Archive for March 17th, 2010

Last week, Dawn published an article I wrote about Dr. Tahir ul-Qadri‘s 600-page fatwa against terrorism. The issue in general has generated a lot of debate. Below, Tariq Tufail, who is based in Karachi, presents a different perspective on the topic:

Dr. Tahir ul-Qadri, a Pakistani Sunni scholar has issued a fatwa against terrorism. While there is no doubt that this is an important step to dispel the notion that the clergy has been silent on the issue of terrorism, the fatwa has sparked a debate as to whether it will really have an impact on the vulnerable section of our population: the young impressionable jihadis. Readers have pointed out that being a moderate cleric, Tahir ul-Qadri simply does not have the appeal nor the popularity to influence the Jihadis in any meaningful manner. Kalsoom has pointed out that the fatwa can be used as “the focal point for a strategic communications campaign” to counter terrorism.

I am of the opinion that the discussion about the Fatwa is irrelevant and it addresses the wrong problem.

People who analyze the effectiveness of Dr Tahir ul-Qadri’s fatwa start with the basic assumption:

1. There are poor youth who are susceptible to radicalization by people who interpret religion to suit their own ends
2. The youth then get radicalized and commit terrorism, bombings and killings
3. This phenomenon can be countered by enlightened clergy addressing this wrong interpretation of religion

I am going to counter the basic assumption by pointing out the flaws in this simplistic argument. Let us start with (3):

This phenomenon can be countered by enlightened clergy addressing this wrong interpretation of religion.

While a 600 page erudite opinion by a respected scholar can go a long way into clarifying the role of violence in our religion, this strategy is likely to devolve into arguments and counter arguments about minor points of theology and Islamic jurisprudence with an audience of zero paying any attention. Even if the anti-terrorist faction wins this erudite argument, it will be relegated to a dusty bookshelf of an obscure library. At best, Tahir ul-Qadri’s fatwa can be used as a fig leaf by Muslims to counter the notion that Muslims are pro-terrorism.

Impoverished youth are susceptible to being radicalized by firebrand clerics.

This assumption casts youth as the raw material and firebrand mullahs as the facilitators for terrorism. This assessment is either patently false or is misguided. In my opinion there are three crucial enablers of terrorism. Without addressing these, we will perpetually be victims of terror.

1. Our intelligence agencies are set up to fund, train and shelter proxy groups who advance our political agenda (strategic depth in Afghanistan, Kashmir and other objectives in India). The quest for plausible denial with regards to the activities of these groups mean that our agencies do not exert tight control. This means that beyond a point, the various groups choose their own agenda. It is indisputable that we supported Afghan mujahideen during the Afghan jihad, particularly the Haqqani and Hekmatyar groups. We have funded and trained the Khalistan group and Kashmir groups, as Hamid Gul claimed on several occasions. We have used mujahideen as our proxies in Kashmir – Musharraf admitted this on the record. Our intelligence agencies are aiding LeT, JeM and numerous other Punjabi groups currently.

2. Our politicians tacitly encourage terrorism (mostly as long as it is practiced outside our borders) or feign their helplessness (common refrain being that “Pakistan itself is a victim of terrorism” and “terrorist hands are strengthened if India does not resolve outstanding issues”). This is either because of helplessness against our security agencies, or because they do not want to give up  their leverage against India. There was nary a whimper of protest when Jamaat-ud-Dawa held a huge rally last month promising jihad, killings and murder against Indians.

3. Our judiciary is an ineffective instrument against terrorism. The only practiced way of countering terrorism in Pakistan is to kill the terrorists. There has been no record of terrorists being prosecuted fairly and punished in a court of law. Furthermore, there are several cases of our Judiciary playing to the gallery, like when Hafiz Saeed was set free because the court famously found that since India does not honor UN resolutions, Pakistan is not bound to honor UN directives marking Pakistani citizens as terrorists.

4. Our society selectively renounces violence. We hate violence when a bomb goes off in Lahore, but ignore or even support when a few go off in India (or spend inordinate amount of time arguing why it is justified). To those who disagree, I wish to point out two things:

(a) Support for terrorism (as was pointed out by Christine Fair’s study) is higher among the middle class, the upper class and the educated class — in short the informed and “enlightened” class.

(b) Where were the articles or debates when Mumbai was being attacked by our nationals? Or when Mumbai was attacked in 1993 by a spate of 13 serial bombs which killed over 200? Or when the Charar-e-Sharif was burned down in Kashmir by Mast Gul, who subsequently received a hero’s welcome in Pakistan?

We are victims of terrorism because branches of our country and our society either at worst support terrorism or at best ignore terrorism. We simply express anguish for the targets. Any solution that addresses the terrorism problem should therefore avoid analyzing terrorism through an Islamic lens. That is bandaging a finger when the problem is collective insanity.

Before I end, here is some food for thought:  How many Pakistani readers of this blog wholeheartedly support the idea that Pakistani blood, treasure and effort should be spent killing, arresting and convicting Pakistani citizens and other terrorists who operate from our soil and who target Iran, Afghanistan and India?

  • If not, are you truly against terrorism or just against your loved ones getting killed by terrorists?
  • If not, will a fatwa change your world view?

The contribution is the sole opinion of the author and does not necessarily represent the opinion of CHUP. If you would like to contribute a piece to CHUP, please email Kalsoom at changinguppakistan[at]gmail[dot]com. Pieces should be no longer than 800 words please. For past contributions, click here.

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