Friday, 22 August 2014

ISIS – Caliphate or Pretenders?

ISIS has been operating in both Syria and Iraq for a few years; however they have shot to prominence in June 2014 due to its claim of having established a Caliphate on territory constituted from both countries. Whilst the Caliphate is a revered institution in both in Islamic scholarship as well as the sentiment of the Muslim masses as cited by numerous polls, the claims of ISIS have only found small pockets of support around the world.

A key discussion point has been the viability of the State declared by ISIS, particularly focussing on the aspect of security. ISIS asserts that the hard power of its authority as a Caliphate is derived from the bayah (pledge of allegiance) sworn to it by the influential Sunni tribes in Iraq, giving it effective control of the territories of these tribes and beyond. The Sunni tribes are known to be significant players in the region, being pivotal in the Anbar insurgency during the American occupation of Iraq and infamous for switching sides from Al Qaeda to help the American effort to drive them out of their lands.

Concerns of vulnerability to attack by foreign powers are addressed by drawing parallels with the historic Islamic State established in Medina in the 7th Century, when the Muslims received the support of only two key tribes of the town. The great powers of the time were the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire and the Sassanid (Persian) Empire, which it is claimed that if they were to have attacked the nascent Islamic State in Medina it would have been destroyed. Are these claims based on solid reasoning?

There seems to be an implicit assumption that the Roman and Persian empires themselves were in a reality where they were focused on the area in which Medina existed, therefore able to influence the security of the region.

This is simply not the case, as they were both busy fighting each other and left much of the Arabian Peninsula to their tribal allies to deal with. Even this was so that the tribes maintained a buffer zone against their own empires. We know this from documented history as well as from the Quran itself, where in Surah Ar-Rum the ongoing battles between the Romans and Persians, including the then impending Roman victory, is discussed.

Therefore the battles that the Islamic State in Medina took part in during the early years were between powers of a similar order of magnitude, rather than a couple of tribes against hundreds of thousands of men.

The region of Iraq today, as well as for much of the previous 25 years, has directly been the focus of Western aggression through a hugely destructive war, an almost decade long implementation of sanctions, followed by another hugely destructive war, followed by an almost decade long occupation. After the occupation itself has ended, America has left in place its political system as well as a core security team in key areas such as Irbil and Baghdad, retaining influence in the area.

The Sunni tribes, whilst having the ability to decide security on a local level, are not able to do so in the context of modern states. In other words, whilst they may be instrumental in deciding which group or tribe can exist in the area, they do not possess the might to repel an attack by a foreign force such as America by any stretch of the imagination to the extent that they can guarantee security for an independent political vision.

This then leads one to question America's silence over ISIS's advance in both Syria and the Sunni region of Iraq yet its immediate and strong reaction to potential advances on the Kurdish areas as well as Baghdad.

Moreover, there is a well publicized school of thought within American thinking which discusses the fragmentation of the Middle East and the breaking of Sykes-Picot borders by America itself. In addition, the fact that ISIS can suddenly capture a huge amount of wealth and American weaponry as well as the entire city of Mosul, where no shot was fired, without the US batting so much as an eyelid leads to further questions. Add in to this the horrific nature of many of ISIS's "PR" releases which are highly sectarian in nature.

When viewed in this wider context ISIS not only are revealed to by far short of attaining the capability of a secure state, their actions and deeds are highly suspicious and curiously in line with overarching American objectives for the region. The bonus of exploiting the deeply respected and cherished institution of the Caliphate can only be a propaganda coup for those that wish to see it buried in the books of history forever, given that the apparent merciless nature of the treatment of non-Muslims and Muslims disagreeing with ISIS would revolt the majority of the world, Muslim or non-Muslim.

Muhammad Asim

Twitter: @AsimWriter

Published on 22nd August 2014 on Asia Times Online as ISIS: Caliphate or pretenders?

On Goes the Circus

The upcoming twin Marches on 14th August, ostensibly there to remove corruption from Pakistan, are nothing more than distraction. Leaders of the two parties Imran Khan of Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf and Tahir Ul Qadri of Pakistan Awami Tehreek are working to establish confidence in the existing system by attacking an individual and not the mechanism of law making.

Imran's most notable achievement to date is the infusion of life in democracy, a system that by repeatedly failing the people was on life support after the Zardari regime. By mobilising the youth and selling them the slogan of Naya Pakistan he reversed the chronic apathy that had taken root and by then taking on power in KPK legitimised PML-Ns hold on power, not to mention endorsing democracy and its ways of placing legislation in the hands of corruptible law makers.

TuQ's container antics last time were in a similar vein, appealing to a more religiously inclined and generally older conservative demographic within the population to that of Imran’s. With much the same noise and fanfare TuQ, a long term resident of Canada, returned all of a sudden in Jan 2013 with suspected military blessing to demand the dissolution of the Electoral commission and early dissolution of the National Assembly ahead of the General Election of 2013. At the time he called for the military to be involved in picking a caretaker government, a sure fire way to spook anyone wanting to avoid another dictatorship out of their apathy and to take part in the democratic process. Yet a mere month later all of these demands were dropped, given that much pent up steam within the population against the antics of politicians had successfully been released in TuQ’s march. TuQ, 7* container and all, departed the scene once more only to return a few ago.

