Muslim Islamophobia

In Pakistan, it is hatred of an imposed order, part of the Islamisation of the state.

Written by Khaled Ahmed | Published:November 12, 2016 12:15 am
Islam, Islamophobia, Islam-West, Islamophobia-Indian Express, Indian express editorial, Indian express edit In the West, Islamophobia is characterised by hatred of an alien faith practised by émigré communities. (AP Photo)

Indian teacher Dr Mohammed Ayoob, professor emeritus of international relations, Michigan State University, recently wrote that neither violent jihadism nor sectarian conflict was responsible for the crisis of the Muslim state in the Middle East. He debunked the view that “doctrinal precepts of Islam” were sources of the current turbulence within Muslim societies today.

His own verdict: “State failure induced by foreign intervention lies at the basis of the mayhem and anarchy we now see in the Arab world. ISIS and the sectarian militia are but secondary forces that have taken advantage of the decimation of state structures in the Arab world thanks largely to foreign intervention for reasons mostly unrelated to the human rights of the Arab peoples…”

Anarchy was induced in Iraq by America attacking it in 2003 without a UN mandate, but Pakistan was no such victim. After its birth in 1947 it wanted to be a democracy but in 1949 it decided to become an Islamic state too. It thought there was no contradiction between democracy and Islam despite the fact that the clergy led by Maulana Maududi kept warning the Hindus and Christians that they would be rent-paying zimmis under Islam. In 2016, Pakistan has madrassas manned by non-state actors more powerful than the state, purveying the same message.

America’s Chicago-based political philosophers didn’t have a clue. Democracy is no panacea if it curtails liberty, maltreats the minorities with the assent of the majority population and punishes freedom of thought. Generally speaking, the monarchies and principalities in the Arab world have more features associated with a democratic society than the so-called republics. If elections were the only requirement, Iran would top the list of democracies, but it has no opposition and its footballers can’t keep long hair just like the Taliban couldn’t shave. If Hindutva spreads in India, it will be just like Iran and Pakistan.

Similarly, Islamophobia is supposed to be felt by non-Muslims in the western world, not by Muslims. But the fact is that Islamophobia is felt by Muslims forced to live in an aspiring pre-modern state. What grew in Pakistan after the arrival of al Qaeda and its Pakistani and foreign ancillaries, was fear of an order already mandated by the state. In terms of its purity, what the terrorists championed was a superior brand of Islam, complete with Islamic punishments that Pakistan’s post-colonial infrastructure of justice was not able to award.

In the areas where the Taliban and al Qaeda were allowed to put down their Islamic system, intimidation became the most effective instrument of domination. It was supported by the madrassa network of Pakistan, which had never accepted the “half-hearted” constitution of Pakistan. The population, allowed to live under the governance of the Taliban in the Tribal Areas and administrative territories close to the Tribal Areas, obeyed the new order because of this Islamophobia. It had all the corollaries of fear as anywhere else in the world. There was obedience, but also empowerment in joining the tormentors. How is this fear and secret loathing different from the Islamophobia in the West?

In the West, Islamophobia is characterised by hatred of an alien faith practised by émigré communities. In Pakistan, it is hatred of an imposed order which is a part of the Islamisation of the state. It is spread by foreign al Qaeda ancillaries, by local Taliban and their acquiescing seminaries, using coercion and violence. Because of the outreach of the terrorists in the cities, fear and loathing is felt by the urban liberal communities who are then forced to either keep quiet or tolerate the terrorist ideology.

In the West, Islamophobia is inspired by local prejudice, the conduct of expatriate Muslims, and media coverage of increased violence in the Muslim world. In Pakistan, Islamophobia is inspired by the real and present danger from pious target-killers and suicide-bombers. Taliban warriors spent hours in a school in Peshawar systematically killing 140 children in 2015. After the massacre they quoted from hadith saying Prophet Muhammad PBUH had done the same sort of thing to a Jewish tribe called Banu Qurayza. The Islamophobia they inspire can’t be compared to people living in the West simply because the westerners are better protected. Their states don’t subscribe to the same faith as that of the pious Muslim killers.

The writer is consulting editor, ‘Newsweek’ Pakistan