Who need guns for Islamic revival?
Tuesday, April 11,2006 00:00
By Abid Ullah Jan

All kinds of fanaticism, terrorism, and militancy have been associated with Islamic movements around the world. However, no one agrees that bombs and guns are needed for Islamic revival or that the enforcement of Islamic code of punishments would turn an un-Islamic country into an Islamic one. The prerequisite for Islamic revival is to change the basic politico-socio-economic structure of an un-Islamic state in accordance with the tenets of Islam. The law, whether Islamic or secular, is only meant to protect and defend the system. What we really need are basic and radical changes in all departments of collective life. If not through guns and mere demands for the enforcement of Islamic laws, what then do we actually need for Islamic revival? Before answering this question, we need to analyse the phenomenon that gives birth to Islamic movements and see if their approaches can really establish Islamic system in all departments of life.

Take Egypt for instance, where 95 per cent of its six million population lives on 5 per cent of the land. Every ten months the country’s population grows by a million, and every day about one thousand new residents arrive in the capital, Cairo. For the vast majority of Egyptians such conditions mean that poverty is the rule. Why is it so that the Egyptian government is unprepared and unwilling to cope with its burgeoning population’s needs, and instead prefers to devote its attention to the "war on Islamic militants"? The same is true with the present government of Pakistan. Debt and inflation are on the rise and with them the cost of living and the number of poor. The government, however, feels more obliged to play with the Quranic verses in school curriculum and to somehow strangle sources of funds for religious institutions. When a state leaves its basic responsibilities aside and start focusing on the priorities of its Masters, who keep it in power, a parallel welfare state arises, like the one set up by Ikhwan ul Muslimoon in Egypt and Refah in Turkey. It simply makes an Islamic movement and its victory inevitable.

Sell out leaders, corruption, mismanagement, ineffective political and economic systems and other such factors directly lead to the revival of Islam in the Muslim societies. Marry Anne Weaver, a staff writer for The New Yorker magazine, says that the "religious quotient in Egypt had grown in direct proportion to the decay of the infrastructure, the corruption of the government, the lack of services, the ossification of the bureaucracy." She further observes: "...since the 1970s the Islamists there -- with growing vigor, in growing numbers, with growing support -- have infiltrated the courts, the universities, the schools, the arts. A number of preeminent Egyptian thinkers and ideologues are quite convinced that an Islamic victory in Egypt is inevitable."

The US foreign policy always disregards states and focuses on personalities for achieving its objectives. The same approach has been adapted for thwarting Islamic movements. But this policy may not work for far too long. If, for example, Hosni Mubarak were to die tomorrow, there’s no logical person to assume the role of an effective puppet as the helm of the Egyptian state. And whoever succeeds Mubarak will have to have the active support of not only the US and Egyptian army but also the growing number of Egyptians who have embraced the call for the implementation of Islamic law, or Shariah.

Like Weaver, even the worst enemies of Islam have realised that the reason people are attracted by the Islamic movements is not "the guns and bombs of the more-militant groups," but the alternative they offer for the failed governments and their "ineptitude." They rightly observe, "the Islamists’ rising profile is happening not just in Egypt. It’s happening throughout the Arab Middle East -- in Jordan, Algeria, Saudi Arabia, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip." The violence that has wrongly been associated with Islamic movements is, in fact, a reaction to the state repressive tactics to keep Muslim activists at bay from taking coming into mainstream politics. The disappointing aspect of this story is that not only the western governments but even the UN also approves and supports state terrorism against Islamic activists, such as in Algeria.

The more the Western governments intervene to make the Muslim states "moderate," secular and "liberal," the more they are turning them into closed states, like the Marxists and the socialists -- totally marginalized, with the only ideology of fruitless liberal democracy for the people to gravitate around. The Islamic movements provide the only viable alternative to such governments. It is very unfortunate for the planners of world government that unlike Christianity and other religions, no line can be drawn to relegate Islam to the private sphere and give it no role in politics, economics and society at large.

At the moment as the sell outs among us are jumping onto the band wagon of secularism for personal gains, it is encouraging to have confessions from non-Muslims, like Mary Anne Weaver, who observes: "Here’s an example of the blending of the religious and the secular: a number of my former professors from the American University of Cairo were Marxists twenty years ago -- fairly adamant, fairly doctrinaire Marxists. They are now equally adamant, equally doctrinaire Islamists. Why? When you look at Islam and at Marxism, there are a lot of common denominators: both are egalitarian, both embrace radical social and economic reform, both demand a total appropriation of the public space, and they share a dogmatic, ideological view of the world. Both provide a totality."

