Monday 19 March 2012

The people of Pakistan are not friends of the Western World

Admittedly, the title of this article is harsh but alas, it is also true. The reason is obvious. For the most part, the people in Pakistan are Muslims and the people of the Western World are for the most part, non-Muslims. Unfortunately the Pakistanis per se think of the people in the Western World, be they Christians or Jews, as infidels.

Life for non-Muslims in an Islamic world

Officially, Islamic law requires Muslims not to force non-Mulims to embrace Islam. Every Muslim has a duty that they hold, to manifest the virtues of Islam so that those who are non-Muslims will convert willingly after discovering its greatness and truth. However, once a non-Muslim in Pakistan becomes a Muslim, he cannot recant. If he does, he will be warned first, and then he will be given three days to reconsider and repent. If he persists in his unfaithfulness, his wife is required to divorce him, his property is confiscated, and his children are taken away from him. Further, he is not allowed to remarry. He should also be taken to court and if convicted, sentenced to death. If he repents, he may return to his wife and children or remarry and his life will be spared. According to the Hanifites an apostate female is not allowed to get married. She must spend time in meditation in order to return to Islam. If she does not repent or recant, she will not be sentenced to death, but she is to be persecuted nevertheless and beaten and jailed until she dies. Other schools of Shari`a demand her death.

Non-Muslims are not allowed to pray or read their sacred books out loud at home or in churches, lest Muslims hear their prayers. They are not allowed to install the cross on their houses or churches since it is a symbol of infidelity. They are not permitted to broadcast or display their ceremonial religious rituals on radio or television or to use the media in that manner by publishing any picture of their religious ceremonies in newspapers or magazines. They are not allowed to congregate in the streets during their religious festivals; rather each of them must quietly make their way to their church or temple.

Non-Muslims and Muslims are however subject to the same civic laws. They are to be treated alike in matters of honor, theft, adultery, murder, and damaging property. They have to be punished in accordance with the Islamic law regardless of their religious affiliation. Non-Muslims and Muslims alike are subject to Islamic laws in matters of civic business, financial transactions such as sales, leases, creation of companies, operation of farms, handling of securities and preparation of mortgages, and contracts. Theft is punishable by cutting off the thief's hand whether he is a Muslim or a Christian. Quite frankly, I have never heard of a Christian losing a hand this way but it is possible that they have. Certainly tourists are not subjected to that particular punishment. But when it comes to privileges, the non-Muslims do not enjoy the same treatment. For instance, non-Muslims are not issued licenses to carry weapons.

A Muslim male can marry a non-Muslims girl, but a non-Muslims man is not allowed to marry a Muslim girl. If a woman embraces Islam and wants to get married, her non-Muslim father does not have the authority to give her away to her bridegroom. She must be given away by a Muslim guardian.

If one parent is a Muslim, that parent’s children must be raised as Muslims. If the father is a non-Muslim and his wife converts to Islam, she must get a divorce; then she will have the right of custody of her child. Some fundamentalist schools teach that a Muslim husband has the right to confine his non-Muslim wife to her home and restrain her from going to her own house of worship.

Non-Muslims cannot testify against Muslims. They can only testify against other non-Muslims since their oaths to tell the truth are not considered valid in an Islamic court.

Sheikh Manna` K. Al-Qubtan, professor of Higher studies at the School of Islamic Law in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia indicates that:

“Basically, the command of non-Muslims over Muslims in not admissible, because God Almighty said: 'Allah will not give access to the infidels (i.e. Christians) to have authority over believers (Muslims) according to Qur'an 4:141.”

Dr. Salih Al-Sadlan, professor of Shari`a at the School of Islamic Law, Riyadh, cites the same verses and asserts that it is not permissible for a infidel (in this case a Christian) to be in charge over Muslims whether in the private or public sector. Such an act:

“…..entails the humiliation of the Muslim and the exaltation of the infidel (Christian). This infidel may exploit his position to humiliate and insult the Muslims who work under his administration. It is advisable to the company owner to fear God Almighty and to authorize only a Muslim over the Muslims. Also, the injunctions issued by the ruler, provides that an infidel should not be in charge when there is a Muslim available to assume the command. Our advice to the company owner is to remove this infidel and to replace him with a Muslim.”

