Aasia Bibi case comes full circle (part 2)

I showed up at the Institute of Peace and Secular Studies (IPSS) a few days after the rally. The person who had called the meeting was running late so I just loitered around. It was a two-room apartment that had been modified into a makeshift office space with some spare area for sitting, with floor cushions etc. There was a book rack full of books in one corner. The lady who managed the place was present there and said Hello. A few minutes after I had arrived, two boys a few years younger than me showed up as well. We started chit-chatting and it turned out that one of them was a student at LUMS and the other went to another private school. We were talking about democracy when they revealed that they were not in favor of democracy at all and then spent the next hour arguing why they thought so. They were under the influence of Hizb-ut-Tehrir, an Islamist organization that wanted to establish a caliphate. I tried to argue with them using rationality and logic but they were not willing to listen to a counter-argument and eventually stormed off. I discovered that IPSS was offering a short course in Political Economy and History and all I had to pay for was a copy of their syllabus.

Salmaan Taseer (ST) was a larger than life person. He grew up in a literary family, with his father passing away at an early age but the familial ties and his family’s social standing in the Lahori society gave him a footing in the tightly-knit hierarchy of Lahore’s elite circles. He was an active member of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) during its heyday, starting in 1968 and through Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s rule (1972-77). After Mr. Bhutto was hanged (1979) and PPP was under threat by Dictator Zia’s government, ST wrote a biography of Mr. Bhutto. I attended a talk by one of the fact checkers on ST’s book (at the cafe, Books n Beans, a small liberal enclave for such events) and she remembered how hard she had to work to meet ST’s standards. ST was instrumental in arranging for Benazir Bhutto’s arrival in Lahore in 1986 and the grand reception that ensued. He was elected in the PPP wave that swept most of Pakistan during the 1988 elections. He didn’t win another election in during the rest of his political life. However, he was considered PPP’s man in Lahore, someone who could take on the Sharif’s of PML(N). ST started an English daily in the early 2000s, called Daily Times (DT) which started with much fanfare and even had an Urdu counterpart. Continue reading “Aasia Bibi case comes full circle (part 2)”

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Aasia Bibi case comes full circle(part 1)

I have a special interest in Aasia Bibi’s case because it was the assassination of Salmaan Taseer that shook most of my worldview and lead me to a completely different path in life. It coincided with my political awakening. I was a 4th-year medical student at the time (January 2011) when the incident took place and I started my new journey. I grew up in a conservative, Salafi family in small town Punjab. I had always been a bookworm, interested in reading the news and reading all kinds of books (more in Urdu than English, mostly because books in Urdu were much more accessible to me). When my classmates in high school were busy memorizing textbooks for history, I was reading books in the school library that had not been read for ages (including both English and Urdu books). I was more interested in biographies and didn’t read (or had access to) books on politics and social sciences written in English. I was curious but didn’t have enough material to understand my own curiosity.

I was aware of the Aasia Bibi case and considered it a bigoted attempt by the village folk as a way to settle scores (not an uncommon occurrence in Punjab, my homeland). I was heartened to see Governor Taseer’s photos in the news when he visited Aasia. I had actually written a letter to Governor Taseer about some issue with our university exam (Governor of Punjab is the de facto Chancellor of all public universities in the province) a week before he was assassinated. From a political standpoint, I did not like him because he had been used by Zardari (President of Pakistan at the time and belonging to Pakistan Peoples Party-PPP) as a pawn to keep the PML(N) government in the bay. It was during this period that photos from some private events attended by the Taseer family were ‘leaked’ on social media. They showed the Taseer family in swimming pools and the ladies in swimsuits (which was considered too much skin). Those photos were circulated on Facebook and then on news channels by both PML(N) folks and later by the religious right which had started calling for Salmaan Taseer’s head after he visited Aasia in jail.

At the beginning of January 2011, I had taken part in an inter-collegiate competition taking place in Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) and was still living in the slightly less-bigoted mindset that was present in LUMS. The assassination on January 4th, 2011 took place a day after I came back from LUMS. A few short years before that, Lawyers movement (2007-08) had swept urban parts of Pakistan in a frenzy and it felt like a new era for raising your voice, to demand greater freedoms. Some of my friends from high school had played an active role in the movement and LUMS had been a citadel of resistance during those days. The band, Laal (meaning Red) had sung some of Faiz Ahmad Faiz’s poems and made a wonderful video talking about protest. After 8 years of Musharraf’s ‘hung democracy’, the politico were back in action. (Side Note: for admission to 11th grade in a military-run boarding school, I had to write an essay on demoracy in pakistan (in 2004) and I used the words ‘hung democracy’ in my essay. I got admitted. Omar Ali of BP went to the same school.) There used to be a ‘study circle’ oraganised by some LUMS students (current and former), who had taken active part in the Lawyers movement, at a place on Jail Road, Lahore near my hostel which I had attended twice. During one of the sessions, Ashar Rehman (Taimoor Rehman-of Laal’s uncle and brother of Rashid Rehman, editor of Daily Times) talked about his days fighting alongside the Baloch against the Pakistan army and how he learned tactics of guerrila war from Che Guevara’s books. At the other session, a lady who used to be active in leftist circles in the 1940s (I believe it was Tahira Mazhar Ali, Tariq Ali’s mother) talked about the freedom she enjoyed in those times, roaming Lahore in her tonga. Continue reading “Aasia Bibi case comes full circle(part 1)”

