Wise people always say, Do not try to present complex matters in black and white terms as it will defeat the purpose. To quote Paul Valery: “That which is simple is always false; that which is not simple is always unusable”. Kala Kawa, a widely read blogger, recently wrote, “Something I Wrote On Pakistan Day”. In that particular blogpost, the blogger expressed his opinion about “confronting your own biases or assumptions” and “middle class morality and its romantic affiliation with the religious right”. In his piece he rightly opined, “Our desire to simplify the ‘other’ robs them of the complexity that is inherent in any human thought. It often leads to a position where we are unable to see that all (or at least very many) of us, indeed, do aspire for peace, stability, and happiness.” and “In the process of putting forth our views we often end up painting the ‘other’ as inherently biased. We (and by we I mean all people across the political and religious spectrum) strip them of rationality or of a desire for a happy ending. We paint their actions or their intentions as evil solely for the sake of being evil”
What he wrote next is, a bit hard to digest. He mentioned an interview of Samia Raheel Qazi with Newsweek Pakistan.
First of all, I endorse Kala Kawa on his point that we need to look at the “whole” picture and not restrict our efforts to a “liberal bubble”. I believe that in the last 65 years, the work done by the left-wing/moderate elements in this country is negligible when compared by the turf work done by the right-wing elements. To be fair, they have got more chances to garner support via the loudspeakers in the mosques and emotional attachment of common folk with religion. Still, liberals need to “Do More” than writing in English language newspapers, participating in Discussions while sitting at Coffee Houses and lighting candles for the martyred. Going back to the article, Kala Kawa espoused one idea and in the very next paragraph, took a U-turn. He took one example of a right-wing leader’s interview and expanded the argument. Maybe it was an unintentional mistake, We all do that. But it was wrong. We cannot expound a concept until the example is correct. This is what I think,
1. First of all, with all due respect, 23 March is not the day Pakistan Resolution was presented. It was presented on 24th of March, 1940. K.K.Aziz’s book “The Murder of History” has got more details. By calling it the Pakistan Day the blogger is also reinforcing the lies which are taught and held as ‘history’ in Pakistan.
2. Samia Raheel Qazi (who according to the blogger comes out as a ‘feminist’ in the Newsweek interview) does not practice what she believes in (If we take that interview as a reflection of her true stance). According to “Performance of Women Parliamentarians in the 12th National Assembly”:
Ms Qazi was the spokesperson for her party while debating the 17th Amendment (Yes, THAT 17th amendment, which provided legal cover to all of Musharraf’s actions).
She also moved the , the Hudood Laws Effective Enforcement and Protection Bill, 2005. She was one of the two parliamentarians to oppose the landmark “Protection of Women (Amendment) Bill, 2006”.
3. Ms. Qazi even moved a private bill as the last attempt to get repeal of the Protection of Women Act, 2006, through her “Criminal Law (Amendment) (Protection of Women) (Repeal) Bill, 2007”.
4. She also supported the infamous Hasba Bill. Just to keep things in perspective, the bill proposed appointments of Muhtasibeen who “will define the good and bad things and will thus punish people according to their own understanding of Islam”. She said “I am very proud of this bill. It provides total protection for women.”
5. She claims to be an Islamist which (according to her party affiliation) means that she supports Political Islam i.e. a political system that is defined and regulated according to Islam. In such “ideal” system (or the one envisioned by Mr. Maududi, the founder of Jamaat e Islami) there is no role of “feminism” and the feminist lobby will never forget the role played by JI during the tyrannical days of Gen Zia and the brutality which Women had to face at that time.
6. She was one of the first people from the right-wing to raise hue and cry over the drama “Burqavaganza” performed by Ajoka Theatre. An editorial in Express Tribune said: “Since when is it a crime to be a liberal in Pakistan? This newspaper is not aware of any law or any constitutional provision outlining whether or not specific political ideologies are acceptable. Yet the Ajoka theatre group appears to have been banned from their performance Burqavaganza based on a letter written by just one person which alleged that the show was promoting “dangerous elitist and liberal ideas.” The writer, Samia Raheel Qazi (the leader of the Jamaat-e- Islami’s women’s wing), was probably more accurate than she imagined, though one gets the impression that she is not entirely aware of what liberalism is so we would like to give her and others of her ilk a primer. The writer accused the theatre group of presenting a controversial idea. Perhaps she is unaware of the concept of art being controversial almost by definition. Ms Qazi and the spineless management of the Pakistan National Council of the Arts (PNCA) have displayed moral cowardice of the highest order by refusing to allow society to watch a self-reflective play.”
7. In February 2008, Samia Raheel Qazi, the daughter of Jamaat-e-Islami leader Qazi Hussein Ahmed, described Valentine’s Day as an irreligious event and criticized the Pakistani media for presenting it in a positive manner. In the same breath, she added: “Jews and Hindus have specially designed this occasion in order to weaken the beliefs and traditions of Muslims.( Roznama Khabrain (Pakistan), February 13, 2008)
8. Samia Raheel Qazi belongs to Jamaat e Islami, a religio-political party that promotes patriarchy and has itself being patriarchal since its inception. Who can forget what the current leader of the Jamaat said about Rape Vitims?(If you don’t remember, he said “They should keep quiet”) About the father of Madam Samia Raheel Qazi, Waseem Altaf wrote: Qazi Hussian Ahmad while supporting Zia’s Hadood Laws argued that woman were emotional and irritable, with inferior faculties of reason and memory hence their testimony in a court of law should be discounted. Women can be bracketed with the blind, handicapped, lunatics and children. However , later, Qazi got his own daughter Samia Raheel Qazi elected to the parliament.
