The Naimisha Journal
Only in Their Dreams by Charles Krauthhammer
Pipedreams and Daydreams by Irfan Husain
The New Wahabi Movement by Sue Lackey
Where Did the Taliban Come From? — A Report
Victory Shifts the Muslim World by Daniel Pipes
Nurturing Young Islamic Hearts and Hates by Rick Bragg
This Is A War That Dare Not Speak Its Name by David Selbourne
India Paying for Its Soft Response to Terrorism by Brahma Chellaney
Are We A Soft State? By Vir Sanghvi
Pakistan's Jihad Factories by Ben Barber
The World View of the Expat Pakistani by Khaled Ahmed
What the Muslim World Is Watching by Foujad Ajami
The Pentagon after the attack on September 11
Time, Monday, Dec. 24, 2001
The following column from the
TIME magazine came to our attention because it was the first article in a major
Western publication to acknowledge hatred of non-Muslims as the foundation of
the ideology that drives Islamic terror. One may summarize it by saying:
"Every bully is at heart a coward." India should take this lesson to
heart. In a religious war, which is what terrorism is, victory must be total. It
is a fight to the finish. You cannot afford to reach a compromise after a
partial victory, as the Hindus did umpteen times, beginning with Prithviraj
Chauhan, last repeated in 1972 after the Bangladesh War.
The author (Krauthammer) recognizes the basic fact of religious belligerence: the enemy need not have committed any crime; his very existence as a member of different faith is crime enough for which he deserves to be exterminated. This is how Pakistan looks at India and also how Islam looks at Kafirs.
This insight is nothing new, what is new is its open expression in a major Western publication like TIME. Indian scholars like Sita Ram Goel and Ram Swarup -- and more recently, V.S. Naipaul -- have been saying the same thing for years.
Another point: terrorism cannot be treated as a law enforcement problem where legal defense is accorded to the attacker. It must be treated as war. In war, we do not worry about the legal rights of the soldier on the opposite side. We just see him as the enemy to be eliminated. This is how terrorism also needs to be fought-- not through prosecution and court cases where guilt is established "beyond a shadow of doubt." After all, a terrorist, especially a religious warrior, doesn't give us even that chance. We are all guilty by definition.
Religious war IS terrorism.
The text of Mr. Karauthhammer’s article
The West has not fought a serious religious war in 350 years. America is too young to have fought any. Our first reaction, therefore, to the declaration of holy war made upon us on Sept. 11 was to be appalled, impressed and intimidated. Appalled by the primitivism, impressed by the implacability, intimidated by the fanaticism.
Intimidation was pervasive during the initial hand-wringing period. What have we done to inspire such rage? What can we do? Sure, we can strike back, but will that not just make the enemy even more angry and determined and fanatical? How can you defeat an enemy who thinks he's on a mission from God?
How? A hundred days and one war later, we know the answer: B-52s, for starters.
We were from the beginning a little too impressed. There were endless warnings that making war on a Muslim nation would succeed only in recruiting more enraged volunteers for bin Laden, with a flood of fierce mujahedin going to Afghanistan to confront the infidel. Western experts warned that the seething "Arab street" would rise up against us.
Look around. The Arab street is deathly quiet. The mobs, exultant on Sept. 11 and baying for American blood, have gone home. There are no recruits headed to Afghanistan to fight the infidel. The old recruits, battered and beaten and terrified, are desperately trying to sneak their way out of Afghanistan.
The reason is simple. We won. Crushingly.
Astonishingly, destroying a regime 7,000 miles away, landlocked and almost inaccessible, in nine weeks. The logic of victory often eludes the secular West. We have a hard time figuring out an enemy who speaks in religious terms. He seems indestructible. Cut him down, and 10 more will rise in his place. How can you destroy an idea?
This gave rise to the initial soul searching, the magazine covers plaintively asking WHY DO THEY HATE US? The feeling that we might be responsible for the hatred directed against us suggested that we should perhaps seek to assuage and placate. But there is no assuaging those who see your very existence as a denial of the faith and an affront to God. There is no placating those who offer you the choice of conversion or death.
There is only war and victory.
Mullah Omar and bin Laden are animated by a vision. They really do believe --or perhaps did believe-that their destiny was to unite all the Muslim lands from the Pyrenees to the Philippines and re-establish the original caliphate of a millennium ago. Omar took the sacred robe, attributed to Muhammad and locked away for more than 60 years, and
triumphantly donned it in public as if to declare his succession to the Prophet's earthly rule. (Osama harbored similar fantasies about himself, although he fed Omar's, as a form of flattery and enticement.)
Such visions are not new. Omar's and Osama 's are just as expansive, just as eschatological, and yet no more crazy than Hitler's dream of the Thousand -Year Reich or Napoleon's of dominion over all Europe.
The Taliban and al-Qaeda, like Nazi Germany and revolutionary France, represent not just political parties or power seekers; they also represent movements. And a movement
carries with it an idea, an ideology, a vision for the future.
That is where the mad dreamers are vulnerable: the dream can be defeated by reality. [Appeasement reinforces the dream. Editors.] What was left of Nazi ideology with Hitler buried in the rubble of Berlin? What was left of Bonapartism with Napoleon rotting in St. Helena? What was left of Fascism, an idea that swept Europe and entranced a generation, with Mussolini's body hanging upside down, strung up by partisans in 1945?
What is left of the great caliphate today? It is a ruin. Caliph Omar is in hiding; Caliph Osama, on the run.
This is not to say that Islamic fundamentalism is dead. But it has suffered a grievous blow. Its great appeal was not just its revival of a glorious past but also the promise that it was the wave of the future, the inexorable tide that would sweep through not just Arabia but all Islam--and one day the world. That is why Afghanistan is such a turning point. It marks the first great reversal of fortune for radical Islam. For two decades it tasted one victory after another: the Beirut bombings of 1983 that chased America out of Lebanon; "Black Hawk Down" that chased America out of Somalia; the first Afghan war that chased the Soviet Union out of Afghanistan--and led to the collapse of a superpower, no less. These were heady victories, as were the wounds inflicted with impunity on the other superpower: the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center, the 1998 destruction of two U.S. embassies in Africa, the 2000 attack on the U .S .S. Cole. The limp and feckless American reaction to these acts of war -- a token cruise missile here, a showy indictment there, empty threats everywhere- only reinforced the radical Islamic conviction that America was a paper tiger, fat and decadent, leader of a civilization grown weak and cowardly and ripe for defeat.
For the fundamentalist, success has deep religious significance. The logic of the holy warrior is this:
My God is great and omnipotent.
I am a warrior for God.
Therefore victory is mine.
What then happens to the syllogism if he is defeated? To understand, we must enter the mind of primitive fundamentalism. Or, shall we say, re-enter. Our Western biblical texts speak of a time 3,000 years ago when victory in battle was seen as the victory not only of one people over another but also of one god over another. Triumph over the "hosts of Egypt" was of theological importance: it was living proof of the living God--and the powerlessness and thus the falsity of the defeated god.
The secular West no longer thinks in those terms. But radical Islam does. Which is why the Osama tape, reveling in the success of Sept.11, is such an orgy of religious triumphalism: so many dead, so much fame, so much joy, so many new recruits- God is great.
By the same token, with the total collapse of the Taliban, everything has changed. Omar has lost his robe. The Arab street is silent. The joy is gone. And recruitment? The Pakistani mullahs who after Sept. 11 had urged hapless young men to join the Taliban in fighting America and now have to answer to bereaved parents are facing ostracism and disgrace. Al-Qaeda agents roaming the madrasahs of Pakistan and the poorer neighborhoods of the Arab world will have a much harder sell. The syllogism of invincibility that sustained Islamic fanaticism is shattered.
We have just witnessed something new in the modern world: the rollback of Islamic fundamentalism. We have just witnessed the first overthrow of a radical Islamic regime, indeed, the destruction of radical Islam's home base. Yesterday the base was Afghanistan. Today it is a few caves and a few hidden cells throughout the world. Al-Qaeda controls no state, no sovereign territory. It is an outlaw on the run.
Rollback is, of course, a cold war term. For decades our approach to Islamic terrorism was like our approach to communism: containment. Do not invade its territory, but keep it, as Clinton liked to say of Saddam, "in a box." We tried containing al- Qaeda with a few pinprick bombings and an attack on a pharmaceutical factory in Sudan. These were nothing but an evasion, a looking the other way. Sept. 11 proved the folly of that approach. President Bush therefore announced a radically new doctrine. We would no longer contain. We would attack, advance and destroy any government harboring terrorists.
Afghanistan is now the signal example. Just as the Reagan doctrine reversed containment and marked the beginning of the end of the Soviet empire, the Bush doctrine marks the beginning of the rollback of the Islamic terror empire.
Of course, the turning of the tide is not the end of the war. This is the invasion of Normandy; we must still enter Berlin. The terrorists still have part of their infrastructure. They still have their sleeper cells. They can still, if they acquire weapons of mass destruction, inflict unimaginable damage and death. Which is why eradicating the other centers of terrorism is so urgent.
We can now, however, carry on with a confidence we did not have before Afghanistan. Confidence that even religious fanaticism can be defeated, that despite its bravado, it carries no mandate from heaven. The psychological effect of our stunning victory in Afghanistan is already evident. We see the beginning of self-reflection in the Arab press, asking what Arab jihadists are doing exporting their problems to places like Afghanistan and the West; wondering why the Arab world uniquely has not developed a single real democracy; and asking, most fundamentally, how a great religion like Islam could have harbored a malignant strain that would rejoice in the death of 3,000 innocents. It is the kind of questioning that Europeans engaged in after World War II (asking how Fascism and Nazism could have been bred in the bosom of European Christianity) but that was sadly lacking in the Islamic world. Until now.
It is beginning now not because our propaganda is good. Not because al-Jazeera changed its anti-American tune. Not because a wave of remorse spontaneously erupted in places like Saudi Arabia. But because, with our B-52s, our special forces, our smart bombs, our daisy cutters--our power and our will--we scattered the enemy.
What the secular West fails to understand is that in fighting religious fanaticism the issue- for the fanatic—is not grievance but ascendancy. What must be decided is not who is right and wrong- one can never appease the grievances of the religious fanatic -- but whose God is greater. After Afghanistan there can be no doubt.
In the land of jihad, the fall of the Taliban and the flight of al-Qaeda are testimony to the god that failed.
[TOP OF THE PAGE]
Pipedreams and daydreams
Dawn - Pakistani Daily - Saturday 20 October 2001.
Our paranoid preoccupation with conspiracy theories and the boundless capacity Muslims have for self-delusion never cease to amaze me. Had the consequences of these follies not been so tragic, they would have been downright hilarious.
Consider the horrifying events of September 11 as an example: several weeks later, millions of Muslims continue to believe that the Israelis were behind the strikes on New York and Washington. As proof, they assert that 4,000 Jews absented themselves from their workplaces at the Twin Towers on that fateful day.
Reasonably educated and intelligent people have declared this rubbish to me as gospel truth. When I have tried to reason with them, pointing out that there was no way for anybody to determine the faith of those present or absent from the WTC buildings within days of the tragedy, there is never a cogent reply. Indeed, employment records in the United States do not include information about religion.
My interlocutors simply cannot grasp the reality that Israel would be the last country on earth to risk the wrath of the United States, the source of so much of its wealth and power. They argue that Zionists staged this attack to somehow frame Muslims so that the Americans would become their enemies, but are unable to explain what Israel would gain by this. Their clinching argument is that Muslims are simply incapable of planning and carrying out such a complex operation.
Then there is another school of conspiracy theorists that maintains in all seriousness that it was actually the American government that attacked its own cities. The 'reasoning' behind this far-fetched plot is that this would give the Bush administration an excuse to bomb Afghanistan, throw out the Taliban and build a gas pipeline across that country from Turkmenistan to the Arabian Sea.
