By Dr Omer Ali
Someone posted comments about the Times Square bomber and why Pakistan is breeding so many Islamic fanatics (thankfully so many incompetent Islamic fanatics). Someone else posted Dhume’s article from the WSJ today. I wrote a quick email in reply that I am posting here just to get the topic going. These are just “first random thoughts” and I look forward to comments.
Ideologically, Islamic supremacism is not that different from Christian evangelism, Hindu revivalism or those Japanese rightwingers who go around in loudspeaker vans appealing to the emperor to restore Japanese honor and for everyone else to prepare to commit hara kiri.
You may jump up and say, but the Christian fanatics and others are not exploding in buses and trains in faraway countries. True. In most places, States do the killing domestically as well as internationally. Or people fight the state locally. What is different in this case is that the killers (or wannabe killers) are formally apart from the state (non-state actors, even when the state prepares and launches them; deniablity, cutouts) AND they are international in scope and action.
But why Pakistan? After all, the road from ideology to actual explosion passes through state-sponsored education, an infrastructure of terrorism and a culture where this kind of bombing has become an accepted response to whatever is perceived as injustice. Why has this infrastructure been set up in Pakistan and why does it persist there?
I think the real difference in Pakistan is at the top of the heap. The people running India, Japan and the USA are cynical, manipulative, greedy, whatever, but they seem to have a vague grip on reality (and what humans can hope for more than that?). Their worldview accomodates science and change. The same is true even of the Iranian Mullahs and the Saudi Royal family.
But in Pakistan and Afghanistan, the lunatics took over the asylum. They didn’t really BUILD the asylum. It took the superior skills of the CIA to actually set up the infrastructure (though i personally don’t think they intended it to be used beyond Afghanistan and maybe India, but who knows).
But once the Amkeekis had taught them how to blow up things, the students (Taliban) seemed to rush off to start the neo-caliphate with wild abandon. Maybe it was the reverse selection procedures of the Pak army (selecting the dumbest people to become generals); maybe it was a result of the original millenarian fever that erupted at partition (look up millenarian on wikipedia by the way and you will not find partition listed there as an example, just goes to show that even our advanced culture has its blind spots); maybe it was just one of those things that happen in history, but for the last 30 years, THE STATE in Pakistan has been an active participant in this lunacy and the ideology has taken hold. Sons of air marshals are dreaming of setting off bombs in public places. That just takes the biscuit. I dont know what to say.
On a purely western and academic left wing blog, where no contrary opinion can sneak in, I would actually blame the CIA and orientalism and colonialism (not necessarily in that order) and go to sleep a happy man, but even in that echo chamber, things are starting to fall apart. Where will this go next, Allah alone knows for sure, we can only hazard a guess.
My guess: When the only tool you have is a hammer, everything is a nail. So I expect the State Department to pass out more money to Pakistan’s GHQ, I expect the CIA to fund some new insane lunatic fringe to counter their last lunatic fringe, I expect the Pentagon to ask for more money for weapons and a good hard “shock and awe campaign”, I expect professors in San Francisco to blame colonialism, and I expect Islamists to blow themselves up with even greater devotion.
In short, more of the same. Not really. I am just not in a good mood. Send me your comments. I will try more serious predictions next time. (From Dr. Omar Ali’s FB Notes)
Here’s Dhume’s article from WSJ….
Why Pakistan Produces Jihadists
Carved out of the Muslim-majority areas of British India in 1947, it was the world’s first modern nation based solely on Islam.
Monday night’s arrest of Faisal Shahzad, a 30-year-old Pakistani-American accused of planting a car bomb in Times Square on Saturday, will undoubtedly stoke the usual debate about how best to keep America safe in the age of Islamic terrorism. But this should not deflect us from another, equally pressing, question. Why do Pakistan and the Pakistani diaspora churn out such a high proportion of the world’s terrorists?
Indonesia has more Muslims than Pakistan. Turkey is geographically closer to the troubles of the Middle East. The governments of Iran and Syria are immeasurably more hostile to America and the West. Yet it is Pakistan, or its diaspora, that produced the CIA shooter Mir Aimal Kasi; the 1993 World Trade Center bomber Ramzi Yousef (born in Kuwait to Pakistani parents); 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed; Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl’s kidnapper, Omar Saeed Sheikh; and three of the four men behind the July 2005 train and bus bombings in London.
