Wednesday, April 11, 2012
Is the diaspora exporting intolerence to Pakistan
In the back drop of rapidly growing radicalization of Pakistani society, it has become a commonplace for the remaining liberals or the educated liberals of this society to engage in discussions with regards to radicalization or the causes of radicalization in our society. Most such discussions are now taking place in privacy, where many are some what or the other reluctant to voice their honest opinions out of fear of reprecussions. The fear of reprecussions stems from people's heightened religious sensitivity which brings with it social consequences for the not only the minorities in this nation but also the non practising Muslims. Such reprecussions range from mild harassment to social ostracization to out and out direct life threats which come when the overly sensitive religious individuals start feeling that the liberals and the non practising Muslims are mocking Islam and what ever set of practises come with it. Instead of encouraging open criticism and open dialogue, their reaction at times appears as if all hell will break loose if they do not take some sort of action on our words. Though in some cases, liberals do cross boundaries that can test even the most patient of Muslims, the backlash they the liberals face from their religious bretheren is far greater. Through a product of conditional and subliminal learning, hundreds and thousands of Pakistanis including tens of thousands of those belonging to affluent classes have been radicalised over the years and have become extremely sensitive when it comes to religious matter. While having a discussion with some fellow repatriates like myself now living in Pakistan, we too were engaged in a full on discussion about the causes of radicalization in Pakistan. Our discussion the other day, moved to a rarely discussed cause for the radicalization of society, and one which is very controversial and not without its consequences. What we discussed was whether the Pakistani diaspora i.e. overseas Pakistanis were exporting religious sensitivity and radicalization back to the land of their ancestors. We can begin this discussion by looking at Diaspora statistics of Pakistanis and their level of integration into their host society. The largest Pakistani communities currently found overseas are in the United Kingdom and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. In the case of both countries, the Pakistani community exceeds over a million. The Pakistani community in other countries is relatively much smaller, with about 50,000 in Australia, around half a million in the United States and about a quarter of a million in Canada. Let us start with the Pakistani diaspora in the United Kingdom. In a community of almost a million, Pakistanis make up one of the most prominent ethnic groups in Great Britain, with majority of the community centered around the midlands and the northern towns. Most of the Pakistanis living in Great Britain trace their ancestory and heritage from Kashmir and Northern Punjab, mostly rural or small town Punjab and Kashmir, with great waves of immigration happening in the 60's, 70's and 80's. The midlands and the northern towns of England in particular were homes to manufacturing and industry in the country, employment in the industrial sector was a great driver of these massive waves of immigration. As industry declined, so did employment and growth in it and the region as a whole. While the first generation of migrants is always willing to accept the harsh realities of being a migrant community, it puts the second and third generation of immigrants, their children and grandchildren in a difficult position, as they are caught in a limbo between integration and maintaining their cultural identity under the impression their host culture will not accept them. According to statistics based on surveys conducted by the British government, the Pakistani community in the United Kingdom is the least socially integrated community as a whole. That whole lack of integration includes high unemployment, poverty, living in ethnic enclaves as well as growing religious radicalization. Many news stories have been done, as well as countless documentaries about the growth in radicalization of British Pakistanis, predominently amongst the youth. The not so affluent and the not so integrated British Pakistani youth that feels as if British society is marginalizing them can become an easy target for the cause of radical Imams and religious scholars that openly preach hatred for the British government and British society by labelling their host country as a country of infidels who are enemies of 'Islam'. The British Pakistani youth gets early exposure to such radicalized Imams and such religious influence stays over the course of years unless they distance themselves from other diaspora Pakistanis like themselves. It begins with the Imam at the local mosque from an early age, it then moves onto exclusively Muslim schools for which lobbyists fight with local governments for recognition. This later on transends into early adulthood when the youth enter university as they meet and interact with other British Pakistanis from throughout Great Britain, some of whom bring with them their radicalized ideas and thoughts. Having lived in the United Kingdom myself, I can honestly say I am not lying when I say this that it is not uncommon in that country for certain Imams to hold radicalized views, or for the British Pakistani youth, particularly amongst young men at university to belong to a conservative and radical school of thought. I have even across British Pakistanis, who everytime they gather, they discuss about how they can reject British society and become self proclaimed God's warriors and fight for the cause of Islam, fight for the establishment of the Khilafat and Sharia law on all of mankind. Such