We Are All Ahmadi II: One Day Later

Posted by sepoy on May 30, 2010 · 5 mins read

Below are further thoughts from Prof. CM Naim. A recent NYT story commented on conspiracy theories in PK and a number of people got really upset. Yeah.

Here are the front-page “explanations” in Pakistan's two foremost Urdu newspapers: Nawa-i-Waqt and Jang. Both are published in several cities, and also have web editions.

According to one staff writer in Nawa-i-Waqt, government agencies are perplexed at the targeting of the “Qadianis.” According to them, the war on terror started in 2001, and for nine years the terrorists never attacked the “Qadianis.” So why, out of the blue, were there two simultaneous attacks on “Qadiani worship places?” “What could be the purpose behind the attacks,” the agencies ask.

“According to responsible sources,” the staff writer continues, “the purpose of targeting the Qadianis was to scar Pakistan's dignity abroad, and create instability and confusion within. The terrorists, by targeting the Qadianis, tried to kill two birds with one stone. It was an extremely organized action. They knew what reactions would come from abroad. In particular from Canada, the United States, Germany and other Western countries, where Qadianis live in large numbers and have much influence in official circles.

“On the other hand, investigating groups say that the arrested terrorist was not a Punjabi. As for the matter of the Punjabi Taliban's or Baitullah Mahsud's reported acceptance of responsibility for the attacks, government agencies are nevertheless extending their enquiries to certain neighboring countries. They want to see if Bharat was involved in the two incidents with the purpose of damaging Pakistan's image abroad. Bharat could have used some local group to further its condemnable aim.

“The agencies are also trying to find out if there was any involvement of those foreign agencies that have been putting pressure on Pakistan to take action in Punjab, particularly in south Punjab. Was this an attempt on their part to create an excuse for such action?”

A different staff writer separately contributes an analysis, suggesting that the attacks could have been a joint action by India, the United States, and Israel, “as a reaction to the recent American failure in its scheme of funding various religious groups in Pakistan under the guise of Culture, Heritage, and Sufism and then pitting them against certain other religious groups.”

The same paper, Nawa-i-Waqt, also reports on its front page that “Hizba-al-Tahrir” has concluded it was an act by the Americans and their local agents. “This is how they obtain popular support just before every military operation.” The group also warns the public that soon there will be a deliberate power crisis “so that people could be kept in the dark about the forthcoming massacre in North Waziristan.”

Some of the above are repeated in various reports on the front-page in Jang. There is also a special report by a staff writer. It begins by claiming that certain secret agencies of the country had discovered the ugly conspiracy before the attacks, and informed the relevant officials; the latter, however, paid the report no attention. “A senior officer of a secret agency,” the report continues, “told us that the Afghan intelligence, together with India's RAW, and the intelligence organizations of U.K., America, and Israel, was involved in the incident, and that the senior most officer of the Afghan intelligence had contacted by satellite phone an extremely influential Qadiani in Bharat, to tell him that something against his community was about to happen. According to this senior official of a secret agency, such attacks on the Qadianis bring into question the security Pakistan provides to its minorities. The above-mentioned four countries, enemies of Islamic jihad, have gained strength by getting this operation done. India now gains an excuse for its planned action against madrassas and Muslim scholars in India, in particular against the scholars of the Deobandi school.”

A separate report on the front page carries quotations from the statement issued by the maulanas of “Almi Majlis-i-Tahaffuz-i-Khatm-i-Nabuwat,” including: “[The attacks] are a huge international conspiracy to use the issue of minority rights in Pakistan in order to advance a deliberate scheme seeking to destroy the Anti-Qadianat ordinance and the laws that protect the Prophet's honor.”
- C.M. Naim


Shahid | May 30, 2010

Brilliant piece. Just exposes the uber-conspiratorial, sensationalist, self righteous and jingoistic face of our media and in the wider context of our political right.

Conspiracy Culture and reaction to the attacks on Ahmedi Mosques : Why our news outlets spread hatred? « Secular Pakistan | May 30, 2010

[...] C M Naim commenting the controversy over this article and responses from our side today wrote the following:- “Here are the [...]

Mehreen Ali Kasana | May 30, 2010

Well written, sir. Proof on how we, as a nation, are going down the drain.

