How to Beat the Mullahs? Don’t Let Them Play


Courtesy: AFP

This post is actually inspired by a very insightful piece by blogger and journalist Five Rupees (I somehow always picture that old four-cornered 5 Paisa coin when I read his tweets). His post for the Asian Correspondent reads “Don’t Try to Beat The Mullahs at Their Own Rhetorical Game“. It’s a wonderful piece really and I agree with it wholeheartedly.

In a nutshell, the post suggests that using religious reasoning with the right wingers and Mullahs is bound to fail because they have all the theological reasons and whatever religious justifications they need for the Death penalty for Blasphemy Law, for the prevalent Blasphemy Law in Pakistan and for justifying the act of Salmaan Taseer’s assassin Malik Mumtaz Qadri. I think even if someone tries to make them understand, they will easily see why that is not possible, which is illustrated well by a Rafael Nadal analogy.

I think that common sense is the greatest weapon and strength for the Pakistani liberals and secularists and they should stick to that instead of relying on religious reasoning with the champions of the field. So what is this post about? I just had a few things in my mind on how to beat the Mullahs and the right wing lobby in the country. May or may not work, but is worth considering, to me at least.

I commented on the article in the following words, later edited for offering a clearer meaning.


“I agree with you that you cannot beat Mullahs at their own game. Well, you don’t beat them through the verse of the Koran or Hadith. You and I cannot do that, but we have common sense, haven’t we? So we use common sense as an argument and “lobby to convince” the establishment governing the state to intervene and stop the deadly role the Mosque is playing in threatening the security of the (people of the) country.

Do we have Islam (prevalent) in Pakistan alone? No. There are mosques in Turkey and Egypt, for example, as well and they do not tell people who to kill and who not to. There are two aspects to it, which we cannot do without. We cannot leave the State and we cannot leave the people, no matter how absurd we think their belief system is.

The Pakistani secularists will have to effectively lobby with the state machinery (the one which matters, not the PPP coalition government, but MPs can (always) play their roll) to intervene in how the mosques are run. Don’t trumpet the fact and get the illiterate and criminal Mullahs out of the mosques, and replace them with educated (teacher-like figures who can educate people with a humanitarian viewpoint). Unless you take interest in who the Imam is, people will keep on hearing death threats in Friday prayer sermons.

This way, people, slowly but surely, will get educated, at least for the next generation. I’m not saying it changes what the religion teaches, but you can curb the extremism and provocation (that results from the rhetoric usually used in the mosque). Not every Muslim wants to kill, even if he or she approves killings. So it can be effectively curbed if that plan is brought into action. It has worked elsewhere in the world, and it can work here. And it is not really a question of asking for people’s permission to do that. You don’t ask them, you teach and educate them, so they can act sensibly and stop rioting and celebrating murder.

And please, don’t offer me excuses that the lobbying thing will not work. The problem has deteriorated this much because the State took no interest in what went on in the Mosques, and to add insult to the injury, even worsened things during the Zia regime (by actually using the institution of the Mosque for promoting extremism and to create a fundamentalist mindset for the Afghan War and the doctrines they believed in). Therefore, an intervention is imperative for the change to materialize.

There are, nevertheless, educated and balanced-minded people in the Pakistani civil bureaucracy and the military, not just right-wing fanatics. There are many who can be convinced through logical arguments on how to run the State instead of religion.

The time to act is now, if all of us who hold this viewpoint are united and organized. If we do not act on it, who will? Let’s stop complaining about it and produce some results and prevent the military, the Mullah and the State to use religion to blackmail people emotionally (to make them work for their vested interest).

If you can’t lobby effectively at home, what crap can you achieve abroad, with the global powers like the US, for example.

The State has been the architect and patron of religious extremism, no doubt about it. Difficult to accomplish, no doubt about it. Impossible, no. We don’t have a choice. I think the State has every reason to change and it has started with people like Salmaan Taseer, and people who strongly believe extremism to be wrong must take action and propagate their viewpoint.”


If you cannot convince people at home with your logic, you have some serious problems. I believe President Asif Zardari will be more than glad to work to materialize such change against extremist Mullahs. Even the ruling People’s Party will be glad, maybe with the exception of Dr. Babar Awan. Apart from that, I also have reason to believe that the Pakistani military should not have problems with that as well.

