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Extremism in Our Society


A TV channel hosted a seminar at a local hotel in Karachi on 16.07.2008 on the topic of extremism with panellist Dr Ayesha Jalal, Dr Salman Shah, Ikram Saigol, Rana Sheikh, Afghan Ambassador and many others. The audience were also shown video clippings from the serial "Yeh Junoon Keysa" which will be presented in 22 serials on the menace of extremism.

It is for the first time a known Indian actress Kiran Kher will be appearing in TV drama serial of Pakistan. Dr Ayesha Jalal stressed that we are suffering from identity crisis thus resorting to extremism. Mr Ikram Saigol stressed upon the media not to project minor incidents and do not give coverage to incidents of extremism citing Indian example, where Naxalite attacks are rarely covered by the media.

Khalid Aziz, former Chief Secretary of NWFP deliberated in detail, being a resident of NWFP and his analysis made a lot of sense. It is unfortunate that such sensitive issues are left to generalists to adventure, rather seeking guidance from specialist and think tanks.

Most of the panellists feared that if the horror of extremism is not contained in FATA the spillover will be visible down south with a big bang, which is true and we have to come out of self denial and address the issue. I emphasised that it is not only our country, but even in India, the Hindu fundamentalists are supported by masses but the media. India is trying to veil these elements for the sake of soft image of their country, unlike us who project just to find a "news alert".

Every religion has abhorred extremism, be it Christianity, Judaism or Hinduism. The best example can be deduced from a priest in France in 1618, who bewitched the nuns, a film story "Possession of Loudun" is classic on the affair. The present spate of extremism is well-known to be created by "our masters" who used Taliban against Soviets and once the war was over, they were abandoned.

The monster created rebounded on its creator. It is a historical fact that after war "powers to be" may have ensured rehabilitation of war affected people and on development of economics as had been the case in Japan, Germany, Korea and Vietnam etc.

However in case of Afghan War the powers to be withdrew and instead of rehabilitation/reconstruction they were targeted as enemy. What a paradox? We all know the "think tank" in Washington guided the government to turn to the red after implementing their charter against Nazis in 1946 and once Russia and Eastern Europe collapsed, it was the turn of green. Today we see similarity in the policies of Obama and Mccain in respect of Afghanistan.

The usage of terms crusade after 9/11 and continued Muslim bashing by western media resulted into retaliation and identity crisis due to humiliation suffered even by moderates. Thus it is prudent on powers to be to contain their bashing and equal responsibility rests on us to check extremism as we all know it is unIslamic to hurt anyone. However fanatics are found in every religion.

Some misguided religious devotees feel so embattled and embittered by the questioning or rejection of their cherished beliefs that they are prepared to resort to murder, even indiscriminate mass murder, as happens wherever fanaticism mixed with resentment and ignorance to produce the hateful brew of what is done in the name of belief. They claim "Faith is what I die for, dogma is what I kill for" as the saying has it.

It is a curious fact that responsible enquiry, of the kind conducted by scientists and expected in courts of law, is careful in drawing its conclusion and in open minded about the contrary future evidence, whereas in sharp contrast matters of faith are tenaciously regarded as inviolable, irrefutable and unreversible.

Religious fanaticism has always and everywhere brought war as it can be seen by the terror of ruling evangelists superpower. Its intolerance and persecution has distorted human nature into false and artificial shapes. Some try to palliate or even excuse the crimes committed in religious belief. We must appreciate humanity's sense of beauty and decency, our power to love and fear of our Creator and at the same time we must shun evil, stupidity, greed and cruelty.

I have not seen the full serial to make my concluding remarks, but I strongly feel that powers to be must restrain themselves from Muslim bashing and avoid humiliating Islam for the sake of peace and at the same time being mentors of Taliban, they must own them by disarming and rehabilitating them to live a respected and peaceful life.

I am a firm believer that it is economic crunch, clubbed with rising unemployment and scarcity of food, which gives rise to crimes, extremism and all kinds of evils, as it is considered to be a fight for survival. Our bleak economic scenario and shrinking of economic cake may create ethnicity, extremism and may affect saner elements of our society which is finding hard to survive in this economic turmoil.

The unemployment being rugged FATA is 70% thus the only option for the youth is to become a mercenary who is said to be paid given Rs 10000 per month. Our media and masses must not join the much orchestrated chorus bashing by Western media. We must resist and impress upon them to address the core issue of rehabilitating fighters against Soviet invasion. It pained me that our Chief Executive admitted a situation like 9/11 re-emerging. We should not own others misdeeds and be proud Pakistani not apologist.

I must cite a recent example of 70s in Bangladesh, where the government ensured rehabilitation of 2.5 million Mukti Bahnis, firstly disarming them and thereafter providing housing and employment .A trust was also created and the tallest building in Dilkusha Commercial area in Dhaka is that of Mukti Bahni Trust. We may make use of the blueprints of Bangladesh and ask the powers to be who are mentors to fund the peaceful disarming, rehabilitation, formation of trust and provide employment to youth.

This menace must be addressed on top priority, so that more unemployed youths are not induced to extremism, but with economic crisis I do not see much hope from our government to comprehend the serious problem. It is advisable to take guidance from specialists like Khalid Aziz of NWFP who identified the core issues and their solutions.




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