My opinion, bluntly expressed: if the people of Pakistan do not soon face down and utterly reject the Islamists in their midst, then Pakistan will likely cease to exist as a viable, recognisable nation … collapsing into chaos and Islamo-fascism, a place of darkness, oppression and fear.
What is an Islamist? The answer is simple: anyone who seeks, through the use or endorsement of violence and intimidation, to end all individual freedoms by imposing on everyone else their own particular version of Islam … in total replacement of not only all other varieties of Islam, but also all aspects of secular society. In other words, an Islamist is a variety of fascist.
In an Islamist’s world-view, all other varieties of Islamic practice and belief – Sufism for example – are to be swept away and their adherents branded as ‘heretics’ who can be murdered with impunity. In an Islamist world-view, all secular law is to be swept away and replaced by an extremist interpretation of Sharia law and the like. And in an Islamist world-view all democracy is to be swept away as ‘un-Islamic’ and effectively replaced by decrees from unelected clerics.
Thus the playing of chess may be banned. Music and dancing may be forbidden. Listening to the radio or watching TV may be banished. Access to the internet may be denied and all video games banned. Beards for men may become mandatory (of a prescribed length no less), playing cricket may be banned, as may watching football.
How so? Because all of these things (and many more) have already variously happened in areas where Islamists hold sway.
There is in truth no end to the mad list of activities that may become forbidden – no end to the list of prescribed behaviours that may become enforced – once a society lets hold sway extremist and peculiar interpretations of what is and is not ‘Islamic’ … and allows Islamism to sweep all else away.
And with this sweeping away, all the pillars of freedom and democracy disappear: a free press and independent media, law-making bodies that are democratically accountable, an independent judiciary, freedom of speech and expression. In their stead come gangs of Islamist, gun-toting men, roaming the streets, drunk on the power they wield, each striving to prove through fanatical behaviour that they are more ‘pure’ and Islamist than the rest.
And in an Islamist world-view, in this 21st century, the rights of half the population, the female half, are to be swept away and replaced by extremist interpretations of attitudes rooted in the medieval era of history … interpretations that amount to little more than slavery enforced through violence.
In Pakistan today, the mere accusation of ‘blasphemy’ is often enough to cause the murder of the accused individual. Many varieties of shrine and religious house – Sufi, Hindu, Christian and more – have been attacked and their worshippers killed. And recently, 132 school-children were deliberately murdered because they had parents in the military who may have fought against Islamists. Indeed, over the last eight years nearly 24,000 civilians and security personnel have been killed in Pakistan by terrorists.
Yet despite all this, or perhaps even because of all this, some ‘religious clerics’ in Pakistan can call – with apparent impunity from any laws against the incitement of violence and terrorism – for the remaining staff of Charlie Hebdo (Paris) to be hanged.
I think that time grows short for the people and politicians of Pakistan. The choice is clear: stand together against the gun-men, zealots and extremists, stand up and be counted for freedom, tolerance (live and let live), plurality and human dignity … or else be plunged into a fascist nightmare.
Sitting on the sidelines won’t cut it. The silent Muslim majority in Pakistan must find its voice.