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Maududi and Iqbal: A Brief History

A few days ago, on the occasion of Allama Iqbal’s proposed birthday (November 9th was chosen by a committee created in the 1970s), Mr. Rafi, a Pakistani commentator on twiter tweeted that

“Iqbal chose Maududi to head Dar-ul-Islam in Pathankot to reconstruct Islam in a new light and eventually Maududi founded Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) so Iqbal is indirectly a founder of JI as well” (my translation, the original tweet was in Urdu).

Having written extensively on Jamaat-e-Islami and Maududi in the past and with a moderate knowledge of Iqbal’s poetry and prose, I was not thrilled by this simplistic association. In my opinion, it was a tenuous argument and required a bit more nuance and detail. To set the record straight, I went back to some of my source materials and re-read about the relation between Iqbal and Maududi. I wrote a brief blogpost about this issue in April 2012 for Pak Tea House blogzine (May it rest in Peace), which you can access here.  Following is a detailed look at interactions between the two gents. (For more, see Vali Nasr’s Mawdudi and the making of Islamic revivalism)

The first time Maududi and Iqbal crossed paths was in the 1927 when Maududi wrote a series of articles on the issue of the concept of Jihad in Islam titled”Islam ka qanun-i Jang” (Islam’s law of war), in twenty-two issues of his magazine Al-Jam’iat beginning in February and ending in May 1927. The articles were well received in Muslim intellectual and political
circles. Mawdudi was lauded for his service to Islam by Muhammad Iqbal;Muhammad Ali; Mawlana Ahmad Sa’id of the Jamiat-i Ulama-i Hind, who wrote a complimentary note about the first installment; and the eminent alim, Sayyid
Sulaiman Nadwi, who saw to the publication in 1930 of the articles in book form under the title Al-Jihad fil-lslam (published by Darul-Musannifin in Azamgarh). The first time Iqbal met Maududi was in 1929 in Hyderabad where he had gone to deliver a lecture.

In 1937, Iqbal wanted to establish a model ‘darul-ulum’ (house of knowledge) in Punjab to lay the foundation for a new Islamic worldview, which would in turn facilitate the creation of a Muslim national homeland. His friend Niyaz Ali, a retired civil servant, wanted to establish a waqf (endowment) using a piece of land he owned in Pathankot, a small town in Punjab.

Iqbal’s aim was evident in his letter to the rector of al-Azhar in Cairo, Shaikh Mustafa al-Maraghi, requesting a director for the intended darul-ulum; Iqbal asked the Egyptian alim for a man who was not only well versed in the religious sciences, but also in English, the natural sciences, economics, and politics. Al-Maraghi answered that he had no suitable candidate. Iqbal was disappointed and handed the task of selecting a suitable overseer to Niyaz Ali, but he remained firm about establishing the darul-ulum.

Niyaz Ali, meanwhile, searched for a suitable administrator for his waqf. He turned first to the famous Deobandi alim, Ashraf Ali Thanwi, but Thanwi rejected the offer. Niyaz Ali then tried to encourage Mawdudi to move to Punjab (Maududi at the time was in the state of Hyderabad working ), though he made him no firm offer and the two disagreed about the aim of the project. Niyaz Ali insisted Mawdudi consult with Thanwi, with whom Mawdudi was at loggerheads, along with the rest of the the Deobandi Jamiat-i-Ulama-i Hind. Disagreements, however, were soon overshadowed by mutual need.
The situation in Hyderabad was fragile, and Mawdudi had come to the conclusion that it was not the best possible place for launching an Islamic revival. This made him more interested in Niyaz Ali’s project, and he solicited
the job of administering the waqf. Unable to find any other suitable candidates, Niyaz Ali was inclined to agree, but the final decision had to await a response from al-Maraghi. Niyaz Ali asked Iqbal to write to Mawdudi and invite

Unable to find any other suitable candidates, Niyaz Ali was inclined to agree, but the final decision had to await a response from al-Maraghi. Niyaz Ali asked Iqbal to write to Mawdudi and invite him to settle in the Punjab. Iqbal arranged for him to come to Lahore and serve as the imam of the Badshahi mosque at a salary of 100 rupees per month and to partake in Iqbal’s plans for the revival of Islam, “umraniat-i Islami ki
tashkil-ijadid” (reconstruction of the social aspects of Islam). Mawdudi turned down Iqbal’s offer on the grounds that he did not want a payingjob that would restrict his freedom. Niyaz Ali then suggested Maududi as overseer of the waqf and secured Iqbal’s agreement to this appointment.

