Pakistan’s Iran Opportunity

Source: Al-Arabiya

Pakistan can be very creative in its foreign policy when it comes to Afghanistan. Pakistan has been so nervous about its Western border since the days of the Cold War, that it is running proxies in the shape of Afghan Taliban to this day, manipulating who holds control in Kabul. With such a history, drastic foreign policy moves are not beyond Pakistan.

Pakistan has had a troubled history with terrorism. And now even the United States has lost Pakistan over its support for the Afghan Taliban. This means all the hard work done by the Pakistan ISI and the military to undo the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan has gone down the drain. This means that all the Pakistan efforts for the War Against Terror during Bush and Obama administrations amounted to nothing. This means that Pakistan is not the hero of the Cold War anymore. That’s a huge problem for a nation that heavily depends on lending its military service to political conflicts.

Pakistan is between a rock and a hard place as far as its financial survival is concerned. It can thank Allah for making Saudi Arabia so rich and powerful in the region so that it can bail it out every time, along with the United Arab Emirates. But with its flirtation with China’s Belt and Road, . Then again, is Pakistan the only country to have entered into China’s debt trap? I think the West can live with it. But can it live with Pakistan’s ongoing support for terrorism?

A week ago in Pulwama in Jammu and Kashmir, an alleged Jaish-e-Muhammad suicide bomber, a local Kashmiri youth named Adil Ahmed Dar killed 44 CRPF troopers in a bus. Jaish-e-Muhammad reportedly accepted the responsibility of the attack. India immediately blamed Pakistan for the attack, as well as vowed to retaliate and to diplomatically isolate Pakistan. A day earlier, a bus of Iranian revolutionary guards was attacked killing 27 guards in Zahedan near the Baluchistan border. Iran blamed an alleged Pakistan-based Islamist militant group Jaish-ul-Adl for the attack and asked Pakistan to either take action or allow Iran to enter Pakistan to retaliate. Pakistan has dismissed both the complaints while assuring its action on terrorism.

In the wake of these events on the occasion of the state visit of the Saudi Crown Prince to Islamabad, a press conference was held by the Saudi and Pakistani foreign ministers was held. The Pakistani foreign minister was embarrassed by Adel Bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir, the Saudi Foreign Minister for openly addressing Iran’s double standards on terrorism and commented that “it is very strange coming from the foreign minister of the chief sponsor of terrorism was calling out other nations for accusing others to be engaging in terrorism activities in Iran.” And then he went on to list Iran’s alleged contribution to global instability and terrorism.

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This perfectly elaborates how Saudi Arabia views Iran as far as terrorism is concerned. The United States, Israel, and most of the other Sunni countries are pretty much aligned with that viewpoint as well but should these states decide to surround and attack Iran, will Pakistan continue its stance of neutrality?

While nobody in Pakistan is excited at the thought of Iran being attacked, especially due to the way the Shias see Iran, it could still possibly be Pakistan’s “get-out-of-jail-free” card if it becomes a major player to take it down. Even though India has so far been unable to obtain a global consensus on Pakistan being recognized as the state sponsor of terrorism, such a development could further corner its progress. Ideally, Pakistan must do that while cracking down on the terrorists it is alleged to be supporting, but all things equal, this could be Pakistan’s redemption and the West may tolerate its irresponsible policies for one more good reason. This sounds far fetched but will probably not be too improbable especially if Donald Trump and Benjamin Netanyahu are reelected in their respective elections. Trump scrapping the Iran Nuclear Deal negotiated by the Obama administration and calling for the isolation of Iran are steps in that direction. And Iranian generals vowing the annihilation of Israel certainly doesn’t help either.

However, this strategy is not possible without bringing Israel into the equation with Pakistan. As a matter of fact, such a campaign will be the perfect time for Pakistan to establish its diplomatic relations with Israel openly and officially, even if it has to bypass Saudi Arabia’s approval. Though you could argue that if we reach a stage where Iran will undergo such a military siege, Saudi Arabia would arguably have become an open ally to Israel already, paving the path for the rest of the Sunni nations resisting this idea. Currently, Israel is offering unconditional support to India in its fight against terrorism, because frankly they have no motivation to take care of the interest of Pakistan since it has never reached out to them.

