What’s Wrong With This Picture? Saudi Arabia
What’s Wrong With This Picture? Saudi Arabia
Malala Yousefzai wrote and delivered an outstanding speech at the United Nations last week. Yet, many in the cyber world of comments, tweeting, and hot air dispensing were not only dissatisfied, but missed the heart of her message completely. Instead, many nitpicked about how she should have done X, Y, or Z, and not A, B, or C, including, among many other criticisms, supposedly her failure to sufficiently glorify Islam and/or the Prophet Muhammad. This is very typical of myopic Muslims who time and again fail to receive important messages as the one Malala is conveying, and instead focus on – no, obsess about – the trivial and peripheral nonsense that they can pick on endlessly like mindless vultures. Why do we bother pondering the reasons why the Muslim world is not progressing? If only they would actually take her advice about getting a decent education and using their intellect for the greater good! But that might be asking too much. It’s much more convenient to blame others for all your problems.
Pakistan is already overflowing with conspiracy theories pertaining to Malala’s UN sponsorship for the speech. Some ridiculous conjectures include CIA support for her activism, and even farfetched suggestions that the CIA is the one that actually shot her in the head in order to “make Pakistan look bad.” Let’s be frank here, does Pakistan really need outside help to look any worse? It’s not exactly the best example for “good governance” for the past decades, and some would even say since the country’s birth. Besides, blaming outside forces for all their woes is really getting old. And, let’s stoop to yet a deeper low and chastise a young girl for what – getting shot in the head? For taking a refreshingly nonviolent stand against extremism and ignorance? For initiating activism for girls’ education in Pakistan? Yes, she deserves to be shot for all that, some actually would say!
Then came the letter to Malala from a high-ranking Taliban commander, which could not possibly be out of embarrassment. The Taliban are not known for being embarrassed about anything they do. Clearly, he saw a PR disaster as a result of Malala’s global stature. According to the New York Times, the 4-page letter – “was signed by the militant Adnan Rashid, a former Pakistani Air Force officer who took part in an attempt to assassinate General Pervez Musharraf a decade ago and escaped from prison last year, in the biggest jailbreak in Pakistani history.” Yes, he is an esteemed character indeed, and he represents a segment of Pakistan’s armed forces no less. What exactly does he want to convey to Malala?
Adnan Rashid explains in the letter that the Taliban shot Malala, not because of her activism and advocacy for girls’ education, but rather her “smear campaign” against the Taliban. He admonishes “English” education and then he says:
“I advise you to come back home, adopt the Islamic and Pushtoon culture, join any female Islamic madrassa near your home town, study and learn the book of Allah, use your pen for Islam and plight of Muslim ummah and reveal the conspiracy of tiny elite who want to enslave the whole humanity for their evil agendas in the name of new world order.”
The Taliban enslaved the Swat Valley, using brutality and force against locals to comply with their distorted policies. The Taliban never hesitate to kill, maim, and brutalize civilians, and in his own words, they can’t even take criticism (i.e., “Malala’s smear campaign”) from a teenager! By his own admission, the Taliban shot her in the head because she criticized them. And, he claims the assassination attempt had nothing to do with her education advocacy, but yet he emphasizes that she must attend only a female madrassa that teaches nothing useful for individual and social progress and development.
Exactly which ‘ummah’ is he talking about? Is it the one in which Shias, Ahmadis, and other sectarian and religious minorities are not only excluded, but even violently persecuted? Is it the one in which schoolgirls get acid thrown in their faces for daring to get an education? Is it the puritanical ummah that hates and fears females and anyone and any ideology that does not conform to its own brand? Is it the ummah that is being forced on civilians at gunpoint and with threats of beheadings and amputations? Is it that great ummah in which the Taliban carry out suicide bombings killing scores of civilians, in order to impose their own “new world order”? Hypocrisy thy name is the Taliban!
The greater travesty is that many in Pakistan are embracing the Taliban’s messages and reactions. The fact that the Taliban’s asinine victimization claims are touching a chord in Pakistani society, to the extent that many are reviling Malala, is a deeply troubling commentary about the state of affairs in Pakistan.