These crackpot theories, ludicrous though they are, are firmly entrenched in the minds of millions of Muslims. These same people probably also believed the hype about the invincibility of Iraq's Republican Guards and the 'mother of all battles' they were supposed to put up against the American-led coalition in the Gulf War. In the event, they were pulverized by the long bombing campaign that preceded the land assault, and then mercilessly slaughtered in a 'turkey shoot' as they fled from their bunkers and trenches.
Now as American planes blast targets across Afghanistan, the Taliban and their supporters are again falling into the same trap, and boasting that American troops will 'meet the same fate as the Soviets' when they land. No such thing will happen because the Americans will simply not send in a large number of soldiers. Also, the analogy with the Soviet invasion is false as in the latter case, the Mujahideen had a sanctuary in Pakistan, and the financial and diplomatic support of a superpower. The Taliban enjoy none of these advantages, and the firepower the Americans can bring to bear is far superior to the resources the Soviets could muster.
But we blithely ignore such realities, and are disappointed each time a Muslim nation is humiliated by a western power. This disillusionment adds to the bitterness and anger that has built up in the Islamic world towards the West. But in order to compete more effectively with this perceived foe, many orthodox Muslims want to turn the clock back: instead of using the modern tools of reason, logic and science, they seek to return to the imagined purity of early Islam, purging society of all modern influences so that somehow we would regain the supremacy and glory of the all-conquering armies that swept out of the Arabian peninsula fourteen centuries ago.
This romantic daydreaming is fine for a Sunday afternoon after a heavy lunch, but to base the goals of entire societies on it is madness. Unfortunately, this shallow rationale is now prevalent in Muslim countries around the globe. Even educated people have succumbed to this pipedream. In a way, this is a seductively attractive path: instead of having to put in the hard work involved in building a modern, progressive society, how much simpler to just transform ourselves into good Muslims by rigidly following the letter of the holy scriptures. This will ensure God's blessings on the true believers - blessings that have been withheld because we have deviated from the path shown to us by the Almighty.
Unfortunately, as there is no single interpretation of God's revelations and what constitutes the ideal Islamic society, there has been endless conflict among the various schools of thought that divide Muslims. Sunnis and Shias are often at each other's throats; sects are declared 'non-Muslim' for not adhering strictly to a particular dogma; and for centuries, the slaughter among the believers has been far bloodier than war with the infidels.
Weakened by internecine conflict and thus easily colonized by Western powers, most of the Islamic world has been left at the starting blocks in the race for scientific progress and economic prosperity. Rich Arab states have been unable to translate their enormous oil wealth into political power or military might; and when they have, they have mostly used it against their own people or other Muslims. None of them has sought to use their resources in building up their educational systems and their scientific base. As a result, they remain importers of western technology, and send their own children abroad for higher education.
As Muslims see themselves falling further and further behind, and watch impotently as Palestinians and Iraqis are killed and humiliated, their rage against their own rulers and the United States mounts steadily. In a relatively new development, young Muslims born, raised and educated in the West are being radicalized into taking up arms for Muslim causes. And as the United States is perceived as the source of so much angst and suffering in the Muslim world, there is every possibility that these home-grown young militants will launch the next wave of attacks.
In this low-intensity war without end, there will be no victors and no losers, only hostages to hatred and suspicion on both sides. Unfortunately, there is no indication that either side will change policies and attitudes any time soon. Among fundamentalist Muslims, rationality and a scientific approach are anathema as they would be marginalized and dogma would be questioned in a modern dispensation. But until Islam has its own Reformation, Muslims will continue to wallow in the past while ostrich-like, they keep their heads firmly in the sand.
[TOP OF THE PAGE]
The 'New Wahabi' movement
By Sue Lackey, MSNBC
|Increasingly, Saudi-funded sect viewed as central to U.S. war on terrorism|
Muslims watch as anti-American demonstrators chant slogans supporting
Osama bin Laden in the Lebanese town of Tripoli last Friday.
BEIRUT, Lebanon, Oct. 17 — In a middle-class neighborhood in West Beirut near the squalor of the Shatila refugee camp, Palestinians live side by side with Shiite Muslims who fled the Israeli occupation in southern Lebanon. Graffiti and banners reflect the local sympathy for the “martyrs” of their respective causes: the fight for a Palestinian homeland and the Shiite Hezbollah movement, considered a terrorist group by the U.S. government. Nestled among these militant groups, however, are religious schools that U.S. intelligence officials regard as far more dangerous. They are the madrassas of the Saudi-funded Wahhabi sect, part of a worldwide network of Muslim extremists that now figures at the center of the Sept. 11 attacks.
THIS NEIGHBORHOOD and several others like it, puritanical Wahhabi schools
indoctrinate young men in radical militancy. Between the ages of 7 and 15,
they are taught the fundamentals of strict Islam and religious
obligations. Between the ages of 15 and 25, these young men are trained to
fight and prepared for the jihad, or holy war — in this case conquest of
Wahhabi Islam. The students they are charged with fulfilling missions
related to the jihad.
It is important to stress that not all of the young men who attend
Wahhabi schools will turn to violence. A number will go on to become
religion teachers themselves.
the past 10 years, Saudi Arabia, either directly or indirectly through
non-governmental organizations, has financed all of the Wahhabi movements
in the region, says one prominent Islamic scholar in Lebanon.
Since then, other clerics inside and
outside the country have added their voices, in effect ex-communicating
Saudi Arabia’s ruling family for aiding the U.S.-led attacks on
Afghanistan, which is ruled by the Taliban and has been a refuge for bin
For their part, the United States and Britain, which saved the Saudi kingdom from almost certain conquest by Iraq in 1990-91, are furious at the emerging evidence that Saudi money bankrolled the killers of 6,000 or more Americans on Sept. 11.
Now, bin Laden has remade the Wahhabi movement in his own image. First and foremost, bin Laden would like to see New Wahhabism overthrow the Saudi government, which he denounces for corruption and for allowing U.S. soldiers to be based on Saudi soil following the Persian Gulf War.
The West and Arab governments such as Saudi Arabia’s are not the only targets of the New Wahhabism. This harsh fundamentalist view of Islam sees all who do not adhere to its beliefs as infidels, even moderate Sunni Muslims and Shiites, who form the majority in Iran and Lebanon and substantial minorities in other Arab countries. Also beyond the pale to these puritans, of course, are members of any other religion.
Many Islamic scholars who disagree with these views see bin Laden’s call for a holy war against America as a distraction from his larger intentions. In reality, they say, the Wahhabis’ personal and organizational beliefs ultimately will force a war within Islam, as well.
“There is hatred between Wahhabism and Shiaism,” says an Arab expert on fundamentalism. “This is very crucial. They consider that everyone has deviated.”
The repressive nature of many Arab regimes has provided fertile ground for this ideology, particularly among poorer and less educated people who have no access to the window that the Internet or satellite television provides to the outside world. Where many governments have been unable or unwilling to provide social services, Islamic associations, including Wahhabi groups, have stepped in, fostering loyalty to Islam instead of a state. To keep social unrest at bay, many regimes, from Egypt to Saudi Arabia to Pakistan, encourage demonization of Israel and the West.
WHO WILL WIN?
Fundamentalism, with its abhorrence of modernity, ensures that the poor and illiterate will receive one narrow view of world events. “Bin Laden has recruited without a physical presence in the street,” says one Arab expert on fundamentalism. “Why? Because whether you like it or not, the average citizen in this part of the world is perceiving what’s happening as a clash of civilizations, despite the emphasis of the United States and Europe.”
The United States may destroy the Taliban with its airstrikes, but this expert says that the Wahhabis will win out in the end because they are disciplined and have the money and recruiting system to build their following.
“The [other Islamic factions] fight the Wahhabis as an independent movement, they think they are backwards. But finally they are going to give up and become Wahhabis. The money is coming from the Wahhabis; it’s as simple as that.”
Victory Shifts the Muslim World
by Daniel Pipes
New York Post
November 19, 2001
Early on Nov. 9, the Taliban regime ruled almost 95 percent of Afghanistan. Ten days later, it controlled just 15 percent of the country. Key to this quick disintegration was the fact that, awed by American air power, many Taliban soldiers switched sides to the U.S.-backed Northern Alliance.
According to one analyst, "Defections, even in mid-battle, are proving key to the rapid collapse across Afghanistan of the formerly ruling Taliban militia."
This development fits into a larger pattern; thanks to American muscle, Afghans now look at militant Islam as a losing proposition. Nor are they alone; Muslims around the world sense the same shift.
If militant Islam achieved its greatest victory ever on Sept. 11, by Nov. 9 (when the Taliban lost their first major city) the demise of this murderous movement may have begun.
"Pakistani holy warriors are deserting Taliban ranks and streaming home in large numbers," reported The Associated Press on Friday. In the streets of Peshawar, we learn, "portraits of Osama bin Laden go unsold. Here where it counts, just across the Khyber Pass from the heartland of Afghanistan, the Taliban mystique is waning."
Just a few weeks ago, large crowds of militant Islamic men filled Peshawar's narrow streets, especially on Fridays, listening to vitriolic attacks on the United States and Israel, burning effigies of President Bush, and perhaps clashing with the riot police. This last Friday, however, things went very differently in Peshawar.
Much smaller and quieter crowds heard more sober speeches. No effigy was set on fire and one observer described the few policemen as looking like "a bunch of old friends on an afternoon stroll."
The Arabic-speaking countries show a similar trend. Martin Indyk, former U.S. ambassador to Israel, notes that in the first week after the U.S. airstrikes began on Oct. 7, nine anti-American demonstrations took place. The second week saw three of them, the third week one, the fourth week, two. "Then - nothing," observes Indyk. "The Arab street is quiet."
And so too in the further reaches of the Muslim world - Indonesia, India, Nigeria - where the supercharged protests of September are distant memories.
American military success has also encouraged the authorities to crack down. In China, the government prohibited the selling of badges celebrating Osama bin Laden ("I am bin Laden. Who should I fear?") only after the U.S. victories began.
Similarly, the effective ruler of Saudi Arabia admonished religious leaders to be careful and responsible in their statements ("weigh each word before saying it") after he saw that Washington meant business. Likewise, the Egyptian government has moved more aggressively against its militant Islamic elements.
This change in mood results from the change in American behavior.
For two decades - since Ayatollah Khomeini reached power in Iran in 1979 spouting "Death to America" - U.S. embassies, planes, ships, and barracks have been assaulted, leading to hundreds of American deaths. In the face of this, Washington hardly responded.
And, as Muslims watched militant Islam inflict one defeat after another on the far more powerful United States, they increasingly concluded that America, for all its resources, was tired and soft. They watched with awe as the audacity of militant Islam increased, culminating with Osama bin Laden's declaration of jihad against the entire Western world and the Taliban leader calling for nothing less than the "extinction of America."
The Sept. 11 attacks were expected to take a major step toward extinguishing America by demoralizing the population and leading to civil unrest, perhaps starting a sequence of events that would lead to the U.S. government's collapse.
Instead, the more than 4,000 deaths served as a rousing call to arms. Just two months later, the deployment of U.S. might has reduced the prospects of militant Islam.
The pattern is clear: So long as Americans submitted passively to murderous attacks by militant Islam, this movement gained support among Muslims. When Americans finally fought militant Islam, its appeal quickly diminished.
Victory on the battlefield, in other words, has not only the obvious advantage of protecting the United States but also the important side-effect of lancing the anti-American boil that spawned those attacks in the first place.
The implication is clear: There is no substitute for victory. The U.S. government must continue the war on terror by weakening militant Islam everywhere it exists, from Afghanistan to Atlanta.
[TOP OF THE PAGE]
PESHAWAR, Pakistan, Oct. 13 — A thousand years ago, in the days of the camel caravans, storytellers gathered here in the tea shops and brought the outside world and all its thoughts and ideas to the bazaar. As the vendors hawked silk, spice and rich tapestries and traders herded beasts through streets thick with smoke from cooking fires, travelers from distant lands and differing religions told stories about moguls, magic, wit and wisdom. In time, the bazaar came to be known as Qissa Khwani — the Bazaar of the Storytellers.
