The Pakistan Army 2014-15

Mr Hamid Hussein, one of the best and most well-informed commentators on the Pakistan army (and the British Indian army and it’s other daughter armies) has sent in this piece:


Year in Review and Year Ahead– Pakistan Army in 2014-15
Hamid Hussain

“A general who advances without coveting fame and retreats without fearing the disgrace, whose only thought is to protect his country and do good service to his sovereign, is the jewel of the kingdom.”          Sun Tzu      

General Raheel Sharif was appointed Chief of Army Staff (COAS) in November 2013.  He decided to work with the existing team of senior officers and didn’t embark on  a major re-shuffle right after assuming charge.  The responsibilities of COAS of Pakistan army are not limited to the army and he invariably gets involved in domestic politics as well as foreign relations.  The argument whether  the COAS pushes the door or politicians through their own incompetence opens doors as well as  the windows for him to enter the corridors of power is as old as  the emergence of Pakistan as an independent state in 1947.

In 2014, General Sharif worked to take control of his own institution, gently pushing civilians on some areas of interest of the army and mediated among quarrelling politicians.  This trend will likely continue in 2015.  General Sharif opted for a different approach and decided to work with  the senior brass put in place by his predecessor, General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani rather than bringing about a new team immediately. This meant that he was first among the equals at the decision making table.  I was not expecting forceful decisions from General Sharif, but I was pleasantly surprised when he took  the decision about launching operation in North Waziristan quite early in his tenure.
In the last ten years, there has been a gradual shift in the thought processes of  the officer corps.  Earlier there was debate amongst the senior brass regarding  the balance between negotiations and military operations.  In recent years, there has been a decisive shift towards clearing all the swamps.  In the last year of General Kayani’s tenure,  the majority opinion among the inner core was in favor of clearing North Waziristan.   The army had completed all their preparations but General Kayani demurred due to reasons best known to him (since his retirement, many are now critical on many of  his decisions during his extended tenure).  Now with a new COAS, the consensus amongst the existing team and  the new chief being first among the equals at the table made the decision about  the operation easy.

In 2014, General Sharif used  the normal retirement process to bring about a new team.  This prevents friction amongst the senior brass and was  the correct approach.  Newly promoted officers were appointed to important command and staff positions, that included four Corps commanders.  General Sharif will be now be presiding at conferences where other members around the table are quite junior to him.  This will enable him to carry the team easily with him.

In 2014, there were three main areas of friction with   the new civilian government headed by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif;  the decision on a military operation in North Waziristan,  the trial of former army chief General Pervez Musharraf and  the large scale demonstrations in the capital by a cleric, Tahir ul Qadri and recently empowered political party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) led by Imran Khan with  the clear goal of ousting the elected government.

The case of operation in North Waziristan is tragic. Both the previous Pakistan People’s Party government as well as provincial government of Awami National Party (ANP) pushed for the military operation,  the army demurred and now when  the army decided to take action in 2014, the new civilian government demurred fearing a backlash and started to drag its feet.  Both army and civilian rulers share the blame; petty personal and institutional interests clouded their judgement about strategic threats.  Finally, when the army announced  the start of  the operation the civilians simply tagged along.
 
The army as an institution doesn’t want a public humiliation of their former chief.  In addition, General Sharif has had a long personal association with General Musharraf.  General Sharif’s elder brother Major Shabbir Sharif was a decorated soldier and was killed in action in 1971.  He was General Musharraf’s course mate and he was what Musharraf wanted to be.  Since 1998, General Musharraf was more like an elder brother to General Sharif and his career was personally overseen by General Musharraf.   As a Brigadier, General Musharraf gave him choice between his Private Secretary (PS) or a course at  the Royal College Defence Studies (RCDS) in London and Sharif chose  the later.  Musharraf promoted him to two stars rank and gave him  the choice appointments as GOC of Lahore based 11th Division and later Commandant of Pakistan Military Academy (PMA). The Army brass want  the government to give General Musharraf a safe exit, while  the civilian government wants the courts to drag him through the coals.

A third complicating factor was  the announcement of Tahir ul Qadri and Imran Khan to stage mass demonstrations in the capital to oust  the government.  Tahir ul Qadri openly asked for direct army intervention.  On the other hand, former Director General Inter Services Intelligence (DGISI) Lieutenant General Ahmad Shuja Pasha had some contacts with Imran Khan and many of  the politicians who were associated with General Musharraf later joined Imran Khan this raised concerns that Imran had support of the army.  To make matters worse, relations between  the Prime Minister and DGISI Lieutenant General Zaheer ul Islam deteriorated on the issue of an assassination attempt on a famous journalist and television anchor.  Adding fuel to the fire, some senior army officers were also not happy with  the Prime Minister.  With this background, when massive demonstrations were staged against the government in the capital,  the Prime Minister concluded that  the army has given its blessing to these manoeuvres.  Tahir Qadri and Imran Khan assumed too much and over read the briefs without calculating the impact of the change of command.  The trio of  the P rime Minister, Imran Khan and Tahir ul Qadri reached such an impasse that General Sharif had to mediate, further eroding civil-military relations.  In the process, he re-asserted  the army’s control in several important areas.

The year 2014 ended on a very sad note on December 16th, when militants attacked a school run by the army and killed 141 people, 132 of them children.  Following the precedent of reacting to events, in a knee jerk reaction,  the civilian government started  the wholesale hanging of convicted terrorists, telling teachers to come to schools armed with handguns and announcing plans without any homework which they neither had the capacity nor the will to carry out.  The Army asked for and got a constitutional amendment in two weeks authorizing  the establishment of military courts to try terrorists.  Things which should have been done ten years ago with thoughtfulness and coordination were done in hours after  the atrocities sowing even more confusion.  Neither the Pakistani public nor  the international community is confident from such measures.  

In 2015, General Sharif will likely continue on the same path, guiding  the army in ongoing operations, managing his senior brass and to position senior officers to succeed him in 2016.  In addition to national security, he will try to keep a firm control on  the key foreign policy areas especially relations with Afghanistan, India and United States.  To do this involves keeping open independent channels of communication with Kabul, Washington, London and Beijing and this will invariably keep civil-military relations on a rocky road.

In 2015, two major shuffles will occur in April and October when eight Lieutenant Generals will be hanging up their boots.  Among these eight Lieutenant Generals are four Corps Commanders.  Appointments in 2015 will also show General Sharif’s own preference about his succession.  In my opinion, only three senior officers qualify to fill the COAS post in 2016.  They are  the current Chief of General Staff (CGS) Lieutenant General Ishfaq Nadeem Ahmad,  the current Rawalpindi based X Corps commander Lieutenant General Qamar Javed Bajwa and  the current Military Secretary (MS) Lieutenant General Mazhar Jamil.   The current DGISI Lieutenant General Rizwan Akhtar will be too junior to be considered for the position.  However, his role will be crucial in the next two years.  By the fall of 2015, Ishfaq, Qamar and Mazhar would have completed at least two years in their present positions and moving them around will put all three in a position to succeed him.  One possibility is swapping  the positions of Ishfaq and Qamar while moving Mazhar to command of a Corps (probably Lahore as command of Multan Corps is usually given to an Armored Corps officer).  After this repositioning, all three officers will be equally qualified to succeed General Sharif in the fall of 2016.

