By Geoffrey Cook, TMO
Berkeley–As your reporter beings his narrative, Europe and America are raging, and Cairo has once again erupted in violence. In your authorâ€™s area of the world (Northern California), the focus has gone from the urban streets to the college campuses. On those streets, one man was killed in Oakland and another (a student at the University of California) was gunned down under questionable circumstances here on the Berkeley campus while on his way to classes. At U.C. Davis near Sacramento, there was a horrible incident of peaceful protestors being pepper sprayed with ensuing calls for the chancellor to resign.
Both labor unions and military veterans have come into the picture. Two of the protestors, who were badly injured by the Oakland police, belonged to the Iraq Veterans against the War. Not all American soldiers were anti-Muslim, but were sicken by George W. Bushâ€™s two Wars. They should be accepted by all of us as true allies. Nonetheless, there has been some talk of a 1932-type situation arising when the U.S.A.â€™s World War I veterans marched to Washington to demand bonuses promised them for their service only to be most violently ousted by General MacArthur with General Patten of World War II fame during Herbert Hooverâ€™s Presidency.
The Unions have joined in on the fray — both the powerful Longshoremenâ€™s Union on the Oakland Docks and the Union representing Professors and Lecturers on the California State Universities (C.S.U.â€™s). Both at Hayward in the Bay Area (North California) and Dominguez Hills in Greater Los Angeles (Southern California) were chosen for a one-day strike over a promised wage increase a fortnight ago. Muslims have been involved in many of these various protests.
Meanwhile, over the â€œpondâ€ in Roman Catholic Italy, where Islam now is the second largest religion, Rome herself is about to default, too, and, if she does, the Euro-zone will collapse along with her, and that Southern European republic â€˜s economy is too big for Brussels to bail out like the EU (European Union) did with Greece. It is as though we are entering a â€œRevolutionaryâ€ period?
Two months ago (September 20th) to the day of this writing, in calmer times, a foreign affairs editor and writer for the Washington Post with an expertise in the Af-Pak region came to the Berkeley campus here with her new book Playing with Fire: Pakistan at War with Itself which is getting a bit of attention on the â€œcircuit.â€
She started that the reaction within Pakistan itself at the assassination of Osama bin Laden at Abattobad by American Special Forces on their very soil, and the â€œignoranceâ€ of high-ranking Pakistani military officers of his presence so close to Islamabad, the national capital, itself, and, also, with a military garrison nearby the event, the United States has deeply offended and embarrassed Pakistanâ€™s Government and proud military.
The two things with which that Government is obsessed are India and internal public opinion. The U.S.-Pakistan relationship as allies is a long one, but 9/11 changed much of the inherent trust between the two traditional partners. The average citizen there â€œFeels that the West is out to â€˜getâ€™ Islam.â€ There is a sense of nationalism along with the raise in a belief of the centrality of Islam itself.
The recent slaying of the Minorities Minister in the Punjab was committed due to his religion (Christianity). The current Government is a liberal one by Pakistanâ€™s standards, and Shahbaz Bhatti, the aforementioned Minister, represented that liberality. Those Taliban south of the Durand Line claimed responsibility. Further, the Governmentâ€™s position is lax on the enforcement of the Blasphemy (especially perceived against the Prophet [PBUH]) Law which puts it at odds with the religious right â€“ especially those in the Northwest Provinces where the rebellion against the Center emanates. Unfortunately, for the Body Politick, there has been an outpouring of support for this dastardly murder (Bhatti was never accused of committing blasphemy, incidentally.) Alarmingly, the argument that has been created by the religious conservatives was that homicide was enjoined by the Koran! The Military did not make a statement, but followed the civilian Prime Minster (P.Mâ€™s) order to arrest sundry supporters of the Blasphemy ordinance in response to the slaying.
That reporter claims that those on the fringes do not wish to come to power, but, at the same time, the State finds itself only a heartbeat away from the awakening in the Middle East. Also, within twenty to thirty years the Pakistani nation will be the most populous Muslim one on earth!
At the same, times the people there do not trust the system they are under. There is a sense that the appeal of the marginal political actors (i.e., the Taliban) is justified. The historical result of the War against the Soviets is now â€œa plague upon the land.â€ There is a different type of militant presently: Homegrown!
After the foray upon Osamaâ€™s compound upon Punjabi soil, terrorism within the country increased. The West and other outsiders were blamed for all their domestic problems â€“ especially for the terrorist attacks against the residents — within that Islamic Republic. The relationship with the District of Columbia (D.C.â€™s) traditional ally has deteriorated drastically with the drone attacks above the Northwest Provinces. These have churned up the residentsâ€™ resentment against Washington.
Your author first found his love for Islam studying the traditional South Asian Muslim Sufic mysticism as a graduate student here thirty years ago. Today the Taliban is waging a pogrom against that very domination within Islam and their sacred shrines. This represents more of a Middle Eastern perception of by the fundamentalist Ulema followed by the Taliban and fellow-travelers than the traditional South Asian expression of the religion.
The perception of Pakistan in the West is perceived (questionably) as a â€œweakâ€ entity, yet it has the Bomb to defend itself against India. The father of that Bomb, A.Q. Khan, though vilified by much of the world for spreading their nuclear technology to other Third World countries â€“ mainly Muslim — is still a national hero in his homeland. Ms. Constable felt that Islamic land â€œcelebrated the wrong heroes in the name of freedom [independence].â€
â€œWhat we are doing is wrong,â€ also, for South Asian Islam has equated our (U.S.) democracy with alcoholism and irreligion. We have to find a better relationship with Pakistan once again. We must keep in mind that â€œPakistan sees everything in relation to India.â€ While the U.S.A. keeps lying about the drone assaults, civil society, the press and the judiciary are a very positive force there. In fact, Pamela in her work as a journalist has â€œâ€¦met many unsung heroes!â€