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  • 03/25/15--14:47: Slouching Towards Mecca?
  • Mark Lilla has a review of Michel Houellbecq's new book at the New York Review of Books.

    Final paragraph:
    "For all Houellebecq’s knowingness about contemporary culture—the way we love, the way we work, the way we die—the focus in his novels is always on the historical longue durée. He appears genuinely to believe that France has, regrettably and irretrievably, lost its sense of self, but not because of immigration or the European Union or globalization. Those are just symptoms of a crisis that was set off two centuries ago when Europeans made a wager on history: that the more they extended human freedom, the happier they would be. For him, that wager has been lost. And so the continent is adrift and susceptible to a much older temptation, to submit to those claiming to speak for God. Who remains as remote and as silent as ever."

    Michel Houellbecq's own interview about his book was good
    Why did you do it?
    For several reasons, I’d say. First of all, I think, it’s my job, though I don’t care for that word. I noticed some big changes when I moved back to France, though these changes are not specifically French, but rather Western. As an exile you don’t take much of an interest in anything, really, neither your society of origin nor the place you live—and besides, Ireland is a slightly odd case. I think the second reason is that my atheism hasn’t quite survived all the deaths I’ve had to deal with. In fact, it came to seem unsustainable to me.
    Personally, I think it doesnt matter. In fact, I have a cheerfuly optimistic pessimistic alternative: Whatever happens, some people will understand the technology and use it better> They will be the ones on top (even if they themselves are consumed by loneliness and unhappiness)...precariously and viciously balanced on top of vast mountains of bodies and civil wars... and masses of unhappy struggling infighting desperately envious Muslims who have no clue they are the ones that are supposed to be so close to submission and true happiness.
    So there...
    Photo by Sylvain Bourmeau

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    From Dr Hamid Hussain:

            Pakistan and Arab World:  Security Cooperation

    Hamid Hussain

     The desire to gain an immediate selfish advantage always imperils their ultimate interests.  If they recognize this fact, they usually recognize it too late”.  Reinhold Niebuhr

     There is long history of security relations between Pakistan and several Arab countries.  In 1970s and 80s, many Arab countries flushed with oil money bought state of the art equipment but local population lacked technical skills.  A number of Pakistan army and air force personnel were deputed to several countries including Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, Qatar, Jordan, Syria and Iraq.  A much smaller number of naval officers also served in UAE training local naval forces.  The numbers and duration of deployment varied from less than a dozen to few thousand and from few weeks to several years.  The main role of Pakistani officers was in training local security forces although they also manned complicated equipment such as radars. 

    Pakistan sometimes got into difficulties in view of squabbles among Arab countries as well as internal strife in some of these countries.  Pakistani troop presence in Saudi Arabia though very small put it at odds with Egypt.  Saudi Arabia and Egypt were supporting opposing parties in the civil war in Yemen.  This continued till Anwar Sadat got off the ship of Arab socialism and took a turn towards the right side of the curve.  In 1980s, in the context of Iran-Iraq war, presence of Pakistani troops in Saudi Arabia put Pakistan at odds with Tehran. 

     Pakistani army and air force personnel trained Saudi forces in 1970s and 80s.  Iran-Iraq war changed Saudi security environment and both countries started to negotiate about limited Pakistani troop deployment.  After prolonged negotiations it was agreed to deploy a limited Pakistani contingent on Saudi soil.  Delay in negotiations was partly due to differences among Saudi decision makers.  Debate among Saudis was on the issues of a larger foreign contingent (about two division strength), expansion of Saudi army and balance between army and Saudi Arabian National Guards (SANG). Finally, a negotiated middle ground agreed on a much smaller foreign contingent that consisted of  only a reinforced brigade strength.  In 1982, a formal agreement was signed and Saudi Pakistan Armed Forces Organization (SPAFO) headquarters was established at Riyadh.  Pakistani troops were stationed at Tabuk and Khamis Mushayet.  An armored brigade group was stationed at Tabuk from 1982 to 1988.  It was a complete formation deputed for three years and two brigades rotated in 1982-85 and 1985-88.  Initially, Major General Shamsur Rahman Kallu (later Lieutenant General) was appointed to the SPFAO headquarters but he never took charge and the contingent was headed by a Brigadier rank officer.  First commander was Brigadier Mehboob Alam (later Major General) who served from 1982-85 and under him Colonel (later Brigadier) Saeed Ismat served as GSO-1 Operations and Training.  From 1985 to 1988, Pakistani armored brigade was commanded by Brigadier Jahangir Karamat (later General and Pakistan army Chief).  In 1988, for a variety of reasons, the brigade was withdrawn and only a small number of Pakistani personnel involved in training remained (majority of foreign training personnel were from United States and Britain). 

     In my view, several factors such as increased confidence about Saudization process of armed forces, modernization of forces, acquisition of surface to surface missiles and friction with Pakistan about composition and control of the contingent contributed to this decision.  Saudis had asked General Zia that Shia officers and troops should be excluded from the units sent for deployment.  Zia presented this condition during one of his meeting with his Corps Commanders.  Several senior officers protested stating that this may significantly damage the cohesion of Pakistani armed forces.  The reason was that the policy could not be implemented discreetly.  They argued that a complete formation with full cohesive battalions was to be deputed and removing a particular group of soldiers based on their sect would negatively affect the cohesion of the units.

    In 1990s, need for Pakistani troops became obsolete in view of presence of large number of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia in the aftermath of First Gulf War.  In late 1990s, the key strategic issue between two countries was nuclear factor.  There is no conclusive proof but it is generally believed that both countries agreed in principle that in case of Tehran acquiring nuclear weapons, Pakistan will provide nuclear umbrella to Saudi Arabia.  In return, Saudi Arabia provided oil at discount rate to cash strapped and sanctioned Pakistan in the aftermath of its 1998 nuclear tests.  This was done off the books to avoid Pakistan’s creditors asking for more pound of the flesh.  In 2003, revelations about Pakistani nuclear proliferation by its lead scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan including clandestine shipments to Iran stunned the world.  Saudis were angry and felt that Pakistanis were a bunch of cheaters trying to milk money from all sides.  Saudis showed their displeasure by now asking for full price for the oil supply.  Saudis have mediated between ruling elites of Pakistan dating back to mass protest movement organized by a coalition of opposition parties against then Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto in 1977.  Saudi ambassador tried to negotiate a deal but eventually military staged a coup.  Most recently, Saudis guaranteed exile of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to the Kingdom as well as negotiated safe passage to former President Pervez Mussharraf.  This has severely damaged Pakistan’s reputation among Saudis.  Saudi royal family has very little respect for feuding Pakistani ruling elite. 

     Intelligence agencies of Pakistan and Saudi Arabia enjoy close relationship going back over two decades.  Currently, main focus of cooperation is Arab extremists.  Though small in numbers but shuttling of Saudi militants between Saudi Arabia and Pakistan and Afghanistan is a major Saudi concern.  Details of this cooperation are usually not made public and both countries prefer to work behind the scenes.  Pakistani and Saudi intelligence officials usually don’t leak; a nuisance that has been taken to an art form by Americans.  One case became public when in May 2009; Pakistani paramilitary force Frontier Corps (FC) arrested four Saudi militants in Mohmand tribal agency.  These four Saudi militants along with a Libyan and an Afghan national were arrested at Khapakh check post.  FC troops were escorting them to FC camp in Ghalanai when they came under attack.  Over 60 militants attacked FC escort and gunfight lasted for over two hours with many casualties. 

    Looking from Riyadh point of view, the security dilemma has mushroomed into a nightmare.  Externally, Shia dominated government in a fragile Iraq, unrest in Bahrain with potential rise of another Shia entity on the border, unraveling of Yemen, increasing voices of demand of constitutional monarchy in Jordan, exit of Mubarak in one of the most historic change in Egypt are enough to cause many sleepless nights for Saudi decision makers.  Internally, presence of a small but lethal extremist fringe and undercurrents of discontent in Saudi society and much more alienation of small Shia minority in the Kingdom are additional worries.  Traditionally, Saudi Arabia carefully balanced its security structure to prevent a coup.  Army doctrine was more static in orientation and ‘jointness’ was carefully avoided to prevent cohesion of armed forces to a level where they could easily overthrow the rulers.  In addition, SANG was used as a check against army.  SANG operates independent of Ministry of Defence running its own recruitment, training and retention.  SANG is also structured in a way to prevent it from posing a threat to the government.  Out of total strength of over 50’000 personnel of SANG only about 10’000 are on active duty.   Remainder is divided into regular reserve and part time tribal irregulars.  

    In case of massive protests though less likely in Saudi Arabia, there is always the question of how much force local security apparatus will be willing to use against their own countrymen.  Potential requirement of foreign troops forced Saudis to work with current Pakistani civilian government for whom they had nothing but utter contempt until very recently.  President and Prime Minister of Pakistan faced with grim economic situation of the country and army brass uncertain about continued U.S. funding are too delighted at the potential of cash windfall from Saudi patrons.  Secretary General of Saudi National Security Council Prince Bandar bin Sultan made too quite trips to Pakistan in the aftermath of protests.  Main subject was getting Pakistani support for Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) action to send Saudi troops to Bahrain, encourage Pakistan to send retired personnel for Bahrain security forces and in case of mass unrest in Saudi Arabia possibility of deployment of Pakistani security personnel.  Presently, Saudi security apparatus is able to handle most internal security problems and use of any foreign troops is more a contingency plan and will be used as a last measure if things spiral down out of control. 

    In 1969, Pakistan sent a military training mission to Jordan.  The mission’s primary task was to assess state of Jordanian forces in the aftermath of 1967 defeat at the hands of Israelis and recommend overhaul.  Officers from different arms (Infantry, Armor and Artillery) of army and air force were part of this mission.  Main objective of the mission was survey of Jordanian armed forces, find deficiencies, recommend solutions and guide in training.  Pakistanis got entangled in Jordan’s clash with Palestinians.  The simmering tensions between Jordanians and Palestinians resulted in September 1970 showdown when King Hussain ordered  Jordanian forces  to quell an attempt by Palestinian groups based in Jordan to overthrow the Hashemite kingdom.  There were exaggerated reports circulated by Palestinian sympathizers that Pakistani troops helped Jordanian forces in combat.  Later, after General Zia-ul Haq’s coup, those opposing him continued these unsubstantiated reports as Zia was in Amman during that time period. 

     Pakistani training mission consisted of only about two dozen army and air force officers and no combat troops (only exception was an Anti-Air Craft detachment sent in June 1970 at King Hussain’s request as he was worried that Syrian and Iraqi air forces may intervene in support of Palestinians).  Pakistan military mission was headed by Major General Nawazish Ali while Air Commodore Anwar Shamim (later Air Chief Marshal and Pakistan air force chief) was in charge of air force officers.   During main Jordanian offensive in September, Pakistani ambassador in Amman Nawab Rahat Ali Chattari as well as head of military mission Major General Nawazish were not in the country.  Brigadier Zia ul Haq was in charge of the military mission.  King Hussain asked Brigadier Zia to take over the command of a Jordanian division.  Pakistan’s charge de affairs got approval of this move from Ministry of Defence.  

    In Amman, 4th Mechanized Division commanded by Brigadier Kasab al-Jazy operated and 60th Armored Brigade of the division commanded by Colonel Alawi Jarrad was at the forefront.  After 1967 war, 3rd Iraqi Armored Division had stayed back in Jordan and was deployed in Zarqa.  King Hussain was suspicious about the motives of Iraqis and he deployed 99th Brigade commanded by Colonel Khalil Hajhuj of 3rd Jordanian Armored Division near Iraqis to keep them in check.  However, young Saddam Hussain emerging from his own recent successful power struggle inside Iraq shrewdly pulled Iraqi troops away from conflict area and finally removed them from Jordan to avoid getting entangled. 

    2nd Jordanian Infantry Division was based in Irbid near the Syrian border.  Palestinian guerrillas had taken control of the town.  Syria entered the fray in support of Palestinians by sending 5th Division commanded by Brigadier Ahmed al-Amir.  This was a reinforced division consisting of 67th Mechanized, 88th Armored and 91st Armored Brigades of Syrian army and Hittin Brigade consisting of Palestinians.  Commanding officer of 2nd Jordanian Infantry Division Brigadier Bahjat al-Muhaisen (he was married to a woman from a prominent Palestinian family) went AWOL and Brigadier Zia took command of the division at the request of King Hussain.  2nd Jordanian Infantry Division was shaky after desertion of Jordanian commander and Zia helped to keep the formation intact.  This division helped to take back control of Irbid.  Syrian armored thrust near Irbid was tackled by 40th Armored Brigade commanded by Colonel Atallah Ghasib of 3rd Jordanian Armored Division. Major damage to Syrian armor was done by Royal Jordanian Air Force.  Inside Syria, a power struggle between Saleh Jadid and Defence Minister and Air Force commander Hafiz al-Asad was at its peak and Asad decided to keep Syrian Air Force out of conflict.  In the absence of air cover, Syrian forces were mauled by Jordanian air force and within two days, battered Syrian troops retreated back.  Two months later, Asad took control of the affairs of the country sending Jadid to prison.  In 1970, Nawazish gave a bad Annual Confidential Report (ACR) to Zia although details of it are not available.  It is not clear whether report was written before or after September 1970.  Apparently, report was bad enough to possibly end Zia’s career at the rank of Brigadier.  Zia asked his former Commanding Officer (CO) of Guides Cavalry Colonel (R) Pir Abdullah Shah for help.  Abdullah asked then Chief of General Staff (CGS) Major General Gul Hassan Khan (Zia had also served under Gul Hassan) and report was quashed by army chief General Yahya Khan on Gul’s recommendation.   

    Traditionally, Oman recruits from specific Baluch communities to man its state security forces.  This is not new and the practice goes back to several decades.  Pakistan is not the sole source of manpower for security services but citizens of a number of other countries also serve in Omani security forces.  Oman was facing a rebellion in southern region in 1960s and 70s.  In 1960s, two Southern Regiments consisting of Baluchis were raised.  In 1971, a Frontier Force battalion consisting of Baluchis was also raised. 

    Many Pakistanis along with other foreigners serve in Bahrain’s police, National Guard and armed forces.  This fact has been highlighted recently in view of protests in many Arab states and additional requirement of personnel for riot control.  Bahrain saw large scale protests recently against ruling dynasty.  Government needed more man power to control the situation.  GCC under the leadership of Saudi Arabia sent about 4000 soldiers mostly Saudi troops to Bahrain.  Bahrain’s foreign minister Khalid Bin Ahmed al Khalifa visited Islamabad in March 2011 and Commander of Bahrain’s National Guards Lieutenant General Sheikh Mohammad bin Isa bin Salman al-Khalifa visited Pakistan in December 2010 and June 2011.  Defence cooperation between two countries was the main subject during the talks, however Pakistan army knowing the potential political fallout stayed in the background and let the President and Prime Minister handle the issue.  No exact data is available but some estimate that few thousand Pakistanis serve in Bahrain’s police, National Guards and armed forces.  A small Pakistani contingent of about a battalion strength has been serving mainly in training capacity long before the start of protests.  There is no evidence that these Pakistani soldiers were used in crackdown on protesters.  In the last few months, about 1000 additional retired military personnel from Pakistan have been recruited for Bahrain by welfare foundations run by Pakistan army and navy. 

    In Bahrain the negative fallout is for a large number of Pakistani workers and there have been instances of violence against them.  Several Pakistanis were killed and many wounded by angry mobs of Bahrainis.  Many Pakistanis left their homes for fear of their safety.  Some of these Pakistanis families are now living in facilities run by Bahraini government as well as Pakistan Club run by Pakistani embassy.  Bahraini protesters obviously object to presence of foreigners in security apparatus but there is also a sectarian angle.  Majority of population is Shia while ruling family is Sunni.  They view recruitment of foreign Sunnis as an attempt to suppress Shia.   Iran obviously sympathizing with Shia kin of Bahrain has strongly objected to recruitment of Pakistanis in Bahrain’s forces.  Pakistan’s charge de affairs in Tehran was summoned by Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister and warned about negative fallout on Pakistan-Iran relations.  In addition, Shia organizations in Pakistan also protested this action of Pakistani government.  As expected Pakistani Sunni clerics came out supporting Saudi Arabia and Gulf sheikhdoms. 

     The best course for Bahrain is to use minimal force, deploy mainly indigenous forces for law and order and institute constitutional reforms to satisfy its own citizens.  Heavy handedness will surely radicalize some in the opposition resulting in a self-fulfilled prophecy.  If there is any proof of foreign involvement in unrest, they should make it public.  On part of opposition forces, it will be suicidal for their cause to get direct help from Iran.  This will simply confirm the ruling dynasty’s narrative that Shia are not loyal citizens of the state thus justifying continued denial of their rights.  Leaders of opposition movement have great responsibility to keep protests peaceful. 

    Saudi Arabia and Iran are engaged in a sectarian war for the last three decades.  The battlefields are scattered everywhere including Lebanon, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.  New battle lines are being drawn where Saudi Arabia is trying to scare Iran by threat of overwhelming Sunni numbers.  Riyadh is lining up Sunni countries including almost all Arab countries, Pakistan, Malaysia and Indonesia.   Iran is left with a smaller team of ruling Alawi Syrian regime and Hezbollah.  The prospect of a new potential ally in case of overthrow of minority Sunni ruling dynasty in Bahrain is quite a welcome thought for Iran.  To counter enormous numbers Tehran is also trying to work with Sunni schools of thought at variance with Saudi puritanical version as well as trying to take control of the ‘emotional push button’ issue of Palestinian cause by supporting almost exclusively Sunni Hamas in occupied territories. 

    Iran is very nervous at losing its only Arab ally Syria.  Tehran is vocally supporting opposition movements in all Arab countries but totally silent about Syria.  The reason is quite obvious that in case of a democratic change in Syria, the power hold of minority Alawi regime will disappear.  Thought of a Sunni government in Damascus is quite discomforting to Tehran.  If new government aligns with Saudi Arabia, it can cut off the lifeline of Tehran’s support to its proxies in Lebanon.  Tehran can potentially loose one important ally (Syria) and left with a much weaker proxy (Hezbollah) in one stroke.  If recently concluded Egypt mediated reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas results in weaning of Hamas from Tehran, then Iran will be left only with a weak Hezbollah on Middle Eastern chessboard.  The case of Bahrain is opposite where Shia majority is ruled by a Sunni dynasty.  In case of democratic change, a Shia dominated government more friendly with Tehran can come to power.  It was this fear that sent shock waves in Riyadh forcing dispatch of Saudi troops to Bahrain.  Riyadh is trying to rally Arab as well as non-Arab countries to its cause.  GCC welcomed Jordan and Morocco’s request to join GCC.  Saudis are also negotiating with Indonesia and Malaysia for possible troop commitment in Gulf. 

    Saudi Arabia and Iran are actively involved in Afghanistan and Pakistan through their proxies.  Recently, Director General of Inter Services Intelligence (DGISI) Lieutenant General Ahmad Shuja Pasha disclosed during in-camera briefing to Parliament that some Pakistani clerics were receiving funds from Saudi Arabia.  It is an open secret that a large number of madrassahs in Pakistan receive funds from government and non-government sources from Gulf and Saudi Arabia.  Iran on its part is trying to counter this by supporting its own proxies inside Pakistan. 

    Tehran and Riyadh are embarking on a very dangerous course and both countries are equally guilty of stoking the sectarian fires all over the Muslim world.  Every effort should be made by citizens of both countries to put pressure on their respective governments to focus on internal problems and avoid proxy war.  Citizens of both countries deserve a peaceful and prosperous future and not to be used as instruments of another round of fratricidal war.  Tehran should remember that the ‘spring’ is not going to be restricted to Arab world.  Young Iranians are as disappointed from their own cleric cum politicians.  Large scale protests in the aftermath of President Ahmadinejad’s elections were the first warning shots.  The pressure from below is gradually building and in the next 2-3 years, it is very likely that streets of major Iranian cities will see large scale protests.  It is in Iranian interest to focus more on internal problems and avoid stoking the sectarian fires.

    Increased involvement of Pakistan in the security affairs of Arab countries can have some negative fallout.  It will increase the sectarian gulf inside Pakistan and first shots were recently fired.  In Karachi, there was wall chalking against recruitment of Pakistanis in Bahrain’s security forces and Shia organizations staged protests.  In response, clerics of Ahl Hadith (group close to Saudi school of thought) and Deobandi school of thought gathered and raised concerns about criticism of Sunni ruling houses of Arab world.  There was a grenade attack on Saudi Consulate in Karachi and few days later a Saudi diplomat was assassinated in Karachi. A large number of Pakistanis work in Gulf states and Saudi Arabia.  Pakistan’s involvement in security affairs in the context of protests entails the risk that all Pakistanis will be linked with the state’s oppression thus coming under attack from opposition forces of these countries.  Recently, there were attacks on Pakistani workers in Bahrain causing fear among all Pakistanis. 

    Pakistan’s main problem is its economy.  Pakistan’s increased engagement in security affairs of Gulf is transactional in nature.  In view of deteriorating relations with U.S. and potential drying up of economic resources from Washington is forcing Pakistani civilian and military leaders to look towards newer and greener pastures.   Oil prices running over $100 a barrel means that new checks will come from Arab patrons.  No one hands money freely and in return Pakistan will be asked to do some heavy lifting.  Poor countries like Pakistan are now caught in the fratricidal war in the house of Islam.  Pakistan can diminish the fallout for its own country by following the example of Bangladesh.  Bangladesh has so far kept its forces out of the Middle East fires.  Instead it gets economic benefits from increasing troop contribution to more acceptable and less risky United Nations peace keeping missions.  If Pakistan can strictly limit military missions to training in Gulf then it can mitigate some of the side effects of such ventures.
    Some more tidbits from Arab Air-Force historian "Crowbat"
    Here some additional 'bits and pieces' that might be useful to enhance Mr. Hussain's write-up. It's based on interviews with several Jordanian, Egyptian, and one of Bangladeshi (ex-Pakistani) pilots that served during those fateful times (entire story can be found in books Arab MiGs, Volume 3, and Arab MiGs, Volume 4):

    - Pakistani Air Force was posting two of its pilots to the RJAF already since early 1960s. One of them, Hamid Anwar, barely survived a crash with a two-seat Hunter flown by RJAF pilot 1st Lt Amer Zaza, in 1964 (Anwar ejected on time, Zaza too late: he descended with the parachute right into the burning wrecakge of their aircraft...).

    - Two PAF officers served with No. 1 Squadron RJAF (flying Hunters), during the June 1967 Arab Israeli War, and were granted permission to fly combat sorties over Jordan. Flt Lt Saif-ul-Azam flew two sorties on 6 June 1967, then evacuated to Iraq with rest of RJAF fighter-pilots, and flew another sortie with Iraqi Hunters over H-3 airfield, two days later. He was credited with three confirmed kills and highly decorated (by Jordanians, Iraqis, and Pakistanis), before quitting the PAF and joining the newly-established Bangladesh Air Force, following the 1971 Indo-Pakistani War. Flt Lt Sarwar Shad fell ill and was hospitalized, on 5 June 1967, and did not fly during that war.

    - After the June 1967 War, Azam and Shad were replaced by two unknown pilots. For most of the next two years, they served with the RJAF contingent in Iraq (based there because nearly all of Jordanian Hunters were destroyed and airfields had to be repaired). In March 1969, these were replaced by Flt Lts Noor Khan (future Air Marshal) and Akmal: immediately on arrival in Amman, Noor Khan and Akmal were sent to Dmeyr AB in Syria, where they joined the rest of reorganized No.1 Squadron RJAF. Within few weeks, they were reinforced by a bigger group of advisers, including Muhammad Mahmood Alam (probably the most famous PAF pilot of the 1965 Indo-Pakistani War), Arif Manzoor, Atique Sufi, Shahid Foozi and Sarafaz.... (there would be a lot to say about what kind of training they run in Syria, but that's 'a different story'...).

    - As soon as Mafraq AB was completely rebuilt and extended, they moved back to Jordan and then the RJAF began receiving F-104 Starfighters from the USA. During the summer 1969, Pakistanis assisted in conversion of about 15 Jordanian pilots to that type...

    ...that said, it seems at least a few Pakistanis did remain in Syria until at least 1972, when they were met there by the CO of an Egyptian MiG-17-squadron deployed in that country...

    A big delegation from Pakistani Army visited Jordan immediately after the June 1967 War. I don't know much about it though. Jordanians only told me that the Pakistanis were instrumental for reorganization of the Jordanian Army and introduction of divisional structure.

    - In regards of Saudi Arabia... it was around the same time - i.e. between 1967 and 1970 - that another group of PAF pilots was seconded to the RSAF. They flew six Hunters acquired to support introduction to service of Lightning interceptors purchased by Saudi Arabia from the UK, and did so together with a small group of contracted British personnel. It was them that saw the 'standoff' with Egyptian forces involved in Yemen War ofthe 1960s, mentioned by Mr. Hussein. I do not know any of their names, though...
    and from Pakistani Air-Force writer Group Capt. M. Kaisar Tufail (PAF)
    Post-haste summons for volunteers found an eager band of sixteen Pakistan Air Force (PAF) fighter-pilots on their way to the Middle East, in the midst of the 1973 Arab-Israeli 'Ramadhan' War. After a gruelling Peshawar-Karachi-Baghdad flight on a PAF Fokker F-27, they were whisked off to Damascus in a Syrian jet. Upon arrival, half the batch was told to stay back in Syria while the rest were earmarked for Egypt. By the time the PAF batch reached Cairo, Egypt had agreed to a cease-fire; it was therefore decided that they would continue as instructors. But in Syria it was another story.

    The batch in Syria was made up of pilots who were already serving there on deputation (except one), but had been repatriated before the war. Now they were back in familiar surroundings as well as familiar aircraft, the venerable MiG-21. They were posted to No. 67 Squadron, 'Alpha' Detachment (all PAF). Hasty checkouts were immediately followed by serious business of Air Defence Alert scrambles and Combat Air Patrols from the air base at Dumayr.

    Syria had not agreed to a ceasefire, since Israeli operations in Golan were continuing at a threatening pace. Israeli Air Force missions included interdiction under top cover, well supported by intense radio jamming as the PAF pilots discovered. The PAF formation using the call-sign "Shahbaz" was formidable in size - all of eight aircraft. Shahbaz soon came to stand out as one that couldn't be messed with, in part because its tactics were innovative and bold. Survival, however, in a jammed-radio environment was concern number one. As a precaution, the Pakistanis decided to switch to Urdu for fear of being monitored in English. Suspicions were confirmed during one patrol, when healthy Punjabi invectives hurled on radio got them wondering if Mossad had recruited a few Khalsas for the job!

    After several months of sporadic activity, it seemed that hostilities were petering out. While the Shahbaz patrols over Lebanon and Syria had diminished in frequency, routine training sorties started to register a rise. Under these conditions it was a surprise when on the afternoon of 26th April 1974, the siren blasted from the air-shafts of the underground bunker. Backgammon boards were pushed aside and the "qehva" session was interrupted as all eight pilots rushed to their MiGs; they were airborne within minutes. From Dumayr to Beirut, then along the Mediterranean coast till Sidon, and a final leg eastwards, skirting Damascus and back to base - this was the usual patrol, flown at an altitude of 6 km.

    The limited fuel of their early model MiG-21F permitted just a 30 minutes sortie; this was almost over when ground radar blurted out on the radio that two bogeys (unidentified aircraft) were approaching from the southerly direction ie Israel. At this stage fuel was low and an engagement was the least preferred option. Presented with a fait accompli, the leader of the formation called a defensive turn into the bogeys. Just then heavy radio jamming started, sounding somewhat similar to the "takka tak" at our meat joints, only more shrill. While the formation was gathering itself after the turn, two Israeli F-4E Phantoms sped past almost head-on, seemingly unwilling to engage. Was it a bait?

    Flt. Lt. Sattar Alvi, now the rear-most in the formation, was still adjusting after the hard turn when he caught sight of two Mirage-IIICJ zooming into them from far below. With no way of warning the formation of the impending disaster, he instinctively decided to handle them alone. Peeling away from his formation, he turned hard into the Mirages so that one of them overshot. Against the other, he did a steep reversal dropping his speed literally to zero. (it takes some guts to let eight tons of metal hang up in unfriendly air!) The result was that within a few seconds the second Mirage filled his gun-sight, the star of David and all. While Sattar worried about having to concentrate for precious seconds in aiming and shooting, the lead Mirage started to turn around to get Sattar. Thinking that help was at hand, the target Mirage decided to accelerate away. A quick-witted Sattar reckoned that a missile shot would be just right for the range his target had opened up to. A pip of a button later, a K-13 heat-seeker sped off towards the tail of the escaping Mirage. Sattar recollects that it wasn't as much an Israeli aircraft as a myth that seemed to explode in front of him. (The letter 'J' in Mirage-IIICJ stood for 'Jewish', it may be noted.) He was tempted to watch the flaming metal rain down, but with the other Mirage lurking around and fuel down to a few hundred litres, he decided to exit. Diving down with careless abandon, he allowed a couple of Sonic bangs over Damascus. (word has it that the Presidential Palace wasn't amused). His fuel tanks bone dry, Sattar made it to Dumayr on the vapours that remained.

    As the other formation members started to trickle in, the leader, Sqn. Ldr. Arif Manzoor anxiously called out for Sattar to check if he was safe. All had thought that Sattar, a bit of a maverick that he was, had landed himself in trouble. Shouts of joy went up on the radio, however, when they learnt that he had been busy shooting down a Mirage.

    The Syrians were overwhelmed when they learnt that the impunity and daring of the Pakistani pilots had paid off. Sattar was declared a blood brother by the Syrians, for he had shared in shedding the blood of a common enemy, they explained.

    Sattar's victim Captain M. Lutz of No. 5 Air Wing, Israeli Air Force (IAF), based at Hatzor, ejected out of his disintegrating aircraft. It has been learnt that the Mirages were on a reconnaissance mission, escorted by Phantoms of No. 1 Air Wing, IAF operating out of Ramat David Air base. The Phantoms were to trap any interceptors while the Mirages carried out the recce. Timely warning by the radar controller (also from the PAF) had turned the tables on the escorts, allowing Sattar to sort out the Mirages.

    The dogfight over Golan is testimony to the skills of all PAF pilots, insists Sattar, as he thinks anyone could have got the kill had he been "Shahbaz-8" on that fateful day. Sattar and his leader Sqn. Ldr. Arif Manzoor, were awarded two of Syria's highest decorations for gallantry, the Wisaam Faris and Wisaam Shuja'at. The Government of Pakistan awarded them a Sitara-e-Jurat each. Sattar, an epitome of a fighter pilot, befittingly went on to command PAF's elite Combat Commanders' School (CCS) and the premier PAF Base Rafiqui (Shorkot). He retired recently as an Air Commodore. 

    CrowBat is offlineReport Post


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    I do more writing on New Pundits now but I thought I would point to three recent posts of mine dealing with the geopolitics in the region:

    The Ghost of the Persian Empire will Own the Middle East: The ghost of geopolitics means that the only true counterweight to Iran is not Saudi Arabia, Pakistan or Israel (The Sunni-Semitic axis Egypt doesn’t even figure, as it’s geopolitically so dependent on Israel post Aswan Dam) but Turkey. However Anatolia is ultimately a bridge to the West and Turkey’s highland configuration point towards Istanbul and that land bridge.

    The “Iran deal” signals Persia’s return to Geopolitical Preeminence: The Iranians, like their closely related kin the Indians, are an Aryan people who settled on the hugely strategic Iranian plateau. Unlike the Indians upon conquest (or a few centuries after) the Iranians gave up their hugely influential native born faith, Zoroastrianism, to embrace Islam and consequently the hugely Iranian inflected Shi’ite faith. Of course Islam can properly be conceived of a fine line between the more orthodox (and less theologically innovative) Sunni practises, which adhere most closely to the original Arabian teachings, and the far more syncretic Ismaili cluster, in which 12ver Shi’ite Islam falls in the middle.

    How Pakistan and Turkey must play the crisis in the Middle East: Now far more interesting, in that it is much contestable, about what is Pakistan. I would argue Pakistan is the Mughal Empire successor state reimagined (even if partially) on the Indus River Valley System. This linkage survived 1971’s breakup and to put it succinctly Pakistan looks to Akbar, its arch rival fratricidal twin India looks to Asoka.

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  • 05/01/15--11:57: Trust and Accountability
  • Excellent advice from Faisal Naqvi

    "...But the soldiers of Pakistan serve the citizens of Pakistan. And it is not good for the citizens of Pakistan to fear their soldiers. Just like it is not good for Pakistanis to be riven with internal suspicions and divides. Just like it is not good if the citizens of Pakistan have no idea as to who is killing their own.

    I have no reason to doubt the DG ISPR’s sincerity when he condemns the murder of Sabeen Mahmud. At a personal level, I very much doubt that our agencies had anything to do with her death. But in the absence of any independent accountability or trustworthy form of dispute resolution, all we are left with are his words. And words really don’t go that far."

    This opaque system of "rule by agencies" is the army's most insidious and harmful gift to Pakistan. The fact that you never know who is in charge, and what they want, and why?