The list of jihadists not from Pakistan themselves—but whose passage to jihadism passes through that country—is even longer. Among them are Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri, Mohamed Atta, shoe bomber Richard Reid, and John Walker Lindh, the so-called American Taliban. Over the past decade, Pakistani fingerprints have shown up on terrorist plots in, among other places, Germany, Denmark, Spain and the Netherlands. And this partial catalogue doesn’t include India, which tends to bear the brunt of its western neighbor’s love affair with violence.
In attempting to explain why so many attacks—abortive and successful—can be traced back to a single country, analysts tend to dwell on the 1980s, when Pakistan acted as a staging ground for the successful American and Saudi-funded jihad against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. But while the anti-Soviet campaign undoubtedly accelerated Pakistan’s emergence as a jihadist haven, to truly understand the country it’s important to go back further, to its creation.
Pakistan was carved out of the Muslim-majority areas of British India in 1947, the world’s first modern nation based solely on Islam. The country’s name means “Land of the Pure.” The capital city is Islamabad. The national flag carries the Islamic crescent and star. The cricket team wears green.
From the start, the new country was touched by the messianic zeal of pan-Islamism. The Quranic scholar Muhammad Asad—an Austrian Jew born Leopold Weiss—became an early Pakistani ambassador to the United Nations. The Egyptian Said Ramadan, son-in-law of Muslim Brotherhood founder Hassan al-Banna, made Pakistan a second home of sorts and collaborated with Pakistan’s leading Islamist ideologue, the Jamaat-e-Islami’s Abul Ala Maududi. In 1949, Pakistan established the world’s first transnational Islamic organization, the World Muslim Congress. Mohammad Amin al-Husayni, the virulently anti-Semitic grand mufti of Jerusalem, was appointed president.
Through alternating periods of civilian and military rule, one thing about Pakistan has remained constant—the central place of Islam in national life. In the 1960s, Pakistan launched a war against India in an attempt to seize control of Kashmir, the country’s only Muslim-majority province, one that most Pakistanis believe ought to be theirs by right.
In the 1970s the Pakistani army carried out what Bangladeshis call a genocide in Bangladesh; non-Muslims suffered disproportionately. Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto boasted about creating an “Islamic bomb.” (The father of Pakistan’s nuclear program, A.Q. Khan, would later export nuclear technology to the revolutionary regime in Iran.) In the 1980s Pakistan welcomed Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri and the Palestinian theorist of global jihad Abdullah Azzam.
In the 1990s, armed with expertise and confidence gained fighting the Soviets, the army’s notorious Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) spawned the Taliban to take over Afghanistan, and a plethora of terrorist groups to challenge India in Kashmir. Even after 9/11, and despite about $18 billion of American aid, Pakistan has found it hard to reform its instincts.
Pakistan’s history of pan-Islamism does not mean that all Pakistanis, much less everyone of Pakistani origin, hold extremist views. But it does explain why a larger percentage of Pakistanis than, say, Indonesians or Tunisians, are likely to see the world through the narrow prism of their faith. The ISI’s reluctance to dismantle the infrastructure of terrorism—training camps, a web of ultra-orthodox madrassas that preach violence, and terrorist groups such as the Lashkar-e-Taiba—ensure that Pakistan remains a magnet for any Muslim with a grudge against the world and the urge to do something violent about it.
If Pakistan is to be reformed, then the goal must be to replace its political and cultural DNA. Pan-Islamism has to give way to old-fashioned nationalism. An expansionist foreign policy needs to be canned in favor of development for the impoverished masses. The grip of the army, and by extension the ISI, over national life will have to be weakened. The encouragement of local languages and cultures such as Punjabi and Sindhi can help create a broader identity, one not in conflict with the West. School curricula ought to be overhauled to inculcate a respect for non-Muslims.
Needless to say, this will be a long haul. But it’s the only way to ensure that the next time someone is accused of trying to blow up a car in a crowded place far away from home, the odds aren’t that he’ll somehow have a Pakistan connection.
Mr. Dhume, the author of “My Friend the Fanatic: Travels with a Radical Islamist” (Skyhorse Publishing, 2009), is a columnist for WSJ.com.