General Ishfaq is from  the 62nd Pakistan Military Academy (PMA) Long Course and was commissioned in  the 34th Azad Kashmir (AK) Regiment.  He is generally respected for his professionalism.  His career is typical of any senior officer serving as Chief of Staff (COS) of  the Mangla based I Corps at Brigadier rank, he commanded  the 37th Infantry Division operating against militants in Swat and then as Director General Military Operations (DGMO) at Major General rank before his promotion to Lieutenant General.  In November 2013, he was brought in as CGS.

Lieutenant General Qamar Javed Bajwa is from  the Baloch Regiment.  He served as  the Chief of Staff (COS) of  the Rawalpindi based X Corps at Brigadier rank, then GOC of Force Command Northern Area (FCNA) and Commandant of School of Infantry & Tactics at Major General rank.  He was promoted to Lieutenant General rank in August 2013 and appointed Corps Commander of  the Rawalpindi based X Corps.

Lieutenant General Mazhar Jamil is a gunner.  He served as GOC of  the Lahore based 10th Division, Commandant of the PMA and Vice Chief of General Staff (VCGS) before elevation to Lieutenant General rank in September 2013 and appointed Military Secretary (MS).

General Rizwan Akhtar was commissioned into the 4th Frontier Force Regiment.  He is considered a good officer by his peers.  His career is also typical of  senior officers reaching Lieutenant General rank with usual command, staff and instructional appointments.  He commanded the 27th Infantry brigade of the 7th Infantry Division from 2005-07.  However, all North Waziristan formations were essentially restricted to their posts and there were no offensive operations. The Army was busy cleaning the South Waziristan and the swamps of North Waziristan were rapidly filling with alligators of all shapes and hues.  The Army high command was simply reacting to events on the ground with the result that it lost the support of local population in tribal areas. In 2011-12, he was GOC of the 9th Division operating in South Waziristan.  He was Director General (DG) of the Sindh Rangers in 2012-14 and involved in the clean-up operation against criminal elements in the city of Karachi.  In October 2014, he was promoted to Lieutenant General rank and appointed DGISI.  In 2005 as Brigade commander in North Waziristan, he prepared a detailed report about the threats emanating from North Waziristan and response options.  In 2008, while at the US Army War College at Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania, Rizwan wrote his course paper on the U.S.-Pakistan trust deficit and the war on terror.  He made several recommendations on how to bridge the gap in  trust between Pakistan and the USA.  Now as DGISI, his position enables him to address both these issues – only time will tell how successful he will be in this endeavor.

Generals Ishfaq and Rizwan are the two senior officers amongst the inner core who are in a position to contribute effectively towards the successful conduct of operations, to stay the course while helping to create favorable regional and international dynamics that are beneficial to Pakistan.  They are part of the inner core decision making process and if they can continue on the track of the multiple tasks: of completing major military offensives against militant strong holds, trying to improve relations with India and Afghanistan, slowly disentangling Pakistan from the snake pit of Afghanistan and help the COAS to stays in his own lane.

An important task for Generals Sharif and Rizwan is to keep the ISI as an organization on the right track. The majority of serving officers in ISI have no intelligence background, they come for a two to three year stint. This stint has become an important part of climbing the promotion ladder, so they tend to be very cautious, relying too much on reports generated from lower levels without being subject to rigorous questioning  (although there are some exceptions).  They should demand from all ISI deputy directors to take full control of their respective departments and ensure that the direction from their commanders is carried out in both the letter and the spirit.  Some old hands in both the civilian section as well as retired army officers serving on a contract basis need to be moved out as the new generation are fully aware of the changed threat environment so need to be represented at all levels.

One crucial factor in the coming years is the issue of independent external funding of Pakistan’s armed forces.  It is clear that with the winding down of the U.S. mission in Afghanistan, budget allocations to Pakistan will be markedly reduced especially for the army.  It is likely that a Middle Eastern expeditionary force will be assembled and so more U.S. funding could follow.  The great assembly of extremists of all shades, as well as the mother of all sectarian wars is being fought in the Middle East spanning many countries.  It will be very tempting for the army command  to try and get some piece of the Middle Eastern pie – as the Afghan pie will likely morph into a cookie.

In my opinion, the Pakistan army command  should make every effort to stay miles away from the mess of the Middle East despite the instant gratification of some short term financial benefit.  The blow-back from Afghanistan is shaking the very foundations of the Pakistani state and Pakistani society and army have paid a heavy price.  Pakistan simply does not have the luxury in both capability and will to bear the brunt of another conflict which is becoming more vicious by the day and nobody can predict how things will settle down in the Middle East.

It was expected that after his two previous stints as Prime Minister, Mr. Nawaz Sharif would bring some maturity to the position along with a change from a highly personalized to an institutional form of government – instead his performance in 2014 has been dismal.  The government is drifting from crisis to crisis and is unable to present a coherent plan to tackle the critical issues.  The space left by civilians is invariably being filled by the army, especially in the security and foreign policy arenas. The Prime Minister needs to bring discipline and professionalism in his team.  The security and foreign policy teams should be re-organized by bringing in young and energetic members who get an input from both the professionals in the police and the foreign office as well as outside experts.

The army is by comparison better organized, has better institutional norms, but still has its own problems.  Promoting officers and giving them important assignments under whose command hundreds of soldiers deserted, officers who cannot even protect their own offices when their headquarters were bombed by militants with impunity or under whose nose hundreds of militants enter a major city, break open the city jail and free over two hundred prisoners who then go back to their lairs is not a good omen for the army.  This has a very negative impact all along the chain of command.

My personal view which has not changed in the last decade is that if any COAS can get the courage to sack a dozen or so officers that will go a long way to improve things.  The army brass needs to work within the system and while bypassing civilians is easy, it will aggravate relations and make things more complicated in the long run.

the conflicts of the last decade have put a severe strain on the Pakistani state and society. The Pakistan army is not immune from these changes.  One simple fact should be remembered by everyone that civilians and soldiers are on the same team.  It is the responsibility of every player to avoid a selfish goal.  Friction is expected in any polity, but minimum working relations are mandatory.  The personalized decision making process of the  Prime Minister and COAS will only aggravate civil military relations as distrust is mutual.  Civilian and military leadership should establish institutional mechanisms that will improve working relations, generate respect and ensure continuity of policies.  

