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Thursday, April 16, 2009

Beyond the Flogging-Video Debate

Lo and behold. Nizaamé Adl has arrived in at least one part of the country - and promises (threatens - if you do not agree with this version) to come soon to a location near you.

It's no longer, then, just the matter of a debate between blogger Sabizak, who responded strongly and sensibly to what was probably the Urdu version of an email from Anila Weldon that has been doing the usual rounds. Read them both, if you haven't already.
My only comment on AW's email - since Sabizak and many others have already responded to most of this and similar views - is about the line that says "Nowhere in the world does one react to a video specially the one made on a handy camera..."

Hmmmm. Really, Anila? Remember Rodney King?
The debate has raged much more widely for the past few days on every conceivable electronic and print forum. Even Taliban spokesmen (no point in ever using 'spokespersons' in their context!) seem confused. Appearing on different TV channels they - (and even the same person on different occasions) - alternately share the views held by Anila and others who feel that the video is fake and, in other interviews, defiantly stand their ground and defend the flogging.

A senior Tehreeké Taliban leader, Muslim Khan sahab, not only did not consider challenging the authenticity of the video but also went so far as to say that the girl was lucky she was only flogged because of insufficient evidence!!! Had full proof been available, she would have been stoned. Watch his interview.

This is definitely a first! I've never heard that under any system - much less under one that aligns itself with a divinely inspired one - an unproven crime, gets a reduced sentence. Will the new spate of Qazis make statements like, "Err .. we can't prove theft, but, hmmm,  the guy kinda does look suspicious. I'd say let's just get his pinkie this time." - ?

The same maulana, in the opening statement of the above linked video, also criticizes the way the punishment was given, because it was meted out in full public view and not inside the house. Soddy Arabians would beg to differ. They stone to death or behead in public, based on the Qurãnic injunction quoted in an interview by journalist Ansar Abbasi that says people must view the punishment.
"My own take is that if the video is fake, the creators certainly went through a lot of unnecessary trouble staging this episode and then left mistakes in! Not the kind of thing proper film makers and editors are likely to slip up on, I imagine. I mean this has to be professional work, na? It couldn't be an amateur effort: Who'd pay for the 'extras' ... all those people, including kids, standing around? I am surprised all the critics missed out on the possibility of there being a man under that bürqa. Or is that only done when an escape is desired?

I know for a fact, as do you, that this kind of thing happens in real life all the time in areas under the Taliban … and much worse happens in Soddy Arabia in full public view. There is no restriction on filming it, nor should there be - after all the perpetrators are not ashamed but are actually proud of following what they think is Sharea or Islam."
I, therefore, choose to stand by the following paragraph that appears at the end of NYT's editorial:
"Many Pakistanis have wasted their time decrying the video as a conspiracy intended to defame Islam and Pakistan. They should be demanding that the army — Pakistan’s strongest and most functional institution — defend against an insurgency that increasingly threatens the state. Like their military and political leaders, Pakistan’s people are in a pernicious state of denial about where the real danger lies."
Of course, it may already be too late. Threats to women activists have begun in more earnest than before, forcing some to retreat to safer spaces. Threats to women on the street have increased. People are already being jailed for not praying according to one news report on TV. (My friend, Dr. Shamim, an earnest Muslim, wonders if prayers uttered under the threat of jails are earnest and will be heard by God.)

The Lal Masjid cleric has been released on bail and - if things go the way they seem to be headed (that's two words!) - will soon be free to continue his nefarious activities with impunity.

Education - deemed essential to a country's future - is in a state of shambles in Talibanized areas and under threat everywhere. After razing 200 schools in one part of the country alone - and not just girls' schools that they claim to be a westernized idea - several schools in major cities have been given warnings.

The Taliban, as I glean from hearing some of them on TV, believe that the only education that Muslims (read 'men') need to undergo for a better life is an Islamic education. This seems to be at odds with the oft quoted hadees ('Go as far as China to seek knowledge'). For one, I do not see any mention of this being addressed to males, alone. For another, the Prophet was obviously suggesting that his followers study a lot more than just religious tomes. Unless China had an Islamic University at that time to which we were supposed to trek. 

All religious schools of thought, other than the Talibani view, are targeted, too, making it unsafe even to profess Islam as your religion in this Islamic state. Shias (Pervez Hoodbhoy, during his recent talk in Karachi, displayed images of Taliban atrocities against this sect according to Bina Shah who was present) have been a regular target. Now even Sunni followers of Sufism are being targeted, forcing them to adopt positions of violence at complete odds with their peaceful beliefs, as one can see from this frightening report that Abu Dhabi's The National carried today:
The puritan Takfiri ideology adopted by the Pakistani Taliban militants has repeatedly brought them to conflict with gaddi nashin, the descendants of Sufi saints who yield great political power in Pakistan.

Their ranks include Yusaf Raza Gilani, the Pakistani prime minister, and Shah Mehmood Qureshi, the foreign minister.