At the meeting , Mawdudi’s appointment was confirmed, but Iqbal did insist that he establish at Pathankot some form of educational institution with a clearly defined curriculum. Mawdudi accepted Iqbal’s scheme and agreed to use the
waqf to train a number of capable Muslim students and young leaders in Islamic law as well as modern subjects. Although the project was essentially educational, the imprint of Maududi’s politics was evident in its name, Darul-Islam (Land of Islam).

All this cooperation was uncharacteristic of the independently minded and self-righteous Maududi, especially since it was clear that by no means had he abandoned his political objectives. Accepting the position was, therefore, partly
out of respect for the celebrated poet and the appeal of being a close associate. Following their meeting with Iqbal, Mawdudi and Niyaz Ali agreed on the terms of Mawdudi’s position as waqf overseer, and Niyaz Ali included Maududi
in the waqf’s governing committee, the Darul-Islam Trust.
Niyaz Ali guaranteed Maududi the autonomy he had asked for, but not the permission to involve himself in political activity, because their agreement with Iqbal regarding the nature of the waqf’s projects precluded it. Mawdudi agreed
to these terms. In the November 1937 edition of the Tarjuman, it was announced that the journal would be moving from Hyderabad to Pathankot; Maududi arrived there on March 16, 1938.

After Iqbal’s death, JI cadres tried to cash in on Iqbal’s brand and called Dar-ul-Islam his brainchild but Maududi himself had a different view. Maududi argued that “the commonality
of views between ‘Allamah Iqbal and me are limited to our belief that Islamic law should underlie the revival of our religion; my thoughts and intellectual probing are my own.” Iqbal did not conceive of the Darul-Islam project as it eventually unfolded, and Maududi was not Iqbal’s choice to lead it. Even after the two met again in 1937, Iqbal’s opinion of Mawdudi was guarded. Mian Muhammad Shafi, Iqbal’s secretary, recollected that he referred to Maududi as
“just a mullah [low-ranking cleric] ,” someone more suited to lead the prayers at the Badshahi mosque than to oversee a pioneering educational project.

Now, in hindsight, did Iqbal’s poetry influenced Maududi and JI’s conception of Islam and the world? It depends on if you want to focus on Iqbal’s more Ummah-focussed poetry and his ideas about mixing of religion and Islam. You would find some overlap in ideas but it is hard to separate the threads in some instances. Whether Iqbal wanted it or not, JI cadres used his poetry for their propagands. But then, such is life.

 

 

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Hasan Minhaj’s Patriot Act on Affirmative Action

Three comments

1 – He was relatively fair. I mean you knew what talking points he was going to deploy and what his conclusion was going to be.

2 – Minhaj is very American. A particular sort of American. Though the episode focuses on “Asian Americans”, Minhaj sounds like he was birthed out of The Daily Show comedy-clone factory.

3 – I don’t think it was that funny. And I don’t think the audience found it particularly funny either.

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Is it time for Asian Americans and Latino Americans to ask to be considered “white”? (a)

This is the next article in the series “Is it time for Asian Americans and Latino Americans to ask to be considered “white.” Please also read Razib’s  Hasan Minhaj’s Patriot Act on Affirmative Action.

This panel brought up the issue of affirmative action benefiting caucasians at the expense of people of Asian heritage. According to a 2004 analysis of 1990s data Asians on average needed 140 points more on the SAT (out of 1600) than caucasians all else being equal to have the same probability of admission to elite universities.

Do any readers support race base affirmative action that benefits caucasians at the expense of people of Asian ancestry? If so, can you please share why? I have rarely met Asians who give a strong intellectual case for race based  affirmative action that benefits caucasians at the expense of people of Asian ancestry other than the following arguments:

  • We don’t want to be personally called fascist, nazi, a supporter of the patriarchy, racist, bigoted, prejudiced, imperialist, colonialist, oppressor, hegemonic, exploiter, white supremacist (not joking, Asians are frequently called white supremacist . . . I don’t understand why) etc.
  • We don’t want Asians as a group being called fascist, nazi, supporter of the patriarchy, racist, bigoted, prejudiced, imperialist, colonialist, oppressor, hegemonic, exploiter, white supremacist etc.
  • We want to reduce the “evil eye” or jealousy towards Asians
  • We are guilty because of Asian privilege and Asian oppression of blacks and poor people (never met Asians over 22 who say this, but many K-12 rich Asians children believe this now)
  • This is our punishment because Asians are very fascist, nazi, supportive of the patriarchy, racist, bigoted, prejudiced, imperialist, colonialist, oppressive, hegemonic, exploitative, white supremacist etc. (never met Asians over 22 who say this, but many K-12 rich Asians children believe this now)
  • Xenophobic caucasians might attack us if we don’t support affirmative action.
  • Blacks might attack us if we don’t support affirmative action.