The objectives of these marches are to once again cement faith in the faltering democracy in the face of pathetic results. A recent survey of 84 countries by the US Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research service found that in 2012 Pakistanis were spending 47.7% of their income on food, the highest ratio of any of the countries surveyed. Inflation is set to rocket once more as CNG, used in more than 4 million vehicles in the country, is set to be replaced by costly LNG which. This will lead to an estimated increase in fuel costs of Rs 170 over the standard cost of filling a CNG tank of Rs600, an approximately staggering 28%. This will not only affect the individual consumer but have an inflationary effect across the entire economy as the costs of transportation affect all goods that need to move from one place to another. To top this off debt stock as a percentage of GDP, which was 29.2pc in 2009, rose to 42.2pc in FY13 and there is no indication of this trend reversing. 

It has always been lamented that there are no institutions in Pakistan and the electoral commission is seen as a key body that can be projected as making the democratic set up 'accountable'. But Nawaz is going on nowhere on 14th August; he is corrupt but then so is every other party. He is following the foreign agenda both on the economy and on foreign policy. Economically he is slavishly following the agenda of the IMF in selling off huge amounts of govt assets ranging from areas in Oil and Gas, Telecoms and infrastructure in exchange for paltry bailouts. As for foreign policy he is happily pursuing America's war in Waziristan, an operation which has long been desired due to NATO admitting to the problem resistance fighters put up to its occupation of Afghanistan from Pakistan.  Therefore to remove Nawaz is to put these endeavours at risk, something which America and its stooges in the military top brass would not allow. There is no appetite for the army to take over in any area of influence for said reasons, so you won't see 'Mere Azziz Humwatno' from Raheel any time soon.

The drive for all this is ultimately to keep a circus going that distracts people from the main issues of being engaged in America's war in Waziristan, structural problems with the economy driven by a Capitalist agenda and fundamental problems in the law making process which continually enables thieves to occupy politics through acts like NRO. With an eye on the Middle East where people are beginning to question and are struggling against their secular overlords, it would be most untenable for the secular military/political establishment if public opinion is for the establishment of an Islamic System which would challenge not just their petty thrones but also the geo political objectives of their Western masters. The most realistic outcome of this charade is a reformed Electoral Commission of sorts, so that people will again wait with baited breath for the next election of the circus that is politics in Pakistan.

Muhammad Asim

Twitter: @AsimWriter

Published on 14th August 2014 on Asia Times Online as Parades in Pakistan's Political Circus

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Pakistan's Constitution Conundrum

Published on 21/02/14

Recent talks between the Pakistani government and the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) have ignited a discussion regarding the Islamic legitimacy of the country's constitution. The TTP's claim at the start of the talks that the constitution is not Islamic and the government's assertion of the opposite have spawned debate in talk shows and in livings rooms throughout Pakistan this topic has been dissected.

The present discussion is framed within the context of bringing an end to the violence plaguing Pakistan since the United States arrived in the region post-9/11, and the topic is of interest not just to the parties involved in the talks but to those who have a genuine concern for the Islamic nature of the country.

The chief defense of the constitution's Islamic credentials is that it cites Islam as the state religion and has provisioned for the Federal Shariat Court (FSC) to examine whether all laws are in accordance with Islam.

This logic implicitly assumes that the process of developing laws within the democratic framework as afforded by the constitution is nearly identical to that of extracting laws from Islamic texts in the process of jurisprudence, with a little something on top to "Islamicize" the democratic process. Yet the reality of both procedures produces stark contrasts.

In a democratic process, elected lawmakers come together to develop laws as they see fit. There are no constraints as to what they can legislate for, with only a majority of some sort required to pass any particular law. There is no requirement for the legislators to have previous legal experience, nor that they be experts on the subject matter at hand, though technical advice can be sought if required.

In Islam, many matters are clearly defined as being legal or illegal, such as the consumption of alcohol, adultery and interest-based transactions. In areas where definitive rulings do not exist or new realities are encountered, a legal expert is required to extract a ruling from Islamic texts. If the legal expert does not possess technical expertise in understanding a particular subject matter, then he or she is allowed to call upon the help of specialists to apprise them of the reality - for example, a doctor to explain the technical aspects of human-cloning. This process is known as Ijtihad.

In a situation where a numerous legal experts have extracted an array of opinions on the same matter, based upon either a variation of their understanding of the technical reality or use of different principles in accessing non-definitive Islamic texts, it is then up to the ruler of the state to adopt one opinion for it to become the sole reference point in law.

A problem therefore is apparent in the Pakistani law-making process: legislative chambers that are filled with individuals unqualified to extract laws from Islamic sources from a jurisprudential perspective are enacting laws for the country to follow simply according their own limited knowledge and experience rather than turning to divinely revealed guidance.

Further, the powers of the executive are ill-defined between the president and the prime minister, while according to Islam these should be vested in a single ruler and thus enable him to adopt laws extracted according to Islamic texts. This is crucial, as under the current democratic system even if both legislative chambers of the National Assembly and Senate were filled with qualified jurists, the mechanism to enact an extracted legal opinion into law would be missing, leading to confusion and potential conflict.