9. Despite all this evidence, there sure is another side to Ms Samia Raheel. She presented the Uplift and Welfare of Women Bill, 2004; the Protection of Serving Women Bill, 2005 (twice moved), the Inheritance for Women Bill, 2005, the Economic Stability of Women Bill, 2005 and the Family (Stability and Protection) Bill, 2006. She also made the 3rd highest number of interventions during the National Assembly sessions.
The romance of the educated, ostensibly westernised Pakistanis with the ‘other side’ is slightly worrying as it ends up justifying the kind of politics that Jamaat e Islami has been upto in our past and present. According to the book, “The Convert”, “It (Jamaat) was actually formed in August 1941 in reaction to the Jinnah-led Muslim League’s call for a division of the subcontinent along religious lines. Once the Jamaat lost the fight against Partition and became focused on the struggle over Pakistan’s Constitution, Maududi’s party began to act more like a shadow government”.(Baker, The Convert, Graywolf Press;2011;Page 28) . In 1963, Mr Maududi wrote a book named “Parda” in which he squared the blame for the decline of Islamic Civilization on Liberation of Women and opined that women should be disenfranchised.
A closer look at JI brings up links with International terrorist organizations such as Al Qaeda. Khalid Shaikh Mohammad, the 9/11 mastermind was arrested at the residence of Ahmed Abdul Qudoos, who is a relative of a leader of the Jamaat-i-Islami’s women’s wing. The party has also been implicated in other recent terror arrests. A Jamaat member was in the Karachi apartment where police found Al Qaeda leader Ramzi Binalshibh, and a doctor arrested in Lahore several months back for Al Qaeda ties was also linked to the party.According to Ahmed Rashid, a Pakistani security expert: “The Jamaat has never condemned 9/11, and denies that Al Qaeda is a terrorist organization. This is a group that believes 9/11 was carried out by Jews in America”. Dr. Akmal Waheed and Arshad Waheed were JI members involved in the 2004 plot to kill Corps Commander Karachi. Syed Saleem Shehzad reported in 2010, “Several hundred students in the southern port city of Karachi have left the Islami Jamiat-e-Talaba (IJT), Pakistan’s largest student union, to join al-Qaeda training camps in the North Waziristan tribal area on the border with Afghanistan”.
The JI chief recently termed Osama Bin Laden a martyr and better than Zardari.
While we are at it, a brief discussion of the philosophy of Al Qaeda would be pertinent to mention here. The ideological fathers of Al Qaeda and its predecessor Muslim Brotherhood were Syed Qutb and Hassan Al Banna respectively. Banna completely rejected the Western model of secular, democratic government, which contradicted his notion of universal Islamic rule. “It is the nature of Islam to dominate, not to be dominated, to impose its law on all nations, and to extend its power to the entire planet,” he wrote. When Egyptian army officers including Gamal Abdul Nasir and Anwar Sadaat led a coup against the king, Qutb published an open letter to the leaders of the revolution, advising them that the only way to purge the moral corruption of the old regime was to impose a “just dictatorship” that would grant political standing to “the virtuous alone.” They wanted to completely reshape society, from the top down, imposing Islamic values on all aspects of life, so that every Muslim could achieve his purest spiritual expression. Anything less than that, they argued, was not Islam; it was jahiliyya—the pagan world.
Qutb divides the world into two camps, Islam and jahiliyya, the period of ignorance and barbarity that existed before the divine message of the Prophet Mohammed (pbuh). Qutb uses the term to encompass all of modern life: manners, morals, art, literature, law, even much of what passed as Islamic culture. Only a complete rejection of rationalism and Western values offered the slim hope of the redemption of Islam. This was the choice: pure, primitive Islam or the doom of mankind. His revolutionary argument placed nominally Islamic governments in the crosshairs of jihad. “The Muslim community has long ago vanished from existence,” Qutb contends. It was “crushed under the weight of those false laws and teachings which are not even remotely related to the Islamic teachings.” Humanity cannot be saved unless Muslims recapture the glory of their earliest and purest expression. “We need to initiate the movement of Islamic revival in some Muslim country,” he writes, in order to fashion an example that will eventually lead Islam to its destiny of world dominion. “There should be a vanguard which sets out with this determination and then keeps walking the path.”
It is easy to romance with the ‘other’ but the implications for Pakistan are dangerous. We need intellectual clarity and no obfuscation. A particular dress code and beards sported by people from the right does not signify anything (for the record, Mr. Maududi only grew a beard in 1942). The real issue here is that Jamat e Islami after playing havoc with Pakistan’s education system in the 1980s and influencing the mainstream political discourse is now in bed with Al Qaeda. It may appear to be a benign party working within the constitutional limits but its alliances are deeply worrying. Progressive Pakistanis must not ignore this bitter reality.