Pakistan is afflicted with much more than just geopolitical complexities; it is clearly in deep psychological crisis and confusion about its national identity, internal contradictions, violent dissent, and the rise and empowerment of militancy, extremism, and militarism in nearly all aspects of society. Many Pakistanis obsess with blaming outside forces for all their troubles, yet they ignore their self-inflicted social ills, including violent misogyny, debilitating poverty, and gross corruption and incompetence of political leaders. The greatest casualty in all this social/psychological turmoil is something so basic and essential to survival and progress: common sense.
Hayat Alvi, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor in the National Security Affairs Department at the US Naval War College. The views expressed are personal.
It’s amazing that some people protested against the French-led campaign in Mali. Surely the French have a host of national interests in doing so, including sustaining ties to its former colony. No one is naïve enough to believe that it was done out of true altruism. But at the same time, given what the Sharia bullies who ransacked their way through northern Mali and threatened the capital had done to the locals, the French should be applauded.
Tuareg rebels who had long been Libyan leader Colonel Qaddafi’s allies grabbed their weapons and fled to Niger and Mali in 2011 after their benefactor’s demise. Together with Islamist extremists, they overran the Malian military, and the hard-line Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) affiliated Islamists implemented harsh Sharia laws particularly restricting women. They demanded women to cover up and not be in public without a male chaperone, and to cardboard windows in their homes. They even turned against their Tuareg comrades and violently drove out anyone among the Tuareg rebels who didn’t join them. Islamist extremists meted out extrajudicial executions, stonings, whippings, amputations, and other forms of violent punishments with no due process. A man amputated his brother’s hand; a couple was stoned to death for “adultery;” and countless people have been whipped, humiliated, and bullied in public by bearded Taliban-like extremists alongside Kalashnikov-wielding adolescents.
Hundreds of thousands of Malians have fled as refugees. The refugees say that they fear the extremists, and economic activities are at a complete standstill thanks to the extremist thugs. A humanitarian disaster has ensued. In addition to their brutal treatment of fellow moderate Muslims, the extremists have destroyed centuries-old UNESCO heritage sites, including mosques and important Sufi mausoleums in Timbuktu, and they have burned irreplaceable old manuscripts in historical libraries.
Spiegel Online (October 29, 2012) describes “A Trip through Hell: Daily Life in Islamist Northern Mali”, starting with a checkpoint on the road to Gao:
“Adolescents wielding Kalashnikovs stand at the barrier with their legs apart. The oldest one keeps repeating the same instructions through a megaphone: ‘No cigarettes, no CDs, no radios, no cameras, no jewelry,’ an endless loop of prohibitions, a list of everything that’s haram, or impure, with which this journey to the north begins. The men stand guard in the name of the Prophet Muhammad.
… The Sharia court uses a former military base outside the city to carry out its grisly punishments. One of its victims is Alhassane Boncana Maiga, who was found guilty of stealing cattle. Four guards drag Maiga, wearing a white robe, into a dark room and tie him to a chair, leaving only one hand free. A doctor gives the victim an injection for the pain.
Then Omar Ben Saïd, the senior executioner, pulls a knife out of its sheath. ‘In the name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful,’ he calls out, takes the convicted man’s hand and begins to slice into it, as blood squirts out. It becomes more difficult when Saïd reaches the bone, and it’s a full three minutes before the hand drops into a bucket. The executioner reaches for his mobile phone, calls his superior and says: ‘The man has been punished’.”
A few days later Maiga died, possibly from infection.
The Islamic extremists consist of a mix of different groups, including a fairly new one called Ansar al-Dine (“Defenders of the Faith”), which collaborates with AQIM and also is involved in the Saharan drug trade. Ansar set up shop in the city of Kidal, where –
“Islamic police in pickup trucks patrol the streets. The market is closed, and women are no longer permitted to go out in public alone in the city. The men were instructed to grow beards. Those who do not obey the muezzin’s call to prayer are either whipped or jailed for three days. Listening to the radio is banned, and the new rulers have simply sawed off satellite dishes on the roofs of houses.
… “Those stupid Salafists,” [says a Kidal resident]. He refuses to take them very seriously and isn’t fooled by their piety. He calls them bandits, not holy warriors.
… The Islamic police are everywhere … There are more than 20 ethnic groups in Mali, and until now, Muslims, Christians and animists coexisted peacefully. Religion was always a private matter … the people of Kidal are tired of being pushed around by adolescents [with Kalashnikovs].”
Those who so vocally espouse the brand of Sharia that the Mali terrorists wield should spend a day under their ruthless rule. Then let’s see who will be crying for someone to rescue them.
