Ali Eteraz reports a sad story from Pakistan. The editor of a liberal Muslim organization’s magazine was shot in the mouth for advocating un-Islamist politics. Although the best-known form of Islamist extremism is directed against Westerners, in fact Muslim victims outnumber Western victims by a few orders of magnitude. Explaining how Islamism is now pitted against democracy not in the West, but in Muslim countries, she says,
As we speak, as you sit in your chair, connected to the vast outside world something immense, and like all immense things, something uncontrollable, is happening in Pakistan. The setting is a combustible South Asian nation. The battle is for the equality of Muslim women and simple human dignity. The war within the Law of God has become a war between Violence and Reason. One speaks with the authority of bullets and flame; the other through the authority of pamphlet and humility.
In the late 1970’s, there were two Muslim revolutions. One we know well. The other, just as dubious, we ignore. In Pakistan, a military dictator named Zia ul Haq, (within a year) backed by the United States, put an end to Pakistani Democracy, hung the popularly elected leader Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and then went on an Islamist rampage, meticulously “Islamizing” the Pakistani legal code in conformance with a most backward vision of Islamic Law; a vision peddled largely by the illiterate mob maulvis . Under the Islamist assumption that the first step in “implementing” Islam it is necessary to impose the penal law of classical Islamic Law, General Zia ul Haq had the Hudood Ordinance passed. [Hudood is Arabic plural for Hadd, which means ‘limit’ or ‘restriction.’].The offenses, as defined by the new law, were Offences against Property (crimes of theft and armed robbery); Offenses of Qazf (bearing false witness or making false accusations); Prohibition (drug trafficking and alcohol consumption); and Offense of Zina (rape, abduction of women and zina or adultery).
Bush had it right when he universalized the desire for freedom. Most people outside the West and Japan consider freedom from corporations to be integral to it, but they still want freedom. They can ally themselves temporarily with fanatics when the alternative is corrupt or weak, or impoverishes them, and then later become fatalist. But give them options other than the yoke of a Great Depression or a Shah and the Nazis or Islamists, and they’ll opt for liberty.
I wish I knew about a silver bullet that would cause large numbers of people to instantly see that fanatics don’t have their best interests in mind. I wish I knew how to get people to repudiate the theocrats, given that the moderate establishment takes too long to act in their interest, if it ever does that. I wish I knew a way to prevent the theocrats from gaining power simply because they can pretend that it’s them or The Enemy, be it terrorism, communism, or the US.