HOW RADICAL ISLAM IS EXPLOITING TRIBAL ETHICS IN THE KHYBER PASS

August 12, 2010

Pashtunwali is the code of ethics used by the Pashtuns – Afghan natives who have practiced Sunni Islam – over a thousand years in the isolated valleys of Hindu Kush mountains around the Khyber Pass. Today, Islam has become a convenient vehicle for tribal customs that predate the arrival of Mohammad and his message.

While all other religions follow the ’to forgive is divine’ principle, the Pashtunwali stresses revenge. Because it is not derived from a religious system the way Christianity, Sikhism and Judaism are, the emphasis on revenge persists from generation to generation. Hatred never ends. Another aspect of the Pashtunwali, the honor due to women, has resulted in overprotective policies that keeps them out of the educational system and workplace. See http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/05/world/asia/05afghan.html?_r=1&th&emc=th

The geographical isolation of the Khyber Pass area has been responsible for an absence of new ideas in this traditional society. The Frontier province of the Pashtuns was renamed Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa in the spring of 2010 to honor their aspirations, but it is still bypassed by the modern world.

When the Russians invaded Afghanistan in 1979, the Americans protecting their Cold War stronghold in Central Asia, assisted the Pakistanis in ejecting the Russians. Radical Islam of Wahabism, was encouraged in the region both to woo the Pashtuns into fighting for the American/Pakistani alliance and to being Saudi money into the conflict. Once fundamentalist Wahabism took hold, this radical ideology was embraced by students from the Taliban. The Al Qaeda, which uses terrorist tactics to break the alleged Christian-Jewish conspiracy to destroy Islam, was founded in 1989. It’s also funded by the Saudis.

Once the Russians were thrown out, the Americans withdrew from Pakistan. In the three years before September 11, 2001 Pakistan received only $9 million in American military aid. In the subsequent three years after 2001, the aid increased to $4.2 billion. The terrorist measures of the Taliban and Al Qaeda have reinforced the ancient practices of Pashtunwali cruelty: holding grudges and physical violence.

For centuries, Muslim military success was aided by with great technical and scientific knowledge. The then Muslim armies had the most up-to-date weapons. But today Muslim activists in Pakistan do not have access to the latest weapons. They advance their political ideas with primitive methods like bombing and kidnapping, and used guns that are thirty years old. In my opinion, if there is any hope for Muslims of the world to regain their past glory by stepping into a modern frame of mind, it is necessary for them to interpret the Koran more pragmatically. Islamic scholarship, like their military technology, has also stagnated in recent centuries. A little pragmatism there might help radical Islam step out of the past into the present.

It’s not fair to blame Islam alone for the violence in Afghanistan and Pakistan. On the contrary, Muslims like the Sufis, for instance, promote love through songs of devotion to God Almighty. This standard feature of major religions, from Judaism to Sikhism, is anathema to the Sunnis all over. Their stark religious practices and rigid fundamentalism undermine the honor of the traditional Pashtunwali way of life. Young Pashtun men are recruited by foreigners to fight for extreme religious ideals in the name of their traditional code of behavior. The traditional tribal society of the Pashtuns in the Khyber Pass is being exploited by hard-line Islam, which is not fair.

2 Responses to “HOW RADICAL ISLAM IS EXPLOITING TRIBAL ETHICS IN THE KHYBER PASS”

  1. Erik K Says:

    Mr. Tejwant Singh

    I stumbled onto your blog and its interesting to hear what a Sikh thinks about the current issues, but I really want to hear more about the current status of Islamic scholarship and a way for the muslim world to become better acclimated to the modern world. Also, I want to hear more of this history of the US’s involvement in the Pakistan region! it could hold keys for current american foreign policy later on!

