These days we hate America. The state encourages us to think that the United States is involved in terrorism in league with India and Israel.
Hate is intensified by the joining of three categories: India, which doesn’t like having us around and was responsible for our painful birth; Israel, which usurped the land of the Muslims and is described in the Quran as the enemy of all Muslims; and America, which poses as a friend but stabs in the back.
By aligning the three, we arrive at the most intensely deep-seated hatred backed by ‘evidence’ from both the spiritual and existential worlds.
This kind of venom prevents us from living normally unless aggression is committed. Our weakness prevents us from doing something violent. When we can’t carry out violence against America we rage against ourselves, divide ourselves as pro-American and anti-American. What gets obscured is the identity of our real killer. In fact, we feel the same way as our tormentor. Deep down, by dying at the hands of al Qaeda, we are engaged in sacred self-immolation. Hate permeates the body like slow poison. To prevent this slow death, human societies invented culture. It allows communities with opposed identities to congregate creatively. Most cultures are dominated by religion.
The Muslim saints of South Asia inaugurated a period of peaceful coexistence between Muslims and Hindus. Hate gave way to tolerance and led to the kind of pluralism that Jinnah wished to achieve in Pakistan after 1947. Now culture is under attack jointly by us and the Taliban.
Culture has three aspects: spiritual, sociological and intellectual. We have no cultural contact with China, our closest friend. We have a sociologically coextensive culture with India. We have a spiritual commonality with the Islamic world. We have an intellectual nexus with America, as there is also a population of Pakistanis living there as expats. Despite commonality of religion, we have the least cultural communication with the Islamic world.
The culture nexus with America is most significant. In his, Sunday column for Dawn on July 17, Intezar Husain quoted Allama Iqbal: “The only course open to us is to approach modern knowledge with a respectful but independent attitude and to appreciate the teachings of Islam in the light of that knowledge, even though we may be led to differ from those who have gone before us”.
In America, the UK and Europe, Pakistanis enjoy full citizenship rights. They falsely claim identity with the Arabs in whose states they have curtailed rights and face linguistic barriers.
Every time you hate someone who is culturally coextensive with you, you end up hating a part of yourself. That is what is happening in the case of India. Pakistani TV propaganda against India creates self-hatred at the subconscious level. The current wave of anti-Americanism has the same effect but in the form of a self-destructive rage of the impotent.
Unfortunately, the expat Muslim community has refused to assimilate. According to official statistics, there are 3.97 million Pakistanis living overseas. If you count the ‘illegals’, the count is 7 million, almost all unassimilated and unhappy.
The new ‘synthetic’ identity of the expat Muslim is puritanical and ‘judgemental’ of host states. It is also judgmental of other Muslims. This expat identity rejects the West on the basis of the unchanging divine text, but it also focuses on the ‘heresy within’ and rejects fellow-Muslims.
Muslims are gravitating to the identity of a community that hates because it can’t afford aggression against western civilisation. The Islamic world is at the bottom of the ladder in human development indices. Is refusal to be educated deliberate because it is not madrassa education?
Published in The Express Tribune, August 14th, 2011.