As I begin to write (this blog post), I am finding it hard to write. I am finding it hard to write not because I don’t have a concrete idea in my mind or words to express my thoughts. I am finding it hard to write primarily because what has happened is extremely difficult, if not utterly impossible, to express through words. It is difficult to write about the horrific attack in Peshawar on December 16, 2014 which claimed the lives of more than 140 schoolchildren and injured countless others. Like any liberal humanist, I condemn this cowardly act in the strongest of terms. Unfortunately, I don’t think I have words strong enough to truly condemn the attack.
Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has accepted responsibility of this attack. TTP is an umbrella organization of various militant groups maintaining a heavy presence in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan. One of main objectives of TTP, according to CTC Sentinel, is to ‘enforce Sharia, unite against NATO forces in Afghanistan and perform “defensive jihad against the Pakistan army.”’
Whereas this particular attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar appears to be more politically motivated (as a retaliation against Operation Zarb-e-Azb) than religiously driven, religion does appear as one of the driving forces of TTP. Islam is, after all, a core component of TTP’s ideology and the influence of Islam, on TTP’s decision making, cannot be completely ignored.
For example, Maulana Fazallulah a.ka. Radio Mullah, who served as a leader of TTP, opposed the vaccination against polio on the grounds that it was “a conspiracy of the Jews and Christians to stunt the population growth of Muslims.”
Also, before becoming the emir of the TTP, Radio Mullah was the leader of Tehreek-e-Nafaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (TNSM), which is a militant organization aiming to enforce Sharia Law in Pakistan. According to South Asia Terrorism Portal, the ex-leader of TNSM, Maulana Sufi Mohammed, said in an August 1998-speech that “those opposing the imposition of Sharia in Pakistan were wajib-ul-qatl (worthy of death).”
It is more than evident that individuals like Mullah Radio and Sufi Mohammad want to impose a very extreme interpretation of Islam, by hook or by crook, in Pakistan.
Incidents like these make me feel ashamed as a citizen of Pakistan and makes me question certain aspects of Islam even more. Peaceful Muslims all over the world, whether orthodox or progressive, strongly oppose the violence of TTP. Yet no Muslim seems interested in questioning the fundamental tenets of Islam, which, at the end of the day, had some role to play in the development of TTP’s ideology.
Islam, unfortunately, has certain characteristics that make it an ideal ideology for those who wish to engage in a violent conflict against the prevalent system of the world. According to my understanding, there are two fundamental beliefs about Islam that almost immediately transform it into an extreme ideology. The two beliefs are:
The combination of these two beliefs, in my opinion, naturally leads to the development of the Sharia Law and motivates Muslims to fight a Jihad against those who oppose the Sharia Law.
As I have been arguing in many of my previous blog entries, one needs to question the very basic beliefs of Islam before one can proceed ahead. I can never consider Islam as a complete way of life if I cannot accept the existence of metaphysical entities such as Allah, angels and Satan.
Pakistan, as an off-shoot of the Indian subcontinent, has had a rich history of Sufism, which is the mystical side of Islam. Love, peace and tolerance have always been an integral part of Sufism. Unfortunately, and much to the chagrin of the Sufis and the seculars, the rise of religious extremism in Pakistan is reaching unprecedented levels.
Whatever maybe the political scenario, terrorism is terrorism and cannot be simply tolerated. In times like these, the Sufis and the seculars need to unite to face Islamic fundamentalism head on. A critical analysis of Islam is well overdue. Therefore, in my opinion, a partial solution to the growing religiosity in Pakistan is to undertake the Iqbalian project of reconstructing the religious thought in Islam. Realistically speaking, I doubt if such an undertaking will succeed in Pakistan. However, this Jihad, in the land of reason through the power of pen, has to be one of the counter measures against the Jihad of the sword.