Now, the streets are still choked with donkey carts, and meat still sizzles on open pits, but the vendors are poor men selling simple things. Blaring car horns drown out all other sound, just as the teachers and students in the Islamic seminaries that surround this bazaar have drowned out all conflicting ideas, all unacceptable thoughts.
The storytellers no longer come. There is just one story now, at least one acceptable story. It is the one taught in the seminaries, called madrassas, that have become incubators in Pakistan for the holy warriors who say they will die to defend Islam and their hero, Osama bin Laden, from the infidels. In many of the 7,500 madrassas in Pakistan, inside a student body of 750,000 to a million, students learn to recite and obey Islamic law, and to distrust and even hate the United States.
"Jihad," shouted a little boy, from a high window in a madrassa just steps from the Khwani Bazaar. He grinned and waved as foreign journalists snapped his photograph, but, on the streets below, older students had massed for demonstrations that would end in clouds of tear gas and smoke from burning tires, as young men jumped through fire to prove their faith and ferocity.
President Bush and diplomats from the West have taken great pains to point out that the war on Mr. bin Laden and the Taliban of Afghanistan is not a war on Islam, but in many madrassas here in Pakistan — especially those near the border with Afghanistan — militant Muslims lecture students that the United States is a nation of Christians and Jews who are not after a single terrorist or government but are bent on the worldwide annihilation of Islam.
The madrassas' sword is in the narrow education they offer, and the devotion they engender from students from the poorest classes who, without them, would have nowhere to go, or go hungry.
At the Markaz Uloom Islamia madrassa in Peshawar, Muhammad Sabir, 22, motioned to the eerily quiet compound, devoid of students. Final exams are over, he said. The scholars, many of them, have left to fight against the United States. "They have gone for jihad," said Mr. Sabir, a student there. "It is our moral and religious duty." He said the words automatically, woodenly, as if repeating his elder's recitation of the Koran.
"There is no practical training of terrorists here," said Asif Qureishi, an Islamic scholar and the son of Maulana Mohd Yousaf Qureishi, who heads the Darul-Uloom Ashrafia madrassa in Peshawar. There are no weapons, no knives or guns, no weapons training. The madrassas hone only the mind, he said.
"We prepare them for the jihad, mentally," said Mr. Qureishi, whose duties at the madrassa include the call to prayers. In a small room at the madrassa, students nodded appreciatively at his words. Some were no more than 10.
"The minds are fresh," he said. In his tiny office, a bag of rice rests against a wall. Outside the door, a student hefts the carcass of a slaughtered goat.
What the students hear, in compounds that range from spartan to squalid, is a drumbeat of American injustice, cruelty and closed-mindedness — the United States is just that way, the elders say.
"They send cruise missiles against gravestones," said Al-Sheikh Rahat Gul, the stick-thin, 81-year-old maulana who heads Markaz Uloom Islamia in Peshawar, a madrassa with about 250 students.
The Americans kill only innocents, said the maulana, a large pair of thick-lensed, black-framed glassed sitting crookedly on his head. "The Koran forbids the killing of females, children, elders and cattle," he said. "That is war. That is not holy war." Sons of Islam must answer that tyranny with holy war, he said.
He condemns the World Trade Center attack but dismisses any connection to this part of the world. "The Jews have done this," he said, calling the attacks a plot by Israel to draw the world into war. "And the Hindus are just like them." It is repeated madrassa by madrassa, the company line of the militants and the poorer classes from which they come, spreading out from the student body to the shops and foot traffic.
Maulana Gul proudly points to a cartoon on the back of a pamphlet at his madrassa that shows Afghanistan encircled by a chain, and the chain is secured by a padlock that is labeled "United Nations." Inside the chain are weeping children. Hands reach from all directions with offerings of food, money and grain, hands are grabbed at the wrist by other hands labeled "U.S.A.," preventing that aid from getting to the starving people.
In the madrassas, students ranging in age from 7 or 8 to men over 20 are taught a strict interpretation of the Koran, including the duty of all Muslims to rise up in jihad. There are no televisions and some madrassas do not even allow transistor radios. There are no magazines or newspapers except those deemed acceptable by the elders. The outside world is closed to them, and many of the students seem puzzled when asked if they mind that. Their teachers, most of them respected elders, tell them what they need to know, the students said.
Almost all the leadership of the Taliban, including Mullah Muhammad Omar, was educated in madrassas in Pakistan — most of them in a single madrassa, Jamia Darul Uloom Haqqania in Akora Khatak in the Northwest Frontier Province of Pakistan. The anti-American protests that have filled the streets in Islamabad, Peshawar, Quetta and Karachi have been planned in madrassas — their maulanas, the elders who run the schools, are the spiritual hub of the protests.
In Quetta, after the United States began its missile attacks on the Taliban, 300 Afghans who had attended madrassas in Pakistan crossed the border to join the jihad. Every day, said madrassa students, Pakistanis slip over the border to join them.
[TOP OF THE PAGE]
The Times, SATURDAY
NOVEMBER 17 2001
is a war that dare not speak its name
To American and British politicians, the week’s events in Afghanistan have been triumphs. To the Northern Alliance warlords, and the Pakistanis, they have been another chapter in the history of their region’s inter-tribal, and inter-Muslim, conflicts that is being written. But the impoverished statements of our leaders since September 11 reveal that historical knowledge plays no significant role in their thinking, despite the perilous venture upon which they are engaged.
In consequence, we are
being led to battle by those who give every sign of not being sufficiently aware
of what they are doing, and who are not, therefore, fit to be our guides.
Tomahawks in hand, they
have promised us that “terrorism” will have “nowhere to hide”. But we
are not engaged in a war against terror. It is a war provoked by Islamism,
directed against it, yet which dare not tell its name, and in which there cannot
be the “victory” the politicians promise. The Northern Alliance carries the
Koran in its knapsacks, too.
The outrages against the
US were seen as bolts from the blue, but are different only in degree from
earlier Islamist attacks. Yet there had already been millions of lives lost in
the Islamic world’s past decades of war. At least since 1947, the year in
which Arnold Toynbee warned of the “sleeping giant”, or since 1952, when the
Egyptian revolution brought Nasser to power, Islam, waking from three centuries
of torpor, has been astir with internecine struggle and assertion against the
West. Since then its internal and external conflicts have raged, drawing in
Islamic and non-Islamic nations alike.
Iran and Iraq have fought
an eight-year war; Syria has occupied much of Lebanon; Iraq has sought to ravage
Kuwait. Sudanese, Egyptian, Nigerian, Pakistani and other Islamists have been
killing Christians; Egyptians and Algerians have each battled to protect
themselves against fellow Muslims; the Chinese, Indians, Russians and now
Americans have faced local Islamic attack. Today, the cry of jihad against the kuffar,
or infidel, is on the lips or in the hearts of young Muslims the world over,
while Western relativists consider how “pluralism” can be reconciled with
the aims of those who would see our very societies fall.
Postwar and post-colonial
Islamism, revived and still to revive much further, has expressed itself in
different ways. It has taken political form in Arab nationalism, as in the
seizure of the Suez Canal in 1956; economic form, as in the use of the oil
weapon against the West in 1973; religious form, as in the Iranian-inspired
arousal of worldwide Islamic fervour. In such context a bin Laden, important as
he is, is not of greater historical significance than a Nasser or an Ayatollah
All of them, including the
suicide bomber, are apostles of the Islamic resurgence, as historians of
Islam’s modes of warfare (and conquest) know. In these past decades, a cat’s
cradle of links has been woven across the Islamic world. Ahmed Shah Massood, the
Taleban’s then leading opponent, was assassinated in September by Algerians
with Belgian passports and with visas to enter Pakistan issued in London.
Armouries have been
amassed by the more dangerous Islamic states with the help of the historically
unseeing West. Such filiations and weapons are the instruments of no abstract
“terror” or “unreason” but of an insurgency of faith, cruelty, pride and
anger that in intention would master the globe. Even if bin Laden were killed
tomorrow, or Israel disappear from the face of the earth, this insurgency would
It has occurred at a time
when the West’s knowledge of Islam, and even of its own history, has never
been less. The only truly historical question asked in America since September
11 has been the vacuous “Why are we so hated?” It is a question, which the
Americans have been unable to answer. Muslims with a long memory have no such
In the light of its
battles with medieval Christianity and with varieties of modern imposition,
Islam’s “anti-Americanism”, “anti-Westernism” and “anti-Zionism”
are as we ought to have expected. In the First World War, the Ottoman Empire
readily joined the Axis powers; in the Second, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem was
Hitler’s de facto gauleiter in the region. No one in their (historical) senses
should be surprised that today’s Palestinian Islamists would uproot Israel, a
nation conceived with the West’s support as the Ottoman Empire disintegrated.
Turn back the pages of the
record and the century-old voices of premonition, including those of Jews, about
Israel’s uncertain fate as an “island in an Arab sea” can already be
heard. “Most Jews are no longer Oriental,” the early Zionist Theodor Herzl
confided to his diary; a “transplantation” to Palestine would be
“difficult to carry out”.
Israelis have always had a
fight on their hands. Yet knowing so is to be better armed than are Americans
— for all their firepower — as they try to square up to foes whom they
cannot name, and of whose faith and past they know too little. Clio, the goddess
of history, is not likely for this reason to be on the side of the West, which
is more blind than it can afford to be or than its peoples deserve, while
Muslims now walk with a spring in their strides. They have good reason to do so,
even as the Taleban falls. For the sharp end of a resurgent Islam is a more
powerful and long-term adversary of the Western democracies than was Nazism.
When I was in the US in
September, I offered the New York Times Magazine an account of the
post-1945 decades of Islam’s upheavals. One of its editors told me it was
“interesting, but we don’t do history”. But if the Americans (and British)
“don’t do history”, history will do for us.
David Selbourne is the author of The Spirit of the Age and The Principle of Duty
[TOP OF THE PAGE]
THE HINDUSTAN TIMES, DECEMBER 14, 2001
INDIA PAYING FOR ITS SOFT RESPONSE TO TERROR
The terrorist assault on the symbol of Indian democracy at a time when jehadis are on the run elsewhere in the world reflects the widely perceived softness of the Indian state and the costs it is paying for its compromises with the forces of terrorism.
India's talk-tough-but-act-meek approach has emboldened transnational terrorists, who pick their targets carefully to get maximum propaganda value and show that they can strike anywhere, anytime. Earlier, they struck at the Red Fort, which symbolises Indian authority, as India has been ruled since the 17th century by those who occupy it.
When the terrorists attacked the Jammu and Kashmir legislature, Vajpayee wrote to President Bush that India's patience was wearing thin. Now that the Indian Parliament has been attacked, citizens are awaiting the answer whether, in Vajpayee's view, the government's patience has run out or there is still room for forbearance.
Vajpayee needs to think over why fidayeen attacks have occurred only under his prime ministership and why even today, when jehadis look such a beaten lot elsewhere, major acts of terrorism continue to occur in Kashmir and New Delhi. Empty brave words against terrorism mean nothing. India has to fight its own war on terrorism and not expect that the United States will fight for it.
Successive Indian governments have treated terrorism essentially as a law and order issue. To treat terrorism as a law and order problem is to do what the terrorists want - sap your strength - and bring the republic under a self-imposed siege. No amount of security can stop terrorism if the nation is reluctant to go after terrorist cells and networks and those that harbour, encourage or fund terrorists.
Western policy-makers should be concerned over the Parliament attack because India is a sort of laboratory where major acts of terror are first tried out before being replicated in the West. The logic is that if India, the world's largest democracy, can be shaken, so can other democracies.
