Sunday, August 22, 2010

A different framing of the India-Pakistan situation

Preface: The idea below needs a lot of special pleading to save it.  Nevertheless, it is, IMO, interesting speculation.  Also, the last excerpt is of interest in the "Ground Zero" mosque controversy.
In today's New York Times, Thomas Friedman comes up with a new theory of the 9/11 attack.
...the roots of 9/11 are an intra-Muslim fight, which America, as an ally of one faction, got pulled into. There are at least three different intra-Muslim wars raging today. One is between the Sunni far right and the Sunni far-far right in Saudi Arabia. This was the war between Osama bin Laden (the far-far right) and the Saudi ruling family (the far right)..... In Iraq, you have the pure Sunni- versus-Shiite struggle. And in Pakistan, you have the fundamentalist Sunnis versus everyone else: Shiites, Ahmadis and Sufis........

In short: the key struggle with Islam is not inter-communal, and certainly not between Americans and Muslims. It is intra-communal and going on across the Muslim world.
Let us take this a step further, then. For argument's sake, let us take it that Jinnah, if not his All-India Muslim League, wanted a secular, democratic state for whatever Muslims of British India that he could include (and that all the "Islam in danger", "Muslims facing annihilation" was merely rhetoric);  and we take it that he wanted a such a state separate from Hindus because of reasons such as:

I reiterate most emphatically that Pakistan was made possible because of the danger of complete annihilation of human soul in a society based on caste. [Jinnah - speech at Chittagong on 26th March, 1948]
Moreover, we are told Jinnah thought that relations between the two states carved out of British India would be friendly.

The earliest schism in the new state of Pakistan was between the (barely present) "secularists" and the "fundamentalists" (scare quotes because scratch a secularist and you find a fundamentalist) came with the passage of the Objectives Resolution,  March 7, 1949, which is at the root of all the future mess in Pakistan.  The whole link is worth reading, I'll provide an excerpt below.

Note in passing that Jinnah was badly mistaken in the "caste" Hindus' ability to run a secular democracy, and was mistaken in his hope that relations between the Two Nations carved out of British India would be friendly.

But returning to Friedman's theme, if we take this view of Jinnah, then India too is caught in a intra-communal Muslim conflict.   Pakistan's relations with India are not friendly primarily because India is the convenient external bogey in the "fundamentalist Sunni versus everyone else" struggle in Pakistan.

(There are many reasons that this is wrong; there is a deep-rooted Pakjabi (Pakistani Punjabi) antipathy to India, that would manifest itself even in the absence of intra-communal strife in Pakistan.}

In his elucidation of the implications of the Objectives Resolution in terms of the distribution of power between God and the people, Omar Hayat Malik argued: "The principles of Islam and the laws of Islam as laid down in the Quran are binding on the State. The people or the state cannot change these principles or these laws...but there is a vast field besides these principles and laws in which people will have free might be called by the name of 'theo-cracy', that is democracy limited by word of God, but as the word 'theo' is not in vogue so we call it by the name of Islamic democracy. [17] 

Ishtiaq Hussain Qureshi further elaborated the concept of Islamic democracy: Since Islam admits of no priest craft, and since the dictionary meaning of the term "secular" is non-monastic -- that is, "anything which is not dependent upon the sweet will of the priests," Islamic democracy, far from being theocracy, could in a sense be characterized as being "secular." [18] However, he believed that if the word "secular" means that the ideals of Islam, that the fundamental principles of religion, that the ethical outlook which religion inculcates in our people should not be observed, then, I am afraid,...that kind of secular democracy can never be acceptable to us in Pakistan.[19] 

During the heated debate, Liaquat Ali Khan stressed: the Muslim League has only fulfilled half of its mission (and that) the other half of its mission is to convert Pakistan into a laboratory where we could experiment upon the principles of Islam to enable us to make a contribution to the peace and progress of mankind.[20] He was hopeful that even if the body of the constitution had to be mounted in the chassis of Islam, the vehicle would go in the direction he had already chosen. Thus he seemed quite sure that Islam was on the side of democracy. "As a matter of fact it has been recognized by non-Muslims throughout the world that Islam is the only society where there is real democracy." [21] In this approach he was supported by Maulana Shabbir Ahmad Usmani: " The Islamic state is the first political institution in the world which stood against imperialism, enunciated the principle of referendum and installed a Caliph (head of State) elected by the people in place of the king." [22]

IMO, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf of the Park51/Ground Zero mosque fame subscribes to this idea of "democracy limited by the word of God" even if not in those exact words.  He also subscribes to this notion of Islamic democracy, where the democracy observes the ethical outlook that religion inculcates in the people.