NOTE: Everything I write in this blog constitutes my personal opinions and views
The Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) journal has published my article, “Women in Afghanistan: A Human Rights Tragedy a Decade after September 11” –
Also published by the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA), thank you RAWA:
The shooting of the brave Pakistani teenager, Malala Yusufzai, underscores a reality, without exaggeration, about the degree and severity of misogyny of Islamic extremists. The shooting, which the 14-year-old activist and campaigner for girls’ education survived, is an ever-growing stain on Pakistan’s fabric of militancy and mindless misogynist orthodoxy. The list of threats and violence against women and liberal voices is long. This week BBC profiled an Afghan female rap artist, who is a proud patriot, yet receives regular threats by militants, including threats of acid attacks. In Dagestan, militants murdered the fourth Sufi cleric this year.
What drives these hyenas to commit senseless acts of violence against innocent civilians and even children? Are they so threatened by girls that they have to resort to such tactics as acid attacks and shootings of school buses? Is this what their seminary curricula have taught them, to hate everyone who doesn’t conform to their own way of thinking, and to fear girls, especially educated ones? I once reprimanded my students for using the word “barbaric” for the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, but now I lament my actions. The behavior of these militants and extremists, which are not restricted to the Af-Pak region, is beyond barbaric. They transcend the Dark Ages in their regressive madness and extremes. They make me hate the news and cringe every time I reach for BBC or NPR. They are a dark cloud hovering ominously over the “modern” Muslim world today, and sadly many Muslims remain defensively in denial or apologetically rationalize the existence of these ugly elements, or re-frame Shariah (Islamic law) to distance themselves from such ideologies.
If so called moderate and liberal Muslims fail to acknowledge the reality of these extremists and their agendas, and, more importantly, fail to counter these militant and extremist forces in their midst, dire consequences await Muslim communities worldwide. Some of these consequences are already occurring, including:
The end result of this religious fascism is nothing but destructive, oppressive, intolerant, and violent, authoritarian male-dominated communities living anachronistically in a 7th century time warp. In fact, that itself is an untruth, because much of these extremists’ attitudes and behaviors pre-date Islam. Yet, they insist on attributing their take on Islam as replicating the time of the Prophet Muhammad in 7th century Arabia. Still, even the latter was not such a shining example of women’s emancipation and rights, certainly not by modern standards, nor was it brimming with religious tolerance and harmony. Pre-Islamic Arabia fared even worse of course, but to compare these historical contexts to modern times is a non-starter. Hence, the extremists’ backward regression is far worse than anticipated. We all thought the Taliban were the worst when they emerged in the 1990s, but now they have parallel groups and ideologies that mirror them in many respects. And we have the Saudis to thank for the proliferation of Wahhabi / Salafi ideologies that are inspiring these extremists and militants.
Last year and even earlier this year, I had high hopes for post-revolution political and socioeconomic development in Tunisia, where the 2011 Arab Awakening began. Now, Salafist thugs are threatening to derail stability and security in Tunisia, while continuing their violent agendas and attacks. Even as recent as October 31st, there have been fierce clashes in Tunis, as Al Jazeera reports:
“Wielding sharp tools and swords, the protesters went on the attack in the Tunis suburb of Manouba after police arrested a Salafist suspected of assaulting the head of the suburb’s public-security brigade, Khaled Tarrouche, interior ministry spokesman, said.
‘There has been a reinforcement of security, of the National Guard, of the army to prevent any retaliation’ by the Salafist movement, Tarrouche said on Wednesday.
‘The response by the security forces led to the death of an attacker who was hit by a bullet.’
Two security force members were also seriously injured, he said.”
These extremist elements are enemies of knowledge. They are haters of peace and harmony. They are the most intolerant towards tolerance. Muslims must not bury their heads in the sand about this. There is way too much at stake.
NOTE: Everything I write in this blog constitutes my personal opinions and views
Here is my latest opinion piece in the Jerusalem Post, “Taliban 2.0: Targeting Women Globally”:
I would be interested to know what readers think about such decrees (fatwas) being handed down to restrict the rights and freedoms of girls and women in India and elsewhere. Please don’t hesitate to submit your comments. Thanks.
PLEASE READ this piece by Mona Eltahawy in Foreign Policy Magazine… It’s provocative and extremely important: