Don’t blame the Taliban
By Kunwar Khuldune Shahid
Let’s call a spade a spade instead
The Malala incident is déjà vu times million. You have religious ‘extremists’ manifesting brutality; the ‘educated’ class calls the act heinous, the ‘intellectuals’ label the offenders as beasts, the ‘liberals’ protest against the ‘cowardly act’ and while everyone is condemning the act, they remain shushed about the root cause of it all: the ideology. Throughout the past every single person who has denounced the Taliban has acted as an apologetic, justifying the religious ideology and claiming how those ‘uneducated morons’ have ‘unfortunately’ misinterpreted the teachings of peace and tranquility – no, they haven’t, ‘unfortunately’.
It is so painfully amusing to note how the ‘moderates’ and armchair revolutionaries, would sit there with a glass of vine in their hands, uninhibitedly hanging out with the opposite sex, not having offered a prayer or fasted for ages, claiming how the Taliban – who lead their lives strictly according to the Shariah – are infesting their religion of harmony. The poor chaps are only doing what their scriptures – the ones that the pseudo intellectuals extol, or don’t have the cojones to criticize – tell them to do. When you are being taught, through the scriptures that are universally recognized by the followers as ‘authentic’, that all the non-believers or threats to the grandeur of your ideology should be killed, you will kill them, where is the misinterpretation here?
Finding slaves or slave girls, repulsive; physically assaulting women, disgusting; cutting off hands for theft, inhuman; stoning people to death, beastly and then venerating the ideology that permits this at the same time is hypocrisy of the very highest order. You sit there, criticize and mock the Taliban that follow your religion in its true form while you live in oblivion with your extremely palatable, but simultaneously blatantly fallacious, brand of religion and then claim that the Taliban are misinterpreting and misapprehending your ideology? Oh, the irony.
Let’s stop carving out quasi religions, or defending ideologies that we’ve all grown up blindly following as the truth. Let’s call a spade a spade instead and realize that at the end of the day as much as you might have a cardiac arrest admitting it, the root cause of religious extremism is: religion – especially in its raw crude form, which again is the only ‘authentic’ form.
Every single religion has a violent streak. Every single one of them orders violence and killing in one form or the other for the ‘non-believers’. One can quote verses from every holy scripture depicting loathe and despise for anyone who doesn’t believe in the said scripture and its propagator. Sure, those scriptures would have the occasional fit of peace as well, but that only springs into the open when it is recognized as the only supreme authority. Every religion is a ‘religion of peace’ as long as it formulates the status quo; there is no concept of ideological symbiosis in any religion. When a tyrannical regime or dictator calls for peace with the condition that they would reign supreme we label them as oppressors, but when this is done in the name of religion we tout it as maneuvers of ‘harmony’.
The Taliban have defended the attack on Malala Yousafzai through scriptures and historic precedents. You can clamor all you want about how there is a lack of understanding on the part of the Taliban, but how on earth can you refute clear messages of violence and historical evidence – scribed by historians of your faith – depicting brutality on the part of some of the most illustrious people in the history of the religion? It is easy to launch vitriol against the Taliban for attacking a 14-year-old girl, but it is also equally hypocritical and pathetic when you eulogize people from your history who did the same in the past, who massacred masses, destroyed lands, pulverized places of worship, raped women, just because they ostensibly did it in the name of your religion. Don’t blame the Taliban for following their lead, don’t blame the Taliban for using violence as a means to cement religious superiority – something that has been done for centuries – don’t blame the Taliban for the fact that you don’t have the guts to call a spade a spade even though it has been spanking your backside for centuries now.
The fact that groups like Tehreek-e-Taliban-Pakistan and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi exist is because Islam is still traversing its Dark Ages while other religions have gone through Reformation, resulting in a collective Renaissance – and that too half a millennium ago. None of the religion in its crude form can work in this day and age, and instead of taking the easy route and scorning at those that follow religious teachings in its original form, the more logical approach would be to accept the truth.
If you’re acknowledging Islam as the supreme authority, you have no grounds for hauling coals over Zia-ul-Haq for implementing laws from the Shariah, you have no grounds for attacking Mumtaz Qadri or feeling sorry for Salmaan Taseer who clearly spoke against the blasphemy law, you have no grounds for lauding Dr Abdul Salaam as a national asset who belonged to a sect that clearly defies Islamic teachings, and yes, you have no grounds for blaming the Taliban.
It’s time our ‘thinkers’ stopped taking the easy way out and finally picked a side. You either follow a religion in its true form or you’re irreligious. The Taliban know which side they are on. Do you?
Let’s finally address the elephant in the room
Which ideology can possibly justify killing a 14-year-old school going kid? That is the question being asked by the ‘moderates’. The Taliban claim that their ideology does. The apologists of that ideology claim that the ‘monsters’ have got it all wrong, and continue to castigate the ‘beasts’, while ensuring that no fingers point towards the ideology. It’s about time we finally addressed the elephant in the room, instead of pointlessly condemning violent acts without discussing their roots.