 

Sights & sounds of Cambodia

 I just tweeted a few photos of Angkor Wat- https://twitter.com/zacharylatif/status/561025346586169344.
It really is a spectacular complex and the Khmer are the ultimate originators of the Indo-Chinese South Eastern Asian Hindu-Buddhist-Muslim sub-culture that is both very hybridised but also very distinctive.
I find interesting to note that Cambodia (Kampuchea’s) name ultimately derives from an Iranian tribe (The Kambojas) mentioned in the Vedas who ruled over parts of India (I could be wrong but the pallavas – Parthians- were also prominent in the South).
Iran, Turan & India go back a very long way prefigured by this intermingling even among the ancients.

The Management of Savagery

 Ahmed Humayun, an analyst at the “Institute of Social Policy and Understanding” has a post up about the “management of savagery“, a central text in the Islamist militant movement.

Read the whole thing here (at 3quarksdaily).

Excerpts:

Yet it also outlines a clear, coherent worldview, a theory of geopolitical change, and, when it is not recycling superficial clichés about Western decadence, offers penetrating insight into how terrorist tactics can succeed, even when they appear to fail. It is a call to action that outlines a series of concrete, often diabolically clever steps that have been followed by a wide range of militant groups. –

..Such a transitional state prevails in the Muslim world today. Militant groups should therefore seek to ‘vex’ and ‘exhaust’ the enemy- the regimes ruling their societies, or their Western allies. This will catalyze the breakout of chaos – the weakening of political authority across the land, creating opportunities for militants to ‘manage the savagery’ successfully, so that the ultimate goal, an Islamic state, may be realized. –

..Finally, the West can try to live up to its values. The militants correctly identify that concepts like freedom, liberty, and justice resonate in Muslim majority societies, and see them as competing with the ideology they seek to implement. But when we unflinchingly back autocrats in Muslim majority societies instead of defending our stated values, when we support the stultifying status quo instead of encouraging critical political reform, we shrink the space for progressive ideas to emerge and expand opportunities for militant notions. We will never persuade the militants, of course but we might be able to persuade others if we tried. –

See the whole thing at 3qd. It is worth a read. I had the following “off the top of my head” comment on it:

I would add a few minor notes to this excellent analysis of the “management of savagery”:

1. The authors of the Islamist narrative are not self-sufficient in their creation of this narrative. They rely on Islamicate tradition for a lot of their cherry-picked theological quotes and for historical references about events like the early Arab invasion and colonization of the “near East”, the crusades, the invasions of Europe and even the sea-jihad of the Barbary pirates, ..interestingly the Pakistani ones at least seem to make more references to the conquest and loss of Spain and the subsequent centuries of conflict in the Western Mediterranean region than to the Ottoman conquests and subsequent losses in South-Eastern Europe, reflecting perhaps the relative value of the two regions in the eyes of Islamists and in the eyes of broader contemporary audiences; Spain, France and Italy being worthy prizes and the Balkans being mostly a nameless mess. They (surprisingly) do not seem to use a lot of Islamic source material for their polemic about early 20th century European interventions. A lot of THAT narrative is lifted straight from Robert Fisk and other Western writers. SOAS seems to have contributed more to that story than the Ulama and authors of the blessed dar-ul-Islam. This is an interesting sidelight and worth at least one good PhD thesis someday.

2. The author’s final prescriptions (“But when we unflinchingly back autocrats in Muslim majority societies instead of defending our stated values, when we support the stultifying status quo instead of encouraging critical political reform, we shrink the space for progressive ideas to emerge and expand opportunities for militant notions. We will never persuade the militants, of course but we might be able to persuade others if we tried”) are boiler-plate left-liberal talking points, but depending on what actual steps the author has in mind, may be even more unrealistic than the Islamist’s dream of utopia-after-savagery. Of course, the author may have specifics in mind that are far different from what I have heard from other progressive friends. This is always the risk when one imagines details based on a few brief lines of text. But we all rely on such heuristic devices and I get nervous when I hear “progressive ideas” and American foreign policy mentioned in one paragraph. I may be completely misreading the author (and I apologize in advance if I am clubbing him unfairly with people who occasionally read Arundhati Roy as if she is a serious analyst), but these days, I get nervous easily 🙂 … I am afraid that the neo-cons half-baked, ahistorical, poorly thought out creation of neo-liberal Iraq was not far enough from “progressive ideas” for us to feel safe. American support for “progressive ideas” may turn out to be no more helpful than American support of the “stultifying status quo” if it is based on equally superficial notions of history and of the origins of states and of modern society (for better and for worse).   Just a thought…

3. There is no single correct thing to do everywhere and at all times and the answer (as always) is “it depends”, but the author’s desire that the US avoid militarily invading far away countries (to save them, or to destroy them) is one we can all agree with and say “Amen”.

Blasphemy, blasphemy laws, Pakistan, Charlie Hebdo..

I just picked this out of a past post about the cruel blasphemy execution (by being burned alive) of a Christian couple in Pakistan. I am posting this here because blasphemy is in the news again and I cannot count the number of times someone has managed to say “colonial era blasphemy laws in Pakistan” in a misleading manner. I wanted to have a post handy where I could direct them, so here it is, a quick overview of the blasphemy issue in Pakistan (some thoughts about the Hebdo events are at the end of this post, you can jump to that if all this familiar to you):

A blasphemy law was part of the 19th century Indian Penal code as section 295.. It was not a bad law at all and the lazy habit of blaming it for later blasphemy law crap in the Indian subcontinent is just that: a lazy habit. 
Here is section 295 of the Indian Penal Code of 1860: 
 Injuring or defiling place of worship with intent to insult the religion of any class.—Whoever destroys, damages or defiles any place of worship, or any object held sacred by any class of persons with the intention of thereby insulting the religion of any class of persons or with the knowledge that any class of persons is likely to consider such destruction, damage or defile­ment as an insult to their religion, shall be punishable with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both.


The aim of the law was to prevent/punish things like someone throwing a dead pig into a mosque or a cow’s head into a temple. An actual physical desecration is to be punished. 
This seems like an eminently sensible law  and cannot really be blamed for all the evils that came later. But in the 1920s there was a famous case in Lahore where a Hindu publisher was arrested by the colonial authorities after Muslims agitated against him for having published a book called Rangila Rasul (“merry prophet”). The British colonial authorities tried to prosecute him for hurting the religious sentiments of Muslims, but the high court in Lahore (quite properly) found him innocent because there was no law on the books against just publishing a book, no matter how offensive it may be to some religious group. Fearing future communal discord from such provocations, the British then had the legislative assembly add section 295A to the law in order to criminalize deliberate attempts to “outrage the religious feelings of any community”. This section states: 

Whoever, with deliberate and malicious intention of outraging the religious feelings of any class of citizens of India, by words, either spoken or written, or by signs or by visible representations or otherwise], insults or attempts to insult the religion or the religious beliefs of that class, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to 4[three years], or with fine, or with both. 

