Religious extremism and its apologists

Published: June 15, 2010
The writer is a former ambassador who has served in France and Saudi Arabia (

The writer is a former ambassador who has served in France and Saudi Arabia (

Religious extremists in Pakistan – whether they belong to al Qaeda, the Taliban, or the lashkars and sipahs of various hues – have made their agenda very clear. They believe in an extremely narrow-minded version of Islam and intend to impose it on us with the use of brutal force. They showed to the world what they preach during the Taliban control of Afghanistan, Swat, parts of Waziristan and elsewhere where they have held sway in the past. Their brave new world was a fascist state ruled by mullahs with no freedom of thought, assembly or press. Women were caged in their houses, forced to wear shuttlecock burqas, and could neither be educated nor hold jobs. Music, cinema, television and even sports were banned. There were restrictions on clothes and on getting haircuts and keeping beards was compulsory. Minorities were persecuted. Their foreign policy had a one-point agenda, viz. hate America and its allies.

These extremists are determined to impose their writ in Afghanistan, Pakistan and, eventually, over the rest of the world. To do so, they have used the most barbaric methods: suicide bombings, beheadings, killing civilians in bazaars and namazis in mosques. They have destabilised Pakistan and hurt its economy. Many see Pakistan as a lawless country and some describe it as a failed state. But even worse is the damage done to the image of Islam. Muslims are viewed as terrorists, leading to visa restrictions and body searches. This is terrible injustice to a religion which stands for peace, tolerance and forgiveness.

How then do these extremists find so many apologists in Pakistan, who are not merely among the religious parties? There is no shortage of anchors in our media who deflect any criticism. Their first line of defence is denial. Every gruesome act by the religious fanatics is attributed to India, Israel, the US or the “agencies” of the Pakistan government. No evidence is put forward to substantiate these allegations which seem to be based on conjectures and innuendoes. Even when terrorists take responsibility the apologists claim that this must be disinformation. When all excuses fail to carry conviction, the argument is that the terrorism is a response to the evil deeds of America. For this purpose a relentless and largely fictitious propaganda is carried out to demonise America and paint it as the arch villain and enemy of Islam. The fact that the US has given more aid to Pakistan than any other country in the world and has held India back from military adventures against Pakistan – in the Kargil incident of 1999, after the attack on the Indian parliament in 2001, and the Mumbai terror attacks in 2008 – means nothing to the anti-America lobby. They are bent on putting this country on a collision course with the US. The consequences this could have for Pakistan should be obvious to any rational observer.

Published in the Express Tribune, June 15th, 2010.

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Reader Comments (26)

  • Shahryar Ahmed
    Jun 15, 2010 - 10:45AM

    A extremely nice article I must say.

    A sane voice in an insane country.Recommend

  • Amna Zaman
    Jun 15, 2010 - 11:14AM

    The terrorist want to impose a narrow version of Islam on others as well. We must eradicate radicalism from the country and the author rightly points out so. M glad to hear from some1 who has served in Saudia Arabia for Pakistan.Recommend

  • Hira Mir
    Jun 15, 2010 - 11:17AM

    The author gives an interesting view on the current situation of Pakistan. It is important that we do not categorize the Taliban. I don’t believe there is good Taliban and bad Taliban. They all are terrorist and work on the same agenda.Recommend

  • Manal Shakir
    Jun 15, 2010 - 11:44AM

    Great Article! Pakistanis need to learn how to keep everything in context.Recommend

  • Fareed Ahmed
    Jun 15, 2010 - 1:23PM

    It’s a sorrow state of affairs indeed! The versions of Islam in Pakistan today have multiplied like software versions! Narrow-minded, ultra-conservative, Deobandi, Baralvi and so on.Recommend

  • Sharjeel Jawaid
    Jun 15, 2010 - 1:46PM

    Taking a critical look at the history of Muslims, we can infer that Political Islam did not survive but a few years.

    Through the ages teachings of Islam have however survived at personal, community and intellectual levels. The mission is visibily being carried out by individuals and institutions the world over. Pakistanis with all their real and percieved negatives, contribute PKR 140 billion a year to charity!

    It would be a worthwile excercise to explore and analyse, why Political Islam failed to continue the concept of establishing a just social order. Was this not the core philosophy of Islam [or for taht matter any other religion]?Recommend

  • rosysblue
    Jun 15, 2010 - 2:12PM

    so like you’re obviously a hater…like you like zionist wwoohhhooooRecommend

  • Muhammad
    Jun 15, 2010 - 2:46PM

    I love the point writer made regarding Taliban and I think Taliban should be eradicated from the surface of the planet, they are those who hijacked the true religion of Prophet Muhammad PBUH changed the face of Islam. But at the same time I wish we could criticize the brutal rule of Bani-Abass and Bani-Omaya who they take the foundation from. I am from FATA and I felt the heat of atrocities they have made there. Let me add a very important fact about status of their belive, which I am sure many of you urban Pakistanis will not be aware of. In my village in North Waziristan majority is uneducated and so can not read Quran let alone learning it by heart. You will be shocked that they are unable to recite very basic verses and supplications Muslims need in prayers, five times a day. And more importantly the fact that male are “UNCIRCUMCISED” in my village because they never got it from their parents. My father did circumcision after he went to Islamabad for his studies then on he cared about this, for his offspring.
    But i disagree with author when he accepts the current status of US to my dear homeland. The ambassadors of Pakistan like the author came from the bureaucratic past where in many scenarios they know that they are wrong but they go with it they live with it. I am sure the author is completely naive about the US monetary system and about its position as a dollar-printing-right holder. And i think he is incompetent to understand the loses we as nation bared due to our association with Yankees.Recommend

