Extremism by Abdul Quayyum Khan Kundi

Human beings are instinctively moderate or it would be impossible for societies to emerge at first place. If this is true then extremism or extreme behavior is an anomaly arising from a particular situation or social condition. In Pakistan the rise of extremism has many factors both internal and external. Before we try to alleviate the external factors it is important for us to take care of the internal situation first.

To illustrate this point a jobless hungry person would take the extreme step of stealing because he has no other option available that is morally correct to satisfy his hunger. But extremism is not just limited to action taken by an individual or a dissident group. Extremism can manifest itself in different forms. There is not much difference between an extremist that fire a bullet and the one that uses hate speech to promote intolerance. Objectives of both are same to impose their will on the people through coercion. The situation we are experiencing in Pakistan can be termed as extremism of public policy. A society changes for the better when extreme policy position is taken with an objective to reform. Like the steps taken by Gandhi in non-cooperation movement or Mao Zedong during his cultural revolution. Arab Spring was driven by similar motives but turned sour because of lack of ideological direction. On the other hand when extreme policy positions are taken by status quo politician, to pursue political opportunism, it becomes recipe for disaster. We have experienced that in USA where a deadlock between Republican and Democratic parties have prevented emergence of a resolution to solve the debt crisis. In Pakistan the extreme position taken by politicians is aggravating the situation so much that chances are that the whole social structure will come crumbling down. In Punjab politicians have formed alliance with extremist elements to achieve a relative calm but it is a volcano waiting to erupt any time. In KP and FATA militants have been provided breathing room to regroup and regain resources to challenge the writ of the state at a later date. Similar situations are prevalent in Sindh and Baluchistan although their character and content is different.

Leaders are supposed to lead a nation on a path of progress which can not be achieved until normalcy is attained in the society. In Pakistan extreme right is a more popular sentiment that is the outcome of daily stress of violence, terrorism, poverty, lawlessness and illiteracy. Pakistani politicians instead of leading the nation to bring back moderation are instead adopting extreme policy positions in their own self-interest. The hypocrisy of their statements are evident from the fact that they say one thing in public rallies and TV talk shows while adopt a different posture in private discourse. They feel it is alright to accept foreign aid but at the same time chant go America go and threat of blocking the supply routes. This rhetoric is nothing but exploiting the extremism prevalent in the society for political opportunism.

Our politicians are expert in throwing dust in nation’s eyes. One of the popular concepts presented to the nation these days is that we don’t need aid but trade. But they do not explain that trade can not be developed until there is good bilateral diplomatic relations between countries. They forget to inform that when people shout go go go and the flag of a country is being burnt on the street then the buyers from that country do not come to buy merchandize. We should not forget that emotions are not our exclusive domain while other nations are devoid of it. Our politicians also forget to tell that there is no evidence anywhere around the world that a country has been able to increase trade unless and until they become a normal, peaceful and moderate society. They forget that a country harboring terrorism in its border areas can not expect others to respect their sovereignty. It is this kind of hypocritical policy positions that has destroyed our society.

We need to fix this anomaly to achieve normalcy in our society because only then we can emerge as a viable progressive state. We need to reject all these people who are pushing us to adopt extreme position whether they are religious leaders, sectarian leaders, ethnic leaders, separatist or political leaders. We need to come together to develop a social contract that promotes normalcy, tolerance and appreciate diversity.

The glue that binds us together is Islam as it is the religion of a dominant majority in Pakistan. That does not mean that other religious thoughts should be banned in the country or their places of worship obliterated. Tolerating difference in faith is not tantamount to conceding your own faith as it is not a zero sum equation. Adopting extreme position based on religion is to distort the rational and moderate message of Islam projected by Quran and the sunnah of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH). It seems there is a deliberate effort to tarnish the message of Islam which is a serious matter as it could result in the balkanization of Pakistan.

Shaheed or Ghazi is an exalted status sanctioned by the religious edicts in Islam. Status of Ghazi is granted to those that emerge victorious from a violent struggle to uphold moral values rather than being driven by greed to acquire worldly possessions. This status was meant to symbolize that war should not be initiated to gain more territory or for economic gain but to promote higher ideals. In the similar vein status of Shaheed is granted to honor those that give the ultimate sacrifice of their lives to uphold a higher principle. The decay of a society is at its lowest point when a murderer of a fellow Muslim instead of performing his duty is called a ghazi while another mass murderer who has proudly confessed of killing innocent people is given a title of a Shaheed. It is disrespectful to all those Shaheed that have died while protecting their motherland or performing their duty with honesty. If a foreign power killed the criminal it is only because our own society has failed repeatedly to apprehend criminals and prosecute them according to the laws. Not even that but those that are incarcerated in jails are taken away by their comrades without facing any resistance from the state. Not once but twice.

Status of Shaheed or Ghazi should only be granted after approval by a religious council consisting of experts in Islamic jurisprudence. Misrepresenting or distorting the message of Islam not only by those that have never got formal education in religion but also by those that use it for their political agendas is a dangerous trend. It can unravel the unity of Pakistan and promote sectarianism and ethnicity. These people are a threat to our national security and should be dealt with severely.

Another indication of decay of the state is that when unarmed teenage girls or their schools are targeted by criminals then the nation instead of coming to their aid allows conspiracy theories to justify these terrorist acts. Politicians that are supposed to be brave and inspiring are scared to even say the name of those that committed these crimes while the perpetrators proudly call media with a multi page justification of their act.

We have to become a normal country that respects diversity and has moderate views. All these politicians that are expressing extreme policy views are basically sabotaging the national interest and using emotional psyche of the nation for their own corporate self-interest. If we continue on this path then we don’t need an external enemy for our destruction. They can sit back, relax and watch us destroy ourselves.

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