Second opinion: The question of ‘interference’ —Khaled Ahmed’s TV Review
The unofficial organisations that frame their own foreign policies and then go ahead and enforce them and are tacitly supported by the OIC states indirectly involve the OIC in terrorism. There is some evidence that such organisations do exist
We expect a lot from the OIC. Should it be inward-looking, attempting to improve the quality of the Islamic world in terms of economic welfare and education? Or should it strike out and try and stop the injustices which the Muslims think are being perpetrated by others on the Islamic masses? For anything that we want to do collectively, we must first have cohesion within the OIC. We must stop the funding going to the Islamic organisations who then ‘interfere’ in other states. Those who fund the OIC at times also fund these organisations.
Geo TV (26 October 2003) in its Foreign Affairs programme discussed the OIC with Jamaat Islami’s Munawwar Hassan, PPP’s Iqbal Haider, scholar Hassan-Askari Rizvi and ex-ambassador Mehdi Hassan. Hassan Askari Rizvi set the ball rolling by stating that the OIC could not do more than it was doing, that it was all right for running the ‘umma’ but not for running the policies of the different countries included in it. He said that there could be a meeting of the minds at the level of thinking (fikri) but no interference in different parts of the world (taang arana) was good for the OIC. Then he said something very significant: political organisations within the Islamic world should not make their own foreign policies at times different from the official one and at other times tacitly supported by the states. Munawwar Hassan said that the governments in the OIC were flatterers (kasa-lais) and the pocket watch (jaib ki ghari) of the West and America; that was why jihad was fought in the private sector. Iqbal Haider questioned the founding principle of the OIC and said why was the OIC alone a religion-based international organisation (derh eent ki masjid)? Was it to scare the rest of the world? Mehdi Masood denied that members of the OIC interfered in any foreign matter. He said the Muslims states were all slaves and deserved to be together in the OIC on the basis of their common colonial experience. Munawwar Hassan protested that in Islam politics and religion were indivisible, therefore, the OIC was right. Mehdi Masood insisted that the OIC should not fight other blocs but should use the weapon of economic embargo. Iqbal Haider said will the OIC break off relations with India if Pakistan told the Islamic states to do so? He recommended that it was more politically beneficial to improve relations with India than consolidate the OIC on the basis of Islam. Munawwar Hassan opposed normalising relations with India and condemned the American invasion of Afghanistan which he blamed on Pakistan because Islamabad had given in to the Americans without consulting the people of Pakistan.
The point raised by Prof Rizvi is very significant and not often highlighted. We know that the OIC is official, but the interference that we point to is not. How can the OIC be blamed for something that happens privately? Rizvi says OIC states have apparently private organisations that frame their own policies and then go ahead and enforce them by interfering within the territorial space of other states. The policies thus enforced become official because the OIC states are seen tacitly supporting these organisations. This observation has many dangerous implications within the framework of new laws being enacted against international terrorism. The unofficial organisations that frame their own foreign policies and then go ahead and enforce them and are tacitly supported by the OIC states indirectly involve the OIC in terrorism. There is some evidence that such organisations do exist. In the case of Pakistan, just one example would do. Let’s take a look at the Harkat al-Jahad al-Islami, Pakistan’s biggest jihadi militia headquartered in Kandahar before it was scattered by the Americans. The Harkat was one of the militias boasting international linkages. It called itself ‘the second line of defence of all Muslim states’ and was active in Arakan in Burma, and Bangladesh, with well organised seminaries in Karachi, and Chechnya, Sinkiang, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. Its fund-raising was largely from Pakistan, but an additional source was its activity of selling weapons to other militias. Its acceptance among the Taliban was owed to its early allegiance to a leader of the Afghan war, Maulvi Nabi Muhammadi and his Harkat Inqilab Islami whose fighters became a part of the Taliban forces in large numbers. The leader of Harkat al-Jahad al-Islami in Uzbekistan was Sheikh Muhammad Tahir al-Farooq. Twenty-seven of its fighters were killed in the battle against the Uzbek president Islam Karimov, as explained in the Islamabad-based journal ‘Al-Irshad’. Starting in 1990, the war against Uzbekistan was bloody and was supported by the Taliban, till in 2001, the commander had to ask the Pakistanis in Uzbekistan to return to base. In Chechnya, the war against the Russians was carried on under the leadership of commander Hidayatullah.
Geo TV (26 October 2003) had social psychologist Arif Hassan discussing Pakistani culture. He said no culture was possible under religious indoctrination, which was based on the inculcation of cultural megalomania and paranoia. He said under this exaggerated self-image and fear of the outside world it was impossible to think of culture or allow it. He said people were being told that there was no one like Pakistan in the world but there was no one in the world who liked Pakistan.
The observation of Mr Hassan is apt and is a rare insight in a society that has stopped looking at itself objectively. In proportion as Pakistan’s image abroad declines, the braggadocio of ‘Islamic culture’ swells the breast of our nation. All negative elements in our society are brushed under the carpet by statements published regularly in the press saying all we have to do is follow the Quran and Sunnah and, since we are not doing that, we have come to this sorry pass. This is the sign of a stagnating society. No one is able to understand why society has declined in culture and mortality along with the phenomenal increase in the power of the clergy and the proliferation of overcrowded mosques. Gujranwala is the single city in Pakistan where culture is under attack from religion; it is also the city which is contributing the largest number of citizens to the illegal exodus from Pakistan. In the recent stream of illegal ‘returnees’ from the Gulf, Turkey and Sri Lanka, the largest number were from the most religious city of Pakistan, Gujranwala, where they lock up musicians and artistes in the name of Islam. *