  • Ammar Zafarullah
    Jun 15, 2010 - 3:20PM

    The denial syndrome affects not only the media persons but also the general public which is often misled by biased reporting. Media does play the role of a watchdog in a democracy that keeps government active and we have all shared the sentiment that with the passage of time it will become a more mature and less sensational. But somehow it is evolving in to a biting-dog! The media needs to impartial and unbiased in its reporting. Recommend

  • Rashid Saleem
    Jun 15, 2010 - 3:25PM

    The extremist cannot be allowed to implement their sick version of Islam even in a limited territory. Why should the people of that locality become victims of their joy rides? The terrorists need to be dealt with an iron hand.Recommend

  • Jun 15, 2010 - 3:29PM

    We find someone to blame, whether rightly or wrongly, as we have become used to playing the victim. Its much easier to blame external or hidden forces than to hold our selfs accountable. Its a self perpetuating myth, as we are powerless to act against “unknown” forces, so the victim-oppressor cycle continues.

    @Sharjeel – Well, politics is a struggle for power, and is hierarchical, while all religions, in theory, aim to organize and homogenize society. Making the two ends meet is an almost impossible task. At the end of the day, regardless of the sense of self-righteous piousness, power corrupts. Recommend

  • Jun 15, 2010 - 4:21PM

    This is truth. But most of Muslims support terrorist in the name of religion,without knowing the consequences. Denial is their birthright fully knowing they are lies. I agree with S.A. Amin fully.Recommend

  • Hamza Baloch
    Jun 15, 2010 - 4:53PM

    Its not easy to sumarize all this current issue like author done.
    Afghanistan, what ever talban done or were doing its was not americans to decide and put a war on them.
    What ever happening in Pakistan is the reaction of that war, as Pakistan is the “Front line state” against the war against terrorism(/Muslims).
    Americans are giving maximum add to Pakistan… yes, and its also ture americans are gaining max support from us and for america we are sacrificing more than any country…

    But let me remind you one thing also… from last 11 years “give and take” between Pakistan and america.. Pakistani citizine were in peace but now in war, americans only pay twin buildings now they are in peace since 9/11!Recommend

  • Jun 15, 2010 - 5:01PM

    The author has raised a very pertinent point: why and how the terrorists continue to find apologists among the educated, moneyed and ruling elites? Do we have double standards or split personalities? Are we in a state of denial? May be a sociologist can explain. As for our feelings about the US, let us ponder a bit. China and US are our main sources of security assistance while US and EU are the main donors of economic aid. Why is maximum hatred reserved for the Americans, some for the Europeans and hardly any for the Chinese? To me, all these are signs of contradictions in our society and often in the inviduals as well. Unless we resolve the contradictions, as a society we shall continue to be overtaken by events than the other way around. Taliban do not deserve sympathy but US military operations are not helping in eradicating the roots of terrorism. Nobody wlcomes foreign forces on their soil. And experience has shown that the Vietnamese who chased the US troops out of their country, now welcome American tourists and businessmen who arrive with a briefcase in their hands. Can that happen in Aghanistan as well? Recommend

  • Jun 15, 2010 - 5:26PM

    why does express tribune have so few facebook fans?? It is one of the few newspapers i have found who have the courage to condemn religous intolerance and bigotry in our society in very clear and unambigous terms.It’s a pity not more ppl have access to great articles.Recommend

  • Dr. Asim Allah Bakhsh
    Jun 15, 2010 - 5:39PM

    … One wishes, after reading Mr. Shahid Amin’s article, that life was as convenient as he put it in his narrative. But alas, life is more comlicated, more serious and needs way more objectivity than indicting whom u want and exonerating whom u fancy… as Mr. Amin did for Taliban and the US respectively.

    I hope a day will come when our intelligentia will rise to the challenge and hoist the flag of objectivity, neutrality and rationality to show the way to this beleaguered nation. But that is a tough ask indeed … especially when it comes to forsaking all the parties at embassies or relinquishing the luxury of ready placement as a “daanishwur” in english and liberal media, only to be left out in the cold. Nonetheless… ultimate consolation is on the other side, those who write for a cause – for their nation – are the ones who stand winner any day, as compared to those who write to serve some interest.