Many Muslim societies are ripe for movements such as the Ikhwan to take root. European aggression and Western cultural imperialism, combined with mounting economic crises and the declining legitimacy of aristocratic ruling elite, are drawing many Muslims to the burgeoning movements advocating change through gradual social reform or radical revolution. Disillusioned with degenerate forms of a world-renouncing Sufism and with the traditional religious political parties taking part in elections for personal gains -- who had been reduced almost to the status of mere lackeys of the ruling parties, appeal for Islamic revolution by leaders like Dr. Israr Ahmad of Tanzeem-e-Islami strike a sympathetic chord in the hearts of many young and old Muslims alike.

Their efforts begin with founding organisations of their own but simply bringing Muslims back to Islam as a comprehensive code, covering all aspects of personal and collective life. Leaders of the Islamic movements are concerned with social justice and the rights of the oppressed and the poor. This naturally brings them into growing opposition with sections of ruling elite, who find these calls for radical social justice a threat to their interests. This factor leads the establishment to a war-like confrontation with the Islamic movements, seeking to root them out completely by force.

Reactionary violence might make sense in places like Algeria and Egypt but not in Pakistan. The nascent Islamic movements in Pakistan need to seriously take the issues of socially marginalised communities and try to initiate vast networks of social uplift projects. If they can do it for Afghanistan, they can do so for supporting the poor Pakistanis as well. After failure of the government, the marginalised communities look forward to the donors-funded development NGOs, but they too have mismanaged millions of dollars through sheer incompetence and corruption. Focusing on social projects would help Islamic movements penetrate into almost all parts of the country and establish a strong base. Their appeals to Islamic authenticity and their championing of the interests of the marginalised would go up to make Islamic movement a formidable opposition force in Pakistan and elsewhere.

Through initiating organised social uplift projects, Islamic movements are the best alternative to stop the sitting governments from creating two classes in the country: One that leads, owns and rules; the other lead, is owned, is forced into submission, and supports without questioning, debating or even given the chance expressing its point of view let alone have it adhered to. It would also help counter the liberal elites, running advocacy organisations for spreading the filth of feminism, secularism and cultural assimilation. Islamic sources of funding abound, such social projects would never run into financial problems and would prove more sustainable than the foreign funded organisations, who run from pillar to post once the donor agenda changes and want the NGOs also to switch and start dancing to a new tune.

One of the most important aspects of Islamic movements to initiate social projects is that they would provide a good alternative for taking people away from the addiction to micro-credit. We are making long and short speeches on the curse of interest but never look at our communities, where non-government organisations are working like micro-finance institutions for addicting communities to the curse of micro-credit. These small loans are given at an interest rate of 18-25%. After indebting the government of Pakistan to the utmost capacity, the capitalists have shifted their focus to directly target the public. They have made institutional mechanism to make sure that the capital goes back to the capitalists. The micro-credit Bank, Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Programme and Khushali Bank are part of this grand scheme. Now, the curse of interest is not limited to our banks, but has reached our grassroots. Islamic movements would do well, if they start lending programmes for the poor on Islamic principles, like Qarz-i-hasna, or promote micro-enterprise activities on the principles of Mudariba, Musharika, Khumus, etc. It would save them from getting trapped in the vicious cycle of the capitalists.

Islamic activists have to react to and take advantage of the inefficiency and the sheer ineptitude of the government and the gap that even the NGOs couldn’t fill despite acquiring huge sums in the name of community development. A perfect example of how the Islamic activists have responded to social needs with far greater alacrity than the regime in Egypt was the earthquake in Cairo in 1992. The government was totally paralysed. Mubarak was travelling abroad, and for two days the government did absolutely nothing. Within hours, however, the Islamists were on the streets – with tents, blankets, food, and alternative housing. The same thing happened in 1994, in Durunka, when flash-floods carried flaming fuel from an army depot through the streets. Once again, the government was simply incapable of coping, and the "Islamists" filled the void.

Unlike Egypt and Turkey, the Islamic movements in Pakistan can really make a major shift in their approach with focusing not only on assistance in relief and social welfare activities, but through practical involvement in the development process like other NGOs. The major difference would be their source of funding and the agenda they promote. There is a substantial culture of private voluntary philanthropy in Pakistan, which is estimated at Rs 41 billion in 1998 in cash and goods, and Rs 30 billion in volunteering. Islamic revival needs social guides not guns to take advantage of such opportunities. It needs action, not reaction. Development organisations under the auspices of Islamic movements would have the advantage to utilise these funds and services in innovative community development activities for sustainable development, as well as bring basic and radical changes in all departments of collective life.

This would give us an opportunity to implement the teachings of the Qur’an in social, economic, and political fields. In other words, this approach would help us establish the sovereignty of Allah (SWT) in the "religious" as well as the "secular" domains, and remove the dichotomy between collective life and state authority on the one hand and Divine guidance on the other. Unless activists of the Islamic movement get involved with the communities at the grassroots -- the approach that the external forces want our NGOs to follow for spreading their messages and ensuring practice on them – it would be difficult to achieve the domination of the true way of life (Deen al-Haq). Our Prophet (PBUH) and his colleagues followed the same approach for establishing the Islamic system of social justice.