    There are fringe conspiracy theorists in EVERY country. Even in the US there are intelligent people who think some secret cabal of trilateralists runs the country. But Pakistan is a good example of what happens when such opaque conspiracies become mainstream AND WITH GOOD CAUSE.

    What is happening in Balochistan? who is responsible? in an normal country you would at least ask the CM or the governor or even the Prime Minister and expect an answer. They may lie (they probably lie) but they are the ones on top. People develop ways of interpreting what they are saying. And there really IS some transparency. Many things are exactly as they seem. But in this case, we don't even bother to ask Dr Malik (chief minister Balochistan) or the Prime Minister...and they are not held responsible in any serious way either. "Everyone" knows the army runs Balochistan. But do they? do they run everything or some things? who decides? It is all opaque and everyone has the freedom to cook up their favorite conspiracy theory. Some of them are probably true. But which ones?
    We will never know.

     Btw, my own theory of what drove us mad in the first place:

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  • 05/06/15--20:02: An Embarrassment at PEN
  • (Trigger warning: this post includes words and images)

    PEN American Center decided to honor the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo with an award for the magazine's courage in standing up for free speech. This is an award for courage in the face of censorship; a free speech award. It was meant to recognize the fact that CH was repeatedly threatened by groups of extremist Muslims who insisted that their particular theological rules must be respected by everyone and no one is allowed to cross their red lines. Even with their lives under threat (and the threats were always serious, not taken as a joke even before they were carried out) CH insisted on their right to satirize and comment on every subject, including the subject of Islam. In response their offices were attacked by armed fanatics and several CH staff were killed, as was one Muslim policeman of Algerian ethnic origin. It must be noted that Islam was not an obsession for CH and was not their main target by any means.

    Anyway, the magazine insisted that they had the right to write about Islam in the same way as they wrote about other subjects, and they paid a heavy price. Then, with several colleagues lying dead, the magazine refused to back down and published an intelligent and eminently sane issue to show that they were not cowed. Courage is clearly something they do not lack and PEN American Center decided to honor them for this very straightforward exhibition of devotion to the cause of free speech. A cause that used to be a liberal and progressive cause and which is one of the few ways in which modern democratic society really is superior to other civilizations, past and present.

    But everyone did not jump on this "free speech" bandwagon.  A group of writers (including a few real stars like Michael Ondaatje, Peter Carey and Junot Diaz) announced that they were boycotting the award ceremony because CH is not a fit candidate for this award. Most writers (even most liberals) refused to join the refuseniks, but there was support, especially within the postmarxist Left. Still, the affair went ahead, though with an air of needless controversy (needless, of course, in my view. Everyone is entitled to their opinion and those writers probably think the controversy was desperately needed). Now that the award has been handed out I decided to put together a few random personal observations and some interesting snippets from the internet:

    1. The objectors clearly misrepresented CH by portraying it as a racist, supremacist, (practically) right wing supporter of the "war on terror". As Justin EH Smith and others have pointed out in great detail and with solid documentation, the magazine is a LEFT wing, anti-authoritarian, anti-racist magazine that is not obsessed with Islam or Muslims and that spends most of its time skewering the French ruling class and not the disenfranchised masses on whose behalf these denizens of the first world took their not-so-brave stand. Justin also provides the clearest argument in favor of satire as a weapon in the hands of those who stand for freedom and who question absurd or unfair powers, and CH as a magazine that has consistently used it in this fashion.

    A quote from Justin's article:

    I am not a big fan of most laïcité rhetoric, and I am sensitive to how it is used for purposes of exclusion. (I am also not listening to what Salman Rushdie is saying on this topic.) This is why I've tried to be consistent about coupling my position on Charlie Hebdo with an equally insistent position on, e.g., the rights and dignity of regular and non-regular ('illegal') migrants to France. I see my position as the one that, more than that of those with whom I disagree, is most insistent that Islam must not be perceived as a monolith, that in fact there is no such thing as the Muslim community, but rather numerous disagreeing factions, by no means all of which agree with the attackers that there is something unacceptably offensive about the content of Charlie Hebdo.


    2. Joyce Carol Oates represents the confused and conflicted wing of the refuseniks. After signing the letter, she took to twitter to backtrack and make sure she satisfied all sides. A position that becomes understandable once you notice that she has PEN awards of her own and has been a guest and even a presenter at an award show that honored, among others, the American war reporter Lara Logan. If she found no difficulty there, one wonders what upset her so much about CH? Does she think CH is somehow MORE "metropole" or pro-war-on-terror than Lara Logan? Anyway, my guess is that plain-vanilla ignorance is not the primary reason she signed on to the letter (though it is surely part of it, since she seems to have no idea what CH actually promotes).  My guess (and of course, it is only a guess) is that she signed because of a combination of:
    A. Vague (and very poorly informed) postmarxism that made her imagine that this was a fight between White, Western privilege and the disenfranchised masses yearning to be free, and in such a fight, it was her duty as a socially aware rich White Westerner to show that she was on the side of the angels.
    B. Some people she considered friends asked her to sign. She did what had to be done. Then backtracked when she realized that other friends (and potential judges at future award events) were in the opposite camp.

    Need to examine -- without rancor, please!--when someone's "freedom of expression" is someone else's devastating & assaultive "hate speech."
    Should be kept in mind that PEN gives many awards & most for literary excellence. Current controversy disproportionate, misleading.

    I have no way of knowing this is why she behaved as she did, any more than she has a way of knowing what was in the hearts of CH editors and cartoonists when they drew the cartoons. She is not taking their anti-racist, progressive statements at face value, I am not taking hers, that's just how the world works. Though the difference remains that I am conscious I am making assumptions about her motives while doing my mind-reading, but she seems to think she just knows. In any case, her case against CH has been summarized and judged, correctly, by this German blogger. The last line is philosophical gold.

    3. Francine Prose wrote a piece defending her decision to sign the letter and included this gem:
    "And the idea that one is either “for us or against us” in such matters not only precludes rational and careful thinking, but also has a chilling effect on the exercise of our right to free expression and free speech that all of us – and all the people at PEN – are working so tirelessly to guarantee."

    Criticising her decision has a "chilling effect" on free speech but cartoonists getting shot for drawing cartoons does not? And her refusal to honor CH? does that have a "chilling effect" on free speech or is it only chilling if she is being criticized?

    4. The cartoonist Gary Trudeau. After making some ignorant remarks, he backtracked a little, but not much. Here he is defending his stand against CH (and in his case, it clearly is a stand against CH, not some vague notion of "others I like deserved it more, so I am unhappy and wont go")

    Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

    Transcription from Nib:
    I was as outraged as the rest of the word at the time. I mourn them deeply. We’re a very small fraternity of political cartoonists around the globe… What I didn’t do is necessarily agree with the decisions they made that brought a world of pain to France.
    I think that in France the wider Muslim community feels disempowered and disenfranchised in way that I’m sure is also true in this country. And that while I would imagine only a tiny fraction were sympathetic to the acts that were carried out and the killings, I think probably the vast majority shared in the outraged. Certainly that seems to be what people are hearing in the schoolyards in France now, is that they’re finding common cause at least with the issue, if not with the action.
    I think that’s bad for France, it’s unfortunate, it’s a tragedy that could have been avoided. But every body has to decide where the red lines are for themselves.

    Well, this cartoon sums it up.

    5. Professor Amitava Kumar signed on to the protest but it seems he is not the confrontational sort, so he is not exactly reveling in the SJW mode. Instead, he says he protested because he saw into the future and "the stand I am taking is; why is so much vitriol being poured on those who are protesting (against CH)". THIS is why he signed the letter? because he is clairvoyant and knew unfair criticism would befall those who signed? Hear it and marvel. He even complains that one reason he is upset is because Hebdo is being awarded and nobody is talking about Avijit Roy or Sabeen least one of whom was killed by exactly the same ideology and for exactly the same reasons as the attack on Hebdo. One would think Hebdo's courage creates space for people like Avijit, but the good professor does not see it that way. . he spends a lot of this interview answering every question with appeals to "complexity" and "nuance" and "raising questions" instead of answering the question he has been asked. Interestingly, he also tries to bring in the objection that awards as such are the problem. A stand to which I hope he will stick diligently in the future. Anyway, this interview is a gem and worth your time. Listen for yourself and wonder why and how he became a professor.

    6. The full time social justice warriors (especially those of Latin American origin) among the refuseniks are easier to understand. For them, if it is "the power" versus someone else, then one supports someone else. Free speech per se is not a "good". It is good if it promotes "social justice", bad if it does not. Since the world is assumed to be divided between grown up and evil White people (White is not necessarily about color in this case; the Japanese are practically White, the Turks are not) and childlike and innocent "people of color" (this category includes chromatically White people from Latin America, whose ancestors crimes against Native Americans and Africans have long since been forgiven, it's complicated), therefore in any conflict between good and evil, one sides with the good.  In this case, PEN American Center and Charlie Hebdo are both "White" (never mind a few race traitors who have joined the ranks of the oppressors), compared to Muslims (herein regarded as POC irrespective of skin pigmentation), the choice is not difficult.
    I also have the (anecdotal) impression that SJWs who are willing to be “anti-free speech” in this case may, in other conversations, come across as very much pro-free speech. It seems they have a hierarchy of crimes in mind, with “Western hegemonism/colonialism/imperialism/racism” being at the top of the list. Between suppression of speech and (perceived) support of “the metropole” in the name of free speech, they will opt for suppression of speech.
    It sort of makes sense if you buy into their premises. It is sometimes hard to imagine why anyone does buy their premises, since they are historically, anthropologically, culturally and biologically incorrect. But that is a discussion for another day.
    By the way, Teju Cole is in this group but I do wonder about him a little. What if his Nigerian heritage causes him to take a more personal interest in Islamic terrorists at some point? Would he slightly adjust his SJW positions? I am not sure what (if any) connection he has with Nigeria now, but if it is more than mere nostalgia then this is at least a slight possibility. He wont change positions explicitly and openly of course, and the ultimate responsibility for all events in Nigeria will continue to be assigned to Britain or America (since I expect his own bread and butter will continue to come from the American SJW community) but a little bit of a shift may happen with him. We will have to wait and see.

    7. Peter Carey managed to include the entire French nation in the list of criminals:
    “All this is complicated by PEN’s seeming blindness tothe cultural arrogance of the French nation,which does not recognize its moral obligation to a large and disempowered segment of their population.”
    Surely we can all agree with that. Those arrogant French people have had it coming ever since Napoleon insulted Carey's ancestors with that quip about "a nation of shopkeepers".

    6. Razib Khan has a post up about what the data says on the issue of free speech in America. As he sums it up "the consistent free speech position gets stronger as you get more liberal, and, as you get more intelligent." So, a few noisy SJWs do not represent either liberal or intelligent opinion in the country. Not on the issue of free speech. (though some may argue that liberals just wish to appear more tolerant, not that they are more tolerant. I still think liberalism had a LOT to do with establishing the notion of free speech protection and remains one of its main defenders. The PC crowd is an aberration... I hope)

    Razib also adds a caveat that i think is valid: One major caveat that needs to placed here is that traditionally the elites of this country have been more defensive about free speech than the populace as a whole. That’s probably because the elites are worried more about power plays by their rivals. Ultimately politically oriented free speech is important for those with ambition and aspirations.

    7. Meanwhile, if you want more background on blasphemy-killing as a way to silence criticism, you can see my article here. 

    An image of a person in a turban holding a sign "I am Charlie" with the title "all is forgiven" was removed from this part for obvious reasons.

    Post Scrip: I just saw this excellent article by Pakistani journalist Kunwar Khuldune Shahid that pretty much sums it up.

    "What the radical Islamists and their apologists won’t discuss is the tradition of drawing Prophet Muhammad’s images as a form of tribute by many Muslim artists throughout centuries. What they won’t discuss either is the fact that an ostensibly anti-Muslim publication received glowing tributes from many Arab Muslim newspapers in the aftermath of the Paris attack, with Op-Eds in Charlie Hebdo’s support being published in Pakistan as well. An Iranian newspaper published ‘Je suis Charlie’ on its front page.
    You can deem Sabeen’s talk or Charlie Hebdo’s satire as “violating the acceptable” but in either case you can’t simultaneously be a flag-bearer of free speech. For consistency’s sake, it’s better to not pay any regard to freedom of speech, than being selective in safeguarding it. If you’re Sabeen, but not Charlie, for all practical purposes you’re neither."

    By the way, I did not include Kamila Shamsie in my random examples of signatories and their contradictions because she is not one of the famous signatories. But I must say that I would have expected more of her kin to sign this protest. What happened?
    I hasten to add that Pakistani writers in English include some genuine talents (Mohammed Hanif, Bapsi Sidhwa and Nadim Aslam come to mind, just off the top of my head) but you know what I mean.. there is a group who would sign almost anything supported by Teju Cole and Joyce Carol Oates, so I am a bit surprised more of them did not jump on the bandwagon. Perhaps nobody called?

    PS #2: Where is Pankaj Mishra? Why was he not asked to sign? or, God forbid, did he refuse? Just curious. 

    PS#3: An interesting objection: Someone objected that contrary to my claim, speech was freer in pre-modern Punjab than it is in modern America. I am not convinced, but if anyone has some argument about that, feel free to add it to the comments. 

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    A very interesting look at the letters Indian soldiers wrote home in World War One.

    Ram Prasad (Brahmin) to Manik Chand (c/o Sikander Ali, Bamba Debi Bazar, Marwari Water Tank, Bombay)
    Kitchener’s Indian Hospital, Brighton
    2nd September 1915
    And send me fourteen or fifteen tolas of charas, and understand that you must send it so that no one may know. First fill a round tin box full of pickles and then in the middle of that put a smaller round box carefully closed, so that no trace of the pickles can enter. And send a letter to me four days before you send the parcel off. [Letter withheld]

    Ser Gul (Pathan, 129th Baluchis) to Barber Machu Khan (57th Rifles, serving at the front)
    Indian Hospital, Rouen
    13th September 1915
    I have no need of anything, but I have a great longing for a flute to play. What can I do? I have no flute. Can you get me one from somewhere? If you can, please do, and send it to me. Take this much trouble for me. For I have a great desire to play upon the flute, since great dejection is fallen upon me. You must, you simply must, get one from somewhere. I have no need of anything else. But this you must manage as soon as you can. Make a small wooden box, put a little cotton wool in it, and put a flute to play on in the middle of the cotton wool. Then put a little cloth over it. Get Umar Din to write the address in English and it will reach me all right. Pack it so that the flute will not shake about. I shall be very grateful. I have no need of anything else ... You must arrange this as quickly as possible. [Letter passed]

    Balwant Singh (Sikh) to Pandit Chet Ram (Amritsar, Punjab)
    [Gurmukhi cipher]
    FPO.39 [France?]
    24th October 1915
    The ladies are very nice and bestow their favours upon us freely. But contrary to the custom in our country they do not put their legs over the shoulders when they go with a man. [Deleted]

    Maula Dad Khan (Punjabi Muslim) to his father (India)
    Brigade Office, Sialkot Cavalry Brigade, France
    24th October 1915
    Muhammad Khan’s letter dated the 27th September reached me on the 22nd October. When I read it, every hair on my body stood on end. Before that I was happy, but after I had read it I was very vexed. It is true that I wrote to Allah Lok Khan for a pair of [women’s] shoes. The fact is, father, that a young Frenchman of my acquaintance asked me to send for something from India. He asked me to get him some shoes which would fit his wife. I wrote that. Of what do you suspect me? My father, I swear in the name of God and His Prophet and declare that there is no [ground for suspicion]. Am I such a wretch and such a blackguard as to leave my noble wife and child and behave thus? ... There are very strict orders against such action on the part of our people. I came from home to earn money and renown, not to put such shame upon you. [Letter passed]

    Sepoy Baldar (Afridi) to Sepoy Minadar Khan (57th Rifles, France)
    Frontier Constabulary, NWFP, India
    10th November 1915
    I have married Jabar’s wife and paid him Rs. 560. I have sold my sister to Yar Baz for Rs. 560. My other wife I have sold to my father for Rs. 640. Do not be anxious. When you come back, I will find you a wife. [Letter passed]

    Bir Singh (Sikh) to Jowala Singh (Ambala District, Punjab)
    6th Cavalry or 19th Lancers, France
    28th January 1916
    You say that the parcel came back from Bombay. What sort of parcel was it? If you wrote ‘opium’ on it, do not do so again, but put ‘sweets’ or ‘dainties’ on it, and send off the opium. Have no fear; parcels are not opened on the way and cannot be lost. So keep on sending the drugs. Let Indar Kaur be the sender. [Letter passed]

    Dafadar Ram Nath (Jat) to Headmaster Baldav Singh (Jat School, Rohtak, Punjab)
    20th Deccan Horse, France
    4th November 1917
    My idea is that, since it is now four years since I went to my home, my wife should, if she wishes it, be allowed to have connection according to Vedic rites with some other man, in order that children may be born to my house. If this is not done, then the family dignity will suffer. Indeed, this practice should now be followed in the case of all wives whose husbands have been absent for four years or more. It is permitted by Vedic rites, if the wives are willing. Everyone knows that that article, the consumption of which is increased while the production is stopped, will in time cease to exist. If any article is allowed to decrease through ignorance, no one is to blame; but when every one knows that an article is being consumed to extinction, while at the same time they are aware of the steps available to supplement production, they are greatly to blame if they hesitate to take those steps.

    Kala Khan (Punjabi Muslim) to Iltaf Hussain (Bhatinda, Patiala, Punjab States)
    Indian Labour Corps, France
    27th December 1917
    You enquire about the cold? I will tell you plainly what the cold in France is like when I meet you. At present I can only say that the earth is white, the sky is white, the trees are white, the stones are white, the mud is white, the water is white, one’s spittle freezes into a solid white lump, the water is as hard as stones or bricks, [and] the water in the rivers and canals and on the roads is like thick plate glass. What more am I to say? Our kind-hearted Sirkar has done everything possible for us to protect us from the cold. We are each provided with two pairs of strong, expensive boots. We have whale oil to rub in our feet, and for food we are provided with live Spanish sheep. In short, the Sirkar has accumulated many good and wonderful things for our use.

    Khalil Ullah (Hindustani Muslim) to Ganiullah (Muttra District, UP)
    2nd Lancers, France
    3rd March 1918
    I am sending you a picture of an American lady aviator, I want you to study it and see what the women of Europe and America are doing. I want you to contrast them with our womenfolk, and to think what sort of education they can give to our children when they themselves are lacking in knowledge and training. I am hopeful that, if you pay careful attention to what I have written, you will be able to effect some improvement. The advancement of India lies in the hands of the women; until they act, India can never awake from her hare’s dream. Forgive me if I have spoken too strongly.

    Extracts from Indian Voices of the Great War: Soldiers' Letters, 1914-18, edited by David Omissi. Reproduced with the permission of Penguin Books India.
    - See more at:

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    An excellent and informative post by Ali Minai on

    Worth a read.

    "The world is full of Great Projects – tall buildings, long bridges, vast highway networks – but very seldom does a single project alter the geography of the world. The Suez Canal and the Panama Canal did this spectacularly, and now another great change in the connectivity of the world is beginning to take shape in Pakistan. The question is whether it will connect more or less than it will disconnect. "

    My own first thought is that the logic of "economic geography" may reassert itself in the long run, but in the short term, many "obvious" beneficial connections can be lost in the face of ideological clashes (partition comes to mind), warfare and/or the breakdown of law and order. The "Silk Road" made sense as an economic project, but was intermittently shut down by wars and the collapse of order along it's route. (Its loss of competitiveness to seaborne trade is a separate issue and does not explain various interruptions or the prolonged inability of "Silk Road" countries to take fuller advantage of railways as a way to compete with the sea at least to some extent, until recently). So the crucial question is to what extent the ruling elite in Pakistan (and in other regional hubs) prioritize economics over other things they also hold dear. Just to take two aspects as examples to illustrate what I mean:

    1. Assume the Pakistani ruling elite has sufficient control WITHIN Pakistan. They could still risk the corridor because of adventurism abroad. For example, the project of taking Kashmir from India is a project that seems unlikely to succeed without triggering a "corridor-shattering" war; or the urge to dominate Afghanistan may not lead to Pax-Pakistania. What if it just means a violent quagmire with no end in sight. Can the corridor escape that distraction? ..I am not saying it is one or the other. But how much one gets pushed versus the other can still be an issue. The geniuses have been known to get it wrong before. ...will they get it all correct this time (forget the moral issues, human rights etc. , I just mean "can they keep the peace"?) ... I don't think the answer is totally clear yet.

    2. The basis on which nation-states are to be stabilized in the region West of the Radcliffe line is still up in the air. Islam? Ethnic solidarity? The mandate of heaven based on better trains and washing machines for all? I don't think the matter is settled (except maybe in Iran, where Persian identity may have roots deep enough to stay upright through storms...but I notice that my pro-Israeli friends seem to have a very real (and very irrational?) animus towards Iran for some reason. Those are powerful enemies to maybe even Iran is not home free. But you see what I mean: with identity so seriously contested (as opposed to non-seriously contested as in Texas versus the US Federal Govt) things may not settle down. Shit may hit fans. That sort of thing.

    I remain optimistic :)


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    Yet another Bangladeshi blogger has been hacked to death. This is the third time in just the last two months that someone has been hacked to death in BD for being an "atheist blogger".

    The victims:
    1. Ananta Bijoy Das

    2. Avijit Roy

    3. Washiqur Rahman

    Two born Hindu, one Muslim, all three known to be associated with Bangladeshi rationalism and "freethought" and in particular with the freethought blog "Mukto-Mona". 

    Someone with more local knowledge can comment about them and add their tributes. I wanted to focus on a more general issue: Why kill these bloggers? As Bond noted, the first time is happenstance, the second time coincidence, but the third time, it's enemy action. This is not just some random Muslim fanatic getting riled up and going to earn his virgins. This is a systematic campaign...and it makes a lot of sense. These killings are a near-perfect "wedge issue" for Bangladeshi Islamists. How does that work?

    1. Bangladesh is a relatively liberal Islamic country. There is a significant Hindu minority (though it shrank somewhat at partition and then again, drastically, during the anti-Hindu genocide of 1971) and thanks to strong traditions of secular Bengali nationalism and old-fashioned (i.e. not Post-Marxist Western elite and University imported) Left wing activism, there is a significant Muslim Bengali secular tradition. Another factor is the fact that when the Awami League led the Bangladesh liberation movement against West Pakistan, the West Pakistani army was supported by the main Islamist party and its cadres provided the volunteers who were their eyes and ears (and in many cases, their eager executioners).
    After independence, as a "right-wing" Bangladeshi political grouping developed with military (and Pakistani, Saudi and possibly CIA) assistance, it was provided crucial support by the Islamists and in return their successive regimes provided assistance to the Islamists and protected them against prosecution for war crimes. At the height of the honeymoon between Islamists, the Pakistani intelligence agencies, Saudi Arabia and the CIA, this right-of-center alternative (first as military rule, then as the BNP) established itself firmly as one half (and for much of that time, the dominant half) of Bangladeshi politics. Since then, things have changed. Saudi Arabia is now somewhat conflicted about the Islamists and at a minimum, distinguishes between "good Islamists" (who behave themselves and support the royal family) and "bad Islamists" (who prefer to go the whole hog and aim to replace the royal family with a more authentic Islamist alternative). Pakistan and the CIA are no longer BFFs (though wary cooperation and buying and selling continues). And Western powers are not entirely happy with Islamism. As a result, the playing field in BD seems to have tilted towards the Awami League and towards relatively secular Bangladeshi nationalism. In the nature of things, the BNP or some such will still be needed to provide the other half of a stable two-party electoral system, but their Islamist allies are under some pressure. There is even the possibility that the BNP will have to carry on without hardcore Islamist cadres being sheltered under its umbrella and will have to (perhaps as an "India-skeptic" critic), go along to some extent with a new "India-friendly" regional order.
    2. But there is another alternative. Is there some way the Islamists can recover and even win new heights they did not possess even under BNP regimes in the past?
    3. Some of them, and perhaps some of their backers in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia (in Saudia, more in the private sector than in the government? who knows) seem to think so. And they are using these killings as a wedge issue.
    4. By going after atheist bloggers (many or most of them Hindus), they have found a near perfect wedge issue. The Hasina government is not happy with these blasphemers being killed, and unlike in Pakistan, the regime seems to have made some arrests. But if they take a very public stand against these killings and aggressively protect the rights of these free-thinkers, then they stand with atheists and blasphemers and risk losing the support of "moderate Muslims" who don't go in for machete-wielding execution, but whose core beliefs include the belief that atheism and apostasy cannot be tolerated....But if the Hasina government lets this go on, then they permit the Islamists to grab the initiative and drive away atheists, secularists and Hindus...all of whom are more or less her voters and supporters (and whose friends and supporters are also the "intellectuals" of the Awami League regime). At a minimum, it is an uncomfortable position for the regime.
    5. Moderate Muslims may condemn free-lance executions, but such executions also bring to light the existence of atheists, Hindus and blasphemers in what is, after all, a Muslim majority country. For the moderate Muslim the best thing would be for this conversation to just go away. The longer it goes on, the more they have to commit to options they don't like: should they come down in favor of Hindus, atheists and blasphemers (not necessarily in that order, but all these items are uncomfortably connected in mukto-mona)? Or, when push comes to machete-shove, do they stay silent and "understand" that the blasphemers have been sorely provoked? whatever they decide, the discomfort is a net plus for the Islamists. They are betting on the fact that by making this an "Islam versus atheism/Hinduism" issue they make it hard for moderate Muslims to chose atheism and Hinduism over Islam.
    6. With the penetration of bullshit-postmarxism into the Bengali elite increasing as their access to expensive Western education increases, the "high-end secularists" can be split too. "Black and White" division of the world between Islamists and anti-Islamists is anathema to postmodern-postmarxism. They too would prefer to opt out of this "complex and nuanced" issue. Their discomfort is an added bonus to the Islamist cause (of relatively little practical importance, but these people have some visibility in high-end intellectual circles, so their discomfort doesn't hurt either).

    Can Bangladeshi secularism (meaning in practice, the Awami League regime, there being no other secular alternative on the horizon) defeat this rather well-chosen point of attack? Maybe they can (in which case the Islamists will have gambled and lost and the secular cause will emerge stronger than before). But it is a big if...If they lose, Bangladesh is in play again as a possible Islamist base in Eastern India. The Islamists know what they are up to...

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    There is, again, talk of a revival of cricketing ties between Pakistan and India.

    As expected, there is also vocal opposition (more so in India than in Pakistan).

    It may not happen. I have no idea how likely or unlikely it is at this time. But after seeing some of the heated tweets from Indian nationalists on Twitter, I wanted to put a few thoughts out here so that I have a post I can refer to when needed. So here goes..

    1. Extreme Hindutvadis (like all such terms, it is considered unfair etc by many, but we need a label, you can pick your know what I mean) are looking for a Hindu subcontinent, cleansed of Anglo-Saxon and Islamicate influences. Their position obviously brooks no compromise or even co-existence, much less cricket. This is not about them.

    2. Extreme Jihadis (ditto about term, etc, plus no equivalence is implied by use of the term extremist in two consecutive paragraphs :) ) are also very clear about what they want and may have a better shot at getting somewhere within a thousand miles of their target. Their position includes no cricket. This is not about them.

    3. Indian Nationalists. This is the largest group of Indian objectors (anecdotal...I have no data to back up this claim). Their case seems to be that Pakistan sponsors terrorists who attack India. More specifically, Pakistan shelters (and fails to arrest or convict) terrorists who attacked Mumbai in 2008. To play cricket while this goes on would be to "send the wrong signal"; Pakistan should be punished, not rewarded, and cricket is a reward.
    This post is about them. (there is a fourth group of objectors: Pakistani nationalists who think contact with India will defile the two-nation-theory. Anyway, if GHQ bothers to become "clearly opposed", then discussion is moot. No series will happen in that case. In Pakistan, the lines of authority are clear :) ).

    Is it true that a cricket boycott by India punishes Pakistan? and is cricket (at this time) a reward for Pakistan (as opposed to the Pakistani board, who obviously get to make money)? The short answer to both is NO.

    America boycotted the Moscow Olympics. etc etc. That is not an apt comparison. Each case is different. In this case, not playing cricket with India is punishment for the board officials (less money), somewhat bad for Pakistani cricket (less international cricket, attention, practice, etc etc), but not at all bad for the Jihadis or their bosses. all. This just makes their case stronger.
    Cricket (like trade, tourism and cultural exchange) between India and Pakistan does not strengthen the anti-Indian lobby in Pakistan. It does exactly the opposite. The people in Pakistan who do NOT want a jihadi invasion of India are the ones who are strengthened by these exchanges. This is just an empirical fact. The thing to keep in mind is that Pakistan is in many ways a more competent (pound for pound) adversary than India because the two-nation-theory provides stronger (negative) asabiya than the idea of India (this is not about which idea is stronger or "better". I think India is the stronger idea in the long run, but it's short term battle asabiya is weaker). Trade, travel and cultural exchange with India weakens the two-nation-theory and therefore weakens the one area in which Pakistan is actually stronger than India.
    You have to think about this before you get it ;)

    By the way, right now, beyond the money angle, it may not be much of a reward for Pakistani cricket either. Defeat on the ground, even humiliation, may be the more likely outcome at this time. Or do Indians lack confidence in their overpaid team?


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    Many Ismaili families from Gujrat moved to Karachi after partition. They became part of a prosperous, hard-working community. They kept a low profile. As in any community, everyone could not be rich enough to buy large houses next to the Bhuttos and Zardaris in Clifton. Some of them therefore bought land on the outskirts of town, where it was cheap, and built a housing society there and called it Al-Azhar Gardens.

    People moved in 8 years ago and as is the tradition in this particular community, they maintained their colony exceptionally well. Almost everything was available right there. Proud residents boasted about the well designed housing, the community facilities, the cleanliness, the security.
    But you still have to get to town to work and go to school and so on. So they ran a shuttle bus service.

    Today, the shuttle left Al-Azhar Gardens with 60 or so people on board. Someone else got on at Safoora Chowrangi. Armed men stopped the bus and using 9 mm pistols, systematically shot dead women and children, one by one, at close range. It is said that a few children were spared, or survived by hiding. Or something. The dead include women and the elderly.
    Imagine the scene in the bus. The mind boggles, does it not?

    Who did it? Jundullah (and/or the Islamic State, they are one and the same in any case and these days the name IS will sell better), a well known anti-shia group with a long history in Karachi (including a history of getting people out of police custody in mysteriously easy escapes) has claimed responsibility.

    Not to be left behind, Mubasher Lucman, Pakistan's most popular "paknationalist" anchor has blamed the Indian "Relatives and Wives Wing" (otherwise known as RAW) for the attack.

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    Most people seem to take Jundullah/IS at face value, with their history of dragging Shias off buses and shooting them in the head. But there are those who blame MQM (supposedly operating on the instructions of RAW and Mossad). But whoever did it (I tend to go with Jundullah, but cannot claim to know for sure, so we will leave it at that), someone stopped a bus at a major crossing, calmly shot 60 people (43 of them now dead) and walked away without getting caught (and without any fear of getting caught). That does not look good. Not good at all.

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    We may soon hear that this is Pakistan's 9-11. Unlike Amrika, Pakistan is rich in 9-11s. It depends on how you count. Using the standard formula of 1 Sunni Punjabi=3 Shias= 5 FATA Pakhtoons there have been at least nineteen 9-11s till now (more if you start counting poor people as humans, but that would be just too much). Unfortunately, I am afraid there may be more in the days to come.

    The Prime minister has condemned it. He has also "ordered the police to arrest the culprits". I am not kidding. He actually ordered the police to arrest the culprits!

     More to the point, the army chief has called up the Aga Khan and said he will use his iron hand at the earliest opportunity. Coalitions support funds may have been mentioned. Life goes on.

    Before I am accused of cynicism, let me paint two (fictional) scenarios. Which one is more likely?

    1. General X has figured out that Pakistan's policy of nurtuting Jihadist terrorists as force-multipliers against India has blown up in its face. He wants to change things root and branch. Not just the Kashmir Jihad and strategic depth (a direct consequence of that jihad), but the whole shebang. Mufti Naeem and his ilk will be terminated with maximum prejudice. All training camps will be shut down. All militants will be reformed or terminated (with the same maximum prejudice). India will be offered a deal: Lets both stop using this kind of terrorism for any reason and settle all future disputes via negotiation or all out war, like civilized countries. No more shooting of random people sleeping on the platform at Chatrapati Shivaji Railway terminus. But General X realizes that 50 years of Islamic-Paknationalist education has prepared a generation of morons who cannot be told the whole truth without having their heads explode. So General X is going to lie, deceive, dissimulate and detour his way to a future TNT-free Pakistan. Sometimes his public actions will appear contradictory. Sometimes he will have to make up all sorts of bullshit about RAW and Mossad to get his way. He will do what has to be done. But in the end, we will have a defanged Pakistan where every poor man's son (or daughter) has the chance to become a toll-collector on the Pak-China-Economic-Corridor. Then, our problems will be no different from those of Thailand or Phillipines (both of whom have some Islamist terrorists, but the government are not in bed with them). And so on...