Additionally, political parties enact laws upon the basis of populism, pragmatism and imitation of the West rather than looking to Islam for solutions. The political context of law-making cannot be ignored, as laws are made by the corrupt to serve their own personal interests, without the restrictions that divine Islamic texts would impose, as well as to serve the economic, military and political agenda of foreign colonial powers.

This political backdrop, combined with conceptual deficiencies within the constitution, has created a secular state in Pakistan that goes against the beliefs of the people and their desire to live by Islam. A cursory look at some key areas of governance reveal how different Pakistan is to what an Islamic state should be.

The Economy

Whether it is banks that serve the individual or businesses with loans, political parties that promise micro-finance schemes for the poor or the government that borrows from home or abroad, interest is a key component of all major financial transactions. Yet the Islamic prohibition of interest is clear:
Those who consume interest cannot stand [on the Day of Resurrection] except as one stands who is being beaten by Satan into insanity. That is because they say, "Trade is [just] like interest." But Allah has permitted trade and has forbidden interest. So whoever has received an admonition from his Lord and desists may have what is past, and his affair rests with Allah. But whoever returns to [dealing in interest or usury] - those are the companions of the Fire; they will abide eternally therein. TMQ 2:275
At the behest of foreign lenders such as the International Monetary Fund and World Bank and as a result indoctrination in capitalist economic theory, governments of all political hues have set upon a program of privatization for decades in areas such as energy, telecoms and other key infrastructure. In a hadith narrated by Imam Ahmed and Ibn Maja, Muhammad (saw) states, "The Muslims are partners in three, water, pastures and fire."

While private ownership is permitted in Islam public resources such as mines, energy utilities and infrastructure are to be owned by the state to enable the people to benefit, rather than the private sector to profiteer. The result of pursuing this policy under various governments has led not only to rising prices in all areas of the energy sector but shortages due to the greedy pursuit of higher profits.

Foreign Policy

Pakistan's alliance with the United States post 9/11 is an example of policy making devoid of Islamic guidance. Pakistan has not only harmed itself economically and militarily as a result, but it has facilitated the killing of tens of thousands of Muslims civilians on both sides of the Af-Pak border. Muhammad (saw) said as narrated in Sahih Bukhari:
A Muslim is a brother of another Muslim, so he should not oppress him, nor should he hand him over to an oppressor. Whoever fulfilled the needs of his brother, Allah will fulfill his needs; whoever brought his (Muslim) brother out of a discomfort, Allah will bring him out of the discomforts of the Day of Resurrection, and whoever screened a Muslim, Allah will screen him on the Day of Resurrection.
The provision of bases and supply lines to America, the tacit approval of drone strikes and the conduction of campaigns by the Pakistan military all stand as contradictions to this guidance.

The Legal System

The legal system is based upon British common law. Regardless of some incorporation of Hudood, it is inconceivable that justice as an Islamic concept could be established within Pakistan when the judiciary judge according to other than that what Allah has revealed:
And judge, [O Muhammad], between them by what Allah has revealed and do not follow their inclinations and beware of them, lest they tempt you away from some of what Allah has revealed to you. And if they turn away - then know that Allah only intends to afflict them with some of their [own] sins. And indeed, many among the people are defiantly disobedient. TMQ 5:49
Pakistan is being ruled on a non-Islamic basis, backed by an Islamically deficient constitution. The laws and policies that are created as a result of this situation benefit the corrupt elite and foreign powers immensely, as it leaves the people and resources of the country open to exploitation and abuse.

The fact that stakeholders in the existing system benefit from such a set-up and are attracted to it due to the potential to profiteer means that change cannot be expected to occur from within, no matter how long the masses wait.

This situation has arisen over a period of decades under the rule of various parties and military dictators. It stands as the greatest negation of the argument of gradually implementing change by working within the existing system; almost 70 years after its creation Pakistan not only remains un-Islamic as a state but is hurtling further in the direction of liberalism and decay. Surely the requirement of the times is to bring comprehensive and swift change to the political set up?

The Islamic nature of Pakistan is not the preserve of any one group or organization, nor is it restricted to certain political issues. It is related to the belief of people from all walks of life. It is therefore incumbent upon all to engage in the discussion of how meaningful change can be enacted to enable Pakistan to be a true Islamic State.

Muhammad Asim

Twitter: @AsimWriter

Published on 21st February 2014 on Asia Times Online as
Pakistan's constitution conundrum

Sunday, 7 July 2013

The toppling of Morsi is a blow for Secularism

“Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black" – Henry Ford
The ouster of Mohamed Morsi as President of Egypt in a coup d’état by the military will reverberate not only across the political landscape of the ancient land but that of the entire Muslim world. Morsi, whilst viewed globally as a barely acceptable face of political Islam, represented but a segment of a wider movement in the Muslim world calling for the implementation of Shariah law by the State.

Numerous polls have shown overwhelming support amongst the global Muslim populace for making Shariah the official law of the land. The latest of such research is that of the Washington based Pew Research organisation entitled ‘The World’s Muslims; Religion, Politics and Society’ which was released on April 30, 2013. The poll found that in 25 of the countries surveyed the majority of Muslims supported Shariah being the law of the land. Notable findings were Iraq (91%), Malaysia (86%), Niger (86%), Pakistan (84%), Morocco (83%), Bangladesh (82%), Egypt (74%), Jordan (71%) and Nigeria (71%). What is intriguing about these findings is not just the level of such support but the amount of diversity amongst the respondents gives pause for thought; whether one finds themselves in Africa, the Middle East, South or South East Asia, they would find a consistent political ambition amongst the people.