Pakistan can not only proactively offer its air bases to Israel and the United States for campaigns against Iran, it can even step up its role in the coalition against Yemen. Many like Kunwar Khuldune Shahid are arguing that Pakistan has already conceded that it is going to be a full Saudi Arabia client state by taking the expected deals worth $20 billion, which implies that it is going to fully become a part of the anti-Iran Sunni coalition despite its earlier reservations.

If that is indeed true then Pakistan is certainly not going to make Iran any happier and cannot change India’s arrangement with Iran. However, right now there is an illusion that Pakistan enjoys good relations with Iran. Such a naked policy will do away with even the comfort of that notion, while also putting to rest the delusion that Pakistan can play the role of a bridge between Saudi Arabia and Iran. So Pakistan can be lazy and wait for Saudi Arabia and China to keep on bailing it out on international forums for the foreseeable future or take a proactive step and reach out to the West again.

But there could even be another factor in Pakistan’s reluctance to call our Iran. Perhaps Pakistan does not want all the attention in the region focused on itself by the Western world for its irresponsibility and support of terrorism.

A Fanatic Government Stance Laid Bare

Source: PTV News/geo.tv

There is little doubt that Geert Wilders is disingenuous when it comes to his intentions and goals when organizing the Draw the Prophet event. His main purpose is, of course, to get under the skin of Muslims around the world, especially because he precisely knows what sort of reaction he can get out of them. However, it is a free speech issue regardless of his controversial politics. The protesters thought of this idea when the mainstream Western media frequently began censoring itself whenever the depiction of Prophet Muhammad in media was involved out of the fear of backlash from the Muslim community.

The interesting thing is that no matter how civil the Muslim community tries to be in the face of such a provocation, there are always many who would resort to violence and death threats. One of the problems that more liberal Muslims are facing is that the religious orthodoxy not only permits but even encourages, violence against a person who is alleged to have blasphemed against. While liberal Muslims try their best to avoid that, the conservative far-right Christians, atheists, and other antithetical elements critical of Islam are well familiar with the weakness. Recall the Salman Rushdie Affair.

However, any of these violent actions remains to be acts of individuals. But what if the governments of a country engage in such policies. Of course, we have seen them before with Iran and Saudi Arabia. It is even worse when that government is actually making that point from a moral high ground and lecturing others on human rights. The PTI government has vowed to raise the issue at the United Nations, other than calling the dysfunctional institution of Organization of Islamic Conference, giving Wilders a bigger audience than he could wildly imagine.

Imran Khan, the new Prime Minister of Pakistan, had long been criticizing the Western idea of free speech by comparing Holocaust denial and desecrating the image of the Holy Prophet. He emphasized the same point in his special video message to the nation especially addressing the (non)issue. He points out that the Western viewpoint of free speech does not even understand the consequences of blaspheming against the Holy Prophet, which they see as freedom of speech.

Well, we can safely say that the Europeans have now understood that well enough ever since Charlie Hebdo.

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Geert Wilders, on October 30, postponed the Draw the Prophet contest citing death threats that he and people associated with the contest event were receiving. The PTI government started to claim the cancellation as an achievement of their “diplomatic efforts.” Not only has the government of Pakistan given such great importance to insignificant politicians such as Geert Wilders and his bigotry but has also exposed themselves as a state that does not respect freedom of speech. What is even worse is that the PTI

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The headlines shared by a local news channel are proudly displayed by the PTI KP Official account, which was retweeted by the official PTI account report the cancelation of the cartoon drawing contest as “a great diplomatic triumph.” The only problem is that the only diplomatic efforts that have been made to cancel the contest were the death threats made to Wilders and people connected to the event.

People all over the social media have been raising this point to criticize the government. The PTI has beautifully manipulated the issue in order to gain public approval in the manner of Tehreek Labaik Pakistan. And I am not even mentioning their ridiculous protest rally and threats endorsed by the Pakistani foreign minister, which openly called for war against the Netherlands.

