By Ali Arqam
The killing spree of the Taliban in Pakistan is not limited to combatants, notwithstanding the propaganda of their Pakistani apologists. It extends to non-combatant civilians, minority sects, tribal elders, journalists, educationists, members of parliament, clergy and intellectuals. Even shrines and mosques have not been spared. The Taliban feel that by stifling every whiff of dissent and rationality they are doing Allah’s work.
The latest high-profile victim of their intolerance is the renowned religious scholar, writer and intellectual Dr. Farooq Khan. Having studied at the Cadet Colleges in Kohat and Hassanabdal, he did his MBBS from the Khyber Medical College, Peshawar. He received his advanced psychiatry training in Austria. In July 2010, he was made the first vice-chancellor of Swat Islamic University.
He was gunned down at his clinic in Mardan by two militants. According to The Statesman, Peshawar, Umar Farooq, a spokesman for the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), claimed responsibility for the cold-blooded murder. He made a phone call from an undisclosed location to members of Landikotal Press Club in the Khyber Agency, saying that the Abdullah Azzam Brigade, linked to the TTP carried out the assassination. The caller accused Dr. Farooq of speaking against the Taliban at every forum and for describing suicide bombing as haraam or un-Islamic. He also claimed to have kidnapped Dr. Ajmal Khan, the vice-chancellor of Islamia College University.
Dr. Farooq was a psychiatrist by profession and was running a rehabilitation centre for the would-be suicide bombers, trained by the militants and were captured from various parts of the areas affected by militancy. It is said he was threatened by the militants for his writings and outspoken views against the militant version of Islam. But he refused to stop by saying he would prefer getting killed by the bullets of these militants to dying in his bed. His wish has been granted. And another voice of sanity has been silenced forever.
Like his mentor Javed Ghamidi, Dr. Farooq at one time was associated with the Jamaat-i-Islami. Gradually, he got dissatisfied with the JI because of its narrow vision and politically motivated interpretations of religious texts. Ultimately, he was expelled from the party when he published his book ‘Pakistan in the Twenty-first Century’ in Urdu. In this book he had taken a progressive position on women’s rights and a few other issues.
The Jamat-i-Islami, a religio-political party founded by Maulana Maududi in 1941, is the ideological sister of the Muslim Brotherhood, which was set up by Hasan Banna in Egypt in 1928. The JI started off as an organization that was not interested in active politics but then it came to the conclusion that to implement its interpretation of Islam, it needed to control the levers of state apparatus. During the Pakistan movement, it had harshly criticized the All India Muslim League and its leader, Mr. Jinnah, for being ignorant of Islamic teachings. Ironically, now it has become the biggest champion of the ideology of Pakistan.
Though they never succeeded in electoral politics, but their ideas spread through osmosis, as the state narrative was much in accordance with their ideological stances. They managed to penetrate the institutions of the state, such as the military and bureaucracy. They fully supported the Zia dictatorship. They were very instrumental in confronting the progressive elements in society, particularly among students. Their ideological stances were diluted in many necessary or unnecessary compromises of politics and it came out as a fierce pressure group, which can’t stop themselves from violence against opponents and have never refrained from twists and turns and contradictory political stances.
During the cold war, the JI and its affiliates were used by the Western powers against the Soviet presence in Afghanistan. In the post-cold war era, these elements lost their importance, their Western backers considered them more of liabilities than assets, though in Pakistan the realization came very late. Perhaps this realization has not yet dawned on the Pakistanis. The Taliban and other extremists still have sympathies in the middle classes, the media and in our security establishment.
In many Muslim countries like Egypt, Iran, Turkey and Pakistan some of the Islamists have been transformed into post-Islamists. The post-Islamist scholars have some disagreements with the Islamists and their hardcore militant manifestations.
As in the words of Iranian intellectual Asif Bayat,
“Post-Islamism is also a project, a conscious attempt to conceptualize and strategize the rationale and modalities of transcending Islamism in social, political, and intellectual domains. Yet, post-Islamism is neither anti-Islamic nor un-Islamic or secular. Post-Islamism represents an endeavour to fuse religiosity with rights, faith and freedoms, Islam and civil liberties and focuses on rights instead of duties, plurality instead of singular authority, historicity rather than fixed and rigid interpretation of scriptures, and the future rather than the past. Post-Islamists eagerly join a cosmopolitan humanity, link up with global civil activism and endeavour to work for global co-operation and solidarity. It wants to marry Islam with individual choice and freedom, with democracy and modernity, to achieve what some have called an ‘alternative modernity’. Post-Islamism is expressed in acknowledging secular exigencies, in freedom from rigidity, in breaking down the monopoly of religious truth. In short, whereas Islamism is defined by the fusion of religion and responsibility, post-Islamism emphasizes religiosity and rights.”
In Pakistan, their ideas came to prominence with the emergence of Javed Ghamidi and his associates and disciples like Dr. Khalid Zaheer, who at one time was a prominent leader of Dr. Israr Ahmad’s Tanzeem-i-Islami, Khurshid Nadeem, TV anchor and columnist, and Dr. Farooq Khan.
In the last decade they have made their presence felt largely through the media, in particular through private TV channels. But they still have very limited influence among the masses. They are unlikely to make a breakthrough with the masses anytime soon as they are under the influence of religious orthodoxy.
In these times when extremists are brutalizing the society and the meek and timid politico-religious classes can’t speak out against these monsters, anyone who speaks out against them does so at the risk of his life. Javed Ghamidi has been forced into exile and his disciple Dr. Farooq Khan has been gunned down for fighting his battles with reason and sanity when unreason and insanity rule the roost in the land of the pure and gun has become the ultimate arbiter of arguments.