Samia | May 30, 2010

I expected as much. That country is being sustained only by a whirlwind of conspiracy theories.

omar | May 30, 2010

I spoke with a serious and intelligent "progressive" in Lahore who had similar thoughts. I am beginning to accept that "conspiracy theory' is part of our biological wiring. In better managed, more sophisticated systems (or subsystems, since we are all part of one system anyway) the widespread existence of actual scientific practice (including "scientific management", "scientific advertising", "scientific politics" etc, all based on empirical effectiveness rather than "first look emotional appeal") provides some degree of correction (only a degree) and/or elite intellectuals intelligently use and manipulate useful conspiracy theories while leaving harmless ones (like astrology or folk religion) unchallenged (to act as "photon sinks" that soak up bad photons) or who knows. Its all a conspiracy. Seriously, I am stunned at how determinedly many progressives in Lahore are sticking to conspiracy theories that would put the Jamat e Islami to shame. Its could be very depressing if one did not have faith.

Qalandar | May 30, 2010

The country is drunk on victimhood and conspiracy theories. Following on from omer's point, and worryingly, this seems to be increasingly be part of "the Muslim identity/experience", a marker for Muslim identity in urban, globalized spaces. [This, as an aside, is why even seemingly progressive films and narratives, like "My Name is Khan", rankle, and can serve a pernicious purpose -- that film assumes that identity and narrative of shared imagined victimhood.] Thus the (perhaps always flimsy) distinction between "educated" and "other" people, or between "progressive" and "non-progressive" people, cannot really hold, because all of these categories can feed into the wider narrative (especially given that elements of this narrative can refracted without major disturbance through the left-right ideological debates of "the West")...

C M Naim | May 30, 2010

With reference to Qalandar's comments: Sadly, it's not just Pakistan or the Pakistanis, it is the case with most South Asian Muslims, perhaps with most Arab Muslims too. It's a kind of bipolarism, a perpetual swing between triumphalism and victimhood. We ruled Spain/We were turned into refugees from Spain. We ruled India until 1757/The British and the Hindus oppressed us after 1757. Of course, when we ruled it was a Golden age for everyone. There is also another element one comes across quite often: a comparison with Jews. Our holocausts are not talked about, they say. Our persecutions go unavenged or uncompensated. The world gives the Jews its sympathy, political support, and even lets them secretly control their governments. We are greater victims, but we are denied all that. I blame it on decades of emphasis, here there and everywhere, on identity politics in various garbs, at the cost of any kind of class politics.

Prashant | May 30, 2010

With reference to Prof. Naim's remark on Muslim "bipolarism" between "triumphalism and victimhood", I wonder if the origins of this attitude and its central tropes ("the lost garden of al-Andalus", Mughal rule=Muslim rule) do not lie in the writings of the post 1857 ashraaf, the group of Muslim intellectuals comprising Shibli, Sharar, Hali and others. Particularly on my mind are Sharar's essay on the destruction of Muslim Spain and his many historical novels each of which stages a simultaneously military and erotic encounter between a Muslim man and a Christian woman (Fath-e Andalus), a Muslim man and a Jewish woman (Joya-i Haqq), a Muslim man and a Hindu woman (the one on Mahmud of Ghazni whose title I forget). In each of these, as you notice, the once triumphal Muslim hero whose past triumphalism contrasts with his contemporary wretchedness is a male while the eroticized non-Muslim enemy is a woman. Was it because Sharar and those who moved by his aesthetic felt emasculated by British colonialism? Not that this is a new explanation or peculiar to Muslim intellectuals of the period. Vivekananda's call to focus on the masculine sport of football at the expense of the Bhagwad Gita or the young Gandhi's desire to eat meat to become strong and masculine like the British says as much. While I agree with the need for a class politics that might complicate an all too simple politics of identity, I wonder if we might not also need a historically informed politics of gender too; a critical feminism.

sepoy | May 31, 2010

Prashant: More on this soon but I would peg some strains of the bipolarism to Waliullah and the sack of Delhi by Nadir Shah/his call to Abdali to rise against the Marathas. I am currently teaching a class of islamic revivalism and have had the occasion to read Waliullah in greater depth than before. This is certainly exaggerated in the post-1857 and I think Sharar/Hali may have a more significant role than Shibli/Syed Ahmed Khan. Echo your call on politics of gender as well as politics of race in there.