    That said, Mr. Shahid Amin is entitled to his views and has all the right to express them. I disagree with both his approach as well as treatment of the subject but I fully respect his right to freedom of thought and expression.Recommend

  • Sultan Ahmed
    Jun 15, 2010 - 5:43PM

    Please try to understand,
    as is exposed their activities
    they are not servicing of Islam
    in facty they do not have really teaching of islam
    their knowledge in this regard is limited.

    the fact relating to them is that
    after defeating Russians in Afghanistan
    they made rulers of the country
    they were trying to impose Islam
    but in the meanwhile 9/11 happened in the states
    and resulting in the attack of the states they lost not only their country but also tens of thousand lives of their beloveds
    now they are not imposing of Islam but revenge of those responsible the death of their beloveds.Recommend

  • Zainab Ali
    Jun 15, 2010 - 5:56PM

    Our country is going through one of the most crucial times in its history; the Islamic fascism expressed by the religious hardliners is unacceptable at any cost.Recommend

  • Jun 15, 2010 - 8:56PM

    thanku sir! we loved u at iba too!Recommend

  • Meekal Ahmed
    Jun 15, 2010 - 9:44PM

    I read somewhere that in a recent Opinion Poll, presumably conducted scientifically, that onyl 45% of the people thought the Taliban were the bad guys. That is a frighteningly low number but as this excellent article suggests, they are probably the ones in denial.

    I don’t know what will wake them up. Things could not get much worse. Recommend

  • steve
    Jun 16, 2010 - 1:00AM

    Finally, somebody calls out the media apologists! Blaming Israel, RAW and the USA for insane violence, simply enables the taliban. IF they kept to themselves, and practiced their beliefs locally, the USA would accept their backwardness and misagony as their own business. However, since they plot violence internationally, with al qaeda, they must be killed.

    Drones are the most precise, accurate and contained weapon in the history of warfare. To Hell with the Taliban!Recommend

  • Fresh Thought
    Jun 16, 2010 - 12:27PM

    I agree with everything that has been put forth in this article, except for one and I think its something everyone in the media overlooks most of the time.

    The Taliban do not have a very narrow minded vission of Islam. I say this because they don’t follow Islam at all. They are the definition of the word infidel. Its time the media refuses to call them muslims, because they are not. Identifying them as muslims across the world is one of the main reasons why Islam has been projected so negatively in the West, its a step we must take to change this image because not only will it benefit us but more importantly because it is the right thing to do.Recommend

  • Muntazir Mehdi
    Jun 16, 2010 - 1:37PM

    Well this extermist brand of Islam is harming the cause of Islam as well as humanity. These barbaric extremists are not humans rest considered religious muslims or even muslims. But US can’t be exonerated just because these extremists are against them. US is just following its own interests and is no friend of Islam or Pakistan. Its international policies very much highlight this.Recommend

  • Sharjeel Jawaid
    Jun 16, 2010 - 8:41PM

    Let the license available today with every Tom, Harry and Dick to judge the person next door as a believer or non believer be withdrawn for good. Even the State should not have this license.

    The Ahmadis were branded as non muslims by the government of the times, purely for political reasons. The government feared an agitation / uprising in their bastion of power [The Punjab, getting out of control and culminating in situation similar to 1953. They found the easy way out through a constitutional amendment.

    The grounds on which Ahmadis were declared non muslims, if applied to quite a few other sects and groups in Pakistan may lead to drawing similar conclusions.

    Should we spend our future decades in analyzing the faith of our neighbors and take comfort in branding them initially and killing them subsequently. Is belief not some thing solely between the man and his Creator.

    Let this subject rest aside and the civil society [if it at all exists] and the state machinery [ if it works] concentrate on the following issues which may not appear so holy.

    1. Equality of all citizens before law.
    2. Justice without paying kilos of bank notes.
    3. Basic education for all.
    4. Basic health for all.
    5. Establishing a merit based system for running organs of state.
    6. Mananging the economy in such a way that a common man can keep his soul and body togather.
    7. Restriction on the wealthy and ruling class to refraining from vulgar exhibition [with impunity] of ther ill gotten wealth.
    8. Ensure that due taxes are paid, particularly by the class whose annual tax contribution is often less than their children’s one evening’s dinner bill.
    9. Increase direct taxation
    10. Minimize indirect taxationRecommend

  • Ali Zaidi
    Jun 16, 2010 - 10:13PM

    And how are you, Mr Amin, in your dislike of the religious right, any less extremist than those you have chosen to demonise?Recommend

  • Jun 19, 2010 - 12:46AM

    Dear Shahid, If your picture is recent, congratulations. You are doing pretty good. With respect to these adverse forces that comeup now and then in the form of religious fundamentalisim or political extremmism as communistic form fo government are symptoms of somethings to be taken notice of. But the best part is that there are some natural forces that keep them down and because of that such extreme doctrines have never succeeded. For details see my book “Molecule to Molotov”the fall of communism as seen through the eye of a biologist, not yet in press. Got a lousy editor who is sleeping now on only the last twenty pages. Nice to get in touch with you again.Recommend

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