia, marabouts in North Africa, specific music and rituals everywhere,” and even Shafism, Hanafism, and other historical schools of sharia.

    For Roy, neofundamentalist Islam is “born-again Islam” and strictly a product of the diaspora. Islamic religious debate is no longer monopolized by the learned ulema (teachers); as they have turned to the Internet, the neofundamentalists have also become tulaab (students). As a result, “religion has been secularized, not in the sense that it is under the scrutiny of modern sciences, but to the extent that it is debated outside any specific institutions or corporations.” With the traditional ethnic community left behind, “the disappearance of traditional values … [has laid] the groundwork for re-Islamisation,” which has largely become an individual project. “Islamic revivalism goes hand in hand” with a modern trend: the “culture of the self.”
    The growing individualization of religious practices has prompted believers to create a new community that transcends strict geography. The consequences of these changes have been contradictory. Those who have succeeded in reconciling the self with religion have tended to embrace a “liberal” or “ethical” version of Islam; those who have not have been prone to embrace “neofundamentalist Salafism.” Meanwhile, the quest “to build a universal religious identity, de-linked from any specific culture,” has come at a price, because such an Islam is “by definition an Islam oblivious to its own history.” As a result, “the quest for a pure Islam [has] entail[ed] also an impoverishment of its content,” Roy writes, and the ironic consequence of this quest is “secularization, but in the name of fundamentalism.”

    This transformation has had particularly radical consequences for the Muslims of Europe, setting them apart from their cousins in the Middle East. According to Roy, political Islam is bifurcated between Islamist parties in Muslim-majority countries in the Middle East and Islamists in the diaspora. Because in the Middle East, Islamist parties have mobilized in response to particular state policies, by the end of the 1990s, most Islamist movements had become “more nationalist than Islamist.” As a consequence of their political integration, “violence related to Islam has been decreasing in the Middle East since 1996.”

    Islamist violence has increased outside the Middle East, however. The question is why, and why specifically in the West? The answer, Roy ventures, is that the violence of al Qaeda is politically, not religiously, inspired. After all, “al Qaeda did not target St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, but the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. It targeted modern imperialism, as the ultra-leftists of the late 1960s and 1970s did with less success.” Furthermore, the cliche “that in Islam there is no difference between politics and religion … works in favor of the political,” making it easier to redefine the core content of religion and subordinate it to a political project, as the jihadists have done.

    Even the contemporary notion of jihad is a marked departure–perhaps even a rupture–from its traditional forerunner. It too has been reinvented according to neofundamentalist principles: personalized, secularized, and turned into a political tool. Roy points out that, contrary to Western popular belief, traditional jihad is not one of the five pillars of Islam and that it has long been understood as a defensive, collective duty. But modern radicals now hail jihad as “a permanent and individual duty” to fight the West to the death.
    This modern understanding of jihad goes hand in hand with a revamped notion of community, or umma: no longer bound by traditional solidarity, the umma is the “reconstructed” product of the “free association of militants committed to the same ideal.” The umma now plays the same role as did the proletariat for Trotskyist and leftist groups in the 1960s: it is ‘an imaginary and therefore silent community that gives legitimacy to the small group pretending to speak in its name.’”

  15. Hmmm. I think I can empathize with people who write about such movements and how hard it is to keep terminology straight. We have so far used Islamism, political Islam, and extremism fairly interchangeably. Are these terms interchangeable?

    A very interesting essay by Alastair Crooke http://www.digitalnpq.org/articles/global/368/06-02-2009/alastair_crooke
    “Disorientated and demoralized, the Islamic community in the early 20th century was under siege from enforced secularism in Turkey, Iran and elsewhere. With Marxism filtering away its younger members, it began a journey of discovery. It sought a solution to its problems by finding a new “Self.”

    Islamists returned to the Quran for insights. The Quran is not a blueprint for politics or a state: It is, as it states frequently, nothing new. The Quran is a “reminder” of old truths, already known to us all. One of which is that for humans to live together successfully society must practice compassion, justice and equity.

    This insight lies at the root of political Islam. It is a principle that represents a complete inversion of the “Great Transformation.” Instead of the pre-eminence of the market to which other social and community objectives are subordinated, the making of a society based on compassion, equity and justice becomes the overriding objective — to which other objectives, including markets, are subordinated.

    It is revolutionary in another aspect: Instead of the individual being the organizational principle around which politics, economics and society are shaped, the Western paradigm again is inverted. It is the collective welfare of the community in terms of such principles — rather than the individual — that becomes the litmus of political achievement.

    In short, Islamists are re-opening an old debate — one that is at the root of both Western and Islamic philosophy. Posed by Plato, that debate questions the purpose of politics.”

  16. “Dr. Mahmood discusses the liberal conception of agency which is to be recognized in resistance, but not in upholding traditions.”

    should read:

    Dr. Mahmood discusses the agency which, in liberal discourse is recognized in resistance, but not in upholding traditions.

  17. “Jab bhi mein chorhna chahta hoon, ye mahaul mujhe khenchta hai :-) ”

    Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in :-)

  18. Re: “I would be remiss if I didn’t add that the “dars culture” has one obvious benefit: from a feminist perspective, it has empowered many middle-class women and mobilized them” […]”The increased religiosity of the sort that Paracha seems to be talking about is not one that I am sympathetic to, but it has had important “feminist” effects (under-appreciated ones)…]”

    I am not done reading “Politics of Piety”, but Saba Mahmood talks about the female mosque movement in Egypt. Some female teachers in the mosque movement (I think they are called da’iya, but not sure), did and do collaborate with Muslim Brotherhood, but the two (mosque movement and MB) are not to be conflated to be the same. Dr. Mahmood discusses the liberal conception of agency which is to be recognized in resistance, but not in upholding traditions. It is precisely the latter, that has succeeded in expanding a woman’s role in the mosque and consequently in the public sphere. I will try and post about Saba Mahmood’s thought-provoking book, once I am done reading it.

    Meanwhile http://www.altmuslimah.com/a/b/a/3051/

  19. “In sum, while I completely agree with those who say that “Islamism” and the politics that passes under that sign should not be confused with Islam, is about religion and not politics…”

    should read:

    “In sum, while I completely agree with those who say that “Islamism” and the politics that passes under that sign should not be confused with Islam, THAT IT is NOT about religion BUT ABOUT politics…”

  20. Re: “There is a trend especially in english dailies from Pakistan where almost half to two third space for OP-Eds, blogs is being used to create a reality that our religiosity is holding us back.”

    This too is the legacy of colonialism: in that the very fact that the Indian and Pakistani papers are in English almost assures that the readership will be drawn from a relatively narrow range of socio-economic groups and backgrounds. Thus intellectual debates and discussions — including the ones that complain there are none in wider society! — acquire the intimate, yet sterile and toothless air, of drawing room conversations, conversations among people who not only all know each other, but also know what each other will say in response to this or that. I was reminded of this recently when I was listening to people complaining about the budget deficit on an Indian news channel: “we can’t afford” the populist measures, one is told, ad infinitum, with no discussion of how it is that “we” apparently CAN afford starvation, dispossession, etc. One startling — and revealing — moment occurred on CNN-IBN, when the anchor Rajdeep Sardesai said something like “well, the aam aadmi is happy, but what do the corporates say?”. Um. Yeah.

  21. Re: “Qalandar…. Following are the questions that I wish to find answers to and discuss…Does one think of extremism as a religious or a political phenomenon?
    Is “extremism” is to be thought of in terms of politics of pushing an exclusivist religious/secularist ideology? Is a social movement that pushes religiosity or a particular form of religious paradigm through non-violent and non-political means to be considered extremism? If so, which religious development in the history of religions isn’t extremism? Is extremism in the kind of religiosity being propagated or in the way it is propagated?”

    Jab bhi mein chorhna chahta hoon, ye mahaul mujhe khenchta hai :-)

    I consider it a political phenomenon, but this is a political phenomenon that calls itself a religious phenomenon. Thus, in a sense what I or you say about whether or not x or y “is Islam” (or is not) is hardly relevant: to the relevant actors, it is. The question one must engage with is (assuming one is opposed to that ideology) how and under what circumstances this ideology gains greater legitimacy and commands increasing numbers of adherents. The “is this Islam or politics?” debate becomes quite interesting because the prestige of this politics, the legitimacy, rests on it NOT presenting itself as “normal” politics, but as something that is “simply Islam” (which of course commands greater respect and legitimacy than anything else in a predominantly Muslim society). To the extent this move is credible, it is a master-stroke: because opponents of the ideology are always forced on the back foot, into a defensive posture (“hey we are not against Islam, we are only against x or y interpretation”). In particular, the hardest hit are progressive voices, because they have to fight on two fronts: on the one hand, oppose the politics-that-says-it-isn’t-politics; and yet do it in a way that avoids cooptation by outside elements (e.g. if they seem like the Trojan horse for Western interests, they will lack any credibility).

    In sum, while I completely agree with those who say that “Islamism” and the politics that passes under that sign should not be confused with Islam, is about religion and not politics; it is simultaneously undeniable that this politics poses a challenge because it tries to remove itself from the realm of the political even as it is thoroughly political, thereby removing itself from the realm of debate. e.g. Marxism cannot do that: it is explicitly political, and thus will always have opponents who speak the same language. But “political Islam” of the present-day is often advanced by people who might not even recognize themselves as “practicing politics” (it also contributes to the opposite reaction: opponents themselves fall into the trap of saying that “Islam is violent, intolerant” etc., or “Muslims are fanatics”; without realizing that such reactions in fact testify to the victory of the “Islamists”). I think there is a lot of glibness on all sides here: the “liberals” cannot just say “hey this is not Islam” and end the debate, because it is clear that to many it IS compatible with Islam; nor can we just say “it’s all politics”, because it is politics with a difference; and right-wingers cannot just say “hey this is what islam is” because “they” don’t seem to bother “us” unless we show up at their doorstep.

    [I have not read Paracha’s piece, but just from your quote, I do think there has been a proliferation of a dars-culture in Pakistan, India, the expatriate communities in the Gulf, etc., and in my experience a certain kind of bourgeois-ized view of Islam is presented, often by people who don’t seem to me to have even the elementary qualification to give a dars. BUT, this is clearly a global contemporary phenomenon (certainly it is readily seen with Christian evangelists and Hindu godmen of all stripes), especially among religious traditions that don’t have a centralized structure (such as Sunni Islam, evangelical Protestantism, Hinduism), so a discussion of it needs to look at the global picture, because IMO this sort of phenomenon “says” something about contemporary capitalism, media culture etc. — to the extent that religion is today yet another kind of “self-realization”, it is perhaps natural that it should take this form in a contemporary capitalist culture where “self-realization” is the ultimate good (that “self-realization” could come about in any way — tattoos, shopping, religion, choice of career, but the point is that all of these are reducible to the same paradigm, and is thus something new as a historical matter), and is hardly “about” Islam, except in the sense that is the vehicle it must adopt in a particular society (I think of it as similar to McDonalds only selling veg food in Jaipur; that does not point to the victory of traditional “Indian values”, but to the victory of McDonalds (with, potentially, the creation of some “newness” in Indian values)).

    I would be remiss if I didn’t add that the “dars culture” has one obvious benefit: from a feminist perspective, it has empowered many middle-class women and mobilized them (i.e. in contrast to traditional religiosity, where it was often difficult for women to adopt a public and assertive role). The increased religiosity of the sort that Paracha seems to be talking about is not one that I am sympathetic to, but it has had important “feminist” effects (under-appreciated ones)…]

  22. “OMG! The sky is falling!!!
    Some good points, but am I being unfair to Mr. Paracha’s spin?”

    Mr.Paracha is Glen Beck of Pakistan.
    He does not even touch upon real issues faced by average Pakistani in daily life.There is a trend especially in english dailies from Pakistan where almost half to two third space for OP-Eds, blogs is being used to create a reality that our religiosity is holding us back.The history and facts be damned. Any facts that stand in the way of this thesis are ignored.
    This trend has consequently moulded a common mind-set and a social and cultural ground that has become almost voluntarily vulnerable to Islamist exploitation.
    This might answer the question as to why society at large goes up in arms after a drone attack whereas it remains awkwardly quiet every time a terrorist murders scores of common people in a suicide blast.

    Does this make any sense? Common mind set? Voluntarily vulnerable to “Islamist exploitation” ?

    Comparing Drones attacks( a sophisticated remote killing machine,attacking a country against all international laws), to suicide bomber ( an act of extreme despair and clearly against the teachings of Islam)or homicide bomber as Fox would like to call it. While ignoring all pronouncements of muslim scholars against this crime(suicide attack).He does not want to understand the role our ruling classes (with the help of clergy) have in creating these desperate socio-economic situation where everything including human life is for sale and cheap.

    I bet Paracha would be surprised if he visited Dallas on any given friday. He could find NAATS and recitation of Holy book on sound system of Indo-pak a grocery market run by Bengalis and could enjoy chicken Biryani at discount rate on friday afternoon after prayers.