So why has Morsi been rejected in Egypt? To the uninitiated a bearded man from a party, whose name drips with Islamic symbolism born in the nationalistic aftermath that followed the collapse of the Ottoman Caliphate, which for many years adopted the slogan ‘Islam is the solution’ would be the realisation of anyone who desires Shariah law.

On a superficial level the Morsi government failed to address the economic malaise faced by Egypt leading to mass discontent. Yet there is also a deeper answer hiding in plain sight; the Muslim Brotherhood had not only forsaken Islamic politics decades ago but became the champion of democratisation, predicated on secular thought, across the Muslim world. Its actions subsequent to the demise of Hosni Mubarak epitomise its wandering political compass, which have compounded Egypt’s woes.

Early on in the revolution it was quick to distance itself from championing the mass movement, which many interpreted as a sign that it was projecting a moderated stance to the global media lest Western states decided to intervene against it. This was designed as much for the consumption of world as it was for the military, the real power behind the Egyptian throne.

Appropriate noises were made about wanting a civil state rather than an Islamic one which led the Brotherhood being allowed to contest the elections as the Freedom and Justice Party. Many supporters ignored this call due to a mixture of viewing it as political subterfuge and holding the idea that an Islamic state could be achieved from within a secular democratic setup by gradual implementation of Islamic principles. Once in power, rather than using this success at the ballot box as a mandate for political change, the Brotherhood ended up continuing many of the key policies and ideological direction of the Mubarak era.

Economically it was unable to address the issue of resource distribution, with the military and Mubarak era governments controlling up to 40% of the economy. As these elites moved wealth out of the country, the Egyptian Pound plummeted leading to a widening trade deficit as Egypt attempted to service its energy and food imports using a weakened currency. Out of ideas, Morsi turned to the IMF for interest based loans. All of these policies were born of the crucible of economic liberalism, with no Islamic economic policies such as the introduction of a bi-metallic backed currency, the abolition of natural resource monopolies or the shifting of the tax burden from income and consumption to capital and produce in sight.

In terms of foreign policy the army ensured that Egypt continued to support the goals of its benefactor, America, rather than reflect public sentiment in Egypt. This lead to the reaffirmation of the Camp David accords, blocking the tunnels to Gaza and mostly silence on the issue of the Syrian revolution. This ran counter to the expected dropping of national borders to unify with other Muslim countries to create a wider Islamic union and the removal of Western supported dictators in the Arab world by supplying political/military support to other revolutions in the region.

Despite unending compromise on practically every major issue to placate Western states abroad and secularists at home, the Brotherhood was still ejected from power. This will leave many supporters of not just the Brotherhood directly but the politics of gradualism and participation in a democratic process with much to think about. If democracy cannot tolerate the will of the people if it happens to be Islamic, then is it truly just a mechanism for representing popular opinion or is it a system unable to function without the values of secular liberalism being implemented? Is it really the political equivalent of Henry Ford’s choice of colour?

The ramifications of the answer to this question would be important not just to the fate of Egyptian politics but to that of the entire Muslim world. The Muslim Brotherhood has inspired many movements in the Muslim world which have espoused political participation in democracy rather than an attempt at radical change to establish an Islamic State. If the Brotherhood can be tossed aside, despite decades of work and masses of support on its home turf, how can such a system hold any hope for meaningful change?

Lessons learned from Egypt would suggest that any real change requires the backing of the armed forces rather than a conflict with them or a simple change of face on the political front. Further, it would seem that regardless of how much political Islam compromises it would never be perceived as sufficient by secular segments of society, so why try at all?

The coming months and years could see the biggest drop in adoption democracy amongst the proponents of Shariah law across the Muslim world. Ironically, this would have been precipitated by a coup backed by secularists and implicitly by Western powers to rid one country of any influence of political Islam.

Muhammad Asim

Twitter: @AsimWriter

Published on 8th July 2013 in The Nation (Pakistan) as Morsi’s toppling: a blow for secularism

Friday, 2 December 2011

Ending Treachery in Pakistan

At least 24 soldiers have been murdered by America. The massacre took place at a well known base in Mohmand whose location was given to NATO. Clearly, this was a deliberate action, forged by American arrogance, to serve as a warning to the Pakistan Army to comply with American demands or this is the fate that awaits them. This message was for the bulk of the Army, as whilst the blood of such jawans is shed the military and civilian leadership collude with America, continually plotting to further the foreign agenda.

In terms of actual incursions by NATO and its Afghan origin forces, this is the eighth such event since 2008. Each time we have heard lies from Gilani, Zardari, Kayani and Pasha. Parliament has passed resolutions in 2008 and 2010 which pay lip service to punishing these foreign aggressors. With this latest outrage, it can be no doubt that the leadership will go through the same old disgraceful pack lies that it always does i.e. condemn in ‘strongest terms’, close supply routes for a few days, America will offer a token apology, the supply routes will reopen and the killing will resume.