The Taliban have defended the attack on Malala Yousafzai according to their scriptures and history. Of course if you’re looking for a command that orders the killing of every 14-year-old school going girl who is inspired by the leader of Dar-ul-Harb, you won’t find one, but what you will find are quite a few historical precedents. Like for instance the case of Asma bint Marwan, a poetess whose murder was sanctioned in 2 AH after she conspired against Islam and the Holy Prophet, as narrated by Ibn Ishaq and Ibn Sa’d. And then there are Ibn Khatal’s two slave girls Fartana and Qaribah, who used to sing songs against the Holy Prophet and were among the ten shortlisted to be executed at the Conquest of Makkah in 8 AH – one of them was killed, the second managed to escape (Ibn Sa’d, Tabaqat- Vol 2). Women were ordered to be killed for conspiring against the religion by their ideological predecessors, and so is it entirely the Taliban’s fault for taking cue and attempting to kill a girl who criticised their fundamentals; the fundamentals emanating from their ‘authentic’ religious scriptures?
Now to the question of Malala being a ‘kid’. According to Islamic teachings you’re an adult and responsible for your actions when you reach puberty – if a 9-year-old is considered old enough to get married, a 14-year-old should be old enough for being condemned for ‘conspiracy’. A plethora of Malalas under the pretext of threat to the religion bit the dust when the religion was expanding and therefore, if you’re defending Islam as the ultimate truth you can’t blame the Taliban for adopting violence as a means to assault the sceptics, unless you denounce the violence in 7th century as well and question the ideology.
I know what the apologists are saying at this very moment. When it comes to the off-putting facets of their ideology, everything:
1. Has a weak chain of narration
2. Is being taken out of context and is misinterpreted
3. Was the accepted norm of the time
Let’s address the first point.
Don’t you think it is rather hypocritical to claim that a particular verse from a particular compilation has a weak narration chain (even the two “most authentic” compilations Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim are marred by this allegation) and then go on to quote other verses from those same books because you find them “acceptable”? Do you not realise that strictly from a historian’s point of view once there is a consensus that any part of any book or compilation is not ‘authentic’ that basically throws the authenticity of the entire scripture out of the window? And if we’re playing the authenticity game, how many of the apologists realise that the first ‘authentic’ biography of the Holy Prophet was written in 828 AD by Abd-al-Malik bin Hisham – a good 196 years after his death? Again, strictly from a neutral historian’s viewpoint if you’re allowing for a gap of two centuries between the events actually taking place and their first reliable narration, that slashes a question mark over the accuracy of pretty much anything you care to conjure up from Islamic history – violent or otherwise.
Now to the second point.
Let’s take the “out of context” bit into context strictly from the point of view of the concept of a divine deity. Religion – any religion – is supposed to govern mankind till the end of time. Its holy scripture is supposed to be the word of the creator; an unalterable, preset text that is supposed to be the guideline, till the deity decides to call it a day. Does it seem reasonable that something that was supposed to guide man till the afterlife is left to human interpretation – especially when it deals with something as brutally sensitive as killing another human being – and is left so ambiguous such that one can’t even find five of its followers who would agree on every single one of its aspects? You have a gazillion interpretations originating from a scripture that is supposed to guide the average man, with an average mind who will not delve into 1500 years of history or go through infinite volumes of literature before interpreting when killing another human being is justified and when it isn’t.
If the propagators really wanted to ensure that everything remains contextual, how hard was it to drop a line saying it? (There is no command declaring that: hang on, you can kill the ‘non-believers’ now but make sure you don’t do so in 2012 – when humanity would be aware of the repugnance of the act) If the propagators really wanted to make sure that the peaceful verses – most from the time at Makkah – last forever, why would they introduce the ‘Al-Nasikh-Wal-Mansukh’ doctrine of abrogation and then ensure that the commands preaching violence chronologically followed the commands of peace? If the propagators really wanted to promote harmony, why would they use provocative language asking the ‘true believers’ to cut off the finger tips of non-believers for instance or claiming how they can never be friends with the Jews and Christians or else they would be one of them?
Moving on to the third point.
Don’t you think the propagators of the religion – those that were ostensibly fighting against the norms with the new ideology anyway– should have risen up against the repulsive practices? If you’re discouraging the possession of slaves and slave girls, why would you own any of them yourself? If you’re discouraging violence, why would you use it to propagate your ideology? And if you’re carving out a code for all the future generations to come why would you bow down to the norms of the time – any norm –at all?
Condemning violence but remaining shushed about its roots is not only hypocritical but pointless if you actually want to uproot the cause. 810 million people have been killed in the name of religion throughout human history, and lives are being taken every single day in our neck of the woods in the name of the ‘religion of peace’. Considering the response to last week’s piece there are many who are categorically against this ignorance – how long do all of you plan on remaining silent about it?