  23. PPS: Reading Mr. Paracha’s piece, I am not entirely sure if he’s got his definition of “extremism” right, or if this term “extremism” is relative to one’s own point of view, in which case perhaps pushing one’s definition of extremism aggressively on others is extremism or one manifestation of it. If “extremism” is symptomatic of a reactionary siege mind-set, which I thought was Amin Maalouf talked about in “In the Name of Identity: Violence and the Need to Belong”, then is Paracha exhibiting that behavior himself?

    I wonder if Saleem H. Ali counts as an extremist in Mr. Paracha’s eyes. “Reinventing the Islamic Republic” http://www.brookings.edu/opinions/2009/0314_pakistan_ali.aspx

    “However, the most effective way of fighting such polarising forces that threaten Pakistan is to present a new vision for the Islamic Republic that highlights the religious lineage of the state but also defends pluralism within an Islamic context.” […] “Whoever holds the reins of power in coming months must give priority to a national process of consensus-building on what it means to be an Islamic state. We may need to recruit world-class mainstream but modern Muslim scholars such as Tariq Ramadan or Hamza Yusuf to facilitate such an effort and invite all ulema to participate in a new “Charter for the Islamic Republic”.
    Certain fundamental human rights such as the status of women and minorities must be the starting premise of such an effort.”

    Qalandar: “I feel that while there is a lot of critical thinking about US policy, Indian and Pakistani government claims, the media, etc. (as there should be), there is not enough about Muslim extremism”

    Following are the questions that I wish to find answers to and discuss, and I am not putting them forth as a criticism or an oppositional point of view.

    Does one think of extremism as a religious or a political phenomenon?
    Is “extremism” is to be thought of in terms of politics of pushing an exclusivist religious/secularist ideology? Is a social movement that pushes religiosity or a particular form of religious paradigm through non-violent and non-political means to be considered extremism? If so, which religious development in the history of religions isn’t extremism? Is extremism in the kind of religiosity being propagated or in the way it is propagated?

    Blaming all ills under the sun on imperialism of this or that state, or on Green/Brown/Red/Yellow menace misses the point and neither I nor my community gets anywhere. I don’t want to judge people’s religiosity by their politics and vice-versa, but the so-called Islamic states, “Islamic” political parties, or “Islamic” businesses that pay lip service to Islam, in order to legitimize and market their self interested agendas devoid of any spiritual underpinning & Islamic ethics are a mockery. I haven’t read about the political vision of the these groups and if it offers much in terms of solutions, neither have I seen an evidence of their religious doctrine to be firmly grounded in Islamic jurisprudence. So far, I agree with Ali Allawi’s stinging critique of both the “Islamic States” and “Islamic” political and militant groups.

  24. PS: A recent World Public opinion poll mentions that the public opinion has swung in favor of considering Taliban and “all religious militant groups in the country as a whole as a critical threat” to Pakistan (http://www.juancole.com/2009/07/us-forces-launch-helmand-campaign.html ) and yet “82% reject Obama’s predator drone strikes on Pakistani soil. Some 79% want the war in Afghanistan ended now.
    In other words, as religious nationalism appears to have declined in Pakistan (something visible in the parliamentary elections of 2008), other forms of secular nationalism have taken its place, no less anti-imperialist in character. Pakistan was born in a struggle to throw off two centuries of British rule in South Asia, and once you go through a thing like that, having Western troops actively intervening in a Muslim neighbor is just not welcome.”

  25. “Also, more and more lawns and drawing-rooms are becoming venues for religious lectures and dars. In fact, even in modern, posh shopping malls, the central sound system is used to broadcast the azaan and naats while recitations from the Holy Qu’ran are played during holy months and days.”
    http://blog.dawn.com:91/dblog/2009/07/09/lost-in-space/

    OMG! The sky is falling!!!
    Some good points, but am I being unfair to Mr. Paracha’s spin?

    “The socialisation of a theologically puritan but theoretically contradictory strain of Islam has been an all-encompassing event. Its symbols and rhetoric abound on billboards, in shopping malls, parks, on cars, in buses, drawing rooms, on TV screens, in offices and in everyday lingo – it seems Pakistanis have lost the capability to separate the religious from the secular.
    This trend has consequently moulded a common mind-set and a social and cultural ground that has become almost voluntarily vulnerable to Islamist exploitation.
    This might answer the question as to why society at large goes up in arms after a drone attack whereas it remains awkwardly quiet every time a terrorist murders scores of common people in a suicide blast.
    And perhaps that’s why after being mowed down by so many years of extremist propaganda, Pakistani society has a ready consensus on the dangers of, say, pornography and alcohol abuse, but still can’t seem to reconcile to a common consensus on whom or what counts an extremist.”

  26. “Here’s a question then: Will what we don’t know (or don’t care to know) hurt us? I’m unsure whether the more depressing answer is yes or no. As it happens, I have no answer to that question anyway, only a bit of advice — not for us, but for Afghans: If, as General McChrystal and other top military figures expect, the Afghan War and its cross-border sibling in Pakistan go on for another three or four or five years or more, no matter what script we’re going by, no matter what we say, believe me, we’ll call in the planes. So if I were you, I wouldn’t celebrate another marriage, not in a group, not in public, and I’d bury my dead very, very privately. ”

    http://www.commondreams.org/view/2009/07/07-15

  27. Qalander, There are lot of Muslim Extremists, and still more muslims who take extreme positions when faced certain circumstances. The fact that 3 of the first four Caliphs were murdered by mainly muslims, tells you a lot about it. Question is were they guided by Islam in doing so?
    People with muslim names and beards are doing lot of stupid mindless things, we do not have to condone those, neither we need to be apologetic about it.The point I am trying to make is as follows, as a physician, I do not like to give my pattient ten different diagnosis for ten different symptoms, we try to find a unifying hypothesis, which can explain the illness and all symptoms in most plausible way.
    So there is a narrative that certain, religion/ideology is incompatible with modernity, democracy, enlightenment, and its followers loaded with irrational hatred are willing to take everything down. So the least kin folks of this religion can do is condemn this idealogy/these deeds and join modern world.
    I frankly do not buy into this narrative, hence my scepticism .
    An alternative narrative could be, occupations(the whole Jehad business started with Russian occupation of Afghanistan), exploitations(think Kashmir, Afghanistan, Parts of Pakistnan) lead to reactions which can be unpredictable and voilent.

  28. Akbar: according to these links, Ahmed is a state police officer (not RAW) — and these links hardly enable one to conclude that what we have here is a conspiracy hatched by Indian intelligence* (even leaving aside the counter-insurgency tactics mentioned here — there doesn’t seem anything especially unusual about undercover operatives trafficking with tons of people, some of whom come back to bite you; that’s what “blowback” is, isn’t it? I mean surely, from the fact that the CIA armed jihadis at some previous date, we wouldn’t say that the CIA KNEW and WANTED 9/11 to occur, would we?; aside: there are known to be many pro-Kashmiri secession people in the J&K police force; it’s a stable government job, and one of the few sectors that is booming in the valley). As for the Karkare killing, the assumption of those who see this as proof of a conspiracy is that his death somehow permanently derails the investigation into the Malegaon blasts. But this isn’t a Hindi film: that investigation is continuing, and has in fact been widened now to include earlier blasts in Ajmer and other places — with or without Karkare, those investigations are continuing. Quite frankly, I suspect that the expansion of that investigation might in fact been enabled by the fact that media attention is now focused on other issues, and the investigation is thus under the radar.

    *[and to what end? It has never been plausibly explained to me what Indian intelligence agencies could hope to gain from staging an attack on Mumbai in this fashion. If the claim is that elements in the intelligence agencies wanted to stage this attack to cover up involvement in the Hindu extremist blast cases being investigated, I find that hard to believe: (1) The investigation is ongoing, and does not appear to have been derailed — with elections in Maharashtra looming, you can bet the Congress/NCP will have a hard time dropping this one, even if they wanted to; (2) There are far easier, less costly ways of derailing a mere state ATS investigation. Recall that the CBI had basically either been asleep at the switch or had knuckled to poliotical pressure in connection with the Malegaon, Nander, etc. blasts (despite the fact that mainstream publications like Outlook had been suggesting years ago that incidents like Nander had the hallmarks of Hindu extremist group operations). Is it really beyond the capacity of an agency that allegedly staged the Mumbai attacks to, um, make Maharashtra ATS investigation witnesses, evidence, etc. go away? I’ll repeat what I said a few days ago, I suggest that one plausible theory is that extremist groups who wanted the pressure on them from Pakistani and NATO troops on Pakistan’s western front to be relieved, staged the attack in order to force Pakistan and India to move troops to their border. I have no proof of this, but surely it is a theory that is more plausible than that RAW would be staging massive attacks against India, or that crazed people in the ISI are engaging in this out of sheer hatred for India.]

    In any event, the “wheels within wheels” feel brings to mind Vikram Chandra’s novel “Sacred Games”, which is a great representation of this sort of vertigo. Highly recommended.

    With all due respect, I get the impression that there is not a single violent incident, not a single one, that some are willing to accept was the result of a violent Muslim extremist group. That is, one seems to be willing to accept every sort of conspiracy and this-isn’t-what-it-seems scenario — EXCEPT that there are certain violent Muslim fanatics who are willing to engage in violence to achieve their ends. I don’t mean to sound hostile, but don’t you find something implausible in that? I mean there always seems to be the three step scenario: (1) How do we know they did it? (2) If they did, they’re probably in the pay of ____; (3) In any event, they are the responsibility of the CIA etc. for creating them during the Cold War. I submit that these standards could be, and are, applied by those who wish to absolve Hindu extremist groups as well [Consider their story: The Congress, in a bid to deflect attention from its own national security failures — there were 6-8 serial blast incidents in India BEFORE the 26/11 Mumbai attacks — has invented the specter of Hindu terrorism, thereby also assuaging a Muslim vote bank, and simultaneously tarring the opposition BJP with the taint of association with terrorist groups; coincidentally, all this happens just 9-10 months prior to the national elections (and 3-4 months prior to important state elections). The “confessions” of Purohit are mostly due the technique known as “narco-analysis” in India — a polite way of saying that the suspect is administered certain drugs/truth serums etc. None of this evidence would be admissible in a court of law; and there are, as usual, allegations of torture as well. The result is a Hindu extremist group that no-one seems to have heard of. My point isn’t that this is the right “story”, but simply that this sort of narrative is common to all those who wish to absolve “their” group from x or y — it consists of stringing together circumstantial evidence and facts, and then challenging anyone to disprove the narrative. Of course it is like proving a negative: it is virtually impossible to prove that ISN’T the case. Typically, extreme regard for judicial process is also involved: but hey, if everyone and everything can be manipulated and rendered fraudulent, why trust the courts? (And of course, that is reserved for when and if the court returns a guilty verdict) I might add that media accounts of “evidence” are dismissed, but media accounts that “no evidence has been found” are not being dismissed]. Forgive me “agar mein kuch zyaada bol gaya”: likely it is because I have been in (far too) many of these discussions (i.e. not on CM), and I feel that while there is a lot of critical thinking about US policy, Indian and Pakistani government claims, the media, etc. (as there should be), there is not enough about Muslim extremism. That is actually a pity, because we will never get anywhere if the only “critics” are the “secular” Muslims etc., who probably lack all credibility with believers. Critical thinking cannot be about constructing a narrative of injured innocence on one’s own part (just as critiquing Muslim extremists does not mean one is endorsing this or that “official policy”.]

    Re: “His condemnation of things is very selective and based on a narrow agenda.”

    This is true for everyone, it is human nature. For instance, I am more exercised about the pogrom about Muslims in Gujarat in 2002 than I am about Chinese government suppression of Uighur Muslims in Western China. This reflects certain cultural, ethnic, political backgrounds and agendas that I am heir to. Similarly, most Pakistanis are far more concerned about atrocities in Kashmir than East Pakistan (or heck, even FATA, some days it feels like!) So too with Husain: presumably he dislikes Muslim extremists, and highlights their atrocities more than others — that doesn’t mean that the atrocities he is in fact highlighting aren’t occurring, or that he is somehow mercenary. It’s an unfair charge.

    Aside on the 26/11 attacks: I think the Pakistani government badly mishandled this. The government initially adopted the line of: “hey no one is pakistani and there is no evidence anyone was pakistani”, which IMO is stupid. Perhaps it’s the lawyer in me, but the real argument to have been made was “whether anyone is Pakistani or not is irrelevant — we condemn the attack and will cooperate with you to nail whoever is responsible.” Ultimately (after DAWN, Geo, and the Guardian, all reported that Qasab was in fact Pakistani), that is the sort of position the Pakistani government arrived at a few months later, but by then the damage had been done: from the Indian perspective, it seemed that the Pakistani government was stonewalling; and from the perspective of the Pakistani public, the fact that the government was seen to be changing its position damaged its credibility and made it seem like it was only doing so out of pressure (the government ultimately went with a more palatable narrative, that there is “some connection” between the Samjhauta Express blasts and the Mumbai attacks; without any word on what connection is there between Pakistani national Qasab, Hafiz Saeed (who was released by the court not because there was no evidence against him, but because the government had not framed charges against him; which raises suspicions that he has friends in very high places indeed in Pakistan); and the likes of Purohit and Abhinav Bharat extremists). Note that my observation has nothing to do with who is responsible for those attacks: I just feel the Zardari government (and presumably the behind-the-scenes-military) acted like panicked amateurs, and that there was a smoother way to handle it from their end, and perhaps one that would have been less damaging to Indo-Pak relations.

