I am mad. Actualy quite mad….problem is I don’t know who exactly am I mad at? International politics, leaders like G.W.Bush, Sharon and Olmert, religious leaders like Imams in Iran and Muftis in Saudia, Muslim leaders like the Saudi royal family or imams at radicalized mosques throughout the world, or terrorist masterminds like Osama bin laden and Zawahiri? It is so close to 14th of August, a day when I had planned to fully celebrate Pakistan’s Independence, but now it seems I am left with little to celebrate this year.
Just like many of you, I woke up yesterday to a scary news bulletin (yet again – like 9/11) that a terrorist plot to blow up airplanes flying into the USA was busted in its final moments (thank goodness!). There was a sigh of relief for a second but then I heard that many of the suspects identified had Pakistani origins and had recently traveled to Pakistan. Jeez…Pakistanis once again get involved in a terror plot! Its like a scary movie repeating itself several times….As the newscasters dived into rather trivial details on how long the waits were at the airports and what items were allowed in carry-on items, my mind focused in on the following issues over the next day or so:
- Why were Pakistanis suddenly so much in leadership of the terrorist plots around the world, esp. in London (and Spain)?
- It seems that Pakistani intelligence was involved in outing this particular plot. That is good news. Are they really doing their job now? If yes, where the heck is Osama and why can’t we seem to be able to find his pathetic ass (and that of his cronies)?
- The terror plot seemed extremely sophisticated. Using otherwise harmless chemicals to shake up an explosive cocktail on a laboratory on-board is a complex idea and only speaks about the kind of educated talent the terror operatives are able to recruit. What would Pakistani security officials do if these terrorists turned against Pakistani airlines? Are we safe within Pakistan?
- What are the implications of these kinds of terror plots on the Muslim youth living in the Western world? Are they going to become pariahs in the societies? Will they have to now stay away from mosques and shave off their beards to somehow ‘blend’ in better and deny their identities as Muslim?
- What would be the ramifications for Pakistan if the terrorist plot had actually suceeded? Would Pakistan have become the next Afghanistan for the American military?
I don’t have answers to the above questions, but I am very very concerned about what is going on in Pakistan and among the Pakistani diaspora. Somehow the Pakistani-American community is not as radicalized (by far) as the Pakistani-British community, but there are reasons to be worried all over. Why is the educated middle-class of Pakistanis feeling so marginalized or lost that they are losing their respect for life? And of letting others live? Mass terrorist threats don’t make sense even if put in the context of the global political reality where many Muslims feel utterly crushed by Western imperialist powers that are today symbolized by the USA, Britian and Israel. Clearly our society has much to figure out about itself. As a society of Pakistanis (living within and outside Pakistan), we are clearly a bit lost, and clearly venturing into extremely dangerous territory. Our youth is deviating from norms of civilization and the mad radicalists are more easily able to engage them into a survivalist themed international guerilla warfare. That is a sure route for disaster, if not suicide. Our nation needs to stand up and speak out against terrorism anywhere, and under any pretext. Palestinians, Lebanese, Kashmiris and other oppressed people are struggling for their survival and dignity, but by blowing up planes and showing no regard for human life, we are practically demolishing their goodwill and hence denying them their freedom. Allah would be so mad at us if we did not open our eyes and realized that the life of a non-Muslim was just as precious as the life of a Muslim momin (faithful). Those who preach terror and promise heaven on the other side of the valley of death are no different than mad crusaders who would say and do anythign in the name of religion, just to achieve their dirty and immoral objectives. I won’t talk today about what America and Britian and France and Israel need to do about their blatant human rights violations in Muslim countries to protect humanity from self-destruction, because I am feeling introspective. I want to analyze myself and my people. And I want all my people to do the same. This is a Jihad we must commit to.
Here’s a wonderful article posted by Eteraz on his blog. Read on. There is a great discussion going on at his website so follow the link there.
Muslim Musings on British Muslims
I like England. It produced Milton and Shakespeare. Dickens and TS Eliot. It is the place where I had my best fistfight. I have family there, friends who are Brits, and spent time living in London. I also received a fellowship to study the radicalization of Pakistani-Brits in the year 2000, but for various reasons I was unable to carry out the research (and ended up writing on Islamic Humanism instead). When previously staying in London, I was deeply alarmed by what was described to me as the “Muslim Fringe.” I mean, the henchmen of Muslim radicals like Omar Bakri Muhammad and Abu Hamza and the gullible goons of the Al-Muhajiroun (The Emigrants) movement. But that “fringe” has now become the spearhead of Western-based Muslim fanaticism.