To date, the conflict has been limited to gaddi nashin in the Khyber tribal agency, to the east of Peshawar, and Swat.

The commander of Lashkar-i-Islami, Mangal Bagh, had last year expelled Pir Saif-ur-Rehman, a gaddi nashin, after their followers fought armed battles. He now lives in exile in central Punjab province.

Lashkar-i-Islami continues to clash with followers of Noor-ul-Haq Qadri, another leader of Sufi followers in the Khyber Agency who has been appointed a junior minister in the federal cabinet.

The Swat Taliban faced their stiffest resistance from Pir Samiullah, a gaddi nashin who had formed a militia of followers and killed about 100 militants. He was shot dead in December in a battle with the Taliban, after army units called in for support went to the wrong location.

His corpse was exhumed by militants and put on display at the main square of Mingora, the capital of Swat region, to be buried later at an undisclosed location.
Will the Taliban win?

Certainly not the hearts and souls of most Pakistanis (even in Swat they have genuin-ish support from less than a quarter of the population - though it is seen as increasing in %age as people escape from there and the demographics change).

But, yes, they could rule through threats and the force of guns. After all our own military has done so over the same population for years.

My latest T-Shirt reads: Anyone for Nizaamé Aql?

PS: Adil, for a small royalty you can go ahead! ;-)

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Anonymous Anees said...

In a nutshell "Nizaame Aql" says all.

16 April, 2009 14:34

Blogger sarah islam said...

The level of debate has really plummeted in the past few years.


How can a bunch of educated people fall pray to this? I am speechless.

What is it that makes Muslim so afraid to challenge this medieval mindset?

16 April, 2009 14:59

Anonymous Anonymous said...

@sarah islam: did not quite catch the reason for your providing the same link in comments that zackintosh provided in his post unless you make a mistake and were giving another link?

16 April, 2009 20:27

Blogger Zakintosh said...

in case people are wondering, I was addressing adil moosajee of EGO. of course, the offer is open to Daku T-Shirts as well ;-)

It's gonna be a best-seller, but a word of advice:make it bullet-proof!

16 April, 2009 20:32

Blogger sarah islam said...

Sorry about that. I have misplaced that link. I will dig it up again and post it. Sorry again

17 April, 2009 01:45

Anonymous Jehan said...

When a country bows to the demands of people who go about terrorizing others through violence, it makes a big mistake. It is still not too late to back down from the decision they have made, and insist on the writ of the state. Let the newly freed judiciary deal with issues of justice.

Hmmm ... maybe not! I must say I don't have much faith in a Supreme court that lets out an infamous maulana on bail when he has over two dozen cases still pending against him, some of which are terrorism cases. And he is even allowed to go back to the scene of the crime where he and his brother were responsible for violence of a kind that Islamabad had never seen. He is even allowed to address a gathering of his supporters where he says that Sharia will spread throughout Pakistan - either peacefully or through violence if necessary.

The video was not a fake - and even if this particular one was - are we saying these kind of things have not, or do not happen, in those areas. Who are we kidding? Women should lead a long march against the kind of physical and emotional abuse they suffer under the guise of religion and culture in this country.

17 April, 2009 08:27

Blogger Bystander said...

Hey I want a nizame aql t-shirt also :)

17 April, 2009 14:57

Anonymous Jehan said...

I had a scary encounter today. I was at AKUH with a group of people (men, women, young and old)- normal citizens who are otherwise peace-loving people. Can you imagine my horror when I heard them discussing how to purchase weapons and get licenses for them. I expressed my strong resistence and told them that it was stupid of them to even think about this, but they insisted that, with the way things were going, they felt they needed to be sure they could protect themselves and their loved ones. This is really worrying. We need disarmament- not increased armament.

17 April, 2009 20:10

Anonymous Tehseen Baweja said...

@Jehan and @ Zakintosh

I admit that even if the video is fake, the problem exists. But, why suddenly bring up a video and do so much propaganda. Like Dr. Shahid Masood said in his program that there are much more extreme videos of that region, even videos where little kids are being butchered, why make such a HUGE fuss about this particular one?

Call me a conspiracy theorist but isn't this issue been popularized globally so US would have more and more reasons to enter Pakistan to liberate us from Talibanization.

I don't know if any of you are looking at some Western Newspapers and TV Channels but Pakistan is definitely being portrayed pretty badly.

I learnt my lesson about the "abuse of media" from a personal experience. A few days after 9/11, I was watching MSNBC here and the reporter was down in Peshawar talking to a bunch of kids. Now since I understand both Urdu and English, I could hear what the kids were saying in urdu and what the reporter was saying.

A 10-12 year old kid was asked "Tumharay khayal main yeh Osama ne kia hey"?

It was translated in English as "Do you think Osama has done this"?

The kid answered "Osama acha insaan hey, woh aisa nahin kar sakta".