But even with this new and expanded article 295A in place, prosecutions for blasphemy were few and far between until, in the 1980s, General Zia added two new sections to the law in Pakistan and really set the ball rolling.  These infamous sections are labelled 295B and 295C.

295-B:  Defiling the copy of Holy Qur’an. Whoever wilfully defiles, damages or desecrates a copy of the Holy Qur’an or of an extract there from or uses it in any derogatory manner for any unlawful purpose shall be punishable with imprisonment for life.

295-C: use of derogatory remarks etc., in respect of the Holy Prophet: – who ever by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representation, or by any imputation innuendo, or insinuation, directly, defiles the sacred name of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) shall be punished with death, or imprisonment for life and shall also be liable for fine.


Note that the law no longer requires that the offense be malicious in intent. Intent is no longer an issue. Insulting the Quran or the prophet, even unintentionally, is now punishable by death. To seal the deal, in 1991 the Federal Shariat Court of Pakistan struck down the option of life imprisonment and made the death penalty obligatory. 
And of course, the new amendments only apply to blasphemy against Islam, not against all religions (in this sense, the new laws are more “rational” and internally coherent, since all religions blaspheme against all other religions as a matter of course, so the original law was not coherent in principle, though still workable in practice). 

Between 1984 to 2004, 5,000 cases of blasphemy were registered in Pakistan and 964 people were charged and accused of blasphemy; 479 Muslims, 340 Ahmadis, 119 Christians, 14 Hindus and 10 others. Thirty-two people charged with blasphemy were killed extra-judicially during that time. More have died since. Eighty-six percent of all the cases were reported in Punjab.

In the wake of this latest horrendous outrage, many liberal people are hoping that this blasphemy law can be changed to finally stop or slow down this torrent of prosecutions and killings. Others have noted that the law is not the problem, free-lance enforcement of a broader blasphemy meme in the Muslim community is the problem and will likely persist even if the law is repealed. In my view the law is not the only problem, but it IS a very potent symbol of the surrender of state and society in front of the blasphemy meme. Repeal of the law will not kill that meme, but repeal of the law will be an equally powerful signal that things have changed and that state and society no longer approve of the killing of blasphemers. It will not end the problem, but it will be the beginning of the end. Repeal of the law is not a sufficient condition for this nightmare to end, but it is a very important necessary condition. 

Unfortunately, I don’t think such repeal or amendment is actually likely in the foreseeable future. My predictions: 

1. The law will not be repealed. Some minor amendments may be made someday (and even these will excite significant Islamist resistance and are not likely) but their effectiveness will be limited. Blasphemy accusations will continue, as will the spineless convictions issuing from the courts. In fact, new blasphemy accusations will almost certainly be made with the express intention of testing any new amendment or procedural change (thus, ironically, any amendment is likely to lead to at least one more innocent Christian or Ahmedi victim as Islamists hunt around for a test case). 

2. Aasia bibi, the law’s most prominent current victim, will not get a reprieve from anyone but she will not be hanged. Instead, she will be held in prison till she dies or is killed by a vigilante in prison.  Her immediate family will have to leave the country at some point. The local Christian community will have to clearly show their humble submission in order to be allowed to get on with their lives. 

 3. Blasphemy will continue to be a potent weapon in the hands of the deep state, the Islamists and sundry local gangsters and land grabbers. 

These predictions may appear pessimistic and discouraging, but I would submit that they are not meant to be discouraging; they are meant to be realistic. The law will not be repealed because the law is not just an invention imposed by General Zia on an unwilling populace. Rather, this law is the updated expression of a pre-existing social and religious order. Blasphemy and apostasy laws were meant to protect the orthodox Islamic theological consensus of the 12th century AD and they have done so with remarkable effectiveness. Unlike their Christian counterparts (and prosecutions for heresy and blasphemy were seen throughout the middle ages in Europe) these laws retain their societal sanction and have been enforced by free-lancers and volunteers where the state has hesitated. The most famous, and in many ways, the most telling example of the wide societal sanction for killing blasphemers is the case of the carpenters apprentice Ghazi Ilm Deen Shaheed, who executed the Hindu publisher of Rangila Rasul after legal prosecution had failed. The demand to kill Rajpal was being made openly in public meetings and two other Muslims had already attempted to kill Rajpal prior to Ilm Deen’s successful attempt. In fact Ilm Deen’s best friend had supposedly wanted to do the act and only stepped aside because they drew lots and Ilm Deen won thrice in a row. 

And when Ilm Deen did kill Rajpal in his shop, the Muslim community mobilized to defend him and in the high court his appeal was handled by two lawyers, one of whom was none other than Quaid E Azam Mohammed Ali Jinnah, who was asked to take up the case by that illustrious modernist and “moderate Muslim hope”, Allama Mohammed Iqbal. After the appeal failed and Ilm Deen was hanged by the British, Allama Iqbal was one of the leaders of a campaign to have his body brought to Lahore for reburial (he had been quietly buried in a remote prison by the British authorities). When this demand was conceded in the face of massive public protests, his funeral drew thousands of spectators and was attended with pride by Allama Iqbal, who reputedly said that “this carpenter has left us, educated people, far behind”. 
In an ironic twist the charpoy (rope bed) on which Ilm Deen was borne to his grave is said to have been donated by another literary luminary, Mr MD Taseer, whose own son would later become governor of Punjab and would be killed for “blasphemy” by a new Ilm Deen. Ilm Deen’s grave is now a popular shrine and a movie has been made about his exploit, complete with a dance sequence featuring the blasphemer enjoying himself before he meets his fate.

When Salman Rushdie’s book was declared blasphemous and rallies demanding his head were held all over the world and books were burned, General Zia was not the agent of those protests.
 
Rushdie went underground and has managed to survive, though some of his translators were not so lucky. But Theo Van Gogh was killed in broad daylight in Amsterdam and Ayan Hirsi Ali was driven underground for producing a supposedly blasphemous movie in liberal Holland. Another blasphemy execution was attempted by textile engineering student Aamir Cheema in Germany. And as expected, Aamir Cheema too has achieved sainthood in Pakistan after he took his own life in a German prison, with his funeral attracting thousands and his grave becoming a popular shrine. 
 A minister in Musharraf’s enlightened cabinet wrote more than one op-ed commending such acts and fantasizing about the day Salman Rushdie’s skin will be torn from his body with sharp hooks. A fantastically surreal movie has even been made about the execution of Rushdie by Muslim Guerillas who penetrate his secret Zionist hideout and attack him with flying Korans. 
I am not kidding. 

 

In 2002 a convicted murderer named Tariq decided to atone for his sins by killing a man accused of blasphemy who happened to be in the same prison in Lahore. Director Syed Noor (known for countless song and dance Lollywood films) produced and directed a movie called aik aur ghazi (one more holy warrior) about this young man and his glorious exploit. It is worth noting that Syed Noor is a “moderate Muslim”, but this has not prevented him from glorifying the actions of a vigilante who killed another prisoner because he believed him guilty of blasphemy. 