Once again, in this latest episode the Pakistani authorities are now calling for Shamsi airbase to be vacated by the Americans (yes, the one that was asked to be emptied in June 2011) and have cut the supply lines to NATO which like before are expected to reopen after a brief period. Cunningly, no mention of banning the use of Pakistani airspace by drones has been mentioned leading to the conclusion that calling for the closure of Shamsi is designed to placate an angry public. Such actions, whilst the Army top brass and civilian leaderships are selling out the people and the army body for their own gain, are not incompetence but treachery. The officers in the Pakistan army are aware of this and have been applying huge pressure on the sold out Kayani, harshly accounting him for his alliance with America both after the Abbottabad raid and now this latest NATO transgression. The bulk of the Army, like the people, do not wish to continue this master to slave relationship that the secular liberal civilian and military leadership have forced upon the country.

This is not Pakistan’s war. Pakistani opinion is against this American misadventure in the region. A Pew Global poll shows 62% opposing the war, 69% wanting the removal of American forces from Afghanistan and 69% viewing American military presence as a potential threat against Pakistan. The cost to the country has been huge. The Pakistan Economic Survey 2010-11 says that the economy has lost $68 billion and requires an early end to the war in order to recover. 35000 civilian lives have been lost since the start of the war, not including the thousands of soldiers killed and millions made refugees.

Before the America brought its war to the region, suicide bombing was unheard of in Pakistan with just one incident occurring in 1995 against the Egyptian embassy. Such attacks, which are common place now in markets and against the armed forces, were previously unthinkable. With CIA personnel like Raymond Davis being caught with images of sensitive military installations and having established close ties with outfits that Pakistan is at war with on behalf of America, it does not take much imagination to figure out as to who is orchestrating these bombings especially when hundreds of visas are being granted to the CIA.

The secular liberal elite, comprising journalists, civilian and military leadership plus the political parties are the only ones in the country who support the war. They are funded and given political patronage from foreign capitals. They have created a false image of dependency upon America in order to subdue public opinion against the war. In reality the secular liberals are the ones dependent upon American money and power for survival, hence their eagerness to promote American imperialism

It is in Pakistan’s strategic, political and economic interests to not only exit from this war but remove the American presence in the region. American meddling has removed Afghanistan as an ally on the Western border whilst empowering India, most notably showering it with nuclear legitimacy

Pakistan has the tools required to remove America from the region, it only lacks political and ideological will. The closing of bases, cutting of supply lines and ejection of CIA and mercenary forces such as Blackwater can all be achieved without firing a single shot. The American campaign in Afghanistan will wither and die the instant the vast amount supplies it receives through Pakistan are cut; it has little alternative regardless of the bravado and bluster that may come from Washington

It is said that when war is mentioned amateurs talk tactics, professionals talk logistics. Regardless of the tools America has, be it drones, helicopter gunships, tanks or even soldiers all this is useless if it cannot obtain the airstrips, fuel or food to maintain these assets. With 49% of all supplies for Afghanistan coming through Pakistan, this war effort cannot be sustained if this support is withdrawn. The alternative of expanding supplies from America’s Central Asian supply route is dictated by simple economics and the desire not to be reliant on transit routes in Russia’s back yard, with whom America has a frosty relationship at the best of times

Even in more prosperous times this was too costly and this is evidenced by America being forced to deal with volatile Pakistan for supplies in the first place. This is problem is now compounded for America as it creaks under record debt levels of $15 trillion and decreasing confidence in its ability to service this debt as evidenced by fractious debate in Congress. It is in no position to pursue supply alternatives to Pakistan for a sustained war effort.

The solution is therefore simply and practical, yet we will not see this being implemented. This will be another incident in a long list of grave violations that America has undertaken such as the Raymond Davis fiasco, Abbottabad Operation and of course countless drone attacks.

The problem, though promoted by secular liberals, will not end by simply bringing someone perceived to be corruption free, conservative or right wing in to power. The current system in Pakistan will ensure that regardless of there being a military dictator or civilian democrat, the same policies will continue. The politics in Pakistan is so rotten that it is impossible to attempt to place a ‘clean’ figure at the top to fix things as the same old corrupt and sold out politicians, who hold sway and clout, will take senior positions in government.

The political will required to remove America from the region cannot come from the corrupt politicians who have competed with one another to impress America. Nor can it come from those who have no ideological direction, relying on pragmatism to attempt to chart a route out of a dangerous situation. Such political and ideological will can only come from a political group, such as Hizb ut Tahrir, that has a long track record of working globally with the Muslim Ummah for the establishment of the Khilafat (Caliphate). Such a group, not tainted by operating in the corrupt and murky political system of Pakistan, would by the backing of the sincere officers of the Pakistan armed forces be able to implement the will of the people of Pakistan and remove American hegemony from harming the Muslims as it does today unchecked

As we enter the month of Muharram, it is important to note that our Islamic Calendar begins from the day 1433 years ago when the Islamic State in Medina was established by Muhammad (saw). We remember his (saw) words on the issue of an Islamic ruler or Caliph, particularly relevant after the NATO strike, when he (saw) said,

"Behold, the Imam is but a shield from behind whom the people fight and by whom they protect themselves."

