Disagreement with the opinions articulated in an exclusive Pakistan Paindabad interview.
By Syed Kamran Safdar
[The author is a teacher at the University of Engineering and Technology in Taxila, Pakistan. The picture is by him.]
Mayank Austen Soofi's interview with Pakistani columnist Ishtiaq Ahmed was thought-provoking.
Mr. Ahmed's views on Pakistan, Musharraf and Islam are interesting but I disagree with them. At one place he unfairly compared hijab controversy to Sati, putting dress code and an ancient suicide practice at par! What next? Will ritual slaughter of sacrificial animals come under fire too?
I do not think there was much of an issue regarding hijab and beards in the pre-9/11 world. Now every bearded Muslim living in Europe or USA feels unprotected. In fact, many Pakistani men applying for visas find it judicious to go for a clean shave before appearing for appointments in the American embassy.
I agree with Mr. Ahmed when he says that "hijab was never a problem in the West until the Islamists started using it politically." True, some Muslim groups in Western Europe have used the veil as a needlessly divisive issue but the governments there should have handled it more diplomatically. They should have allowed the women to exercise the freedom of choice. Imposing restrictions surely won't make them secular. The controversy has only put the so-called liberal societies in a poor light. Always projected as educated, modern and secular, the West has in fact ended up looking quite prejudiced.
Mr. Ahmed later went on to praise President Pervez Musharraf for making an "effort to save Pakistan going down the drain into the filth of fundamentalism." I differ from his assessment. Living in a small town in Pakistan, I know the ground realities. The so-called enlightened moderation led by the General is only limited to newspapers. No serious policy has been launched to bring a change in the society. Our President is actually concentrating all his energy in pleasing the western masters.
While reading the interview, I also had a problem with Mr. Ahmed's "filth of fundamentalism" comment. Is fundamentalism really a problem? Followers of every religion are fundamentalist as long they are holding on to their faith. Jews are fundamentalist and so are the Christians. So, what is wrong in being a Muslim fundamentalist?
The truth is that the whole issue of Islamist extremism is a result of unfair treatment of the people in the Middle East and other Muslim countries, by the West, for decades.
Did the West not first colonize us and exploit our resources for its own benefits? Did it not later leave the place hastily leaving the control to bandits masquerading as kings and shahs? Do these western powers now not support dictators in Muslim countries? Were they not the ones who armed the Jehadis first?
I'm a Pakistani, a Muslim man without a beard, and I demand answers.