It was translated as "Even if Osama has done this, we still love him".

Now unless I really really suck in translating Urdu to English, it was clear to me what the intent is.

That was the day I started looking at media with a questioning mind.

17 April, 2009 22:56

Blogger Zakintosh said...

@tehseen baweja (and the doctor)

"there are much more extreme videos of that region, even videos where little kids are being butchered, why make such a HUGE fuss about this particular one"

dunno why the others are making a fuss. i'll tell you why i am:

kids being butchered upsets all except the insane. so we need to remind no one that it's a loathtful and barbaric act. such horrendous acts against women, for various reasons - chauvinism, male bonding, sexism, control politics, and more - get fewer people screaming. hence such crimes against 50% of the population need to be highlighted and made the subject of protests and discussions. have you ever wondered why people fight, justifiably, for the rights of real minorities and ignore the marginalized treatment of half the population that gets twice its share of crap? have you ever thought about the women of a minority group, rendered powerless for being a minority by others and for being a woman within their own community.

shahid masood would not even begin to understand the issue ... but i do hope YOU will.

18 April, 2009 18:37

Anonymous Tehseen Baweja said...


I agree with you and that has never been my objection. I admit that there is a problem and it needs to be solved. My point is "Why give it such exaggerated exposure in the international media?"

And if somebody thinks that this issue is not being blown out of proportion, they need to come out of their caves.

18 April, 2009 19:39

Blogger Zakintosh said...

well i certainly don't live in a cave, tehseen, and do not think that that is the case of most of the readers of this post unless osama & co are among my fans.

i do think, however, that it is being blown just as out of proportion in the international media as all things are re hindu-zionist-martian conspiracies in our vernacular press. the international media just has a larger footprint and gets more visibility, winning the propaganda wars. also, they are not likely to be watching zaid hamid, but our ppl do watch cnn/fox/etc and may therefore be more aware of the distortions taking place there.

18 April, 2009 20:01

Anonymous sabizak said...

@Tehseen: Just because those barbaric deeds went unnoticed, does that mean that we should allow others that follow it to go unnoticed too? Since the media was negligent and did not kick up a fuss over the butchering of kids at ONE point in time, let it now keep its silence for the rest of eternity! Good logic.

And Shahid Masood! Bah! Isn't he the lunatic with all the doomsday theories? Are we supposed to take him seriously now?

19 April, 2009 00:04

Anonymous Nuzti from Toronto said...

My response to Tehseen is that the situation is so dire today, is because no one had the courage to shine a light on these criminal acts against women perpetrated in the name of religion. Yes incidents like these did happen before and nobody cared. But now you need to care and raise your voice against it as loudly as you can or it will happen to you (and I don't mean that literally). That a woman can be treated in this manner and in this day and age by a bunch of men (perpetrators and spectators included) is unbelievable and it makes no difference whether the event happened yesterday, today or a few months ago. It is still a criminal act.

As for the views of the windbag Shahid Masood , I would not trust anything that he says, he has no credibility!
In my conversation with one of my journalist colleague, I found out that the big media organization sat on the video for three days, not taking any action till the story was broken by a small network and then they ran with it. Yes the media exposure has its perils but one cannot hide behind that excuse. It is only when we shine a light on evil behaviour (all kinds) can some push back happen. Otherwise these people will continue their heinous crimes and now under the garb of Nizame Adl! Who appointed these people as nazims of morality?

I have been out of Pakistan for the last 30 years (visiting off and on) and much has changed -for the worse I believe! I am an educator by profession and during my meeting with my staff the week of the release of the video, all my staff wanted to know was if I grew up in that kind of environment. And when I explained to them that from Kg to my B.A. I grew up with nuns wearing the habit who loved and cared for me like I was their daughter, that we played amongst the pews of the cathedral beside our school; that I studied in a co-ed university and then went to work in the Dawn newspaper as one of the two female staff members ( Razia Bondrey being the other one) and now there are many many females working in a variety of male dominated fields they were truly amazed! Their question "And they are not scared? I told them "sure they are, this is a Pakistan that I do not even recognize, sad to say!"

19 April, 2009 07:08

Anonymous Tehseen Baweja said...

I am not sure how else to explain so I rest my case :)

May be the way I am seeing the TV channels here and reading the newspapers here is different than what people sitting in Pakistan or Toronto are seeing. Nowadays, even if a pin drops in Pakistan, the media here talks about it like the world has turned upside down.

I am in favor of stopping all the fundies and highlighting these kinds of issues, but we don't need to blow it out of proportion so our international image keeps deterioratring.

May be I feel it more because each time that I go through US immigration, I get the special treatment for having a Pakistani passport.

19 April, 2009 22:29

Blogger Neena said...

Tehseen history showed it is always one significant event which turn the course of society in right direction. If it is the conspiracy theory by some "Juice" then let it be a sign for us to bring a change for better.

20 April, 2009 04:19


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