When a poor christian boy was accused of blasphemy in Lahore, the entire colony he lived in was burned to the ground. When a poor Christian woman named Aasia bibi acted “uppity” in front of some Muslim ladies (see details in the video below), she was charged with blasphemy and sentenced to death. These episodes highlights another important aspect of the blasphemy meme: it functions to bully and oppress minorities by threatening them with legalized lynching in exactly the same way as the “uppity nigger” meme was used to bully and oppress black people in the pre-civil-rights South in the United States. The fear of being accused of blasphemy, enforced by periodic horrific lynchings, ensures that Christians, Hindus and Ahmedis never forget their place and act uppity in front of good Muslims, since any indiscretion could lead to a blasphemy accusation and once accused, your goose is cooked. 

Aasia Bibi’s death sentence was so flagrantly unjust that Salman Taseer (whose own father had provided a funeral bier for Ilm Deen), the then governor of Punjab, was moved to say she should be let go and the blasphemy law should be amended to prevent such misuse. He was killed by his own guard for saying so. His guard was garlanded and showered with rose petals by Pakistani lawyers when he appeared in court and now has at least one mosque named in his honor.

HE has not been hanged. In fact, he is a hero to many and has been handing out new death sentences of his own while in prison; he convinced one of his guards to go and shoot a 70 year old mentally unstable British man who has been sentenced to death on blasphemy charges but not yet exectuted (probably not yet executed because he is British). MNA Sherry Rahman introduced a “private member bill” to amend the law and was herself charged with blasphemy for her pains (though being a member of the ruling elite, she has not yet been brought to trial). Rashed Rahman, a well known human rights lawyer was shot dead because he dared to take up the case of a young university lecturer who is being tried for blasphemy on insanely ridiculous grounds in Multan. Javed Ahmed Ghamdi, a liberal cleric who has tried to present religious arguments against this law (a law that clearly goes well beyond anything written even in most of the medieval compilations of shariah law) has had his assistant killed and is now living in exile in Malaysia. “Respected” Pakistani religious scholars have declared him to be an apostate and an agent of the enemies of Islam. The law is no closer to repeal or even modification.

And just a few weeks ago, the spineless Lahore High Court upheld the death sentence on Aasia Bibi. She may be hanged before the Governor’s killer. 

In fact. the law is now moving on to fresh pastures. There is a sustained push by anti-Shia groups to use the law against Shias just as it is being used against Ahmedis, Christians and other minorities. The law does not specifically mention the issue of blasphemy against the companions of the prophet (the sahaba), but why not? if you insult any of the companions of the prophet, do you not insult the prophet? Never mind that the companions themselves were frequently at each other’s throats, but today the issue is the wedge that will open the way to legal persecution of Shias and help push them into the same position now occupied in daily fear by Christians, Hindus and Ahmedis. Several Shias have already been charged under the law and there is more to come. In fact, on the same day when Shahzad and Shama met their gruesome fate in Kot Radha Kishan, a Shia Zakir was killed in custody in Gujrat. He may have been mentally unstable and had been arrested for brawling in the bazar. In custody, he continues to harangue the police about the calumnies suffered by the Banu Hashim (the family of the prophet) at the hands of some of the companions (the sahaba). This so upset one of the police officers present that he got an axe and decapitated the prisoner inside the police station. The police officer concerned has been arrested and desperate attempts are being made to play down the sectarian dimension of this killing, but all will become clear once the policeman is put on trial. The ASWJ (the main umbrella anti-Shia organization) will protest that he was only defending the honor of the prophet. Punishment will not be easy. “Sweep under the rug” is likely to be the compromise. 

In short, killing blasphemers is considered a highly admirable deed by a very large number of people in Pakistan (and probably in several other Islamicate nations). While it is indeed true that misuse of the law has become common after General Zia’s time (an intended consequence, as one aim of such laws is to harass and browbeat all potential opposition), the law has deeper roots and liberals who believe that it is possible to make a distinction between true blasphemy and misuse of the law, may find that this line is not easy to draw. The second, and perhaps more potent reason the law will not be repealed is because the law was consciously meant to promote the Islamist project that the deep state (or a powerful section of the deep state) continues to desire in Pakistan. The blasphemy law is a ready-made weapon against all secular opposition to the military-mullah alliance (though some sections of the military now seem to have abandoned that alliance, hence the qualification “section of the deep state”). Secular parties are suspected of being soft on India and are considered a danger to the Kashmir Jihad and other projects dear to the heart of the deep state. At the same time, Islamist parties provide ideological support and manpower for those beloved causes. In this way, the officers of the deep state, even when they are not personally religious, recognize the need for an alliance with religious parties and against secular political forces (Musharraf was a good example). They may have been forced into an uneasy (temporary?) compromise with secular parties by circumstances beyond their control (aka America) but with American withdrawal coming soon, the deep state may not wish to alienate its mullah constituency too much. They will be needed again once the Yankees are gone. Hence too, no repeal at this time. 

Of course blasphemy accusations and their use to suppress speech are not limited to Muslim countries; e.g. Sikhs have resorted to violence to protest blasphemy and Hindu mobs have rioted to enforce the sanctity of Shivaji’s memory in Mumbai. But Islamist consensus on blasphemy is wider and deeper and has an edge that other fanatics can only envy. In the long run (decades, not centuries) Islamists will be forced to compromise with modernity one way or the other (with one way being less painful than the other). But that time is not yet here…For many years, perhaps decades, we are going to see terrible violence in the Islamicate core and some of it is going to be about blasphemy. That is just where we happen to be..

The above was written BEFORE the Hebdo killings. The reaction to the Charlie Hebdo killings in Western countries (and especially in France) has been so visceral and immediate that many Muslim countries felt the need to send officials to express solidarity with France (those marching for freedom of expression have included the representatives of such bastions of free speech as Turkey and Egypt and even Hamas, Iran and Saudi Arabia were moved to condemn the killings. And within the Western world, even the postMarxist apologists who generally support restrictions on free speech in the name of “sensitivity” have been split vertically by the Hebdo murders. Some like Zizek have taken (for their ilk) an unusually harsh stance against the killers and their ideology, multiculturalism be damned.. But the Hebdo moment does not extend into the Islamicate core. In fact, Islamists in Pakistan are recovering their balance as we speak and are likely to launch some more protests this Friday to remind people that they are still around (though if the deep state does not wish to promote their cause at this time then the affair may not reach the level of past protests). 
Prophet Mohammed cartoons, Charlie Hebdo protest, Charlie hebdo, Charlie hebdo cartoon, Charlie hebdo coverIn Niger, crowds have already burned several churches and several people have been killed (it seems they were not impressed by Pope Francis’ attempt to use this moment to ask for insult-protection for all faiths). More such stuff may happen in the days and weeks to come. In any case the Islamists do not have to respond soon. Patience is one of their virtues. Revenge attacks will come some day even if nothing happens soon. They have long memories. They are not done yet. 