    I realize that I’m probably going around in circles on this thread, i.e. I am not making (or am unable to make) any new points to add to the ones discussed earlier. So I’ll spare the patient CM-ers more on this thread. Thanks all for your forbearance!

  29. “Prior to his death, Hemant Karkare was unearthing a terror network unlike any that has been seen thus far. The investigation started by tracing the motorcycle used to plant bombs in Malegaon in September 2008 to a Hindu Sadhvi, Pragyasingh Thakur. In a cellphone conversation between Thakur and Ramji, the man who planted the bombs, she asked why more people had not been killed. For the first time, the Indian state was conducting a thorough professional probe into a terror network involving Hindu extremist organisations, this one with huge ramifications, some leading into military and bomb-making training camps and politicised elements in the army, others into organisations and political leaders affiliated to the BJP. One of the most potentially explosive discoveries was that a serving army officer, Lt.Col. Srikant Purohit, had procured 60 kg of RDX from government supplies for use in the terrorist attack on the Samjhauta Express (the India-Pakistan ‘Understanding’ train) in February 2007, in which 68 people were killed, the majority of them Pakistanis. Initially, militants of Lashkar-e-Taiba and other Islamist terror groups had been accused of carrying out the attack, but no evidence against them had been found.”

    http://news.newamericamedia.org/news/view_article.html?

  30. “Mumbai terror suspect ‘was Indian undercover cop

    ‘Rhys Blakely in Mumbai

    India is grappling with the possibility that one of its own undercover operatives helped equip the Islamist extremists who attacked Mumbai, killing more than 170 people.

    Police in Indian-controlled Kashmir demanded the release of one of their undercover agents on Sunday after he was arrested by police in Delhi for allegedly supplying a mobile SIM card used by the Mumbai gunmen.

    Mukhtar Ahmed, 35, originally from Indian-controlled Kashmir, was detained on Friday in Delhi. He is being held with another man, Tauseef Rehman, 26, who was arrested in his home city of Calcutta on the same day.

    The detention of the two men, both now being held in Calcutta, had been hailed as a potentially key breakthrough in the Mumbai investigation.

    The operation turned sour, however, after police in Srinagar, Indian Kashmir’s summer capital, said that Ahmed worked for them, raising the possibility that an Indian agent aided the militants that committed India’s worse terror attack in 15 years.

    A senior officer in Srinagar, Kashmir’s summer capital, said Calcutta police were told that Ahmed is “our man and it’s now up to them how to facilitate his release”.

    He said that Ahmed was a Special Police Officer, part of a semi-official counterinsurgency network whose members are usually drawn from former militants.

    “Sometimes we use our men engaged in counter-insurgency ops to provide SIM cards to the [militant] outfits so that we track their plans down,” he said. ”

    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/asia/article5302946.ece

  31. “Decribing the lead-up to the Friday night arrests, Mr. Shamin said the police traced the SIM cards used during the Mumbai attacks to Mr. Rehman in Calcutta. The police then forced Mr. Rehman to call Mr. Ahmed and ask him his location. This allowed the police to find and arrest him in New Delhi, the deputy commissioner said.

    Mr. Ahmed is believed to be a member of a police force in the city of Srinagar, in Indian-controlled Kashmir, but the Calcutta police have not verified this, according to Manab Bandopadhy, a Calcutta police spokesman.”

    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/07/world/asia/07mumbai.html?_r=1&th&emc=th

    So whatever happened to Mr Ahmed?
    Also relevant question is , Who conspired to Kill Hemant Karakare? While the carnage was going on?
    As of Irfan, I am very sceptical.
    His condemnation of things is very selective and based on a narrow agenda.
    Was he as emphatic when same shaddy religious outfits were doing killing in Afghanistan during Russian invasion? Or killings in some neighbours are more equal?
    Was he as emphatic in condeming civilian deaths, when US/UK started a war in iRAQ on phoney context? Was he as emphatic about civilian deaths, when bombing in aFGHANISTAN STARTED IN EARNESR in Oct 2001. How many 9-11 participants were pushtoons? How many of them actually lived / trained in Afghanistan?
    All I am saying is , he is very articulate, and writes based on a peculiar agenda!
    You can make your own judgement

    Again I am not trying to trivilize the Mumbay tragedy, but the best service to the victims would be to get to the truth and find justice for the victims, It is not going to happen through media trails.

  32. Could you provide a link to the bit about the guy who sold them SIMs having worked for RAW? I had not known that.

    Re: “If one day truth comes out, I would not be surprised to know,Irfan and LeT may be on same payrolls.”

    Are you seriously suggesting that Irfan Husain is in the pay of some agency? What makes you believe that?

  33. “……But Samina Yasmeen, a professor at the University of Western Australia who is researching a book on the Lashkar-i-Taiba (commonly referred to as the LeT), said the reality on the ground may be more complicated.

    Over the years, she said, the LeT had given birth to splinter groups which had broken free both of the Pakistan Army and ISI, and even from the LeT leadership.

    ‘There are elements within the Lashkar that are not under the control of the army anymore. They really moved on a trajectory that people did not expect,’ she said. ‘After 9/11 there was a section that emerged within the Lashkar that may not be under the control of the Lashkar leadership.’

    Like many militant groups, the LeT was born out of the CIA-backed jihad against the Soviets in Afghanistan and then began operations in Kashmir in 1993, Indian analysts say. According to Raman, the LeT is the biggest militant group in Pakistan, with a larger presence even than the Taliban, and a charitable wing, the Jamaat ud-Dawa, which rather like Hamas in Gaza also carries out humanitarian work.”

    http://pkonweb.com/tag/india/

  34. “The most chilling part of the documentary was the constant voice contact between the terrorists and their handlers. Talking on cell phones, the controllers urged on their pawns in Punjabi and Urdu, interspersed with the odd English words and phrases. They certainly did not sound like graduates of a madressah. Rather, they were professionals doing a job, instructing the young terrorists to kill as many people as possible; urging them to move from one target to another; and repeating that they must not allow themselves to be captured.”

    Qalanqar, This is a good example of trial by media. Irfan is regurgitating what his pay masters are putting on the TV in the form of documentary. What happened to not commenting on matters which were sub-judice. Remember the guy who sold SIMS to these “cold blooded killers”, worked for RAW in Kashmir, indian police was criticised by Indian press for being overzealous to arrest him.
    Even if you prove in court it was LeT, do you know who created LeT and its off shoots? Who funds it?
    If one day truth comes out, I would not be surprised to know,Irfan and LeT may be on same payrolls

  35. The term Westerner originally came from 19th cent. Russian political discourse, used to denote those who wanted to be more Europeanized (by which they meant adopting Western European culture), and the tzars began to implement Westernization as policy, much to many people’s (including my father’s family’s) discontent. If you had a beard, you had a higher tax. But many people clung to the Old Traditions and were persecuted against (this actually began in the 1600s in Russia, a branch of people called the Old Believers broke off, of which my father is one – not so much in belief but in culture).

  36. But back to Naqwi, whatever the over-arching critique of colonialism and its arrogation to itself of the privilege of discovering, naming, categorizing, classifying, and (thereby?) shaping, I feel he needs to be more open to nuance and shifting possibilities. Reading his columns (I am thinking, in particular, of the one some time ago in response to Obama’s Cairo speech) one might never imagine there is any difference whatsoever between this president and any other, or even that the mere delivery of the Cairo speech was itself quite unusual and special. I am not suggesting this is radical change, but it has the potential for meaningful change, and is very far from the sham Naqwi seems to see it as.

  37. Yeesh: the relevant bit above should have read: “…“the West” meant the liberal, Protestant North-West of Europe (& America)…”

  38. PS– what I mean by “shifting target” is that this formulation can stand for duty in so many discourses: “the West” meant the liberal, Protestant, catholic North-West of Europe (& America) when “the other” was the backward, fanatical Papist Catholics of Southern Europe; it meant the more law-abiding/”limited” polities of Europe, as opposed to the autocratic and tyrannical Russian czars ruling over a people far more fatalistic/mystical than their western counterparts; and it meant (and means) everybody in the old “Christendom” when it comes to Turkey’s membership in the EU (even stalwarts of pluralism, human rights, and democracy, like Romania, Serbia, etc. have better prospects in the club than Turkey does).

  39. Not only does “the West” conceal a lot of difference, but it is a constantly shifting target, basically meaning the richest parts of Western Europe and North America, and which are secular, liberal, capitalist societies. Or, more accurately, the valence attached to these characteristics, the prestige, is used to “bless” all the other parts of “the West” (thus, for example, thoroughly non-secular and non-pluralistic societies like Greece get the benefit of, um, Canada; democracy is a core “Western value”, yet one has to ignore the fact that thoroughly “core” countries like Spain had none till 1975, or Portugal till 1981). One cannot use too many examples from Eastern Europe, because those aren’t “properly” Western (a very long genealogy has of course tarred Russia with the taint of “the East”; Norman Davies’ magisterial “Europe” has an excellent discussion about this with respect to other “eastern” european countries as well). And of you’re utterly Western in some historical, Judeo-Christian sense, but you’re too poor, then “the West” excludes you: hence no luck for so much of South America, but yes for Australia and New Zealand. One almost prefers the honesty of the nineteenth century discourse on “civilized” nations and “the rest” (though that very terminology made quite a return post 9/11)…

  40. “I agree that it would be better to speak of “Shia Arab”, “Sunni Arab”, and “Kurd”, but the current usage, although simplistic (like any usage that speaks in terms of sweeping generalities, be it “Muslims”, “Hindus”, “America”, “Tamils”, etc.) is by no means as absurd as Naqwi is suggesting, and in any event, I doubt my suggestion would satisfy Naqwi.”

    Qalandar I think Naqvi is talking about imperial talking points and creative use of language. I am always amused that everything from southern tip of south America to Turkey is “west” be it that scots and brits and irish are at each others throat, Walloons and Franks can not live together in Belgium or divide between native and migrants from colonised africa, they all speak with one dialect that is “West” .Everybody else is given an identity and a role and if they challenge it, be prepared to be called Terrorist and worst. Fo r example in Pakistan upto ZIA time battle lines were drawn between Shia and Sunni, now it has advanced to Sunni Deonahdi Vs Sunni Brelvi, whta is next, Chishtia Vs Qadria Vs ghausia Vs … etc and you get the point.
    Poor Naqvia is not pulling Ms Pandith’s leg but jsut welcomming her to the table, where realities may challenge the Imperial terms and conscience

  41. Naqwi is a bit too glib here. For instance, he adds, with respect to Sri Lanka: “The subterfuge found an echo in Sri Lanka, where Sinhalese, Tamils and Burghers are lumped with Muslims: three ethnic groups and a religious category. Do the Muslims have an ethnicity?”

    Either Mr. Naqwi ignores the political realities of Sri Lanka, or doesn’t know of them. My understanding is that “Muslim” is a rather accepted category in Sri Lankan discourse, and refers mostly — although not exclusively — to Tamil Muslims. But the reason one doesn’t speak of Tamil Muslims is that these Muslims do not appear to politically identify with the Tamil political cause for the most part. Their “Tamilness” is not the relevant factor in Sri Lanka, it is their “Muslimness” (unlike Christian Tamils, who do appear to be “aligned” with the Tamil nationalist causes in large part). The LTTE was perfectly aware of this distinction (and probably reinforced it) when it “expelled” tens of thousands of “Muslims” from the areas under its control in 1992. [A second group of “Muslims” are called Malay Muslims, but that distinction isn’t relevant when it comes to the Sinhalese-Tamil conflict.]

    So too with Iraq: it actually makes perfect sense to speak of “Shia”, “Sunni” and “Kurd” — the former two identities have a potentially oppositional relation to each other, and “Kurd” has one to “Arab”, whether Shia or Sunni. There isn’t anything absurd about it, since the fact that most Kurds are Sunnis is not very relevant. I agree that it would be better to speak of “Shia Arab”, “Sunni Arab”, and “Kurd”, but the current usage, although simplistic (like any usage that speaks in terms of sweeping generalities, be it “Muslims”, “Hindus”, “America”, “Tamils”, etc.) is by no means as absurd as Naqwi is suggesting, and in any event, I doubt my suggestion would satisfy Naqwi.

    [Aside: I generally have very little patience for appointing envoys to reach out to x or y “community”, as Obama himself rightly acknowledged in an interview prior to the Cairo speech, there isn’t a “Muslim world”, there are many, often (inevitably?) overlapping with other worlds. Given that is so, I don’t consider it constructive to have such an envoy — to the extent Naqwi is making that point, I don’t disagree. The counter-view is that this sort of appointment signals that “the table” is now open to other seats than have historically been present; what that will mean is up in the air, but Naqwi’s strikes me as a crabbed response to that possibility.]

