The story of Majid Nawaz

Note: What follows is by Majid Nawaz himself and was published in Guardian.

Ten years ago, I was sent from Britain by a global Islamist group to recruit in Pakistan. Stepping off the plane in Lahore, I slowly breathed in the scene around me. With minarets and azans almost like background props and mood music, the Muslims I saw in every direction whetted my appetite for revolution. We were going to radicalise the country and foment a military coup against the democratically elected “client” ruler, Nawaz Sharif. I was 21 years old. I was part of a vanguard to set up a Pakistani branch of Hizb ut Tahrir (HT), so that their future caliphate could go nuclear. Nothing was going to get in my way. Nothing did.

Ten years on (during which I spent five years as a prisoner of conscience in Egypt), I recently returned. I had left HT and recanted Islamism. I was back, determined to reverse some of the Islamist fever I had helped instil. Whereas in 1999 Pakistanis thought my wife and I were Arabs due to her “Egyptian” headscarf, now rumours were rife about acid attacks on women walking the streets uncovered. I was older, wiser and smarter. This time, the revolution would be against Islamist hegemony.

I was on a four-week, nationwide university tour to speak against Islamism and to urge students towards pluralistic, democratic values. Contrary to western mythology, Islamist radicals are found among the educated, the elite and the socially mobile. Yes, a minority of Pakistani madrasas provide an ample supply of jihadists, but the ideologues are smart and modern.

Bin Laden, Zawahiri or, indeed, the many pseudo-intellectuals of HT are highly educated and socially mobile. Many madrasas are simply antiquated religious schools belonging to the conservative but apolitical Barelvis, Pakistan’s majority religious denomination. Jihadists despise this faction. Nine days ago, a jihadist blew himself up in a Pakistani mosque, murdering the leader of the Barelvis, Dr Sarfraz Naeemi. The poor are simply used as jihadist cannon fodder.

Thus it was that we began in Karachi and worked our way around the country. We ventured deep into the deserts of interior Sindh and then across into the turbulent outback of Quetta, Balochistan, where the Taliban and al-Qaida fighters are said to be headquartered. From there, we crossed into the Punjab, ascended into Kashmir and then finally up to Islamabad. In our flak jackets, with a security detail in tow, we addressed thousands of students.

In Quetta, armed separatist students threatened to shoot anyone coming to the talk. Their gripe was with the Pakistani government from which they wanted independence. Like so many things in Pakistan, our role in this was eventually settled over a cup of “chai”.

My first real taste of the diversity that is Pakistan came here. I met popular revolutionaries who despised Islamists, yet wanted to secede, in some cases by violence, from Pakistan and “Punjabi hegemony”. They began their speeches in the name of Allah, but ended with: “Death to Pakistan.” They blamed the “Punjabi” government squarely for the ills of jihadism. Destroying Pakistan was not exactly on my agenda.

Pakistan and its problems are not monolithic and are not all related to Islamism. Corruption, ethnic and economic factors and a lack of leadership all play out differently in each province. I found the people of Sindh to be hugely sympathetic to our message. Conversely, the people of Mirpur, in “free” Kashmir, from where more than 90% of British Pakistanis come, and where sterling is a currency of choice, were hostile to the west. It was in Punjab where I found most of the denial culture. The west was to blame for everything, including sending me as an agent to set up HT in Pakistan and then as an agent trying to push back HT. You see, the trouble with conspiracy theories is that they were invented by the infidel west to stop Muslims thinking.

In Lahore, I was attacked by a British member of HT. He, like many others, had left the UK to recruit vulnerable Pakistani students. He was also a teacher at a private university. After this attack, we started receiving death threats. Our security advised us to cancel the rest of the tour. We chose to carry on.

It is true that Pakistan has exported its fair share of Jamaat-e-Islami Islamists and pro-Taliban jihadists to British shores. Many Pakistanis are in denial about the role their country has played in the growth of Islamism and jihadism. When we pushed them, however, most acknowledged the rise of the “religious right”. Denial is never a good thing when trying to solve a problem.

Here in the UK, after the release without charge of the 12 Pakistani student terrorism suspects, we could do with a dose of truth serum too. During the rise of British Islamism in the 1990s, HT was exported to Pakistan from Britain by the likes of me. In London, in 2000, I met Sandhurst-trained Pakistani officers who had been recruited from here and were being sent back to Pakistan to instigate a military coup.

The man who physically attacked me was a British citizen who joined HT in the UK. British members of HT also played crucial roles in exporting their group to Indonesia, Malaysia, Kenya, Mauritius, India, Egypt and Denmark, among others. I know because in each case I know the people who did it. Only when the people and governments of Britain and Pakistan take responsibility for the rot on their doorsteps can we start moving seriously towards solutions for the problem of extremism.

Our tour was partly to initiate such a thought process. By showing people that one does not have to be against Islam to be against Islamism, we hope to resolve the moral dilemma that many face.