Today the Muslims in Pakistan and rest of the Ummah lack this shield. Today, the place of this Imam is occupied by secular liberals who are slaves of America and NATO, being totally besotted with foreign ideals and philosophies. The secular liberal intelligentsia and the secular liberal political/military leadership is actively engaged in selling out the country in order to serve America’s agenda of gaining geo-political hegemony over the world.

They are using their full strength in order to support America in its attempt to crush Islam as a political and ideological force by attempting to purge the armed forces of sincere personnel who have locked Islam in to their hearts. They are using their full resources to abduct and torture those sincere workers of political change who call for Khilafat, such as Dr Abdul Qayyum of Hizb ut Tahrir, in a desperate attempt to prevent the Islamic revival and an effort to continue the slavish status quo.

Only a ruler governing by Islam, given explicit direction by the Shariah to defend the lands, lives and property of the people, would move unashamedly to pursue the required policies that would guarantee independence from foreign interference and aggression. Secular liberals, who never had an argument to start with, have no leg to stand on in terms of pushing for continued support with America and its war.

The masses of Pakistan are fed up and ready for real change. The sincere officers and troops of the armed forces, abused by the sold out top brass and civilian rulers, are able to bring this about in the form of the Khilafat..

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Lessons from the European Union for the Muslim World

The desire for Unity in the Muslim world is strong and growing. Many surveys and opinion polls have suggested an increasing number of Muslims from countries as far apart as Egypt to Pakistan want to establish laws based on Sharia and desire unification of Muslim countries. Indeed there is a growing trend to attribute this call of unity to Islamic scripture rather than ideas of Pan-Arabism or some sort of socialist union. The discussion of how to implement such unity is now a hot topic of contention amongst many circles. A 2007 poll called Muslim Public Opinion on US Policy, Attacks on Civilians and al Qaeda by WorldPublicOpinion.Org revealed that an overall average 65% of people across the Muslim world support the goal to “unify all Islamic countries in to a single Islamic State or caliphate”.

An enthusiastic debate is being played out across the Muslim world and beyond as to how the unification of over 50 countries and territories should take place. One of the suggestions has been for all Muslim countries to enter in to a Muslim Union. In particular, there has been some discussion that this Union should be modelled after the European Union (EU).

Given that the EU has managed to bring together countries that little more than half a century ago were killing each other by the million this argument deserves to be examined. In addition the current global financial storm that is buffeting the EU gives us an opportunity to examine the robustness of such a union in the face of stern challenges.

The thinking behind this original European project was that closer integration between different European states would lead to an increase in prosperity and thus prevent another outbreak of war. Preceding the EU were three organisations which were set up during the Cold War era. These were the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), whose aim was to create a single market for the coal and steel industries on the continent – the key industries for war, in order to establish prosperity amongst the different nations. The European Economic Community (EEC) existed as a general customs and economic cooperation body, which went on to become the single market. Also, the European Atomic Energy Community (EAEC) existed to facilitate cooperation on nuclear energy between member states. Crucially, these organisations were a platform for the Capitalist European states to come together on the basis of their common ideological bond for mutual gain. Communist nations in Europe were excluded from the club.

After the Cold War, the EU succeeded these three organisations to create a common market to facilitate trade between countries in Europe by standardising laws to ensure the free movement of people, goods, services and capital. A bigger economic bloc would emerge to provide all nations with more power than they would have individually on the global scene. Together, European nations would be able to get better trade deals with international partners such as the USA and Russia. This increased financial power would bring more political influence in the world without the individual colonial baggage that many European nations carried from the preceding centuries.

Expansion of the EU has been driven by dual political and economic reasons. Richer nations like Germany would be able to gain access to cheaper labour whilst at the same time integrating its state politically and economically with the destiny of the rest of the continent, making it less likely to go to war with its neighbours. Poorer countries would be able to obtain financing for their domestic programmes at cheaper rates of interest due to the power of the Euro, which would be backed by the clout of the German Mark and hence, the German economy. Poorer nations would also gain access to bigger markets which would present no tariffs or other obstacles for trade, enabling them to earn wealth. In turn richer nations would able to produce and sell goods locally at lower costs and in a bigger market.

Politically, the EU would also be able to draw in the former Warsaw Pact and Soviet Union republics with the promise of a better economic future and thus check the power of Russia. Ostensibly there to spread democracy, expanding the EU would allow countries like Germany and France to gain more influence in an innocuous manner in Eastern Europe. Former Communist states were promised a slice of Capitalist nirvana by joining the EU, thus ideologically and politically realigning these countries.

Practically, though the EU has implemented a recognisable form of governance in the form of a Parliament and courts, the most prominent feature of the EU is the single market which in turn has spawned the Euro. Supplementing this is the legislative dimension which applies to all member states to support the market. This includes rules on the transfer of people between member states, job opportunities, contribution of subsidies to the Union and distribution of grants

This all would seem to work well in theory but there are many practical problems. The issue of EU citizens being able to work anywhere in the EU raises domestic concerns within individual member states about the rights of local citizens to jobs. This also leads to concerns about immigration and the impact this would have on local services such as healthcare and potential changes in culture due to an influx of foreign people. Many also object to their money being spent on people from other countries, such as the UK paying farming subsidies to France under the EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

These difficult issues, as well as others, are tolerated as long as the original Capitalist ideal of economic benefit for the country can be justified, as this is the raison d’être of the EU. Despite different countries within the EU operating slightly different models of Capitalism, such as the French model being more state interventionist whilst the British model is more free market oriented, member states are committed to the EU as long as the individual states continue to reap benefits.