Something is rotten among the state of British Muslims. There is the imminent terror plot to blow up planes at a massive scale. There was 7/7. There are British Muslims supporting Hizabollah (even as other Brits go to fight for Israel). There were British Muslims going off to fight in Iraq. There were British Muslims going off to Afghanistan (although British Muslims are also part of the British army). How did it happen that a bunch of university educated First World kids started seeing themselves as some sort of revolutionists?
Many Brits, for some foolish reason, pin the blame on British foreign policy. Oh, if only our foreign policy did not mimic the American foreign policy, we would stop producing home grown terrorists, because they would have no reason to hate us. Wrong. Dead wrong.
Imagine for one moment that I cast a magical spell, let’s say, using my Harry Potter wand, and the British government’s foreign policy became precisely what 99.9% of Muslims wanted it to be (assuming Muslims could agree — which, I can assure you, they can’t). But let’s say that happened. Would British-born Muslim fanaticism disappear? I assure you most certainly not. For you see, Palestine, Chechnya, Afghanistan, Iraq are just proxies for the fanatic. If all of those places were at peace he would find new reasons for legitimizing his killing. He would target Western “materialism.” He would target Western “hedonism.” He would target Western “secularism.” Just as a fanatic can look to the television and see dead Muslim children around the world to fuel his rancor, he would be able to find on the television any number of other “catalysts” to fuel his behavior. Not only that, but he would find in his Salafi tomes (Qutb written, Saudi paid), those catalysts (like the flesh of the Western woman). No, it is not the foreign policy that is the problem; it the fanatic that is the issue.
Yet, what is going on in Britain that it is producing so many? If we can identify that, perhaps we can resolve how to fix it. Is it Islam (as the knee-jerk Islamophobe will allege). If it were, the United States would be producing as many, and that’s patently not the case. Those in the States who are Muslim and have carried out acts of fanaticism have been imports. Not part of our communities. In fact, our communities have been actively involved in fighting such fanatics (this police officer was Muslim). Besides, Britain itself houses hundreds of thousands of Muslims who have no support for the fanatics. Like Tariq Ramadan or not, but he is not a militant. Like TJ Winter, the lecturer, or not (and I don’t), he has taken a strong position against violence. There are Muslims in the Conservative Party of England. There are Muslims who work with battered women. Islam, it surely isn’t, but fanaticism it is.
The roots of British-based Muslim fanaticism go back a while. Central figures involve Omar Bakri Muhammad and Abu Hamza. Bakri was asylum seeker who then propogated an anti-Western (almost treasonous) position against his host country (which means he was a parasite). The two roamed free and unfettered in the insular communities of England. Picking off and chewing up in their cadaverous rhetoric 2nd and 3rd generation Pakistani youth — who I will speak about later. It was the acolytes of these leaders who were banned at the premier Muslim mosque in London, London Central Mosque (they were kept 20 feet out of the premises with a chain separating them from the regular worshippers). It was these acolytes who attended the anti-Denmark cartoon rally carrying inflammatory and inexcusable placards.
Both of these men are no longer in England. Bakri Muhammad was deported. Abu Hamza fled. Does that mean that their ideology is no more? Of course not. It has been handed down to, guess who: yes, a British-Pakistani. His name is Anjum Choudhary (no link for him), who is now head of the Al-Ghurabaa (The Strangers). The British government has banned them. However, that was not until July 17th of 2006! Prior to that, Anjum showed up on BBC, in a roundtable discussion (which he clearly had every intention of destroying with his arrogance). During the course of the debate he essentially told one of the female Muslim activists that she was not in a place to talk because she did not wear the hijab. [By the way, watch this debate. Ramadan was such a little pussy through the debate. It took him 8 minutes to talk and even then he was trying to be conciliatory. Get a nasty side homie. Smack up that arrogant little ideologue]. Anjum represents the same strain of fanatical supremacism that Bakri Muhammad and Abu Hamza had been peddling, and while the organization might be banned, the ideology lives on, percolating in the Muslim communities, which brings us to the Pakistani-Brits that have now become the hand-maidens of fanaticism.
