There is no shortage of people willing to serve foreign masters. Salina Khan looks at the theatrics of a self-styled Shaikhul Islam.
I-Spy-Tahir-Qadri became a popular car game during our stay in Pakistan last month when posters of the Islamic scholar suddenly cropped up all over the city of Lahore.
“There he is!” my daughters, who’d seen him plenty lecturing on TV at my parents’ place, would cry out after spotting one of the thousands of banners tacked behind rikshaws, plastered on billboards or hung from walls to announce the return of Qadri, a lawyer, politician and scholar. He had hitherto been in self-imposed exile in Canada for seven years after receiving “death threats” from terrorists who he had condemned.
Qadri is the latest religious figure to enter the political scene in the Muslim world ahead of elections. Like their compatriots in other countries, the Pakistani people are awakening to a newfound desire for self-determination, with many turning to Islam anew to help create a peaceful and just society, one finally free from Western control and its accompanying government tyranny and corruption, rampant poverty, out-of-control terrorism and shortages in public utilities, such as gas, electricity, and water.
But, Muslims, beware: What you see is not always what you get!
The fact is, imperialists who have been making fat profits from the natural and labor resources of Muslim lands for centuries are not going to go away that easy. In fact, they are two steps ahead.
Aware for years of renewed interest in the political dimensions of Islam (victories of the Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979, the Islamic Salvation Front in Algerian elections in 1991 and Hamas at the polls in Palestine in 2006), imperialist countries like the United States have been cultivating relationships around the globe with “moderate Muslims” (to replace the historic role of dictators) as those who “advance US interests and values abroad,” according to the 2007 Rand report entitled Building Moderate Muslim Networks. Indeed, moderates have risen to prominence in countries like Turkey, Malaysia, Egypt and now Pakistan.
Allah (swt) says in the noble Qur’an, “These are the people who buy the life of this world at the price of the Hereafter: their penalty shall not be lightened nor shall they be helped” (2:86).
“The problem with us Muslims is we are so emotional when it comes to the name [of] Islam, so anyone, any party that has Islam in it, it’s like ma sha’allah, we have to go with it,” observed Hesham Tallawi, TV host of Current Issues, last month. “No, some people are using the name [of] Islam because it sells… in many Arab and Muslim countries.”
These “moderate Muslims” are being plucked from academia, clergy, community activist circles, women’s groups and the journalism profession. After “ensuring that their activities converge with long-term US strategic goals,” they are funded and channeled into leadership positions in Muslim countries to help sustain imperialism, capitalism and globalization through the spread of “liberal Western democracy.” They must espouse nonsectarian legal codes and modern interpretations of women’s rights while at the same time demonstrate “opposition to concepts of the Islamic state” in the form implemented in Iran, the report says.
“I am not in favor of a theocracy,” Qadri, who is founder of the international NGO Minhaj-ul-Quran and supported a military coup by Pakistan’s General Pervez Musharraf in 1999, told a reporter from Britain’s Channel 4 News on January 16. “I am in favor of democracy and constitutionalism.”
While Qadri's sudden and well-funded catapult into Pakistan’s political arena (much like previous Western-backed velvet or color revolutions around the world) sends alarm bells ringing, his repeated praise of European “democracies” during his long march and his reluctance to criticize the decades-long US role in the destabilization of Pakistan (no mention of historical Western support and funding of extremist groups now terrorizing Pakistan in his 450-page Fatwa on Terrorism and Suicide Bombings) is telling.
This is what he was quoted as saying in the New York Times during his march on Islamabad, “I can’t say that Pakistan will become America or Canada in a couple of years. But we want a reflection of America, to put the process on track.”
Muslims struggling for Islamic self-determination must be careful of dubious characters in religious trappings, as history shows such figures have duped Muslims in the past, misleading them just as they approached the mouth of victory. During the Battle of Siffin, Imam ‘Ali nearly defeated the army of Mu‘awiyah until the latter’s soldiers hoisted copies of the Qur’an on their spears as a last resort. When ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Abbas saw this, he commented: “The battle is over; the treachery has begun.”
Thank God, Qadri wasn’t the only scholar who stole the limelight last month. A peaceful, indigenous movement for social justice under the banner of Islam (and not “democracy”) emerged on the global political scene from within Pakistan under the leadership of a lesser-known scholar by the name of Raja Nasir Abbas. He grabbed the hearts and minds of people all over the world when he refused to bury the bodies of nearly 100 people — martyred in January’s bombings in the city of Quetta — as a protest against the continued terrorism and targeted killings of Shi‘is in Pakistan.
This “Lion of Pakistan,” as he is now affectionately being called, organized a sit-in (duplicated in cities around the world in sympathy and support) to demand that incompetent government officials be fired and security promised. Balochistan’s provincial government was dismissed on January 14.
On January 17, Qadri called off his protests after the federal government agreed to give his movement a say in appointing a caretaker prime minister ahead of elections later this year. The settlement did not, however, force the immediate resignation of the thoroughly corrupt President Asif Ali Zardari and his officials. Instead, Qadri and Zardari’s Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira embraced in front of the crowd and declared the agreement “a victory for democracy.”
Indeed, as Pakistani poet Allama Iqbal wrote:
Ajab teri siyasat, Ajab tera nizaam (Strange is your politics, odd is your system),
Hussain say bhee marasim, Yazeed ko bhee salaam (Having relations with Hussain, while giving salutations to Yazeed).