For example, the 1988 Pan Am 103 bombing replicated the midair bombing over the Atlantic of an Air-India flight from Canada in 1985. Similarly, the 1993 World Trade Centre attack was modelled on the bombings weeks earlier that killed many inside high-rise buildings in Mumbai in a terror campaign designed to disrupt India's financial market. Parallels also have emerged between the 1999 hijacking
to Kandahar of Indian Airlines flight IC-814 and the September 11 suicide hijackings, including the similar use of box-cutters and the terrorists'
knowledge of cockpit systems.
If any state strikes deals with terrorists, it not only encourages stepped-up terrorism against its own interests but also creates problems for other nations. A classic case is India's ignominious surrender to the hijackers of flight IC-814. One freed terrorist hand-delivered by the foreign minister is the suspected financier of Mohammed Atta, the alleged ringleader in the September 11 terrorist strikes. Another released terrorist founded a group in Pakistan that has claimed responsibility for major Kashmir strikes.
Exactly a decade before this surrender, India spurred the rise of bloody terrorist violence in Kashmir by capitulating to the demands of abductors of the then home minister's daughter, Rubaiya Sayeed. Under Vajpayee, India has held secret negotiations with terrorist groups, including the Hizbul Mujahideen and the ISI-funded Hurriyat Conference. Terrorists see India as a soft target because it imposes no costs on them and their sponsors.
Terrorism has to be fought with a prudent, comprehensive strategy that employs diplomatic, economic, political, military, and legal instruments. But the only instrument India has sought to employ since the 1980s is a domestic anti-terrorism law, which cannot yield results by itself. Can anybody who looks at the bloated size of the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi get the impression that India treats Pakistan as the sponsor of cross-border terrorism?
[TOP OF THE PAGE]
THE HINDUSTAN TIMES, DECEMBER 23, 2001
ARE WE A SOFT STATE?
Just before the Agra summit, the Foreign Secretary hosted a small lunch for editors and columnists in her South Block office. The idea, presumably, was for the mandarins of the Foreign Office to tell us what to expect in Agra. But because Chokila Iyer is such a gracious, well-mannered hostess, the mandarins never really got a chance to say very much at all.
Instead, the journos hijacked the lunch and told the diplomats how to do their job. (Do not be surprised. This happens all the time). For the most part, this consisted of familiar peacenik advice — it is up to us to make Agra a success, to give poor dear General Musharraf something he can take back to his people etc. — so the foreign office mandarins, who had a more realistic assessment of what to expect, switched off.
During a brief lull in the lectures from the lunching journos, our High Commissioner in Islamabad, Vijay Nambiar, did manage to get a word in edgewise. It proved to be the most perceptive thing that anybody said at the lunch.
The big revelation for him during his stint in Pakistan, he said, was that Pakistanis and Indians had very different attitudes. For the Pakistanis, truth was simple and one dimensional. For Indians, truth was a complex commodity. We always accepted that there were many points of view and many dimensions to the truth. Pakistanis, on the other hand, regarded the truth pretty much as what they wanted it to be.
The consequence, he suggested, was that the Pakistani position always came across as straight-forward and forthright. But ours came across as too complex for simple arguments.
I have thought a lot about Vijay’s distinction over the last week. Every newspaper and every TV channel has been considering India’s response to the attack on Parliament. There have been notable exceptions (chiefly Brahma Chellaney whose piece in the HT five days ago appears to have become the basis of government policy) but most Indian journos have spent their time hemming and hawing.
Yes, of course, terrorism is bad, they say. But you know, we need to understand Musharraf’s compulsions. Perhaps we should give him another chance. Or: Bush is really on our side, you know, but he’s got this Afghan operation going so we need to understand his compulsions. Or: the international community is united in the war against terrorism but, you know, we are both nuclear powers. So naturally they will be concerned and we need to understand those compulsions.
Curiously, nobody talks about the need to understand India’s compulsions.
Contrast this it-is-a-complex-issue-and-we-need-to-consider-everything approach with the Pakistani position on the Parliament attack. It is as straight-forward as ours is complex.
Basically, all the Pakistanis are saying is this: we didn’t do it and let’s see if you can prove otherwise.
As usual, it is the Pakistani position that is more effective. Of course we can’t provide proof of the kind that will satisfy Pakistan. Even when the
terrorists themselves go on TV and say that they were backed by Pakistan, these confessions are dismissed by the Pakistanis as being secured through torture.
The point is that nobody can ever provide strong legal proof of the kind that the Pakistanis are demanding. Even the Americans, who have now taken up the share-the-evidence-with-Pakistan position, had no proof at all of Osama bin Laden’s involvement when they began bombing Afghanistan. They didn’t even have the kind of confessions that we have now secured. But they launched their attack anyway — and Pakistan supported them.
The understand-everybody’s-compulsions-except-our-own position embraced by the Indian intelligentsia demonstrates a fundamental weakness in our view of the world, at least in relation to terrorism. Two examples will show what I mean.
In December 1999, when the hijackers took IC 814 to Kandahar, it should have been staggeringly obvious to everybody that the Taliban were hand in glove with the terrorists. To be fair to our security services, they reported as much to their political masters and pointed out that no commando rescue mission was possible because the Taliban had placed stinger missiles on the runway to blow up any Indian plane that attempted to land such commandos.
Despite all this, our Foreign Minister decided to go to Kandahar to take custody of the hostages. He was humiliated even before he got off the plane. Maulana Masood Azhar, the terrorist we released in return for the passengers, was the first to alight and the Taliban received him with hugs and kisses. By the time Jaswant Singh descended from the aircraft, the Taliban reception party had departed, taking Azhar away in a huge carcade. Jaswant was left to cool his heels on the tarmac for a quarter of an hour.
No matter. He still managed to hold hands with the Taliban Foreign Minister for the TV cameras and paid fulsome tributes to the Afghan government for its ‘help’ during the hijacking. Those pictures — of Jaswant and the Taliban hugging each other — will haunt the Vajpayee government forever.
Why did he do it? Well, he thought that once he was there, he should be nice to his hosts. And why was he there in the first place? Ah, well, that’s a complex question to which there is no simple answer.
A second example. Shortly after the September 11 attacks, it was clear that the Americans would have to retaliate. It was as clear that they would ask the countries of South Asia for help. The sensible thing to have done would have been to express sympathy for those who lost their lives in the attacks (including hundreds of Indians) and to have waited for the American request.
Instead, Jaswant Singh (yes, him again) shot his mouth off and told the press that India was ready to offer operational assistance — even before it had been requested. Of course, the Americans didn’t need our assistance. But in their minds, we became the kind of country they could take for granted.
Contrast our over-eager foolishness with the shrewdness of General Musharraf’s response. He expressed sympathy but offered nothing. Instead, he engineered anti-American and pro-Taliban demonstrations. When the American request came, he said that he would like to help but the public mood was against it. At this, the Americans offered him billions of dollars and began an extensive courtship that persists to this day.
You don’t need to be a genius to work out which approach has yielded the better result. We understood America’s compulsions and eagerly offered assistance. Our reward is to be isolated in our fight against terrorism. Musharraf made America understand Pakistan’s compulsions. His reward is to be America’s new pin-up boy.
I mention these two examples because it seems to me that we are in danger of making a third mistake. Instead of concentrating on what steps we will take to stop the menace of cross-border terrorism, our intelligentsia is busy finding reasons to do nothing. Understand Bush’s position, they say. Give poor Pervez another chance. Let the world community finish with Afghanistan, then maybe they’ll have time for us.
Contrast this it-is-a-complex-situation response to the position taken by the American intelligentsia after September 11. Did the US media say “we should wait till we get proof against bin Laden”? Did intellectuals say, “if we attack Afghanistan, we will turn the world’s Muslims against us”? Did the intelligentsia warn, “wait a while because if we attack now, we may destabilise Musharraf”?
Of course, they did not.
It was not as though the Americans were blind to these considerations. They knew they were short of proof, they knew they risked alienating Muslims and destabilising Pakistan. But they also knew that these were risks worth taking.
When a country is attacked by foreign terrorists, it must first fight back and defend itself. Everything else is secondary.
Our problem is that Pakistan — and perhaps the rest of the world — sees us as a soft state. We give the impression of having a mouth of steel and a fist of plasticine. We will not consider any compromise on Kashmir, but we will not go to war to defend it. We say we will fight all terrorism but Jaswant Singh will fly to Kandahar to cuddle the Taliban. We will condemn cross-border terrorism but we will not cross the border to fight it.
If we are to act firmly against the terrorist menace then we must abandon our humming and hawing. We must stop thinking about other people’s compulsions and worry about our own. If we believe that Pakistan is behind the terrorists, then we must treat it as the enemy. We must forget about confidence building measures, about poor Pervez’s problems and about candles on the Wagah border.
It is not my case that we should necessarily go to war. All war is bad and should be avoided as much as possible. But it is also true that if you rule out war even before you begin taking any kind of action, then nobody will take you seriously. For your protests to make any difference, your enemy must know that you are both willing and able to fight.
On Friday, our government was so angered by President Bush’s clean chit to General Musharraf that it recalled our High Commissioner from Pakistan. It only took a few hours for the message to hit home. By that same evening, Washington had changed its stance and asked Musharraf to take action against terrorists operating from Pakistan.
The way ahead is to keep up that kind of pressure. The lesson of the US’s Afghan operation is that finally, you don’t need summits and you don’t need bus rides. If you are to fight terrorists, then the only things that work are courage, might and determination.
It is time for India to show that we will not be pushed around any longer.
(Editors' comment: Mr. Vir Sanghvi, who wrote this article was himself the kind of 'intellectual' that he is condemning now. At the heart of the problem is the education system, especially in the humanities, that produces an elite that still carries a colonial mindset-- that the first duty of an Indian is to please others.)
[TOP OF THE PAGE]
PAKISTAN'S JIHAD FACTORIES
Afghanistan's Taliban studied in the madrasahs-the Islamist religious schools-of Pakistan, where some 1.75 million students are currently preparing to fight for Islam around the world.
It was hard to imagine that the smiling children playing a quick game of cricket on a rooftop courtyard in the heart of Pakistan's ancient cultural capital of Lahore were learning to be killers.
The head of their madrasah (religious school), a portly man with a white turban and white Pakistani clothing, had invited me to see for myself how his students were treated and what they had learned. So I'd climbed some steps in the Khuddamuddin madrasah, one of perhaps 7,000 such religious schools in Pakistan, and found the boys at play, taking a break from classes.
In a few moments chatting with them, I quickly learned that their major topic of study was jihad, or holy war. The nearly 2,000 students expect to fight infidels in Chechnya, Afghanistan, Palestine, or Indian Kashmir once they complete their studies at the madrasah, located inside the walls of the old city of Lahore.
This school and others like it have prospered in recent years, in part because of the failure of the state-run educational system. In Pakistan, the illiteracy rate among adults is estimated at 70 percent.
About 1.75 million students are enrolled in the schools, though it is not clear how many of the academies are devoted to preparing their students for jihad. Some may focus only on religious studies. It is certain, however, that each time the repressive Islamic Taliban regime in Afghanistan needs to mount a spring offensive against its rebel opponents, tens of thousands of students from Pakistani madrasahs pour over the border in trucks to join the jihad, according to reports in the Jane's defense publications. Thus, the system of madrasahs has become a hatchery for tens of thousands of Islamic militants who have spread conflict around the world. Incidents in the Philippines, Indonesia, Russia, Central Asia, and at New York's World Trade Center have all been linked to graduates of the madrasahs. Indeed, Pakistan is terrorism's fertile garden.
Khuddamuddin is run by Mohammed Ajmal Qadri, leader of one of the three branches of the fundamentalist Jamiat Ulema Islam party, who told me that nearly 13,000 trained jihad fighters have passed through his school. At least 2,000 of them were in or on their way to Indian-held Kashmir.