    2. General Y has figured out nothing but even he can see that something has to be done. Ismailis have been killed in cold blood and the Aga Khan is on the phone. Next the damn American ambassador will call and before night falls he will even have to pretend to have a meeting with the prime minister. He is pissed off. He promises to deal with everyone with an iron hand. He sends general Z to see the big boss in the Pentagon and General Z reports that the Pentagon is pretty pissed off too. Block E/F F-16s will not be free. Loans will have to arranged and then paid back at 27% compound interest by fleecing the patriotic people of Pakistan. But all is not lost. Brigadier April Glaspie does seem to have hinted that a transfer of mujahideen into IOK would probably be OK with the US. Or at least, that is what General Z gathered from the conversation. He also met the Chinese ambassador, who served the best halal dimsum in Islamabad and nodded and smiled through most of the dinner. General Z reports that all seemed higher than Himalayas and deeper than the Indian ocean, though his excellency Sun Weidong did become a little stern after that last shot of Mai Tai and said something like "we hope the fraternal people of Pakistan will do whatever is necessary to establish good public order". But mostly he smiled. Not for lack of language skills. The man speaks perfect English and Urdu (and our man in the embassy reports, also some Punjabi) but most of the time, he just doesn't speak. One hopes for the best.
    All the corpse commanders nod their heads at these words of wisdom from General Z. The bearer brings in the tea and Peak Freans biscuits. Iron hands are waved around. All will be well.

    Which (fictional) scenario sounds more plausible?

    It started with the Kashmir Jihad (which started back in 1947, so Zia is not the only culprit). That jihad is the gift that keeps on giving. Everytime one of the foot soldiers in these massacres is caught (sometimes, they are. In fact, we even had Malik Ishaq in custody for a while), it turns out that they either went to a Kashmir Jihad training camp or were trained by people who got their start in the glorious Kashmir Jihad. Strategic depth. Where would we be without it?

    For more on Shia-killing in Pakistan, see here.

    btw, here is something I wrote four years ago. See the halva story at the end to understand what the PPP government in Sindh is doing. In fact, since people don't like to click through, I will paste that four year old article here too. Try to figure out what has changed and what has not.

    Pakistan: The End Of The Affair (June 11 2011)

    We have been here before, but it is being said that the unhappy marriage between the Pentagon and GHQ  has deteriorated further and once again, those watching this soap opera are wondering if this union can last.  Writing in Al-Arabiya, GHQ’s own Brigadier Shaukat Qadir says that the US appears to be "gunning for Pakistan’s top generals", who are said to be bravely resisting this latest perfidious American plot against General Kiyani.  
    And why is the US trying to undermine the good General?
    Because at a meeting with President Obama he made clear "that this soft-spoken, laid-back, easy-going general, far from being overawed by the privilege of meeting President Obama, would still give back better than he got." 
    This interesting article (I highly recommend reading it twice to get the full flavour) can be read in a number of ways, all of which are worrisome.
    One is to assume that Brigadier sahib means exactly what he is saying. That there is some core Pakistani interest that General Kiyani bravely insisted on defending, and for that sin, he is now being systematically undermined. 
    Note that Pakistan’s elected government did not decide what this core interest is supposed to be, nor was it consulted before General Kiyani decided to defend this core interest against US imperialism. In fact, Brigadier sahib hints that the elected regime may include "powerful individuals who have no loyalty to this country and its people". No, this core interest, for which Kiyani sahib is supposedly willing to risk a clash with the United States (and by extension, NATO, Japan, etc) is defined by GHQ, as it has been for decades.
    "Strategic depth", it seems, is alive and well and we can live with bombings, insurgencies, electricity shortages and all sorts of economic and social crises, but we cannot live without strategic depth
    For the sake of this strategic depth, we kept the Taliban alive and made sure the new American-installed regime in Afghanistan would not stabilize. And when the Americans leave (something that everyone in GHQ seems convinced is happening very soon), we will restart a civil war in Afghanistan, with "our side" led by the Haqqanis and Mullah Omar. This war we expect to win in very short order, after which we will move on to our Central Asian Nirvana.
    Having antagonized all the hardore jihadis by siding at least partially with the US, we are now to antagonize the US and its allies by sticking by the Taliban. This is known as GHQ's "Sau Gunndey tey Sau CHittar strategy". [1]
    The problems with this approach are manifold and include:
    1. "The imperialists" are unlikely to leave as soon as imagined. This alone puts the whole strategy in question because as in Kargil, there seems to be no plan for the possibility that the "enemy" may not do what we expect it to do.
    2. "Our side" is unlikely to win all of Afghanistan even if the Western imperialists leave according to our timetable.  Given the opposing interests of many regional powers, that struggle is likely to be even more prolonged and bloody than the last attempt to fill the Afghan vacuum.
    3. "Blowback" from this war will be worse than the blowback from the current confused operation. The Taliban refused to cooperate with us against anti-Shia terrorists even in the good old days of the nineties. This time around, they will be much more difficult to control. We cannot even control the current (relatively small) Islamic Emirate of Waziristan. To imagine that we will control the much larger and more fractious Islamic emirate of the future seems to be a pipe dream.
    4. Any exit of the imperialists and return of the Taliban will inevitably be followed by a house-cleaning of Western "fellow travellers" in Pakistan. That cleansing may not be on the army's immediate agenda, but pressure to Islamize Pakistan will be hard to resist once the Islamists are winning. The establishment may then find it expedient to try and get rid of the ANP, Pakistani liberals and other riff-raff that the army has tolerated in the Sulah e Hudaybia phase. Naturally the Americans will respond with retaliatory measures of their own and a liberal efflux will have some modest but detectable negative impact on the economy and the state; the final outcome, in a weak and fractious state, may not even be up to North Korean standard.
    But that is only one interpretation of Brigadier sahib’s views. There is another: it may well be that cooperation with the United States is set to continue, but the haze of lies that surrounds the relationship now needs to be raised to new heights.  Pakistan’s deep state is highly "Westernized" in very practical ways and has always been a willing and even eager partner of the CIA and the Pentagon in the region. But both the state and its American minders have been operating with the view that those who matter will calculate profit and loss, and everyone else can be kept suitably entertained with our own peculiar version of Jihadi kool-aid (a uniquely Pakistani mix of Islam, militarism and the "two nation theory").
    In one of the more spectacular "own goals" in history, this convenient and previously useful propaganda has now created a large constituency within the rank and file of the armed forces and the semi-educated middle class. How now to tell them the truth, smack dab in the middle of a crisis? Better to just update the kool-aid, pray to Allah, and keep going while hoping for a miracle. In this version, no breach with America is intended or desired, but the natives are restless and the Jihadi/Pak nationalist credentials of the supreme commander must be burnished to prevent any unplesantness, hence the article and others like it. The problem with this version is that it means the state will continue its policy of trying to appease both the Islamists and the Americans and this only postpones the day we fall between two stools, it does not alleviate that risk.
    Yet another version holds that this is simply more of the "controlled burn" strategy, the aim being to get the Americans to cough up more money by raising the threat of a "rogue" nuclear state (a strategy with which we have long years of practice by now). The problem with this version is the one pointed out by Mr. Lincoln a long time ago; you cannot fool all the people all the time. What happens if someone decides to call our bluff?
    It is hard to say which of these theories is correct. If I had to pick, I would pick the last one because I am a cynical person, but there is little objective evidence based on which an outside observer can decide between these theories.
    It is even possible that all three (and others I have failed to imagine) are ALL simultaneously true.
    Pakistan’s biggest curse and the army’s most treacherous gift to the nation is its culture of secrecy and double-dealing. Domestically, the army (and particularly its intelligence agencies) have thoroughly undermined the credibility and effectiveness of politicians, civil bureaucrats and the media by decades of behind the scenes manipulation. They have done the same thing abroad by keeping foreign policy under their opaque control. This is fertile ground for conspiracy theories of every stripe (including the three I have managed to outline above) and the truth is impossible to know for sure ("loose change" aficionados will no doubt feel it’s the same in the United States, but the murkiness in Pakistan is an order of magnitude above anything an American can imagine).
    And the same opacity and confusion may now extend to the supreme command; it is possible that not only are we unable to discern what is going on, the corps commanders who meet every month are equally clueless and confused. Not being the best and the brightest, and acutely conscious of their intellectual shortcomings but determined to stay in charge no matter what, they may be flying blind too….this final irony raises the disturbing possibility that the past may not be an adequate guide to the future and very nasty black swans may be swimming just beyond the next bend in the river.
    Perhaps India should prepare for an influx of Pakistanis seeking refuge from chaos that even the worst enemies of Pakistan may not have imagined. Being our cousins, and with a bureaucracy not known for its boldness and vision, one doubts that India will have a policy adequate to the needs of this mother of all black swans. The rest of the world may be equally unprepared. The Chinese, supposedly used to thinking one hundred years ahead, may be our only hope.

    [1] "Sau Gunndey tey Sau CHittar strategy": Literally, one hundred onions and one hundred lashes. A man was to be punished and was given the choice of eating a hundred onions or getting a hundred lashes. He opted for the onions but after 3-4 onions, he thought this is too hard and switched to lashes. But after 5 of those the pain was too much, so he switched again to onions..he ended up with a hundred of both. GHQ runs the risk of being punished by both sides to the full extent of the law. Picking one poison might have been a more rational choice.
    Post Script: Sufi masters in upstate New York have sent a sufi teaching story that they claim has some relevance to why the hapless civilian regime is having so little success in Pakistan; It is not known if these are true sufis or impostors, so the story may or may not apply. Halva strategy: The Mongols were coming and the capital was in a state of panic. A holy man showed up and his followers claimed he had magical powers and could stop the Mongols. He was invited to take over and do his thing. He took over command and ordered the ministers to prepare the finest halva. They did so, he ate and let others eat as well. Next day, they said the Mongols are only 100 miles away, what now? He asked for more halva. It was done. This went on for days, every day the Mongols got closer and he asked for more of the best halva. Finally the Mongols arrived at the gate. He packed up his sleeping bag and said "I am off, do what you can to save yourself". Everyone screamed "but what about the your magic"? He said "dudes, I came for the halva and I had lots of it and it was indeed good. The Mongols are your problem. Good bye."

    Good Night and Good Bye. 

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    Dr McHugh doesnt think so, and he has just said so in the WSJ.

    Yet policy makers and the media are doing no favors either to the public or the transgendered by treating their confusions as a right in need of defending rather than as a mental disorder that deserves understanding, treatment and prevention. This intensely felt sense of being transgendered constitutes a mental disorder in two respects. The first is that the idea of sex misalignment is simply mistaken—it does not correspond with physical reality. The second is that it can lead to grim psychological outcomes.

    The transgendered suffer a disorder of "assumption" like those in other disorders familiar to psychiatrists. With the transgendered, the disordered assumption is that the individual differs from what seems given in nature—namely one's maleness or femaleness. Other kinds of disordered assumptions are held by those who suffer from anorexia and bulimia nervosa, where the assumption that departs from physical reality is the belief by the dangerously thin that they are overweight.

    At the heart of the problem is confusion over the nature of the transgendered. "Sex change" is biologically impossible. People who undergo sex-reassignment surgery do not change from men to women or vice versa. Rather, they become feminized men or masculinized women. Claiming that this is civil-rights matter and encouraging surgical intervention is in reality to collaborate with and promote a mental disorder.

    Dr. McHugh, former psychiatrist in chief at Johns Hopkins Hospital, is the author of "Try to Remember: Psychiatry's Clash Over Meaning, Memory, and Mind" (Dana Press, 2008).

    What do you think?

    I think some, very few, people have such severe gender dysphoria that they really should change their own gender identification to the opposite sex. i.e., I think there are (and have seen, though not managed) patients who, as children, are completely and totally unhappy about their gender. There are young boys who endlessly dream of being a girl and young girls who desperately want to be boys. I assume some of the same carries over into adult life. If gender dysphoria is powerful and persistent, why not allow them to live as the opposite gender?
    But I also think any surgery is cosmetic and is not a medical necessity and should not be done to children. I realize that this is a bit of a muddled position. It's a muddled topic. I am wary of surgery because it is so hard to reverse and is such a "physical" treatment for what is, after all, a psychological issue... a problem that the patient may think will be helped by surgery, but that the data (and the surgical procedures themselves) suggest is not cured by surgery in the sense of "no more problem".

    The SJW community is fully committed to this cause and it has mainstream liberal support. But I am not sure the SJW community has thought it through. Just as an example, the same community is committed to the belief that sex roles are social constructs, not biological. That leads to obvious difficulties with this topic.
    Anyway, I think civil rights for people who do opt to live like the opposite gender is not a bad cause (everyone should be free to live as they please as long as they dont hurt others, etc), but surgery for children may be a step too far.
    I am open to being converted, one way or the other :)

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    This is Ajmal Kamal's brilliant review of Mumtaz Mufti's autobiography "alakh nagri". It was published in Adabi Duniya but I think it deserves publication in as many places as possible. Unfortunately, those who cannot read Urdu will not be able to enjoy it, but those who can should not miss it. The second half is even better than the first, so don't stop halfway :)

    Ajmal Kamal

    for those who don't know Urdu, it is impossible for me to translate this, but a little of what it is about and the background to the book:

    Qudratullah Shahab was a senior Pakistani bureaucrat who also dabbled in literature (and in the management of literary figures on behalf of the Martial Law regime of Field Marshal Ayub Khan). He later wrote a self-serving and intensely "Paknationalist" autobiography that remains a bestseller in Pakistan until today (the last time I was at Karachi Airport, it was near the top of the list of books the airport bookstall guy mentioned as "current bestsellers"). He cultivated (or was cultivated by) a group of "mystical-Islamist-Paknationalist" writers including Ashfaq Ahmed, Bano Qudsia and Mumtaz Mufti and over time these people all wrote books and articles that hinted (or outright claimed) that the other members of the cabal were spiritually enlightened and possessed some mysterious knowledge about the inner (real) workings of the universe...workings in which the creation of Pakistan and its rise as an Islamic power were the central issue of the age. The workings of this particular brand of Paknationalism are briefly reviewed here. For more, see here and here..... and some positive and "inside" views as well as a few skeptical reviews here.  (the skeptical reviews are rather far down the page).

    Anyway, Alakh Nagri has a lot of stories about Qudratullah (and his disciples) and how they are moving the cause of Islam forward. Even when they act so strangely that observers claim "the bastard is dead drunk". They are not drunk, they are being visited..

    btw,  a less toxic and more pragmatic version of this "mystical babas of Pakistan" tradition is now in the hands of Professor Rafique Akhtar, who is, among other things, the spiritual mentor of General Kiyani and the hero of best-selling columnist Javed Choudhry. Professor Rafique is not as completely bananas as the Qudratullah Shahab party but even a relatively sane person has his quirks...he reportedly claimed to Javed Choudhry that he had the key that unlocks the 12 hard drives of the Quran and therefore had access to ALL spiritual AND temporal knowledge, from astrophysics to astral projection. I am not's in Javed Ch's book. result for professor rafique akhtar

    دنیاداری کی مابعدالطیعیات

    ممتاز مفتی کی ’’الکھ نگری‘‘ بلاشبہ ایک نہایت غیرمعمولی کتاب ہے ۔۔ کم و بیش اتنی ہی غیرمعمولی جتنا اس کا مصنف ہے یا اس کا موضوع۔ اسے ممتاز مفتی کی خودنوشت سوانح حیات کے دوسرے حصے کے طور پر شائع کیا گیا ہے۔ اس سوانح حیات کی پہلی جلد، جسے ’’علی پور کا ایلی‘‘ کا عنوان دیا گیا تھا،۱۹۶۰ء کے عشرے میں شائع ہوئی تھی۔ ’’ایلی‘‘ کو بڑی عجلت میں شائع کیا گیا تھا تاکہ یہ کتاب اس سال کے آدم جی ایوارڈ کی حقدار ہو سکے۔ سرورق پر ’’آدم جی انعام یافتہ‘‘ کی سرخی کے ساتھ اسے ناول کا باریک نقاب اُڑھایا گیا تھا کیونکہ نوبیل انعام کے اس مقامی نعم البدل کو غالباً خودنوشت سوانح عمریوں کی کوئی خاص پروا نہیں تھی۔ یہ الگ قصہ ہے کہ آخرکار جمیلہ ہاشمی کے ناول ’’تلاش بہاراں‘‘ کو اس اعزاز کا زیادہ مستحق سمجھا گیا۔ دونوں کتابوں کے درمیان مقابلہ نہایت ولولہ انگیز رہا ہو گا، کیونکہ ادبی معیارکے لحاظ سے دونوں ایک دوسرے کی ٹکر کی تھیں۔ کچھ بھی ہو، موقع ممتاز مفتی کے ہاتھ سے نکل گیا اور ’’ایلی‘‘ کو ایک ایسے ناول کے طور پر شہرت حاصل ہوئی جسے، بقول ابن انشا، آدم جی انعام نہیں ملا۔ اس کے باوجود ممتاز مفتی کو ان نک چڑھے نقادوں کی رائے سے متفق ہونے میں تیس برس کا عرصہ لگا جن کا خیال تھا کہ ’’ایلی‘‘ ناول نگاری کے تقاضے پورے نہیں کرتا۔ ۱۹۹۱ء میں شائع ہونے والے ایڈیشن میں آخرکار یہ انکشاف کیا گیا کہ دراصل ’’ایلی‘‘ ممتاز مفتی کی خودنوشت سوانح عمری کا پہلا حصہ تھا۔
    سوانح عمری کے زیرتبصرہ دوسرے حصے پر نظر ڈالتے ہی معصوم پڑھنے والا حیرت سے دوچار ہو جاتا ہے، کیونکہ عموماً ایسا دیکھنے میں نہیں آتا کہ کسی شخص کی خودنوشت سوانح عمری کے سرورق پر کسی اور شخص کی تصویر کو زیبائش کے لیے استعمال کیا گیا ہو۔ لیکن ممتاز مفتی کے بقول ان کی کتاب کے سرورق پر قدرت اللہ شہاب کی ریٹائرڈ نورانی صورت کا جلوہ گر ہونا ہی عین مناسب ہے۔ دیباچے میں انکشاف کیا گیا ہے کہ ممتاز مفتی نے اپنی زندگی کے پہلے نصف میں عورت کو دریافت کیا، جبکہ دوسرے نصف میں ان کی دریافت قدرت ﷲ شہاب کی ذات تھی۔
    عام لوگوں کے ذہن میں شہاب کا تصور ایک کہنہ مشق بیوروکریٹ کا ہے جس نے چاپلوسی کے فنِ لطیف میں اپنی مہارت کی ابتدائی منزلیں غلام محمد اور اسکندرمرزا کے شفیق سائے میں طے کیں، اس سے پیشتر کہ انھیں جنرل (بعد میں فیلڈمارشل) کی سرکاری کٹلری میں ایک اعلیٰ مقام حاصل ہو سکے۔ پبلک شہاب کو پروگریسو پیپرز لمیٹڈ کے زیراہتمام شائع ہونے والے اخباروں (پاکستان ٹائمز، امروز اور ہفتہ وار لیل و نہار) پر سرکاری قبضے اور پاکستان کی ادبی تاریخ کے عجوبے یعنی رائٹرز گلڈ کے قیام جیسی نادر ترکیبوں کے اصل خالق کے طور پر جانتی ہے، اور اس میدان میں شہاب کی ذہانت کا مقابلہ ایک ایسے ہی عجیب الخلقت ادارے نیشنل پریس ٹرسٹ کے خالق یعنی الطاف گوہر سے ہو سکتا ہے۔ مفتی کا بہرحال یہ کہنا ہے کہ پبلک کو کچھ پتا نہیں۔
    ’’الکھ نگری‘‘ کے مطالعے سے یہ انکشاف ہوتا ہے کہ شہاب دراصل ان معدودے چند رازوں میں سے ایک تھے جو کائنات میں روزِ ازل سے آج تک وجود میں آئے ہیں۔ شہاب نے جو کام کیے، یا جن کاموں کی انجام دہی میں کلیدی کردار ادا کیا، احمق پبلک اپنی ناقص عقل کے ساتھ ان کی گرد کو بھی نہیں پہنچ سکتی۔ مثال کے طور پر، پڑھنے والا سانس روک کر پڑھتا ہے کہ ہمارے پاک وطن کے دارالحکومت کو کراچی سے پاک وطن کے قلب کے نزدیک ۔۔ یعنی شمال کی جانب اسلام آباد ۔۔ منتقل کرنا شہاب کا کارنامہ تھا۔ یہ فیصلہ بھی تن تنہا شہاب نے کیا تھا کہ اس ملک کو اسلامی جمہوریہ کہا جائے گا، اور اس سلسلے میں فیلڈمارشل کی خودساختہ کابینہ کے تمام ارکان کی مخالفت کو پرِکاہ سے زیادہ اہمیت نہ دی تھی۔ شہاب ہی نے فیلڈمارشل کو اقبال کا خودی کا تصور سمجھایا، اور بےچارے کو پُھسلا کر اس مسیحا کا روپ اختیار کرنے پر آمادہ کیا جس کی اس بدقسمت اسلامی جمہوریہ کو اس قدر شدید ضرورت تھی۔ شہاب ہی نے، آئین سازی کے چند سانڈنی سوار روحانی ماہرین کی مشاورت سے، ۱۹۶۲ء کا حسین آئین تیار کیا تھا۔ شہاب نے اس بات کا نہایت خوبی سے بندوبست کیا کہ فیلڈمارشل کو بابوں، درویشوں، بےروزگار وکیلوں اور اسی قسم کے دوسرے روحانی عاملوں کے

