Pakistan: The Extremist Mindset


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First Published On Dawn.com

The incidents that have unfolded in the past couple of weeks have been real eye-openers. Whether it was the issue of internet censorship or the Ahmedi killings, I feel the reactions to such incidents have taught me a lot about understanding intolerance.
I had no idea what was in store for me when I wrote about the Facebook controversy. In fact, I wrote about it before the actual ban and of course, took a strong stance against internet censorship after the ban was implemented. Little did I know, that it was because of my stance on the topic I was declared a ‘blasphemer,’ ‘liberal apologist’ and my personal favourite, ‘a hijabi CIA, RAW, MOSSAD agent.’ Even worse was the fact that people, whom I would normally interact with on social media, joined the bandwagon and questioned my faith. It had come to a point where a stance against censorship was being put in the same league as being against the Prophet (PBUH).

More than once I was asked to clarify ‘whether I was with the Prophet (PBUH) or with Facebook.’ Such reactions highlight the extremist ideology that has been brewing inside many of us for years, the kind of ideology which otherwise remains dormant but resurfaces at the slightest of issues. Even more shocking were the reactions that came after the Ahmedi killings. Denying that a certain persecuted section of the minority was targeted only reflects the fact that we continue to live in denial.

For years now, there has been talk about the need for a platform where people, mainly the youth, can engage and develop a better understanding of our history, culture and religion. Over the years, we have seen many such reformist movements that ironically either end up getting hijacked for political means or die out altogether. A little apprehensive, given past  history,I decided to attend the ‘Khudi-The Awakening’ launch. Khudi is a social movement that aspires to counter extremist ideologies. As part of the movement, Khudi has also launched an academic magazine.

The man behind the movement, Maajid Nawaz was previously a member of Hizb-ut-Tahrir – the aim of that organisation being to unite Muslim countries across the world under a single caliphate. The ideology of the organisation was an extremist one, not to be confused with terrorism. What makes Khudi even more appealing is the fact that Nawaz’s efforts stem from his own past of dealing with extremism. It is his journey as a young teenager – fighting against racism and then, joining and propagating the message of Hizb-ut-Tahrir, which has led to his reformation. Nawaz’s experiences make his ideas on counter-extremism even more practical and applicable. Here is a man who has survived the ordeal and is now ready to not only narrate his experiences but to help others deal with it. The most important aim about the campaign is acknowledging the need to differentiate between an extremist and a terrorist. It is true that while we tackle terrorist organisations, factors that incite terrorism and extremism keep brewing underneath, making it a never-ending war.

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With the absence of a counter-terrorism strategy the only strategies we have are reactive (fighting against militant organisations) rather than pro-active (looking at the root cause). Factors that continue to incite intolerance and hate speech remain hidden, never brought to the forefront. The process of identifying such a mindset is crucial and this is where social movements such as Khudi can play a vital role.

Nawaz has initiated the Khudi movement which promises to promote democratic culture and considers that as the antidote for extremism. However, it might take more than just one such movement to address conflicting ideologies that have been ingrained into our mindset.

There is no doubt that we desperately need to promote democratic culture, the kind that allows us, as a society, to respect individual rights and diverse opinion. After all, democracy is not only limited to using our rights to vote; it is about tolerance and co-existence, it is about celebrating our heroes, it is about standing in solidarity with the victims irrespective of their belief and it is about being humanitarians.

As Nawaz pointed out: “Democracy must forever remain prisoner to human rights. Democratic culture is about respecting human rights, freedom of speech and individual choice.”

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6 thoughts on “Pakistan: The Extremist Mindset

  1. The hollow and self promoting empty fable of Nawaz, not withstanding, who and what is an “extremist” can you please give a legal and religious definition of one from Islamic sources?

  2. I agree with your point of view regarding the fact that we as a nation are extremely reactionary esp. when it comes to our beloved prophet (saw).
    Now let me tell you how exactly we honor and love this greatest of all human beings?
    We pay him tributes through elaborate speeches on different occasions and shed tears during naats. LOL.
    We take law in our hands and teach a good lesson to every person accused of blasphemy 🙂
    And then we even go to the extent of banning a social networking site for a day or two to show our respects and immense love.I remember one of my friends accusing me of horrible things for not boycotting May 20.
    Such is the extent of ignorance that prevails around us. You see this is easy love. We show our love where it’s easy to compromise our interests and activities for a short time period.
    As for how many of us have really read his seerah and understood it in a way it should be? How many of us really follow his Sunnah and the way of life he brought? How many of us really know him like he should be known? The answer is’ only a handful’. For those who really do it are termed as paindos. I don’t want to go into the nitty gritty of the ways sunnahs are made fun of. Be it verbally or practically.
    If we really loved him like we claim we do, we wouldn’t have been going through all the sufferings and miseries that we are facing today, not only as a nation but as an Ummah.
    I personally think that we don’t need a democratic culture but an Islamic culture to sort things out. We need to promote this beautiful way of life not only in words but in action. It’s not an easy task but is not impossible either. We have to do what needs to be done. And if it’s based on sincere intentions Allah will guide us through every calamity.
    May Allah guide us all..Ameen

  3. I assent sana to ur remarks at this very important issue but here I would like to say that we need to retrieve the cause or reason, which is bringing or converting our society into the extremism n terrorism, wht u say ?

  4. I accessed your site from google but was unable to enter my e-mail address for notification of posts. Neither was I able to get to the “comments”! No clue if the powers behind the scene were up to their tricks and blocking visitors from
    certain sections.

    Yet, once I moved to Internet Explorer all seemed to be normal.

    Keep writing.

    Regards

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