  42. Islam: Reforming a Recalcitrant Religion (Part I)
    “The parallels with the Christian Reformation are fallacious. Reasoning by historical analogy may have been the vogue in the post-9/11 environment, but the inferences drawn were hopelessly inappropriate for Islam.
    The Reformation affected the Catholic Church in Central and Western Europe only. The unity of Christendom had been sundered with the division of the Roman Empire, and the Eastern Church had already had a physically separate and independent existence from the Western church for nearly a millennium before the Reformation.
    […]Both the Reformation and the Enlightenment are necessary phases in the “taming” of religious faith and in opening mankind to the possibilities of a post-religion order. Now, if only Islam could follow the same path — without, of course, the 200 years of violence and devastation which the Reformation actually unleashed — then Islam would be shorn of its dogmatic certainties, which are antithetical to human advancement.

    It could then fit into the structures of the modern world.
    This bare outline of the march of the West has been questioned, and in many cases, discredited by historians, but is still presented as incontrovertible evidence for Islam to undergo a similar rite of passage as Western Christianity. On closer inspection, however, the utility of the analogy falls apart, and the parallels are absurd.”

    ********
    Islam: Reforming a Recalcitrant Religion (Part II)
    http://www.theglobalist.com/storyid.aspx?StoryId=7841
    “The putative calls to reform Islam could not apply to Muslim states or to their legal systems, except in matters of personal law. Reforming Islamic personal law certainly did have implications for gender rights, but this was a special, limiting case. Islam was therefore not an obstacle for the reformation of state structures or for the introduction of new political doctrines.
    The “conflict” between Islam and democracy could not arise in the context of Muslim countries whose entire political legacy was based on an authoritarianism which only used Islam to justify its rule.
    […] The issue was not therefore, reforming an Islam already in power but reforming an Islam which could come to power — a crucial difference.

    The Islam that could come to power was a worrisome eventuality. The proposals for reforming Islam took on a precautionary, even preemptive character, especially when they emanated from those keen to avert a repetition of the Iranian Revolution, the spread of radical Wahhabism or the jihadi culture of al-Qaeda and its offshoots.

    The ideology of the terrorists was assessed alongside Islamic orthodoxy to see if the two were intertwined. What were the roots of terror and radicalization? The last time when Islam, as a religion and as a civilization, was subjected to such intense scrutiny was in the 19th and early 20th centuries, when European imperialists were encountering widespread resistance.”

  43. Ali A. Allawi on “Islamic extremism” etc.
    The Crisis of Islamic Civilization http://www.cceia.org/resources/video/data/000241
    The Q/A session starting at 30:00 was good. His book was an enjoyable but somewhat of a depressing read.

    “Political Islamic extremism, or what passes for Islamic extremism, the Taliban, all of these are reactions of a system that’s trying to come to grips with a world that’s moving on.

    And it is unlikely to survive. Political Islam in its Talibanist form cannot really survive for any amount of time in the outside world. Of course it can survive if it feels under attack. The best thing to do, if you ask me, is to ignore it. Because what will happen is that the societies which they are creating, I would call them “reactionary dystopias.” They cannot really provide the wherewithal for modern living and that is what people mainly want. So if you look at it as a phase, I think it does not have much of a life span.

    What I think will happen, as I said, my conclusion, is that modernity, or post-modernity, will become basically the desired end for Muslims, and their spiritual life will shrink to a private faith. But when you do that, you basically have conceded the outer space to whatever is the prevailing order. So the civilization of life is lost. ”

    Regarding Pakistan and Taliban:
    “And the fear in Pakistan is not so much that the Taliban will expand. The Pakistan Taliban are no match in military terms for the Pakistani army, you have to understand. The Pakistan army and the security services are extremely well entrenched. They define the state in Pakistan. The fear is that the model, as it were, of expropriating land owners, handing over title to peasants, and so on and so forth, becomes attractive in parts of Pakistan that are still dominated by feudal systems.

    The Pakistan state is extremely dysfunctional. In many ways it’s unjust. The courts don’t work. The masses are ignored by the elites. The budgets are misappropriated or misspent. And you have a rising middle class, which is something that wasn’t there, say, 50 years ago, or even 20 years ago. You have a literate and articulate middle class. Most of those who can are trying to leave, but those who stay are holding these people to account.

    So I think in Pakistan there has to be a serious attempt to remove these imbalances and injustices in society. And the Taliban will always be there, but they will not be an existential threat. They will not end up in Islamabad and whatever mounting caves these weapons are hidden and then use them against the world.

    So I think you have to divide the issue—whether you want to make sure that nuclear weapons don’t fall into the hands of the renegades, or you want to make sure that renegades can never get to the point where they can dominate their societies. And I think it is to do with removing these very, very serious imbalances in these countries.”

  44. I would agree that Nazism certainly tapped into, and in a sense assumed the “normal” nature of Christian anti-Semitism (a bias that was arguably intrinsic to Christian theology till virtually the end of the medieval period; i.e. I would say both “in” and “of” are perfectly apt!!!), although IMO that does not make Nazi anti-Semitism reducible to/same as the Christian anti-Semitic heritage it was heir to: there was a recent discussion on CM that touched upon this issue: check out: http://www.chapatimystery.com/archives/noted/this_failed_state_business.html (in particular, comments numbered 56 & 84)…

  45. Qalandar, Did Fascism not dig into the historic anti-semitism of Christian tridition (“Christ-killers”)? I seem to recall reading, a mention of this recently. Can’t recall which book it was.

    Btw I agree that “there are concerted attempts in some countries — (parts of) Pakistan and Afghanistan are among them — to spread a certain kind of politics, that speaks in the name of Islam. These attempts are not simply the figments of right-wing imaginations in the West ”

    I quote Mamdani again:
    “Roy distinguishes contemporary neofundamentalists from traditional fundamentalists, such as Wahhabis who have tried “to delink Islam from ethnic cultures” for centuries and have everywhere “fought against local Islams”–“Sufism in South Asia, marabouts in North Africa, specific music and rituals everywhere,” and even Shafism, Hanafism, and other historical schools of sharia.
    For Roy, neofundamentalist Islam is “born-again Islam” and strictly a product of the diaspora. Islamic religious debate is no longer monopolized by the learned ulema (teachers); as they have turned to the Internet, the neofundamentalists have also become tulaab (students). As a result, “religion has been secularized, not in the sense that it is under the scrutiny of modern sciences, but to the extent that it is debated outside any specific institutions or corporations.” With the traditional ethnic community left behind, “the disappearance of traditional values … [has laid] the groundwork for re-Islamisation,” which has largely become an individual project. “Islamic revivalism goes hand in hand” with a modern trend: the “culture of the self.”
    The growing individualization of religious practices has prompted believers to create a new community that transcends strict geography. The consequences of these changes have been contradictory. Those who have succeeded in reconciling the self with religion have tended to embrace a “liberal” or “ethical” version of Islam; those who have not have been prone to embrace “neofundamentalist Salafism.” Meanwhile, the quest “to build a universal religious identity, de-linked from any specific culture,” has come at a price, because such an Islam is “by definition an Islam oblivious to its own history.” As a result, “the quest for a pure Islam [has] entail[ed] also an impoverishment of its content,” Roy writes, and the ironic consequence of this quest is “secularization, but in the name of fundamentalism.” http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/60445/mahmood-mamdani/whither-political-islam?page=3

  46. Yeah – I should have said German. Not to double-track, but I normally would have but was too focused at the time of typing on religion. But I still think that lots of people in the West think that Islam, Judaism, and Christianty are too rigid and less spiritual, and lots of that has to with the Enlightenment. Many Christians I know aren’t into ‘mystisism’ which leads many to go from Biblical literalist to complete atheist (I’ve seen it many times). And for some, they go into things like Sufism or Vedanta as opposed to Christian mystism (very prominent in Eastern Orthodox Christianity) because they don’t like things ‘by the book’ and because, to some, they’ve either had a bad expierence with fundamentalists or because Christianity isn’t as ‘cool’ to them. They’ve read the Upanishads, but don’t know anythng about the Hindutva. Some Westerners who follow Islam say that they’re not Muslims but that they are Sufis – because the other aspects of Islam don’t appeal to them. But, to quote someone whose name I can’t even remember, “Sufism without Islam is like a candle burning in the open without a lantern.”
    The majority of people, though certainly not all, benefit from some kind of structure.

  47. Re: “Consequently labeling becomes projecting the historic experience of an audience onto the group under scrutiny. Fundamentalism is another such term that has a meaning in the Western Christian tradition and its use by other societies is that of a pejorative label that doesn’t even refer to anything but a swear word of sorts.”

    Superbly summed up Salman (and btw, appreciate your moral judgment of these groups, but just to be clear I wasn’t suggesting that you DIDN’T think they were bad news, not to mention that it would be an unfortunate conversation indeed if people felt pressured to disavow this or that group).

    Re: “Btw, is there an Urdu/Hindi translation of fundamentalism?”

    I believe the Hindi and Urdu media uses the equivalent of “extremist” rather than “fundamentalist”: thus I have heard terms like “kattar-pantee” on Hindi channels used to describe the Bajrang Dal, and on Geo have heard terms like “inteha-pasand”. I am not familiar with the history of these terms, but suspect they are of recent provenance…

  48. I am not familiar with the intricacies of Sangh Parivar. The authors of this book (http://www.amazon.com/School-Texts-Murder-Mahatma-Gandhi/dp/8178298546/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1246298764&sr=8-1)
    claim that RSS key figures were versed in fascist literature and influenced by it. So, from that standpoint, I can see the logic in describing some of the Sangh Parivar organizations as fascist.

    I think that Qutb was influenced by Lenin (to some extent), and since it is said that Al-Qaeda had been influenced by Qutb, one can make the judgment that Al-Qaeda type transnational terrorist groups are more Leninist than fascist and I haven’t read anywhere that these groups were influenced by fascism.

    “The ascendancy of political Islam has to be appreciated in both ideological and political terms. Ideologically, radical political Islam claims a contradictory inheritance. On the one hand, it shares with modern secular ideologies (nationalism, Marxism) an embrace of political violence as a liberating force. On the other, it is part of the resurgence of different forms of nativism (linked to racial, ethnic and religious identities) in large parts of the postcolonial world. The appeal of nativism lies in its critique of secular nationalist historiography, which has tended to highlight only the recent impact of Western imperialism as important to understanding the present. But nativism does not simply exalt precolonial history; it also promises a return to it, as if the deep impact of colonialism could simply be wished away.” http://www.thenation.com/doc/20060515/mamdani/3

    I personally can’t make an objective judgment on whether of not Taliban or Alqaeda are fascist-type organizations because I don’t have a firm grasp of what fascism is. I associate fascism with the combination of anti-Semitism and racial superiority. Taliban and Alqaeda, are virulently anti-Shia and their Puritanism translates into violence against the frequenters of shrines and tombs (something that they share with the Saudi regime that has destroyed numerous Muslim heritage sites).

    Has the term Fascism lost its meaning? Is it only identified by certain trends in political movements? If so, can any movement be objectively labeled “fascist?” Or is it that only certain trends of a political movement, can be referred to as fascist type policies/acts? If so, it comes down to drawing parallels. The speculative exercise of drawing parallels is contingent upon one’s knowledge, experience, interests, and most importantly the historic frame of reference of the audience one is communicating with. Consequently labeling becomes projecting the historic experience of an audience onto the group under scrutiny. Fundamentalism is another such term that has a meaning in the Western Christian tradition and its use by other societies is that of a pejorative label that doesn’t even refer to anything but a swear word of sorts. Btw, is there an Urdu/Hindi translation of fundamentalism?

    Just to be clear, my moral judgment of these groups is that they are bad news, that they are anti-Shia, anti-Sufi, anti-traditionalist and the means they use to pursue their political objectives stand in violation to “Islamic rules of engagement”. Some of the political objectives and the social/economical/political grievances that these organizations claim to be fighting in the name of, have a wide ranging support* and labels such as Islamofascist is a denunciation of the legitimacy of these grievances and demonizes those that agree with the grievances in question.


    *”large majorities endorse the goal of al Qaeda to “push the US to remove its bases and its military forces from all Islamic countries,” including 87 percent of Egyptians, 64 percent of Indonesians, and 60 percent of Pakistanis.”
    […]”Majorities agree with nearly all of al Qaeda’s goals to change US behavior in the Muslim world, to promote Islamist governance, and to preserve and affirm Islamic identity. However, as mentioned, only minorities say they approve of al Qaeda’s attacks on Americans. Consistent with this apparent ambivalence, views of groups that attack Americans and Bin Laden are mixed or lukewarm.”
    (Survey conducted by WorldPublicOpinion.org (February 24, 2009)
    http://www.worldpublicopinion.org/pipa/articles/brmiddleeastnafricara/591.php

  49. RE: “But if you say Al-Qaeda are Muslim terrorists, than you might as well say the Nazis are Christian facists.”

    I disagree, because the Nazis were not saying they were acting in the name of Christianity, whereas Al Qaida-types do say they are motivated by Islam. i.e. the Nazis happened to be Christian, but there wasn’t much overtly or especially Christian about them (it would be fair to call ’em German fascists, but I don’t think it would be fair to call the Taliban “Pashtun extremists”)…

  50. I think it is perfectably acceptable to label Al-Qaeda terrorists, just like its acceptable to label the Nazis as facists. But if you say Al-Qaeda are Muslim terrorists, than you might as well say the Nazis are Christian facists. But then again, what is exactly the difference between a facist and a terrorist? I suppose facists would have the official sanction of a government and terrorists wouldn’t. The Klu Klux Klan are terrorists, the military government which just took over Iran could be labeled facist (http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2009/06/former_revolutionary_guard_mem.html), as could the early Soviet government.

