Monday, November 06, 2006

Pakistani Identity: Khalid Ahmed's Bullshit!

Khalid Ahmed, the editor of The Friday Times newspaper wrote an interesting piece on "Identity and Intolerance" in Pakistan.

In his piece Khalid contends that Pakistan's identity was fashioned by a selective reading of India's history. The premise of this mythmaking process was to seek out historical icons that could effectively presage the birth of Pakistan, to make the creation of Pakistan seem like a historical eventuality. By cleverly drawing up inward looking leadership in the Muslim community, the makers of Pakistan were able to effectively market their brand of political leadership to some Muslims in India that were worried about the prospect of a Hindu takeover.

Ofcourse, Khalid in true Pakistani form goes on to suggest that this was a mistake. I mean if I had a char anna for every Pakistanis that shurgs and says something was a mistake, I would be the leader of Pakistan. Having said that Khalid goes one step further and argues that the bigger mistake that has since occured in Pakistan is that the state placed empahsis on a single identity, one that excluded other identifications. Okay that may sound like an admission of some sort of error to the untrained, but anyone that has spent a little bit of time with the Pakistanis will tell you Pakistanis have developed a sense of pride in their ability to reject diversity. There a political stream in Pakistan that reflects this exclusivist tendency.

The most ridiculous claims made in this piece are against the person of Shah Waliullah and Shaykh Sirhindi.

Khalid claims that Shaykh Sirhindi tried to appropriate the status of the Prophet. This is a white lie Khalid has pulled out of his Musharraf! There was a criticism of Shaykh Sirhindi, written by a group of scholars from Arabia. The good Shaykh answered all these criticisms and gained tremendous acceptabilty among Muslim orthodoxy, he thus went on to circumsribe the social boundaries of Islam in our part of the world. Ofcourse the Pakistanis with their Arab fetish can't be bothered to deal with the multicultural reality emphasised in the Mujadid Alf-Al Sani's work so they take a reductionist approach to it and pretend that like them the Mujadid was a bigot too. I am seriously debating whether to go and dig out the specific epistle in which the Mujadid answered the charges of apostasy but I wonder what use it will serve when dealing with closed minds.

The claims against Shah Waliullah are even more fantastic. Yes Shah Waliullah had negative things to say about Shiites. Show me one major Sunni aalim who didn't! Shah Waliullah's work is of political significance, it simply says "Muslims" should come together "politically" to preserve their power. It doesn't say anything about integration of diverse strains of belief and eschatology within Islam. The extension of Shah Waliullah's ideas to serve as a basis for treating the Shia as political subversives is something that is a by product of Sunni society in the aftermath of the fall of the Mughal Emperor. The dominance of a farsi speaking Shia elite on the machinery of government in Delhi was seen as a precipitating factor in these terrible events.
The Pakistanis tend to forget after their trips to the desert that only in that peculiar parched segment of Arabia, is the difference between Shias and Sunnis so clear cut, in every other part of the world, the two faiths often too close to tell apart. In essence it is the Pakistanis themselves who have lathered anti-Shia ideas on to what Shah Waliullah said.

Ultimately despite his apparent scathing critique of Pakistani mythmaking, Khalid commits to the same philosophy of abusing history. He reads history selectively himself inorder to obfuscate that "intolerance" was the driving force behind the creation of this very "Pakistani identity".

I guess that is what it means to be Pakistani or perhaps if you ask Khalid, like so many other status conscious types that one meets he too will claim, "Nooooo, originally I am from Khurasaan... ".

I know that the Nazariya Pakistan is no longer a private joke among those that know, it has become a cause for full-fledged public entertainment, but really there are limits to how much shit you can talk about this sort of thing.

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