Converting the World to Islam
Qadri, polite and well spoken in the British-accented English of South Asia, offered an American guest tea and then calmly disclosed that the modern concepts of tolerance and cultural understanding have not made inroads into his thinking.
"Eventually, all people must become Muslim, including the Christians and Jews of the United States," he said in an interview. "The world has to go the way we want. It's our divine right to lead humanity." He apologized for a lack of time to spend with a visitor, saying he was preparing for yet another of his frequent visits to the United States. There, he preaches in the hundreds of new mosques built in the last decade by Muslim immigrants and raises money for his school--where he teaches his children to kill those who stand in the path of Islamic dominance in the world.
Up on the stone rooftop courtyard of his 110-year-old school, the students were taking advantage of a free period to hit a cricket ball, run, and wrestle like children anywhere in the world. But one slightly built boy explained how he and his classmates were being directed toward a life of violent struggle.
"Most kids here go for jihad, and I will too, God willing," said 14-year-old Obeidulla Anwer, speaking in Urdu through a translator. "Jihad is to fight for Islam and the pride of Islam."
Like most of his classmates, he will leave the school at about age 18 and
go to a military training camp in Pakistani-controlled Kashmir, Afghanistan,
or some other secret location. After that training, he said, "We go to
fight in Kashmir, Chechnya, Palestine, Afghanistan."
Asked whether he was prepared to hurt or kill, the delicate, dark boy said: "I will hurt those who are enemies of Islam. And I know that I could be hurt or killed."
The chances that Obeidulla will die violently are high. A 23-year-old fighter with another Islamic militant group, Hizbul Mujahideen, said that five of the eight young men in his squad had died during his 18 months of fighting against Indian troops in Kashmir, where an estimated 30,000 people have died in civil strife since 1989.
Obeidulla was asked how he would recognize the enemies of Islam. "If I greet them with 'Salam Aleikum' and they won't say it back," he answered.
The boy was asked: "Since most Americans do not know Arabic and cannot know how to respond to the traditional Muslim greeting, are they enemies of Islam?" The boy looked confused. "I don't know," he said, looking expectantly at his hovering teachers, who also appeared confused by the question. Asked directly whether all non-Muslims were anti-Muslim, he did not need to check with his teachers. "No," he said firmly.
The school is preparing Obeidulla and his classmates for the hard life of soldiers with an experience that provides little comfort or privacy. The
children all sleep on the floor of the school's mosque in sleeping bags, which they roll up each morning. They rise at 3:00 a.m. for study and prayers with a break for play around 4:30 a.m. At 7:30, they have breakfast and then study until 11:00, when they sleep for two hours. They pray, study, have lunch, pray, study, and pray again until dinner at 9:30 p.m., after which they go to the mosque to sleep. They have no room or even a bed of their own.
Why the Madrasahs Thrive
Parents choose this hard life for their children for a variety of reasons,
with religious conviction and the poverty of village life both playing major
Religion dominates life in Pakistan, where the national airline begins its flights with a reading from the Qur'an or a prayer. Politicians, even those
educated in London or Boston and living apparently Westernized lives, vie in calling for stricter Islamic laws.
Poverty is the other goad. A half-hour drive from Lahore and just a stone's throw from the Indian border crossing at Wagha, farmer Mohammed Shaffi explained why his 13-year-old son attends the local madrasah and not a public school. In the madrasah--many are funded by donations from Saudi Arabia and other Muslim nations or groups in wealthy countries--he memorizes the Qur'an in Arabic, which he cannot understand. But he is not being taught to read and write the national language, Urdu.
"How can a poor man educate his son?" asked Shaffi, leaning for a moment over the mud wall he was building around his tiny rice paddy in the village of Dayal, about 30 miles southeast of Lahore. "Even if the school is free, the books are not. And the paper."
Shaffi, whose younger son was playing nearby stark naked, did not even mention the cost of school clothes. As he spoke, a herd of cows ambled by his naked child, who scratched at the muddy earth with a sharp stick. Another son, 13-year-old Maratab Ali Shaffi, wore a filthy, torn pair of shorts as he helped his mother and father pack mud upon a brick wall to increase its height.
The farmer said it was too early to make a decision about letting the boy go and join a jihad. But with the drumbeat of resurgent Islam in the air and hopes of a good job slim for an illiterate youth from the countryside, jihad is not an unlikely choice.
The family has two acres of land, on which six-inch-tall rice plants waved above the flooded paddies. They have electricity but can afford only two lightbulbs. They have no radio or television. No one in the family can read or write. The local madrasah, by contrast, will provide Maratab a free daily meal and sometimes a free shirt.
In Lahore, Qadri said he is proud that his school is able to direct youths like Maratab into holy war in places like Chechnya and Kashmir. But it is America that seems to be his ultimate target, one he hopes to defeat through converting its people to Islam.
"There are now over 3,000 mosques and madrasahs in America, and they are a divine gift for Americans. American civilization is a Monica Lewinsky civilization," he said with a hearty laugh. "It is empty and hollow from inside. Islam is the only cultural system that could bear the load of life for the times to come."
He was similarly dismissive of Hinduism, the religion of about 900 million people in neighboring India, describing it as nothing more than a system "of fashions and traditions."
Roots of Anti-U.S. Feeling
Qadri said he would defy attempts by Pakistan's military government to regulate the madrasahs, beginning with a requirement that they report on the numbers and names of students and teachers, types of facilities, educational programs, and financial details.
The government, stung by charges from U.S. officials that it allows Islamic terrorism to breed under the guise of religious education, has also called for the schools to begin offering practical subjects such as math and science as well as memorization of the Qur'an. In addition, the government is asking the schools to report to local police the names of any foreign students and to list any religious rulings (fatwas) they issue.
"We believe our rules are perfect, and we will not allow any ruler, military, or so-called elected representatives to change them," Qadri said. The News, an English-language national newspaper, quoted several madrasah heads claiming the data were being collected on the instructions of anti-Islamic Western forces, particularly the United States and Israel. While such claims seem far-fetched to better-educated Pakistanis, they are widely believed by others. Many Pakistanis already feel abandoned by the West since U.S.-backed rebels expelled the Soviet forces from Afghanistan in 1989, leaving their country to cope with a huge refugee problem.
Pakistanis also feel it is unfair to blame them for supporting terrorism when veterans of the conflict in Afghanistan turn to jihad in Kashmir or Chechnya.
Americans are particularly angry with Pakistan for helping the Taliban gain power in Afghanistan in 1995. Islamabad's military helped organize a guerrilla force from the Islamic students in Pakistani madrasahs. They were at first well received in Afghanistan, because they offered hope of ending the five years of bloody warlordism that had followed the Soviet withdrawal in 1990. But once the Taliban secured control over 90 percent of Afghanistan, it imposed draconian Islamic rule--preventing women from working, ordering all men to wear beards and turbans, banning music and television, and imposing harsh punishments such as amputation and stoning for theft or adultery.
The Taliban also allowed accused Saudi terrorist Osama bin Laden to remain in Afghanistan despite a U.S. and UN demand for him to stand trial on charges of bombing two U.S. embassies in East Africa in 1998, as well as other anti-American attacks.
Pakistani diplomats say they cannot control the Taliban even if Pakistan is the only country that recognizes the Kabul regime. The United States keeps asking Pakistan to pressure the Afghans to hand over bin Laden, and the Pakistanis say they are unable to do so.
As Pakistan, once a staunch U.S. Cold War ally against the Soviet Union, slides into Islamist extremism, continued military control, and economic chaos, its rival to the east, India, has become America's good friend. India's half-century of democracy has long been admired in America and, since 1990, it has abandoned its socialist central planning and anti-Western rhetoric. India's software boom, along with the $60 billion a year earned by Indian Americans in California's Silicon Valley, has pushed Washington closer to New Delhi--further angering and
A group of Pakistani journalists recently asked some American journalists why their country gets such bad press in the United States. But when queried about Pakistan's Islamic revival, tolerance of extremism, lack of schools for the poor, military control, and other problems, the Pakistani journalists ruefully agreed it was all true.
The root of everything, say several analysts, is that the well-educated leaders of the country have failed to create a system of adequate public education for Pakistan's 140 million people. Without that, parents increasingly turn to the madrasahs, where the fiery mix of fundamentalism and intolerance is creating cannon fodder for future religious wars around the world.
Ben Barber is State Department correspondent for the Washington Times.
Al Jazeera is not subtle television. Recently, during a lull in its nonstop coverage of the raids on Kabul and the street battles of Bethlehem, the Arabic-language satellite news station showed an odd but telling episode of its documentary program "Biography and Secrets." The show's subject was Ernesto (Che) Guevara. Presenting Che as a romantic, doomed hero, the documentary recounted the Marxist rebel's last stand in the remote mountains of Bolivia, lingering mournfully over the details of his capture and execution. Even Che's corpse received a lot of airtime; Al Jazeera loves grisly footage and is never shy about presenting graphic imagery.
The episode's subject matter was, of course, allegorical. Before bin Laden, there was Guevara. Before Afghanistan, there was Bolivia. As for the show's focus on C.I.A. operatives chasing Guevara into the mountains, this, too, was clearly meant to evoke the contemporary hunt for Osama, the Islamic rebel.
Al Jazeera, which claims a global audience of 35 million Arabic-speaking viewers, may not officially be the Osama bin Laden Channel -- but he is clearly its star, as I learned during an extended viewing of the station's programming in October. The channel's graphics assign him a lead role: there is bin Laden seated on a mat, his submachine gun on his lap; there is bin Laden on horseback in Afghanistan, the brave knight of the Arab world. A huge, glamorous poster of bin Laden's silhouette hangs in the background of the main studio set at Al Jazeera's headquarters in Doha, the capital city of Qatar.
On Al Jazeera (which means "the Peninsula"), the Hollywoodization of news is indulged with an abandon that would make the Fox News Channel blush. The channel's promos are particularly shameless. One clip juxtaposes a scowling George Bush with a poised, almost dreamy bin Laden; between them is an image of the World Trade Center engulfed in flames. Another promo opens with a glittering shot of the Dome of the Rock. What follows is a feverish montage: a crowd of Israeli settlers dance with unfurled flags; an Israeli soldier fires his rifle; a group of Palestinians display Israeli bullet shells; a Palestinian woman wails; a wounded Arab child lies on a bed. In the climactic image, Palestinian boys carry a banner decrying the shame of the Arab world's silence.
Al Jazeera's reporters are similarly adept at riling up the viewer. A fiercely opinionated group, most are either pan-Arabists -- nationalists of a leftist bent committed to the idea of a single nation across the many frontiers of the Arab world -- or Islamists who draw their inspiration from the primacy of the Muslim faith in political life. Since their primary allegiance is to fellow Muslims, not Muslim states, Al Jazeera's reporters and editors have no qualms about challenging the wisdom of today's Arab rulers. Indeed, Al Jazeera has been rebuked by the governments of Libya and Tunisia for giving opposition leaders from those countries significant air time. Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, for their part, have complained about Al Jazeera's extensive reporting on the misery of Iraqis living under sanctions. But the five-year-old station has refused to be reined in. The channel openly scorns the sycophantic tone of the state-run Arab media and the quiescence of the mainstream Arab press, both of which play down controversy and dissent.
Compared with other Arab media outlets, Al Jazeera may be more independent -- but it is also more inflammatory. For the dark side of the pan-Arab worldview is an aggressive mix of anti-Americanism and anti-Zionism, and these hostilities drive the station's coverage, whether it is reporting on the upheaval in the West Bank or on the American raids on Kandahar. Although Al Jazeera has sometimes been hailed in the West for being an autonomous Arabic news outlet, it would be a mistake to call it a fair or responsible one. Day in and day out, Al Jazeera deliberately fans the flames of Muslim [sense of] outrage.
