The new spike in violence and oppression in Palestine by the State of Israel should stimulate deep thinking in all Muslim-majority countries, not more than in Pakistan.
The Palestine-Israel issue is not exclusively a religious war, and many may argue that it is illuminated by religion only at the periphery – it is a matter of human rights, the inalienable rights that should come back to any individual or group, simply because he a part of the human race. Israeli settlers may believe they are claiming a religious claim to Palestinian land, but they are engaged in land grabbing. Palestinian Muslims may believe that they are being driven from their homes and buried under the rubble of their apartment complexes exclusively because they are Muslims, but that would leave a gaping hole in our analysis of the suffering of Palestinian Christians.
So, in terms of how the Palestine-Israel issue plays out and the factors shaping that dynamic, religious identity is a relevant but not exclusive factor. But what about the importance of Palestine on the Main Street in predominantly Muslim states like Pakistan?
Is there a metric through which the centrality of Masjid Al Aqsa in the Muslim imagination can be accurately described? Doubtful. The notion of the third holiest site in Islam does not sit well with ears that are not listening to Islam. Indeed, we have seen a similar relatability issue emerge around accounts of blasphemy.
What is beyond doubt is that the Israeli aggression at the Holy Mosque of Al Aqsa elicits a particular type of response inside Palestine, in the world, and in particular in predominantly Muslim societies. . In this response, the consistency or integrity of the Palestinian leadership, the hypocrisy and ineffectiveness of the Muslim elites who rule their country, and the technological, financial and military superiority of Israel and its supporters pales in comparison to the long-term feeling of injustice and hurt that any violation of the Al Aqsa complex stimulates.
This agony is not exclusive to 21st century Muslims, and many secular individuals and institutions have championed and advocated forcefully for the cause. However, Al Aqsa herself holds an exclusive place among all politically conscious Muslims, everywhere. Therefore, the sense of injustice and hurt felt by Muslims, and especially young Muslims, is relevant policy both for Western governments and for the governments of Muslim majority countries like Pakistan (for various reasons) .
Western governments adopted terms such as “ violent extremism ” and “ terrorism ” as appropriate framing for individual and collectivized behaviors that sought to create political significance for Muslim grievances through violence, often grotesque violence, like what was perpetrated on September 11, 2001. In recent years, as the scourge of disenchantment, helplessness and despair has consumed white majorities in the West, many Western thinkers and political actors have sought to make terms such as more inclusive terrorism and violent extremism, to respond to the growing national challenges they face. their own dispossessed. But this hosting does not solve any challenge other than the certification of the standby state.
There are battlegrounds across the Muslim world that have their origins in the West’s efforts to ostensibly counter violent extremism and terrorism that do not exist in the West. These battlegrounds cease to be relevant to Western governments as soon as their troops disengage and leave the arena – but they don’t cease to be battlegrounds. This is not how this kind of violence works.
Pakistan is perhaps the most unique use case of such violence in the Muslim world. It wasn’t explicitly a battleground in 2001, except that it really was. The political order in Pakistan was often stirred, but hardly shaken, and its elite neither retreated nor imploded. No country can compare its scar tissue to that of Afghanistan or Iraq – but even the elites in Libya, Syria and Yemen can be forgiven for looking at Pakistan with some envy. Ironically, Western governments have a similar thirst when they look at Pakistan. Why? On the Pakistani battlefield, the winner was Pakistan. Not once or twice, but now three times in this century alone. The noblest Pakistanis are often offended that this country’s standards are so low – but they do so with the luxury of safety and security afforded them by the very elite pact they lament – driven by ability. operational combat (and win) provided by the Pakistani army.
First, Pakistan has successfully removed the threat posed by a conglomerate of dangerous anti-state terrorist groups led by local Al Qaeda affiliate the aptly named Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). Second, he sought to make a clear distinction between violent extremists and extremists who do not challenge the established order of the state. The best example of this subtle but important political differentiation is the survival of leaders like Ahmed Ludhianvi and groups like ASWJ, and decisive actions against groups like LeJ and the elimination of leaders like Malik Ishaq. And third, Pakistan has – slowly but steadily – ousted the lives of groups listed in UNSCR 1267 like the LeT and the JeM.
This whole victory has come at a tremendous cost to Pakistan – and that cost is beyond the economic damage of two decades of conflict, or the terrorist death toll Pakistan has suffered. Barelvi extremists, after more than a decade of tagging post 9/11 as softies, lucked out on a reset button known as Mumtaz Qadri, and reorganized and established new dominance in the most vital of any battlefield arena in the 21st century: public discourse.
The norms of national conversation in Pakistan are no longer shaped as they once were by communication gurus like Javed Jabbar or Mushahid Hussain, nor by popular storytellers like Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, or even by the ever-green ethnic nationalists to across the spectrum of Pakistani ethnicities. Standards are now set by Barelvi rulers with no access to or roots in the Pakistani elite. This garland of honor – being “non-elitist” – is worn by the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) with more expertise than any other political group in the country today.
The TLP may or may not immediately address events in Al Aqsa and across Palestine – but the adoption of Palestine and the full range of political triggers into the Muslim consciousness of Pakistani youth by a group like the TLP is inevitable. In Pakistan, the crown jewel of this specter is and will remain Kashmir. The analysis in which all of these triggers are easily handled by the Pakistani state is outdated and totally flawed.
For those who care, the direction of the national conversation is one in which the Pakistani state has been catching up for quite some time. No matter how powerful a herd of sycophant media and journalists, the terms of religious nationalism are not set by men who constitute the elite, but by men who have an unhealthy contempt for them.
The dismantling of the Oslo Accords and the start of the Second Intifada were triggered by Ariel Sharon’s visit to the Temple Mount in 2000. We were then told that this was Israeli domestic politics. Today, when Israeli troops fire ammunition inside Al Aqsa, we read similar revivals of Benjamin Netanyahu’s internal political compulsions. But the world that consumed the Al Aqsa scenes last week is very different from Sharon’s.
Policymakers in predominantly Muslim countries cannot focus too much on Israel’s internal dynamics as there is a more urgent dynamic that the latest Israeli scandal in Al Aqsa and across Palestine will unleash. Palestine’s deep power to shape domestic politics deep in Pakistan’s heart will be ignored to the detriment of the Pakistani elites who sit at the top of the system. The challenge of positioning Pakistan as a “stronghold of Islam” for national audiences that require this validation, while simultaneously engaging Israel’s Western allies in fruitful conversations about trade and cooperation, is a tall order. . Perhaps the same challenge Pakistan faces with India’s western allies, the occupier and brutalizer of Kashmir, is even greater.
Is an internal political balance to manage this challenge possible for the Pakistani elite without substantial reforms of the economic, political and social fabric of the country?
The writer is an analyst and a commentator.