Longer term, the outcome in Western countries is likely to be more blasphemy, not less (things will be more confused in the world’s largest democracy). And it will not all be some principled defense of free speech. In terms of abstract principle, the French (and many other European countries) are not without their own hypocrisies. Many European countries have laws against “hate speech” , holocaust denial and even blasphemy that are a mockery of free speech (and that do not really promote the peace and harmony they are supposed to be promoting; see a must read article by Sam Schulman on this issue) They frequently do not apply these laws, or fail to convict when they do apply them (and punishments are very very mild), so the actual situation on the ground is not as bad as it is in many Islamicate or Marxicate countries, but it is certainly not ideal. The United States is, in terms of abstract principles, probably the best country in the world for freedom of expression. As in all human endeavors, there is some distance between the ideal and the practice even in these United States, but legal restrictions on freedom of expression are lower in the US than in any country I can think of (past or present). Thank Allah for the first amendment. 
But while discussions of abstract principle have their place, they can also distract from far more obvious and simpler points. In this case, here is the situation: there are people of many religions in Europe, in Japan, in China, in the Americas (North AND South) and in all these religions (except Islam) it is now the norm to argue about the foundational myths and to make fun of them. Some people take them literally (in ALL religions), many people deeply respect them, but some find them totally unbelievable and others just make jokes about them. In this atmosphere, you have a Muslim population that is asking for very special treatment for their particular myths. They are saying (in effect) that not only will WE live under rules XYZ, we want EVERYONE to live under rules XYZ. But they (and their intellectually more sophisticated defenders in the Western liberal elite) also insist they are not different in principle from anyone else. They also have ongoing and historic disputes with many groups (including, for example, right wing anti-immigrant politicians, Zionists, Jews in general, Christian religious nutjobs, Serbs, etc etc). In this setting, how likely is it that everyone in Western societies will accept MUSLIM rules that even some Muslims find unbearably oppressive? …I think it is not very likely.

btw, Charlie Hebdo itself has come out of this tragedy with flying colors. The accusation that they are some kind of racist right wing publication was a canard in any case, and their current issue proves it. You can read more about it here

Anyway, here are my predictions:
1. More blasphemy in the West. Things will go back and forth, but the overall trend is that Islamicate taboos on satirizing Islam will gradually fall, as will taboos on discussing early Islamic history any differently from the histories of other religions or other ideologies. There will be more attacks, more Islamophobia (both real as well as imagined-SOAS-type Islamophobia) and more unpleasantness all around, but the overall trend will be towards more criticism and more satire and ever fewer taboos.  
2. In the Islamicate core, blasphemy will remain a huge big deal and many more people may yet share the fate of Raif Badawi (or worse), but the internet will ensure that the discussions that will become common in the West will slowly make their way into the Islamicate core as well. But they will invite a backlash and in places (like Pakistan) things will get worse before they get better. 

3. PostMarxist thinkers will split further, with some joining the critics of Islamicate taboos and other defending them in the cause of fighting Islamophobia. Many of them will continue to insist (not always without justification) that the “real issues” are economic or political, not religious, and that Islamophobia is real and the people on Fox News really do have more power than the Islamists still living in Western Muslim communities, but the circle within which religion is ALWAYS “not the real issue” will shrink, not expand. This is not of much interest to many people (since Post-Marxists don’t actually run the world, in the “West” or the “East”), but is always of interest to some of us because of the friends and family we hang out with. It will not be a happy few years in this circle as things in the Islamicate core get worse, Islamophobia (the actual cases) gets worse and neither Zionists nor Palestinians get to win cleanly. I feel a bit sad about this. 
4. “Reform Islam” (consciously or unconsciously modeled on Reform Judaism) as promoted by people like Reza Aslan or Karen Armstrong may eventually become a real thing, with some sort of coherent theological framework and it’s own network of mosques and religous teachers, but we are nowhere close to it being a reality already. The notion that there is already some kind of “moderate Islam” that lies hidden under a recent Wahabi overlay and can be recovered by promoting Sufiism and the poetry of Maulana Rumi is highly exaggerated. Blasphemy and apostasy, for example, are capital crimes in ALL major sects of Islam and a few superficial books from Reza Aslan or Armstrong are not enough to change that. On the other hand, where there is damand, someone will eventually provide supply. These books are not completely useless. In the years to come, other, more subtle, more knowledgeable and more sophisticated thinkers will no doubt create such Islams (plural) in the Western world and in China. But not so easily in the Islamicate core. Things there will get worse before they get better. Dr Ali Minai has an excellent piece about some of the work that will have to be done. 

The full-frontal Islamist memes meanwhile can be seen in this excellent video. Our Imam in school used to say a lot of these things in 1974 and we thought it was more funny than threatening. But they were serious and here we are today. 

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Post by Jürgen Todenhöfer.

Postscript: Excellent nuanced piece from Indian journalist Praveen Sami http://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/the-silence-of-corpses/99/

btw, as an illustration of things to come: several people (and more important, the magazine Newsweek) have posted respectful portraits of the prophet Mohammed painted by Islamic artists in Iran, Turkic and Mughal lands in the pre-colonial era. See for example




Btw, Hafiz Saeed is on it..

Slaughter of blonde Muslims

“So, in Bosnia, the case was there were white, blond-haired, blue-eyed Muslims who were being slaughtered and identified as Muslims. That really touched me.”
The great brown hope for every British Pakistan, local Essex lad Maajid Nawaz, talks about how Animal Farm turned him away from extremism (he needs to join a post-apocalyptic book club).
http://www.npr.org/2015/01/15/377442344/how-orwells-animal-farm-led-a-radical-muslim-to-moderation

Is Showering a white people thing?

http://uk.eonline.com/news/614318/naya-rivera-says-showering-daily-is-a-white-people-thing-watch-now

After her comments, Rosie O’Donnell proceeded to call upon a stunned African-American woman in the audience, who insisted she is a “frequent showerer” before Rivera defended her remarks. 
“My mom is half black, half Puerto Rican. She showers every day, so I can say this. But I’m now married to a white man,” she said, referring to husband Ryan Dorsey, whom she secretly wed in July 2014. “And he showers a lot, like two, three times a day.