groups also make proactive efforts to recruit new immigrants or well off Pakistanis that have come to foreign shores in pursuit of knowledge. British universities are a magnet for affluent would be university students from Pakistan. Here is a thought, while such people have been unable to achive all that within British society, bring about the religious change they want to bring, what would be rationally their next possible target for bringing about change? You guessed it, the land of their ancestors. It is entirely possible that the British Pakistani youth of the later generations has been brought up with a romanticized image of Pakistan, stemming from memory that their parents or their grandparents had from a conservative small town in Pakistan. Where Pakistan was a safehaven of Islam, and represented a country where one can truly be a Muslim and it represents everything that is pious about Islam. Towards the end of the 20th century Pakistani society had changed a fair bit prior to the sudden radicalization that began at the start of the millenium. Over the 1980s and 90s, post Zia Ul Haq, Pakistani society opened up and went through a stage of liberalization as well as a demographic change. This change could be seen from the growth and prosperity of media and press in the country, as well as the rapid rural to urban migration that has taken place in Pakistan. Here is another thought, what if the same diaspora Pakistanis from the United Kingdom, visited Pakistan and instead got exposed to a very liberal society, and the relatives that they were drawn towards courtesy of the remittences now live in the major cities as opposed to small town Pakistan. It tempts one to think, whether such circumstances break a romanticized bubble image of Pakistan in their minds. Not only is the dream shattered, but their is presented an opportunity for the expats or the diaspora Pakistanis to bring in their values to the society which they deem as too liberal now. Now I am going to fast forward the clock a little bit and go back in time only to about some what ten years ago or so. At the dawn of the 21st century, the world witnessed a set of events that forever changed the course of human history. On a September morning in 2001, the United States witnessed terrorist attacks of epic proportions in New York and Washington DC, which lead to the death of over 3000 people. The September morning, forever changed the course of modern history. In the aftermath of 9/11, the United States lead with its allies went to war with Afghanistan and a few years later with Iraq. There is a widespread belief amongst millions in the Muslim world that the US lead invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq is a war against Islam, and the proponents of such claims often argue that Muslims around the world should return to the core of their beliefs and unite in the so called Jihad against the Imperialistic West. Around the same time, in the months that followed 9/11 and the invasion of Afghanistan, a few radical religious schools emerged in the major urban centers of Pakistan such as Karachi, Lahore and Rawalpindi. A slight difference this time was that these religious schools or academies targetted the affluent socioeconomic groups in society, as lessons moved from the Mosque to a private air conditioned rented out seminar hall or conference center in posh localities. Most importantly another element to it was that these schools were conducted by overseas Pakistanis including two prominent British Pakistani scholars from the United Kingdom, both of whom held a doctrate in Islamic studies from British Universities. With the set up of such schools, overnight educated well to do liberals in society transformed into overly sensitive religious practitioners. Overnight young men grew beards and submitted themselves to God by leaving behind the world, overnight educated socially out going women in the pursuit of piety became overly obedient and submissive housewives who also made the decision to wear the veil which would hide their identity from the world. An identity which they were once very proud off. If you target the upper and the upper middle class of society, it becomes easy to penetrate into the middle classes, as many in the middle class despite their denial look towards the affluent classes as a guideline on what constitutes a good and prosperous way of life. I feel that the biggest tool used by these overseas Pakistani scholars to get the people to yield to their proposed thoughts has been 'guilt enducement' and later on 'guilt exploitation'. By enducing a sense of guilt where it previously ceased to exist, it can serve as a powerful tool for control or influence which can be further reaffirmed through exploitation of that guilt. For example in this instance, guilt is being created in the hearts of minds of people by communicating thoughts that they should feel guilty about their way of life, in other words feel bad about their life style choice as their life style choice is unacceptable in the eyes of God, and even the smallest of things they do can land their soul into the fiery pits of Hell. If one is able to freighten people through guilt enducement, one has the key to the doors of their minds. Amongst the affluent communities of urban Pakistan, it would be fair to assign a certain amount of credit to such scholars and their academies for radicalization of Pakistani society. As the world heads towards liberalisation, it seems we as a nation have gone backwards into neo-conservatism and heightened religious sensitivity has become so widespread, its put many in a position where people are killing like vigilantes in broad day light in the name of religion and where the liberal thinkers have been silenced out of fear for their own lives. So would it be a fair argument, if the suggestion was made that the diaspora is exporting radicalization?