    ذریعے آسمانی رہنمائی اور حفاظت متواتر حاصل رہے۔

    چونکہ شہاب کو خود بھی ’’نائنٹی‘‘ جیسی پراسرار ہستیوں کی طرف سے آسمانی رہنمائی حاصل رہتی تھی (اس کی تفصیل کے لیے ’’شہاب نامہ‘‘ سے رجوع کیجیے جو ایک اور نادرروزگار خودنوشت سوانح عمری ہے) اس لیے انھوں نے وسیع تر قومی مفاد میں اور بہت سے کارنامے انجام دیے ہوں گے جن کی بابت شاید میں اور آپ کبھی نہ جان سکیں۔ لیکن ان کا سب سے بڑا کارنامہ اس وقت ظہورپذیر ہوا جب انھوں نے بھیس بدل کر، اوورکوٹ میں ملفوف، پیشانی پر جھکا ہوا فیلٹ ہیٹ پہنے، اپنے سگار لائٹر میں ایک ننھا سا کیمرا چھپائے، بقول ممتاز مفتی ’’ﷲ کے زیرو زیرو سیون‘‘ کی حیثیت سے، اسرائیل کا دورہ کیا۔ اگرچہ شہاب نے اپنا یہ سفر، جو براہ راست آئن فلیمنگ یا ابن صفی کی نگارشات سے ماخوذ معلوم ہوتا ہے، بظاہر اس مقصد سے اختیار کیا تھا کہ دنیا کو بتایا جا سکے کہ مقبوضہ علاقوں کے اسکولوں میں پڑھنے والے فلسطینی بچوں کی تعلیم کے لیے اسرائیلی حکام یونیسکو کی منظورکردہ درسی کتابیں استعمال نہیں کر رہے ہیں، لیکن ’’الکھ نگری‘‘ سے معلوم ہوتا ہے کہ یہ مشن محض اصل بات کے پردے کی حیثیت رکھتا تھا۔ شہاب کا اصل مقصد دراصل مسجدِ اقصیٰ میں ایک رات بسر کرنا تھا، اور ظاہر ہے کہ انھوں نے اپنا یہ مقصد اسرائیل کے پورے سکیورٹی کے نظام کو ناکام بنا کر پورا کر لیا۔ لیکن آخر وہ مسجدِ اقصیٰ میں رات بھر قیام کیوں کرنا چاہتے تھے؟ ممتاز مفتی نے بالاًخر یہ راز فاش کر دیا ہے۔ شہاب کو ایک پراسرار اور irreversible مابعدالطبیعیاتی عمل شروع کرنا تھا۔ شہاب نے اس عمل کی ابتدا باقاعدہ ایک عمل پڑھنے کے ذریعے کر دی ہے جو ایک نہ ایک دن ریاست اسرائیل کو نیست و نابود کر ڈالے گا۔ چنانچہ جب یہ مبارک دن آئے تو آپ کو یاد رکھنا چاہیے کہ اس کا سہرا اسی کے سر پر باندھیں جو اس کا مستحق ہو۔ اسرائیل کے نیست و نابود ہونے کا پی ایل او، فلسطینی جدوجہد اور انتفاضہ جیسی معمولی چیزوں سے کوئی تعلق نہیں ہو گا۔
    مجھ جیسے یا آپ جیسے عام پڑھنے والے کے لیے یہ سب کچھ قبول کرنا شاید دشوار ہو، جس کی وجہ ظاہر ہے یہ ہے کہ ہمیں اس غیرمعمولی کتاب سے نبردآزما ہونے کی مطلوبہ تیاری میسر نہیں۔ ’’الکھ نگری‘‘ پر ہاتھ ڈالنے سے پہلے ہمیں کچھ ابتدائی مطالعہ کرنا ہو گا۔ قدرت اﷲ شہاب کا ’’شہاب نامہ‘‘، ممتازمفتی کی ’’لبیک‘‘، بےمثال ادیب اشفاق احمد کی ’’ذکرِ شہاب‘‘ اور ’’سفردرسفر‘‘ اور Ashfaq Ahmed
     کی بیگم اور اتنی ہی بےمثال ادیبہ بانو قدسیہ کی ’’مردِ ابریشم‘‘ اس سلسلے میں لازمی مطالعے کا درجہ رکھتی ہیں۔ اگر آپ ان عظیم میاں بیوی کے متصوفانہ ٹی وی کھیلوں سے جاں بر ہونے کا حوصلہ اور صبر رکھتے ہیں تو آپ کو بلاشبہ کائنات کے اس عظیم راز کا سامنا کرنے کی، جس کا نام قدرت ﷲ شہاب ہے، زیادہ بہتر صلاحیت حاصل ہے۔ لیکن سب سے بڑھ کر’’الکھ نگری‘‘ کے مطالعے کی تیاری کے لیے ہمیں وہ سب کچھ اَن سیکھا کرنا ہو گا جو مغرب کے سائنسی اور سماجی علوم کے ذریعے ہمارے ذہنوں کو آلودہ کرتا رہا ہے۔ بےشک یہ ایک دشوار کام ہو گا، لیکن اگر آدمی کوئی کام کرنے کی ٹھان لے تو کوئی چیز ناممکن نہیں۔ مثال کے طور پر تاریخ کو لیجیے۔
    اکثر لوگ اس عام غلط فہمی کا شکار معلوم ہوتے ہیں کہ قرارداد پاکستان ۱۹۴۰ء میں لاہور میں منعقد ہونے والے آل انڈیا مسلم لیگ کے اجلاس میں منظور کی گئی تھی اور پاکستان کا قیام قائداعظم کی قیادت میں ہندوستانی مسلمانوں کی سیاسی جدوجہد کا نتیجہ تھا۔ اس سے زیادہ بعیدازحقیقت بات کوئی اور نہیں ہو سکتی۔ پاکستان کے قیام کا فیصلہ اس سے بہت پہلے اس وقت ہو چکا تھا جب مسلم لیگ کو اس کا خیال تک نہ آیا تھا، اور یہ فیصلہ غالباً آسمان اور زمین کے درمیان واقع کسی مقام پر ایک ایسے اجلاس میں ہوا تھا جس میں بابے، قطب، درویش اور فقیر شریک ہوے تھے، اور اس اجلاس کی صدارت ’’سرکار قبلہ‘‘ نامی ایک بزرگ نے کی تھی جن کی روحانی صلاحیتیں خاصی قابل لحاظ ہیں اور جن کا مزار (تعجب کا موقع نہیں) موجودہ اسلام آباد کے قریب واقع ہے۔ اسی طرح ممتاز مفتی نے ریڈکلف اور نہرو کے گٹھ جوڑ کو گورداسپور کی مشرقی پنجاب میں بظاہر غیرمنصفانہ شمولیت اور کشمیر پر بھارت کے بزور قبضے کی ذمہ داری سے آزاد کر دیا ہے۔ یہ دونوں فیصلے، مفتی کے مطابق، خدائی دانش نے کیے تھے۔ تو پھر اس میں حیرت کی کیا بات ہے کہ پچاس برس گزرنے کے باوجود کشمیر کے مسئلے کے حل ہونے کے کوئی آثار دکھائی نہیں دیتے۔ جن لوگوں کو کشمیری مجاہدین کہا جاتا ہے وہ ممتاز مفتی کے خیال کی رو سے ایک ہاری ہوئی جنگ لڑ رہے ہیں۔ آخر خدائی دانش کے کیے ہوے فیصلے کو کون بدل سکتا ہے؟ اسی طرح ۱۹۴۷ء کے فرقہ وارانہ فسادات میں مسلمانوں کا قتل عام کرنے والے جنونی ہندو اور سکھ نہیں تھے۔ یہ بھی اسی خدائی دانش کا کیا ہوا فیصلہ تھا جس کا مقصد یہ تھا کہ مسلمانوں کی ایک خاصی بڑی تعداد کو شہیدوں میں تبدیل کر دیا جائے تاکہ وہ ایک روحانی فوج کے طور پر واگہ کی سرحد کی حفاظت کے فرائض سنبھال سکے۔ ممتاز مفتی نے، جو خود اس روحانی فوج میں بھرتی ہونے سے بال بال بچ گئے، یہ راز فاش نہیں کیا کہ یہ بھرتی جبری تھی یا اختیاری۔
    مذموم مغربی تعلیم نے ہمارے ذہنوں کو اس حد تک پراگندہ کر دیا ہے کہ ہم عجیب و غریب خیالات کو قبول کرنے پر آمادہ ہو گئے ہیں۔ مثلاً بہت سے لوگ یہ سمجھنے لگے ہیں کہ اپنے قیام کے بعد سے ہمارا پاک وطن سیاسی، اقتصادی، تاریخی، جغرافیائی اور دیگر انسانی عوامل کے زیراثر رہا ہے! ایسا سوچنے والے بلاشبہ پرلے درجے کے احمق ہیں۔ پاکستان کو درحقیقت اس ماسٹرپلان کے تحت چلایا جا رہا ہے جسے سرکار قبلہ نے نہایت عرق ریزی کے ساتھ تیار کیا تھا اور جس کی تیاری میں ان کو کائنات کی ان پراسرار قوتوں کی عملی اعانت حاصل تھی جن کا تصور کرنا عام فانی انسانوں کے بس کی بات نہیں۔ ہم فانیوں کے دماغوں میں سب کچھ اس ناقابل بیان حد تک گڈمڈ ہو چکا ہے کہ بعض لوگ یہ تک خیال کرنے لگے ہیں کہ ۱۹۶۵ء کی جنگ لڑنے (اور جیساکہ اس وقت کے کمانڈرانچیف جنرل موسیٰ خان نے نہایت سادہ ذہنی سے بتایا ہے) قریب قریب ہارنے والے پاکستان کے عوام اور افواج ہیں۔ ممتاز مفتی کے دماغ میں یہ سب کچھ آئینے کی طرح صاف ہے، کیونکہ ان کی معلومات کا ذریعہ عبدالغفور ایڈووکیٹ ہیں، یعنی امورِ دفاع کے وہ عظیم ترین ماہر جنھیں دنیا نے جانا (یا شاید نہیں جانا)۔ ’’الکھ نگری‘‘ میں صفحہ ۹۴۷ پر ایڈووکیٹ صاحب کے اس خط کا عکس دیا گیا ہے جس میں انھوں نے انکشاف کیا ہے کہ ۱۹۶۵ء کی جنگ پاکستان نے درویشوں کی ایک فوج کی قیادت میں لڑی (اور ظاہر ہے جیتی) تھی جن کو روحانی ایٹمی طاقت حاصل تھی۔ اس انکشاف کی روشنی میں یہ بات عیاں ہو جاتی ہے کہ نشان حیدر اور دوسرے اعزازات یقیناً غلط افراد کو دیے گئے تھے۔
    سوال پیدا ہوتا ہے کہ کائنات کی پراسرار قوتوں کو آخر اس بدقسمت ملک کے معاملات سے اس قدر دلچسپی کیوں رہی ہے؟ اس سوال کا نہایت قریبی تعلق بیوروکریٹ کے طور پر قدرت ﷲ شہاب کی زندگی کے عروج و زوال اور ان کے قرابت داروں کی دنیاوی اور روحانی ترقی کے معاملات سے ہے۔ ان مقربین میں اشفاق احمد، بانو قدسیہ (اور ان کی اولادیں)، ابن انشا، احمد بشیر (مع متعلقین)، جمیل الدین عالی، اور شہاب کے حلقے کے دیگر نامور اور کم نامور افراد شامل ہیں۔ یہ کہنا یقیناً غیرضروری ہے کہ ممتاز مفتی اور ان کے گھروالوں کو خدا کے ان منتخب بندوں میں سب سے نمایاں مقام حاصل ہے، اگرچہ اشفاق اور قدسیہ کا اس رائے سے متفق ہونا ضروری نہیں۔
    تاہم یہ مسلّمہ امر ہے کہ ہم کائنات کی ان پراسرار قوتوں کے طریقِ عمل کو سمجھنے کی جانب اس وقت تک پہلا قدم بھی نہیں اٹھا سکتے جب تک ہم اس کھیل کے پہلے قاعدے سے پوری طرح واقف نہ ہو جائیں۔ اور وہ پہلا قاعدہ یہ ہے کہ ظاہر محض گمراہ کن نہیں ہوتا بلکہ بالکل غلط ہوتا ہے۔ مثلاً ہو سکتا ہے کہ ہمیں یہ بات بڑی تعجب خیز معلوم ہو کہ ۱۹۵۰ء کے عشرے میں کائنات کی ان پراسرار قوتوں کو صرف دو چیزوں سے دلچسپی تھی: اسلامی تہذیب کا احیا، اور ممتاز مفتی کی پے فِکسیشن (pay fixation)۔ بھولے بھالے پڑھنے والے کو کچھ اور واقعات بھی حیران کن معلوم ہوں گے، مثلاً کس طرح چار ایک بابے ممتاز مفتی کو نقل مکانی کر کے پنڈی جا بسنے اور شہاب کی ماتحتی میں ایک ایسی ملازمت اختیار کرنے پر آمادہ کرتے ہیں جسے صرف ممتاز مفتی کو کھپانے کے لیے اختراع کیا گیا ہے۔ کس طرح ایک سہانی صبح ایک نہایت موقعے کا پلاٹ خودبخود ممتازمفتی کی جھولی میں آ گرتا ہے، اور بعد میں، سرکاری ملازمت کے بہت سے درجات طے کر لینے کے بعد، جب وہ اس پر ایک مکان تعمیر کرنے کا ارادہ کرتے ہیں (جبکہ ان کے بینک اکاؤنٹ میں کلہم چودہ ہزار روپے ہیں)، کس طرح شہاب کا بہنوئی اس بات کا ذمہ لے لیتا ہے کہ مفتی اور ان کے لواحقین کو ایک مناسب، پُرآسائش مکان میسر آ جائے۔ ’’ایسے کاموں میں غیبی امداد ہو جاتی ہے۔ شہاب نے سچ کہاتھا۔ پتہ نہیں کہاں کہاں سے رقمیں آتی گئیں، انجانے وسیلے پیدا ہوتے گئے، انجانی جگہوں سے رقمیں آتی گئیں‘‘(صفحہ۷۵۵) اور دیکھتے ہی دیکھتے مفتی کا مکان تیار ہو گیا۔
    اسی طرح جب احمد بشیر اس کشف سے دوچار ہوتے ہیں کہ ان کے دنیا میں آنے کا واحد مقصد فلم سازی کی دنیا میں انقلاب برپا کرنا تھا، تو اچانک کہیں سے ایک فیلوشپ اڑن کھٹولے کی طرح نمودارہوتی ہے اور بشیر کو آن کی آن میں اڑا کر امریکہ لے جاتی ہے تاکہ وہ فلمی دنیا میں انقلاب برپا کرنے کی مبادیات سیکھ سکیں (صفحہ۴۹۵)۔ اس آسمانی وظیفے اور اعلیٰ تربیت کے نتیجے میں ’’نیلا پربت‘‘ نامی فلم تیار ہوئی جو دنیا میں متحرک کیمرے کی ایجاد سے آج تک کی عظیم ترین فلم کا درجہ رکھتی ہے۔ جب ابن انشا کو کتابوں کی دنیا سے مستقل طور پر منسلک ہونے کی خواہش محسوس ہوئی تو کائنات کی پراسرار قوتیں نیشنل بک کاؤنسل آف پاکستان کو وجود میں لے آئیں اور انشا نے خود کو اس ادارے کے ڈائرکٹر کے معمولی عہدے پر متمکن پایا۔ یہ درست ہے کہ ابن انشا کو اپنے کام کی تمام دشواریوں کا سامنا کرنا پڑا جن میں ملک ملک کی خاک پھانکنا اور مختلف کتابی موضوعات پر دنیا کے عجیب وغریب مقامات پر ہونے والے بوریت آمیز سیمیناروں میں شرکت کرنا بھی شامل تھا، لیکن کیا کیا جائے، یہ ان کی خواہش ہی کا شاخسانہ تھا۔ شاید کائنات کی انہی پراسرار قوتوں نے ہمارے سب سے زیادہ باصلاحیت ادیب اشفاق احمد کو ایک اتنے ہی علمی ادارے مرکزی اردو بورڈ کی بادشاہی پر فائز کیا۔ اشفاق نے اپنی فطری بذلہ سنجی سے کام لیتے ہوے بعد میں اس ادارے کا نام بدلوا کر اردو سائنس بورڈ رکھوا دیا۔ وہ اپنے معزول کیے جانے تک بورڈ کے تاحیات سربراہ تھے اور اس کے لیے خاص طور پر تعمیر کی ہوئی دومنزلہ عمارت کی زمینی منزل پر وقت گزارتے تھے، جبکہ اس عمارت کی بالائی منزل پر بانوقدسیہ، اس بات سے صوفیانہ طور پر بےنیاز کہ وہ سرکاری طور پر اردو سائنس بورڈ کے عملے کی رکن نہیں ہیں، بیٹھی اپنے بےمثال ٹی وی ڈرامے، ناول اور افسانے تحریر کیا کرتی تھیں جو اردو اور سائنس دونوں میدانوں میں حیرت انگیز اضافوں کا درجہ رکھتے ہیں۔ خدا کے ان تمام منتخب افراد کی اتنی ہی باصلاحیت اور منتخب اولادوں کا بھی کائنات کی پراسرارقوتوں نے خاص خیال رکھا۔ اس سلسلے میں صرف ابوالاثر حفیظ جالندھری کو مایوسی کا سامنا کرنا پڑا، حالانکہ وہ ان دنیاوی فوائد کی درخواست کرنے بنفس نفیس، اپنی ننھی بیٹی کو کاندھے پر بٹھائے، ایک سے زیادہ بار شہاب کے دربار میں حاضر ہوے تھے اور کہا تھا، ’’دیکھ شہاب، میرے لیے بےشک کچھ نہ کر، لیکن اس بچی پر ترس کھا، ورنہ یہ معصوم بچی جوان ہو کر پیشہ کرنے پر مجبور ہو گی‘‘ (صفحہ۴۱۲)۔ چونکہ درویشوں کے رنگ نرالے ہوتے ہیں، شہاب نے اس پر محض اتنا تبصرہ کیا: ’’عجیب آدمی ہیں حفیظ صاحب، خوب آدمی ہیں،‘‘ اور اس کے بعد یہ وطیرہ اختیار کر لیا کہ جب ابوالاثر کو سڑک کے کنارے کھڑے دیکھتے تو گاڑی روکنے کے بجاے اور تیز کر لیتے۔
    یاد رکھیے، ظاہر ہمیشہ دھوکا دیتا ہے۔ اگر آپ شہاب کو کبھی ایسی کیفیت میں پائیں جو الکحل کے اثرات سے نہایت قریبی مماثلت رکھتی ہو اور دیکھنے والے صاف صاف کہہ رہے ہوں کہ ’’دی باسٹرڈ اِز ڈیڈ ڈرَنک!‘‘ تو یہ ہرگز مت بھولیے کہ اس نظارے کی ایک چوتھی سمت بھی ہے۔ عین ممکن ہے وہ اس وقت کسی کربناک روحانی واردات (’’چَھلکن‘‘) سے گزر رہے ہوں یا ہالینڈ میں کچھ مدت گزارنے کے باعث ان کے ’’وجدان میں شدت پیدا ہو گئی ہو‘‘ (صفحہ۷۱۶)۔ اگر انھیں ایسی خواتین کو خوش آمدید کہتے دیکھا جائے جو اپنے اخلاقی معیارات کے بارے میں بظاہر زیادہ پُرتکلف یا سخت گیر رویہ نہ رکھتی ہوں اور کسی دفتری مشکل کا حل ڈھونڈنے کے لیے شہاب کے پاس آئی ہوں، تو آپ کو چاہیے کہ خود کو متواتر یہ یاد دلاتے رہیں کہ یہ دراصل ’’چمگادڑیں‘‘ ہیں جنھیں کائنات کی پراسرار (مگر شرانگیز) قوتوں نے اس لیے بھیجا ہے کہ وہ شہاب کو سیدھے راستے سے بھٹکانے کی اپنی سی کوشش کر سکیں (صفحہ۴۔۵۷۰ا)۔ اگر شہاب ان عورتوں کو ایک ہی جانماز پر اپنے ’’پہلو بہ پہلو‘‘ کھڑا کر کے اپنے ساتھ نماز پڑھاتے ہوے دیکھے جائیں (صفحہ۵۸۴) تو یہ مت سمجھیے کہ وہ حدود آرڈیننس کی خلاف ورزی کے مرتکب ہو رہے ہیں یا کسی قسم کی کجروی کا شکار ہیں۔ وہ تو دراصل ان بےچاری بھٹکی ہوئی عورتوں کو روحانیت کی دنیا سے متعارف کرا رہے ہیں۔ اگر آپ مفتی کو اسلام آباد کے بعض زندہ درویشوں کی مدد سے ایک ضرورت مند خاتون سے شہاب کی پوشیدہ ملاقات کا بندوبست کراتے ہوے دیکھیں (صفحہ۶۔۵۸۵) تو یاد رکھیے کہ ان کا مقصد محض مذکورہ خاتون کی روحانی نشوونما کا خیال رکھنا ہے، اور ساتھ ہی شہاب کی اور ان کی باعفت بیگم کی نشوونما کا بھی۔
    اور ایک لمحے کے لیے بھی یہ خیال نہ کیجیے کہ یہ سب قصے بیان کرنے سے مفتی کا مقصد ان دنیاوی فوائد کے لیے شہاب کے حق میں اظہارِ تشکر کرنا ہے جو ان کو اپنی خدمات کے عوض حاصل ہوے۔ مفتی کی اس تمام قصہ گوئی کا مقصد دراصل شہاب کی اس مرکزی حیثیت کا انکشاف کرنا ہے جو ان کو کائنات میں حاصل ہے۔ بالکل اسی طرح شہاب اگر فیلڈمارشل کے اس قدر دل دادہ تھے، اور ان کی موجودگی میں یوں باادب کھڑے رہتےتھے جیسے ’’پرائمری اسکول کا بچہ مولوی صاحب کے سامنے کھڑا ہو جاتا ہے‘‘ (صفحہ۵۱۰) تو اس لیے نہیں کہ وہ صدر پاکستان کے عہدے پر فائز تھے، بلکہ وہ درحقیقت ایوب خان کی زیرکی اور بےپناہ ذہنی صلاحیتوں سے متاثر تھے، اور اس میں کسی کو کیا شبہ ہو سکتا ہے کہ فیلڈمارشل جیسے عظیم دانشور دنیا میں خال خال ہی پیدا ہوتے ہیں۔ آخر سربراہانِ مملکت کو بھی اپنی چوتھی سمت رکھنے کا حق ہے، یا نہیں؟ شہاب کی زندگی میں صرف دو ہی دیرینہ خوہشیں تھیں: ایک، ’’رسالتمآب کی حیاتِ طیبہ پر کل وقتی کام کرنا‘‘ (صفحہ۶۰۴) اور دوسرے، مناسب وقت آنے پر سول سروس سے ریٹائر ہو کر فیلڈمارشل کے ’’افکار کو پھیلانے اور عام کرنے کے لیے کتابیں لکھنا اور لیکچر دینا‘‘ (صفحہ۶۰۵)۔ شہاب نے اپنے ممدوح کے سامنے کلمۂ حق پیش کرنے میں ذرا بھی جھجھک کا مظاہرہ نہ کیا اور صاف صاف کہہ دیا کہ ’’دراصل میرا مشن ہی جنابِ صدر کے افکار اور فلسفے کی تشریح ہو گا۔‘‘ (صفحہ۶۰۵)۔ شہاب کی گوناگوں روحانی مشغولیات نے انھیں مہلت نہ دی کہ وہ اپنی پہلی خواہش پر عمل کر سکتے، البتہ انھوں نے دل لگا کر’’شہاب نامہ‘‘ کی تصنیف کا کام مکمل کر لیا جو فیلڈمارشل کی ذات اور ان کی اپنی ذات دونوں کے حق میں ایک خراجِ عقیدت کے طور پر رہتی دنیا تک باقی رہے گا۔ اس شاہکار کو تخلیق کر کے شہاب نے نہ صرف ادبیاتِ عالم کی دنیا میں لازوال مقام حاصل کر لیا ہے بلکہ اپنے مداح ناقدین کے خیالات کو بھی حق بجانب ثابت کر دیا ہے، جن میں بےمثال نقاد محمد حسن عسکری بھی شامل تھے جنھوں نے شہاب کی ابتدائی تحریروں ہی سے ان کی بےپناہ صلاحیتوں کو بھانپ لیا تھا۔
    اوپر جو کچھ بیان کیا گیا ہے اسے سنجیدگی سے لینے پر خواہ ہم خود کو آمادہ کر سکیں یا نہ کر سکیں، صہیونی لابی نے اسے یقیناً بےحد سنجیدگی سے لیا۔ صہیونیوں کو جوں ہی پتا چلا کہ ’’کوئی شخص مسجد اقصیٰ میں ایسا عمل کر گیا ہے جو اسرائیل کے لیے تباہی کا باعث ہو گا‘‘ (صفحہ۷۷۶) تو انھوں نے جذبۂ انتقام سے مجبور ہو کر اپنی تاریک شیطانی قوتوں کو شہاب اور ان کے مقربین کی تباہی پر لگا دیا۔ ’’اسرائیلی جادو قدرت اللہ کے خلاف حرکت میں آ گیا۔‘‘ ایک روز جب شہاب پیرس کی ایک سڑک کے کنارے کھڑے ٹیکسی کے منتظر تھے، ایک سیاہ لیموزین ان کے سامنے رکی اور انھیں لفٹ کی پیشکش کی گئی۔ چونکہ ’’اللہ کا زیرو زیرو سیون‘‘ ہونے کے باوجود اس قسم کی کسی ترغیب کی مزاحمت کرنا شہاب کے لیے دشوارتھا، وہ گاڑی میں سوار ہو گئے اور پچھلی سیٹ پر بیٹھے ہوے صہیونی جادوگر کو اپنا کام دکھانے کا موقع مل گیا۔ مفتی ہمیں بتاتے ہیں کہ یہودیوں کے کیے ہوے کالے جادو کے زیراثر شہاب ایک ’’بدبودار گوشت کے لوتھڑے ‘‘ میں تبدیل ہو گئے (صفحہ۷۷۱)۔ شہاب کے مخالفین، جن کی نگاہیں ظاہر کے دوسری طرف دیکھنے سے افسوسناک طور پر قاصر ہیں، کہیں گے کہ وہ یہودیوں کی مداخلت سے پہلے بھی ایسے ہی تھے، لیکن آپ کو چاہیے کہ ان گستاخ لوگوں کی بات کو نظرانداز کر دیں۔ ’’اورجب وہ وطن واپس لوٹا تو وہ آدھا آدمی تھا۔‘‘ یہی نہیں، ’’اسرائیلی جادو کی وجہ سے ڈاکٹر عفت فوت ہوئیں‘‘ (صفحہ۷۷)۔ خود ممتاز مفتی الرجی میں مبتلا ہو گئے۔ شہاب کے کچھ اورعقیدت مندوں کو قسم قسم کے جِلدی امراض نے گھیر لیا۔
    اپنے عالیشان دنیاوی کریئر سے ریٹائر ہونے کے بعد شہاب نے اسلام آباد میں ضرورت مندوں کو تعویذ گنڈے تقسیم کرنے کا کام سنبھال لیا، اور مفتی نے اس کام میں اپنی مخصوص مستعدی سے اعانت کرتے ہوے ضرورت مندوں کو گھیر گھیر کر ان کے پاس لانا شروع کر دیا (صفحہ۸۹۸)۔ اس سے جو وقت باقی بچتا اس میں شہاب اپنا شاہکار ’’شہاب نامہ‘‘ لکھتے اور مناسب گریڈ کے شرکا پر مشتمل ادبی نشستوں میں اس کے منتخب حصے پڑھ کر سناتے۔ انھوں نے اسی شہر میں آخری سانس لیا جو ان کی کوشش سے اسلامی جمہوریہ کا دارالحکومت بنا تھا، اور اپنے پیچھے اپنے مقربین کے حلقے کے ارکان کو سوگوار چھوڑا جو اب ان سے صرف خوابوں، روحانی کشفوں اور بابوں کی خفیہ میٹنگوں ہی میں ملاقات کر سکتے ہیں۔ لیکن، مفتی کو پورا یقین ہے، ایک دن آئے گا، اور پانچ سات برس کے اندر آئے گا، جب دنیا پر’’یہ بھید کھلے گا کہ قدرت اللہ شہاب کون تھا اور وہ کس کام کو سرانجام دینے آیا تھا‘‘ (صفحہ۹۳۴)۔
    آئیے ہم سب اس مبارک دن کا انتظار کریں، اور انتظار کے اس وقفے کے دوران اللہ تعالیٰ سے دعا کریں کہ وہ نوبیل انعام کے ججوں کو اتنی سوجھ بوجھ عطا کرے کہ وہ مفتی کی ادیبانہ عظمت کا احساس کر سکیں۔ اگر آدم جی ایوارڈ کے منصفین کی طرح وہ بھی خودنوشت سوانح عمریوں کے شائق نہیں ثابت ہوے، خواہ وہ کتنے ہی پُرتخیل انداز میں لکھی گئی ہوں، تو ہم خود کوایک اور خیال سے تسکین دے سکتے ہیں۔ ’’الکھ نگری‘‘ نے کسی شک و شبے کے بغیر یہ ثابت کر دیا ہے کہ ہمیں، جو اسلامی جمہوریہ کے شہری ہیں، اظہار کی مطلق اور مکمل آزادی حاصل ہے۔ یہ اسی ملک میں ممکن ہے، دنیا میں کہیں اور نہیں، کہ آپ کسی بھی درجے کی کتاب کے بےباکی سے لکھے جانے، بلاروک ٹوک شائع ہونے اور راتوں رات بیسٹ سیلربن جانے کے عمل کا مشاہدہ کر سکتے ہیں۔

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  • 06/16/15--11:27: Myths of Radicalisation
  • Frank Furedi has a piece up in Spike. 


    Reports that three sisters from Bradford and their nine children are on their way to Syria show that British Muslims inspired to make the journey potentially to join the Islamic State are no longer unusual or unique individuals. Likewise, the response to the reports shows how bewildered and confused many now are when confronted with the so-called radicalisation of fellow members of society.
    The very language used to discuss the sisters’ preference for life in Syria over life in Britain betrays a complete lack of comprehension of the social and cultural dynamics at work. Bradford West MP Naz Shah, who spoke with the families of the sisters, stated, ‘I asked them if there was any indication [as to what the sisters were planning to do], and they said, absolutely not – it was a shock to them, it came out of the blue’. That it always comes ‘out of the blue’ is testimony to a failure to understand the cultural chasm that separates the world of many young Muslims from mainstream society.
    Others report that the women came from a ‘hardworking’ and ‘respectable’ family. Yet young people going to Syria invariably come from normal families. The fact that the parents’ respectability is remarked upon at all shows that commentators are fixated on a non-existent pathology...

    ..What Clarke identified was a symptom of a far more profound and difficult problem. Young people do not turn into suicide bombers overnight or ‘out of the blue’, unless they can draw on cultural and political resources that affirm their decision. They draw support for their conviction that theirs is a cause worth fighting for from their everyday experience.

    ..The myth of grooming
    Anglo-American societies have become so obsessed with child protection that they often interpret a variety of social problems through the prism of paedophilia. The idea of online grooming, for instance, has mutated into a fantasy used to explain every disturbing example of homegrown jihadism. The model of perfidious groomers seducing otherwise innocent young Muslims turns what is a struggle of ideas, a battle between ways of life, into a malevolent act of deception.
    No doubt there are some clever online jihadists who are good at attracting the attention of would-be supporters. However, no one is forcing people to go online or to enter chatrooms or visit jihadist websites. Most of the time, it is the so-called vulnerable youth who, in the process of searching for answers, actively look for the ‘groomers’.

    ...In reality, the term radicalisation captures only part of the story. The sentiments and behaviours associated with radicalisation are more accurately expressed through terms like ‘alienation’ and ‘estrangement’. The sense of estrangement from, and resentment towards, society is logically prior to the radicalising message internalised by individuals. In Europe, the embrace of a radical Islamist ideology is preceded by a rejection of society’s Western culture. Invariably, such a rejection on the part of young jihadists also reflects a generational reaction against the behaviour and way of life of their parents.
    This double alienation – from parent and society – is not unconnected to normal forms of generational estrangement. What we see here is a variant form of the generational gap, except that, in this instance, it has unusual and potentially very destructive consequences.

    The embrace of radical Islam is underpinned by a twofold process: an attraction to new ideas and alternative ways of life, and a rejection of the status quo. The radicalisation thesis, however, one-sidedly emphasises the so-called groomers’ powers of attraction...

    My own comment: They are not rejecting their parent's values completely. They are embracing their "formal values", while rejecting their "lived values". The Islam their parents taught them almost certainly included Jihadist and anti-infidel elements that, taken literally and taken to their "logical conclusion", lead to Jihad in Syria, if not in Britain itself. Their parents failed to teach them how they selectively follow this "ideal" and compromise with reality. And I do believe that Western education is also to blame in the sense that Western cultures emphasize authenticity and honesty and "being true to yourself" while rejecting the notion of saying one thing while doing another as undesirable. Sure, there are hypocrites in the West just as there are in the East, but some kids will take their education more seriously than others...this is a failure of hypocrisy ... a crisis of hypocrisy is upon us.

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    There was a horrendous terrorist attack in Charleston last night. A White-supremacist terrorist walked into a historic Black church and shot 9 people in cold blood: Of course it was a terrorist attack. That seems an easy call.

    Now I don't see much American news directly on the media (meaning I don't watch CNN or FOX or whatever, i get my news from Twitter and Facebook and from links put there by people) so I don't know if it is being described as such by them. Maybe not. Several friends on Twitter and FB have certainly complained that it is not being portrayed as a terrorist attack and only Muslim attacks get portrayed that way and why and so on. Well, I had an "off the cuff" response on FB to one such complaint and I am just posting it here so that I can link to this when it comes up again:

    I get my news via twitter and FB and on twitter and FB I see many people (many of them conservative Americans..I follow a lot of educated conservatives) calling him a terrorist. In fact, whenever the issue has been raised, I have not seen a single person on my timeline trying to argue that he is not a terrorist. It seems an easy call in this case. And SOME media seems to be calling him a terrorist:

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    At the same time, I dont agree with the notion that ALL mass casualty attacks should be labelled terrorism. I think the ones carried out for a cause, i.e. by people acting as members or free-lance supporters of specific political causes, should be called terrorism...some such attacks (or even many such attacks) are true nutcases and loner psychopaths whose cause, if any, is entirely in their head. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar... If a deranged Muslim attacks a school based on some psychotic (as in clinical psychosis) delusion and not as part of the (very real) international Jihadist cause, he too should not be labeled a terrorist and should be called a lone psychopath, etc.

    On the other hand, If, (as in most attacks by Muslims in the West) the Muslim concerned is actually reasonably sane and is acting (no matter how foolishly) on behalf of international Jihad, then his actions can be called terrorism. Why not?

    But as I said, I dont think of the name as being the biggest issue, though it is certainly an issue. In fact, it is one of my beefs with the postmarxist Western Left (defined very loosely) that they have been led (partly by people like Edward Said, partly because this sort of thing is just a feature of modern intellectual life, i.e. "a feature, not a bug" kind of situation; with the "left" having an unhealthy proportion of academics to real politicians, it was sort of bound to happen, etc etc..what came first, chicken or egg? endless arguments possible) into this blind alley where what is mostly fluff (what words were used, what tone was used, what was said in some novel by Jane Austen) is the biggest issue in society and much bigger and more substantive questions (specific historical background, organization, popular mobilization, TECHNOLOGY, correspondence of your theory of the world with historical, psychological, social or economic reality) are pushed down the list... It is a self-defeating strategy. In fact, it is so self-defeating that one can imagine a scenario (not literally true, but the imaginary scenario illustrates a point) where Mossad or the CIA decide that the best way to destroy their opponents is to get them to take every real issue (for example, racism) to some absurd and unreal level, so out of touch with reality that real fissures in your opponents camp and real historic opportunities are missed and the "activist" lives his life inside some bubble, with endless loops of arguments about semiotics and microaggressions and other bullshit...all the while, the real world and its far more consequential oppressions and injustices can carry on unconcerned. Probably no one planned it that way (intelligence agencies are rarely that intelligent) but something like that has happened (see this old post of mine to see what I mean in a slightly different context).

    By the way, I do recognize that today is probably the worst day for me to say this sort of thing. With even a stuck clock being right once a day, this day happens to be the time when the stuck clock of the SJW brigade is (almost) right.
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    Something like that.

    PS: Anil Das on twitter raised the point that the designation is imporant in terms of what funds are available to combat that sort of crime. Terrorism gets more money than hate-crime. That may well be true, but that is NOT the point my friends were raising. IF they raised that point, they would be saying something of practical significance. My whole point is that too much of the time, it is NOT a practical issue (and even when it is, the practical aspect is not what triggered the social media concern).

    The early FB post that triggered this discussion (this was before he had been identified)

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    I had a longish exchange on twitter with a Hindutvadi friend and then just ordered all the tweets by time into this storify story. It's crude, but you get the drift. I am posting it here so that people can comment on it if they wish.
    This is twitter, so one can only say so much in 140 characters. And much is assumed or taken for granted in the background. Please go easy :)

    And of course, it is a discussion with some more or less Hindutvadi Indians. A discussion with postmarxist Indians would look very different.

    The discussion started with reading this article , in which the writer tries to define Hinduism for a young man who is confused (and lives in South India, with it's peculiar history of this question). He classifies Hinduism as an "aggregate religion", hence my first tweet asking if "aggregate" will prevail or Christianity will?

    Just in case you are wondering why the discussion starts with me asking whether Hinduism or Christianity will prevail (and not metioning Islam), I think the likely Abrahamic faith for most Hindus to convert to (if they convert) in this day and age is Christianity, not Islam. If you think differently, please comment.

    And of course, Hindu and Secular are both in scare quotes, so all arguments about what IS Hinduism and what IS secularism are included in those quotes :)

    Last but not the least, my comment about "those with superior asabiya and means will prevail" if the current system is wrecked is, of course, meant to hint that it's collapse will not necessarily (or even likely) lead to Ram-Rajya. Muslim and Sikh Asabiya and means will dominate the Northwest (at least). Something like that.

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    A post with that title, over at Unz. The final paragraph:

    If Dara Shikoh had defeated Aurangzeb and the British had never brought India into their Empire, would history have been different? I would like to hope so, but I doubt so. Akbar had attempted to create a new religion, but it did not last beyond his life. By the 17th century what was becoming Hinduism, and Indian Islam, were already sufficiently developed that they were becoming cultural attractors. Not through cognitive bias, but the weight of inertia of their cultural history and precedent. The transition from Akbar, to Jahangir, to Shah Jahan, and finally Aurangzeb, is one from an individual who brooked the displeasure of Naqsbhandi shiekhs, to one who worked hand in hand with them. An alternative vision is one where the heirs of Akbar turn their back on their dreams of Fergana, and rely upon Rajputs to dominate their lands instead of a mix of Central Asians and native Indians, Hindu and Muslim. Perhaps the Mughals would have become indigenized enough that they would transform into that they would have become fully Indian in their religious identity. Ultimately the answers of history are more complex than can be dreamed in your post-colonial philosophy, and the white man is neither nor the devil, but a subaltern of historical forces.

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    From Dr Hamid Hussein.

    Marked for Death - Assassination Attempts on Senior Officers of Pakistan Army
    Hamid Hussain

    Since 2002, Pakistan army is involved in a rapidly evolving struggle against terrorism.  When the first shots of this new war were fired, Pakistan army was neither trained nor prepared for the conflict.  Confusion, complacency and utter incompetence at all levels gave an upper hand to the extremists all over the country.  First, the government lost the control of tribal areas followed by the loss of the large swaths of the settled division of Malakand.  Militants established themselves in tribal regions and from there launched forays into major cities.  They abducted, killed and bombed civilians and soldiers alike all over the country sending the whole nation into a deep depression.

    Police and paramilitary forces faced the brunt of the militant onslaught.  Many soldiers and disproportionately large numbers of young officers of army were killed and wounded in clashes with militants.  Militants embarked on a deliberate course of targeting senior officers of security forces including army.  Many senior police, paramilitary and army officers were targeted by militants.  This was a multipronged strategy with objectives of eliminating individual officers to shake morale of officer corps and on psychological plane sending the signal to general public that security forces couldn’t protect them.

    On June 10, 2004, the convoy of Karachi Corps Commander Lieutenant General (later General and VCOAS) Ahsan Saleem Hayat came under attack that resulted in death of eight soldiers.  Ahsan’s driver and co-driver were shot killing co-driver on the spot while driver was seriously wounded and later died.  Driver’s foot remained on the accelerator and car kept moving but in a zigzag fashion.  Ahsan’s ADC seated behind the driver got hold of the steering wheel and got out of the ambush.  Attacker’s plan was to first detonate an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) stopping Ahsan’s car and then spray it with bullets to finish the job.  IED failed to explode and attackers hiding near the bridge opened fire killing several guards but Ahsan survived.

    On February 25, 2008, Surgeon General of Pakistan army Lieutenant General Mushtaq Ahmad Beg was killed when a suicide bomber blew himself near his car stopped at a traffic signal in the garrison town of Rawalpindi.  He is the senior most army officer killed by militants.  On November 19, 2008, retired Major General Amir Faisal Alvi was shot and killed in Islamabad.  Alvi had served as GOC of army’s elite Special Forces Special Services Group (SSG) and involved in many early operations in tribal areas.  He was known for joining his troops in the heat of the operations that boosted the morale of his troops. After his retirement, militants had issued several threats to him and finally succeeded in killing him.

    In a three week time period, three serving Brigadiers of Pakistan army were targeted in the capital city of Islamabad sending shock waves among the officer community.  On October 22, 2009, Brigadier Moinuddin Ahmad along with his driver was shot dead in Islamabad.  A week later, another Brigadier Waqar Ahmad Malik was shot in Islamabad. He was director Defence Services Guards (DSG).  On November 05, 2009, Brigadier Sohail and his driver were shot and injured when their car was ambushed in Islamabad.

    On December 04, 2009, terrorists attacked a mosque in Rawalpindi cantonment used by soldiers and their family members killing more than forty people including several children.  Two suicide bombers blew themselves inside the mosque while other two threw hand grenades and sprayed the congregation with automatic rifle fire.  This was one of the most devastating attacks on army fraternity.  The dead included Major General Bilal Omar, Brigadier Abdul Rauf, Lieutenant Colonel Manzoor Saeed and Lieutenant Colonel Fakhar ul Hassan.  The only son of then Peshawar Corps Commander Lieutenant General Masood Aslam was also among the dead as well as sons of Major General Nasim Riaz, Brigadier Mumtaz, Brigadier Sadiq, Colonel Qaiser, Colonel Shukran and Colonel Shabbir.   Fathers of Major General Awais Mustafa and Colonel Farooq Awan were also among the dead.  Colonel Kaleem Zubair lost his father as well as his son in the carnage. This was the most heart breaking tragedy until militants trumped their own brutality when in December 2014 they attacked Army Public School in Peshawar killing around 150 students as well as many teacher.

    On September 07, 2011, two suicide bombers targeted the residence of Deputy Inspector General (DIG) of Frontier Corps (FC) – Baluchistan Brigadier Farrukh Shahzad.  In a devastating precision and coordination, first suicide bomber rammed the explosive laden car targeting FC vehicles waiting to escort the DIG-FC who was coming out of his residence killing several soldiers.  Five minutes later rushing through the chaos, second suicide bomber was able to barge through the damaged gate and partially demolished walls of the residence and detonated his explosives.  The second attack inside the residence killed the wife of Brigadier Shahzad, FC administrator Colonel Khalid Masood and injured Brigadier Shahzad and one of his children.  Thirteen FC personnel lost their lives and another sixteen injured in this incident.

    In September 2013, GOC of Swat Major General Sanaullah Khan Niazi was visiting a remote outpost in Dir when his vehicle hit an IED killing him and Lieutenant Colonel Tauseef Ahmad.  It was a planned attack and later militants released a video of the attack.  Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) leader Mullah Fazlullah claimed that they were planning to target the Corps Commander of Peshawar based XI Corps but Niazi’s turn came first.

