Pakistan,  Religion

Reaping the whirlwind

Some interesting news from Pakistan. Silence about jihadists is no longer considered an option. Pakistan clerics are backing action against the Taliban.

A deeply religious people, Pakistanis tend to take guidance from senior clerics, and their previous ambivalence and confusion about Islamic extremism rose in part from the clergy’s silence or from denials that Muslims could have perpetrated acts of violence against civilians.

At the two religious conventions, however, there was even criticism of the Pakistani military’s past patronage of jihadist groups.

We are now harvesting the crop we sowed three decades ago,” Mufti Muneeb-ur-Rehman told a lively convention of some 4,000 clerics on Sunday, referring to the policy of backing Afghan “mujahedeen” guerrillas in the 1980s under U.S.-backed dictator Gen. Zia-ul-Haq.

Khalid Zaheer, the director of education at al-Mawrid, an independent group that promotes research on Islam, said the clerics were shaken into going public by the pronouncements of the Swat Taliban’s political interlocutor, Sufi Mohammad, whose position has grown increasingly extreme. On the eve of the military operation, Mohammad denounced democracy and the Pakistani constitution as contrary to Islam.

“They (the clerics) have come together after a pretty long while, in the meantime, it was pretty unclear what they stood for,” said Zaheer. “But you can’t say the Ulema (clerics) are condemning everything the Taliban stand for. They’re condemning the fact that the local population was subjected to murder (by the Taliban), that soldiers were killed. But the fact that women were prevented from coming out of their homes is something that would probably delight many of them.”

“We want to give the clear picture of Islamic to the world, that Islam has nothing to do with extremism, Islam has nothing to do with militancy, Islam is a religion of peace and love,” said Hanif Tayyeb, one of the organizers of both events and a former petroleum minister, in an interview.

To pre-empt the predictable comments from anti-Muslim bigots, who will immediately suggest Islam is the problem, not the answer, and that nothing any Muslim can say can go undermine the inherent totalitarian and reactionary positions of the Koran. Look around. There are Muslims around who are challenging extremist interpretations of Islam. Suggesting that Islam is an immutable imperialist monolith is to condemn all of it’s adherents. There is not going to be a solution to extremist Islam, that does not include alternative forms of Islam. Condemning those who do attempt the reform of Islam to better fit it to the modern world and democracy, is to do jihadists job for them.