But let us judge actions instead of intentions. With this claim of endorsement, PTI has laid bare its fanatic stance of endorsing death threats to a foreign lawmaker. While we are aware that Pakistan has blasphemy laws which openly endorse potentially capital punishment for alleged blasphemies, emphasizing such a narrative on the international level and shamelessly claiming something that had nothing to do with them. Pakistan has indeed endorsed terrorism before, so why should this time be an exception?

Sectarian Diplomacy to End Sectarian Terrorism

Source: Times of Israel

Source: Times of Israel

This September, the New York Times featured a surprising piece from the Iranian foreign minister. Reading the article, you would find that he has curiously coined a new term for Islamic terrorism: “Wahhabism.” But sadly, it is not as clear as it sounds.

While you would occasionally come across the term used by Shia social media warriors every now and then, it certainly has not been a part of the mainstream with such political connotations. But now that it is, it effectively condemns an entire school of Islamic thought and apparently calls for its annihilation, correct me if I am wrong please. Imagine the outrage among our progressive liberals had the Saudi foreign minister made such an appeal to get rid of Shiite Islam.

Either the Iranian foreign minister is extremely naïve or wants to instigate divisive sectarian action from Muslims on purpose. While you could argue that the complaints against the Wahhabi school of Islam are not completely without substance, what about his verdict? If the Saudis are doing so with their action, such rhetoric surely would contribute to the problem. And I say this while appreciating that Iran needs its fair share of public relations to improve its image in the western world as well.

It is hard to interpret anything else from the term “Wahhabism” and “getting rid of it from the world,” which sounds a touch too sectarian a solution to end a sectarian problem. Unless it is really a new expression for Saudi foreign policy or radical Islamic terrorism as practiced by ISIL, Boko Haram, and Al-Qaida, instead of the theological school. Especially because like all Shias and Sunnis, not all Wahhabis must believe in militant and expansionist Islam apparently. At least not openly, like the rest.

I don’t recall if ever before a high-ranking diplomat has ever called for the annihilation of an Islamic school of theology. Either that or the title of the opinion article is terribly misleading. I find it shocking that a prestigious publication such as The New York Times would provide a platform to such outrageous ideas. But then again, it is also an effective way of publishing an insight into how the Iranian regime sees the world.

The main point in the article was much needed though that the Western world should wake up to the excesses of the Saudi foreign policy around the world. There is no doubt that Saudi Arabia has been a disgraceful ally of the West due to the kingdom’s regressive and even malicious policies in the region. Saudi Arabia also needs to be called out for its anti-Iran aggression. Even arguing for sanctions against Saudi Arabia for its human rights violations makes perfect sense, but probably not what the title of his article suggests.

The point about the correlation of Islamic militant activity with the presence of Saudi funding of theological schools abroad is interesting, but does that mean that the very theology of Wahhabism is exclusively responsible for it? It is possible but consider this. Are Islamic militancy, expansionism, and enforcing of theocracy exclusive to Wahhabi Islam? Furthermore, are Wahhabism and the Saudi regime one and the same? More importantly, are all Wahhabi Muslims extremists and militants?

In my opinion, the Koranic literalism and strict monotheism of Wahhabism have done more harm than good in terms of tolerance and harmony in more diverse and almost pluralistic Muslim societies such as Pakistan, but I am not sure if it should be banned as a theology or if we should “rid it from the world.” We are well aware that this has been a standard of freedom of religion in the Islamic Republic of Iran, or even in Saudi Arabia. But why should the free world follow those undemocratic values?

In making his case, the Iranian foreign minister pretends as though Islamist tendencies are absolutely absent in schools other than the Wahhabis. Sadly, the regime he represents deny that assertion. Furthermore, Iran also regularly backs Palestinian and Lebanese terrorist organizations that target Israel, if not other militant and political activity in the region. Especially, when Mr. Zarif speaks of the brutalities of the Syrian rebels while defending the sociopathic policies of the Assad regime, which is probably still using chemical weapons against its citizens.