Military means can only ever be a stop-gap. As the near Taliban takeover in the northern regions of Pakistan showed, if civil society cannot segregate the masses from Islamists, then American drone attacks will be the least of our worries.

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I’m alive

I dont make ‘update’ posts on this blog anymore..why? A lot of you know why, if you dont then dont ask just go through the archives and try to find it out yourself. Kuch kaam bhi tou kero! šŸ˜›

But this one was kinda needed as I havent been responding to a lot of comments. So here goes the update on my life:

I am Alhamdulillah done with my paper and have submitted it too. Currently working on the next which is kinda a continuation of the first. I have a maximum of 45 to 60 days to wind this up so its kinda really tight. It also means I might not be very frequently updating the blog for a while more. But its not only about time. Im being too lazy and I dont know why I dont feel like blogging these days and as you might have noticed I am not visiting other blogs too much either.

Apart from that I have been arranging events every 3 to 4 weeks at work as usual. If I could work here a lil while more IĀ  might have thought of having my own Events Management Company in a few years from now….but hey, I think I can still manage a few events every now and then, especially the low budget ones cuz thats wat I have been trained to do in the past two years šŸ˜‰

Other than that…well just the usual: dinners, weddings, reading and what not. Oh here’s a funny incident…which aint exactly very funny, its kinda sad but just wanted to share it with everyone.

You guys might already know that I dont like going to weddings. Especially the ones where I practically dont know anyone. Food simply cant be an incentive as I am almost vegetarian. So, when I do have to go to such weddings, I try to avoid as much as I can. But, if it becomes utmost important, I end up going in a casual cotton suit.

So, I went to one such wedding last night and I was pretty much amused by one particular woman in her 50s who was sitting beside me the whole time. When I went and sat beside her, she stared at me from head to toe. I knew she was noticing the dupatta on my head. After a while, she started talking to me as if she had known me for ages…discussing other people’s dressing! Now, I do notice what others are wearing but I make it a point that I do not make fun of them because sense of dressing is something very personal. What I love wearing must be a complete fashion disaster for others.

Her: Oh, look at that girl in beige. Just notice the kaam on her sleeves. Its so gaudy.
Me: (I tried to smile) Yea, but I think she’s carrying it off well
Her: And the girl right beside her, she’s not wearing a dupatta!
Me: She’s wearing a huge scarf wrapped all around. Isnt that good enough.
Her: But still. I dont know whats wrong with girls these days.
Me: Ummm…but isnt her shirt really loose? And the scarf is covering her body quite well.
Her: So what? She should wear a dupatta.

After a while

Her: Did you see that girl in capris?
Me: Who? That one in pink with silver kaam?
Her: Yes, looking lovely.

So, a girl wearing capris with a really tight shirt and dupatta just barely there is looking lovely while a girl whose wearing a loose shirt with a scarf all around her head and body is not modestly dressed!

We chatted a lil while more and, lo and behold, we were soon talking about progress.

Her: You know, all of a sudden you can see women shaking hands with men at office, wearing sleeveless and all. People have become far more progressive now.
Me: Err…(thats progress? Thats wat women want? Really? I must be one of those near extinction then.)

She surely was quite entertaining. I hope I dont see her again.

Btw, what is the first thing that crosses your mind wen you see a hijabi?

Do more

Continued from the previous post. Obviously wat follows is merely my opinion based on wat I have read, seen and gone through. It will be a bit random as I am only trying to put everything in one single post.

After the death of the Prophet (SAW), the time of the Caliphate of Hazrat Omar (RA) is usually deemed to be the time wen the maqasid of sharia were being achieved although a lot of people had (and still have) reservations. Obviously, the best time has to be that of the Khulfa-e-rashideen but the other three Khulfa had to deal with many civil wars during their eras and most of the time we forget talking about their reforms and ‘good governance’. Since then, there has been no muslim ruler (Hazrat Omar (RA) hated to be called a ruler, he preferred the modest Ameer-ul-momineen) who has been able to achieve even a fraction of that.

Today, as we see the world, it is a shame that it is in fact the Scandinavian countries that come close to achieving the maqasid of sharia. Obviously they have laws that permit vulagrity, illegitimate live-in couples and so on so forth but they value life and the government protects their right to be allowed to practice the religion they belong to, to get free education, to get opportunities of employment and to get their wealth and property protected (arsonists dont go around burning other people’s property there).

Challenging the writ of the State

Soon after the death of the Prophet (SAW), the Ridda Wars broke out because Hazrat Abu Bakar Siddiq’s (RA) Caliphate was not accepted and the writ of the State was challenged. The issue got so heated up that there was no option but to go on war.

Although there were lot more misunderstandings in the coming years, the writ of the state was once again challenged in a brutal way during Jang-e-Siffin by a group of people who were known to be very pious Muslims but in fact ended up calling Hazrat Ali (RA) kafir. This whole issue led to Jang-e-Neherwan and later shahadat of Hazrat Ali (RA).