    Though rare, but militants have also attempted to kidnap officers or their family members with the objective of exchanging them for the release of captured militant leaders.  Son-in-Law of then Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (CJCSC) General Tariq Majeed; the senior most officer of Pakistani armed forces was abducted by militants and kept in Waziristan for several years.  He was from a wealthy family and militants asked for a large sum of money as well as release of some high profile militants under army’s custody.  He was released but the terms of his release are not known.  On October 11, 2012, Brigadier Tahir Masood who had retired a week before from the media wing of Inter Service Intelligence (ISI) was kidnapped right from the heart of Islamabad while his driver was killed.  To date, he has not been recovered and believed to be in the custody of militants in Islamabad.

    There were two major assassination attempts on then Chief of Army Staff (COAS) and President General Pervez Mussharraf in December 2003.  The first attack was on December 14, 2003 when terrorists planted large amount of explosives under a bridge.  When Mussharraf’s convoy reached the bridge, it was blown but no one was killed.  Over five hundred pounds of explosives were placed on the farther side of the bridge and explosive charge was detonated by an operative on the site via a telephone call to the receiver attached to the explosive charge.  Terrorists hoped that by this placement the oncoming car of General Mussharraf would either hit the concrete flying in car’s direction or ram into the exposed steel bars.  In case of missing these two eventualities, the car may plunge into the huge gap in the bridge slamming down in the bed (see the pictures below).  The operator in an effort to be not too visible positioned himself in such a way that obscured his direct visual contact with the convoy.  The result was that he couldn’t time the detonation with the car getting on the bridge.  These precious few seconds saved everybody.

    Two weeks later on December 25, Mussharraf’s convoy was hit by two suicide car bombs in quick succession.  The driver of first attack was later identified as a Kashmiri named Mohammad Jamil.  The skin of his face blew off clean from skeletal structure preserving features.  An army plastic surgeon reconstructed it and it matched the picture on burned out identity card.  His cell phone was damaged but SIM was intact and from the calls as well as his diary recovered from his home provided some clues.  The driver of second car was a Pathan named Khaleeq.  The tracking of this piece of the investigation led to discovery that two soldiers of elite Special Services Group (SSG) were helping militants.  One named Dogar had served in the security detail of General Mussharraf and other Arshad was in the security detail of Vice Chief of Army Staff (VCOAS) General Yusuf Khan.  Later Military Intelligence (MI) recovered powerful rockets from his house in Kahuta.

    General Mussharraf assigned the task of investigation of the assassination attempts to then Rawalpindi based X Corps Commander Lieutenant General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani.  This interaction brought Kayani very close to Mussharraf and later resulted in his succession to Mussharraf as COAS.  The puzzle of the December 14 attack was solved by a chance discovery by military authorities in Quetta.  They found that a civilian chap named Mushtaq had links with extremist elements in technical staff of Pakistan Air Force (PAF) at Quetta and Peshawar bases.  Quetta based XII Corps commander Lieutenant General Shahid Hamid called Kayani and informed him about this information.  This information led to arrest of several low level PAF technicians who were involved in the assassination attempt.

    The ending of the saga of these two assassination attempts is tragic as well as comic.  On April 15, 2012, 150 to 200 heavily armed militants attacked central jail in Bannu freeing over 400 prisoners including a chap named Adnan Rashid.  Adnan was involved in assassination attempt on General Mussharraf.  Details of his arrest were never disclosed and there is some confusion.  A senior police intelligence official informed me that he was single handedly apprehended by an inspector of Intelligence Bureau (IB) (this inspector was later killed in a target killing incident).  Adnan was a PAF technician and may be member of the group suspected to have links with militants.  Later, he was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment for his involvement in assassination attempt on General Mussharraf.

    After his escape from Bannu jail, Adnan became another alligator in the swamps of Waziristan and quickly rose among the militant cadres due to his discipline and thorough planning.  He was no boy scout and was busy planning high profile strikes.  He established a small elite group and personally trained them for another assassination attempt on General ® Mussharraf.   He planned and executed a mass jail break in 2013.  On July 29, 2013, over one hundred heavily armed militants stormed central jail in Dera Ismail Khan freeing around 180 inmates from the center of the city flooded with police, paramilitary forces and headquarters of a whole infantry division of the army.  This was another sad day for the state of Pakistan.  In July 2014, Adnan was arrested in South Waziristan when military started a push in Waziristan.

    Another key member of the group that planned attack on General Mussharraf was a chap named Mushtaq.  He was arrested and kept in the custody of PAF at a base in Rawalpindi.  In November 2004, when he came out of shower he saw the guard sleeping.  He put on an overall used by PAF technicians, walked to the main gate where guards waved him and then asked a uniformed PAF soldier on motorcycle to give him a ride to the bus station close by and disappeared.  A deeply embarrassed army vowed to capture him and a special cell in Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) was assigned for his capture.  Mushtaq was not the one to be happy with this one in a life time chance.  He went straight back into the belly of the beast and started planning another strike on General Mussharraf.  ISI got his scent, followed his contacts and he was finally arrested when he was travelling from Lahore to Islamabad.

    Pakistan army paid a heavy price in the last decade and loss of such a high number of senior officers is unprecedented in recent military history. With the hind sight of 20/20, it seems that many of these losses were avoidable. One much neglected aspect is orientation towards personal security.  In my own observations, I found that almost all officers use drivers and in some cases guards.  Analyzing many assassination attempts, it is quite clear that assassins first shoot the driver thus immobilizing the target.  This quite clearly shows that if you are not driving your own vehicle, you are a sitting duck as you cannot escape from the ambush.  Compare this with the notorious case of Raymond Davis who was driving his car alone in a foreign country carrying his own personal weapon, reacted quickly and shot two who tried to stop his vehicle. If competent and professional, guards can provide some screen but in most cases they fail to protect their charge.  Personal security is a special task and simply handing a weapon to a lazy soldier from the cantonment does not equate to security.  I recall attending a high profile wedding in rural Pakistan.  I was chatting with one of the guests; a local garrison commander. I observed that he had three armed soldiers in civilian clothes guarding him. Even casual look showed that they were probably from supply or signals, handed a weapon and asked to accompany the local commander.  Few minutes later I noticed that two handed their weapons to the third and probably either went to rest room or eat food.  The lone guard had his own weapon slung over his shoulder while the two weapons of his colleagues were at his feet.  I sincerely hoped that garrison commander carried his own personal weapon and was not putting his life in the hands of his guards.  Many officers at the forefront of the operations have been threatened by militants.  Officers should be briefed about basic principles of personal security.  Two simple measures of driving their own vehicles and carrying personal weapon will help to keep the initiative in their own hands.

    A decade ago, Pakistan army stumbled into a war with an unhealthy mix of confusion and hesitation at the highest level and unpreparedness at all levels thus handing the initiative to the militants. It took several years for the army to take the fight to the militants.  In the last one year, cleaning of some of the swamps of tribal areas and clean up in the cities has dramatically reduced violence all over the country.  Now that the militants are on the run, it is important to keep the momentum in tribal areas as well as cities to keep the citizens of the country soldiers and civilians alike safe.

    Acknowledgements: Author thanks many for their valuable input and clarifications.  However, conclusions as well as all errors and omissions are author’s sole responsibility.


    Sources of information are based on author’s frequent visits to the troubled regions and interaction with a diverse group of individuals.  Most of the information about attempts on General Mussharraf is from his autobiography, Pervez Mussharraf.  In the Line of the Fire: A Memoir (London: Simon & Schuster), 2006

    Hamid Hussain
    July 31, 2015

    0 0

    I was away on vacation so this is a bit late. But better late than never. (from friend Robin Khundkar)

    Patricia Crone co-authored a controversial work on early Islam called "Hagarism - making of the Islamic World" which she later conceded had serious problems and with drew from publication, Never the less she was a serious scholar and respected by everyone including those who were critical of her conclusions. Below are remembrances of her as well as three outstanding essays she wrote for Open Democracy in the last decade.

    May not be of interest to everyone but worth the time of folks interested in Early Islam


    Patricia Crone: Memoir of a superb Islamic scholar
    Judith Herrin
    12 July 2015  
    Open Democracy

    The great historian of early Islam, Patricia Crone, died peacefully on July 11 after a long battle with cancer. This memoir by her friend and colleague was written earlier this year for a volume of essays in her honour and links to her outstanding essay on Mohammed published by openDemocracy.

    This essay is the introduction to Islamic Cultures, Islamic Contexts, Essays in Honor of Professor Patricia Crone, eds. B. Sadeghi, A. Q. Ahmed, A. Silverstein, and R. Hoyland (Brill 2015), xiv-xx, and is republished with thanks.

    About the author
    Judith Herrin is emeritus professor of Late Antique and Byzantine Studies at King's College, London. Her books include The Formation of Christendom, Women in Purple and Byzantium: The Surprising Life of a Medieval Empire

    On the floor of Patricia Crone’s grand study that runs the entire depth of her house in Princeton, and looks out on her lovely garden, lies a very striking Persian carpet, most gloriously woven in red with white patterns on it. Her father had it in his office and I always imagined it had been a tribute by him to her brilliance. But no, he thought that all his four daughters should be fluent in at least two international languages and insisted on them going to finishing school in France and England. So after taking the “forprøve” or preliminary exam at Copenhagen University, Patricia had to go to Paris to learn French and then to London where she determined to get into a university as a pleasant and productive way of becoming fluent in English. She was accepted as an occasional student at King’s College London and followed a course in medieval European history, especially church-state relations. And when she discovered SOAS, where they offered exactly the kind of course she wanted and could not do in Denmark (History branch IV), she wrote to her father and asked him if he would pay for three more years in London. His generous agreement thus sponsored her association with Islamic history. At SOAS she learned Arabic, later adding Persian and Syriac, and got a First, which pleased her father, whom she describes as an academic manqué. She then went on to write her PhD on the maw­ālī in the Umayyad period under the supervision of Bernard Lewis, although he left for America before the thesis was examined in 1974. Then she was awarded a Senior Research Fellowship at the Warburg Institute. And that is where we first met in the autumn of 1976.

    Patricia had already spent two years at the Warburg and was well established in a nice office on the third floor looking out over Gordon Square. As this was her final year as SRF she was looking for a more permanent university position. The Director, Joe Trapp, had very kindly offered me a small stipend to organize a couple of interdisciplinary seminars, and arranged for a second desk and chair to be installed in her office. When I knocked on the door and went in to take possession of my designated space, we became acquainted. I was immediately struck by her very bright blue eyes and quizzical expression. As I later learned they were the outward signs of an extremely astute intelligence, a highly skeptical approach to problems and a passionate commitment to her research.

    Patricia was a heavy smoker, and I was not. At the time the Warburg allowed smoking even in the Reading Room, though not in the stacks, a striking feature of the ubiquity of the habit. I found this unpleasant and Patricia gallantly agreed to smoke out of the window, which made the room very cold in the winter. But by then we had discovered that there was more that united than divided us – and this great compensation for the disagreement over cigarettes was confirmed when Patricia agreed to contribute to the first seminar I organized which was devoted to Iconoclasm (her paper on Islam, Judaeo-Christianity and Byzantine Iconoclasm, 1980, is reprinted in her Variorum volume, Aldershot 2005). She took some persuading but the result is a fascinating exploration of the forces and borders between Islam, Judaism and Christianity that made the Near East such a trembling cauldron of potent explosion between the seventh and the ninth centuries.

    She and Michael Cook had already finished their joint study Hagarism, which was due to be published in the spring of 1977. Michael expressed considerable anxiety about its appearance, realizing that it would ruffle more than a few feathers, especially Muslim ones. This was inevitable because the whole purpose of the book was to look beyond the Islamic tradition for contemporary accounts of the Prophet preserved in other languages. They had carefully examined all the records they could find in Greek, Syriac, Armenian, Persian, Aramaic and Coptic for evidence of the movement that forged the Arab tribes into such a mighty military force. Of course many dismissed Muhammad as just another infidel prophet, but others, especially Babylonian Judaism, presented indisputably useful contemporary evidence. While the first section of the book challenged the average reader with detailed analysis of some rather obscure texts, the second put together an account of the Near Eastern provinces before the rise of Islam, while the third offered an exciting new synthesis of all these observations, presenting the idea of Hagarism as a dominant force in the mixed world of the Prophet. On the eve of the book’s publication, Michael took their names off the bell at the door to their flat on Marylebone High Street, but there were no incidents – reviews ranged from the highly appreciative to the extremely negative and beyond. ‘Crone and Cook’ was to become a term for unacceptable “revisionism,” but also, to those who appreciated the result, a touchstone for the wider explanation of the rise of Islam.

    By the summer of 1977 as these notices began to arrive, Anthony Barnett and I had had our first child, who was rapidly introduced to the Warburg. Patricia enjoyed putting up the notice that read, “Quiet please, baby sleeping,” outside our office. Tamara soon became too active to be put to sleep on a cushion but it was typical of Patricia’s generosity that she encouraged me to bring her in, leave her and rush around the stacks checking footnotes. She even offered to look after the 18-month old when I was invited to give a paper to a Middle Eastern History Group in Edinburgh, interested in the role of medieval women. When I protested that I couldn’t go, she simply told me to deliver Tamara to her flat for the day with all the necessary equipment. It was cold that November and Patricia got completely exhausted continuously pushing Tamara. She had discovered that the moment she stopped Tamara started wailing, and as motion in the pushchair seemed the only way to stop the noise, Patricia carried on walking around, up and down the pavements of central London until I got back! And that paper was the first of many efforts to present the power and unusual authority of Byzantine women to a mixed audience, which became a major preoccupation of my later scholarship.

    In 1977 Patricia took up an appointment at Oxford University and was rewriting the first part of her thesis as the book entitled Slaves on Horses. Her exploration of the evolution of the Islamic polity followed on from Hagarism with a sophisticated analysis of the role of tribes and tribal culture in early Islam, which she compared with Turkish tribes in the conquest of Central Asia. The two conquests by tribal peoples on horseback form the starting point and cross-fertilize the argument. At first she commuted from London to the Oriental Institute in Oxford, and we continued to see each other, but later she moved to Cambridge and began work on Roman, provincial and Islamic law, based on the second part of her thesis, exploring the inter-connected features of Near Eastern legal systems – Roman, Jewish, Islamic – as well as the promotion of slaves to positions of high authority that set Islamic society apart from traditional late antique and medieval societies. This was followed by Meccan Trade which had a rather different perspective in settling the issue of Muhammad’s rather humble mercantile activity that influenced the early years of Islam. She argued that the spice trade was an Orientalist invention and that the trade depicted in the Muslim sources couldn’t account for the supposed wealth and power of Quraysh. It has proved equally definitive.

    These three immensely erudite studies of the role of slaves, law and trade in early Islam are supported by many pages of references and appendices, more footnotes than text, and are rooted in comparative analysis. They do not lack lighter moments. Patricia’s example of how Islamic lawyers tackled the Roman legal dilemma of what happens when a slave girl, who has been promised her freedom if she gives birth to a son, has twins, forms an appendix that makes you laugh out loud.

    While still teaching in Oxford, she and Martin Hinds began working together on the earliest conception of religious authority in Islam, which became God’s Caliph. It was a great pleasure to visit them during his visits to Oxford, to see how happy she was, and this made his premature death all the more difficult to bear. She also kept in touch with us as our family expanded and we have photos of Patricia with our younger daughter Portia.

    From 1985 onwards I was often in Princeton so we kept in touch by letters, the exchange of offprints and Christmas cards – hers often displayed her puppets during a performance. In these Patricia revealed a talent for making and costuming puppets, which she then controlled to create a performance in the theatre also constructed for the purpose. She invited local children to make up the audience and gave extraordinary pleasure – another unexpected achievement. She also gave extravagant New Year’s Eve parties, which always involved elaborate decorations, with streamers, colored baskets of gifts and much delicious food and drink. I think it was one of the Danish customs she imported with her.

    In Cambridge her house was conveniently close to the station so that she could make a quick dash to London or the airport, and within easy bicycling of Gonville and Caius, the Faculty of Oriental Studies and the University Library. Patricia always arranged her life to maximize the time she could spend at work – her efficiency in this respect is clear from the number of books and articles that resulted. She is utterly single-minded manner in the way she pursues intellectual problems.

    Her research takes off from a very close reading of the sources, questioning their reliability, credibility and purpose with a general distrust of the common interpretation and received wisdom. She constantly challenges opinions expressed by both medieval and modern experts with a profound skepticism that characterizes her work. Along with this commitment to her chosen field went a determination to make it understandable to those who wanted to know, an example I found inspiring.

    This concern with making Islam comprehensible is evident from her contributions to more contemporary issues. When Anthony suggested that she should write something about Muhammad for openDemocracy, she produced two very widely read articles. “What do we actually know about Muhammad” (with nearly 100,000 readers), “Jihad, Idea and History” which answers questions such as “What is Jihad?” and “Was Islam spread by force?”, as well as a reflection on religious freedom in Islam. This direct engagement with problems of today in an unprejudiced fashion balances Patricia’s dedicated research into the much earlier history of Islam. To both spheres she brings a deep sense of involvement based on fearless honesty and very good judgment.

    Similarly, when approached by Novin Doostdar of Oneworld Press for a book she did not want to write, she persuaded him to undertake a series of small biographies of Muslim figures modeled on the Oxford Past Masters and the modern equivalent. Together they planned what has become a most successful and informative range of short introductory volumes to key players in the Muslim world, from late antiquity to the present day, which provide a perfect entry point to periods of Islamic history when individual rulers, generals, religious leaders, poets and philosophers helped to create new conditions. Figures as different as Caliph Abd al-Malik, Mehmed Ali, Nazira Zeineddine, Abu Nuwas and Chinggis Khan come to life in brief biographies commissioned, edited and occasionally re-written by Patricia. 30 volumes in her series, Makers of the Muslim World, are already available and two more will be published this autumn.

    As she realized how difficult it was for students of the late twentieth century to grasp the restrictions of the pre-industrial world, she began to introduce her lectures on Islamic history with one on the main features of pre-industrial societies. John Davey, an editor with Blackwells, suggested that she expand this into a book without footnotes designed for the general reader, something of a departure from her previous work. In Pre-Industrial Societies she emphasized a broad comparative approach to clarify the gap that separates us moderns from the non-industrialized world, and the huge differences wrought by the industrial revolution. Evidence from the Far East (China, Japan), the Indian sub-continent and Islamic societies of the Near East and North Africa, was employed to highlight the specific character of such communities prior to industrialization, drawing parallels between imperial structures (of the Byzantine, Chinese, Japanese and the Muslim Caliphate), and the looser, less organized small units that dominated Northern Europe. In an imaginary island setting, she sets out the options for people who suddenly find themselves without a government and traces how they might react. Above all, she elucidates the underlying significance embedded in systems of land tenure, the role of cities and most important of religion in such pre-modern societies, whether Muslim, Hindu, Zoroastrian or Christian.

    Her delight in identifying structural inversions is captured in vivid terms: “there was nothing shameful about patronage as such: it benefitted employed and employee alike. Wherever trust mattered as much as or more than skills, nepotism was a virtue, not a sign of corruption.” (33) And after exploring these features across a very wide spectrum of such societies Patricia then looked at the particularly distinctive nature of Europe, ‘First or freak?’ and the concept of modernity. She asks what constitutes the modern and her reply encapsulates a great deal of thought, how to present Marxism, totalitarianism and democracy, in a commanding survey of what industrialization brought in its wake. And what a basic shift this involved: “ideologically we are all identical, however different we may seem, not, as in pre-industrial societies, different regardless of our fundamental similarities.” (194) It is a book whose depth of insight grows with re-rereading.

    Much to my regret, in 1995 when I returned to England to take up the Chair of Late Antique and Byzantine Studies at King’s College London, Patricia was already being courted by the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. So we swapped continents and remained on opposite sides of the Atlantic. Before she left, however, Patricia gave one of her most extravagant parties, taking over the Hall of Gonville and Caius College for a feast, a real feast, preceded by champagne on the lawn. Anthony helped light fireworks to mark the event. Every table was packed with friends and colleagues who had been carefully placed to provoke interesting conversations, and after the great dinner college staff cleared away the long tables and benches so that we could dance to her favorite Strauss waltzes and polkas. This is so much harder to do than you imagine – we needed more rock and roll as well – but everyone enjoyed celebrating her and wishing her all the best for her move to the States.

    Fortunately, it didn’t mean that we saw each other less, as we made more effort to keep in touch. After discovering that we shared a passion for opera, we planned our visits to Glyndebourne and London operas to be sure that we could go together, and in this way enjoyed several memorable performances and splendid picnics every summer. I also return to America frequently and take every opportunity to visit her in Princeton, in the elegant double house she converted on Humbert Street. Typical of Patricia, she decided against living in the grand accommodation provided by the Institute down Olden Lane, and purchased this plot in central Princeton, which was near the shops and the University library. As usual she ensured that she could bicycle to work.

    Ensconced at the Institute, Patricia devoted herself to further detailed studies of Islamic government, the Muslim dynasties, the nativist prophets and pagan opponents of the Prophet – and yet more work in progress. All this is only achieved by maintaining a rigorous working schedule, never relaxing her concentration until the evening, passed as often as not watching old films and favorite BBC series. Yet hers has never been an ascetic existence. An extraordinarily welcoming manner and generous hospitality means any number of parties for students and colleagues, delicious dinners and a range of Californian red wines to accompany her excellent cooking. She has always travelled most adventurously – all over the Near East, further afield to Vietnam and more recently to Uzbekistan. For my part I only persuaded her to travel from London to Lewes, though once we went as far as Aberystwyth for a seminar on comparative medieval social structures (we thoroughly enjoyed the single track railway through the Welsh hills and the sea front on the coast). But I can confirm what a cheerful travelling companion she is, and what an enormous pleasure it is to count her as the best of friends.

    Patricia has an extraordinary capacity to adapt to change and appears equally at home in London, Princeton and surely in Denmark at family reunions with her siblings. Yet she is very rooted, taking immense care over the planting of her garden (and her neighbors’), and joyfully celebrating their flowering. Her devotion to the roses which bloom so briefly in Princeton blocks any effort to lure her away at that time. She is also unusually responsive to changes in other parts of the world today, foreseeing with great distress and her acerbic tongue the agonizing conflicts across the Middle East today.

    Any lasting solution to these deep social clefts will need to respect and understand their history. The rise of Islam brought to an end what is now called Late Antiquity and precipitated the formation of eastern and western Christendom in what remained of the Roman Empire north of the Arab conquests. This makes Islam the most recent historically of all the world’s great monotheistic religions. Perhaps for this reason, its insistence on being the only vehicle of the true prophet is amongst the most vehement, and its claims are the most vulnerable to research. The historian of the extraordinary rise of Islam, therefore, has to be especially scrupulous, exacting and meticulous, both in order to be sensitive and if possible unimpeachable in her reconstruction of what happened, as well as to glimpse the previously existing context through the all-encompassing stamp of the conquests. It is Patricia's accomplishment to have achieved this. Acutely conscious of the human realities (of all kinds) she remains utterly intransigent in her own approach as a secular historian par excellance. What makes it doubly awesome is that she carried this through both for what became the Arab world and for the pre-Islamic history of Persia, to which she dedicated her most recent years resulting in yet another magnum opus, The Nativist Prophets of Early Islamic Iran, which has now garnered four prestigious prizes, including the Albert Hourani book award, the Houshang Pourshariati Iranian Studies book award, the Central Eurasian Studies Society award, and the James Henry Breasted Prize of the American Historical Society for the best book in English in any field of history prior to 1000CE. Together with her major works on Medieval Islamic Political Theory and God’s Rule, she has transformed our understanding of this critical period of history that is so relevant today.

    Patricia Crone, Questioning Scholar of Islamic History, Dies at 70
    New York Times
    JULY 22, 2015

    Patricia Crone, a scholar who explored untapped archaeological records and contemporary Greek and Aramaic sources to challenge conventional views of the roots and evolution of Islam, died on July 11 at her home in Princeton, N.J. She was 70.

    The Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, where she was a professor from 1997 until her retirement last year, said the cause was cancer.

    Fred M. Donner, a professor of Near Eastern history at the University of Chicago, said Professor Crone had “made it clear that historians of early Islam had failed to really behave as historians — that is, had failed to challenge the validity of their sources, but rather had accepted complacently what I call the ‘traditional origins narrative’ created by the Islamic tradition itself.”

    As a result, in books like “Hagarism: The Making of the Islamic World” (1977, written with Michael Cook), she disputed assumptions that Islam had been transmitted by trade from Mecca, in what is now Saudi Arabia, suggesting that it had been spread by conquest instead. She also identified how indigenous rural prophets in what is now Iran had defied conquering Arabs and helped shape Islamic culture, setting the stage for conflicts within Islam that endure today.

    Current events frequently intruded on Professor Crone’s scholarship on historic divisions in the Middle East between secularism and Islamic orthodoxy, and between the Arab world and the West. Writing about present-day Muslims on the website openDemocracy in 2007, she said, “Wherever they look, they are being invaded by so-called Western values — in the form of giant billboards advertising self-indulgence, semi-pornographic films, liquor, pop music, fat tourists in indecent clothes and funny hats, and politicians lecturing people about the virtues of democracy.”

    Patricia Crone was born in Kyndelose, Denmark, on March 28, 1945, to Thomas Crone, the chief executive of the Scandinavian Tobacco Company, and the former Vibeke Scheel Richter. She is survived by four siblings, Clarissa Crone, Diana Crone Frank, Alexander Crone and Camilla Castenskiold.

    She attended the University of Copenhagen and then received undergraduate and doctoral degrees from the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London. She taught at Oxford and Cambridge before joining the Institute for Advanced Study, an independent research center, where she was the Andrew W. Mellon professor.

    “Each one of her brilliant and original monographs — and the same holds true for most of her articles — had profoundly impacted the field or helped to identify entirely new branches within the discipline,” Professor Sabine Schmidtke, who succeeded Professor Crone at the Institute for Advanced Study, said in an interview.

    In another essay for openDemocracy, Professor Crone focused on the Prophet Muhammad himself, writing that “we can be reasonably sure that the Quran is a collection of utterances that he made in the belief that they had been revealed to him by God.” She summarized the major themes of the Quran as “God’s unity, the reality of the resurrection and judgment, and the imminence of violent punishment.”

    She also wrote that Muhammad was perceived not as the founder of a new religion but as a preacher in the Old Testament tradition, hailing the coming of a messiah. His success, she argued, “had something to do with the fact that he preached both state formation and conquest: Without conquest, first in Arabia and next in the Fertile Crescent, the unification of Arabia would not have been achieved.”

    Her other books include “God’s Rule: Government and Islam: Six Centuries of Medieval Islamic Political Thought” (2004) and “The Nativist Prophets of Early Islamic Iran” (2012), which detailed the historical precedents for local rebels defying the ruling elite.

    “Her death,” Professor Donner said, “deprives our field of someone who was at one and the same time its main motor and, in a way, its conscience; and while many in the field of Islamic history might have disliked some of what she said, I doubt that anyone in the field didn’t care what she said.”

    What do we actually know about Mohammed?
    Patricia Crone
    Open Democracy
    10 June 2008

    About the author
    Patricia Crone was professor of Islamic history at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton until her death in July 2015. Her publications most relevant to this article include Meccan Trade and the Rise of Islam (Princeton University Press, 1987 [reprinted 2004]; "How did the quranic pagans make a living?" (Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies (68 / 2005); and "Quraysh and the Roman Army: Making Sense of the Qurashi Leathertrade" (Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, forthcoming [spring 2007]).

    Patricia Crone's main recent work is Medieval Islamic Political Thought (Edinburgh University Press, 2004); published in the United States as God's Rule: Government and Islam [Columbia University Press, 2004])

    It is notoriously difficult to know anything for sure about the founder of a world religion. Just as one shrine after the other obliterates the contours of the localities in which he was active, so one doctrine after another reshapes him as a figure for veneration and imitation for a vast number of people in times and places that he never knew.

    In the case of Mohammed, Muslim literary sources for his life only begin around 750-800 CE (common era), some four to five generations after his death, and few Islamicists (specialists in the history and study of Islam) these days assume them to be straightforward historical accounts. For all that, we probably know more about Mohammed than we do about Jesus (let alone Moses or the Buddha), and we certainly have the potential to know a great deal more.

    There is no doubt that Mohammed existed, occasional attempts to deny it notwithstanding. His neighbours in Byzantine Syria got to hear of him within two years of his death at the latest; a Greek text written during the Arab invasion of Syria between 632 and 634 mentions that "a false prophet has appeared among the Saracens" and dismisses him as an impostor on the ground that prophets do not come "with sword and chariot". It thus conveys the impression that he was actually leading the invasions.

    Mohammed's death is normally placed in 632, but the possibility that it should be placed two or three years later cannot be completely excluded. The Muslim calendar was instituted after Mohammed's death, with a starting-point of his emigration (hijra) to Medina (then Yathrib) ten years earlier. Some Muslims, however, seem to have correlated this point of origin with the year which came to span 624-5 in the Gregorian calendar rather than the canonical year of 622.

    If such a revised date is accurate, the evidence of the Greek text would mean that Mohammed is the only founder of a world religion who is attested in a contemporary source. But in any case, this source gives us pretty irrefutable evidence that he was an historical figure. Moreover, an Armenian document probably written shortly after 661 identifies him by name and gives a recognisable account of his monotheist preaching.

    Patricia Crone is professor of Islamic history at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton. Her publications most relevant to this article include Meccan Trade and the Rise of Islam (Princeton University Press, 1987 [reprinted 2004]; "How did the quranic pagans make a living?" (Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies (68 / 2005); and "Quraysh and the Roman Army: Making Sense of the Qurashi Leathertrade" (Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, forthcoming [spring 2007]).

    Patricia Crone's main recent work is Medieval Islamic Political Thought (Edinburgh University Press, 2004); published in the United States as God's Rule: Government and Islam [Columbia University Press, 2004])

    On the Islamic side, sources dating from the mid-8th century onwards preserve a document drawn up between Mohammed and the inhabitants of Yathrib, which there are good reasons to accept as broadly authentic; Mohammed is also mentioned by name, and identified as a messenger of God, four times in the Qur'an (on which more below).

    True, on Arabic coins and inscriptions, and in papyri and other documentary evidence in the language, Mohammed only appears in the 680s, some fifty years after his death (whatever its exact date). This is the ground on which some, notably Yehuda D Nevo and Judith Koren, have questioned his existence. But few would accept the implied premise that history has to be reconstructed on the sole basis of documentary evidence (i.e. information which has not been handed down from one generation to the next, but rather been inscribed on stone or metal or dug up from the ground and thus preserved in its original form). The evidence that a prophet was active among the Arabs in the early decades of the 7th century, on the eve of the Arab conquest of the middle east, must be said to be exceptionally good.

    Everything else about Mohammed is more uncertain, but we can still say a fair amount with reasonable assurance. Most importantly, we can be reasonably sure that the Qur'an is a collection of utterances that he made in the belief that they had been revealed to him by God. The book may not preserve all the messages he claimed to have received, and he is not responsible for the arrangement in which we have them. They were collected after his death – how long after is controversial. But that he uttered all or most of them is difficult to doubt. Those who deny the existence of an Arabian prophet dispute it, of course, but it causes too many problems with later evidence, and indeed with the Qur'an itself, for the attempt to be persuasive.

    The text and the message
    For all that, the book is difficult to use as a historical source. The roots of this difficulty include unresolved questions about how it reached its classical form, and the fact that it still is not available in a scholarly edition. But they are also internal to the text. The earliest versions of the Qur'an offer only the consonantal skeleton of the text. No vowels are marked, and worse, there are no diacritical marks, so that many consonants can also be read in a number of ways.

    Modern scholars usually assure themselves that since the Qur'an was recited from the start, we can rely on the oral tradition to supply us with the correct reading. But there is often considerable disagreement in the tradition – usually to do with vowelling, but sometimes involving consonants as well – over the correct way in which a word should be read. This rarely affects the overall meaning of the text, but it does affect the details which are so important for historical reconstruction.

    In any case, with or without uncertainty over the reading, the Qur'an is often highly obscure. Sometimes it uses expressions that were unknown even to the earliest exegetes, or words that do not seem to fit entirely, though they can be made to fit more or less; sometimes it seems to give us fragments detached from a long-lost context; and the style is highly allusive.

    One explanation for these features would be that the prophet formulated his message in the liturgical language current in the religious community in which he grew up, adapting and/or imitating ancient texts such as hymns, recitations, and prayers, which had been translated or adapted from another Semitic language in their turn. This idea has been explored in two German works, by Günter Lüling and Christoph Luxenberg, and there is much to be said for it. At the same time, however, both books are open to so many scholarly objections (notably amateurism in Luxenberg's case) that they cannot be said to have done the field much good.

    The attempt to relate the linguistic and stylistic features of the Qur'an to those of earlier religious texts calls for a mastery of Semitic languages and literature that few today possess, and those who do so tend to work on other things. This is sensible, perhaps, given that the field has become highly charged politically.