Despite the aforementioned restrictions and penalties, all non-Muslims do have the freedom of conscience, opinion, expression, and association as the ones that are enjoyed by Muslims themselves, subject to the same limitations that are imposed by law on Muslims and Non-Muslims.

Such views however are not accepted by most Islamic schools of law, especially in regard to freedom of expression like criticism of Islam and the government. Even in a country like Pakistan, the homeland of Mawdudi, it is illegal to criticize the government or the head of state. Many political prisoners are confined to jails in Pakistan and most other Islamic countries. Throughout the course of history, except in rare cases, not even Muslims have been given freedom to criticize Islam without being persecuted or sentenced to death. It is far less likely for a Non-Muslim to get away with criticizing Islam.

Asia Bibi, a 45-year-old mother-of-five, was condemned to death by hanging by a court in Pakistan, She denied that she committed blasphemy and told investigators that she was being persecuted for her faith in a country where Christians face routine harassment and discrimination.

The court heard she had been working as a farmhand in fields with other women, when she was asked to fetch drinking water. Some of the other women who were Muslims had refused to drink the water as it had been brought by a Christian and was therefore ‘unclean’ thereby creating a row between her and the other women in the field according to Mrs. Bibi's evidence in court.

The incident was forgotten until a few days later when Mrs. Bibi said she was set upon by a mob. The police were called and took her to a police station for her own safety. Shahzad Kamran, of the Sharing Life Ministry Pakista later said; “The police were under pressure from this Muslim mob, including clerics, asking that Asia Bibi be killed because she had spoken ill of the Prophet Mohammed.

So after the police saved her life, they then registered a blasphemy case against her. She had been held in isolation for more than a year before being sentenced to death. She claimed that she was innocent because she did not say those words.

Here is an example of government intervention. Pakistan's internet service providers earlier this year were ordered to block Facebook in order to prevent access to supposedly blasphemous images.

Human rights groups believe the law is often used to discriminate against religious minorities, such as the country's estimated three million Christians. Although no one has ever been executed under Pakistan's blasphemy laws since most accused are freed on appeal. But as many as ten people are thought to have been murdered in jail while waiting for their trials.

The relationship between Pakistan and the Western World

It is this kind of country that the Americans have been supporting with money and arms to fight Al Qaeda and the Taliban.

Since the Taliban resurgence began gaining force in 2005, a common complaint in the West has been that Pakistan hasn’t done enough to rein in the jihadis (religious warriors who are in reality the Al Qaeda and the Taliban) who are drawing support from bases in the borderlands of Balochistan and Waziristan. American officials have made countless visits to Pakistan to deliver variations on this message and they ended up with nothing to show for it.

Earlier this year, the BBC disclosed a secret NATO report, based on 27,000 interrogations with captured Taliban and al-Qaeda detainees, concluding that jihadis operating in Afghanistan continue to receive support and instruction from Pakistani military handlers. One interrogated al-Qaeda detainee quoted in the report declared: “Pakistan knows everything. They control everything. I can't piss on a tree in Kunar without them watching.”

This makes me believe that the Pakistan government knew all along exactly where Osama bin Laden (the titular head of Al Qaeda) lived in Pakistan and as long as he didn’t do anything against the Pakistanis, they would leave him alone. That is why the American seals went into Pakistan to kill Osama bin Laden because they knew or at least believed that the Pakistani authorities were protecting him.

Throughout its recorded history, fundamentalist Islam tried to establish an ontological form of Islam through Jihadi terrorism. For centuries, Jihadis (religious warriors) have resorted to mass murder, oppression, intimidation, torture, terrorism, assassination and forced religious conversion and did it all in the name of fundamentalist belief system. And so it is today.

Now, Jihadi terrorism is one of the greatest single threats to the existing world order. Modern day jihadi terrorist groups as Hamas, Hizbullah, Lasker-E-Tobia, Al Bader, Taliban, Al Qaeda, Tehreek-E-Jihad, Hizbul Mujahidden virtually ensures that Jihadi terrorism will be with us for many years to come.

As I see it, the Pakistani government is hedging its bets because the Pakistani leaders have strong doubts that the Americans and its Allies will ever return Afghanistan to being a democratic nation, especially since the Americans are planning to pull out its armed forces by 2013.