Unreal Islam

The word “takfīr” (pronounced
“tuck – feer”) is one of the most fearsome words in the Islamic lexicon.
Deriving from the same root as “kāfir” – infidel – it refers to the act of
declaring someone who is nominally a Muslim to be an infidel. And, of course, as
the whole world knows by now, a Muslim who has become an infidel is worthy of being
killed as an apostate under strict Islamic law. The institution of takfir is
not new in Muslim societies, but it has generally been a marginal one. Today,
it is at the core of the jihadi extremism that has set the world on fire from Nigeria
to India
and from Peshawar to Paris.
The extremists do not kill based only on takfir – the cartoonists of Charlie
Hebdo were not Muslims to begin with – but this idea is central to their
ideology, which specifically targets Muslims who, in their opinion, have lost
the right to live because of their infidelity. Among these are numbered the 136
innocent children gunned down in Peshawar and the soldiers of the largest army of any
Muslim majority country in the world. More broadly, its remit extends to entire
sects, such as the Shi’as and the Ahmadis, who have been targeted repeatedly in
Pakistan.
However, another version of
takfir is now afoot in the world. Call it “reverse takfir”. Unlike the militant
version, it is well-intentioned and self-consciously humane, but it is also
dangerous. This “benign” version of takfir is epitomized by the idea that the
acts of violence being committed by self-proclaimed holier-than-thou Muslims
are not the acts of “real Muslims” and do not represent “real Islam”. In
effect, it declares the terrorists to be infidels! The idea is widespread, and
is espoused in four different contexts: By well-meaning non-Muslims (such as Presidents
Bush and Obama) seeking to avoid stereotyping and the implication of collective
guilt; by ordinary Muslims wishing to dissociate themselves from the beheaders;
by Muslim sectarians wishing to separate their brand of orthodoxy from that
espoused by terrorists; and – most ironically – by Muslim governments and
security forces seeking an “Islamic” justification for attacking extremist fellow
Muslims, thus implicitly buying into the central jihadi argument of apostasy as
a capital offense. The urge to do this reverse takfir is understandable and not
without factual basis: Most Muslims are indeed not violent extremists who wish
to kill infidels. And it does help protect innocent Muslims from backlash,
which is rather important. The problem, however, is that it also feeds the
narrative of denial and deniability that allows the militancy to thrive.
As with most organized religions,
the foundational texts and beliefs of Islam can support both peaceful versions
and violent ones. Until people recognize and admit that all of these are, in fact, “real Islam”, the issues underlying the
problem of jihadi militancy cannot be addressed. If the violence is “not real
Islam”, the implication is that Islam – as practiced by most Muslims – needs no
reform. But that is manifestly not the case. The scourge of violence in the
name of Islam will be removed only when Muslims in general come to reject all instances of violence in the name of
Islam, including those that are celebrated in scripture and history. When
conquerors who killed “infidels” are regarded as heroes of the faith; when the
world is seen as divided into the “house of Islam” and the “house of war”; when
dying for God is considered better than living for the sake of fellow humans;
when non-Muslims are regarded as morally inferior; when many standard prayers
end by asking God for “victory against the infidels”; and when apostasy and
blasphemy are regarded as capital crimes – how can jihadi violence be seen as
anything but the logical conclusion of such ideas and practices? And yet, these
are all part of “mainstream” Islam – some of them derived directly from holy
texts. What the extremists are doing is merely taking these ideas more literally
and acting on them. The main thing separating most ordinary believing Muslims
from the extremists is not so much the narrowness of belief – which they both
share – but the willingness to match that belief with action. Small wonder,
then, that the militants see non-violent Muslims as hypocrites, which in many
ways is worse than being an infidel.
 This raises a painful question: Can true
Muslims only be either militants or hypocrites? Is there no other alternative?
And that’s where the solution must begin. The only way to find an alternative –
“third way”, so to speak – is to move away from literalism and absolute
interpretations. Muslims must ask themselves why Jews don’t still stone
adulterers or Christians still conduct witch burnings. They made these changes,
not by rewriting holy texts, but by reinterpreting them for a different time
and context. If Islam and its texts are indeed “guidance for all times” as
Muslims believe, surely their interpretation must change with changing times,
or they will become obsolete. What we see unfolding before us is the refusal of
a whole faith to recognize the fact of such obsolescence and the need for
reinterpretation, which has to be the first step on the path to reformation.
And this cannot be done by outsiders preaching humanism at Muslims; it requires
Muslims themselves to liberate their faith from the clutches of regressive
clerics and begin viewing it more rationally. They can continue to be good
Muslims and revere the unchanging words of scripture, but they cannot continue
to be literalist reactionaries enforcing orthodoxy by force. That just isn’t
compatible with the real world – especially the modern world. People will have
to be allowed to make individual decisions with regard to their faith and live!
In other words, religion will need to become a private matter, and certainly
not something for the State to legislate or vigilantes to enforce.
The interesting – and tragic –
fact is that this dilemma is mainly a modern one. For the first few centuries
of Islam, Muslims were far less inhibited about practical reinterpretation.
Indeed, much of what is regarded today as Islamic law (the shari’ah) is derived
from the interpretation of holy texts
by early leaders, jurists and scholars. They were certainly not liberal
humanists by today’s standards, but they were eminently practical people. Over
time, this practicality gradually gave way to rigidity, until the so-called “door
of interpretation” was officially declared shut. Even so, Muslim rulers were
seldom willing to be bound by rigid religious edicts, and significant movement
continued, albeit at royal whim. Some among the royalty, such as Akbar and Dara Shikoh in India, went
further, trying actively to move towards more syncretic and humanistic
interpretations of Islam.

 http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/4c/D%C3%A1r%C3%A1_Shik%C3%BAh_with_three_sages_with_inscription.jpg

Prince
Dara Shikoh with three sages
(Ascribed to Dal Chand India, Mughal scool, c.
1650)

The roots of the current
fundamentalism lie not so much in the early history of Islam as in its recent
history of disempowerment and revivalism. As Muslim societies lost power in the
face of modernity, the role of ruling elites in reinterpreting religious edicts
(mainly for selfish political reasons) diminished or disappeared, and the
process of reform became intertwined with Westernization and modernization. This
produced various responses, two of which are especially relevant today. First, during the colonial period and immediately after,
a re-emerging class of Muslim thinkers such as Muhammad Iqbal, Jamaluddin Afghani,
and later Sayyid Qutb and
Mawdudi, sought
a revival through variations on the same theme: Creating a semi-mythological
and idealized version of a glorious Muslim past where near-perfect men acted as
the instruments of God’s will. And, in their own ways, all of them converged on
the notion of a single, ideal Islamic state – a “house of Islam” – ruled over
by the righteous. One concrete result of these neo-revivalist ideas was the
creation of Pakistan as an ideological Muslim homeland, though many ultra-orthodox
Muslim scholars opposed it. Another was the emergence of trans-national
ideological organizations such as the Muslim Brotherhood
and the Jamaat-e Islami.
All this laid the theoretical framework for today’s trans-national militancy.
The second response was the
empowerment of more fundamentalist schools of Islamic thought that already
existed but had generally been held in check by Muslim rulers and societies. A fateful
moment
occurred when one such movement – led by the originalist cleric Ibn Abdul-Wahhab
in Western Arabia – made a political
alliance with a regional ruling family
: The future House of Saud. Over two
centuries, a nexus of mutually-influencing ultra-orthodox ideologies developed
from India to Morocco, but remained largely without political or economic power.
All that changed with the rise of Saudi Arabia as a rich kingdom with an
interest in exporting both oil and ideology. The ideal opportunity arose – less
by planning than chance – in the form of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan,
which led to the
revival of global Islamic zealotry
as fuel for the Afghan jihad, the
empowering of seminaries
preaching ultra-orthodox ideologies
, and the inevitable seeping of these
toxins into the body politic of Muslim societies. The rest is a history that is
too well-known – and painful – to repeat.