Today, the writ of the state is being challenged in the worst manner. I dont like the government and it is their mistakes that its all come so far.

It is important to understand that everyone sporting a beard is not someone who has the authority to implement a sharia. The Prophet (SAW) has very clearly talked about such people: “There would be a group of people among you who would recite the Book but it will not go beyond their throats, they would pass through teachings of the Deen as an arrow passes through the prey. They would kill the followers of Islam and spare the idol-worshippers.” [Sahih Muslim]

Zaid Hamid on Operation Rah-e-Haq

PS: I am not a Zaid Hamid fan and I do not necessarily agree with everything that he says but I think he has summed it up quite well in the video

Maqasid al-Sharia

Ibn-e-Maryam hua kare koi
Mere dukh ki dawa kare koi

I know I am bad with the shairi thing and most probably I have gotten the shair above wrong, apologies for that, but thats not the point of the post. The point of the post is to talk about the self-proclaimed sualiheen aka holy beings aka messiahs aka Talibans.

But before talking about Taliban and whether we like em, support em or not, i think its important to understand what the buzz word, Sharia, is all about.

Now this will obviously be a summary and/or an introduction to the topic and will not include a lot of minute details.

Sharia

The word Sharia itself has been used only once in the Qur’an [45:18] and can literally be translated to mean ‘way’ or ‘path.’ It is the legal framework (based on fiqh) for the private and public lives of Muslims providing laws for politics, economics, family, hygiene and several social issues. (Do read The Comparison with the Common Law here)

The objectives of Sharia

The law was basically developed for the falah of the people, both in this world and in the hereafter and thus include all aspects of life.

  1. Protection of Religion: To protect the freedom of practicing religion, specifically the 5 basic pillars of Islam. To provide basic health facilities so as to enable all to undertake activities of physical ibadat (includes marriage at appropriate age) and help people in earning halal rizq.
  2. Protection of Life: To promote meditation through salaat (mental relaxation) and physical health through medical facilities and exercise. Family health to be protected through laws on quarantines during epidemics and the isolation of persons with contagious disease. This category also includes laws of revenge, qisas andhomicide.
  3. Protection of Progeny: To provide medical facilities to the females to ensure a healthier society. This category also includes the laws related to marriage (the contract itself), divorce, custody of children, adoption, inheritance and also illegitimate relationships (zina) and the children that might be born as a result of such relationships.
  4. Protection of The Mind: To provide services that would provide mental peace and laws that keep people away from alcohol, drugs and other addictive habits. This may include a lot of laws that govern the economical condition of the society (poor economic condition can lead to mental imbalance) and false accusations.
  5. Protection of Wealth: To facilitate people in ensuring proper usage of their zakaat. This category also includes laws about financial independence of women and regulations about property, trade, preservation of property rights and the punishments for stealing.

Do we know of a country that protects religion, life, progeny, mind and wealth?

Weapons of Mass Destruction II

Just a quick post.

I have been thinking of writing a post on my opinion on Talibans and how I view them…Here are two posts that I think have been very well written and although might not be depicting my view completely, they come really close. I do not necessarily agree with each and everything in these posts.

  1. The first one is by minerva and is just based on her FB updates and her conversation with someone on FB.
  2. The second one comes from across the border and looks at the Pashtuns, their roots, culture and how the Talibans used that for their advantage.

Weapons of Mass Destruction

I am sorry folks, I am still not being able to respond to the comments that you guys are leaving on my blog….busy with some stuff which I would talk about once I get back to blogging.

Right now, I just wanted to share something which I think is not only worth reading but also worth contributing to.

Heart Attack(ed)?

Less than 4 weeks back, the Sri Lankan team came under attack in a city which is commonly known to be the ‘heart’ of Pakistan. Sadly, not a single terrorist was captured or killed and they were all successful in escaping without a single injury. Obviously, the consequences could have been worse if any Sri Lankan player had been killed or had they been able to perhaps take some part of the city hostage but now it seems they have come back to finish the job: 10-12 young armed men, dressed in police uniform, have taken control of a Police Academy (!!) in the ‘heart’ of Pakistan.

Right now, as I type this, my fingers seem to have frozen and my mind is completely blank. The timing could just never be worse for an attack of this magnitude….a time wen Obama has started clearly accusing Pakistan for not doing enough against terrorism, wen “American generals have turned their guns on Pakistan, accusing elements of its main intelligence agency, the ISI, of supporting Taliban and al-Qaeda militants [Source]” and wen India has been able to provide quite a few proofs against certain Pakistanis in relation to the 26/11 attack on Mumbai. Meanwhile, we havent had any success in proving anything against anyone at all in relation to the 3/3 attacks.

P.S: Do have a look at this…dont blame me if it angers you.

EDIT: The comments on this post made me think of putting up a poll. If there’s something that we think we can do, we should start doing it straightaway