THINKING ALOUD: Doublespeak and trans-nationalism —Razi Azmi
Whatever Muslims might think, the world is divided into states and people are recognised by their national, not religious, identities. On the list of factors which, in the modern world, bring nations closer or drive them towards hostility, religion undoubtedly comes last
Many Muslims, and not just the ulema, seem to have mastered the art of doublespeak. They speak from both sides of the mouth, as it were, depending on the occasion and the audience.
The most glaring examples of doublespeak are the issues of peaceful coexistence and freedom of religion. The same people who constantly breathe fire on “heretics” and “infidels” and preach jihad against them also keep telling us that Islam is a religion of peace and tolerance. Similarly, they cite the Quranic injunction that there is “no compulsion in religion” at the same time as prescribing death for apostates.
This art of doublespeak, which was first tested after 9/11 in the heat of battle, so to speak, has matured into triplespeak after the London bombings. If we exclude the small group of fanatics who openly proclaim the suicide bombers as martyrs for Islam, most Muslims will argue along the following lines:
First line of defence: there is no proof that the Muslims accused of the London bombings actually carried them out. However, if they did it, they deserve to be condemned. They are not “good Muslims”.
Second line of defence: these youngsters are only reacting to the “mass killings” of fellow Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan by American and British troops.
Third line of defence: the suicide bombings were the result of discrimination against Muslims in Great Britain and the failure of British society to integrate them.
The first contention is not even worthy of rebuttal, but the other two do need reflection. We will start with the last. To blame Muslim “alienation” on British acts of omission and commission is like rubbing salt on Britain’s wound. Muslims are well-known for their refusal to assimilate in any society. Everywhere, they stand apart from the rest, and take pride in their separateness. What better example of that than Pakistan itself, the product of Muslim separatism in India.
Big talk and tall claims notwithstanding, the pathetic ground reality has compelled millions of Muslims from South Asia, Turkey, East Africa and North Africa to migrate to the West in search of a better future, but their reluctance to integrate within the host nations has left them backward. While the governments of these countries spend significant resources on encouraging and assisting Muslims to integrate, they themselves actively work to frustrate those efforts.
Organisations such as Hizb-ut-Tahrir and the Tableeghi Jamaat are at the vanguard of the Muslim determination to resist integration, but they succeed only because the very thought of integration into western society is anathema to ordinary Muslims. They openly admire the West’s material offerings, such as jobs, good salaries, social welfare benefits, education, medical care, etc, while rejecting its values.
In fact, the vast majority of Muslim immigrants in the West have nothing but contempt for the concepts that underpin western society, such as secularism, sovereignty of the people, equality of women, children’s rights, etc. Minority rights, freedom of speech and religion and civil liberties are welcome only insofar as they apply to societies where Muslims are a minority, as in India and the West.
As for the linkage between the London bombings and British policy in Iraq, first of all, there is no “mass killing” of Iraqis by American or British troops as alleged. Sunni insurgents are committing atrocities, in particular against Shias and Kurds, and preventing reconstruction work and the return of normalcy.
We live in an imperfect world where conflicts and wars have been the norm rather than the exception. No country can ever allow a minority to dictate or wield a veto over its foreign policy. Can the Muslims of India, for instance, expect to force their government to adopt a certain policy towards Pakistan or Bangladesh? Conversely, will Pakistan tolerate it if its Hindu minority demanded that Pakistan change policy on Kashmir?
The United States invaded Panama in 1989, arrested its army chief and de facto head of state General Manuel Noriega, flew him in handcuffs to the US, and tried and convicted him to 30 years imprisonment on drug charges in an American court. He now languishes in a jail in Florida.
But none of the millions of Latin American immigrants in the US went on a killing spree to avenge the invasion and such appalling treatment of the de facto head of state of a Latin American nation, or to protest American interference in Nicaragua, El Salvador, Chile and other Latin American countries.
The government of the United Kingdom, headed by Prime Minister Tony Blair, adopted a certain policy towards Iraq that led to invasion and occupation. It allowed the open expression of opposition to this policy by its citizens, white, black and brown, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, agnostic and atheist. An election was recently held, and Blair retained power, albeit with a reduced majority. Would the British government now countenance a bunch of disgruntled British citizens, of foreign origin to boot, holding society hostage in order to force a change in foreign policy?
It gets a bit more interesting when one realises that none of the suicide bombers or the abortive bombers identified so far was of Iraqi, Palestinian or Afghan origin, countries that seem to be the focal points of Muslim concern. In a world of nation-states, what entitles British citizens of Pakistani, West Indian or East African origin to perpetrate terror in UK on behalf of Iraqis? And let us not forget that the killing of nearly 3,000 innocent civilians in the US by 15 Saudis and four Egyptians occurred before the invasion of Iraq or Afghanistan.
Whatever Muslims might think, the world is divided into states and people are recognised by their national, not religious, identities. On the list of factors which, in the modern world, bring nations closer or drive them towards hostility, religion undoubtedly comes last, after military, economic, trade and other core interests. Therefore, for example, Pakistan and Afghanistan, or Algeria and Morocco, or Iran and Iraq, despite being contiguous Muslim countries, are separate states more often hostile than friendly to each other.
Iraq stands out as the Arab country least friendly to Pakistan since 1958, when it repudiated the Baghdad Pact, of which Pakistan was a founding member. The government of Saddam Hussein was particularly unsympathetic to Pakistan. And yet, in apparent sympathy with Iraq, Pakistanis are filled with rage against the US and UK, both of which have done much over the years to assist Pakistan.
Trans-nationalism or supra-nationalism, now confined to Muslims in the concept of the ummah, can be a dangerous double-edged sword that cuts both ways. Mercifully, the rest of the world does not divide itself according to religious denomination, not yet at any rate.
God forbid, if Christians, Hindus and Buddhists, too, begin to identify and organise themselves along religious lines, all hell will break loose. We might have Thai suicide bombers blowing themselves up in, say, a Kuala Lumpur bus to avenge the destruction of the famed Buddha statues of Bamyan in Afghanistan. Or a bunch of Philippino Christians might have gone on a killing spree in Dubai, for example, to protest the Indonesian military’s massacre of East Timorese Christians in Dili in 1991.
The writer can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org