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Showing posts from May, 2007

Religious extremism in Pakistan (Part IV)

The rise of communalism in the Indian Subcontinent played a major role in strengthening the extremist forces, both Muslim and Hindu, which also led to a political divide between the Hindus and the Muslims. In 1906, the All India Muslim League was formed as a (Muslim) counter body to the Indian National Congress, supposedly a Hindu organisation in the eyes of most Muslims. The Indian National Congress was formed in 1885 as an association comprising largely of lawyers and other professionals, who founded the party so that Indians could gain a voice in the governance of their own country. The formation of the Muslim League was the “first major step in the direction of the separatist movement among Indian Muslims” (Indian Muslims, Asghar Ali Engineer).

Following the Muslim demand for separate electorates in 1906, the Minto-Morley Reforms (the Act of 1909) were made law in 1909. The British ensured a provision for a separate Muslim electorate. The partition of Bengal in 1905 was one of the…

Religious extremism in Pakistan (Part III)

With Bahadur Shah Zafar banished to Rangoon, the Muslims were in a vulnerable state of mind due to the end of the Mughal rule after the war of independence. The end of the 1857 war also saw the expansion of the British government, whereby more Indians were inducted into government service. There was an increased emphasis on English, as it was the new official language of India, which led to more educated Hindus securing bureaucratic posts in the government services while Muslims – generally being uneducated – got neglected in the process, leading many Muslims to resent the Hindus. The British took advantage of the developing situation and launched their ‘Divide and Rule’ policy.

There is an impression that since the Muslims had ruled the Subcontinent for quite a long time before the British rule, the British felt threatened by them and thus funded the madrassas that were already in existence. Whether or not this is true cannot be validated as such, but after the end of Muslim rule, the…

Religious extremism in Pakistan (Part II)

To understand the phenomenon of extremism in Pakistan, it is pertinent to trace its roots before Pakistan was born – in fact, way before the ‘idea’ of Pakistan was born! The seeds of Muslim fundamentalism were sown at a much earlier time in the Indian Subcontinent. The Subcontinent has been invaded by Muslims on numerous occasions throughout its history, resulting in Muslim rule for many centuries despite it being a Hindu-majority region. Though most of the Muslim rulers, like Akbar the Great, were tolerant of other religions and easily assimilated into the existing social system, there were some fundamentalist rulers who were completely ruthless when it came to non-Muslims.

Mahmud of Ghazni was a diehard Muslim ruler who is loathed by the Hindus. He is said to have invaded India no less than 17 times between 1000 and 1025 AD and was known for destroying Hindu temples and breaking Hindu idols. Ghazni is most despised by Hindus for the destruction of the Shiva temple at Somnath. He not …

Religious extremism in Pakistan (Part I)

At the beginning of the movie Osama, one sees a swarm of women, all clad in blue shuttlecock burkas, holding placards and demanding the right to work. The movie depicts the life of women in post-Taliban Afghanistan. One feels sympathy for these burka-clad women in the movie, feeling their pain, anger and frustration. But then there is another kind of burka-clad woman (and some say even men!?) right here in Pakistan, for whom one feels no sympathy but only ire. The Jamia Hafsa students clad in their black burkas are the female version of the Taliban. Add to it their dandas and one feels as if the Stone Age is back (Uncle Sam did not need to bomb us back to the Stone Age, we managed to go back there ourselves, thank you very much!).

Moreover, when the government’s surrender to the demands of the Jamia Hafsa students – reconstruction of razed mosques at the same locations – is added to the equation, voila, Pakistan completes its first phase of Talibanisation. According to the US State Dep…

Blackmailers galore

By agreeing to rebuild four out of the seven mosques in Islamabad at the same location, as demanded by Jamia Hafsa, the government has proved itself incapable of standing up to religious militancy. The government’s decision is going to embolden religious extremists in the country, who are already straining at the leash to wrap up whatever remotely resembles civility, tolerance and moderation. The government’s pandering to the radical clerics of Jamia Hafsa has dealt a severe blow to the government’s residual writ as well as its capacity to ensure strict adherence to the law. When even the Imam-e-Kaaba had condemned the action of the Jamia Hafsa students and said that Islam did not allow anyone to construct a mosque or seminary on encroached land, this display of timidity should have been avoided, as it further establishes the fact that the government is a silent spectator to the rise of religious extremism and Talibanisation in the country. It is (in)action like this that tarnishes Pa…