  51. On historical grounds I do resist using the term “Islamic fascism”; however, I believe it is acceptable to use “fascist” to describe various Sangh Parivar organizations, and various ideas propagated by those organizations, and I think one can use the same term for various aspects of the Saudi state, or the Taliban state in Afghanistan.

    That being said, I don’t think it is especially useful to insist on the term: i.e. I don’t think we should feel the need to call something “fascist” in order to condemn it — that it is oppressive and atrocious ought to be enough. We see the same sort of thing wherever human rights violations and mass killings occur: these days, every such atrocity is accompanied by claims of a “genocide” (a sad testimony to our collective attention span being so short; to our sensibilities being so callous; that activists begin to feel that we rank atrocities, and won’t respond unless the atrocity can be slotted into the “highest”/”lowest” rank). The fact that the mere reality isn’t enough, as salman and akbar have shown, testifies to various agendas — BUT I feel that “we” risk erring too far in the other direction by resisting such labels and talking about the agendas to the exclusion of underlying issues that are being propagated in the name of Islam. That is, we know the agendas of the neo-cons etc., but my point is that we cannot deny that there are concerted attempts in some countries — (parts of) Pakistan and Afghanistan are among them — to spread a certain kind of politics, that speaks in the name of Islam. These attempts are not simply the figments of right-wing imaginations in the West (that various people cynically are trying to utilize these phenomena for their own reasons is a separate question: but the people of NWFP or Swat etc. do not have the luxury of being opportunistic about this sort of thing, they have to deal with the reality and the consequences — it is those NOT in/from the area who have the luxury of “sending the army to deal with ‘them'”, or of holding them up as illustrating something about Islam, etc.)…

  52. Juan Cole on Islamic-isms :
    http://www.salon.com/opinion/feature/2008/02/01/islamophobia/

    ” ‘Islamic’ has to do with the religion founded by the prophet Mohammed. We speak of Islamic ethics or Islamic art, as things that derive from the religion. “Muslim,” on the contrary, describes the believer. It would be perfectly all right to talk about Muslim terrorists, but calling them Islamic terrorists or Islamic fascists implies that the religion of Islam is somehow essentially connected to those extremist movements.
    Giuliani complained that during their debates, Democratic rivals “never mentioned the word ‘Islamic terrorist,’ ‘Islamic extremist,’ ‘Islamic fascist,’ ‘terrorist,’ whatever combination of those words you want to use, [the] words never came up.” He added, “I can’t imagine who you insult if you say ‘Islamic terrorist.’ You don’t insult anyone who is Islamic who isn’t a terrorist.”
    But people are not “Islamic,” they are Muslim. And one most certainly does insult Muslims by tying their religion to movements such as terrorism or fascism. Muslims perceive a double standard in this regard: Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols would never be called “Christian terrorists” even though they were in close contact with the Christian Identity Movement. No one would speak of Christofascism or Judeofascism as the Republican candidates speak of Islamofascism. Muslims point out that persons of Christian heritage invented fascism, not Muslims, and deny that Muslim movements have any link to the mass politics of the 1930s in Europe.”

  53. “Once the job was done, then average Gazan became Islamic Extremist, worse GAZAN became Islamofascist and the worst became Terrorist( in our Lexicon).”

    Islamofascism is one such term that makes me uncomfortable. To me it says more about the person using the term than it does about the people the term is used for, as Akbar’s comment about Israel’s labelling of HAMAS as Islamofascist indicates. The label taps into the history of Holocaust and resurrects the Nazi in a new garb while putting the Israeli society and state firmly in the victim catagory.

    “Like the quest for the moderate Muslim, another emerging term both reflecting and strengthening Islamophobia is “Islamofascism.” After 9/11, President George W. Bush drew a sharp distinction between the Muslim majority’s religion of Islam and a minority of Muslim extremists. However, his more recent use of new terms to recast the global “war on terror” as a war against fascism blurs this distinction and implies that Islam, not just its misuse by extremists, is the root cause of the problem.President Bush, joined by members of his cabinet and congress as well as neo-conservative political commentators, is using Islamic fascism or Islamofascism to strengthen waning support for their international policies.

    After the August 10, 2006 transatlantic bomb plot was foiled by British police in London, Bush emphasized that the plotters “try to spread their jihadist message—a message I call, it’s totalitarian in nature—Islamic radicalism, Islamic fascism, they try to spread it as well by taking the attack to those of us who love freedom.” “It is the great challenge of this century… As young democracies flourish, terrorists try to stop their progress…. This is the beginning of a long struggle against an ideology that is real and profound. It’s Islamo-fascism. It comes in different forms. They share the same tactics, which is to destroy people and things in order to create chaos in the hopes that their vision of the world become predominant in the Middle East.”

    Members of Congress have followed suit. Senator Rick Santorum “We’re at war with Islamic fascism…These people are after us not because we’ve oppressed them, not because of the state of Israel…It’s because we stand for everything they hate.” [7]) Neo-conservative columnists and talk show hosts (Daniel Pipes, Stephen Schwartz, Michael Savage, and Christopher Hitchens) and bloggers have used and promoted the use of Islamofascism. At the same time, conservative Republican Patrick Buchanan has charged that “neoconservatives, whose roots are in the Trotskyist-Social Democratic Left, are promoting use of the term. Their goal is to have Bush stuff al-Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah, Syria, and Iran into an “Islamofascist” kill box, then let SAC do the rest.

    Does Islamofascism Clarify?

    Webster’s American Dictionary definition defines fascism as “a totalitarian government system led by a dictator, used historically for the totalitarian ideology of Mussolini and Hitler.” Neither Osama Bin Laden and al-Qaeda nor much of global terrorism fits this definition. Moreover, the use of the term “fascism” is so fluid, has been used in so many diverse ways and contexts by former President Harry Truman, Martin Luther King, or by the liberal left that the word has lost any meaning or use other than a denunciation. ”
    http://cmcu.georgetown.edu/68792.html

  54. PS– I guess one can also speak to the role played by “Eastern traditions” in the Western imagination over the last century or two, inasmuch as ________ [fill in your -ism] is imagined as the complete “other” of whatever it is one is trying to get away from. Thus, for the Western “seeker”, ______ became whatever one’s “own” tradition was not (or imagined not to be): less rational, more instinctive (this could be good or bad, depending on whether one was talking to a 1960s love child or a colonial administrator :-)), etc. The upshot is the old St. Paul trope, promising freedom from the law. In the case of early Christianity, the Pauline faith promised freedom from Jewish law-based religion, in the case of contemporary dabblers in “Eastern religions”, it is the latter that stands in for a religious paradigm premised on pure Grace, and the reigning post-Judeo-Christian/capitalist culture that stands in for “the law.”

    [I do not mean to suggest that there is anything illegitimate or inherently suspect about anyone dabbling in anything, Westerners getting into “Eastern” religions; simply that such engagement itself has a history that might not always be apparent to the “new” practitioners.]

  55. Re: “One thing I noticed is that many Westerners are stuck in a certain view about the monothesims, that they are somehow less spiritual than the hinduisms or Buddhism. Thus I read statements like this (Amazon.com’s review of the Karen Armstrong book I posted): “Even Buddhism, Sikhism, Hinduism, and Confucianism have developed fundamentalist factions.” Really? Fundamental Hinduism? Really? I would have never thought…”

    I don’t think this is because many Westerners think the monotheisms are “less spiritual”, it is a function of the view (shared by me) that these religious traditions are less ORGANIZED than the monotheisms, and hence less susceptible to “capture” by a particular paradigm/particular interpretation of a text. Often there is (as in Hinduism, or the many Hinduisms) no single text that commands allegiance in the way that the Quran or Torah does (this isn’t true of Sikhism, which is as text-centric as any of the more widespread monotheisms, not surprising given the historical links between Sikhism and Islam). Speaking of Hindu extremism, the example I can speak to better than the others, there is IMO no contradiction between this view and the rise of the contemporary extremism — the latter is, even more explicitly in this system than in (e.g.) Islam or Judaism, a modern phenomenon that owes a lot to nineteenth century theories, twentieth century fascism, etc. (as even a quick review of the texts of the “founders”, the likes of Savarkar, Golwalkar, Hegdewar, will confirm). The link between religiosity and adherence to politically right-wing views is a rather tenuous one (in the Hindu right certainly, but also in the Muslim right, although the primacy of the right in each instance does itself promote a certain kind of religious observance, often “cleansed” of historical “impurities” — thus I was lectured much of my life by right-wingers who had themselves “turned to religion” recently, now disparaging Sufi shrines in the sub-continent; and the anxiety of the Hindu right in the face of syncretic sites is also pretty clear)…

  56. Yeah, I completely understand the need for correct terminology (Islamic extremism, etc). When asked what he would change first in society, Confucius said he would rectify the terms used to denote things. He said that without proper terms, people would be confused and wouldn’t understand the situation they live in properly. (This is off the top of my head, I can’t remember his exact words). The terms we do actually use reflect our societies.
    So there should be an improvement in terminology so things aren’t simplfied or people misled. BTW The Nazi comparison is an excellent point.

    One thing I noticed is that many Westerners are stuck in a certain view about the monothesims, that they are somehow less spiritual than the hinduisms or Buddhism. Thus I read statements like this (Amazon.com’s review of the Karen Armstrong book I posted): “Even Buddhism, Sikhism, Hinduism, and Confucianism have developed fundamentalist factions.” Really? Fundamental Hinduism? Really? I would have never thought…
    Granted, Islam and Christianty have been expanding powers and as singular religions I would say have more blood on their hands than Vaishnavism or Shaivanism (Again, as religo-political instituions, not as the messages of Muhammad or Jesus – pbut). The worldwide expanding powers of the Muslims than the Europeans was becasue of the Muslims’ horses and then the Christians’ boats. The Chinese and Indian relgions mainly stayed within their own orignial cultural spheres (Southeast Asia being the notable exception). Buddhism was more like Druidism in Celtic Europe, an international religion that was able to mediate between otherwise very diverse parties and a repository for all sorts of knowledge (I owe that insight to a book I read by Thomas Cleary).

    But yes, we can go back and also talk about how, in spite of the violence and the nature of being a conqueror, Islam made irreversable contributions to the contients of Europe, the Middle East, West Africa, Central Asia, and India.

    Anyway, I forget what my original point was other than that Confucius was right (pbuh too!) and that in order to help heal society we should rectify the terms that are used in discourse (refer to Neo-Nazis as terrorists in the Western world, recognize when political terrorists use Islam to appeal to people in the Muslim world).

  57. “think: Muhammad Atta in the strip club).”
    LO,That is very true.
    Once the dust on 9-11 narrative of ’19 young men=Muslims=Irrational hatred of Islam for free societies’,started settling. it came out that these mostly clean shaven men had girl friends, visited casinos and strip clubs and drank regularly, no problem the narrative changed to that these committed soldiers have sacrificed their own purity for the sake of making rest of the world pure. So you get the absurdity of using these terms!

  58. Re: “In one particular incident these young middle easterns have to pull alcoholic drinks from their refrigerator to prove that they were no “Islamic extremists” meaning practicing muslims.”

    LOL, though sometimes that might mark one out as the “sleeper” (think: Muhammad Atta in the strip club). I am reminded of a trip I took to Rome with a bearded Pakistani friend (whose beard was indeed a reflection of his religiosity). He was waved through passport ctrl with barely a question — I was right behind him and my clean-shaven US citizen ass got grilled like anything!!!

  59. This again is a problem, not with the label Islamic extremism, but with how the system is complicit in a colonizing discourse.

    Language invention and use of words, phrases is an atribute of all successful empires. It creates narratives about goodness of self and inherent evil of the other, the enemy.
    So while good people may use this term in sense of ‘some Muslims who has interpreted Islam in extreme way’, this term may also mean, once you adopt priniciples of Islam then only way forward is that you are an extremist, which then evolves into Islamo-Fascist( now ready to impose this extreme version on others) which then evolves into Islamo-Terrorist( who is willing to use violence, hence beheading, flogging etc, to achieve the final stage of the purity).
    A classical example is the narrative about HAMAS, Israel supproted it as counter-weight to Secular PLO. They knew the religious persuations of the HAMAS leaders at that time. Once the job was done, then average Gazan became Islamic Extremist, worse GAZAN became Islamofascist and the worst became Terrorist( in our Lexicon). Now Israel has oppurtunity to claim , they are keeping civilized world safe by containing these fascist , terrorists from overtaking everything on its way. So Israeli leaders are surprised at the criticism as the world swalloed their narrative but does not seem to understand it.
    For example, during election compaign Obama, while commenting on poor areas of Appalachia, said, ‘they cling to their guns and Religion because of poverty and the rest of country has left them behind’. Too bad that Gazans do not vote in American election, so they have to stay, extremists, terrorists for a while.
    The indscriminate use of these terms also makes life very difficult for muslims living in multi-ethnic multi-religious societies. You will recall that after Oklahoma city bombing, police and press zeroed in on middle eastern youth living in vicinity. In one particular incident these young middle easterns have to pull alcoholic drinks from their refrigerator to prove that they were no “Islamic extremists” meaning practicing muslims.