Rather than see the country degenerate into absolute chaos (as occurred in the early 1990s, in the wake of the Soviet departure), Pakistani military leaders want to turn Afghanistan into a semi-orderly Pashtun-dominated client state that provides Islamabad with better opportunities fight their old enemy, India. And the only way for them to do this is to co-opt the Taliban in Afghanistan.

I believe that for the most part, generally Pakistanis loathe Americans. In fact, they hate the whole of the non-Muslim world and for this reason, they are only too happy to support Taliban terrorists against the NATO forces in Afghanistan.

Pakistani support for the Taliban is not just a expression of foreign policy, it is a true expression of grass-roots Pakistani public opinion.

Here is a good indication of what ordinary Pakistanis think comes to Westernized people, courtesy of a U.S. government-sponsored study called Connecting the Dots: Education and Religious Discrimination in Pakistan, recently produced by the U.S.-based International Center for Religion & Diplomacy, in conjunction with an independent Pakistani policy think tank called the Sustainable Development Policy Institute. Together, their researchers conducted an in-depth study of the attitudes toward non-Muslims reflected in 100 sampled Pakistani textbooks, and in interviews with teachers and students at 37 of the country's public schools and 19 madrassas. (Islamic seminaries in Pakistan that teach mostly Islamic subjects leading to graduation as a cleric)

The interviews with teachers were especially telling. This is precisely the kind of society—literate, educated, middle-class that one would expect to embrace relatively moderate and enlightened attitudes. But generally speaking, the opposite is true. Almost half of the surveyed public school teachers did not even know that Non-Muslims could become citizens of the Pakistani state. A common belief was that Non-Muslim religions are inherently sinister, and that friendly relations between the faiths are worth maintaining only insofar as they can generate opportunities for Muslims to attract converts.

All of the public-school teachers interviewed believed the concept of jihad refers to violent struggle, compulsory for Muslims to engage in against the enemies of Islam which would include Christians and Jews.

Ironically, despite the negative connotations associated with the word madrassa, many of the surveyed madrassa students and teachers actually displayed a more nuanced understanding of jihad than their public-school counterparts, and even supplied interviewers with religiously-based arguments against suicide bombings.

Despite that, in every madrassa textbook reviewed, the concept of jihad has been reduced from its wider meaning of personal development to violent conflict in the name of Islam and as such, is considered to be the duty of every Muslim. The Koranic verse commanding the believer to 'kill the pagans (or infidels or unbelievers) wherever you find them' is often cited with no context explaining why.

In Pakistani textbooks, the line between mosque and state is virtually non-existent. Students learn that international boundaries such as between Pakistan and Afghanistan are of little consequence. In all the textbooks analyzed, the student is introduced to a world where concepts such as nation, constitution, legality, standing armies, or multi-lateral organizations (except where they are prescribed by Islamic doctrine of shariah law) do not actually exist.

However, many of the interviewed Pakistani teachers expressed the belief that, on an interpersonal level, non-Muslim students and their religious practices should be treated with respect. But despite those kinds of teachings, as many as 80% of the respondents considered non-Muslims to be enemies of Islam. This feeling of enmity was justified by reference to a series of complaints against the West: acts of anti-Islamic blasphemy, spreading the evil of alcohol in Muslim society, killings of innocent Muslim citizens through missiles, and the banning of veils such as what is happening in France.

These views help explain why Pakistani mobs often erupt in fiery outbursts of anger not only at drone strikes in Pakistani territory, but also at symbolic slights such as perceived defilements of the Koran. Bitterness and anger at non-Muslims are deeply felt, widely shared attitudes in Pakistan; and it is doubtful they can be addressed by any sort of goodwill campaign or foreign-policy changes. Jihad, if only by proxy, will remain a popular cause for Pakistani governments seeking to promote their Islamic beliefs.

In the long run, Pakistan (which, let us not forget, has been a declared nuclear power for 14 years) may prove to be an even more dangerous problem to the Western World than Iran, whose population is well-educated, and not nearly as anti-American as the increasingly unpopular Shiite dictatorship that rules over it would have us believe.

The Iranian problem can be solved by replacing the regime. In Pakistan, the problem goes much deeper. In that country, one would have to replace the attitudes of its people against the Western World which comprises mostly of non-Muslims. That problem may take many generations of its people to pass before it becomes a reality. Changing their attitudes is as difficult as trying to change a hornet into a honey bee.

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