Today, the two threads
generated in response to Muslim disempowerment and modernity have merged. The
resulting movement has inherited the trans-national character, anti-humanist
ethos and regressive ideology of its parent movements. It has also been strengthened
by the strategic
calculus
of the Great
Game that has been afoot in South and Central Asia
for several decades. Some
may consider it natural that the movement’s most vocal expression has occurred
in Pakistan, given its founding vision. However, such an assumption would be
incorrect. The areas that form Pakistan were, in fact, not very amenable a priori to an exclusivist ideology, and were pervaded by a much
more syncretic and humanistic version of Islam
. It took several decades and
great geopolitical events – such as the Afghan jihad – to bring Pakistan to the
point it is at today. All appearances notwithstanding, it is not a natural home
for a militant, ahistoric ideology. Obscurantism? yes; militancy? no.
Which brings us back to the issue
of “real Islam”. As someone in love with the cultural traditions of Islam and as
a diligent student of its history, I agree that the acts of the jihadis do not represent the vast majority of
Muslims today or in history. Humans are a violent species and Muslims have
contributed their share, but it is completely asinine to think that Muslims
have been, historically, any more violent than other groups. However, it is
equally absurd to deny that the ideology underlying jihadism draws upon
mainstream Islamic beliefs and is, therefore, undeniably a form of “real Islam”
– albeit of a very extreme form. It is more accurate to say that this extremism
is “not the only Islam”, and, by historical standards, it is a version very
different from what the vast majority of Muslims have practiced. That’s why groups
espousing such puritanical and rigid attitudes were traditionally called “khawarij” – the alienated
ones. At the same time, Muslims should acknowledge that they have not
constructed the logical and theoretical framework within which extremism can be
rejected formally. If anything, the opposite has happened in the last century,
with increasingly literalist attitudes gaining strength for political reasons.
And that is the core problem: A literal reading of even moderate Muslim beliefs
can, and does, lead to behaviors incompatible with modern society. Like
Christians, Jews, Hindus and others, Muslims have to turn towards a less
literal, more inspirational and humanistic reading of their sacred traditions,
drawing from them principles that can stand the test of time rather than
literal, ahistorical prescriptions. This does not require the invention of a “new
Islam”, or the imposition of an “official Islam” by states. Nor does it require
a rewriting of Muslim sacred texts any more than the Enlightenment needed a
rewriting of the Old Testament – Thomas
Jefferson notwithstanding
. What is needed is a change of attitude, of how
people relate to the texts and traditions. Strong strands of humanism, compassion,
diversity of ideas and acceptance of differences already exist within the
Islamic tradition – among Sufis, among poets, and even among scholars. The
trick is to rediscover, re-emphasize and reinterpret them for our times. And
even as we wring our hands in despair, brave individuals within Muslim
societies are trying
to ignite
just
such a change
at great risk to their lives. The least we can do is to add
our voices to theirs.

What is wrong with the National Front?

It seems apart from the plunging price of oil the FT seems replete instead with warning about democracy. I intensely dislike and distrust nationalism (apathy/dislike for the “Other”) while I condone patriotism (love of one’s Own).

However I don’t think Europe is going to slip towards fascism anytime soon in the forseeable future. I don’t even think it’s viable or tenable to deport illegal immigrants however there has to be a control on future entries and manage the process.

Immigration has to be revamped that the developed countries of the world (West + Japan) need to synchronize their borders. As an example how many Americans would really want to move to Japan and settle there, or vice versa. I once read an Israeli economies write in the International Herald Tribune (essentially the NY Times) that unless incomes were 3x greater most populations would not immigrate.

As borders become more fluid it makes sense to plan for the eventuality of a more federated and united world. We are leaving the age of a Single Hegemon (with mixed results) towards a more equitable system. Transnational cultural groupings will take on much more significance than before however we must also begin to have a much fairer system.

The West (& Japan) have aging populations and overloaded pensions as a upcoming crisis. The answer is not more immigrants (because they themselves will ultimately age) but for pensioners to start migrating Southward (to found their own OAP colonies so to speak). Desirable locations around the world can become huge hubs for aging baby boomers where they will also be able to take advantage of purchasing power parity. Tourism and other industries would be built on the back of that (as families come to visit etc) and it would create huge employment opportunities in the South (for carers, companions etc).

Other than that it would also have an excellent environment impact as these compact colonies would essentially transfer from high emission producing regions to lower emission producing regions.

This is the migration that needs to happen not the one that’s currently occurring where the brain drain depletes the middle class in the Rest and squeezes the native middle class in the West. The first retirement colony will then start a wave (I know they are trying that in the Phillipines & Japan).

In this manner the West & Japan can ease into smaller more amalgamated populations (probably followed by countries that are becoming wealthier and aging) while also becoming much more capital intensive (and preserving high wages, low employment). The Rest will benefit from the spin-off of compacting Prosperity Sphere.

There is nothing wrong whatsoever with declining populations as long as cultural coherency remains in tact. The mistake right now in the West is that natives have a low fertility rate coupled with immigration creates a huge amount of societal imbalance. In a globalising world high wages can eventually be found everywhere (and even where wages are not high PPP can ensure that it’s more lucrative staying back rather than immigrating).

At that point support for the far-right will begin to precipitously decline as citizens and individuals begin to use globalisation to their advantage.

http://www.philstar.com/cebu-business/2013/01/08/894596/japanese-retirees-eyeing-cebu-retirement-hub

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-09-13/aging-baby-boomers-face-losing-care-as-filipinos-go-home.html

By now, the Philippines should have retirement villages for Americans because English is widely spoken. Instead, Americans are going to Spanish-speaking Mexico.

US Census 2010 estimates approximately 2.5 million citizens and legal permanent residents of Philippine ancestry.

One nongovernment survey claims 200,000 Fil-Am senior citizens would really like to retire in the Philippines, but they won’t.

Unlike Social Security, which you can take anywhere, Medicare stops at the border. Fil-Ams are afraid to return home without medical insurance. Another survey calculates that more than one million American seniors have homes in Mexico. The popularity of Mexico as a retirement destination is because you can simply cross the border back to the US for medical treatment.

http://asianjournalusa.com/american-retirees-the-next-big-business-for-the-philippines-p12342-114.htm