  60. PS — It is also my personal view that the mere fact that a particular practice is enshrined in a religious scripture does not insulate it from critique; i.e. religions don’t get a free pass IMO when nothing else does. [But in a world where secular tyrannies and fanaticisms do get a free pass, it is not unreasonable to ask why religious tyrannies get singled out. The move with secular fanaticisms (e.g. Nazism, Khmer Rouge, etc.) is to define them out of the bounds of reason, whereas with religious fanaticisms, especially where they implicate “the colonial” they are held to be REPRESENTATIVE. Thus “the Nazi” is not — outside the bounds of a rarefied philosophical tradition in universities — held to say anything meaningful about “the West”, and is defined out of it in terms of madness, irrationality, etc. — whereas 9/11 is understood to “say” something about Islam, etc. This again is a problem, not with the label Islamic extremism, but with how the system is complicit in a colonizing discourse…]]

  61. A superb extract from Mamdani. It seems to me that Akbar’s objection is to the use of the label “Islamic extremism”, but that label is not a function of the THEOLOGICAL “correctness” of the Bin Ladens of the world, but of the sign they claim to be operating under. For instance, the link with secularism and the modern world (and the absence of any centralized religious hierarchy) is even more apparent in the case of the Sangh Parivar, the foundational ideas of which owe a lot more to fascism than to the Sanatana Dharma/Gita/what-have-you — however, it is correct to refer to the Bajrang Dal or the VHP as a Hindu extremist organization because their own self-image, and insistence, is that they operate under the sign of “the Hindu.” Similarly, it is by no means an attack on the faith of any Muslim, or on the tenets of Islam, to point out the obvious: that the Taliban, while an utterly political movement of this world, operates under the sign of a politics/law called “sharia”/Islam/what-have-you. Thus it is correct to call this phenomenon Islamic extremism: the “Islamic” they insist upon, the “extremism” is a sign of our value judgment (i.e. if anything, one should object to the latter, not the former). Just as with (e.g.) Communism we don’t ask ourselves what the validity in terms of Marxist-Leninist theory is of a particular political movement, so too with Islamic extremism, Hindu extremism, or Jewish extremism.

    [Now, since 9/11, we have also seen the increased prominence of a sort of cheap and utilitarian anthropology, which attempts to “rank” cultures/civilizations based on their attainment (or lack thereof) of “modernity”, and locates the “failures” of “Islamic cultures” to attain modernity in certain religio-cultural practices or characteristics. It is perhaps this that Akbar is referring to as an attack on the faith (“look what the Quran says about women!” etc. etc.), but this was not the subject of any of my comments (I in fact consider this a rather contemptible mode of analysis; check out http://www.amazon.com/After-Tamerlane-Global-History-Empire/dp/1596913932/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1246199154&sr=8-1 for an excellent “take” on how and why a certain paradigm came to dominate the others), nor do I think use of the “Islamic extremism” label is rendered illegitimate by virtue of this kind of phenomenon.]

  62. On the question of Islamic extremism:
    An Interview with Dr. Mahmood Mamdani: (May 5, 2004): Complete Interview at http://www.asiasource.org/news/special_reports/mamdani.cfm

    “[…] political identities are not reducible to cultural identities. Political Islam, especially radical political Islam, and even more so, the terrorist wing in radical political Islam, did not emerge from conservative, religious currents, but on the contrary, from a secular intelligentsia. In other words, its preoccupation is this-worldly, it is about power in this world. To take only the most obvious example: I am not aware of anyone who thinks of bin Laden as a theologian; he is a political strategist and is conceived of in precisely such terms. Of course, part of his strategy is employing a particular language through which he addresses specific audiences. …

    I have doubts about the use of the term “fundamentalism” outside of the context in which it arises, which is the Christian context. My real discomfort with using the two interchangeably – political Islam and Islamic fundamentalism – is that “fundamentalism” is a cultural phenomenon and I want to zero-in on a political phenomenon.

    Even in the history of American Christianity, Christian fundamentalism is a turn-of-the-century movement which was the result of battles fought out in all kinds of institutions, including schools and courts. But the decision by a group of Christian fundamentalist intellectuals to cross the boundary between the religious and the secular and to move into the political domain, to organize with an eye on political power, is only a post-World War II phenomenon. I distinguish between Christian fundamentalism, an end-of-19th century counter-cultural movement and political Christianity, a post-Second World War political movement.

    I also do not identify the mixing of religion and politics as necessarily retrogressive. One only needs to understand the many forms of post-war political Christianity, from the involvement of Black churches in the civil rights movement to that of Jerry Falwell’s Christian right, to get to a more nuanced understanding of religiously informed politics.

    One also needs to recognize that the history of Christianity is very unlike the history of mainstream Islam which simply does not have an institutionally organized church. The Catholic Church is organized as an institutionalized hierarchy, as a prototype of the empire-state, and the Protestant Church hierarchy is organized as a prototype of the nation-state. Until Ayatollah Khomeini created a state-wide clerical authority in Iran, there was no such institutionalized religious hierarchy in Islam and it still does not exist elsewhere. Without the existence of an institutionalized religious hierarchy parallel to a state hierarchy, the question of the proper relation between two domains of power, that of the organized church and the organized state, a central question in Western secularism, has been a non-question in Islam – at least until Ayatollah Khomeini created a constitutional theocracy in Iran as vilayat-i-faqih.

    Now with Iraq very much in the throes of resistance, there is an entirely different notion of Iraqi Shi’ism articulated by Sistani. His is a critique of Khomeini; Sistani’s is a secular, religious perspective. His view is that Shi’a clerics are scholars; they should be the conscience of society, not the wielders of state power.

    So when political Islam develops – unlike political Christianity – it is not the result of the movement of religious intellectuals into a secular domain but rather the reverse move, that of secular intellectuals into the religious domain. Extremist political Islam, by which I mean Islamist thought which puts political violence at the center of political action, came into its own with Mawdudi and Syed Qutb. Neither was an alim or a mullah. Both had this-worldly pursuits. Mawdudi says, “Mere preaching will not do, it is not enough.” Now which religious person is going to say mere preaching is not enough?”

    See Also Political Islam: Beyond the Green Menace by John Esposito
    http://www.iiu.edu.my/deed/articles/espo.html

    Regarding religious revival and the use of Quran to impose the veil, I just started reading Saba Mahmood’s book about Egypt’s female piety movement and so far it has been a very intriguing read.
    http://www.amazon.com/Politics-Piety-Islamic-Revival-Feminist/dp/0691086958/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1246172573&sr=1-1

  63. Nikolai thanks for the reference, I have read Karen Armsstrong’s “Muhammad: A prophet for our time”
    I will read the above mentioned book. I pretty much think about religions in the terms that you have so eloquently laid out. And I agree from Amir Muawia’s reign from Syria (Ist Ummayad caliph)onwards the real spirit of egalitarian message of Islam has been perpetually corrupted to fit the needs of ruling classes(some may say the process even started earlier).

  64. Akbar, religion is neither good nor bad, it’s simply institutionalized spirituality. Religion can appeal to the masses because it offers answers, a way of living, and is often shrouded in cultural idiocyncracies which make people feel comfortable. People will cling to religion like a blanket to project them from the rapidly technolgization and globalization of the world. This isn’t neccesarily a bad thing. And when I say religion, I include Confucianism and Western Philosophy as ways of living that provide answers.

    But because of the Mongol invasions, Western imperialism, and internal problems, the Middle East fragmented and (over a long period of time) began to loose its modernizing momentum. The cultural achievements scared some, who clung to people like Wahabbi. In turn, that sort of thinking lead to the spead of terrorism today to combat Western policies and to gain control of power over places like Afghanistan.

    Now no religion has a perfect history, and each has different problems in each of their respective institutional structure. The Catholic Church, for example, does not have the best record. Islam too, in some of its institutions, that have been politically motivated in the past, has done harm to people. We can’t ignore this.

    I personally think that Islam provides a great structure to base a life around, possibly the best. But after a 1400 year history, there are problems that have evolved (i.e. outdated usage and misappropriation of jihad; using the Qur’an as sanction to impose the veil when really that’s a cultural idiocyncrasy and women should decide how they dress).

    In the end I think we are dealing with two issues. One is the knee-jerk reaction to the modern world that many humans are having. They’re clinging to their culture because the new world seems too strange, too digital, too connected. Many of their previous assumptions are being demolished. This is going on all around the world. This is not neccearily a problem, but it can lead to a more primitive reading of religious texts, including the Qur’an.

    The second problem is the challenges that the Middle East faces in particular as a region (for South Asia, the problems are different, but some do overlap). We would be speaking of Christian terrorism and Islamic imperialism if the modern situations were reversed (with slight nuances to account for the differences in the cultures). The problems aren’t inherent to Islam but to the political and social mileu that have devolped and that we have to deal with.

    I haven’t read the following book, but I trust the author:
    http://www.amazon.com/Battle-God-Karen-Armstrong/dp/0345391691/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1246158414&sr=8-1#
    This covers fundalmentalism in Spain, Israel, USA, Egypt, and Iran.

  65. but that does not mean there is no issue of Islamic extremism at all

    Qalander I enjoy your commentary, and I agree we should look at issues with open mind. I am no apologiser for any type of extremism. But I fail to understand what is “Islamic Extremism”? Now do not tell me it is there for everybody to see!It wants to take over the world. It wants to cover the women and kill theose who are not Islamic extremists.
    Because all this bullshit is there to appeal to the emotions of people. For example Obama administration had 104 billion dollars approved by congress for this year to fight ‘Islamic Extremism’ and wars in Afghanistan/Iraq. Now every state, township is in red in USA and needs help to continue even basic necessaities like healthcare, education etc. They are borrowing like there is no tomorrow, so how do people approve of such a big expenditure year after year, unless this Bogeyman is not presented.
    So if somebody could give me a little more cerebral definition of this ‘Islamic Extremism;, what is it? Where was it born? Who is nurturing it? and why?
    I will appreciate it.

  66. Islamic extremism has become a catchword for all sorts of people/governments to advance all sorts of other agendas over the last several years, there we can agree — but that does not mean there is no issue of Islamic extremism at all. Now who is supplying these extremists with weapons (for e.g. the claim has been made, and it strikes me as plausible, that India, Pakistan, the Karzai government in Afghanistan, all have “their” Talibans who get assistance), and who is colluding with them (e.g. in your suggestion about the Bhutto assassination) is a question of vital importance, but such complicity presupposes the existence of these extremists. Intelligence agencies cannot create something out of nothing, though surely they can jump on/try and steer the bandwagon. [For instance, whatever assistance Pakistani agencies provided Kashmiri groups, the fact is why was this assistance not successful in 1974, but only in 1990? Obviously because by the latter date there was a genuine Kashmiri movement in existence. Similarly, Musharraf said in an interview that many of these Taliban-types are actually Indian agents — but even if so, how come RAW was unable to get this sort of thing going 10-20 years ago? Clearly because there are by now disaffected homegrown elements who cannot simply be explained away by resort to the agendas of outsiders]…

  67. Whether or not a trial is being conducted in secrecy, the judgment and decision, and what the defendant is or is not convicted of, won’t be secret (in any event, my understanding had been that journalists did have access to the trial, but perhaps I am mistaken) — but I don’t see any skeptics convinced by the court issuing warrants against (e.g.) Hafiz Saeed.

    I was repelled by the media coverage of the Mumbai attacks, but I do not agree that the fiercely anti-Pakistani rhetoric was a direct indictment of the faith of all Muslims. It was a shameful and shoddy and bigoted display against Pakistan, but not IMO one against the faith of Muslims.

    The question of who benefits is certainly a complicated one. My own view is that the Islamist groups who are fighting against NATO and the Pakistani forces do benefit. Not unlike the 2001 attack on the Indian Parliament, I tend to read the Mumbai attacks as a sophisticated attempt by these groups (who exactly and how many, I have no clue) to ratchet up tension between India and Pakistan, forcing diversion of a fair number of military resources from Pakistan’s Western front to its Eastern front with India (there were reports that this happened in 2001 in the aftermath of the Parliament attack, contributing to the escape of groups that NATO was pursuing on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border). The difference this time was that the UPA government handled the situation more cleverly than the NDA government: the latter preferred the crude and utterly futile gesture of sending troops to go eyeball to eyeball with Pakistani troops; whereas the UPA preferred to utilize media/propaganda/”soft” power. I have no evidence for any of this, of course, but the point is that our answers to the questions you pose will themselves be conditioned by what we think the various actors’ aims/agendas/etc. are, and what constitutes a benefit: as I see it, I certainly don’t see how India, the Pakistani government, could benefit from the Mumbai attacks (others obviously have different views)…

    Re: CIA/Iran: you misunderstood me: I was not saying it’s a myth, I in fact have no doubt about the conspiracy to oust Mossadegh; I was making the point that this is now commonly accepted, even in the mainstream media (which is odd, because no other conspiracy seems to have found such ready acceptance, but that’s a different story). Re-reading my comment above, I realize that it wasn’t phrased very well, so just to clarify…

  68. Nikolai Thanks for pointing out. Eliminate is not the proper word. Ishould say’Overlooked’ or consciously tried to ignore it.
    Going back to Qalandar’s point, i am sure everybody is not going to be convinced but lets us look at these events
    While the live scenes of Mumbay carnage were being played on media and pundits were explaining it for us, the simplified narrative goes like
    Kassab= Pakistani=Muslim= Instructed by hatefull Islam to destroy infidels and their centers of commerce and hence their civilization. This narrative directly indicts the faith of all muslims.
    Ditto for 9-11
    So my point is that if Authorities had such overwhelming evidence that within hours of attacks they could tell us all, then what is the problem to bring this evidence to their most fair/ highest courts of law and present it before everybody to see, so if nothing else this will reduce the number of sceptics if not outrightly convince everybody. But as we know Kassab’s trial is being conducted in highest secrecy with very limited leaks except for the ones that suit the accuser’s purpose. Same for 9-11 , DESPITE “OVERWHELMING EVIDENCE” bBush govt was reluctant to form even a hand picked 9-11 commission unless pushed hard.
    Now attacking faith of all muslims and at the sametime having an organised effort to overlook/minimise the contribution of followers of that faith, shoud not it worry people that what is going on?