TLW | May 31, 2010

Hats off to Mr Naim for these translations. It was painful yesterday to read the BS Jang and Nawa-e-Waqt put forward on the attack on the Ahmedi mosque. The part about "enemies of Islamic Jihad" was especially painful to read. How many people are still stuck in the nineties? It's good to know that the world at large can understand the dreck that gets dragged through the Urdu newspapers. @ Prashant: Tariq Ali addresses the gender politics of Islam in "Clash of Fundamentalisms" under the chapter "Women and the Eternal Masculine". As a kid in Pakistan I used to wonder why religion always stomps on women. My intuitions, some discussions, plus some readings of which this was one lead me to believe it must have something to do with male domination in much of recorded history combined with the physical strength of males required in agricultural societies. @ Sepoy And it's interesting that you bring up Shah Waliullah. When we started studying Pak Studies (sometime in the last decade) we began with this weirdo/revivalist born in 1703, completely ignoring Aurangzeb's death in 1707 as a vital event. Then we followed through with his son, his other idological sucessors and a parade of Indian/Muslim personality revews during the 18th century until we finally arrived at a real event, the war of 1857. From there it actually got better and I can assure you there were no distortions or half truths, in at least the Cambridge system the way KK Aziz describes in "The Murder of History" ('98 Edition). Personally, I think a large wiki on Pak Studies, with reference for Metric AND Camridge sections would be profit for poor suffering Pak Studies student. For the rest of you folk, Shah Waliullah travelled to (the eventual) Saudi Arabia and met, studied and interacted with Abdul Ibn Wahab. That Ibn Wahab. Then Waliullah came back and founded the Madrassatul-Uloom-Deoband. That Deoband. And that was the first topic we were taught to prep us European-history-studying burger kids for Pak Studies. So good luck to you Manan when studying that poisonous old mummy Shah Waliullah.

Prashant | May 31, 2010

Sepoy: now that you distinguish between Sharar/Hali as being more significant in this regard than Shibli/Syed Ahmed Khan, I must say that exactly this thought had crossed my mind as I set those thoughts down. I agree: Sayyid Ahmad and Shibli seem to have fought European Orientalists through their essays and books while Sharar, I suspect, was fighting a less scholarly and more popular Western imagination of events and figures in Muslim history. I am surprised, though, that you would date this further back to Waliullah and the Marathas! Do say more please.

Neena | May 31, 2010

Nicely put. Are there any reliable Urdu daily newspaper or Urdu TV Channel in Pakistan?

Ajit | May 31, 2010

It doesn't make sense to use a local cause (Waliullah) to explain a global phenomenon (what Naipaul calls 'fundamentalist rage').

omar | May 31, 2010

Ajit, I dont get your comment. Can you clarify?

C. M. Naim | May 31, 2010

@Neena. The Daily Express from Karachi is fairly decent in coverage, and has some good columnists. They also have one of the more obscene, but that goes with the territory. Another daily Aajkal (Lahore?) is quite brave. Reading people like Hameed Akhtar, Zaheda Hena, Munno Bhai, Tanwir Qaisar Shahid, Asghar Nadeem Sayyad, Rafiq Dogar, and Abdullah Tariq Suhail will not make you grind your teeth. Wajahat Masood and Mubasher Lucman take many risks for the right causes. I have no knowledge of what goes on on the TV channels.

C. M. Naim | May 31, 2010

Re: Shah Waliullah. *There is absolutely no evidence that he met Abdul Wahab in Hejaz. They reportedly did not even share the same teachers. *There is absolutely no evidence that his alleged letter ever reached Ahmad Shah Abdali or he responded to it. Or paid a special visit to the savant while Delhi. Khaliq Ahmad Nizami pushed the letter; Irfan Habeeb rubbished it. S. A. A. Rizvi offers the more detailed and careful study. *Shah Waliullah died in 1761/2, nearly a century before the Deoband seminary came into existence. Apparently the textbooks in Pakistan are all that they are said to be.

TLW | May 31, 2010

There is absolutely no evidence that he met Abdul Wahab in Hejaz. They reportedly did not even share the same teachers. Fortunately, beyond one year, we never had to study these old coots. And the lessons imputed that Shah Waliullah and his sons were an "inspiration" for Deoband. But yes, the name Madrassa Rahimmiya is more familiar. The larger point about Waliullah and the simultaneous references to Ibn Wahhab may have been for the purpose of ideological softening up. There were many of his ilk mentioned. What I did enjoy about the old Pakistan Studies was that it finally broke the taboo on critically examining the role of the military throughout post-independence history in general and the Bangladesh Civil War in particular. Apparently the textbooks in Pakistan are all that they are said to be. Not when they move beyond the realm of poisonous religious insinuation and into the territory of actual events in history.

Ajit | June 01, 2010

Nothing particularly clever, Omar. Just that the bipolarism mentioned above is more globally visible today while Waliullah's influence is local to South Asia, if that.

Umair | June 03, 2010

CM Naim: 'I blame it on decades of emphasis, here there and everywhere, on identity politics in various garbs, at the cost of any kind of class politics.' Truer words have rarely been said.