Consider how Al Jazeera covered the second intifada, which erupted in September 2000. The story was a godsend for the station; masked Palestinian boys aiming slingshots and stones at Israeli soldiers made for constantly compelling television. The station's coverage of the crisis barely feigned neutrality. The men and women who reported from Israel and Gaza kept careful count of the "martyrs." The channel's policy was firm: Palestinians who fell to Israeli gunfire were martyrs; Israelis killed by Palestinians were Israelis killed by Palestinians. Al Jazeera's reporters exalted the "children of the stones," giving them the same amount of coverage that MSNBC gave to Monica Lewinsky. The station played and replayed the heart-rending footage of 12-year-old Muhammed al-Durra, who was shot in Gaza and died in his father's arms. The images' ceaseless repetition signaled the arrival of a new, sensational breed of Arab journalism. Even some Palestinians questioned the opportunistic way Al Jazeera handled the tragic incident. But the channel savored the publicity and the controversy all the same.
Since Sept. 11, I discovered, Al Jazeera has become only more incendiary. The channel's seething dispatches from the "streets of Kabul" or the "streets of Baghdad" emphasize anti-American feeling. The channel's numerous call-in shows welcome viewers to express opinions that in the United States would be considered hate speech. And, of course, there is the matter of Al Jazeera's "exclusive" bin Laden videotapes. On Oct. 7, Al Jazeera broadcast a chilling message from bin Laden that Al Qaeda had delivered to its Kabul bureau. Dressed in a camouflage jacket over a traditional thoub, bin Laden spoke in ornate Arabic, claiming that the terror attacks of Sept. 11 should be applauded by Muslims. It was a riveting performance -- one that was repeated on Nov. 3, when another bin Laden speech aired in full on the station. And just over a week ago, Al Jazeera broadcast a third Al Qaeda tape, this one showcasing the military skills of four young men who were said to be bin Laden's own sons.
The problem of Al Jazeera's role in the current crisis is one that the White House has been trying to solve. Indeed, the Bush administration has lately been expressing its desire to win the "war of ideas," to capture the Muslim world's intellectual sympathy and make it see the war against bin Laden as a just cause. There has been talk of showing American-government-sponsored commercials on Al Jazeera. And top American officials have begun appearing on the station's talk shows. But my viewing suggests that it won't be easy to dampen the fiery tone of Al Jazeera. The enmity runs too deep.
Indeed, the truth is that a foreign power can't easily win a "war of ideas" in the Muslim world. Sure, we can establish "coalition information centers" -- as the administration has in Washington, London and Islamabad -- and dispatch our diplomats on "listening tours." We can give Al Jazeera extended access to the highest American officials and hope that these leaders will make an impression on Arab viewers. But anti-Americanism is a potent force that cannot be readily dissolved.
What's more, Al Jazeera is a crafty operation. In covering the intifada, its broadcasters perfected a sly game -- namely, mimicking Western norms of journalistic fairness while pandering to pan-Arab sentiments. In a seemingly open-minded act, Al Jazeera broke with a widespread taboo of the Arab news media and interviewed Israeli journalists and officials, including Ehud Barak and Shimon Peres. Yet at the same time, it pressed on with unrelenting anti-Zionist reportage that contributed to further alienation between Israelis and Palestinians.
What this means is that no matter how many Americans show up on Al Jazeera, the station will pursue its own oppositional agenda. Al Jazeera's reporters see themselves as "anti-imperialists." These men and women are convinced that the rulers of the Arab world have given in to American might; these are broadcasters who play to an Arab gallery whose political bitterness they share -- and feed. In their eyes, it is an unjust, aggressive war they are covering in Afghanistan. Watching Al Jazeera makes all of this distressingly clear.
Al Jazeera is on the ground in Afghanistan and reports the news up close. It is the only television news outlet with a bureau in Kabul. Alas, there is no skyline in the Afghan capital, no bright city lights that can illuminate America's nighttime raids. What worked so well for CNN in Baghdad has been impossible for Al Jazeera in Kabul and Kandahar. Instead, Al Jazeera's Afghanistan coverage supplies a pointed contrast between the high-tech foreign power, with its stealth planes and Tomahawk missiles, and the Taliban warriors, with their pickup trucks racing through stark, rubble-strewn landscapes.
In its rough outlines, the message of Al Jazeera is similar to that of the Taliban: there is a huge technological imbalance between the antagonists, but the foreign power will nonetheless come to grief.
In some videotape shown on Oct. 22, a band of Taliban warriors displayed what they claimed to be the wreckage of the second American helicopter they said they had downed. There was twisted steel with American markings shown in close-up. In an interview, a Taliban soldier said triumphantly that after the first helicopter had been hit, the second came in for support and rescue, and the Taliban soldiers downed it as well. There was blood, he said, at the scene of the wreckage -- and added that a search was under way for the "remains" of the American crews. A stylish warrior of the Taliban with a bright blue turban, the soldier spoke to the camera with great confidence and defiance. America's cruise missiles and bombs would not defeat the Taliban, he promised: "If these Americans were men, they would come here and fight on the ground. We would do to them what we did to the British and the Russians." Another warrior spoke with similar certainty. "God Almighty will grant us victory," he promised.
Al Jazeera's report was presented entirely from the Taliban's point of view. No doubts were expressed about the validity of the Taliban's military boasts -- including one soldier's claim that the steel from the American helicopters would immediately be sold off as scrap metal. The Western news media presented the same story rather differently. In addition to presenting the Taliban's claims, CNN noted a strong American denial. In the case of one helicopter, the Pentagon claimed that only the landing gear of a CH-47 had been sheared off, after its pilot flew too close to a ground barrier. And a helicopter that did crash, the Pentagon claimed, did so because of a mechanical malfunction -- not Taliban gunfire.
A report on Oct. 30 by Al Jazeera's main man in Kabul, Tayseer Allouni, similarly underscored the ideological preference of the station's reporters. "The American planes have resumed their heavy bombing of Kabul, causing massive destruction of the infrastructure of the country," Allouni reported as his camera surveyed unrelieved scenes of wreckage and waste. Although Al Jazeera's images revealed a few craters in the street, much of the devastation appeared to be unrelated to American bombs -- potholes, a junkyard with discarded shells of cars. Noting that Kabul's notoriously decayed "roads had not been spared," Allouni then offered a wistful tribute to the Taliban's public-works efforts. "It appears that all the labors that had been made by the Taliban government prior to the outbreak of the war to repair the roads," he said sadly, "have scattered to the wind."
As Allouni presented it, there appeared to be nobody in Kabul who supported America's campaign to unseat the Taliban. A man in a telephone booth, wearing a traditional white cap, offered a scripted-sounding lament that even Kabul's telephone lines had been destroyed. "We have lost so much," he said, "because of the American bombing." Allouni then closed his survey with gruesome images of wounded Afghans. The camera zoomed in on an old man lying on his back, his beard crusted with blood; this was followed by the image of a heavily bandaged child who looked propped up, as if to face the camera. The parting shot was an awful close-up of a wounded child's face.
The channel's slant is also apparent in tiny modulations of language. Its reporters in Kabul always note that they are reporting from the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan -- the Taliban's official name for the country. Conversely, Washington's campaign is being waged not against terror, but against "what it calls terror."
Al Jazeera has a regular feature in which it briefly replays historical scenes and events that took place on that calendar day. On Oct. 23, the choice was an event that had taken place 18 years earlier. On that very day in 1983, a young man in a Mercedes truck loaded with TNT struck the Marine barracks in Beirut, killing 241 Americans. The segment revisited the horror of that day -- the wailing of the wounded, the soot and ruin everywhere. The images were far more horrible than any I had ever seen of the tragedy. There was no sympathy in the narration, and a feeling of indifference, even menace, hung over this dark moment of remembrance. The message was clear: the Middle East was, and is, a region of heartbreak for the foreign power.
Al Jazeera loves the "Pakistani street" as much as it loves the "Afghan street." In its telling, the Pakistani street is forever on the boil, with "huge throngs" in Rawalpindi and Peshawar and Islamabad. One crowd in Rawalpindi was said to be particularly frenzied. Protesters angrily waved signs, some of them in English: "Afghanistan is in need of reconstruction not destruction." Anti-American demonstrations are, of course, eagerly covered by the Western news media as well. But by television standards, the Al Jazeera video was notably extended -- close to a minute long. In the clip, Islamist leaders prophesied calamity for the military ruler Pervez Musharraf. The crowd was dressed in South Asian white against the glare of the sun, and its rage seemed overwhelming. Looking at all those angry faces, it was easy to forget that General Musharraf, the ruler of Pakistan, was holding back the tide of anger in his country. The clip reached its maximum intensity when the crowd displayed an effigy of George Bush with a cardboard photo of his face. The protesters spat at the cutout, went at it with shoes. They pounded the American president to a pulp. It was a spectacle tailor-made for Al Jazeera.
Al Jazeera began broadcasting in October 1996. The preceding year, Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, the crown prince of Qatar, did a most un-Arab thing: he pulled off a palace coup, taking over the government from his father (who was vacationing in Europe at the time). The young ruler promptly announced a new order of things and set out to challenge Saudi primacy in the Gulf region. He hoped to underline his independence and give his small principality a voice in the world.
The young emir had good timing. Soon after he ascended the throne, an Arabic television joint venture between the BBC and a Saudi concern, Orbit Communications, foundered over the BBC's insistence on editorial independence. The Arab reporters and editors who worked on this failed venture were eager for a new opportunity. Qatar's new emir gave them a new lease on life. With his fortune footing the bill, Al Jazeera was born.
The emir's child has grown quickly. Although it is by no means the biggest Arabic television channel, its reach is expanding. Al Jazeera now reaches viewers in more than 20 Arab countries, mostly through private satellite dishes, which have become tremendously popular in the Middle East. Dishes can be purchased there for less than $100, and tens of millions of Arab families now own them. They are as common in Cairo slums as they are in Dubai mansions. Al Jazeera beams its signal free of charge to most countries. Outside the Arab world, in countries like Great Britain, it is offered as part of a subscription service. In the United States, around 150,000 subscribers pay the Dish Network between $22.99 and $29.99 a month to receive Al Jazeera as part of a multichannel Arabic "package."
Like America's own 24-hour news outlets, Al Jazeera is a repetitive affair. As with CNN, it is easy to see its luster withering away in a time of peace and normalcy. There are steady news updates throughout the day. (It is always daytime on Al Jazeera, which announces its coming schedule in Mecca time, Greenwich Mean Time and New York time.) There is a financial broadcast of the standard variety -- filmed out of London, with a source checking in from the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Sports (soccer for the most part) gets its own regular report. There is a survey of the world press and a show dedicated to the secrets of the cinema. Oddly for a passionately pan-Arab channel, the station broadcasts dubbed programs bought from old American libraries: a wildlife documentary, a history of French art.
There is little coherence to Al Jazeera's scheduling -- segments about the American bombs in Kabul and the Israeli tanks in the streets of the West Bank alternate with quaint reports on life in Silicon Valley and the patterns of energy consumption in American cities. The end result has a hectic yet anonymous feel. Al Jazeera is not a star-driven channel; no particular anchor dominates it. It's the BBC pattern, reporter driven, with a succession of reporters and anchors drawn from different Arab lands.
The pride of Al Jazeera lies, without a doubt, in its heavily promoted talk shows, like "Without Borders," "Opinion and the Other Opinion" and "The Opposite Direction." One enormously popular program in this genre is "Al-Sharia wa al-Hayat," or "Islamic Law and Life." The program, which is full of belligerent piety and religious zeal, appears every Sunday evening at 9:05, Mecca time. It is structured somewhat like "Larry King Live"; an interview with a guest is followed by questions and comments from viewers.
One recent evening, the guest of the program was Sheik Muhammad Ibrahim Hassan, a young Islamic preacher. A large man with a bushy jet-black beard, he was dressed in a white thoub and a loose white kaffiyeh without a headband -- an exaggerated Islamist fantasy of what Muslims in seventh-century Arabia looked like. Hassan was interviewed by Hasib Maher, a young, polite Al Jazeera anchorman in suit and tie.