The Pakistani military needed the right wing Jihadi mindset in the public to help motivate the nation for the Soviet Afghan War and against India, since faith has been playing an equally important, or even greater role in wars against India than patriotism for the State. Often these two phenomena are intermingled in Pakistan, since the country “was created in the name of Islam”, which is not true.

However, the scenario has changed for the Pakistani military. They are not as popular among the people as they used to be and people are disenchanted over the military activity going on in the tribal areas and Balochistan. To add insult to the injury, the US Drone attacks are not helping either.

Why at such a time would the Military Establishment not approve of such an action against the Mullahs to curb religious extremism, when the military itself is a target of the religious extremists and suicide bombers. Even if we consider any given controversy theory about it, and let us suppose for the sake of argument that foreign secret agencies are involved in the terrorist activities, those who execute it are local religious fanatics, who have been brainwashed by the Mullahs and their madrassahs. There is no other explanation of a suicide bomber.

Why should not the military and the civil bureaucracy help the intelligentsia in Pakistan to make this change possible. No need to carry out a referendum for it. The Mullahs are criminals who take law in their own hands by declaring death verdicts against whoever they like, and since they have brainwashed the people to follow whatever they tell them is right, they have to oblige.

But at the same time, correct me if I am wrong, the author does not imply that moderate religious views should not be propagated. By proposing this line of action, I am not suggesting that we make any changes in the religion, of course everything will remain the same. Just extremism and provocation for violence and murder for Blasphemy or any other such offense must be curbed through state control. The Imam must be a humanitarian teacher and an educated man, not an anarchist.

How many well educated Imams are there in Pakistan? Propagating views of the moderate (read non-extremist, who don’t approve murder) religious scholars, such as Javed Ghamdi, through the media is as important as any other part of such a line of action. The only way Mullahs cannot be beaten is through their own religious rhetoric, I agree. But we don’t need to beat them that way. Neither propagating views of non-extremist religious scholars will violate that argument. It will just play its own due role.

So how do we beat the Mullahs? By getting them fired from their self-appointed jobs and replacing them with sane, educated, rational individuals, who act as humanitarian teachers while propagating the religious teachings “without producing an air of conflict and hate towards a particular sect and/or religion”.

Furthermore, there should be strict legislation as far as the guidelines for spreading hatred and inciting violence through religion are concerned and anyone found engaging in such an act should be charged as a criminal for conspiring for murder. I know it all sounds like a perfect world, and some would term it being too idealistic, but as a matter of fact these are very realistic and achievable goals and should at least be set as a standard. Any improvement or suggestion to such a strategy is always welcome.

Such a strategy will help us avoid having fanatics like Malik Mumtaz Hussain Qadri, who is crazy enough to kill someone like Salmaan Taseer, the Governor of Punjab, for simply criticizing the man-made Blasphemy Law, and to educate people to condemn such an act instead of celebrating and approving murder, just because the criminal and murderer did it in the name of God and the Prophet, which is as worse as the murder itself. If people have an Imam in the mosque concentrating on how wrong it is to approve of the murder of an innocent man, let alone celebrating it and hailing the murderer as  a hero, we will not be embarrassed any more by witnessing the kind of scenes that we saw after Gov. Taseer’s assassination.

This will not violate any ideals of freedom of speech as well. We are just preventing people from inciting violence. The Mullahs are guilty of that, so their violence-inciting rhetoric must be controlled and silenced.

Of course, there is no simple way of changing the hearts and minds of the people overnight, as this problem has not been created overnight, or maybe it has been, but at least we can make a start. And since 97% of the population of the country will always remain Muslims, we have to accept that this is the limitation in which we have to work. And believe me, it is not disappointing at all. I think most people do not want trouble or violence and will not kill for Blasphemy until they are psychologically tortured and abused so much that they are forced to do so.

Humanitarian Education, Logic and Common Sense.

This is how we can change Pakistan and it will only be possible if the educated, the liberals and the secularists of the country use these values in an organized and united manner, and through their influence force the people responsible for running the state to succumb to their recommendations and demands. Even though they are in minority, but will prevail if they remain resolute.

This is not a response as in criticism at all, but as an addition to the point raised by the author in his post.

One Response

  1. No one can beat the mullahs in Pakistan, because the mullahs have a very strong ally in the Pakistani military. The mullah-military nexus is the most powerful entity in Pakistan, that enjoys support of large number of Pakistanis.

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