    Regarding Benazir’s Assasination, the crime scene was washed and cleaned within hours of her killing. Now I am willing to believe Mehsud took responsibility but I am interested in knowing how did he make Rawalpindi administration supervise the washing of crime scene?

    Likewise CIA and Iran circa 1953 is not a main stream myth anymore, read Kermit Roosvelt Jr.’s book ” COUNTERCOUP”.

    Ithink little simplification is in order. There are American, Pakistani, Indian, Afghani and other nations legitimate and otherwise interests in this area. Finally since last several years India has started playing junior partner to USA while safe gurding its own interest. The pieace of real estate that is Pakistan is vitally important in these games and calculations. So when Pakistan Govt does their bidding, it is Most Favoured Ally outside NATO, when the Pakistani interests diverge then they have to be brought in line, it does not mean that Pakistani Intelligences are not playing shabby double games. The people pulling triggers have muslim names and are blowing up things with or without beards, but who is sending them, who is enabling them,who is benefiting?
    Those are the questions to answer.

  69. Don’t be hoodwinked by Hoodbhoy

    It has become fashionable after September 11, 2001, to excoriate Islam. Pervez Hoodbhoy pompously climbed the bandwagon with the anti-Islam crowd. Hoodbhoy’s source of inspiration is indeed the guru of Zionist Orietalists – Bernard Lewis.

    Fortunately, most Aga Khanis, don’t share Hoodbhoy’s false Orientalist notions.

    (For in-depth analysis read: Is There an Islamic Problem? By M. Shahid Alam)

  70. I guess what I am trying to say (hitherto not very well) is that it is comforting to think in terms of proof etc., but sadly these are typically not questions that will be settled this way. We live in a rather atrocious world where little seems to be knowable, and paranoia and conspiracy theories are the (perhaps understandable) responses to such a reality on the part of many. Thus, I will confess to impatience in the face of many such theories — but given that (e.g.) no-one will deny that the casus belli for the 1898 Spanish-American war was faked; and most agree that the Vietnam Gulf of Tonkin incident was also faked; and recently we have all heard how the notion that the CIA helped overthrow the democratically elected Mossadegh has become a mainstream notion — one would be hard pressed to explain why paranoias are beyond the pale. But to the extent this unknowability is being used to avoid introspection (e.g. it sometimes seems to me that many Muslims don’t think there is any extremism problem, because every extremist attack is the result of a conspiracy hatched by someone who is not in fact a religious extremist), I think it is quite problematic — independent of whether who did what in any particular case may be known.

  71. RE: “Again it is plausible that Taliban/Alqaeda did it but what ever happened to Innocent till proven guilty, and not trial by media.”

    Agree in principle, but in practical fact, even proven guilty by trial or other standard of evidence will find no takers. I don’t think (to take one example) those who believe 9/11 was an inside job will be persuaded by a fact-finding commission. Similarly, I would not expect any trial of anybody to settle everything to everyone’s satisfaction where the Mumbai attacks (or any other attacks) are concerned. More broadly, the “innocent until proven guilty” stance, which is essentially a criminal law stance,* is not especially helpful given that the vast majority of such events are never the subject of criminal trials — and in those circumstances, “innocent until proven guilty” begins to seem like a way to obfuscate rather than clarify. [The Benazir Bhutto assassination is a good example: when people initially said Islamic extremists were responsible, people said there was no firm proof; when the likes of Mehsud accepted responsibility, people said how do we know he really did in fact accept responsibility; and to this day I have met many Pakistanis who believe Zardari had his wife killed; not to mention that we know of at least one instance where the Taliban seem to have in fact claimed responsibility for something they didn’t do, namely the shooting in the immigration center in New York. My point is not that we should believe whatever a state proffers; but that those who often say “innocent until proven guilty” will often themselves not be completely agnostic about who was responsible, but will simply be skeptical that the person being blamed by the official discourse is in fact responsible. Thus, Qasab’s conviction (actually not his conviction, since his role in the attacks is not disputed, given the TV footage we have all seen, the eyewitness accounts, etc.; but the other indictments that have been framed as a result of whatever evidence he is or isn’t providing), and/or any other in absentia convictions, will not convince anyone who isn’t ALREADY convinced. Most Indians will continue to believe that Lashkar-e-Tayyaba was responsible, with varying opinions on whether or not there were elements of the Pakistani state that were involved; most Pakistanis will likely continue to be skeptical, etc. And these views will have been the same whether or not there was any trial.]

    *[Note that “innocent until proven guilty” also means, in the common law system, that one needs proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Thus, in the US, if the state presents proof making it (hypothetically) 60% likely that I have committed the crime, the court should probably acquit me. That standard isn’t very tenable as far as history is concerned. ]

  72. Qalandar, I had chance to here about Kasab’s Ongoing trial on NPR, it is totally shrouded in secrecy. I was trying to say, that standard of evidence for a scientifically trained person is always higher than a lay person. Personally I think Kasab if instead was released in Tehran,given a Gucci shirt and Green bandana, may look like a velvet revolutionary. Again it is plausible that Taliban/Alqaeda did it but what ever happened to Innocent till proven guilty, and not trial by media.
    Cricket thing is complex. Whoever did it, motivation was to socially/ economically /culturally isolate Pakistan and it succeeded as this was made for TV type of attack. Taliban can act with this motivation but other forces which are trying to isolate Pakistan can also be suspect. You are right, Pakistani cricket lost some, but Taliban may say, hey this is minor collateral damage as compared to what we are being put through. And look how much attention it brought.

    Jawed Naqvi has a fascinating piece in Dawn on Iran but a paragraph may be relevant

    Let me share an experience with an international financial news agency I worked with. The 1994 genocide in Rwanda was in full cry. It had already resulted in the systematic massacre of 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus in less than 100 days. The daily slow-motion killings with machetes soon became tedious news to purvey. One day the reporter in Kigali changed the humdrum routine with a dispatch about how the coffee crop in Rwanda was seriously affected by the massacre.

    That was all it took to rattle the world. The New York Stock Exchange heralded the great news by sending the global coffee prices soaring. The news editor sent a congratulatory message to the Kigali reporter on the open ticker, a rarity, for other bureaus to emulate. His message read: ‘Thanks for the great coffee story from Kigali. Bag of gold follows.’

    http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/the-

  73. “the orientalists have happily eliminated over a milenia of contributions of muslim civilizations to the modern world.”

    I don’t think “eliminate” is the right word here. I think the orientalists were high on Western European dominance for awhile and the Islamic foundations for European sciences and for Iberian art were forgotten (though in Iberia, they tried to force themselves to forget it before many of them actually did).

    But you can’t eliminate eight hundreds years of influence from the scholastic world. And that would mainly be in the Western scholastic world, not the Muslim one. Western scholars are growing out of orientalism – at least the ones we should take seriously. Books like these are real Islamic scholarship: http://www.amazon.com/Succession-Muhammad-Study-Early-Caliphate/dp/0521646960/ref=sr_1_11?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1246082091&sr=1-11

    No Westerner could have written a book like that 6o years ago.
    And for Westerners writing about Islamic influence on Western civilization, such books are now becoming available to the general public:
    http://www.amazon.com/Aladdins-Lamp-Science-Through-Islamic/dp/030726534X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1246082609&sr=1-1
    http://www.amazon.com/Ornament-World-Christians-Tolerance-Medieval/dp/0316168718/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1246082680&sr=1-1

    To say ‘eliminate’ is to focus only on the Western approach to scholarship, and not Muslim, Chinese, etc. People like Benard Lewis aren’t going to go away but they will be loosing their credibility with an increasing rate.

    (On the note of Chinese Islamic scholarship, this book is interesting – translations by a modern author of Muslim scholars exlpaining Islam through Chinese terms in the 1600s-1800s – http://www.amazon.com/Chinese-Gleams-Light-Sachiko-Murata/dp/0791446387/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1246082860&sr=1-1 )

  74. Re: “He writes about Mumbay and Lahore attacks, frankly none of those cases has been judicially decided so far, so how does a scientist buy into news paper propaganda, rather than waiting for trial in court and then let the chips fall where they may!”

    I take your wider point about Hoodbhoy (and I certainly do not share his conviction that “reason will triumph over unreason”, even if I knew what he meant), but not sure that a judicial trial would settle the matter for someone unconvinced about who was responsible, if one isn’t already convinced. i.e. from the proceedings in the trial of Qasab so far, and the fact that the court has recently issued warrants for the arrests of various people associated with Lashkar e Tayyaba/Jamaa ud Dawa, I infer that the judge believes (at a minimum) there’s a strong case there. It’s pretty clear Qasab is going to be convicted, and in any event that’s a bit of a technicality, given what he has already confessed to — but I suspect that those who feel that someone other than Muslim extremists was responsible for the Mumbai attacks are not going to be convinced by whatever happens to Qasab. The converse is also true. In fact, given the various technicalities and procedural oddities that govern trials, I feel that the (much maligned) independent fact-finding commission sorta thing is often much better at getting at “what happened” than the judicial process is (assuming both are backed up by coercive subpoena power). For instance, if one wants to find out what was happening in (e.g.) the 1993 communal violence/pogroms in Mumbai, I submit that the Srikrishna report is a far better bet than the cases wherein alleged rioters were tried (that the report has not been acted upon is a different story).

    On the cricket thing, c’mon yaar, Hoodbhoy is wrong on many things, but he is completely right that terrorism has devastated Pakistan’s cricket future. Irrespective of the world cup victory, no foreign team is visiting, and the country will be deprived of hosting 2011 World Cup matches (just today I read that the “home” series against Australia will be held in England). Obviously this would not have happened had the security situation been better (especially given Pakistan is among the 3-4 most lucrative cricket markets). The PCB’s financial troubles are 100% the result of the troubled security situation in the country — the world cup victory doesn’t make up for any of that, it in fact underscores that the cricketing world is being deprived of watching an exciting team. Agree with you that this isn’t about Islam per se (a secular bombing campaign would also have damaged Pakistan’s cricketing future), but surely the wider point: that self-proclaimed guardians of political Islam have harmed the cause of Pakistan, is correct (though of course they aren’t the only ones).

    Where I completely agree with you is on Hoodbhoy’s tendency to equate religiosity with extremism and with violence. This is a common trope among secular liberals, and one I remember getting quite irritated by when the (often irritating) M.J. Akbar wrote about it in the context of Jinnah years ago:

    http://qalandari.blogspot.com/2005/08/on-historical-relationship-between.html

  75. History leads us to believe that reason will triumph over unreason, and humans will continue their evolution towards a higher and better species. Ultimately, it will not matter whether we are Pakistanis, Indians, Kashmiris, or whatever. Using ways that we cannot currently anticipate, people will somehow overcome their primal impulses of territoriality, tribalism, religion and nationalism.

    Again I do not know where does the history start for him. Because history tells us the Sassanid and Byzantian empires fell and the desert Arabs empowered by the mesage of Islam, changed their individual and collective lives in way ,the ripple effect of which could betraced to the european renissance, travels to new world. The orientalists have happily eliminated over a millenia of the contribution of muslim civilizations to the modern world.

  76. Salman, thanks for your comments, I think we can do away with “Sahib”.
    I have been reading your postings and comments. For us talking to each other is like preaching to the Choir. On Hoodbhoys and Mullahs of our times,
    There is a whole bread of reactionary intellectuals writing in Pakistani news papers and everywhere else, their sermons are pretty much predictable by now like a cheap Punjabi formula movie. Sad thing about Hoodbhoy may be that he being a scientist does not want to put his hypothesis througha rigorous testing.

    It is a small matter that the flames of terrorism set Mumbai on fire and, more recently, destroyed Pakistan’s cricketing future.
    For example the first para of his above article, declares the demise of Pakistan Cricket in March of 2009. So how does a dead team win 20/20 World cup and ICC appoints Yunus Khan as captain of 20/20 world eleven? is it just a fluke? would he care to explain?
    He writes about Mumbay and Lahore attacks, frankly none of those cases has been judicially decided so far, so how does a scientist buy into news paper propaganda, rather than waiting for trial in court and then let the chips fall where they may!

