General Pervez Musharraf won widespread praise for his speech of January 12, attacking Pakistan’s Islamic institutions, not only from the West but from other established enemies of Islam such as Indian home affairs minister L. K. Advani and Israeli foreign minister Shimon Peres. When one’s enemies begin to praise one, it is time to step back and take stock; one could hardly find a more virulently anti-Muslim pair in the world today. Musharraf’s speech was preceded by an astonishing statement from senator Joe Leiberman, who, after meeting Musharraf in Islamabad on January 9, said that the general would announce certain measures that would please India. It seems that Pakistani rulers have now assumed responsibility for pleasing India as well.
Musharraf claimed to have done this not under pressure but for the sake of the “national interest.” This strange animal is resurrected whenever rulers need to camouflage a volte face on any important issue, or when surrendering to the enemy. But one must ask: what nation and whose interests? Arresting hundreds of members of organizations which have been involved in supporting the struggle in Kashmir hardly seems like serving the “national interest” unless the aim is to abandon the Kashmiris to India. Has the 700,000-strong Indian army of occupation stopped its campaign of murder and rape in Kashmir which it has been conducting for the last 12 years?
First, however, let us deal with some inaccuracies in Musharraf’s speech. Berating the poor state of madrassas in Pakistan, he asked why they no longer produce scholars like al-Biruni, Ibn-e Sina and Ibn-Khaldun. Dr Muzaffar Iqbal of the Centre for Islam and Science pointed out in a column in the Islamabad daily The News on January 18 that the three Muslim scholars whom Musharraf had mentioned had acquired their education not in a madrassa but at the feet of private tutors. Dr Iqbal further reminds us that traditionally the madrassas have confined their curriculum to the teaching of Qur’an, Hadith and Fiqh, not dabbling in subjects such as mathematics, science and English, which are left to other types of institution.
Let us, however, take the general at his word. He wants to reform the madrassa system in Pakistan. This is commendable, but are the madrassas the only institutions that need fixing? Pakistan has been reduced to penury not by the antics of the maulvis, but by the western-educated secularists who have neither any ideological commitment nor the stomach to make sacrifices. True, the maulvi can be excruciatingly awkward at times, the more so in Pakistan (where narrow-mindedness has been turned into a profession), but that is by no means all that ails Pakistan.
One could ask why the military establishment in Pakistan has not produced fighters and commanders like Imam Ali, Saif-Allah Khalid ibn Walid, Muhammad bin Qasim Thaqafi and Tariq ibn Ziyad (may Allah be pleased with them and have mercy on them). True, none of these illustrious men went to any academy to earn their stripes, but that is precisely the point. Let us look at what great figures the military establishment in Pakistan has thrown up over the years: generals Ayub, Yahya, Tikka, Niazi, Mitha et al. Niazi surrendered as soon as it became clear that Chinese and American help was not forthcoming; Yahya had no time to spare from the bottle and a bevy of ladies. A more incompetent lot could not be found anywhere for trying, and all this at the price of more than 60 percent of Pakistan’s annual budget. What percentage of the country’s budget goes to support the madrassas in Pakistan? When we berate the poor standard of the madrassasand the maulvis, it is important to keep these things in perspective.
A more realistic comparison would be between the madrassa and the government-run school system. While one cannot argue against reforming the madrassas, it is disingenuous to hold the maulvi to account for every conceivable problem facing the country. The mujahideen produced by the madrassas were not mercenaries, despite their misplaced zeal and often wrongheaded approach; they were inspired by dedication to their cause. What has the army of Pakistan achieved in its entire history, apart from conquering its own hapless people and being rented out to do America’s dirty work around the world?
There is, something much more serious about Musharraf’s stated objectives. By moving against the madrassas at the behest of the US and India, he has in fact served notice that it is no longer permissible for Pakistan’s people to seek inspiration from Islam. Let us admit that narrowmindedness is indeed bred in some madrassas, but this is not confined to the madrassas alone. Pakistan suffers from many other ills: sectarianism, provincialism, ethnicity, tribalism, landlordism, the rich-poor divide as well as divisions of language, baradari and so on. Add to all that frequent conquests of the country by the army, who proceed to add to the mess left by former civilian rulers, and one begins to realise the magnitude of the problem.
Musharraf also made no bones about declaring that religion and politics are separate in Islam; one can only wonder where he got this idea from. It is certainly not in the Qur’an, nor anywhere in the Hadith literature. In fact both the Qur’an and the Prophet’s Seerah make it absolutely clear that in Islam there is no separation between ‘religion’ and ‘state’. This is a western concept that emerged after the terrible suffering inflicted by the Church upon the people of Europe. In Islam there is no such dichotomy: both classical and contemporary Islamic literature are agreed on this point. Musharraf concluded his speech with a couplet from Allama Iqbal about the individual being part of the millat (Ummah), but he ignored a much more interesting line of the poet-philosopher: “Juda ho deen siyasat sae to reh jati hae changezi”: ‘when deen is separated from politics, only militarist barbarism is left’. How appropriate.
Musharraf’s assault on the madrassas is part of a larger attack on the very foundations of Islamic governance. Pakistan has never been an Islamic state except in name, but this is the first time that a ruler of Pakistan has denounced Islam in such strong terms. This is part of the West’s agenda: anything to do with Islam must be crushed, because the west sees Islam as the only challenge to its complete domination of the world. Indeed, Islam alone can provide the inspiration that leads to great deeds despite overwhelming odds. The humiliating defeat of the zionist invaders by the Hizbullah in Lebanon and the Chechens’ heroic resistance against the Russian invaders are examples from recent history. There is nothing comparable that any Muslim army can show, except perhaps in Islamic Iran, where, once an Islamic government had been established under a muttaqi leadership, the army that had been fighting its own people during the Shah’s regime was turned around and made into an Islamic fighting force.
Musharraf has not only betrayed his secular allegiance, but has also dealt a severe blow to the struggle in Kashmir. In 12 years more than 80,000 people have given their lives to overthrow the yoke of Brahmin imperialism. Now Musharraf has announced that jihad is no longer relevant. Mirza Ghulam Ahmed Qadiani made a similar declaration. Both India and the US are bullies and, like all bullies, they demand more once they see their victim is giving in because it is too weak to resist. The only way to deal with bullies is to stand up to them. Standing up, however, requires a clear understanding of one’s own values, underpinned by the support of the people. Confused thinking and alienation from the masses is a recipe for disaster.