Hassan was fierce; it was easy to imagine him inciting a crowd. He had the verbal skills and eloquence of his homeland. (Egyptians are the people of the spoken and written word in the Arab world; the Gulfies are its silent types.) Hassan knew the sacred scripture by heart: he knew the Sira -- the life and the example -- of the Prophet Muhammad; he knew the Hadith, the sayings attributed to the Prophet. He tackled the questions thrown at him with gusto.
Al Jazeera's anchorman asked Hassan about a fatwa issued by a number of religious scholars that ruled that American Muslims were bound to fight under the flag of their country, even if this meant going to war against fellow Muslims. Hassan would have none of this fatwa. "This puzzles the believer," he said. "I say that the Prophet, peace be upon him, said that the Muslim is the brother of every other Muslim. He can't oppress his brother Muslim or bring about his surrender or abandon him to non-Muslims. Come to your brother's aid whether he be oppressor or oppressed, the Prophet taught us. No one can deny that our brothers in Afghanistan are among the oppressed."
Hassan really knew how to milk the medium. In an extended monologue,
he declared that the Islamic community, the pan-national umma, was
threatened everywhere -- in Palestine, Iraq, Chechnya, Kashmir,
Afghanistan, the Philippines. The umma, he said forcefully, should know
its pain and heal its wounds. Then he did something you never see on
"Hardball": he broke into free-flowing verse. There was no
shred of paper in front of him; this was rote learning and memorization:
Oh Muslims, we have been dying for centuries
What are we in this world? . . .
We are bloodied corpses,
And our blood is being shed.
Oh the honor of Islam,
How that honor is being violated. . . .
We strayed from the faith,
And the world darkened for us.
If the root dies,
The branches and the leaves will die.
Hassan now owned his airwave pulpit. He was in full flight. A look of awe stole upon the anchorman's face. The anchorman queried Hassan about the attacks of Sept. 11: Did they implicate Islam and Muslims in any way? The preacher answered in his own way. "Oppression always leads to an explosion!" he said angrily. "Under the cover of the new world order, Muslims in Chechnya and Iraq have been brutalized. . . . Any Muslim on the face of the earth who bears faith in God and his Prophet feels oppression today. If a believer feels oppression and thinks that no one listens to him and that power respects only the mighty, that believer could be provoked to violent deeds. We saw things -- horrors -- in Bosnia that would make young people turn old. . . . Where were the big powers and the coalitions and the international organizations then? Where are they now, given what is going on in Palestine? The satellite channels have spread everywhere a knowledge of this oppression."
Hassan then answered an e-mail message from a viewer. "Should we turn the other cheek, as Christ advised?" the viewer asked. "No, I say," Hassan replied. "The Islamic umma must come to the rescue of the oppressed!"
This was soon followed by a call from a Palestinian viewer, Shaker Abdulaziz. He greeted Hassan and the host, wished them God's peace and mercy, then delivered an angry prose poem. "The wolf," he said, "should not be blamed if the shepherd is an enemy of his own flock! I saw the people, evildoers living next to evildoers, befriending the wolf and weeping with the shepherd." Abdulaziz was speaking in code, but Al Jazeera's viewers would understand his message: the false, treacherous shepherds were, of course, those Arab rulers who had betrayed their peoples and befriended the wolves of the West.
"I greet you from the Dome of the Rock," Abdulaziz said. "A people are being slaughtered, liquidated and trampled upon. Where are the Arab rulers and armies? They do nothing!" Abdulaziz's wrath grew stronger. He challenged the show's guest preacher directly. "Is it not time for Sheik Hassan to call from this pulpit upon the Arab peoples to rebel, trample their rulers and replace them with a just ruler and the rule of the Islamic state?"
Maher, the smooth anchorman, did not challenge his guest's assertions. He did not mention, for instance, that the West had come to the defense of Muslims in Kosovo. He simply moved on.
Next, a viewer named Hazem Shami -- from Denmark, of all places -- came on the line. "Peace be upon you," he began. "The insistence of the colonizing nations, with America as their leader, on tying Islam to terrorism is merely due to the fact that America considers Islam as the sole obstacle to its hegemony over the Islamic world. Even though Islam is a message of peace and mercy, it still refuses the hegemony of the kuffar (infidels) over the Muslims in all matters -- cultural, economic, military. Muslims should unite their countries in one Islamic state. Islam is the only challenge to world capitalism, the only hope after a black capitalist century."
The man in Denmark had posed no question, but Hassan nonetheless took his bait. "The Jews are the ones responsible for spreading this hostile view of Islam," the preacher explained. "The Jews dominate the Western media, and they feed the decision-makers this distorted view of Islam. No sooner did the attacks in America take place, the Jews came forth accusing the Muslims, without evidence, without proof."
It was strange hearing this unyielding view of the faith and this talk of "infidels" coming from a man in Denmark. Islam, once a religion of Africa and Asia, had migrated across the globe; it had become part of Western European and North American life. But in bilad al-Kufr ("the lands of unbelief"), it had grown anxious. The caller lived in Western Europe, but the tranquil Danish world had not seeped into him. He had come to this satellite program, to this preacher, like some emissary of war. In close proximity to modern liberties, he had drawn back and, through Al Jazeera, sought the simplifications and certainties of extreme faith.
One of Al Jazeera's most heavily promoted talk shows right now is called "The First of the Century's Wars," in homage to the battle in Afghanistan. A recent episode featured three guests -- one in Washington, one in London and one in the Doha studio. Demure at first glance, Montaha al Ramhi, the anchorwoman who led the discussion, is a woman of will and political preference. She was dressed on this day in the Hillary Clinton style: an orange blouse under a black suit-jacket. I could not make out her exact nationality in the Arab world; her accent didn't give her away.
Ramhi's subject for the evening was Osama bin Laden, and the responses of the Arab world to his message. Does bin Laden represent the sentiments of the Arabs, she asked, or is he a "legend" that the West has exaggerated? There would be her guest panelists, she announced, and there would be reports from the field, from the "streets" of the Arab world. The guest in Doha was a Palestinian writer and analyst by the name of Fayez Rashid; the guest in London was Hafez Karmi, director of the Mayfair Islamic Center; the third pundit was Shafeeq Ghabra, a liberal Kuwaiti political scientist who currently lives in Washington.
Karmi, a large man with a close-cropped beard, was dressed in a shiny silk suit, matched by a shiny tie. He had the exile's emphatic politics, and he had the faith. Ghabra had his work cut out for him. Indeed, as soon as Rashid launched his first salvo, it became clear that Ghabra was to be a mere foil for an evening of boisterous anti-Americanism.
"He is a celebrated resister," Rashid said of bin Laden. "The U.S. was looking for an enemy, and bin Laden had supplied it with the enemy it needed. He is an Arab symbol of the fight against American oppression, against Israeli oppression. . . . The U.S. had exaggerated Osama bin Laden's threat. This is the American way: it was done earlier in the case of Iraq when the power of the Iraqi Army was exaggerated before it was destroyed. . . . Now the Americans want to kill bin Laden to defeat this newest Arab symbol."
When Ghabra spoke, he offered a cautionary refrain. A new international order, he said, was emerging out of the wreckage of Sept. 11. "The world is being reshaped," he said. He warned against allowing the "Arab street" to dictate policy. Surely, he said, one wanted leadership and judgment from the Arab world, lest it be further marginalized and left out of the order of nations.
For Karmi, however, Osama bin Laden was a "struggler in the path of God." There was no proof, he added, that Osama bin Laden was responsible for the events of Sept. 11; he was merely a man who cared about the rights of Muslims. He asked and answered his own question: Why did the "Arab Afghans" -- by which he meant the Arab volunteers who had gone to Afghanistan in the 1980's to fight the Soviet Union -- turn their wrath against the United States? "They have been made angry that the enemies are inside the Arab world," he said, echoing bin Laden's Oct. 7 videotape. "By its presence in the Arabian Peninsula, or in Palestine through its unlimited support for the killing of Palestinians, America has brought this anger on itself!"
Rashid, the guest in Doha, offered further absolution for bin Laden. The man, he argued, was just "part of the Arab anger in the face of American arrogance."
The show paused for a commercial break. One ad offered a striking counterpoint to the furious anti-Westernism of the call-in program. It was for Hugo Boss "Deep Red" perfume. A willowy Western woman in leather pants strode toward a half-naked young man sprawled on a bed. "Your fragrance, your rules, Hugo Deep Red," the Arabic voiceover intoned. I imagined the young men in Arab-Muslim cities watching this. In the culture where the commercial was made, it was nothing unusual. But on those other shores, this ad threw into the air insinuations about the liberties of the West -- the kind of liberties that can never be had by the thwarted youths of the Islamic world.
Back on the air, Shafeeq Ghabra made his sharpest intervention of the program: There was a "democratic deficit" in the Arab world, he argued. "But if a Saudi citizen had to choose between bin Laden and King Fahd, he should choose King Fahd. Bin Laden has not come forth bearing a democratic project, or a new project to improve the condition of women, or to repair our educational system. What he proposes is a Talibanist project, which would be a calamity for the Arab people."
Ramhi, the anchorwoman, interrupted him, talking over his voice. "Someone has to say to the United States, this is a red line!" she shouted. "Here and no more, in Palestine and Iraq, in other Arab realms!"
Ramhi soon cut off the discussion and segued to a taped segment from Egypt. The report, a Cairo street scene, was full of anti-Americanism. "Any young Muslim would be proud to be Osama bin Laden," one young man said. "America is the maker of terrorism," another asserted, "and it is now tasting its own medicine." There was authenticity in this rage; it was unrehearsed and unprompted. The segment went on at some length.
Afterward, Ramhi admitted that there was a "minority opinion" to be found in Egypt. She cut to the brief comments of a quiet man, in a white shirt and tie, in the midst of a crowd. He was eager to exonerate his faith. "I am a good Muslim," he said, "and Islam does not permit the killing of noncombatants. Islam could never countenance the killing of civilians."
This dissent was immediately followed, however, by more belligerence. Men clamored for the "evidence," insisting there was no proof of bin Laden's guilt. And there was the unsettling verdict of the sole "woman on the street" interviewed. The young woman had a certain fundamentalist chic -- a colored head scarf arranged with flair and a confident way about her. She spoke of bin Laden with unadorned admiration. "Bin Laden is the only personality who is doing the right thing at this time," she said. "He is trying to awaken them from their slumber!"
Al Jazeera is the only Arab television station to have achieved global fame, but its status is inflated. The truth is, other Arab channels reach much wider audiences. The oldest, most successful of the pan-Arab satellite stations is the London-based Middle East Broadcasting Centre. The station is controlled by an in-law of King Fahd of Saudi Arabia. In addition to broadcasting the region's most popular program, "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" MBC has five news broadcasts of its own. MBC's news programs come across as blandly professional. Compared to Al Jazeera, its reporters are staid, careful not to incur the wrath of Arab rulers or to challenge the established order. There is also the hugely popular Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation International. LBCI is loaded with entertainment programming, but it also regularly presents news. The news on LBCI, a privately owned station, also has a tepid feel. Syria dominates the Lebanese world, and its news broadcasts avoid broadcasting anything that would offend.
Despite its comparatively small audience, Al Jazeera has received almost all of the Bush administration's attention so far. The doors in official Washington have now opened before Al Jazeera's reporters. Since Sept. 11, there have been interviews with Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice.
Surely, the emir of Qatar never imagined that the bet he took five years ago would be so amply rewarded. Al Jazeera still requires the emir's subsidies, but the station's heightened profile has brought it closer to solvency. Al Jazeera's footage from Afghanistan, for example, has been sold to news outlets around the world, with individual clips selling for as much as $250,000. And earlier this fall, CNN and ABC made arrangements with Al Jazeera to broadcast the Arabic station's exclusive video from Afghanistan.