    thanks for the insights


  2. Thanks Erik for your comments which brings forth THREE questions which need to be addressed:-
    1. What a Sikh thinks about the current issues. The thinking of the Sikhs about the current issues, vis-a-vis turmoil in Islam, is based upon our historical evolution. The coming forth of the Sikh 500 years ago was as a result of the violence that the Muslim -in particular the Pathans or Pashtuns- against the pacific Hindus of India. Sikhism is more like Sufism of Islam where both sing the praises of God Almighty. The Sufis sing their own compositions but the Sikhs sing their Holy Hymns from Guru Granth Sahib, the Scriptural Guru revered like a living guru by us all. We were pious rosary wielding people until the Pashtun violence became too much. Then our Tenth Guru created the unique Khalsa Panth -The Brotherhood of the Pure- and armed us with the sword. There after we marched into eastern Afghanistan and defeated the Pashtuns annexing their territory and stopping their raids into India. No non-Muslim had ever dared to do that form India. The Pashtuns admire the Sikhs for that because they like someone who can dare to stand up to them. But our philosophy encompasses all. We are not anti-Muslims. We are anti-injustice. Everyone is welcome to our Gurdwara -the doorway to the Guru- and can eat in our Langar -free kitchen.
    2. Current status of Islamic scholarship. The biggest seminary in the world on Islamic Law is Darul Uloom located at a place called Deoband in North India. Their edicts have been happily lapped up by the rest of the Muslim world. But of late, their pronunciations have been found contrary to Indian Law and Constitution. Therefore, they have been slowly showing some degree of pragmatism like their Fatwa stating that killings of women and suicide bombings are contrary to Islamic law.
    But, this year has seen at least a dozen anti-women Fatwas issued by Darul Uloom Deoband forbidding women to ride cycles, join public office without Hijab, talk loudly, join judiciary or even talk to their fiance before marriage. According to the Aug 11, 01 copy of Times of India newspaper New Delhi edition, about a hundred odd Muslim women marched with placards in a very conservative Muslim area of Lukhnow city in Utter Pradesh province of India. They protested against such ‘contractors of the religion’ for trampling their rights and stifling their voice. After all, they can see other non-Muslim women rising to higher social status.
    On the other hand, an Iranian author, Ayt. Makarim Shirazi & Ayt Ja’far Subhani, has published a book titled “Religious Questions Answered: Logic for Islamic Rules”. Link http://www.al-islam.org/falsafa/ It has 104 Chapters and I found Chapter 87 interesting, which goes into the question of ‘What are the causes of advancement of the Muslims in the past ages and their downfall in the modern era?’ But at the end of a long sermon, the author still harks upon the rules of Koran: which are very rigid. Therefore, there is no hope for any improvement and the assimilation of Muslims into a modern time frame, unless their moderates take over and modify the Koran. It can be done, because I have read an Arabic-English version of Koran printed in Saudi Arabia which mentions in several footnotes about certain Koranic rules having been modified in the past.
    3. A way for the Muslim world to become better acclimated to the modern world. The only way available for the wise Muslims -if there are any- is to defy the hard-line elements. Someone has to rise out of this morose situation. Perhaps, some hope lies in a belief that ‘the age of Islam is 1300 years’. The period ended about 40 years ago. The ‘devil’ is supposed to come over ground and play hell into the world. I believe that the ‘black-gold’ oil is that devil which have given the Islamist undue power to create this situation.
    The ‘boiling’ that is taking place in the Islamic world is like the proverbial ‘Samudra Mathan’ of Hindu mythology where the gods and the demons got together and churned up the ocean. And out of the froth came the poison as well as the nectar of immortality. The poison was consumed by Shiv, the god of destruction to save the world. The nectar of immortality was wisely used to sustain the world. Maybe the said ‘Samudra Mathan’ -of our society- is going on right now with certain elements being like gods and demons. Let us wait for the outcome. And the Sikh belief is that individuals have to make an effort to protect themselves. That protection is enshrined in spirituality. Those who are destined, will find their way to the source. I follow the Sikh way which is as per my Karma. Others may have their own Karma.
    4. History of the US’s involvement in the Pakistan region. The American involvement in Pakistan came into prominence as a result of British foresight in 1930s. When the Indians were demanding independence from British Raj, the Americans were supporting our demand before the Second World War. The British agreed to concede independence after the war but they wanted bases to counter Russian expansion which had been their concern since mid 19th century. Leaders from the Congress Party, which was spearheading the freedom struggle, were not keen to have British presence in post independent India.
    In the meanwhile, leadership of Indian Muslims was demanding a homeland for them fearing that they would be deluged by the vast Hindu majority in a ‘one-man-one-vote’ democratic scenario. They could see the trauma of being ill treated by their former subjects. After all, the Muslims had ruled over India quite mercilessly.
    Therefore, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, their leader agreed to the British demand. After the great war, the Cold war scenario brought the Americans or the NATO to have clandestine bases in Pakistan. The Americans even provided Military aid to Pakistan in mid 1950s despite Indian protests. They gave them heavy tanks which could not have gone through the Khyber pass against the Russians. Unfortunately, the tanks were used against India in 1965 and 1971 wars when Pakistan attacked us. Then came the Russians invasion into Afghanistan and the American involvement is mentioned in my Blogs.
    What we can do now is also suggested in my previous Blog titled REVISING PAKISTAN’S BORDERS FOR THE SAKE OF WORLD PEACE dated July 16, 2010. Perhaps, time is ripe for Indo-American long term strategic alliance in every field during the forthcoming visit of Mr. Obama.


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