Most Pakistani-Brits are not prone to violence, or even concern themselves with such things. Just yesterday one Brit of Pakistani origin, Sajid Mahmood, lead England to cricketing victory over Pakistan. Some incredible Muslim bloggers from England are of Pakistani backgrounds, which includes my friends Thabet (who shares credit for this post) and Anarcho-Muslim (who is white I know but he’s Muslim and I’m too lazy to link to others). Not only that, but almost every Pakistani kid in England has grown up having heard the epithet “Paki” — which, as Gautam Malkani explains in his incredible novel “Londonistani” is the same as “nigger.” If you are an “Asian” (i.e. Indian or Pakistani) and you have been called “Paki” you can use the term. If you are not, you will be beat. The novel opens with an Indian protagonist hitting an Irish chap on the mouth while saying “I aint no fuckin Paki, innit?” Point is: while it is easy to lump all men of Pakistani origin together and cast suspicious eyes at them, they themselves have, and continue to, live with a lot.
Nevertheless, the reality is that it is precisely this group of young men who are giving life to fanaticism, and they have to be spoken about. Muslims cannot hide behind the victimization of being called “Paki” and then fail to address the problems their communities are creating. As I understand the situation, European immigrant communities differ from American in that they are all very insular, as this article on the battle for the heart of Islam explains, according to an Arab-American-Brit.
“In Europe, as a migrant you are welcomed, but it is insular, you stay in your quarters,” he says. “In America, the entire economic system is based on diversity. You have to be open to every culture to sell them your product or else you won’t survive. So, sooner or later, everyone ends up in bed together.”
The other book to read is Monica Ali’s “Bricklane” which is also going to be a motion picture. (But boy does this book suck stylistically).
Further, the European social model is different than the American such that social mobility is difficult, if not impossible. When I first arrived in American (Brooklyn) I saw there were numerous other Pakistani immigrants like me, a couple of whom I was friends with. None of us live in Brooklyn ghettoes anymore. Last I heard, one was a self-proclaimed “player” in Miami and the other moved away elsewhere. We Americans have a hard time understanding that parts of the First World are incapable of providing social mobility. Not only that, but Europeans do not seem lilkely to change, as the French protests in support of the right to stay lazy demonstrated.
The additional social force exerting upon the Pakistani’s who are turning radical is that they are second, even third generation, Brits. Most have no difficulties getting an education (the 7/7 bombers had university degrees), getting girls, getting married, getting a life. In other words, the “immigrant struggle” that their parents and grandparents waged doesn’t affect them. All they have to do is be consumers, participate in popular culture, and pass the time. Again, the book to read is Londonistani in which the crass materialism of this generation of children is so superbly manifested: the characters spend most of the time talking about their beamers. So when they turned to the fanatic ideology, they are doing it 1) to acquire meaning, 2) to belong to a group, and 3) to exorcise their existential ennui. They remind me a bit of the otaku, the I’m alone but not lonely anime-worshipping post-modernists of Japan who don’t know what they are, only what they aren’t (see last paragraph of piece). Here is an example of Japanese post-modernist alienation. However, unlike Japan, which is a very limited and small society (when compared to the entire world of Islam), these British-Pakistani post-modernists have numerous external forces they must answer to: people like Anjum Choudhary, Bin Laden, Israel/Palestine conflict. The reason I draw the parallel is because Japan has unusually high rates of suicide. The willingness with which British-Pakistanis are committing suicide-attacks, entering war-zones where they are most likely to be killed, is that same suicide impulse. These kids are steeped in a sort of meaningless nihilism with no way of getting out. Nihilism can be defeated with Belief. However, the only form of belief thaty are drawn to, is the murderous kind. The post-modern Nihilism of these youth meets the regressive Nihilism of Islamic Fanaticism. Thus Anjum Choudhary, British-accented and oratorial, becomes the tool for a hook-handed outcast of the Arab world, Abu Hamza. I am not trying to suggest that Anjum Choudhary is the individual responsible for the recent attacks. I’m sure he has been investigated. What I am arguing, however, is that there are too many Muslims like him perverting the social alienation of the youth and using it to advance their own agendas. I do know he is a nihilist. It reminds me a bit of the brain-washing campaigns the Nazis or the Japanese used to engage in before World War II.
