Irfan Hussain writing in The Dawn reminds us that it was General Zia who assured early in his rule that Pakistan would be the laboratory of Islam. This seems to be further strenghtened by some of the laws being passed in NWFP.
Even before this latest manifestation of religious zeal, we had witnessed a series of Talibanesque decisions emanating from Peshawar. Women patients requiring X-rays could not be scanned by male technicians; advertizing posters with women were banned; and video shops were shut down. All these draconian measures were enforced with varying degrees of enthusiasm by civil servants and policemen. Now these (and far fiercer) edicts will be rammed down the populace’s throats by an authority whose decisions cannot be challenged in any court.In Nathiagali, I recently met an old friend who has served as a senior government officer in the NWFP for many years. According to him, the rule of the mullahs has been an unmitigated disaster for his province. No development activities are going on, corruption is rampant, and ordinary people are miserable. And yet, he continued, the MMA will probably get re-elected in the next polls because the opposition parties are in such disarray.
This is on the lines of the situation in Saudi Arabia and the Taliban ruled Afganistan.
As readers are aware, the Saudi religious police routinely beat up or jail anybody seen on the streets at prayer times, and cane women who are showing an inch or two of ankle. In a recent demonstration of religious fervour, they pushed back girls fleeing a blazing hostel into the flames because they were not adequately covered. Several girls died as a result.When in power in Afghanistan, the Taliban went a step further, and decreed that men whose beards were not of a certain length would be punished. Their treatment of women aroused the anger of the civilized world. Not content with brutalizing the living, they destroyed ancient statues for not conforming to their code.
Ayaz Amir, as usual, is more shrill, but does sum up the frustrations of the somewhat right of center inteligentsia (generally modernists with an Army background):
Bin Ladenism, which is a peculiar distillation of Wahabi Islam, and the terrorism which has come to be its favourite tool, are no answers to American domination or Muslim weakness. In fact, Bin Ladenism, with its narrow interpretation of Islam, is itself a reflection of Muslim weakness because it shows a preoccupation with the very elements which constitute the core of Muslim backwardness: a romantic attachment to a glorified past, an emphasis on literalism, and a comprehensive failure to understand what makes the modern world tick.
The answer to Muslim decadence lies in a political renaissance: a replacement of autocracy with democracy. Of course this is easier said than done but if we can’t achieve it there being nothing on the horizon to suggest that we easily can ‘we should at least understand that terrorism such as that in London is no answer to anything. In fact, far from liberating anything, it only makes the Muslim predicament worse by lending strength to the false doctrine of a ‘clash of civilizations’.
While ‘bin Ladenism’ is a descendant of Wahabism, the mutation seems to be in that while Wahabism was a social- poiltical movement, ‘bin Ladenism’ is essentially a political movement marked by anti- Westernism in general and anti- Americanism in particular. At its core is the former, for it was the US administration that propped up the Mujahideen in Afganistan for many years.