Al Jazeera's defenders tend to applaud its independence from the censors who control state-sponsored outlets in the Arab world. For the Egyptian novelist Ahdaf Soueif, there is the pleasure of channel-hopping at 2 in the morning and hearing a television station breaking with the widespread censorship and silence of the Arab news media. "It provides the one window through which we breathe," Soueif recently wrote of Al Jazeera.
In one sense, Soueif is right: the Arab world needed to be challenged. This was a region where the official media, in August 1990, withheld news of Iraq's conquest of Kuwait for three days. The pompous, sycophantic press in Arab countries -- whose main function has been to report the comings and goings and utterances of the ruler of the land -- has been dealt a major blow. For the first time, Arabs with a satellite dish now have access to uncensored news.
Al Jazeera's viewers see things that people of the region are clearly not meant to see. On Oct. 21, Al Jazeera offered silent footage of Bright Star, a joint Egyptian-American military exercise, off the coast of Egypt. It was a potent commentary on the stealth cooperation of the Egyptian military with the Pentagon. And despite the fact that its coverage of the intifada was horribly slanted, Al Jazeera should get some credit for being one of the few Arab TV stations to interview Israelis.
That said, Al Jazeera's virulent anti-American bias undercuts all of its virtues. It is, in the final analysis, a dangerous force. And it should treated as such by Washington.
A Madison Avenue advertising executive, Charlotte Beers, has been newly designated the under secretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs. The aim is to win the propaganda war, or the battle of public diplomacy in the Muslim world. She has her work cut out for her. The Bush administration is eager to explain America's war, eager for the Arabs and the Pakistanis to accept the justness of its military actions. But how can it possibly expect to persuade the reporters at Al Jazeera to change their deep-seated view of this conflict? It would therefore be folly for America's leaders to spend too much energy trying to moderate Al Jazeera. It would be counterproductive to give Al Jazeera's editors and reporters a special claim on the time of senior American officials.
There is a better strategy available to Washington. Instead of focusing on Al Jazeera, the White House could grant "pool interviews" to a large number of Arab stations. It could give the less inflammatory satellite stations, like MBC and LBCI, as much attention as Al Jazeera. Or, indeed, it could give them more. After all, MBC has a bigger audience; shouldn't it have a bigger influence, too? Why not give MBC the scoop of an interview with President Bush? Why not give LBCI some exclusive access to White House officials?
Americans must accept that they are strangers in the Arab world. We can barely understand, let alone control, what Al Jazeera's flak-jacketed reporters in Kabul and smooth anchorwomen in Doha are saying about us. An American leader being interviewed on Al Jazeera will hardly be able to grasp the insinuations, the hidden meanings, suggested by its hostile reporters. No matter how hard we try, we cannot beat Al Jazeera at its own game. But one thing is sure: there is no need to reward a channel that has made a name for itself through stridency and anti-Americanism.
There is a war on the battlefield, and that is America's to win. But
the repair of the Arab political condition -- and the weaning of the
Arab world away from radicalism -- is a burden, and a task, for the
Arabs themselves. The only thing America can do is make sure that it
never gives this radicalism -- and its satellite channel -- a helping
Fouad Ajami, professor of Middle Eastern studies at the School of
Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University, is the
author most recently of ''The Dream Palace of the Arabs.''
Fouad Ajami, professor of Middle Eastern studies at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University, is the author most recently of ''The Dream Palace of the Arabs.''
[TOP OF THE PAGE]
November, 16, 2001 (FRIDAY TIMES, A PAKISTANI NEWSPAPER)
THE WORLD VIEW OF THE EXPAT PAKISTANI
Khaled Ahmed's Analysis
One may at times feel that the general attitude of the expatriate Pakistani
tends to be more extreme than Pakistan's domestic opinion. He may look at the
American press as a massive Jewish conspiracy. He may believe that Ramzi Yusuf
was blameless for the 1992 attack on the World Trade Center and that that attack
was actually carried out by the Jews. (The author was nearly beaten up at an
airport when an elderly New York gentleman grew angry at him for saying that
Ramzi Yusuf had actually been responsible.) A British Pakistani recently wrote
to the author and accused him of being a coward and a slave of the white man for
not writing against the Western civilisation as an enemy of Islam.
Some of the web-sites run by the author's friends in the UK are shocking in their conspiratorial content. The abuse hurled by these websites at the Western enemy is hair-raising. The host-hating expatriate Pakistani despises Pakistan for not being anti-West enough, while you may perceive the real crisis in Pakistan in the fact that a collective suicide is being committed on the basis of impotent anger. The ARY TV channel, which broadcasts from London, recently showed white 'scholars' claiming that the World Trade Center attack was actually carried out by the Jews or by the right-wing extremist Americans themselves.
The common Muslim cause: There are three million Pakistanis living outside Pakistan whose thinking about Pakistan tends to be different from the desi Pakistani. This is nothing like the thinking of other expatriate communities. It contains elements of alienation which are unlike the alienation felt by others. It is definitely somewhat like the thinking of other Muslim expatriates because of the common Muslim cause . As a community living abroad, the Pakistanis are far less integrated into the host society than other expat communities. This is because of double alienation. The anger against the home country redoubled by anger against the hosts.
Difficulties of adjustment of Pakistanis abroad were intensified towards the end of the 20th century after the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in the Muslim world. The middle classes came under pressure from an aggressive clergy when it posited that life should be moulded in light of the principles of Islam. Among these principles, the most important was the refusal to live under an order that violated the spirit of Islam. The concept was that of amr and nahi, the one that ex-prime minister of Pakistan Nawaz Sharif tried to incorporate in his 15th Amendment in order to rule without being hampered by the judiciary. In the United Kingdom, a British Pakistani, Kalim Siddiqi, had set up a Muslim parliament of his own in the 1970s in defiance of the Godless (secular) system the British had imposed on the population.
Alienated abroad: The normal alienation of the expatriate begins at the home that he decides to leave. Pakistanis leave home because they cannot cope with its corruption and the savagery of its political system. Many flee political persecution while a majority leave for economic reasons. While leaving Pakistan, they express no real alienation from the country they are leaving even though lack of opportunity and corruption could become the basis of it. Of course, if an embassy interviews them for the grant of residency on the basis of asylum, the Pakistani will claim political persecution, lack of freedom of expression and religious repression. The truth of the matter is that most agree with religious stringency and have no conscience about the persecution of Pakistan's minuscule religious minorities. It has been observed that after settling abroad,
most of them will pursue sectarian politics and rely on religious leaders to indoctrinate them further in the ideology they are supposed to have left behind in Pakistan.
In an earlier article about British Pakistanis, I had recorded: 'Expatriate Muslims integrate less well with host societies than other expatriate
communities. This started happening towards the end of the 20th century as Muslims all over the world sought their identity increasingly in religion. As a result, communities that had lived in peace in diaspora started feeling ill at ease and often found themselves in conflict with the host societies. Most expatriate Muslims don't only feel alienated from the their new home, they also have reason to feel alienated from their old home. The problem of adaptation and acceptance abroad is compounded by an intense realisation that back home too the ruling elites are either anti-Islamic or subservient to Western dominance. The preoccupation with politics back home prevents integration in the new home.
'Talking in Lahore on 2 April 2001 about the Pakistani expatriate community living in the United Kingdom, Professor Muhammad Anwar of the University of Warwick, revealed significant research findings. The Pakistanis living in the UK are 700,000, the third largest minority community. (There are a million Indians in the UK.) The majority of these British Pakistanis are Kashmiris, including those displaced by Mangla Dam in Azad Kashmir. They are concentrated in four regions: 30 percent in and around London, 22 percent (100,000) in Birmingham, 20 percent (65,000) in Bradford, 20,000 in Manchester and 15,000 in Glasgow. The figure of 700,000 has grown from 5000 in 1951. Today, because of high birth-rate, fully 47 percent of them are under the age of 16, as compared to 17 percent for whites. They have the highest unemployment rate, five times more than the British average; and crime rate is higher among them than in any other community. Fully 2 percent of the prisoners rotting in British jails are Pakistanis, the highest for any one community.'
Alienated in the United States: In the United States, the Pakistanis are not as thickly concentrated in localities as in the much smaller United Kingdom. But there could be concentrations of them in Houston and Chicago, and there could be a sprinkling of them in New York and Washington. The American way of life can be quite isolating because of the concept of equal-but-separate rights, allowing individuals and whole communities to live in their separate identity bubbles. In Washington, most lower ranking officers in the Pakistan embassy don't come back
home upon transfer. Hence there is a large number of office staff who have 'stayed back', living in a collective bubble. They are aggressive textbook Pakistanis, steeped in the new fundamentalist Islam and anti-Indian rhetoric. The two issues that fire them most against the United States and India are Palestine and Kashmir. Blame for the issue of the Palestinian liberation from Israel is laid squarely at the door of the United States which is run by strong Jewish lobbies. Kashmir of course directs his ire at India but this too finally comes to roost with the United States because most Pakistanis have now come to see Washington becoming friendly to India.
More than in the United Kingdom, the Americans encourage the cult of self-criticism. It is fashionable to sit in the evening and criticise American
policies around the world. There are Pakistani amateur academics who actually make money lecturing Pakistanis about the perfidy of the United States and its unjust hostility towards the Muslims of the world. The two sources for this kind of polarity arise from the academe of the United States itself: the almost millennial scholarship of Huntington in his book on the clash of civilisations; and the almost inexhaustible mine of anti-Americanism in the high-quality writings of Noam Chomsky and Edward Said. This literature affects Pakistanis more than it does Indians. It has virtually no effect on the expatriate communities of Russia and Eastern Europe. These communities are usually alienated from their homelands and look at the United States as a kind host which has given them shelter and economic opportunity. The American Arabs take longer to absorb this influence because of their lack of familiarity with the language, but some of this literature may be available to them in translation. In a way, the Arab alienation in the United States goes much deeper than a Pakistani's because of this linguistic gulf. The Arab simply cannot not communicate his anger like the Pakistani.
Islam as culture: The Pakistani state has no cultural image. It has no entertainment industry to speak of because of the rise of state fundamentalism. The Pakistani expatriate too seeks culture from religion. In 1991, the Pakistani mosque in Washington was closed down because of the rise of Shia-Sunni differences. Some of the neutral-looking clerics of Lahore actually deliver sectarian sermons for a thousand dollars in private meetings hosted by well-to-do Pakistanis. In 1997, a popular show arranged by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan in Belgium was disrupted by Maulana Shah Ahmad Noorani who insisted on addressing the Belgian audience before the singing could begin. Most Belgians
quietly walked out of the audience. In France, similarly dominated by Barelvis, Lahore's Allama Tahirul Qadiri sways the Pakistani mind and compels the community to shell out large amounts of money to him. On one occasion, he addressed a massive rally in Lahore on telephone from Cannes!
Where the Deobandis have neglected to go there the Barelvis are in the ascendant. But both Deobandis and Barelvis are scrappy and eager to give battle to the Christian civilisation. The UK has been ruined by the puritanism of the Deobandis. It has been found that even in predominantly Barelvi areas of Birmingham most of the mosques are being controlled by rabid Deobandis. The result is that the Muslim Congress of England tends to blindly follow the Deobandi-Wahabi lead when it comes to taking a collective decision. Shah Ahmad Noorani, the big leader of the Barelvis in Pakistan, shifted his venue to continental Europe after picking up a fight with the wahabi clerics of London. The UK is the stronghold of the hardline clergy which goes from Pakistan under a visa policy that the British embassies have yet to sort out. The British government is also to blame for nurturing semi-terrorist organisations like the Hizb al-Tahreer and al-Muhajirun which it exported to Pakistan last year. Both
organisations have called for the overthrow of the Pakistani government and are spreading their tentacles rapidly because of the funds that are sent in from London.
[TOP OF THE PAGE]