At the end of the article, the Iranian foreign minister graciously invites the Saudis to join the fight against “Wahhabism.” What a joke. But this probably implies that by “Wahhabism,” he actually means radical Islamic terrorism instead of the Wahhabi school of theology. Though I am not sure if that means that either of the countries is in a position to reject Islamic militancy, which remains to be their weapon of choice.

In the very same article, the author declares Wahhabism a “theological perversion.” How terribly confusing. However, Mohammad Javad Zarif, the apparently cheerful Iranian statesman who does not dress like an Iranian cleric, does not come across as such a confused man by any means. He has a successfully negotiated nuclear deal with the United States under his belt, resulting in the lifting of some economic sanctions.

With a diplomat as brilliant and capable as Zarif, I think he knows perfectly well what he is writing about. In any case, it is a desperate attempt to counter the Saudi PR offensive he complains about.

The confusion that the article produces seems to be a case of deliberate ambiguity that could make the most out of the general ignorance of Islam among Western audiences. However, it needs to be called out for the nonsense that it really is. Not to take away from the fact that the credibility of the messenger ruins whatever traces of sincerity could be found in the message.

Probably the Iranian foreign minister should stop confusing everyone and join the rest of the world in referring to Islamic terrorism with the word that everyone understands. Terrorism. After all, you are not going to fight “radical Islam” unless you say the words.

A version of this post was originally published in The Nation blogs.

Don’t Impose Freedom on Us

Source: The Nation

Source: The Nation

We condemn Charlie Hebdo shooting, because no matter how we want to see the incident, it is hard to condone the killing of human beings, but…

We don’t really support this insane idea of freedom of speech, wherever it came from.

An idea that is against the very nature of human beings. Nature just does not work that way.

That’s not the order that God has created.

You know, it is appalling to see people in Muslim countries pretending to be liberals and secularists to please their Western masters to suppose that free speech is a universal human right.

No, it’s not.

Even though our terrible governments have signed that meaningless document called the Universal Declaration of Human Rights presented in that phony organization called the United Nations. Totally worthless.

Freedom of speech is not a universal right.

Getting offended is a universal human right. It is our fundamental right to be offended and we will defend it, even if we have to kill for it. Or at least some of us among the angry, aggrieved people of the world could.

And let us warn you that it could happen again. Yes, indeed, two billion people in the world would have no option but to kill one cartoonist after another if they keep on offending our feelings.

Even if the instruments of their offense are nothing more than random lines on a paper.

But you are not allowed to draw those lines.

You are not allowed to cross that line.

We can tolerate your words, but not sketches and caricatures.

Actually, not even your words.

No, free speech is no human right. Even though let us concede that we are momentarily using this very right to express this important idea. But we are only indulging in this great wrong to educate you about morality and ethics and to eradicate this ignorance from the world to make it a better place.

Dear Western hypocrites, learn once and for all that we have a phobia of caricatures, so stop exploiting our weakness.

Also, we have a strong phobia of being criticized. So stop doing that too.

And last, but not the least, just shove this idea of free speech up your asses.

We want to have nothing to do with it.

There should be no free speech and yes, there should be restrictions. Humans don’t function properly without restrictions. Free speech cannot work with religion anyway.

But still we want just enough freedom of speech to deny the Holocaust, which by the way never happened and six million Jews were actually abducted by their secret alien antichrist Meshiach to blame it on Adolf Hitler, the real messiah. Even though he would have thrown Arabs and Muslims in concentration camps too, if he could.

But who cares, at least he killed many of them and left a few to tell us why he was doing so, may God be pleased with him.

Or would you allow us to use the N word for blacks, K word for Jews and F word for gays, would you?

Enough of your hypocritical Islamophobic bigotry.

We strongly urge you to stop drawing cartoons again, or we will become offended again.

And when we get offended, you know what happens.

Stop imposing freedom on us.

We just want enough to destroy a little that we are left with.

 

 

The post was originally published in The Nation blogs.