    Last paragraph is telling

    the forces of irrationality will surely cancel themselves out because they act in random directions, whereas reason pulls in only one. History leads us to believe that reason will triumph over unreason, and humans will continue their evolution towards a higher and better species. Ultimately, it will not matter whether we are Pakistanis, Indians, Kashmiris, or whatever. Using ways that we cannot currently anticipate, people will somehow overcome their primal impulses of territoriality, tribalism, religion and nationalism. But for now this must be just a hypothesis.

    He probably the missed the Rumsfeld memo, where the SecDef reflects on Algebra of long war, (I paraphrase)saying are we creating more terrorists than we eliminating and at this rate is the success ever possible?
    He lumps together Religion with territoriality, tribalism and nationalism, and labels them all irrational and impulsive. The good doctor has stayed as clear of history of religions and how they are antithesis of other three pointed impulses.
    He looks at the society and feels we are going down because more women have started covering their heads and more people have started praying five times a day hence doomsday is near. A secular Mullah indeed!
    Because ower tradional religious Mullah( who apparently has no lnowledge of Islam and provides as good whipping boy for secular Mullah), looks at the segment of society which does not cover their heads, people are going to internet Cafe, movies, music concerts and reaches the same conclusion that dooms day is near. Both the secular and religious Mullah are missing the whole point, how are they going to have a dialogue? Because neither party is going to defeat other by force, hence the Rumsfeld memo.

  77. Akbar Sahib, Thanks for the info about Autophagy. I recently read Ali Allawi’s new book “The Crisis of Islamic Civilization” where Allawi talked about Hoodbhoy’s assertion about Muslim religious practices being an obstacle in cultivating strong work habits. Allawi raised the same point; why are these religious practices a barrier now but not in the time period that Hoodbhoy calls the Golden Age.

    For a second, I thought I was reading an Oriana Fallaci rant, but it is indeed our very own Dr. Hoodbhoy. http://www.zmag.org/znet/viewArticle/20885

    “The free room, board and supplies to students, form a key part of their appeal. But the desire of parents across the country is for children to be “disciplined” and to be given a thorough Islamic education. This is also a major contributing factor. Madrassas have deeply impacted upon the urban environment. For example, until a few years ago, Islamabad was a quiet, orderly, modern city different from all others in Pakistan. Still earlier, it had been largely the abode of Pakistan’s hyper-elite and foreign diplomats. But the rapid transformation of its demography brought with it hundreds of mosques with multi-barrelled audio-cannons mounted on minarets, as well as scores of madrassas illegally constructed in what used to be public parks and green areas. Now, tens of thousands of their students with little prayer caps dutifully chant the Quran all day. In the evenings they swarm around the city, making bare-faced women increasingly nervous.”

    More goodies from Hoodbhoy:
    Again, he makes some good points like that about a siege mindset, only to lapse back to drivel later on.

    “While social conservatism does not necessarily lead to violent extremism, it does shorten the path. Those with beards and burqas are more easily convinced that Muslims are being demonised by the rest of the world.”

    “the forces of irrationality will surely cancel themselves out because they act in random directions, whereas reason pulls in only one. History leads us to believe that reason will triumph over unreason, and humans will continue their evolution towards a higher and better species. Ultimately, it will not matter whether we are Pakistanis, Indians, Kashmiris, or whatever. Using ways that we cannot currently anticipate, people will somehow overcome their primal impulses of territoriality, tribalism, religion and nationalism.”

    OK, That’s probably enough Hoodbhoy for now. I’ll let it go :-)

  78. “Progress will require behavioral changes. If Muslim societies are to develop technology instead of just using it, the ruthlessly competitive global marketplace will insist on not only high skill levels but also intense social work habits. The latter are not easily reconcilable with religious demands made on a fully observant Muslim’s time, energy, and mental concentration: The faithful must participate in five daily congregational prayers, endure a month of fasting that taxes the body, recite daily from the Qur’an, and more. Although such duties orient believers admirably well toward success in the life hereafter, they make worldly success less likely. A more balanced approach will be needed. ”

    I respect Dr Hoodbhoy’s talent, sincereity of purpose and intellect, but I agree with Salman, that he is being presumptous here.

    The key phrase is “intense social work habits” and presumed interferance by being a practicing Muslim.I hope he means the time consumed in rituals and not that the very idealogy dumbs people down!

    This question is very easy to answer by a scientist.
    1) Historically he can look at lives of people like Avicenna( Cannon of Medicine was taught in Europe for over 600 years and is still taught in history of medicine at UCLA and some French institutes), Averros, Muslim Astronomers, mathematicians, checmists, dentists from middle ages and see if their religiosity had adverse effect on their work habits.
    2) He can easily compare the work ethics/ achievements of the students with his favourite phenotype Vs undesireable phenotype. It can be studied quickly and effectively as he grades them, and then keep a data bank for their ongoing achievements and careers.

    On the flip side he can look at the work habits of the societies he envies, there are lunch breaks, smoking breaks, and weekends are reserved for fun. So interm of available time there is not much difference.
    If he thinks a La Bernard Lewis, that the very idealogy is regressive, then there is no hope of a dialogue.

    On a seperate not of Fasting as Taxing the body. I would urge Dr Hoodbhoy and others to read about ” Autophagy” it literally means ” eating self”. As an Infectious Diseases fellow at University of Texas Southwestern Med School at Dallas, I have been involved in basic research on this topic. Living organisms from yeast to plants to human can reprocess their aging intracellular proteins if they are exposed to a structured starvation, as their process of autophagy is stimulated through a gene /protein mechanism. Research is underway to see if Autophagy has a role in Alzheimer’s, and Cancer prevention. In our research we showed that living organisms can fight infections better through innate immunity if stimulated by structered starvation(submitted to Proceedings of Natiomal Academy of Sciences for publication). That brings us to ” O Believers the fasting is mandated on you as on the people before you…”
    So when the religion asks us to ponder over things/creation , there might be a logic to things, that we may not be able to appreciate by just looking at things though certain prism( secularism is favourite religion of our times).

  79. Yikes, those are some howlers — to be quite frank I hadn’t ever read that piece by Hoodbhoy, or anything by him that made those points, so I can better appreciate where you are coming from. We might just have a Kamalist in the house…

    Aside: personally I’ve never felt adults referring to themselves as boys/girls all over South Asia (which is a reflection IMO of their status as single, as opposed to married :-)) is a reflection of any lack of self-confidence…

  80. I meant, I agree that burqa wearing n South Asias ‘says’ “more about socio-economic status than religiosity.” I think Hoodbhoy referred to an increase in burqa-clad women in schools which would include non-burqa-woman-turned-into-burqa-women (“changed”) as a subset.

  81. Qalandar, I agree with your comment. I had read a few pieces by Hoodbhoy but I just came about this piece. Does the following sound a bit like Bernard Lewis or am I reading too much into it?
    http://ptonline.aip.org/journals/doc/PHTOAD-ft/vol_60/iss_8/49_1.shtml

    “Progress will require behavioral changes. If Muslim societies are to develop technology instead of just using it, the ruthlessly competitive global marketplace will insist on not only high skill levels but also intense social work habits. The latter are not easily reconcilable with religious demands made on a fully observant Muslim’s time, energy, and mental concentration: The faithful must participate in five daily congregational prayers, endure a month of fasting that taxes the body, recite daily from the Qur’an, and more. Although such duties orient believers admirably well toward success in the life hereafter, they make worldly success less likely. A more balanced approach will be needed. ”

    I don’t know what the “balanced approach” would be? Would it be not praying 5 times a day and not fasting? If so, I don’t know how that would go down with the Muslims that Dr. Hoodbhoy is talking about. Reading this particular paragraph makes me question Hoodbhoy’s concern at the “row after row of these burqa women”, and that if he actually considers religiosity to be extremism.

    He does have some good points in this essay, but some of his conclusions seem paranoid. “This lack of self-expression and confidence leads to most Pakistani university students, including those in their mid- or late-twenties, referring to themselves as boys and girls rather than as men and women.”

  82. Agree Salman; and to clarify, I would stress that I was speaking about the CHANGE, rather than the fact of burqa-wearing per se. In the sub-continent, I would argue that the latter traditionally “says” more about socio-economic status than religiosity (e.g. in Hyderabad’s Old City, many many women wear burqas irrespective of their religiosity, i.e. one does what everyone does, whether in Hyderabad or NYC; conversely), which is something that many “outsiders” seem quite unaware of (to the extent I were making any judgments about world view based on dress, I might guess at the religio-political views of a cousin who started wearing the hijab 3 years ago; but I simply have no basis to even guess at the views of a burqa-wearer from a family/area/milieu where most women wear the burqa)…*

    *[I don’t mean to suggest that one should fall into the crude trap of “reading” women’s dress/”status” of women more generally as the ultimate text with which to decode a culture, or to demarcate “civilized” from “uncivilized” (as has obviously been happening from the days of colonialism onward, and likely even earlier, if we keep in mind Peter the Great forcing Russian women at court to adopt the bosom-exposing necklines of Western Europe, as opposed to the more covered-up dress that was traditional even among the Russian aristocracy, and that was likely better adapted to the climate!)]…

  83. Qalandar:
    I do agree that there is certainly a trend of growing religiosity (numerous kinds) and more importantly a display of religiosity/certain kind of display of certain kind of religiosity. However, my reading of the BBC article was that extremism was the type of religiosity that was being talked about in relation to Hoodbhoy’s veiled students. Since the article wasn’t written by Hoodbhoy himself, I don’t know if the veil = extremism conclusion is Hoodbhoy’s or not. I remain skeptical of that conclusion but do realize that some may be wearing burqas because of a radical interpretation which might have implications. However, I do not think that all veil wearing or the increase in veil wearing is due to extremism or that increased veil wearing is indicative of the so-called Talibanization.

    I grew up in a small town in Punjab and saw a fair share of burqas in my family, some who’d take it off when in bigger cities where there weren’t many burqas around. Is population movement to bigger towns a factor in the increased number of burqas? Is Musharraf’s “enlightened moderation” a factor here? etc. et.

    “Some of Prof. Pervez Hoodbhoy’s nuclear physics students will go on to oversee Pakistan’s atomic bombs. That gives him pause. ‘The student body has become very conservative, very Islamist, their outward appearance has changed,’ says Professor Hoodbhoy, the chair of the physics department at Quaid-i-Azam University in Islamabad. ‘It’s row after row of these burqa women.’ ” […] ” ‘Nuclear weapons are just about as safe as the people who are their custodians,’ says Hoodbhoy. The threat comes not from the ‘mountain barbarians,’ he says, but from ‘Al Qaeda, together with their Islamist allies within the Pakistani state and society. These are urban people, engineers, technicians, people in fairly high offices.’ ”
    http://www.csmonitor.com/2009/0515/p06s11-wosc.html

    I think the pieces written by Hoodbhoy are better than the ones that quote him.

  84. Salman: in defense of Hoodbhoy, I suspect he is commenting on the CHANGE, and the trend — 15-20 years ago in my family in Pakistan, you would have seen zero hijabs, and now there are many many women who choose to wear it. The French and Turkish intolerant attitude is unacceptable to me (I far prefer the American and Indian “models”, oriented toward individual and communitarian self-expression, respectively), but I do not think one is playing to the intolerant secular fanatic gallery by acknowledging that there is a trend in many countries, that the trend might well have certain ideological implications (at a minimum it presupposes a certain interpretation of Islam/religiosity), and that it isn’t above critique.

  85. Following are enjoyable reads on Quilliam Foundation and other similar “ex-terrorist” terror-warriors and “anti-extremism campaigners”:

    “These are good times to be in the “moderate Muslim” business. If you press the right buttons on integration and “radicalisation” and hold your tongue on western foreign policy, there are rich pickings to be had – from both private and government coffers. Latest in the ring is the “counter-extremism thinktank”, the Quilliam Foundation” All mod cons: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/apr/21/allmodcons

    Ziauddin Sardar on Quilliam: “Just because you have been an inmate of a mental hospital does not mean you are an expert in clinical psychology.” http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/apr/24/islam.religion

    Extremism and the media: The talented Mr. Butt http://www.altmuslim.com/a/a/b/2932/
    “If I wasn’t going to cash up on it, someone else was going to cash up on it”

  86. “For Dr Pervaiz Hoodbhoy, a well-known nuclear physicist and anti-extremism campaigner, who invited Nawaz to speak at the university, says that is a sign of the times.
    Even 10 years ago he says, it would have been unusual to see a woman in a full veil, or niqab, on campus. Now a woman who does not cover her head is the exception. ”
    *******

    And how’s that different than any other country? Does hijab/burqa/chador/headscarf = “Extremism?” The same cliche (hijab = extremism) is being paraded around from Turkey to France to US.

    “On the one hand, the media has often presented the schoolgirls as the avant-garde of an Islamist insurgency that threatens to undermine the French Republic. On the other hand, the schoolgirls are portrayed as victims of violence and subjugation, their headscarves imposed upon them by their fathers and “big brothers.” In either case, the notion is that behind the headscarved girls lurks the Islamist “bearded man,” ” Headscarves and the French Tricolor: http://www.merip.org/mero/mero013004.html

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