    Luxenberg's work is a case in point: it was picked up by the press and paraded in a sensationalist vein on the strength of what to a specialist was its worst idea – to instruct Muslims living in the west that they ought to become enlightened. Neither Muslims nor Islamicists were amused.

    The inside story
    The Qur'an does not give us an account of the prophet's life. On the contrary: it does not show us the prophet from the outside at all, but rather takes us inside his head, where God is speaking to him, telling him what to preach, how to react to people who poke fun at him, what to say to his supporters, and so on. We see the world through his eyes, and the allusive style makes it difficult to follow what is going on.

    Events are referred to, but not narrated; disagreements are debated without being explained; people and places are mentioned, but rarely named. Supporters are simply referred to as believers; opponents are condemned as unbelievers, polytheists, wrongdoers, hypocrites and the like, with only the barest information on who they were or what they said or did in concrete terms (rather as modern political ideologues will reduce their enemies to abstractions: revisionists, reactionaries, capitalist-roaders, terrorists). It could be, and sometimes seems to be, that the same people now appear under one label and then another.

    One thing seems clear, however: all the parties in the Qur'an are monotheists worshipping the God of the Biblical tradition, and all are familiar – if rarely directly from the Bible itself – with Biblical concepts and stories. This is true even of the so-called polytheists, traditionally identified with Mohammed's tribe in Mecca. The Islamic tradition says that the members of this tribe, known as Quraysh, were believers in the God of Abraham whose monotheism had been corrupted by pagan elements; modern historians would be inclined to reverse the relationship and cast the pagan elements as older than the monotheism; but some kind of combination of Biblical-type monotheism and Arabian paganism is indeed what one encounters in the Qur'an.

    The so-called polytheists believed in one creator God who ruled the world and whom one approached through prayer and ritual; in fact, like the anathematised ideological enemies of modern times, they seem to have originated in the same community as the people who denounced them. For a variety of doctrinal reasons, however, the tradition likes to stress the pagan side of the prophet's opponents, and one highly influential source in particular (Ibn al-Kalbi) casts them as naive worshippers of stones and idols of a type that may very well have existed in other parts of Arabia. For this reason, the secondary literature has tended to depict them as straightforward pagans too.

    Some exegetes are considerably more sophisticated than Ibn al-Kalbi, and among modern historians GR Hawting stands out as the first to have shown that the people denounced as polytheists in the Qur'an are anything but straightforward pagans. The fact that the Qur'an seems to record a split in a monotheist community in Arabia can be expected to transform our understanding of how the new religion arose.

    The prophet and the polytheists
    What then are the big issues dividing the prophet and his opponents? Two stand out. First, time and again he accuses the polytheists of the same crime as the Christians – deification of lesser beings. The Christians elevated Jesus to divine status (though some of them were believers); the polytheists elevated the angels to the same status and compounded their error by casting them (or some of them) as females; and just as the Christians identified Jesus as the son of God, so the polytheists called the angels sons and daughters of God, apparently implying some sort of identity of essence.

    The polytheists further claimed that the angels (or deities, as they are also called) were intercessors who enabled them to approach God, a well-known argument by late antique monotheists who retained their ancestral gods by identifying them as angels. For Christians also saw the angels as intercessors, and the prophet was of the same view: his polemics arise entirely from the fact that the pagan angels are seen as manifestations of God himself rather than his servants. The prophet responds by endlessly affirming that God is one and alone, without children or anyone else sharing in his divinity.

    The second bone of contention between the prophet and his opponents was the resurrection. Some doubted its reality, others denied it outright, still others rejected the idea of afterlife altogether. The hardliners appear to have come from the ranks of the Jews and/or Christians rather than - or in addition to - the polytheists; or perhaps the so-called polytheists were actually Jews or Christians of some local kind. In any case, the hardliners convey the impression of having made their appearance quite recently, and again people of the same type are attested on the Greek (and Syriac) side of the fence.

    The prophet responds by repeatedly rehearsing arguments in favour of the resurrection of the type familiar from the Christian tradition, insisting that people will be raised up for judgment. He adds that the judgment is coming soon, in the form of some local disaster such as those which overtook earlier communities (e.g. Lot's) and/or a universal conflagration. His opponents tease him, asking him why it does not seem to be happening; he persists. At some point the confrontation turns violent and the book is filled with calls to arms, with much fighting over a sanctuary.

    By then it is clear that there has been an emigration (hijra), though the event itself is not described, and there is some legislation for the new community. Throughout the book there is also much acrimonious debate about the credentials of the prophet himself. But God's unity, the reality of the resurrection and judgment, and the imminence of violent punishment are by far the most important themes, reiterated in most of the sura (chapters of the Qur'an).

    In sum, not only do we know that a prophet was active among the Arabs in the early decades of the 7th century, we also have a fair idea of what he preached. Non-Islamicists may therefore conclude that the historians' complaint that they know so little about him is mere professional grumpiness. But on one issue it is unquestionably more. This is a big problem to do with Arabia.

    A question of geography
    The inhabitants of the Byzantine and Persian empires wrote about the northern and the southern ends of the peninsula, from where we also have numerous inscriptions; but the middle was terra incognita. This is precisely where the Islamic tradition places Mohammed's career. We do not know what was going on there, except insofar as the Islamic tradition tells us.

    It yields no literature to which we can relate the Qur'an – excepting poetry, for which we are again dependent on the Islamic tradition and which is in any case so different in character that it does not throw much light on the book. Not a single source outside Arabia mentions Mecca before the conquests, and not one displays any sign of recognition or tells us what was known about it when it appears in the sources thereafter. That there was a place called Mecca where Mecca is today may well be true; that it had a pagan sanctuary is perfectly plausible (Arabia was full of sanctuaries), and it could well have belonged to a tribe called the Quraysh. But we know nothing about the place with anything approaching reasonable certainty. In sum, we have no context for the prophet and his message.

    It is difficult not to suspect that the tradition places the prophet's career in Mecca for the same reason that it insists that he was illiterate: the only way he could have acquired his knowledge of all the things that God had previously told the Jews and the Christians was by revelation from God himself. Mecca was virgin territory; it had neither Jewish nor Christian communities.

    The suspicion that the location is doctrinally inspired is reinforced by the fact that the Qur'an describes the polytheist opponents as agriculturalists who cultivated wheat, grapes, olives, and date palms. Wheat, grapes and olives are the three staples of the Mediterranean; date palms take us southwards, but Mecca was not suitable for any kind of agriculture, and one could not possibly have produced olives there.

    In addition, the Qur'an twice describes its opponents as living in the site of a vanished nation, that is to say a town destroyed by God for its sins. There were many such ruined sites in northwest Arabia. The prophet frequently tells his opponents to consider their significance and on one occasion remarks, with reference to the remains of Lot's people, that "you pass by them in the morning and in the evening". This takes us to somewhere in the Dead Sea region. Respect for the traditional account has prevailed to such an extent among modern historians that the first two points have passed unnoticed until quite recently, while the third has been ignored. The exegetes said that the Quraysh passed by Lot's remains on their annual journeys to Syria, but the only way in which one can pass by a place in the morning and the evening is evidently by living somewhere in the vicinity.

    The annual journeys invoked by the exegetes were trading journeys. All the sources say that the Quraysh traded in southern Syria, many say that they traded in Yemen too, and some add Iraq and Ethiopia to their destinations. They are described as trading primarily in leather goods, woollen clothing, and other items of mostly pastoralist origin, as well as perfume (not south Arabian frankincense or Indian luxury goods, as used to be thought). Their caravan trade has been invoked to explain the familiarity with Biblical and para-Biblical material which is so marked a feature of the Qur'an, but this goes well beyond what traders would be likely to pick up on annual journeys. There is no doubt, however, that one way or the other a trading community is involved in the rise of Islam, though it is not clear how it relates to that of the agriculturalists of the Qur'an. On all this there is much to be said, if not yet with any certainty.

    Three sources of evidence
    The biggest problem facing scholars of the rise of Islam is identifying the context in which the prophet worked. What was he reacting to, and why was the rest of Arabia so responsive to his message? We stand a good chance of making headway, for we are nowhere near having exploited to the full our three main types of evidence – the traditions associated with the prophet (primarily the hadith), the Qur'an itself, and (a new source of enormous promise) archaeology.

    The first is the most difficult to handle; this overwhelmingly takes the form of hadith – short reports (sometimes just a line or two) recording what an early figure, such as a companion of the prophet or Mohammed himself, said or did on a particular occasion, prefixed by a chain of transmitters. (Nowadays, hadith almost always means hadith from Mohammed himself.) Most of the early sources for the prophet's life, as also for the period of his immediate successors, consist of hadith in some arrangement or other.

    The purpose of such reports was to validate Islamic law and doctrine, not to record history in the modern sense, and since they were transmitted orally, as very short statements, they easily drifted away from their original meaning as conditions changed. (They were also easily fabricated, but this is actually less of a problem.) They testify to intense conflicts over what was or was not true Islam in the period up to the 9th century, when the material was collected and stabilised; these debates obscured the historical nature of the figures invoked as authorities, while telling us much about later perceptions.

    The material is amorphous and difficult to handle. Simply to collect the huge mass of variant versions and conflicting reports on a particular subject used to be a laborious task; now it has been rendered practically effortless by searchable databases. However, we still do not have generally accepted methods for ordering the material, whether as evidence for the prophet or for the later doctrinal disputes (for which it will probably prove more fruitful). But much interesting work is going on in the field.

    As regards the second source, the Qur'an, its study has so far been dominated by the method of the early Muslim exegetes, who were in the habit of considering its verses in isolation, explaining them with reference to events in the prophet's life without regard for the context in which it appeared in the Qur'an itself. In effect, they were replacing the Qur'anic context with a new one.

    Some fifty years ago an Egyptian scholar by the name of Mohammed Shaltut, later rector of al-Azhar, rejected this method in favour of understanding the Qur'an in the light of the Qur'an itself. He was a religious scholar interested in the religious and moral message of the Qur'an, not a western-style historian, but his method should be adopted by historians too. The procedure of the early exegetes served to locate the meaning of the book in Arabia alone, insulating it from religious and cultural developments in the world outside it, so that the Biblical stories and other ideas originating outside Arabia came across to modern scholars as "foreign borrowings", picked up in an accidental fashion by a trader who did not really understand what they meant.

    The realisation is slowly dawning that this is fundamentally wrong. The prophet was not an outsider haphazardly collecting fallout from debates in the monotheist world around him, but rather a full participant in these debates. Differently put, the rise of Islam has to be related to developments in the world of late antiquity, and it is with that context in mind that we need to reread the Qur'an. It is a big task, and there will be, indeed already have been, false turns on the way. But it will revolutionise the field.

    The third, and immeasurably exciting, type of source is looming increasingly large on the horizon: archaeology. Arabia, the big unknown, has begun to be excavated, and though it is unlikely that there will be archaeological explorations of Mecca and Medina anytime soon, the results from this discipline are already mind-opening.

    Arabia seems to have been a much more developed place than most Islamicists (myself included) had ever suspected – not just in the north and south, but also in the middle. We are beginning to get a much more nuanced sense of the place, and again it is clear that we should think of it as more closely tied in with the rest of the near east than we used to do. The inscriptional record is expanding, too. With every bit of certainty we gain on one problem, the range of possible interpretations in connection with others contracts, making for a better sense of where to look for solutions and better conjectures where no evidence exists.

    We shall never be able to do without the literary sources, of course, and the chances are that most of what the tradition tells us about the prophet's life is more or less correct in some sense or other. But no historical interpretation succeeds unless the details, the context and the perspectives are right. We shall never know as much as we would like to (when do we?), but Islamicists have every reason to feel optimistic that many of the gaps in our current knowledge will be filled in the years ahead.

    'Jihad': idea and history
    Patricia Crone
    1 May 2007
    Open Democracy

    About the author
    Patricia Crone was professor of Islamic history at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton until her death in July 2015


    What is jihad?
    Jihad is a subject that non-Muslims find difficult to understand. In fact, there is nothing particularly outlandish about it. All one has to remember is that holy war is not the opposite of pacifism, but rather of secular war - fighting in pursuit of aims lying outside religion. Whether people are militant or not in its pursuit is another matter.

    With that general observation, let me pose the four questions to be addressed in this essay. They are:

    1.    Exactly what is jihad, apart from holy war in a broad sense?

    2.    Is it true that Islam was spread by force?

    3.    Did the pre-modern Muslims ever feel that there was anything wrong about religious warfare?

    4.    What is the relevance of all this to the world today? (I must stress that when I get to this fourth topic, I am no longer speaking as a specialist).

    So first, just what is jihad?
    Well, actually there are two kinds, depending on whether the Muslims are politically strong or weak. I shall start with the type associated with political strength, because that's the normal type in Islamic history. I shall get to the second in connection with the question of modern relevance.

    The normal type of jihad is missionary warfare. That's how you'll find it described in the classical law-books, from about 800 to about 1800. What the Quran has to say on the subject is a different question: the rules it presupposes seem to be a good deal more pacifist than those developed by the jurists and exegetes. But it is the work of the latter which came to form the sharia - the huge mass of precepts on which the public and private lives of Muslims were based (at least in theory), down to the coming of modernity, which still regulates their devotional lives today, and on which Islamists (or "fundamentalists") would like once more to base the entire arena of public life.

    The scholars said that jihad consisted in backing the call to Islam with violence, where necessary. It was "the forcible mission assisted by the unsheathed sword against wrongheaded people who arrogantly refuse to accept the plain truth after it has become clear": thus a scholar who died in 1085. The idea was that God was the only ruler of the universe. Humans who refused to acknowledge this were in the nature of rebels, who had to be brought to heel. At the very least, they had to submit to God politically, by being brought under Muslim government. But ideally, they would submit to him in religious terms as well, by converting.

    Holy warriors worked by making regular incursions into the lands of the infidels order to call them to Islam. Normally, they would do so as part of an official expedition launched by the state, but they might also operate on their own. In any case, if the infidels didn't want to convert, they could just surrender politically (at least if they were Christians and Jews). In that case they were placed under Muslim government, but kept their own religion in return for the payment of poll-tax. But if they refused both religious and political surrender, they should be fought until they were defeated. The terms were in that case set by the conquerors, who might kill the men and enslave the women and children (or so at least if they were pagans); or they might treat them as if they had surrendered voluntarily.

    Once an infidel community had been subdued politically, one moved on to the next lot of infidels and did the same to them. This had to go on until the whole earth was God's or the world came to an end, whichever would be the sooner.

    Missionary warfare was a duty imposed by God on the Muslim community, not on individuals, and it was discharged primarily by the ruler, who'd typically mount one expedition into infidel territory a year, if he had infidel neighbours. But it was highly meritorious for private individuals to go and fight as well, and there were always volunteers on the borders. If you couldn't go yourself, you could earn merit by donating money or giving gifts to the cause, like people in 19th-century Europe would make donations in support of the missionaries working in distant countries.

    The way that ordinary Muslims thought of jihad in the past can be compared to Christians' attitude towards those of their co-religionists who chose to become missionaries. Nowadays the latter are often regarded as interfering busybodies, but formerly they were admired for their willingness to devote their lives to the salvation of benighted natives. That's the attitude that prevailed in jihad: it was an extremely noble enterprise. After all, people risked their own lives for it. It was the height of altruism.

    The Christian missionaries did not themselves fight; they merely followed in the wake of soldiers. But a holy warrior was a missionary and a soldier all in one. He was engaged in something that modern observers would call religious imperialism.

    That's an institution with very long roots in the middle east. Ancient near-eastern historians call it warfare at the command of a god, and the star example is the Assyrians. Their god Ashshur endlessly told them to go and conquer. The god of the Israelites was of the same type. "I have given into your hands Sihon the Amorite, king of Heshbon, and his land. Begin to possess it and fight him in battle", he says to Moses in Deuteronomy, where Moses reports that "We took all his cities and utterly destroyed the men, the women and the little ones".

    In the same vein a Moabite king says in an inscription that "Kamosh (the deity) spoke to me and said, Go and take Nebo from Israel. So I went and fought it...and took it and killed everybody, 7,000 men, boys, women, girls and slave girls". The Muslim God also told his people to conquer, but with one big difference in classical thought, namely that he wanted the victims to convert.

    The Assyrians, the Israelites and the Moabites didn't pretend to be doing anything for the good of the victims. They fought for the greater glory of their own god, and their own community, not to save anyone else. The same seems to have been true of the early Arab conquerors. But in classical Islam, the divine command to go and fight is no longer addressed to an ethnic group, only to believers, whoever they may be; and it is now linked to a religious mission civilisatrice: the believers conquer in order to save souls, not (or not just) to glorify their own community.

    It is this fusion of religious and political imperialism that makes classical jihad distinctive, for the two don't usually go together. The great universalist religions were apolitical and spread by peaceful proselytisation: thus Buddhism, Christianity, and Manichaeism, and also Bahai'ism. And universalist conquerors are not usually out to save people's souls: think of Alexander the Great, the Romans, or the Mongols. But in Islam, religious mission and world conquest have married up.  


    Was Islam spread by force?
    The second question posed at the start of this essay was: is it true that Islam was spread by force?

    The answer is, in one sense, yes, but even this needs careful qualification. Warfare did play a major role both in the rise of Islam and its later diffusion. But some places were Islamised without any war at all, notably Malaysia and Indonesia. Above all, even where Islam was spread by jihad, it was not usually done the way people imagine. People usually think of holy warriors as engaging in something like Charlemagne's forced conversion of the Saxons, war for the extirpation of wrong beliefs throughout an entire community. But that model is very rare in Islamic history. The effect of war was usually more indirect.

    The scholars said that all infidels had to be brought under Muslim sovereignty, but that Jews and Christians acknowledged the true God and had a revelation from him, so they could be allowed to exist under Muslim protection in return for paying poll-tax. All other infidels were pagans, so how were they to be treated? There is general agreement that the Arabs of Mohammed's Arabia got the choice between Islam and the sword, and that they did so because they had no religion, as one early scholar put it. (Paganism didn't count as one.) That's the best example there is on the Muslim side of the Charlemagne model, if I may call it that, and it is a juristic schematisation of history rather than rather than historical reporting.

    Some jurists insisted that this was how all pagans should be treated: people who did not acknowledge the sole sovereignty of God had no right to exist. Others said that for one reason or another, the Arabs were exceptional: all other pagans could be granted protection in return for paying poll-tax in the same way as the Jews and the Christians. This disagreement was enshrined in Muslim law, and modern Islamists typically go for the first view, equating pagans with modern secularists and atheists (among them is an associate of Yusuf al-Qaradawi, lionised in Europe by some of the very secularists whom his associate would force to convert). In pre-modern practice, tolerance usually prevailed as far as conquered communities were concerned. The only infidels who could not be allowed to exist in either theory or practice were apostates - who have become a highly sensitive issue today.

    But if people were allowed to keep their religion under Muslim rule, how could the jurists define jihad as missionary warfare? How was it different from other forms of imperialism, such as the Crusades (which were fought for the recovery of the holy land, not the conversion of the Muslims) or secular expansionism?

    The answer is that in effect jihad just was ordinary imperialism, but it was undertaken, or at least justified, on the grounds that it would result in conversion, if not straightaway, then sooner or later - and it usually did so too, in a number of ways. For a start, the Muslims routinely took a lot of captives. Male captives were often given the choice between Islam and death, or they might recite the Muslim profession of faith of their own accord to avoid execution. More importantly, captives were usually sold off as slaves, and slaves almost always ended up by converting because most slavery was domestic.

    And above all, back in the conquered area, Muslim rulers would move in along with judges and religious scholars to build mosques, apply Islamic law, place restrictions on the building of non-Muslim houses of worship and introduce other discriminatory measures so that the original inhabitants were reduced to tributaries in their own land. They were not necessarily persecuted. The Muslim record of tolerance is generally good. (Obviously, there are plenty of examples of persecution of one kind or another; that religious minorities generally speaking did better under Muslim than under Christian rule under pre-modern conditions nonetheless remains true, however hackneyed the claim has become.) But the non-Muslims would soon have a sense that history was passing them by, that all the action was elsewhere, and this would translate into a feeling that their own beliefs were outmoded. So they would convert too, and that's the method that really mattered.

    In sum, jihad typically spread Islam in much the same way that 19th-century European imperialism spread western culture (and/or Christianity): nobody was directly forced to accept western modernity, or Christianity, but by moving in as the politically dominant elite, the imperialists gave their own beliefs and institutions a persuasiveness that made them difficult to resist. Medieval Muslim scholars were well aware of this effect, and unlike their modern successors, they never tried to deny the role of war in the expansion of Islam.

    Muslims, morality, and religious warfare
    That brings me to the third question: did the pre-modern Muslims never worry about the moral status of religious warfare?

    The answer is mostly no, but sometimes yes. The scholars insisted that the warriors had to fight with the right intentions, for God, not for booty. They also debated whether it was right to conduct holy war under a wrongful ruler (the Sunni answer was yes). But if everything was in order on the side of the warriors, the jurists were satisfied that the enterprise was in the best interests of the victims. The conquered peoples were being dragged to Paradise in chains, as a famous saying went. Far from feeling ashamed about their use of war, Muslims often stressed that holy war was something that only they would engage in, meaning that they were willing to do much more for their religion than other people. They were willing to sacrifice their own lives so that others might live, as they put it. To them, it proved that only Islam was a truly universalist religion.

    But the conquered peoples, above all the Christians, always held the Muslim use of war to be wrong, and this did eventually affect the Muslims. As early as 634 CE, a Greek tract declared that the so-called prophet must be an impostor because prophets don't come armed with the sword. Fifty years later a Christian patriarch supposedly told the caliph that Islam was a religion spread by the sword, meaning that therefore it could not be true. The Christians were to harp on this theme for ever after. In the 10th and 11th centuries, the Muslims began to mention this claim, clearly because they were upset by it.

    For example, al-Amiri, an Iranian philosopher who died in 996, takes issue with unidentified people who say that "if Islam were a religion of truth, it would be a religion of mercy, and the one who calls to it would not in that case attack people with the sword to take their property and capture and enslave their families; rather, he would proselytise with words and guide to it by the force of his explanations". In other words, true religion is spread by peaceful mission; holy war is just a religious cover for rapaciousness, whatever people might say about the purity of their intentions.

    It isn't always clear in these texts whether the charges were made by Muslims or non-Muslims, but there were certainly Muslims now who felt the association of warfare and religion to be wrong. A 10th-century religious leader by the name of Ibn Karram, for example, was said by his followers to have been worthier of prophethood than Mohammed, because he lived an ascetic life and did not conduct war. And some Muslims (or ex-Muslims) rejected all established religions, not just Islam, on the grounds that all prophets, not just Mohammed, were tricksters who used religion to start wars and accumulate worldly power. So now the concept of holy war had to be defended.

    One of the most interesting defences is by this philosopher al-Amiri. He responded by identifying jihad as defensive warfare. That's what many modern apologetes do, too, sometimes writing off offensive jihad - missionary warfare - as an Orientalist invention. (Orientalism often gets used as a grand trash-can in which modern Muslims dump all the aspects of pre-modern Islam that they have come to dislike.) Modern Muslims will even go so far as to cast the prophet's wars and the Arab conquests as defensive, or pre-emptive, but this was more than al-Amiri could bring himself to do.

    When it came to the prophet, he fell back on the altruism argument: Mohammed was not in it for material wealth or power. This is clear from the fact that he suffered for ten years in Mecca before setting up a state in Medina; he conquered people for their own good, not for his own sake, and the Iranians ought to be grateful to the Arabs for having destroyed the Persian empire; not only did the Arabs bring the truth, they also freed them from for the oppressive tyranny and rigid social hierarchy that prevailed in that empire. The Muslims came as liberators on all fronts. Of course, al-Amiri says, Mohammed would have preferred not to use the sword at all, but since the infidels so stubbornly resisted him, he had no choice.

    Al-Amiri's tone here is rather like that of the 19th-century British imperialists who felt resentment against all those uncooperative peoples whose recalcitrance had forced Britain to take them over more or less against its will, as they felt it. They didn't like war either, but what could one do when the natives refused to see the light. One had to fight them for their own sake, and the noble purpose elevated the war to a high moral status. That was al-Amiri's response in a nutshell. But what his opponents argued was precisely that on the contrary, the use of war discredited the alleged purpose and proved the religion it was meant to spread to be false. So the more the Muslims defended jihad by yoking it to the service of religion, the more their non-Muslim opponents reacted by thinking that the religion must be bad. That's how Christians and Muslims have been talking past each other for 1,400 years.

    Meanwhile, other people defended jihad by observing that religion had two different functions: it organised collective life, and it also offered individual salvation. At the collective level it was a prescription for socio-political order, with its do's and don'ts, its morality, its law and its war. At this level, coercion was indispensable, and holy war was just one form in which it was practiced. At the individual level it was pure spirituality, and at that level coercion was impossible. The only jihad you could fight here was the so-called greater jihad against your own evil inclinations.

    So for example, the scholars will say that a man who has been converted by force becomes a full member of the Muslim community and must live as a Muslim in public, even though he is not a believer in his inner self. He had been coerced at the level of social and political affiliation, but one couldn't force him to believe. In fact, they said, one could never know what was going on in people's inner selves, and it wasn't anyone's business either: it was between the individuals and God alone. But what people did externally affected others and so had to be regulated. Having been forced into the Muslim community, the captive would have to live as a Muslim - the rest was up to him. Eventually, they said, the chances were that he or his children would see the light, become sincere believers of their own accord, and grateful for having been forced.

    In this formulation the claim was that jihad was better than secular conquest. Unlike Alexander the Great, Mohammed incorporated people in a polity in which they had the option of being saved, in which they had the ability to see for themselves, in which they could choose to become true believers. But it left inner conviction as something over which the individual had full control.

    This argument ought to be easy for modern people to understand, or at least Americans, for they also tend to think that war can be legitimated by a high moral purpose - as long as that purpose hasn't got anything to do with individual faith. The moral purposes they have in mind are wholly secular, not the lower level of religion, and the salvation they talk about is in this world. But they too tend to be eager to rescue other people by enabling them to become more like themselves: richer, freer, more democratic. What do you do when your fingers are itching to intervene, when you have the power to do it, when you are sure you are right and you are convinced that the victims will be grateful - quite apart from all the advantages that may redound to yourself from intervening? Aren't you allowed to use force? Indeed, aren't you obliged to use it? Is it right to save people against their will? Should you force them to be free? If you say yes to these questions, you are in effect a believer in jihad.

    But will the victims be grateful? In the Muslim case, the answer was normally yes. The scholars mention it time and again, as something everyone knew. People fell grateful that they had become Muslims, in whatever manner it had happened, voluntarily or by force. This made it difficult to entertain serious doubts about the legitimacy of jihad. In the last resort, most people liked the result. And this is one of the most striking differences between Muslim and European imperialism, which are otherwise so comparable. The one led to Islamisation, the other to westernisation; the one dragged you to Paradise in chains, the other to secular modernity. But people aren't grateful for having been westernised. In line with this, westerners no longer take any pride in their imperial past. Today, westerners often hold imperialism to have invalidated the very civilisation it spread. They have been persuaded by their own arguments against jihad in a way the Muslims never were. Why this difference? It would call for another lecture.


    Jihad, then and now
    This leads to the fourth question: what is the relevance of all this to the modern world? The Muslims have not practised missionary jihad since the decline of the Ottoman empire, at least not under the sponsorship of states, and to my knowledge there are no serious calls for its return. What the tradition has left is a strong activist streak, a sense that it is right to fight for your convictions. "Look at you, you Christians, with your passivity you have turned religion into something that doesn't exist", as demonstrators against Salman Rushdie said in Paris in March 1989. But to understand the fundamentalists we need to go to the other kind of jihad, the one practised when the Muslims are politically weak.

    What happens when Muslim territory falls under infidel sovereignty? Can Muslims stay on and live under non-Muslim rule? Some jurists said yes, others denied it on the grounds that Islamic law could only be applied in full under Muslim sovereignty. If infidels conquered Muslim land, the Muslims had to emigrate, they had to make a hijra to a place where they could practice Islamic law - either an existing Muslim state or a new one set up by themselves - and then they should start holy war in order to reconquer their homeland. Not all scholars subscribed to this view, but it was upheld by many in response to the loss of Muslim territory in Spain and it also inspired anti-colonial movements in British India, French Algeria and elsewhere.

    Imagine an even worse scenario: what happens when not a single Islamic state exists any more, when all political power has turned infidel? The answer is the same with greater urgency (and probably less disagreement too). You must emigrate to a place where you can establish a Muslim state and then you must wage holy war to get it going. In both cases, the model is Mohammed: first he lived in pagan Mecca, under infidel sovereignty, then he emigrated to Medina where he established a Muslim polity and started jihad and conquered Mecca, which he cleansed and purified; thereafter his followers began the conquest of the rest of the world, in what eventually turned into missionary warfare.

    Jihad for the recovery or actual creation of Muslim sovereignty (as opposed to its expansion): that's the type that is practised today. Modern fundamentalists (or Islamists) call it defensive jihad, though it is not what the classical Muslims understood by that term. It makes sense to them, partly because they feel on the defensive; partly because everyone recognises the legitimacy of defensive war; and not least, because participation in defensive jihad is an individual obligation, like fasting and prayer, not a communal duty like the missionary type, which you don't have to undertake as long as others are doing it. So calling your jihad defensive is good for mobilisation.

    Whatever you call it, the missionary element is greatly reduced in this type of warfare. Of course, you have to convert people to your own beliefs in order to get them together for state formation and conquest, but the emphasis is not so much on saving people as on saving Islam, especially in the more extreme version when no Islamic state is deemed to exist at all. For Islam can't exist without political embodiment, according to this view. There has to be a place on earth where God rules. Without it, collective (and individual?) life ceases to have any moral foundations.

    In the past, jihad for the actual creation of Muslim sovereignty was only practised by heretics, for it was only heretics who would deny that existing states were Islamic. The very first to do so were the Kharijites, who are almost as old as Islam itself. There were also Shi'ites who did. But the Sunnis always accepted their own states as Islamic in some (sometimes minimalist) sense, at least until the 18th century, and most still do, including the Muslim Brotherhood, and Hamas. Their jihad is concentrated on the recovery of Muslim territory, such as Palestine, and the defence of Muslims in places such as Chechnya. They don't attack infidels elsewhere, nor don't they believe in fighting Muslim rulers, or not any more.

    But other fundamentalists deem all Muslim states, or even all Muslim people apart from themselves, to be infidels. Al-Qaida is among them. They direct their efforts against America rather than fellow Muslims because America is deemed to be behind everything wrong in the Muslim world - you can't correct the shadow cast by a crooked stick, as Osama bin Laden is said to have put it. But when America, the crooked stick, has been removed, it will be the turn of the Muslim world in general, and by that they mean all countries with a Muslim population, which is in effect the whole earth by now. So as far as al-Qaida is concerned, the old distinction between the abode of Islam and the abode of war has disappeared.

    The extreme fundamentalists can't see any difference between living in Egypt, for example, and living under non-Muslim rule, thanks to the all-pervasive influence of the modern state. In the old days the political domain was also worldly and corrupt, but the social domain was still shaped by Islam. Nowadays, however, it is the state that regulates marriage, divorce, inheritance, trade, finance, work, health, childcare, schooling, higher education, and so on, often with attention to what the sharia says, but freely reshaping it to fit modern, secular aims which originate in the infidel and politically dominant west.

    So one way or the other, Muslims are ruled by the west wherever they live, not just politically but also socially and culturally. Wherever they are look, they are being invaded by so-called western values - in the form of giant billboards advertising self-indulgence, semi-pornographic films, liquor, pop music, fat tourists in indecent clothes and funny hats, and politicians lecturing people about the virtues of democracy. Religion does not actually shape the social realm any more, except rhetorically. All that religion shapes in modern Muslim societies is voluntary associations such as Sufi orders, Muslim brotherhoods, and fundamentalist cells, which fall short of being whole societies, let alone states, and which you can set up in non-Muslim countries too. So in effect, as the fundamentalists see it, all Muslims have become diaspora Muslims.

    Some Muslims are happy with this. They want the socio-political order to be secularised; they want religious affiliation to be voluntary. They are the secularists, the people we have no trouble understanding. But to the fundamentalists, or rather to the extremists among them, all Muslims are now living in a new age of ignorance (jahiliyya) such as that which prevailed in pagan Arabia before the rise of Islam. This is why one must get together to reenact Mohammed's career and save Islam.

    Establishment religious scholars often compare such fundamentalists to the Kharijites of the early Islamic period, and with good reason. They are amazingly similar. There is the same declaration of other Muslims to be infidels, the same sense of fighting for God rather than for people - God has to rule even if the whole world is going to perish in the attempt -the same utter ruthlessness too. The Kharijites allowed assassinations, indiscriminate slaughter, the killing of men, women and children alike, much like Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Their missions were often suicidal, too, not in the sense that they'd set out on individual missions bound to result in death, but rather in the sense that tiny numbers would take on huge forces bound to exterminate them, inspired by a quest for martyrdom. They had sold their souls to God, as they put it, and got a good price for them, too, namely Paradise; they went into battle intending to collect the price. And then as today, women would fight along with the men.