However since its inception the EU has not faced a real challenge until the recent global financial crisis and this has revealed massive fault lines. The financial indiscretions of some nations like Greece have plunged the Euro Zone in to crisis, with the problem affecting a larger group of countries as well. Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece and Spain, collectively known as the PIIGS, have thrown the single currency in to crisis with Great Britain also teetering on the brink outside of the single currency.

Greece’s massive debt is a threat to the EU’s integrity. If it defaults then this will severely damage not only the Euro but the Union as a whole. Other PIIGS states will question the value of remaining in the EU if when things get tough they are abandoned. If any of them decides to leave then the EU as an economic and political project would be a failure. Practically, Greece is not at liberty to enact a UK style rescue by printing more currency as the Euro is not within its sovereign control. This leaves a massive political headache for both Greece and the EU.

The only viable solution seems to be that Greece would agree to a combination of massive spending cuts and rise in taxes in exchange for a bailout from the EU and other institutions. The ramifications of this are that the burden of Greece’s debt shall essentially be spread amongst the EU and citizens of other countries shall in essence have to help pay off this debt. This will merely address the short term problem without addressing the underlying fundamental problem with the structure of the EU that has led to this conundrum. This is just dealing with the problems of Greece, not addressing the rest of the PIIGS who are in a similar predicament.

The issue with the EU is that it has evolved beyond a simple common market whose aim was to provide an easy trading zone for all members and simple ‘prosperity for all’. With the introduction of a single currency and legislation that overrides certain aspects of national law the EU has taken on aspects of a sovereign State. The problem is that this pseudo polity conflicts with established nation states that constitute it. You have a situation where more and more power is being transferred to a central foreign body but there is no central government to provide overall direction for the member states.

The EU has slowly been moving towards this direction but this is highly contentious. By establishing a central budgetary authority each member nation would give up the ability to set their own domestic budgets. This would impact areas such as health, education, military, science, technology and others. This would alter the very essence of national politics as local politicians would no longer have the ability to determine the direction of the country. Essentially, it would mean each member deconstructing the nation state and giving up its sovereignty to become a province of the larger European super state.

Without the implementation of a unified government and the establishment of a formal EU super state, the EU only serves to entrench differences between member states rather than to unify them. EU rules and legislation are drafted not in the interests of the EU but are influenced by each member state to maximise their own individual benefit, even at the expense of others. Such a model is destined to fail to bring unity to different nations. Fundamentally, the idea of a political union contradicts the raison d’être of the EU’s foundation which was economic benefit for each individual sovereign nation state.

For the Muslim world, the desire for unity does not stem from the Capitalist aspiration of European states to benefit from each other economically. The unification of the Muslim world is an ideological stance directed by Islam itself for the sake of establishing political unity. The model of unification requires the adoption of a common ideological basis, Islam, rather than the pursuit of economic gain.

The purpose of this unified polity is to establish Islam as a ruling authority in the form of a State body. In addition, the history of the Muslim world is classically a unified one with varying levels of autonomy granted by a singular central authority. Separate Muslim countries are a relatively new reality, with every single Muslim state having being created by a vacating European colonial power in the 20th Century.

Attempts have been made to re-establish some level of unity in the Muslim world in the form of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) and the Arab League. These however merely serve as cultural clubs or discussion forums, not bringing the unification of politics, economy, law and resources that is now being demanded in the Muslim world. Neither has any power to issue legally binding decisions which would directly impact the lives of citizens of their member states.

Crucially, the member states of these organisations do not share a common basis upon which to interact with each other apart from loose cultural affiliation. Member states being run as theocracies, dictatorships, democracies, emirates and monarchies which varyingly implement Capitalism and Socialism with certain aspects of Islamic law. Due to the lack of a common ideology, meaningful unity of any form is impossible between these member states.

Historically, unity in the Muslim world has been achieved via the model of the Caliphate. This model, which was established 13 years after the Islam began, does not follow the gradualist approach of the EU. The Caliphate as a point of ideology unifies the interests of its various provinces, whereas the EU preserves divisions between different nation states. This is because the Caliphate is established upon Islam as a ruling ideology to which it calls other peoples and states to. The ability to unite not only the disparate warring tribes of Arabia but also foreign peoples such as the Persians, Egyptians, Anatolians and Central Asians in a short space of time was one of the stand out features of the historic Caliphate.

The obstacles in the Muslim world preventing political unity are the ruling authorities which do not Islam as a comprehensive ideology nor express a desire to abandon the nation state. An economic unification in an EU type model would not address this fundamental obstacle in the Muslim world. Just as the EU does, this type of Muslim Union would serve to entrench political differences and confirm the nation state rather than establish unity amongst the different Muslim peoples. Indeed practically such a union would not even be possible as the Muslim countries do not share a common ideological basis, Islamic or otherwise, with which to interface with each other.