The Questions You Should Not Ask

Source: AP/HBO

Source: AP/HBO

In recent days, a clip from Real Time with Bill Maher has been circulating all over the social media, and even in news publications. The clip is about the confrontation between Academy Award winning actor and director Ben Affleck and atheist scholar and neuroscientist Sam Harris.

Well, no introduction to the clip needed.

                               Source: HBO

This brief confrontation led to a number of critiques, both on Ben Affleck and Maher and Harris. The primary criticism on the latter was about their Islamophobia and bigotry. In comparison, Affleck was attacked for not being thoughtful in the debate.

There is little doubt about the fact that Ben Affleck was emotional form the word go, and Sam Harris even claimed he was “gunning for him from the start.” But in short, Affleck lost his cool and should have acted in a saner manner.

But instead of wasting our time with Affleck calling Maher and  Harris “racist”, which they most probably are (who cares), let’s focus on the other side of the debate.

You could argue that both of them have been displaying behavior toward Muslims, which could be termed hostile by many. Despite their claims that they do not engage in Islamophobia.

What is noteworthy is that most of their critics completely ignore their objection on tolerance of cruel and illiberal fundamental beliefs among Muslims. And the questions they raise are:

  • What is the punishment for apostasy in Islam?
  • What is the punishment for adultery in Islam?
  • What is the punishment for blasphemy in Islam?

The answer to all three questions happen to be death, like it or not.

These are the questions that you should not ask.

Even the recent opinion article from religion apologist and scholar Reza Aslan, who claims the moral high ground by saying that both sides lacked sophistication.

Curiously, that eloquent article conveniently lacked any mention of those questions, which kills the criticism on Maher and Harris for someone who is familiar with their rhetoric.

Now this could put some serious questions in the minds of someone who would actually want to disagree with them.

But yet another problem with this is that those who have already picked a side would not be prepared to change their minds. However, from my own experience, I know it is not true for everyone.

What Maher and Harris mean is that we probably have a big problem when that many Muslims actually believe in fundamental beliefs that have no room in a modern Western civilization. And which are simply unacceptable by any standard but their own.

And especially because their population makes up such a significant portion of the world population. So why not talk about it and take a step toward sorting this issue.

However, asking these very questions have become unacceptable in the unwritten rules of the Western progressive liberals. While they accuse people like Sam Harris to be indulging in bigotry and Islamophobia in the guise of criticizing religion, they could be accused of tolerating illiberal and even dangerously brutal beliefs in their eagerness to avoid being xenophobes as well.

So what is the solution?

How are you going to confront most Muslims for their irresponsible beliefs that they would gladly defend?

Should you just shut up because that’s racist?

What Sochi is All About

Source: Google Inc.

Source: Google Inc.

So it is a very politically correct and morally righteous thing to condemn the Sochi Olympics, isn’t it?

I mean my social media feed is having multiple orgasms over this beautiful Google Doodle.

Hey, Russia is homophobic. Fuck that event. I agree. But here is the deal.

There is something curious about the way Western media has covered this event, even before it kicked off.

All of a sudden everyone in the Free World has risen up for gay rights on a sporting occasion, which is a good thing by the way, even though still being on a learning curve to fully accept gay marriage.

But hey, I am not going to present a lot of logical fallacies to make the point. I’ll get down to business.

The coverage of the Sochi Olympics has mainly been about the Free World v Putin more than anything else. Certainly more than it has been about gay rights.

Because frankly, if it were really about discrimination, a lot of countries would not even be the members of the International Olympics Movement right now.

But I do not really expect people to even talk about that, because that is precisely what they do not want to be talked about from this side of the fallen Iron Curtain.

And while I am writing these lines, I see Gary Kasparov going after NBC for how they are covering the Sochi Olympics. Look who just jumped over the Berlin Wall. Good for him.

It is not an appropriate thing to say, but I don’t really have that kind of a job to lose.

The smear campaign of the Western media has really appeared to be more about Putin than it is about gay rights. Though some would argue this is precisely the point.

I am not usually for doubting intentions and would only comment on actions, but hey, I am commenting on actions.