    There is of course no direct link whatever between the Kharijites and modern fundamentalists. People like Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri don't even seem to know their own tradition all that well. Rather, they have stripped Islam of practically everything that most Muslims consider to be their religion.

    What's left is an archetypal monotheist of the confrontational type: a separatist and militant zealot. In the view of such zealots, God's people can't live together with infidels, they must have their own political space. Right and wrong must be embodied in separate communities, and every Muslim must fight to bring this about.

    The history of Islam starts with a great separation of God's people from the rest of mankind by force of arms, and Islamic history thereafter is punctuated by regular attempts to restore the separation, to get rid of all the complexity that obscured the simplicity of the original vision. Those who engaged in such attempts tended to come from the more peripheral areas of the middle east, often from a tribal background, and they were always minorities. The fundamentalists, too, are only a small minority today. But you don't need an awful lot of people of this kind for an awful lot of trouble.

    No pressure, then: religious freedom in Islam
    Patricia Crone
    7 November 2009
    Open Democracy
    About the author
    Patricia Crone was professor of Islamic history at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton until her death in July 2015. This article is based on a lecture given at the University of Freiburg in 2007, which was itself based on P. Crone, 'No Compulsion in Religion: Q. 2:256 in Medieval and Modern Interpretation', in M.-A. Amir-Moezzi, M.M. Bar-Asher & S. Hopkins, eds., Le Shi`isme imamate quarante ans après, Paris: Brepols, 2009, 131-78, to which the reader is referred for documentation

    The Quranic statement: “There is no compulsion in religion” – erupted into controversy again in 2006 when the Pope selected the most illiberal view of the text available. But when the thirty-eight Muslim scholars responded that he was wrong, they were necessarily misrepresenting history. To understand why they might wish to do this, we have to go back to 720-750 AD.

    To understand the place of religious freedom in Islam, I will examine the different interpretations, from the earliest times until today, of the Quranic statement, "There is no compulsion in religion" (2:256). Actually, I could not possibly cover all that in one article either, but that's not too much of a problem, for all the major pre-modern interpretations were in place by the tenth century. So first I shall deal with the interpretations up to the tenth century, then I shall jump to the twentieth century and deal with the modernists, the Islamists and the context in which you may all have heard about the verse recently, namely the controversy over the Pope's speech at Regensburg in September 2006, almost exactly one year ago.

    The Pope was just one out of many people to talk about this verse. You hear a lot about it these days. When the American journalist Jill Carroll was kidnapped in Iraq in Jan. 2006, her kidnappers tried to convert her to Islam, but insisted that there was "no pressure" (= "no compulsion") on her to convert. A friend of mine recently spotted the statement on a bumper sticker: "no compulsion in Islam", it said; and you can read a lot about the verse on many websites too.

    So why is there so much fuss about this statement? Well, one reason is that it expresses a tolerant view that Westerners like to hear, so it is a good passage to dispel their prejudices about Islam with. But it is also a statement of great importance in connection with the question whether Islam can coexist with a secular sphere: is Islam a belief system that you can combine with a any political order that you like - as long as they are religiously neutral? Or is it a religion that dictates its own political order? That's a key issue today, and the "no compulsion" verse figures in the discussion. But you can't appreciate what people say about it today without knowing the traditional interpretations, so as I said, we have to look at the pre-modern exegetes. They start round about 720-750 AD.

    The six interpretations
    La ikraha fi'l-din, "There's no compulsion in religion": to our modern ears it sounds like a declaration of unlimited religious freedom. It sounded that way to the earliest exegetes too, so in principle they could have said, this verse shows that Muslims must reject the use of compulsion in religious matters and that everyone must be free to choose his own religious beliefs. But in practice, they could not, and did not, say anything of the kind. Because if it is up to the individual to choose his own religion, then you can't have a polity based on religion; if religion is a private matter, then the public space is secular, in the sense of based on some non-religious principle, such as territory or nationality, or whatever else a large number of people can feel they have in common. The exegetes lived in a polity based on Islam. Islam had created the public space they shared. For as you know, Islam had not grown up within a state, the way Christianity had; rather; it had created its own state. You obviously can't have religious freedom in a community based on religion. You can't have religious freedom in a church. All you can have is freedom to leave the church, if you don't agree with it. But in a society based on shared religion you can't easily have that freedom either unless you remove yourself physically, to go to live somewhere else.

    So the "no compulsion" verse was a problem to the earliest exegetes, and they reacted by interpreting it restrictively, in one of three ways.

    One solution was to say that the verse had been abrogated. It was generally agreed that God sometimes repealed a verse in favour of another without removing the text of the old one from the book. So some exegetes said that the verse had been revealed in Mecca, when Muhammad had no power: God was telling him that he could not and should not try to force the infidels to convert. But when he moved to Medina and set up a state of his own, God ordered him to wage holy war against the infidels. So the proclamation of religious freedom to the infidels was abrogated. In short, religious freedom had come and gone.

    Unique specificity
    Another solution was to say that the verse had been revealed in Medina in connection with some problems of purely historical relevance, to do with children of the Medinese: there were people in Medina whose children had been brought up by Jews, and so had become Jewish, or there were some who had converted to Christianity back in the days before the coming of Islam. When Muhammad came to Medina, the parents wanted these (by now adult) children to become Muslims and tried to force them, so this verse was revealed telling them to stop. This interpretation tied the verse to a unique historical situation. It hadn't been formally abrogated, it just had no relevance any more, for no situation like that could arise again. For good measure some adherents of this scenario added that the verse had been abrogated. So this second solution was really a less drastic version of the first.

    Freedom for dhimmis
    The third solution also said that the verse had been revealed in Medina, but it placed its revelation in a later context to do with defeated infidels. According to this third interpretation, the verse was about protected people (dhimmis). Dhimmis were Jews, Christians and other non-Muslims who had passed under Muslim rule and been allowed to retain their own religion in return for the payment of jizya, poll-tax. Legally, they were not members of the Muslim community, just protegés of it. The third interpretation was to the effect that the verse prohibited forced conversion of dhimmis. Actually, all the jurists agreed anyway that dhimmis could not be forced to convert, so this was really just a way of finding something for the verse to do, but it had the advantage of giving the rule a memorable formulation, and we actually know of real cases where the verse was invoked to protect the right of dhimmis to retain their religion. So on the third interpretation the verse was indeed a proclamation of religious freedom, but only for dhimmis, not for Muslims or mankind at large.

    So these were the three positions advanced by the earliest exegetes: the verse had been abrogated, or it had lost relevance, or it applied only to dhimmis. These are the canonical interpretations - the interpretations of the equivalent of the church fathers - and you'll find one, or two or all three of them in every commentary on the Quran down to modern times, and quite often in modern ones as well. They all had the merit of making the verse compatible with the use of force for the maintenance and expansion of the Muslim community. It did not clash with the rule that apostates had to be executed, or with the use of force against internal dissenters, for it wasn't about Muslims. Nor did it clash with the duty to wage jihad to bring all mankind under Muslim sovereignty, for it only granted freedom to infidels after they'd been subjected.

    So the problem had been solved. But you aren't going to get off that lightly. There are more interpretations that you need to know about.

    The descriptive turn
    The three canonical interpretations rest on the assumption that the verse should be understood as laying down a legal norm: it says that there is no compulsion in religion in the sense that it is morally wrong and legally forbidden to use force in religious matters. In other words, it is prescriptive. But from the ninth century onwards there were people who wanted to use the verse for purposes of theology rather than law. They included the theologians of the Mu'tazilite school, and according to them, the verse was not prescriptive, but descriptive. It did not condemn or prohibit anything, it was a straightforward factual statement. "There is no compulsion in religion" means just that: there isn't any, full stop.

    What they meant by this was that when God says that there is no compulsion in the religion, He means that He does not practise compulsion. God does not force you to be a believer or an infidel – i.e. He does not predestine or determine it for you: you have free will. This may sound farfetched to you, but the word for determination was jabr, compulsion, and the word for free will, or one of them, was qadar, power. God was seen as refraining from using His power so that you could have your own; he was abstaining from compulsion - from determination - so that you could choose whether to be a believer or an unbeliever. That's what God was saying here, according to the Mu'tazilites: the verse was a declaration of unlimited freedom from divine coercion. God allows you to choose your own salvation. It is just humans who don't: the Mu'tazilites accepted that. They agreed that religious freedom was only for dhimmis. But vis-à-vis God everybody was free to choose for himself.

    You'll say, how could the Mu'tazilites hold that humans can use coercion where God won't? Well, they had a second interpretation here. They said that the verse could also be read as declaring that there is not and cannot really be any such thing as human coercion in religious matters either, for it simply is not possible to force other people to believe. You can only force them to act as believers, i.e. to conform on the surface; you can't force them to believe in their innermost hearts. So on the first Mu'tazilite interpretation, God is saying that He won't force people to believe; and on the second Mu'tazilite interpretation, He is saying that you can't do it. In short, in your inner self, your private interior, you are free vis-à-vis humans and God alike.

    But your external self was a different matter. You were free as a disembodied soul, not as an embodied social being. As a member of a human society you were subject to coercion in all kinds of ways. Social life is impossible without coercion. There was - still is - no way round that. And since the Muslim polity was based on religion, coercion had to be used in religious matters too. But that didn't contradict the verse according to the Mu>tazilites because the coercion was only applied to the external person: the inner person was free; there was no coercion in religion in the sense of inner conviction. So on their interpretation the verse was not contradicted by the duty to wage holy or execute apostates either. It was even compatible with forced conversion. It was allowed to force people to become Muslims when they hadn't become dhimmis yet or couldn't become dhimmis, either because they were pagans rather than Christians, Jews or Zoroastrians or because they were slaves. In fact, one Mu'tazilite said that forcing people to convert was a good thing, because sooner or later they or their children would acquire genuine faith: so you would have saved them from eternal hellfire. And you hadn't forced them to accept the truth. In their inner hearts they had converted of their own accord. You had only forced them into the Muslim community which made it possible for them to see the truth.

    You'll probably react by finding this a self-serving argument, and so it was, of course. It allowed the Mu'tazilites to legitimate the use of force in religious matters while at the same time claiming that there was no such thing. But they weren't just being self-serving. When the Mu'tazilites made their sharp distinction between inner conviction and external conformance, they were saying was that individual salvation was one thing, civic religion was something else. Civic religion was all about keeping Muslim society together in the here and now, it was the religion you had for the public space, the religion that was good for the social and political order. Your own wishes had to be subordinated to those of the community here. You could not and did not have complete freedom at that level. Here as in other societies, you had to obey the law, and the law happened to be religious. But you could choose your own innermost convictions, your own avenue to salvation. You could believe what you liked as long as you did not endanger the boat that everybody was sailing in.

    This distinction between civic religion based on the law and individual conviction based on a freely chosen theology or philosophy or spirituality was quite a marked feature of Muslim thinking in the tenth and the eleventh centuries. Many people saw the law-based, collective religion of the community as something lower and more prosaic than individual spirituality or philosophy or esotericism. They had a strong sense that individuals had needs that went far beyond those served by communal worship. So they distinguished between the external and the internal, the lower and the higher: they saw these two as forming two distinct levels of religion. But they did not go so far as to secularise the lower level. They didn't say that the civic level should have nothing to do with religion at all. Some came close. The Ismaili Shi'ites initially denied that the civic religion – the law – had any saving power. You were saved by your inner convictions alone. But that put them beyond the pale, so they changed their mind. Being a good social being, a good citizen, did have saving value by common consent, that of the Ismailis included. It just wasn't all there was to religion, or even the most important part.

    What the Mu'tazilites were saying was that in the higher sphere of religion there was no compulsion. All human beings, not just dhimmis or Muslims, had an inner sanctum that was controlled by themselves alone. They had what you would call freedom of conscience. But this freedom was wholly internal, you couldn't claim it as a social being. And it was deemed to exist as a matter of fact, so it was not protected by the law. It wasn't a right you could claim. All you could do was to retreat into your inner self, where you were alone with God. Here again the Ismailis were an exception: they did award legal protection to individual religiosity. But for everyone else it remains true to say that individual freedom of religion was never given legal expression; it was never allowed to prevail against the social order.

    The two Mu'tazilite interpretations of the verse, as a statement that God will not and that humans cannot coerce in religious matters, were extremely long-lived. They went into both Shi'ism and Sunnism, where their Mu'tazilite origin was soon forgotten. You'll find those two interpretations along with the canonical three in a fair number of Sunni and Shi'ite commentaries all the way down to modern times.

    No forced renunciations of Islam
    Now I've given you five interpretations. I'm sorry, but I have to add a sixth: it takes us back to the prescriptive interpretations. Some people said that the verse did indeed prohibit forced conversion, but not of dhimmis: what it prohibited was forced conversion of Muslims to something false, i.e. it said that it was unlawful to force Muslims to renounce Islam. This interpretation was also in place by the tenth century, but it is much less common than the other five. In fact, there were more interpretations, but I shall leave them aside because practically all modern interpretations involve doing things with one or more of these six.

    Modernism and Islamism
    So what happens in modern times? Well, what happens is that Europe becomes the dominant power, and the Europeans go around saying that Islam is a backward religion which established itself by force, which lacks the virtue of tolerance, and so on. So Muslims now have to rebut these charges, and the "no compulsion" verse is an obvious one to do it with. As I said, it voices a view that Westerners like. But as I also said, there's more to it. The dominance of the West doesn't just mean that Muslims have to cope with rude remarks from Westerners. It also means that their own traditional pattern of a society based on a religious law begins to looks outmoded. Modernism means separating religion from socio-political matters, it means draining law and war of religious significance and basing them instead on secular ideologies such as nationalism or communism, leaving religion as something optional for your private salvation. That's the European pattern; that's what allows for religious toleration; and that's what every self-respecting society now had to claim to have as well in order to count in an era of European dominance. So whereas the early exegetes had to interpret the "no compulsion" verse restrictively, the twentieth-century exegetes have to widen its meaning again, to read it as a universal declaration of religious freedom that would both refute the European charges and provide an impeccable Quranic basis for something like a separation between religious and political matters in Islam. The religious scholars start working on the verse in a modernist vein already around 1900, but it isn't really till the 1940s that they get going.

    So how could they widen the interpretation of the verse without declaring all the earlier exegetes to be wrong, and so throw out their entire exegetical tradition? Well, for one thing they could stop talking about the verse being abrogated: nobody, absolutely nobody says that it is abrogated anymore, not even the most conservative Saudis.

    But then what? Well, the answer is they could go to the Mu'tazilite strand which was embedded in both the Sunni and Shi'ite traditions. The Mu'tazilites had done some separation of the public and the private spheres, the civic and the individual; and if you read them in the light of modern preoccupations, you'll misunderstand them. You'll engage in creative reinterpretation, as people will say these days. When a modern person reads a pre-modern exegete explaining that there is no coercion in religion because we have to choose for ourselves, he will not see that the exegete means that God does not coerce you; he will take the exegete to be saying that we should not do it. In other words, he will understand a factual statement about the absence of divine coercion as a prescriptive statement prohibiting human coercion – and that gives him the position he wants. Or again, if he sees a statement to the effect that religion is confession by the heart and therefore beyond compulsion, he will read that too as a prohibition of compulsion, not as a claim that compulsion is all right because it only affects outer man.

    From the 1940s onwards you see one exegete after another adapt the two Mu'tazilite arguments along those modernist lines. Tantawi, the current rector of al-Azhar in Cairo, is among them. He is actually perfectly familiar with the explanation of the verse as a factual statement that God doesn't coerce us, but that doesn't stop him having the modernist adaptation as well. The modernist (mis)interpretation has become an independent position in its own right. Countless exegetes have it. More often than not, they'll tell you that the verse is a declaration of religious freedom and that this shows Christians to be wrong when they claim that Islam was spread by force. Along with this they'll often adduce the second canonical interpretation, about how the verse was revealed when the Medinese wanted to convert their Jewish or Christian children to Islam by force: this interpretation (which had changed already in the centuries not covered here) is now read as a timeless account of how Islam respects religious differences, not as a story trying to get rid of the verse by tying it to a bygone historical situation. Modern exegetes will often add that it isn't possible to convert people by force, meaning that therefore it is prohibited, not that therefore no legal prohibition is necessary.

    But of course forced conversion of Jews and Christians isn't the real issue any more. The big issue is Muslim society itself. The laws regulating modern Muslim states are mostly secular: should the civic sphere be wholly secularised? Can Muslims be fully integrated in secular societies in the West? In other words, should religion be something you have along with your citizenship rather than as part of it?

    And if yes, should this additional membership be wholly voluntary, so that Muslims would be free to convert to other religions, or to have no religion? The modernists tend to be rather unclear on this: they hide behind the bluster about forced conversion, feeling that if they assert the principle of religious freedom there, then they've paid their respects to modern values and can keep silent about the rest. For to say that people are free to leave Islam is officially to declare the public order to be secular, so that one could in principle be an atheist or a Buddhist or a Hindu along with being a full citizen of Egypt. And you are then half way to the situation where no religious community has privileged access to the state, where all religious associations are equally private. That is full secularism, and it would be a radical change. It is too radical for most modernists to contemplate it. Islamists.

    Nowadays the modernists are under siege by the Islamists –people who want the public sphere to be fully based on Islam again. Some are militant and some are not, but all are convinced that secularism is a mistake. In their view, Islam should not be drained of authority, but on the contrary serve as the basis of it. As they see it, Islam prescribes its own social space and its own political agency, and religious freedom is nonsense unless Muslims are allowed to have this freedom within their own political organisation: religious freedom is the right to live as a Muslim, not just in private affairs, but also in public ones.

    You can read that in Sayyid Qutb, the enormously influential Islamist who was hanged by Nasser in 1966. According to him, you must wage jihad to bring about that freedom now, for secularism is an oppressive system that doesn't allow you to practise what you believe. All this is directed against the Egyptian regime, Nasser's state, not against the infidel West. He wrote his exegesis in jail; it was a secularist regime that was persecuting him, and which eventually hanged him: secularism did not mean freedom to him, just as it didn't to the mullahs in the Shah's Iran.

    To them, as to other the victims of Middle Eastern regimes, secularism did not stand for religious neutrality, as it does to Westerners, but rather the forced imposition of something false and foreign. They would adduce the "no compulsion" verse against these regimes. The verse forbids forced conversion to falsehood, as the blind shaykh Umar b. Abd al-Rahman said during his trial for complicity in the assassination of Sadat in 1981. He was quoting the sixth interpretation I have given you, from an Andalusian scholar who'd written at the time of the Christian Reconquista. According to Sayyid Qutb and others, true religious freedom can only obtain under Islamic rule, for it is only under Islamic rule that people will be allowed to follow their own creeds.

    It sounds great until you start thinking about the implications. How can Christians, Jews, Buddhists or atheists be full members of a state which is conceived as an expression of Islamic aims? They can't, of course. Several Islamists will explicitly tell you that actually, non-Muslims will have to resume the position of dhimmis, protected people. And by non-Muslims they typically mean Jews and Christians, full stop. In the past, some jurists held that only Jews, Christians and Zoroastrians qualified for dhimmi status; others said that all infidels did, whoever they were. The Islamists always go for the restrictive view, and what they want to outlaw with it is atheism. Their position is quite clear: atheism is a form of paganism, or idolatry, and Islam does not recognize that as a religion. Religion means monotheism, and religious freedom does not include the freedom to have no religion, because in their view there can't be any morality without religion.

    In actual fact, the Islamists don't really believe in religious freedom, except for themselves, because they believe that religion should form the basis of the social and political order; but the concept of religious freedom is so prestigious that even they can't quite abandon it.

    Many of them are so torn between their desire to present Islam as a religion of tolerance and their determination to force their fellow-citizens back into the Islamic fold that they end up in complete incoherence. Take the ayatullah Sabzawari, a Shi'ite cleric who published his exegesis in 1997. He starts by interpreting the no compulsion verse to mean that compulsion is unnecessary, impossible, and forbidden: it couldn't be clearer. He adds that Islam was not established by the sword: fine. But Muslims do have to fight, he says, not to convert people by force, only to restore them to their original nature, which is Islam. In his view this is not really compulsion, for like other Imamis he combines the second Mu'tazilite argument with the old idea of Islam as original human nature (fitra) and argues that to deny Islam is to deny one's own identity and will, so that being forced to live as a Muslim is simply to be restored to one's self. Besides, he says, compulsion only affects the external man, and sometimes it is actually a good thing for both the public order and the victim; indeed, what would be more repugnant in moral term than leaving people to work for their own damnation? In short, forced conversion is unnecessary, impossible, forbidden, required, a good thing, and highly commendable.

    Or for a Sunni example, take Dr 'Amir 'Abd al-'Aziz , editor with Yusuf al-Qaradawi and others of the Journal of Islamic Jerusalem Studies, who published an exegetical work, in Arabic, in 2000. He too starts by affirming that the "no compulsion" verse rejects forced conversion. "It is not permitted for Muslims to convert infidels to the faith by force", he says, "for that kind of thing is no use, leads to no good, and does not bring about faith in the hearts of their own free will". He adds that it is not necessary to use force either, for Islam is a clear religion based on cogent arguments (many traditional exegetes say that too). On the contrary, he declares, the coercive method is characteristic of vacuous, odious, self-absorbed egoists and oppressive authorities. So there is no coercion. But, he says, the verse was revealed specifically about Christians and Jews. Idolaters and similar godless and permissive people have to be compelled to adopt Islam, since they cannot be accepted as dhimmis and do not deserve any consideration because of their godlessness, stupidity, error and foolishness. In other words, Muslims are not permitted to convert anyone force, but "anyone" really just means dhimmis, as in traditional law. All others have to be forced, above all Muslim secularists.

    The Islamists tend to avoid discussing apostates, but some of them explicitly say that the verse does not grant freedom of religion to them. So all their talk about religious freedom is really designed to get rid of it. Unclarity. In short, everybody is agreed that Islam goes in for religious freedom, but not on what it means, except that Christians and Jews shouldn't be forced to convert. Everything else is unclear. Unclarity is also the key impression left by the controversy over the Pope's speech at Regenburg in 2006, with which I shall conclude.

    The Pope mentioned that according to some experts, the "no compulsion" verse probably dated from "the early period, when Mohammed was still powerless and under threat" and that other rules had later been added concerning holy war; in other words, the Pope adopted the first canonical interpretation, according to which the verse had been revealed in Mecca and abrogated in Medina. Thirty-eight Muslim scholars responded that the Pope was wrong: the verse had been revealed in Medina in connection with some Jews or Christians who had wanted to force their children to convert to Islam, as one could read in al-Tabari and other early commentators; it did not date from the period when the Muslims were weak and powerless, but rather from their period of political ascendance, and it taught them that "they could not force another's heart to believe".

    Well, to a historian, that was an odd reaction. One can read the Pope's interpretation in al-Tabari and other early commentators too. One might have expected the thirty-eight scholars to respond that the Pope was out of date, and that the interpretation he went for no longer carried any weight: that is certainly true. But that is not what they said. They said that he was mistaken; and they corrected him with reference to a hybrid interpretation of their own: the Medinese were forbidden to convert their children by force, they said. Fine, that's the second canonical interpretation, as dusted off by modernists. The verse taught them that they could not force another's heart to believe. That's the second Mu'tazilite interpretation, the verse as a factual statement about the impossibility of coercing inner man. Traditionally, that goes with the view that coercing outer man is all right, though it doesn't usually do so in modern works, so what did they mean? Were they reserving the right to coerce outer man, the social being? I don't know. I suspect that the formulation was a compromise designed to paper over the cracks between different positions.

    Here the interpreters of the "no compulsion" verse show us another aspect of the clash between secularism and Islam. To a historian, the thirty-eight scholars were being somewhat less than frank. They told the Pope that he was wrong instead of freely admitting that the view he had selected is indeed part of the Islamic tradition. One Islamicist professor in America happily followed suit and publicly said that the Pope should apologize for getting his facts wrong. But the Pope didn't get his facts wrong, he just selected the most illiberal view available, which is out of date. The reason why the thirty-eight scholars did not simply say this outright is partly that they were not writing as historians, but rather as theologians, and partly that it would have been to acknowledge that doctrines change. That is something that Muslim clerics are still reluctant to do.

    To a historian, the thirty-eight clerics were guilty of traducing the past: they knowingly misrepresented it. But what the thirty-eight clerics would reply, I imagine, is that we historians are guilty of traducing the present: for we knowingly show people's convictions to be historically conditioned rather than perennial truths. By insisting that the past must be understood in its own light, we remove the support of the tradition from the present; we undermine its authority. This is true, and it is all the worse if you think that change is a sign of falsehood.

    We historians do not equate change with falsehood, but there is no way around the fact that we are secularisers: we are secularising history, because we separate the past we are studying from our own and other people's modern convictions; we do not allow the past to be rewritten as mere support for these modern convictions. That's a problem to all traditional believers, and perhaps to Muslims more than most. Muslims tend not to have a problem with modern science: the Quran does not have a mythological account of the creation, it is not incompatible with any modern scientific views. But history is a different matter because the truths of Islam are tied to history. So whether they want to or not, historians also find themselves as actors in the debate whether, or to what extent, Islam should coexist with a secular sphere.

    Where will it all end? Well, there at least even the most modern of historians can give the most traditional of answers: God knows best.

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    An old post from Dr Hamid Hussain. Reposting here to save it for future reference.

    Lest We Forget
    Hamid Hussain

    Pakistan and India are now seen through the prism of mutual hostility. However, armies of both countries share a common heritage. During the Raj, an amazing feat was achieved when a fine army consisting of local soldiers and commanded by British officers was built from scratch. Muslim, Hindu, Sikh and Gurkha soldiers served together on all battlefields. After First World War, officer rank was opened for Indians and a number of young men joined the army after graduating from Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst and then Royal Indian Military Academy at Dehra Dun. A generation which trained together and fought together as comrades in Second World War later served with Indian, Pakistan and Bangladesh armies.

    First native Commander-in-Chief of Indian army General K. C. Cariappa (nick named Kipper) and first native Chief of Staff (COS) of Pakistan army Lieutenant General Nasir Ali Khan were both from 7 Rajput Regiment (it consisted of 50 percent Punjabi Muslims and 50 percent Hindu Rajputs). In August 1947, when army was divided between the two countries, Muslim element of Rajput Regimental Center at Fatehgarh consisting of four officers and six hundred other ranks was given a cordial farewell. Among the four officers was Tajjamal Hussain who joined 7 Rajput as a young man but later fought against India in 1965 and 1971 wars. His parent regiment was fighting from Indian side. In more recent times, a Pakistani officer deployed along border walked to the Indian sentry who was a Rajput and started a conversation. The Pakistani officer told him that they were also Rajputs. Indian soldier promptly replied that ‘taan Ranghar nain; kyon key taan zamin te daroo donoon chad ditte’ (you are no more Rajput because you have given up both your land and alcohol’.)

    In 1927 a young man from Hazara left for Sandhurst to become officer in Indian army. He was in number 5 company. One of his course mates in the same platoon was a Bengali Hindu boy. A picture of the platoon shows both young lads who were commissioned on February 02, 1928. Both served with British Indian army; Muslim boy joining 1/14 Punjab Regiment (now 5 Punjab of Pakistan army) and Hindu boy elite 7th Light Cavalry (now an armor regiment of Indian army). In 1947 after partition of India, they joined the armies of newly independent India and Pakistan. In 1965 war, the young Muslim man from Hazara Field Marshal Ayub Khan was President of Pakistan while Bengali Hindu General Jayanto Nath Chaudri (nick named Mucchu Chaudri) was Commander-in-Chief of Indian army.

    In Sandhurst, two young men Brij Mohan Kaul (nick named Bijji) and Akbar Khan were together. In 1942, Kaul and Akbar were again together for staff course in Quetta. In 1947 Kaul was defense attaché in Washington but came back to India when hostilities between Pakistan and India started over Kashmir. He was with Jawaharlal Nehru on his trip to Jammu while from the other side now Brigadier Akbar Khan was orchestrating the war with code name of General Tariq. After graduating from Sandhurst, B. M. Kaul joined 5th Battalion of 6th Rajputana Rifles (5/6 RR). Battalion Quartermaster was Captain Umrao Singh. Battalion was stationed in Razmak, Waziristan. At the same time another battalion stationed at Razmak was 6th Battalion of 13th Frontier Force Rifles (6/13 FFR). Lieutenant Muhammad Musa of 6/13 FFR (now One Frontier Force Regiment of Pakistan army) was Kaul’s friend. In Razmak, Waziristan at one time there were several young Indian officers serving with elite 6/13 FFR. The list included Muhammad Musa (later General), Akbar Khan (later Major General), Mohammad Yusuf (later Major General) and Mohindar Singh Chopra (later Major General). After a stint at Army Service Corps when Kaul tried to get back to infantry, he asked for transfer to his friend’s 6/13 FFR (then commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Dudley Russel nick named Russel Pasha) but could not get the transfer. Hostilities between India and Pakistan started in the fall of 1947 in Kashmir and continued for over a year. An audacious Kaul rang up now Lieutenant Colonel Musa stationed at Lahore that he was going to visit him. The uniforms of both armies looked alike. Kaul crossed the border and all along he was saluted and waved by Pakistani soldiers. He went to Lahore cantonment and showed up at Musa’s office. Musa was shocked to see him in his office as Musa’s boss Major General Muhammad Iftikhar Khan was in the next room. Musa quickly put Kaul in a jeep and under escort sent him safely back to India through Ferozpur border. Kaul later became Chief of General Staff (CGS) and Corps Commander of Indian army and Musa commander-in-chief of Pakistan army.

    Nawabzada Sher Ali Khan was the scion of princely state of Pataudi. He graduated from Sandhurst and joined one of the oldest cavalry regiment; 7th Light Cavalry. After partition, he opted for Pakistan. In 1947-48 Kashmir war he was commanding 14th Parachute Brigade. His parent battalion was also in Kashmir theatre fighting from Indian side. Tanks of Pataudi’s parent battalion 7th Cavalry then commanded by Lt. Colonel Rajindar Singh ‘sparrow’ (later Major General) captured Zojila. This was a first rate performance by 7th Cavalry operating tanks at such high altitude.

    In December 1924, S. P. P. Thorat and Nawabzada Agha Mahmud Raza sailed together from Bombay to join Sandhurst. Thorat joined 1/14 Punjab (now 5 Punjab of Pakistan army). In December 1928, in Aurangabad, Second Lieutenant Muhammad Ayub Khan joined the battalion. Thorat as a senior Indian officer groomed newly arrived Ayub Khan. After 1947-48 Kashmir conflict, Thorat visited Lahore several times as part of Indian delegation. Every time, he made sure to visit his parent battalion; the rear party of which was stationed in Lahore. Raza became Major General in Pakistan army and Ayub Khan Commander-in-Chief (C-in-C) of Pakistan army. 1930 batch of Sandhurst included Mian Hayauddin (4/12 Frontier Force Regiment, now 6 FF) and Umrao Singh (5/6 RR). Hayauddin (nick named Gunga) served with the Sikh company of the battalion and was fluent in spoken and written Gurmukhi (Sikh language). In 1948, he was commanding Bannu Brigade and fought against India in Poonch sector in Kashmir winning gallantry award of Hilal-e-Jurat. He later rose to become Major General in Pakistan army. Umrao commanded 5th Infantry Brigade of Indian army in Kashmir in the same conflict (he was wounded in action). He later became Lt. General and in 1962 Indo-China conflict with China was commanding XXXIII Corps.

    K. S. Thimayya (nick named Timmy) joined 4/19 Hyderabad regiment (now 4 Kumaon Regiment). His colleagues were Lieutenant Ishfaq ul Majid, Captain Kunwar Daulat Singh and Captain S. M. Shrinagesh. Thimaya became Adjutant of the battalion and groomed many new officers including Mohammad Azam Khan. Thimayya became Chief of Army Staff (COAS) of Indian army and Azam Lieutenant General and Corps commander in Pakistan army. Captain Akbar Khan and Captain T. P. Rajan served together with 7/13 FFR when battalion was stationed in Kohat. Akbar became Major General in Pakistan army while Rajan retired as Colonel of Indian army. During Second World War, several Officers Training Units (OTUs) were established in India to grant emergency commissions to new officers. The first one was established in Mhow. Three company commanders chosen for this OTU were Majors Mohammad Musa, Moti Sagar and Pritam Kirpal. Musa trained many non-Muslim officers who served with Indian army and Sagar and Kirpal many Muslim officers who later served with Pakistan army. Moti was from 1 Rajput and later rose to become Lt. General and GOC-in-C of Southern command of Indian army.

