Monday, March 27, 2006

Ayaz Amir in Dawn

Rajan Parrikar pointed me to this Ayaz Amir piece in the Pakistani English daily, Dawn.

Some observations:

1. Many detractors of Islam would agree with Ayaz Amir that "moderate Islam" is a sham. It is not clear to me that he would welcome that agreement.

2. For a Pakistani whose reflections on 1971 are confined to regretting military rule, and who has never once said that Pakistan should not support murderous thugs in Afghanistan (e.g., Hekmatyar) complaining about American atrocities in Afghanistan and Iraq is rich. As someone put it, Pakistan has killed more Muslims than anyone since Hulaku the Mongol sacked Baghdad.

3. Daily dishonesty provokes outrage, so says Ayaz Amir. Official Pakistan doublespeak has crossed such a point that it no longer provokes outrage in me; it is no longer dishonesty to me, it is the noise from a lunatic asylum.

4. One cannot but admire the courage and tenacity of the Taliban, the courage of their convictions, so says Ayaz Amir. Or, if one knows them to be lunatics, one can wonder at their pathology, so say I.

5. Taliban have self-respect, unlike the Pakistani establishment, which toadies to the US. Anyone is better than the Pakistani Establishment which thinks that all of Pakistan's problems are image problems.

In "A Matter of Honour", a history of the British Indian Army, Philip Mason touches upon the internal and external sense of honour that motivated the soldiers, and kept them going when things got tough. The modern Pakistani Establishment has lost all sense of internal honor. Honor which consists purely of what others might think of you simply promotes hypocrisy.

This concern with image and nothing else is why the Dictator General Musharraf accused Pakistani women of crying rape in order to get Canadian visas. (More accurately, they get themselves raped for this purpose. Namely
You must understand the environment in Pakistan. This has become a moneymaking concern. A lot of people say if you want to go abroad and get a visa for Canada or citizenship and be a millionaire, get yourself raped.

6. Islam minus the theologians is a revolutionary faith. Islam is not opposed to learning and reason. I might agree with him, but I haven't witnessed Islam without the theologians. For instance, any objective person, who read the Quran and the Hadith, would agree that there is nothing like a theory of government in these works. If I were a true believer, I would believe that this means that Allah has not bound me to any particular form of government, I am free to choose. It is the entire weight of tradition that would pronounce me an apostate, for such an idea, however, and demand my life in payment.

As Leila Ahmed notes ("Women and Gender in Islam"):
Interpretation is of necessity part of every act of reading or inscribing a text....The role of interpretation in the preservation and inscription of the Quran is, however, suppressed in orthodox doctrine, and the belief that the text is precisely as Muhammad recited it is itself a tenet of orthodox faith. Similarly, to question whether the body of consecrated Islamic law does in fact represent the only possible legal interpretation of the Islamic vision
is surrounded by awesome interdictions. That its central texts do embody acts of interpretation is precisely what orthodoxy is most concerned to conceal and erase from the consciousness of Muslims.

So far I'd say, if this were a game, is theologians, 100, Muslims 0. "Awesome interdictions" is an understatement. Islam may be revolutionary, but is not revolutionary enough to shed its theologians.

7. Al Qaeda strives to achieve a response to the excesses and double standards of American foreign policy in relation to the world of Islam; we can quibble about the appropriateness of their tactics, so says Ayaz Amir. The problem, which Ayaz Amir fails to acknowledge, that the means and the ends are not separable. The wrong means does taint and pervert the end. Ultimately, Americans are responsible for what they do, and Al Qaeda is responsible for what it does, and "you made me do it" is a child's excuse. (Yes, that applies to you too, President Bush!).

8. Finally, a Pakistan-watcher suggested to me that Musharraf trashed Ayaz Amir in some news conference, Ayaz Amir being part of the opposition, and this Taliban-admiration is part of Ayaz Amir's positioning himself for the next political battle (I hesitate to call it elections.) I.e., one cannot be sure of whether Ayaz Amir means all that he says.