A meeting of religious
alliance MMA in progress
Fed up of Unwanted Pakistani Clerics Roaming the Globe
August 10: Maulana Fazlur Rahman, Leader of the Opposition and
a key figure in the Islamic party alliance, the MMA, gets thrown
out of Dubai.
few months ago, Maulana Samiul Haq, another stalwart of the MMA,
was refused entry into Belgium when traveling with a parliamentary
delegation. A couple of days ago, Mali refused to permit Pakistani
clerics to preach in its mosques.
the common strand linking these incidents, apart from facial hair?
Clearly, the rest of the world is getting fed up of the unending
stream of violent words and actions garbed in Islamic colors that
are polluting young minds and claiming innocent victims abroad.
The clerics directly concerned
and their rabid supporters lay the blame for these stinging snubs
at the door of our foreign office. However, they should reflect
on how their own conduct has contributed in making them unwanted
in many countries, including Muslim ones. Indeed, not only have
they put themselves on black lists maintained by immigration services
abroad, they have made our travel overseas difficult as well.
While Dubai’s recent action
has shocked many Pakistanis, the fact is that for years, Pakistanis
have been personae non grata in most of the Arab world. Indeed,
it has often been easier to get visas to western countries than
to Muslim ones. But to be fair to Maulana Fazlur Rahman et al,
factors other than their words and antics have contributed to
the devaluation of the dreaded green passport as a travel document.
Over the years, Pakistanis going
abroad have often been involved in a host of shady activities
ranging from illegal immigration to drug smuggling. Hundreds of
thousands of them have wanted nothing more than a chance to make
a decent living for themselves and their families. But this understandable
impulse has seen them adopt ingenious and often desperate methods
to enter foreign countries. Other Pakistanis have enriched themselves
by smuggling heroin and marijuana into the West. Still others
are running profitable scams by claiming benefits from social
security. A London paper recently printed details about the Sindh
governor’s allegedly false claims to housing and support
while living in the UK.
These dubious and downright criminal
activities have made Pakistanis unpopular visitors. But the real
suspicions and fear their presence provokes is the growing perception
that Pakistan has become the hub of Islamic terrorism and militancy.
This is reinforced by the presence here of hundreds of Al Qaeda
and Taliban foot soldiers and leaders. And when people like Fazlur
Rahman and Samiul Haq defend them while preaching violence against
the West, they should not expect to be garlanded when they arrive
in the very countries they threaten.
Arab countries have long resented
the sanctuary we have provided to their dissidents. The training
these people have received in camps here has helped them plan
and launch attacks elsewhere. And who runs these camps? None else
but jihadi groups with close links to some religious parties.
What are the most powerful forces
sweeping across the world today? Not political or religious ones,
but those of globalization. It is industry, commerce and trade
that are driving the international agenda today. You either keep
up with these forces as well as you can, or get left behind. The
rules are very simple: sink or swim. While most of these forces
are benign in the sense that they are not actively hostile to
any particular group, they simply roll over anybody trying to
block the free flow of goods, capital and services.
The export of terrorism and violent
rhetoric that affects stock markets and profits as 9/11 and 7/7
did is simply not acceptable. Indirectly, military and diplomatic
action is decided in board rooms in the world’s financial
capitals. The fierce competition over energy sources and raw materials
is behind many of today’s headlines.
These trends and forces are beyond
the understanding of fundamentalists whose thinking is still rooted
centuries in the past. While they dream of a mythical utopia,
their vision has been long overtaken by events and ideas. But
as they are unqualified to participate in the modern world of
innovation, science and rational thought, they grow angry and
bitter at being marginalized and irrelevant. This anger expresses
itself in their politics of hate and violence.
Before 9/11, the terrorist attacks
launched by jihadis were considered to be annoying pinpricks,
and vicious groups like Al Qaeda and the Taliban were allowed
a relatively free hand. Jihadi outfits in Pakistan even prospered
under official patronage. The 9/11 episode changed this attitude
for ever. But because extremist religious parties had nothing
but their message of hate to offer, their leaders have continued
in the same mode, spewing bile against everything that has to
do with the West.
for them, the rest of the world, including moderate Muslim countries,
want nothing to do with them or their hate-filled dogma. Small
Arab states like Dubai are doing very well by serving as business
and shopping centers for foreigners. Understandably, they do not
want to risk tarnishing their reputation by allowing hate-mongers
Basically, our clerics must realize
they cannot have it both ways. Either they can preach violence
and whip up crowds of their ignorant constituents, or they can
travel abroad as peaceful citizens of a moderate state. The tacit
support they extend to terrorist groups taints them and the whole
Unfortunately, even educated and
sophisticated Pakistanis see an anti-Pakistan conspiracy at work
when incidents like the recent one in Dubai occur. But in reality,
nobody has the time to hatch plots against us. We need to realize
that many of the prevailing attitudes constantly on display here
are no longer acceptable elsewhere. For instance, recently a crowd
in Charsadda burned dozens of TV sets because a local mullah had
decreed that watching television was un-Islamic. What kind of
impression did this act of lunacy convey to the rest of the world?
agree that there are nuts everywhere. But we seem to have more
than our share of them. General Musharraf has repeatedly expressed
his concern for Pakistan’s image without realizing that
he cannot fix the image without fixing the product. Until he does,
the people who have damaged it had better stay at home.
writer is a regular columnist for Daily Dawn, Karachi and wrote
previously under the pen name of Mazdak