    Gul Hassan joined 9/13 FFR in 1942 and served with the Sikh company of the battalion. Later he served as Quarter Master and Adjutant of 3rd Cavalry when it was commanded by Lt. Colonel K. M. Idris. After partition, he joined 5th Probyn’s Horse (where he served as Adjutant, Second and in command and finally Commanding officer). Later, he became Commander-in-Chief of Pakistan army. Many of his comrades served with Indian army and his old 3rd Cavalry fought in many conflicts with Pakistan. Muhammad Khan Jarral was commissioned in 1942 from Indian Military Academy at Dehra Dun. His company commander at the academy was Major Satyawant Mallanah Shrinagesh (He served as Adjutant of 4/19 Hyderabad and commanded 6/19 Hyderabad). Jarral joined 2nd Jammu & Kashmir Rifles (J&KR) and fought in Second World War in different theatres. Pakistan and India got entangled in Kashmir immediately after independence. Jarral was appointed adjutant of Gilgit Scouts. In Zoji La he was commanding A and B wings of Gilgit Scouts against Indian troops. Lieutenant General Srinagesh was commanding Indian troops in Kashmir. Jarral fought against his previous company commander at Dehra Dun in this conflict.

    During Second World War, in African theatre, several British Indian army regiments fought against Italians. In the battle of Keren, 6/13 FFR, 3/2 Punjab and 2/5 Marhatta fought side by side. 6/13 FFR was commanded by Lt. Colonel Dudley Russel (he won Distinguished Service Order (DSO) and Military Cross (MC) and later rose to Lt. General rank). Subedar of the Sikh company of 6/13 FFR just before the attack told his men ‘Guru de saun, Unnath di kasam, char jao’ (in the name of Guru, swearing by 59th, attack). 59 was the old number of 6/13 FFR when it was designated 59th Sindh Camel Corps. In view of many troubles which the battalion caused in the past, it was also nick named ‘Garbar Unnath’ (troublesome 59th). Captain Anant Singh Pathania (later Major General) of 6/13 FFR won MC in this battle and another officer of the battalion Major Vidya Dhar Jayal (later Brigadier) won a DSO. Both officers served with Indian army later. 6/13 FFR is now One Frontier Force (FF); senior most battalion of the Frontier Force Regiment of Pakistan army.

    In the battle of Casino in the spring of 1944, 17th Infantry Brigade consisting of 4/12 FF (now 6FF), 1/10 Baluch (now 6 Baloch) and 19th Infantry Brigade consisting of 6/13 FFR and 3/8 Punjab (now 3 Baloch) participated. Muslim, Hindu and Sikh soldiers and officers fought under the same flag. When Pathan company of 6/13 FFR was severely mauled, Dogra company led by Major Kashmir Singh Katoch (later Lt. General) cleared many machine gun nests. In 1965 war, Kashmir Singh was Lieutenant General commanding XV Corps of Indian army against Pakistan. Kashmir Singh’s parent battalion (now 1 FF of Pakistan army commanded by Lt. Colonel Shabbir Ali Khan) was fighting Indian army in Khem Karan area. In the spring of 1945, at the battle at Gothic Line, 1/5 Marhatta (now 1 Marhatta Light Infantry of Indian army) and 6/13 FFR (now 1 FF of Pakistan army) fought together. Both battalions were held by heavy German machine gun fire. Soldiers of both these battalions fought with utmost gallantry against the common foe and won two well deserved Victoria Crosses. Namdeo Jadhao of 1/5 Marhatta and Ali Haider of 6/13 won Victoria Cross for their bravery. On Burma front, two elite cavalry regiments 5th Probyn’s Horse and 9th Deccan Horse were part of 255 Tank Brigade. 5th Horse is now elite regiment of Pakistan army and 9th Horse holds the same position in Indian army. In Rangoon, many young officers including Captain Gul Hassan, Captain Riaz ul Karim (nick named Bacchu Karim later became Major General), Captain I. U. Babar, Captain S. S. Mustafa, Major S. S. Kalha (Artillery), Major Ranbir Singh (7 Rajput Regiment), D. C. Basapa (16th Cavalry) and many others belonging to different religions and ethnicities lived and fought together.

    Sam Manekshaw (later Indian army chief) and Haji Iftikhar Ahmad (later Major General in Pakistan army) were buddies at military academy in Dehra Dun. Sam won his Military Cross in Burma with his parent battalion; 4/12 Frontier Force regiment (now 6 FF of Pakistan army). His friend in the battalion was Atiq ur Rahman (nick named Turk). In 1947, Lieutenant Colonel Sam, Major Yahya Khan (later Pakistan army chief) and Major S. K. Sinha (later Vice Chief of Army Staff of Indian army) were serving together at Military Operations Directorate in Delhi. After 1971 war, when Sam came to Pakistan for negotiations, his host was now Lieutenant General Atiq. Dinner was served in silverware of Sam’s parent battalion; 6 FF.

    Second Lieutenant Permindra Singh Bhagat of 21 Field Company was attached to 3/12 Frontier Force Regiment (now 5 FF) when he won his Victoria Cross at the battle of Keren. Bhagat later rose to become Lt. General of Indian army; however he still had some bond with old PIFFERS (nick name of Frontier Force). At the time of partition, Sikh company of 3/12 FF was absorbed in Sikh Light Infantry (SLI). Bhagat remained Colonel of SLI even after his retirement. Zorawar Chand Bakhshi (nick named Zoru) joined 16/10 Baluch Regiment and was posted to Pathan company. He fought Second World War with his Pathan comrades. Once he was asked by his Commanding Officer (CO) to take Dogra company soldiers for a task and Zoru was not happy as he wanted to take his own Pathan soldiers. It was in this action led by Zoru that Sepoy Bhandari Ram won Victoria Cross. In 1965 war he fought against his former Pathan comrades now part of Pakistan army as Brigadier (commanding 68th Brigade) and in 1971 as Major General (commanding 26th Division).

    In Libyan theatre, Rommel’s Africa Corps overran 7th Armored Division of Indian army (GOC Major General Frank Messervy escaped capture by posing as an orderly). Many Indian officers became prisoners and the list included Major P. P. Kumaramangalam (2nd Field Regiment of Artillery), Yahya Khan, Tikka Khan and Yaqub Khan (18th Cavalry). Many of these prisoners were housed in a camp together. This camp had the distinction of holding a record number of future senior officers including three future army chiefs of two countries under its roof. The senior most officer Major Kumarangalam (later General and Indian army chief) was appointed commanding officer of the camp. His assistant was Lieutenant Shamsher Singh, his adjutant Captain Yahya Khan (later General and Pakistan army chief) and Quartermaster Captain Tikka Khan (later General and Pakistan army chief). Other inmates were Captain Yaqub Khan( later Lieutenant General of Pakistan army but demoted to Major General rank when he declined to launch military action in 1971 in East Pakistan), Ajit Singh (later Lieutenant General), Captain Kalyan Singh (later Major General), Naravne (later Major General), Lieutenant Shamsher Singh (later Brigadier) and Lieutenant Hissam Effendi (later Brigadier).

    In Second World War, some of the captured Indian officers and soldiers were organized into Indian National Army (INA) by their Japanese captors. Several who refused to join INA were tortured and kept in very difficult circumstances. Among them were two brothers Lt. Colonel Gurbakhsh Singh then commanding Jind State Forces and Captain Harbakhash Singh (later Lt. General) of 11th Sikhs as well as men of 5/13 FFR. Harbakhsh later commanded 11th Sikh in 1947-48 Kashmir conflict against Pakistan and in 1965 war he was GOC-in-C of Western Command. The case of 1/14 Punjab (now 5 Punjab of Pakistan army) in Second World War is a very strange one. Before their capture by Japanese, the battalion performed very well against Japanese and had lost three officers, five Viceroy Commissioned Officer (VCOs) and thirty eight men killed in action. Several officers of 1/14 Punjab including Shah Nawaz Khan, Gurbakhash Singh Dhillon, Gurdip Singh Dhillon, Mohan Singh Deb, Muhammad Zaman Kiani and Abdul Rashid joined INA during their captivity. Many soldiers of the battalion followed their Indian officers. Later, Ayub Khan re-raised the battalion in 1946 in Mir Ali Waziristan. His Second-in-Command was a Sikh Major G. S. Brar. After partition, Shah Nawaz Khan stayed in India and served as Minister of State for Railways in Nehru cabinet. However, he sent his son Mahmood Nawaz to Pakistan where he joined his father’s parent battalion 1/14 Punjab now designated 5 Punjab. He fought in 1965 war from Pakistan side against India. 1/14 produced two Pakistan army chiefs; Ayub Khan and Asif Nawaz and several generals of Pakistan and Indian army including Lt. General S. P. P. Thorat and Major General Anis Ahmad Khan of Indian army (Anis opted for Indian army at the time of partition. He was Director Supplies & Transport of Indian army from 1949-53. After retirement he moved to Pakistan where his brother-in-law Major General Shahid Hamid was Master General of Ordnance of Pakistan army) and Lt. General Alam Jan Mahsud of Pakistan army. Ayub’s son Gohar Ayub also joined his father’s battalion.

    After Second World War, Field Marshal Claude Auchinlek asked two Indian officers to travel to cantonments to assess the causes of lower morale of officers. The two chosen officers were Azam Khan and Man Mohan Khanna. Both later became Lt. Generals in Pakistani and Indian armies respectively. Lt. Colonel Sarabjit Singh Kalha CO of 2/1 Punjab (now 2 Punjab of Pakistan army) was one of the most decorated officer of Indian army winning DSO, MC and Bar. He was killed in Indonesia when after Second World War some Indian troops were stationed there.

    Many infantry and cavalry regiments which became part of Indian and Pakistani army after partition served together in higher formations. Many battalions fought together in different theatres in First and Second World Wars. 3rd Indian Motor Brigade consisted of three elite cavalry regiments; 2nd Lancers, 11th Prince Albert Victor’s Own (PAVO) Cavalry and 18th Cavalry. 2nd Lancers and 18th Cavalry were allotted to India and 11th Cavalry to Pakistan. 3rd Independent Armored Brigade consisted of three elite cavalry regiments; 17th Poona Horse, 18th Cavalry and 19th Lancers. In 1947, 17th Horse and 18th Cavalry were allotted to India and 19th Lancers was to Pakistan. 17th Poona Horse was stationed at Risalpur and when it embarked for India, it left its equipment to incoming 13th Lancers. Indian army regiments had class squadrons and companies from a single class. In 1947, Muslim companies and squadrons of regiments allotted to India were sent to Pakistan and vice versa. Sikh C Squadron of 13th Lancers joined 17th Poona Horse while Muslim Rajput Squadron of 14th Sindh Horse joined 13th Lancers.

    In 1947 when regiments were divided between the two countries some interesting incidences occurred. It was decided to assign elite Guides (10th) Cavalry to India and 14th Sindh Horse to Pakistan. The reason was that Guides Cavalry had two non-Muslim (Sikh and Dogra) squadrons and one Muslim (Pathan) squadron. On the other hand, Sindh Horse had two Muslim (Muslim Rajput and Pathan) squadrons compared to one non-Muslim squadron. Commanding Officer of Guides convinced the military authorities that in view of the long association of Guides with frontier as well as regimental center being located at Mardan in Pakistan, Guides should be allotted to Pakistan. In return Sindh Horse was allotted to India. Punjabi Muslim Squadron of 4th Hodson Horse and Pathan Squadron of 14th Sindh Horse joined Guides Cavalry when later was allotted to Pakistan. Muslim Rajput Squadron of 14th Sindh Horse went to 13th Lancers. After partition, during transition times, several non-Muslim officers continued to command many battalions allotted to Pakistan. CO of 7/1 Punjab (now 18 Punjab) was Lieutenant Colonel Budh Singh till November 1947, CO of 4/12 Frontier Force Regiment (now 6 FF) was Lt. Colonel Gupta till November 1947 and CO of 1/13 Frontier Force Rifles (now 7 FF) was Lt. Colonel Brieshwar Nath till November 1947.

    In 1947-48 Kashmir conflict, comrades who fought together in Second World War so recently were now facing each other. Kalwant Singh, L. P. Bogey Sen and M. M. Khanna fought from Indian side while Mian Hayauddin, Azam Khan, Sher Ali Khan Pataudi and Akbar Khan from Pakistani side. 4/10 Baluch (now 11 Baloch), 7/10 Baluch (now 15 Baloch), 2/1 Punjab (now 2 Punjab), 1/15 Punjab (now 9 Punjab), 2/12 Frontier Force Regiment (now 4 FF), 1/13 Frontier Force Rifles (now 7 FF) had barely said goodbye to the non-Muslim companies (Dogra and Sikh) of their battalions when they faced them in Kashmir. Commander of 50 Para Brigade Brigadier Y. S. Paranjpye and commander of 77 Para Brigade Brigadier Mohammad Usman who until very recently did a superb job of internal security duty in Pakistan found themselves fighting from Indian side in Kashmir. The Sikh company of 1/1 Punjab (now 1 Punjab of Pakistan army) commanded by Major S. S. Pandit said goodbye to their Muslim colleagues and on reaching India was sent to Kashmir. They were attached to 2 Dogra during the war and later absorbed in 1 Sikh. In October 1947, Dogra B Company of 4/13 Frontier Force Rifles (9 FF) left for India. Barely two months later, Dogra PIFFERS ended up in Kashmir where they became E company of 4 Kumaon then commanded by Lt. Colonel M. M. Khanna. Khanna was buddy of Pakistani officer Brigadier Azam Khan who had joined 4 Kumaon as a young lad and was now commanding 25th Brigade of Pakistan army against his former comrades. Khanna narrowly escaped death at the hands of his former comrades when his party was ambushed and fourteen out of fifteen members of the CO’s party were killed. G. G. Bewoor, L. P. Sen and D. K. Palit were all Baluchis (all three had joined Baluch regiment when they got their commission). In 1947 in Kashmir, Bewoor commanded 2 Dogra, Palit commanded 3/9th Gurkha Rifles and Sen was commander of 161 Brigade against Pakistanis. On Pandu, First Bihar was fighting against Pakistani troops while their former second in command and first ‘native’ commanding officer Habibullah Khan Khattak (later Major General) was now serving with Pakistan army. In 1948, Colonel M. G. Jilani took command of Gilgit Scouts. His parent battalion was 1 Mahar which was fighting form Indian side in Kashmir.

    In 1965 war in Sialkot sector, Indian Ist Armored Division commanded by Major General Rajindar Singh slugged it out with Pakistan’s 6th Armored Division commanded by Major General Abrar Hussain. Elite cavalry regiments of India; 4th Hodson Horse, 16th Cavalry and 17th Poona Horse fought some sanguine battles with elite Pakistani regiments; Guides (10th) Cavalry and 11th PAVO Cavalry. Lt. Colonel Nisar Ahmad of 25th Cavalry who fought against 17th Poona Horse commanded by indomitable Colonel A. D. Tarapur in 1965 war admired his opponent and later told his superiors that ‘it was a quite an education to listen to tarapurwala’s wireless intercepts. He maintained a total grip over his command’. At the battle of Assal Uttar in 1965, 5th Probyn’s Horse, 6th Lancers and 19th Lancers of Pakistan army fought against 3rd Cavalry (Pakistan’s then Director General Military Operations Brigadier Gul Hassan has served as Adjutant of this battalion before partition) and 9th Deccan Horse of Indian army.

    In the tragic days of partition, horrific violence was perpetrated on both sides of the border. In these times of madness, Muslim and non-Muslim officers and men of Indian army performed the difficult task of internal security duty to the best of their abilities. 77 Para Brigade commanded by Brigadier Y. S. Paranjpye was moved from Quetta to Multan on internal security duty. 1 / 2 Punjab (2 Punjab group of Punjab Regiment was allotted to India) of the brigade commanded by Lt. Colonel Gurbachan Singh safeguarded non-Muslim and Muslim convoys on both sides of the border. Punjabi Muslim, Dogra and Sikh sepoys of this fine battalion performed their duties and India could be proud of having such a fine battalion among its army ranks. In several cases, Muslim officers commanded non-Muslim troops and vice versa and they shot at their fellow co-religionists without any fear or favor to protect life and property. Second in command of 5/6 Rajputana Rifles Major Haq Nawaz commanded Hindu Jats and Hindu Rajputs and they protected Muslim convoys in eastern Punjab and Captain Syed Ahmad Mansur of 1 Mahar took his Marhatta company to escort Muslim and non-Muslim convoys on both sides of the border. In Sialkot, Major Iftikhar Janjua (later Major General) was officiating commanding officer of 3/10 Baluch (now 10 Baloch). A group of Muslims approached him and told him that they will be searching the houses of non-Muslims of the area and he should not be concerned. Iftikhar kicked their spokesperson out of the room with the warning that if anybody tried to take law in their own hands he will shoot them. Many other fine men and officers of Gurkha Rifles, Baluch Regiment, Garhwal Rifles, 1 Kumaon and 2/15 Punjab (now 10 Punjab of Pakistan army) performed splendidly in those trying times.

    There was a degree of comradeship among many officers despite problems between India and Pakistan. Thimayya was stationed in Jallandhar in 1947-48 and he visited Lahore where his host was his old friend Major General Iftikhar Khan who was then commanding 10th Division of Pakistan army. General K. M. Cariappa also used to stay with his old friends during his official visits to Pakistan which was frowned upon in India. In the winter of 1947 while fighting was going on between Indian and Pakistani troops, Cariappa was stuck in Jammu due to high floods in rivers and a blocked Banihal pass due to landslide. The only good road was from Jammu to Sialkot. Cariappa wanted to go to Sialkot and via Lahore enter India. He had his GSO-2 call GSO-1 of his good friend Major General Iftikhar Khan then commanding 10th Division in Lahore to get his permission. He got the reply that Iftikhar was out of town and Mrs. Iftikhar was not well therefore they will not be able to receive General Cariappa. In 1948 after cease fire, Indian delegation consisting of Lt. General Srinagesh, Major General Thimaya, Brigadier Sam Manekshaw and Major S. K. Sinha (later Lt. General) was entertained by Brigadier Shahid Hamid (later Major General) of Pakistan army. In 1965 war, General ® Cariappa’s son Flight Lieutenant K. C. Carriappa (nick named Nanda) flew sorties against Pakistan. His jet was shot down and he was captured in Pakistan. Cariappa had served Ayub Khan’s brigade commander and children of Cariappa and Ayub were known to each other. When young Cariappa was recuperating from his injuries in a military hospital in Pakistan, Ayub’s wife and son Akhtar Ayub visited him. There is unconfirmed report also that Cariappa was given a tour of President House where he roamed around calling President Ayub Khan uncle. However, both Pakistanis and Indians denied that this happened and it may just one of the folklore. Ayub also sent a message to General ® Cariappa that his son was fine. He offered to release him but as was expected from the fine officer and gentleman like Cariappa he said ‘I will ask no favor for my son which I cannot secure for every soldier of the Indian Army. Look after all of them. They are all my sons’. In January 1966, Cariappa was repatriated to India along with all other Indian prisoners of war. He later rose to become Air Marshal of Indian Air Force.

    In 1963, Indian aircraft carrier Vikrant was commanded by Vice Admiral N. Krishnan. Pakistani cruiser ‘Babar’ commanded by Syed Mohammad Ehsan was sighted very close to Vikrant. Krishnan knew Ehsan from old days and sent a warning message stating ‘Syed, don’t come closer we are ready for you’. Ehsan replied ‘Krish; I have Ayub (Pakistani army chief) on board – bound for Colombo. Thought will have a dekho (look) at my old country. Cordial greetings’. Even during war there was a certain elan and respect between soldiers of both armies. In 1971, a Pakistani officer on patrol along Sindh border saw a lone Sikh soldier. He yelled at the soldier accompanying him saying ‘ Oye Khalsa ye; bandooq dey, bandooq hey’ (I see the Sikh; give me the gun, give me the gun). The Sikh soldier was close enough to hear all this commotion. Excited officer took his soldier’s automatic gun and fired a burst of bullets towards the Sikh soldier at close range. Bullets hit the Sikh and his body went in the air. The Sikh soldier yelled ‘thand pay gaye ye’ (are you satisfied now) and dropped dead on the ground. In 1999, during Kargil war, commanding officer of 8th Sikhs sent a recommendation for bravery award for his worthy opponent Captain Sher Khan (27th Sindh & 12th Northern Light Infantry). Sher Khan was awarded the highest gallantry award of the country.

    Indian and Pakistani armies share a common history and the memory of that shared bond is fading away. There is some limited interaction between two armies in United Nations peace missions in different parts of the world. In an ironic twist of history, in early 2005, in war torn Congo, nine Bangladeshi soldiers were ambushed and killed by a militia force. Pakistani troops (along with South African troops) avenged the deaths of Bangladeshi soldiers by overrunning one of the militia bases killing fifty militiamen. In this operation, Indian attack helicopters provided air support to Pakistani troops. Both countries should work towards peaceful coexistence and strive to decrease the animosity so that they can address more acute problems of national integration, internal cohesion and economic prosperity. Peaceful and confident India and Pakistan can then contribute more soldiers to peace missions around the globe where next generation of soldiers and officers can interact in a more friendly and cooperative manner thus reliving the memories of their forefathers.

    Author thanks many for providing details of interesting historical events and anecdotes. All errors are author’s sole responsibility.

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  • 08/08/15--14:09: The Helper Boy
  • Today's horrific child abuse scandal from Punjab (the exact extent is disputed, with official inquiry reports saying the numbers are smaller and hinting that families in a property dispute may be making up some of the accusations; but of course those inquiries may well be part of the coverup too) reminded me of this short story by Pakistani-American writer Asif Ismael. It was originally published in viewpointonline but seems not to be on their site any more. So I am posting it here..

    The Helper Boy 

    It's a very cold morning. Rustam wipes the fog off the windshield of the parked truck and looks out. It’s dark except for a thin strip of light on the horizon. Not a soul in sight, except a dog hopping across the GT Road. Keeping one of its hind legs off the ground it lurches toward the parking lot of Hotel Paradise, the truck-drivers hotel. It wobbles across a dozen or so parked trucks, and heads over to the tea-stall located by the hotel’s entrance, where behind the counter a cloaked figure moves in the dark.
    It must be Ibrahim, the owner; he sleeps in his shop, in a room at the back. A flame leaps in the air behind the counter, a flickering glow of orange. Ibrahim is hunched over his stove.
    Rustam wraps himself in his blanket, quietly unlatches the truck’s door, and slips out into the cold. By the time he gets to the tea-stall his bones feel chilled. The dog, standing by the doorstep, wags its tail as if welcoming Rustam. It's a female dog, its shriveled teats hanging under her belly empty. She is so thin that he can see her ribs through her scarred brown coat.
    The door squeaks as Rustam pushes it to enter the shop. Inside, Ibrahim squats by the fire, throwing crumpled papers into the flames. He turns his head, looks at Rustam, and nods with a smile. His face is swollen and wrinkly from sleep, his fingers combing his fist-length, bushy black beard, and his eyes wide and staring, reflecting the fire. Rustam walks over to the stove, sits beside him, and moves the end of a log.
     “It’s good to get up so early,” Ibrahim says, as he winks at Rustam. “Everyone is asleep except the two of us.” The flames have started to die. Rustam bends over, takes a deep breath, and blows on the logs till he runs out of breath. Ash swirls around his head, and gets in his eyes, making them teary. The wood catches fire. As he wipes his eyes with the back of his hand, he feels Ibrahim’s hand on his shoulder. He freezes. The logs crackle, sparks fly out of the earthen stove. "I wish I’ve a boy like you to help me out with my shop,” Ibrahim says, squeezing Rustam’s shoulder. “Your Ustad is so lucky to have you."

    Rustam blows on the fire as if he didn’t hear what Ibrahim just said. “What would you say if I ask your Ustad to leave you with me for a few days?” Ibrahim says. Rustam keeps his eyes on the fire. He can sense, through his blanket, the heat of Ibrahim’s hand over his shoulder. “You’re not in a talking mood today,” Ibrahim says. “Is everything okay?”
    “Ustad will never let that happen, and even if he does, what makes you think that I’ll stay?” Rustam says, keeping his eyes on the flames. “I’ll take good care of you if you work for me,” Ibrahim says. He slides closer to Rustam and pulls his shoulder. Rustam stiffens, shrugs to loosen Ibrahim’s grip on him. "Alright! Alright! Keep the fire going," Ibrahim says, taking his hand off Rustam. “I’m leaving to say my fajr—when I’m back I’ll make tea for you and your Ustad.”
    Ibrahim stands up, unwrapping and then quickly wrapping his woolen shawl around his stocky frame, and heads out the door. Outside as he passes by the dog she wags her tail, looking at Ibrahim. He throws a kick at her, but she’s swift to move away, missing the point of his shoe. He bends down and picks up a rock. The dog, putting her tail between her legs, runs away.
    "Mother-fuckers! Freeloaders! Can’t even wait for the sun to rise!” Ibrahim shouts, throws the rock at the dog but misses. He resumes walking. The flames now leap in the air, their tongues licking the cold off the room. The wall behind the stove is black with smoke, except for the clear, white outline of two hands, their finger spread apart and pointing upward. The hands seem to tremble behind the flames.
    Rustam remembers the wood-stove of his house, its blackened hearth of baked mud, where he and his younger brother, Ameer, etched with the point of stones, the sun, with its wiggly rays rising from behind the mountains, birds and trees, and a hut with a stream flowing by its side. The dog has come back, and standing at the threshold she stares at Rustam. He looks around for leftovers.
    A rat moves along a crack on the floor, sniffing, its fearless eyes fixed on Rustam, its whiskers jerking. Rustam searches in his pockets for any remaining bit of the roasted peanuts Ustad bought for him yesterday from the outskirts of Multan. He finds a piece stuck within the seams of his front pocket. He tosses it towards the rat. The rat sniffs the peanut, and then putting in its mouth it draws nearer, wanting more. Rustam shoos it away by suddenly getting up.
    The dog stands by the door and stares at Rustam, shifting her weight from one leg to the other. She does that several times. Rustam walks towards her, but as he gets to the door, she starts limping towards the road. He follows her. She looks back every few steps as if to make sure he’s behind her. She crosses the GT Road and keeps walking, towards the line of massive Peepal trees over on a hillock.
    The air is still and quiet During the day, the area around Paradise Hotel is crowded with truck drivers, hawkers, drug sellers, fruit vendors, the women holding babies begging; some crouching to touch the feet of the passersby for food or money; and once in a while a woman in a black burka shuffling nervously a few paces behind her pimp. Ustad, though he doesn’t like girls, is quite good in telling apart a taxi from a regular woman.
    The dog stands still for a moment, looks back, and then disappears behind the mound populated with the Peepal trees. Rustam quickens his pace. Upon reaching the trees he stops, his eyes searching for the dog. He spots her a few meters to his right, a shadow between two massive trunks. As he gets closer, she disappears from view again. On reaching the point where she has gone out of sight, Rustam finds himself looking into a triangular hollow at the base of a trunk. He bends over to take a peek. It’s dark in there, but he’s able to count six puppies crawling around on hay-covered ground. The dog sits down and the puppies cling to her, their eyes closed. What can possibly be in those withered sacs?
    The dog stands up, and the puppies fall off her and roll on the ground. She looks at Rustam and he knows what she wants. He turns around and heads back to the shop—this time with a quicker pace. She follows him. Passing the front of his truck, he halts, and upon hearing the snores of Ustad, he resumes walking. Ustad is still asleep, tucked comfortably in the cozy sleeping cabin of his truck. On most days he doesn't get up unless Rustam shakes him up and hands him his cup of tea. After waking up, the first thing he’d do is to light up a cigarette. Some days Ustad pulls him inside the blanket, and after having him, he’ll ask him to light a cigarette for him. He’s been with Ustad for the last year and a half.
    Rustam enters the shop. It's still warm in here, although the fire is beginning to die. The dog sits at the threshold. Ibrahim is still at the mosque, praying. Rustam squats on the floor, moves the logs, and throws a ball of crumpled papers in the fire. Behind the smoke, the hands look as if they are underwater. He looks around for a pan of milk, but he knows that Ibrahim keeps things, things which can be stolen, in his room at the back. He goes to the rear end of the shop, and, standing in front of a padlocked door, peers through a crack into Ibrahim’s room. All he sees is darkness. A rustle on his back makes him turn around. Ibrahim stands right behind him, his lips quivering under his mustache, his eyes gleaming like coals.
    Rustam marvels at his swiftness. How quietly he must have entered the shop and got all the way back here without making a sound? "What are you doing here?" Ibrahim whispers in his ear, his lips touching Rustam’s earlobe. "Nothing." Rustam feels his heart begins to pound. Suddenly he feels very warm. "You want to come in?" Ibrahim leans forward and whispers in his ear, pressing his body against his.
    "I need milk," Rustam says. He inches back and tries to stay calm, the ridges of the door dig into his back. "Anything for you!" Ibrahim’s face is next to his. Rustam feels his warm breath on his cheeks. He smells of Nivea, the cold cream his Ustad also uses. "I need a lot of milk,” Rustam says, taking a deep breath and holding it in his chest, as he watches the hairy, pointed swelling of Ibrahim’s neck, an inch away from his face, moving up and down. “A lot of milk.”
    "How much do you need?" Ibrahim says swallowing his saliva.
    "A kilo, may be."
    "Do you have money?"
    “I keep milk inside in my room,” he says. “There I also keep butter—nothing tastes as good as pure, desi butter with a freshly made, hot prathaa."
    Reaching above Rustam’s head Ibrahim twists a key in the padlock and lowers the chain. The door flings open with Rustam’s weight on it. Ibrahim pushes Rustam further inside the room, and once they are both inside the room, he shuts the door behind him. The room has no window; it smells of wax and cold cream.
    Without turning the light on, Ibrahim moves his hand on Rustam’s back, all the way down. There’s no way out of this room for Rustam.
    "I need a pan to carry milk," Rustam says.
    "Hot or cold?" Ibrahim’s voice is now shaking, as he massages Rustam’s buttocks.
    "How much would you pay?” Rustam says, feeling Ibrahim pressing himself against him, his hands fast undoing his waist-cord.
    “How much do you need?”
    “Five hundred rupees."
     “I can have a fifteen year old girl for that money.”
    “How about four,” Rustam says. “Plus a kilo of milk.”
    “I’ll give you enough to make you happy,” Ibrahim says, pushing him towards the mattress. He’s twice Rustam’s size.
    “But, first give me the milk. I promise I’ll come back," Rustam says, but he knows further negotiations are futile.
    "I will give you as much milk as you want, but after.” Ibrahim lowers his shalwaar and pushes him on the mattress. Rustam lays on his stomach and looks back, clutching onto the bed-sheet. Ibrahim, tucking the end of his kurta under his chin, throws himself on Rustam’s back. He is heavy and breaths like a mad bull. His beard feels like a sandpaper against Rustam’s nape.
    "I always think about you, even when you’re not around." Ibrahim pinches Rustam’s cheek, as he moves on top of him. “You’ve such dry skin. Let me rub some cold cream on you.”
    Ibrahim puts a dab of cold cream on Rustam’s cheeks and some upon himself. It doesn’t take long.
    Ibrahim gets up and leaves the room. Rustam stays lying on his belly and thinks about the dog standing outside on her three legs, her six hungry pups waiting for their mother, and his Ustad: what if he finds out about what’s just happened?
    Rustam comes out of the room tying his waist cord. The morning light seems brighter after having dissolved the leftovers of the night. Squatting on the floor, in front of the fire, Ibrahim warms milk in a pan. Rustam sits down by his side, holds out his hands to the fire, and glances at Ibrahim. As if looking for something on the floor on the other side, Ibrahim turns away his face; his hands tremble as he tries to keep the blackened pan steady on the flames.
     "I think it’s quite warm now; do you need some sugar?"
     “Where’s the money?” Rustam says. Ibrahim takes out a bundle of crumpled ten-rupee notes. He wets his thumb with his saliva and starts counting. “I can only give you fifty for now.” He holds five ten rupees notes out to Rustam.
     “Why don’t you keep it for yourself,” Rustam says. “I don’t need money.”
    He picks up the warm pan of milk from the ground.
    “Don’t be angry with me now. Next time I’ll give you much more, I promise.” From the weight of the pan Rustam can tell it’s probably less than a kilo of milk.
    “Do you want some sugar?” Ibrahim asks.
    "I’ll take it to my truck," Rustam says. The warm pan feels good against his belly. "I will bring your pan back. No, I don't want sugar."
    "Promise me you won't ever tell your Ustad.” Ibrahim moves the logs and stares at the flames. His beard shines as it reflects the glow of the fire. A log hisses, sparks fly out of the fire and disappear in midair. "You also don't tell him, that I’ve taken so much milk from you," Rustam says, walking towards the door.
    At the threshold, the dog looks at Rustam curiously as he comes out of the shop holding the pan against his belly. She hops back towards her puppies, and he follows her. From the now crimson horizon, a beam of light shoots across the sky, flooding the air with a warm, golden hue.
    Rustam’s face breaks in a smile. Ustad has promised him a girl in Lahore, at their next stop. Ustad has made advanced arrangements for that. Since he’s grown in size, he’s begun to like girls. “Girls are expensive to get, but I’d get anything for you as long as it makes you happy,” Ustad has told him.
    Rustam knows deep inside that Ustad has been good to him; but he also knows that time has come to be on his own; he knows Ustad is not going to let him go that easy; only if he could get married. Rustam follows the dog, feeling the pleasant warmth spreading over his entire body. With the smile still on his face, he imagines himself lying on top of the naked back of a girl, moving.

    The End

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