The way to establish a lasting union for Muslims would be to establish a State with Islam as its ideological basis. This State would unify interests by establishing political unity and implementing one model of governance across all of its territory, with a single leader settling any differences of opinion. European countries have no fundamental requirement to be united due to Capitalism. Therefore, the European Union model would not deliver the type unity desired by the Muslim masses worldwide leaving the Caliphate as the only viable alternative.

Muhammad Asim

Twitter: @AsimWriter

Published on 3rd June 2010 in The News (Jang Group, Pakistan) as
Caliphate – only viable alternative to EU model?

Secularism – A Universal Value System?

Terrorism, sectarianism, violence against women and abuse of religious minorities amongst other things are blamed upon the influence of Islam upon the state in Muslim countries such as Pakistan. As a result there are some in society who see the only way of dealing with these problems is to confine Islam to the private lives of individuals and to leave the State free to govern, away from the influence of religion. Essentially, this is a call to secularism. The question needs to be asked: is secularism suitable for the people of Pakistan?

Secularism was established in Europe due to the specific historical experience that Europeans went through with the rule of the Church in Western society. The Church, led by the Pope, was instrumental in establishing the authority and writ of oppressive monarchies. Unlike in Islam where no such concept exists, clergy would claim to have a unique connection with God and would in turn use this to justify the rule of kings as being divinely decreed. During this period, the Western world was in darkness as Europe, split up in to various fiefdoms, and fought each other based upon political and religious sectarian grounds.

Martin Luther, a German priest, began to challenge the authority of the Pope with the publication of his famous treatise The Ninety Five Thesis in 1517. This lead to the Protestant revolution, which was a period of religious wars between European kingdoms which lasted for 131 years, being concluded with the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648. The major outcomes of this treaty were two. A new political order was established in Europe based upon the concept of sovereign states, ruled by a sovereign. Secondly, the many hundreds of princes across Europe were granted the right to determine their own sect of Christianity to be implemented. This had the effect of weakening the control of the Catholic Papacy over Europe.

Shortly after, the Age of Enlightenment and the promotion of reason began in Europe. As Christianity struggled to cope with reason, its fate was sealed with the emergence of the scientific method and empirical thinking, something religious dogma could not match. As Christianity became more irrelevant in the face of scientific progress, society began to adopt secularism from which new values such as freedom and democracy were established. This eventually led to the emergence of Capitalism, an entirely new ideology which placed legislation of laws in the hands of man and the promoted the idea of private ownership of both property and means of production. Once Capitalism was adopted, the Western world set itself upon a trajectory that would see it rise out of its dark slumber in to technological advancement, economic progress and political domination of the world.

The West embarked upon the course of secularism in response to both the oppression and the inability of Christianity to unite and lead society. It is important to note that secularism emerged due to the particular common experience of European states with Christianity. At the same time in the Muslim world, though there were political conflicts that would at times break out in to military strife there were no wars based upon religious sectarianism. The Muslim world for the majority of its history has been led by a Caliphate, first established in Medina after the Hijrah. No Muslim centre of power disputed the necessity of having a Caliph, nor desired to rule other than by Islam. The Muslim world did not have the same experience of Islam as the Europeans did with Christianity.

Whilst Europe was engulfed in religious strife, Islam by being implemented through the Caliphate facilitated progress on all fronts. Countless inventions and discoveries in the fields of engineering, chemistry, physics, astronomy and medicine to name a few are well documented. The Muslim world with the total application of Islam in all areas of life had no problems with science or reason. Islam was able to facilitate material progress whilst providing detailed solutions for life which Christianity was simply incapable of providing.

The Islamic world was also home to people of other faiths such as Jews and Christians, with the descendants of such communities existing to this day in places like the Middle East and Turkey. Muslims who differed in their understanding of Islam were considered a source of strength, not weakness, as flourishing schools of thought such as Hanafi, Shafi’i, Hanbali, Maliki, Jafri and others proved. It was due to the inability of Christianity to provide anything more than simple moral guidelines that the West had to turn to secularism and ideas of freedom and democracy to run society, something which the Muslim world never had a need for.

During history though Muslim power peaked and waned, it was never extinguished as Islam was implemented not as a ‘state religion’ but an ideology. This meant that Islam was the exclusive source of laws for all areas of life such as economy, judiciary, societal relations, ruling, governance structure, trade, company structures and so on. This was the case until the end of the First World War, when the Ottoman Caliphate was abolished in Turkey by Mustafa Kemal and was succeeded by secular nation states. Today these secular states may implement aspects of Islam, such as parts of the penal code or family law, but place legislation in the hands of man either via dictatorships or parliaments. These secular states do not provide the mechanism which Islam provides, namely the authority of the Imam or Caliph, to resolve all disputes be they temporal or spiritual.

It would be incorrect to view any state in the world today as being Islamic due to snippets of Islamic law being applied in a sea of man made law and thus declare Islam’s ‘interference’ in the state to be the problem facing Muslims. The solution would rather be to return to the classical method of living by Islam, which is to implement it in the form of an ideological Caliphate which would be able to legitimately deal with both temporal and spiritual disputes.

Muhammad Asim

The author is a freelance analyst and columnist

[From August 2010]