And Google comes out with its gay Olympics doodle to insult Russia and undermine the Olympics. But it will be actually celebrated for that.

I mean I know Russians have been terrible organizers, to the point of being pathetic, and screwed up a lot of things. I even think they did not deserve the Olympics, but I guess that tomorrow Western nations would get to host the event too.

But at least the reliable Russian incompetence is offering a lot of schadenfreude to people who are upset the Western powers could not prevent it from getting underway altogether.

I don’t think it is very wise to sabotage an international sporting event with such political antagonism, and yes, this is precisely what it is. Even if about gay rights, though it is fortunate that the cause is gaining more traction as a result.

I guess if the media is so sensitive about political causes, they should make sure that all such issues should be taken care of before any major sporting event is organized.

Alright, I concede it is really a logical fallacy, but hey, this could happen.

The Arab media and the scattered Arab people should have called for boycotts of London 2012 to protest the Iraq War. Remember, Britain was the prime partner of the United States in turning Iraq into a junkyard.

Or perhaps, Google should ensure to draw a doodle condemning how the Fukushima Plant has contaminated the planet irreversibly ahead of the Tokyo 2020 event.

Hopefully, the media would not forget raising the anti gay laws in Qatar when the 2022 World Cup approaches. It’s good if some of them are already doing that.

But tell you what, it would not be half as much as what the Sochi coverage has been.

But I bet no one in the media would demand America to shut Guantanamo Bay down, to suspend anti gay laws in States at home and perhaps ask the Nobel laureate President to stop bombing random weddings from unmanned drones.

Living in the house of glass and throwing stones?

Yes, I know it is emotional blackmail. But this would be a rather conservative way to describe this sort of coverage of a sporting event by the Western media.

Putin is an authoritarian and it makes sense to trash his system. But there is a time and a place.

I am just waiting for the time for Russia to return the favor in the future events. There is a good chance that the authoritarian Putin would still be around for that long.

Putin is a propagandist too but his propaganda machines are not this loud.

And not half as much politically correct.

Why Mandela is a Symbol of Freedom

Nelson Mandela (1918-2013) - Source: history.com

Nelson Mandela (1918-2013) – Source: history.com

Nelson Mandela is a symbol of freedom.

These are not hollow words as the true meaning of freedom can only be understood by those who are incarcerated and harassed by authoritarian forces and those who are constantly discriminated for one reason or another. Especially when it is the color of the skin.

Some people learn the price of freedom, peace and democracy the hard way. Even if they would apparently not even understand these ideas fully. Nelson Mandela became the greatest embodiment of this realization over time.

Nelson Mandela is a symbol of freedom because he experienced authoritarian oppression first hand and in one of the cruelest of ways that any political leader of the modern times could suffer.

Nelson Mandela was a Democratic Socialist by political persuasion, who had been a lifelong communist, therefore gathering the criticism from the anti-communist West at the time, who would demonize communists at any opportunity that presented itself.

His critics in the West may have a point, but Mandela did not establish an authoritarian government in South Africa on the abolition of Apartheid. But it also goes to show the hypocrisy of the democratic West, which would support Apartheid regimes while trumpeting principles of liberty and democracy.

But more than his later commitment to non-violence, it is his struggle against colonial and racist captors of his people that immortalizes this great man. Arguably, the greatest since Gandhi.

Who but Mandela could be the greatest inspiration to the West and to everyone else for how demonizing someone for their ideology is wrong, and authoritarian in its own right.

But this is not the first time, or last for that matter, that you would find people taking refuge in an authoritarian ideology in order to fight the persecution from another. Anything that offers some hope. In this case, social equality and justice.

Most sympathizers of authoritarian ideologies are kind, well meaning and passionate people, who just don’t know what they are taking about. Some of them then end up discovering the price of freedom the hard way.

Who but Mandela would know the price of freedom. Who but he can tell what authoritarianism and totalitarianism mean.

RIP Nelson Mandela

It has been a privilege to be alive during your lifetime.

I hope you keep on inspiring for the pursuit of freedom, which continues to elude those who value it.