What is most fascinating (and disturbing) about the ‘methods’ used to capture the minds of these youth are that they are rooted in Romanticism. Just as neo-Nazi skin heads are made to appear like the Guardians of the Entire White Race (the film to see is American History X), or Hindutva Thugs are made out to appear as the Guardians of The Purity of the Hindu, so the Muslims in the West are told that they are the Guardians of God’s Majesty. To re-affirm and re-iterate to them that they are unique, special, and simply ‘misunderstood’ they are told that they are “strangers” to the world. That it is not them that is the problem; it is that the rest of the world will never understand them. What was the name of Anjum Choudhary’s now banned party? “The Strangers.” What was the nickname Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi adopted for himself? “Al-Gharib” – “The Stranger.” The way Islam is brought into this Romantic Terror is by way of a hadith of the Prophet which makes a reference to how believers can end up feeling like they are strangers to those who do not share their belief. A Muslim with common-sense can interpret this hadith to mean that the Prophet was simply talking about how its hard to connect with people who disagree with you. The fanatics of the faith, on the other hand, link a few words in the hadith to their Romanticist agenda, and take hold of an impressionable mind. Violence follows.
The other thing I want to do is ask about the responsibility of the parents. Pakistanis, just about everywhere in the world, have a tendency to excessively exalt those that teach their kids. [I tackled it before in this: I am A Dark Elf.] This deference makes them very forgiving and almost apathetic towards what their children’s teachers are doing. My own parents, in a time in my life when I was out of their control, forced me into a madrassa because they thought that my teacher would be able to fix me. We found quickly that it was not until my parents addressed my problems (the fact that I had no friends and was being kept two grades behind) did the problem get addressed. Assuredly, just like that, Pakistani parents in England believe that if they send their children to religious training or education at the local mosque their kids will learn all the ethics and morality they need in life. That is simply not the case.
British madrassas are notoriously hideous. Pedophilia and rape are the norm. In fact, even the British government is aware of this and has called for changes. My friend Thabet opines that in five years the case of molestation and rape in British madrassas is going to blow up the way the Catholic molestation of youth did a few years ago. So the question is again, where are they parents? Of course a child who has been molested as a youth, and then been unquestionedly allowed to go wherever he damn well pleases (in a beamer), is going to go off the deep end. The problem here is not what these guys believe (because even if they believed in Pokemon they would be murderers), but that nothing is being done to combat the conditions which create criminals. That is what each and every bomber and potential bomber has been — a criminal. British Muslims have to begin calling them that. Meanwhile, non-Muslim Brits have to recognize that criminality exists in many manifestations (it isn’t just drugs and rape), and they have to realize that before they stereotype and demonize just the Muslims in Britain for housing criminals, they should look at the criminal drug culture amongst the urban whites as well.
In the end, I am not English. I am glad to be an American. I am incredibly sensitive to the things that are happening in England and I intend on making sure the same does not happen here. I do have a step up though. As noted, the American culture is more open, less insular, and more receptive. For that reason, it is important that regular Americans try to export their vision of their domestic world, in a respectful and non-supremacist manner, to other parts of the First World (including France; who have a thing or two to learn about secularism).
These are difficult problems requiring careful resolution. Name-calling, Islamophobia, fear-mongering, blame-games, and victimization-complexes don’t help. I wish you all the best. Be safe flying over the Atlantic. Man I hate that ocean. It scares me more than the Pacific, at least with that you have tales of survival; what does the Atlantic got? Titanic.
ps – one thing I did not have time to address is the difference between Saudi backed Salafism and Algerian Salafism. Those who know the Muslim communities of London know there is a difference. The former is into a sort of supremacist (but ghettoistic) isolationism while the latter is political and almost militant. I leave it to others to investigate this. It may be worthwhile starting here and here.
pps – Dirty Pakis save the day. It was Pakistan’s intelligence agency which tipped off the Brits.
ppps – The Bank of England released the following names: Abdula Ahmed Ali, Cossor Ali, Shazad Khuram Ali, Nabeel Hussain, Tanvir Hussain, Umair Hussain, Umar Islam, Waseem Kayani, Assan Abdullah Khan, Waheed Arafat Khan, Osman Adam Khatib, Abdul Muneem Patel, Tayib Rauf, Muhammed Usman Saddique, Assad Sarwar, Ibrahim Savant, Amin Asmin Tariq, Shamin Mohammed Uddin, and Waheed Zaman. The oldest person on the list, Shamin Mohammed Uddin, is 35 years old. The youngest, Abdul Muneem Patel, is 17.