Combating Religious Extremism II
In view of the criticisms that I received for my previous post with the same subject, I will try to elaborate on my meaning. It is difficult for me to reproduce the criticisms in this weblog due to their sizes, but they can be found here: from Hassan Nasir; and from Usman Ahsan. I have not replied to Usman’s criticism specifically. However, the basic contents of both the messages were more or less the same; and I find myself in agreement with Usman when he writes that “the extreme reactionary tactics of the religious right have there basis not in the loss of power but loss of allies”. This, I think, is the correct formulation.
Here is my reply addressed to Hassan Nasir:
I don’t think that the extremist elements are on the verge of extinction politically. As I mentioned in the essay, the extremist elements are making some savage and brutal attempts to maintain the influence that they used to hold over powerful circles. A force showing such brutality can not be expected to be ‘on the verge of extinction’ at the political level. The religious extremist elements might have gained some support amongst the people, but being alienated from the reins of power to a large extent can cause more anxiety amongst their members. It is this alienation from the power-bearing circles that my essay primarily referred to.
As for the recruits, the numbers were much higher in the preceding decades when the Imperialist powers and the Pakistani State funded the religious seminaries all across Pakistan that churned out thousands of ‘holy warriors’ every year. However, previously they were more focused around Afghanistan and now Pakistan is the center of their attention.
I hold that “the struggle against religious extremism is strongly tied with the struggle against the present military dictatorship”. It doesn’t sound counter-intuitive to me. The competition between the religious groups and the Left-secular forces is to gain support amongst the people – people who, we hold, harbor feelings against the military junta and US Imperialism. Now if the Left/seculars are to abandon their anti-imperialist and anti-military slogans, they will simply be leaving the doors open for the religious clergymen to gain popular support. People usually don’t care much whether you are wearing a red hammer and sickle badge or a green turban so long you talk about agenda. The agenda of the people can be represented in a much better way by the Leftist forces, and the religious forces are no match. If the Leftist/seculars abandon their struggle against military, as some have already done, it will only give more legitimacy to the Right as an anti-imperialist and an anti-military force fighting for the cause of the people.
The program of the Left is distinct from that of the religious parties, who claim to be anti-military and anti-imperialist, and that of the military, who claims to be secular. We need to oppose both and wage a simultaneous struggle for secularism, democracy, and against imperialism, as you also pointed out.
I agree with your possible results and the historical pattern that you pointed out (also add the collaboration between Benazir Bhutto and Ghulam Ishaq Khan after the death of Zia-ul-Haq).