 

In the above discussion Asian Americans seemed afraid to share their actual views. Why are Asian Americans so scared?

To repeat, please share any other reasons you might have for supporting race based affirmative action that discriminates against Asians.

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India Still Rising (a)

This is the second article in this series after India Still Rising.

India’s ministry of external affairs has little understanding of China, America, India or the world. The ministry of external affairs has little institutional understanding of economics, how global commons works, how global collaboration works; or the importance of:

  • execution
  • transparency
  • honesty

Part of the issue is that the ministry of external affairs lacks internal think tanks and doesn’t extensively use external think thanks. Another part of the problem is post modernist colonization of the mind, virtue signaling, risk averse careerist mindset. The ministry of external affairs needs to hire older experienced private sector Indians, ex-patriot Indians or Indians who have extensively interfaced with foreigners. They also need to learn to better use external resources such as external experts, academics, religious institutions and think thanks. Including foreign ones. [For example consulting wise friends of India such as Zachary Latif.] However to use or collaborate with foreign resources requires the ministry of external affairs to get its own house in order first . . . or it risks being played by various interest groups without a deep understanding of what these interest groups are.

India Still Rising

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Nikki Haley shows she’s a good politician in regards to religion too


This week on The Remnant podcast, Jonah Goldberg, whose wife works for Nikki Haley, expounded at length about her skill as a politician. His point, which is legitimate, is that Haley is well liked by the broad mass of Trump-supporting Republicans (if not elite pro-Trump idealogues), as well as Trump-skeptical conservatives.

I’ve known of Nikki Haley since 2004, a few years after Bobby Jindal came onto to the national scene. Both are conservative Indian American Republicans elected as governors in the South. But there are differences between the two. While Haley can arguably “pass” as white, Jindal cannot (both are of Punjabi ethnicity). But a bigger difference has been their attitude toward religion: Jindal has worn his Christian conversion and faith on his sleeve, while Haley has been much more low-key. Throughout her career, Haley has admitted that the Sikh gurdwara remains a part of her life, despite her conversion to Methodist Christianity. Could you imagine Jindal saying such a thing about a Hindu temple?

The above is a video clip of Haley during a 2014 visit to India, where she visited the Golden Temple with her husband. When asked about her conversion to Christianity, she avers the sincerity of her belief. But Haley also speaks in an ecumenical language and seems to express the view that her choice of religion was in keeping with her culture as an American. Her turn to Christianity was not a denial of Sikhism, which she seems to see as grounded in India.

I can’t look into Haley’s heart, and to be frank her religious faith is not my business. But, I think I can say many people of subcontinental background tend to view converts to American Christianity as opportunists or somehow lacking in cultural pride and internal strength. American evangelical Protestant acquaintances would often mock Hinduism in front of me, despite the fact that I have a Muslim name and have been an atheist since I was a small child. To convert to Christianity is perceived by some to be conceding the point of that mockery.

And yet above Haley seems to be interpreting her conversion to Christianity as an expression of her alignment with the Dharma of the land in which she grew up, the United States. You may agree or disagree with her, but her emotional expression above certainly does make it seem that she retains a deep fondness for her Sikh upbringing.

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Global alliances and wheels within wheels

Over ten years ago I read Adam K. Webb’s Beyond the Global Culture War with some skepticism. In it, Webb outlined the future revitalization of non-Western societies and cultures and their ultimate face-off with global liberalism.  It’s a really strange book, which talks positively about the Iranian Revolution and Rabindranath Tagore.

But I think elements of the thesis are coming to fruition in ways I couldn’t have imagined. For example, the Western Left has a very strong animus against Hindu Nationalism. case in point, the Western (mostly American) feminist website, Feministing, has published a piece documenting a protesting a Hindu meeting in Chicago: Why These Activists are Protesting Hindu Nationalism in Trump’s America.

Here’s a thought experiment: can you imagine left-wing activists protesting an Islamic Society of North American meeting? Curiously, the atheist ex-Muslim activist Armin Navabi, who was at the meeting in Houston this summer, observed that the people who were most hostile to the ex-Muslims were not the Muslims themselves (most of whom were curious), but philo-Islamic Communist activists. These activists were apparently shouting Islamic slogans at right-wing anti-Islamic demonstrators.

Navabi even reported that the Muslim attendees talked to him and seemed disturbed and confused by the specter of hammer & sickle brandishing Communists, and could not understand why or how they were pro-Islam.

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