The way it was: Vision of a new ummah

Mian Ijaz Ul Hassan

“Muslim” countries pursue their own respective state interests. An ummah run by the clerics as a theocracy with Samuel Huntington as their Caliph is the last thing, which the Muslims of the world deserve or need

I am one of those who saw Pakistan’s birth. I belong to the generation, which was later raised on clichés and fabrications. Clichés can sometimes be useful in communicating common ideas and mundane feelings. Fabrications, even small lies, are forgivable if frugally employed to avoid hurting a friend or encouraging someone on to do right. But to make lies state policy is an irredeemable offence. This is precisely what we have been guilty of, these fifty-plus years.

The clergy soon challenged Jinnah’s concept of Pakistan as a secular state, interpreting “secular” to be “godless”. The clerics who had opposed Pakistan’s creation became its ideologues. By the time of President General Yahya Khan, the concept of Islamic ideology was introduced. General Sher Ali, then information minister, introduced the concept of “ideological frontiers”. Defending the ideological frontiers was equally if not more important than defending the physical frontiers. This explains why governments, especially authoritarian government spent most of their time hounding and persecuting their own citizens. Any form of dissent was branded as the work of Indian or Russian agents.

It is one of the great ironies of our history that political forces that worked closely with the CIA to promote US interests, should today declare the US to be the principle enemy of the Muslim ummah. Up until the Afghan war, almost all religious parties considered it kosher to connive with the CIA to bring down popular nationalist leaders in order to replace them with suppliant pro-US governments.

The war fought by General Ziaul Haq against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan on behalf of the US was the ultimate folly. What have we gained from it, weapons, drugs and Talibanisation of Pakistan? The ideological fallout has been even worse. We began slaughtering each other in the mosques. Instead of gaining strategic depth, the supposed dividend of our policy, we have ended up losing control over what little we had. Today the US, old buddy of the rightwing, has become the principle enemy of Islam.

I was listening to Qazi Sahib, the Jamaat chief on one of these new private Pakistani channels. Qazi Sahib was holding forth against the Americans for violating the sanctity of the sovereign Iraqi State. I couldn’t believe my ears. It is quite amazing how in one breath one can talk of the Muslim ummah and in the next breath defend the concept and legal sanctity of the state. I remember being asked by the Daily Khabrain to participate in one of its forums. The topic was whether or not Pakistan should sign the CTBT. Among others who had been invited were Mr Najam Sethi, the editor of this newspaper, and an amiable young information secretary of a militant Islamist organisation.

During the discussion, I remember, Najam interrupted the young man, who was insisting that the Treaty should not be signed and that to sign the treaty would be a violation of the tenets of the holy Quran. He asked the young ideologue, “Do you believe in a nation-state?” To which this young man without batting an eyelid replied: “No, we do not!” At that point, Najam requested the young man that since some of us, rightly or wrongly, believed in a nation-state, he should allow us to proceed with a matter that strictly concerned the strategy and welfare of the state of Pakistan.

I have met Qazi Hussain Ahmed Sahib only once and found him to be a warm and courteous gentleman. I have also heard his daughter, an MNA, expressing her views on a few occasions. I may not agree with her entirely, but she puts across the party line in a quiet and learned manner that is impressive.

I beg Qazi Sahib to resolve the contradiction because if there is an ummah in the traditional sense which impels Muslims to transgress national boarders of another country for any cause then in the words of Qazi Sahib that act also violates the legal sanctity of that state. Logically speaking, the one negates the other; you cannot have both. The Islamic clerics find it impossible to acknowledge that there are today only nation states in the world. Let us not forget that the allied forces launched their offensive against Iraq from Kuwait, a Muslim country. Kuwait was attacked a decade earlier by Iraq, another Muslim country that had a decade before attacked Iran, another Muslim country.

People from all over the world have opposed the invasion of Iraq. It has never happened before that people should oppose a war before it even began. People of different religions should oppose it. People representing communists, socialists and capitalist countries should oppose it. People of all continents should oppose it. People of different colour, race and ethnic backgrounds should oppose it. Even people of Britain and US should oppose it, whose governments have conducted this so-called holy war against evil. There were more people on the streets in London and New York than there were in Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi. Why can’t we embrace all of these good caring people of the world as part of the ummah? Why can’t we broaden the meaning of ummah and include in it all those who stand up against war, violence and injustice.

To face the vicious and predatory New World order, we have to adapt a new strategy. The opposition to the Iraq invasion has proved Samuel Huntington wrong. There is no clash of civilisations. Sardar Aseff Ahmed Ali pertinently pointed out the other day that since civilisations were interdependent they couldn’t clash. There can be a diffusion of civilisations based on universality of knowledge and human experience but not a clash. The clash concept he believed was meant to prepare US citizens for what was to follow.

US went to war in Iraq not against Muslims but for purely political and economic reasons. There are of course Muslims all over the world. There are several states where Muslims are in a majority but there is also no evidence of an ummah. Is there? Most of these Muslim majority states are divided and have different political systems ranging from democracy, autocracy to monarchy. It seems that the Muslims clerics now want to create their hegemony by establishing a theocracy. There are twice the number of Muslims in India than there are in Pakistan. There are Muslims living in China, in the US and in scores of other countries in all continents. They may be in a minority but they are as loyal to their countries as we are loyal to our own.

It is ironic that a Muslim from Pakistan can become American, British and for that matter German, Swedish and Australian citizens but not Saudi or Kuwaiti citizen. What ummah are we talking about? The fact is that the “Muslim” countries pursue their own respective state interests. An ummah run by the clerics as a theocracy with Samuel Huntington as their Caliph is the last thing, which the Muslims of the world deserve or need.

Prof Ijaz-ul-Hassan is a painter, author and a political activist