Every elite American newspaper is full of articles about Pakistan’s descent into religious extremism and the stunned reaction of the “westernized Pakistani elite” (as Washington Post put it) at the popular support in Pakistan for the accused assassin of Governor Salman Taseer. There is no question that successive Pakistani Military and Civilian regimes have nurtured Islamic extremism and built up the Taleban. It is also true that the assassination has severely shaken the confidence of the Pakistani elite and that of the Obama Administration.
I abhor any doctrine, regime or society that chooses to call itself the “Land of the Pure” or Pak-i-Stan. Once you call your society the land of the Pure, you sort of undertake the obligation to rid your society of any impure elements. That is what successive land-of-the-pure regimes have done by trying to cleanse their societies of Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, and Ahmadiyya Muslims over a 60-year period.
But I also recognize that Pakistani society has never elected religious parties in any election. They have usually voted for non-religious parties. So what turned this Pakistani society to shower rose petals on an accused assassin of a popular governor? Below is a contrarian and perhaps controversial answer.
• The majority in every society or country expects its religion, its culture, its belief systems to be respected and protected by its government. I consider this fact to be self-evident. As a corollary, the majority tends to protest and rebel against any external pressure to modify its religious and social laws. When its own government aligns itself with the external source of pressure, the protests turn vehement. If the external forces are of another religion, then the anger can turn incendiary.
Perhaps, this is what happened in Pakistan. Rather than working quietly and discreetly to free the Christian woman sentenced under the 30-year old Blasphemy law, serious attempts were made to force Pakistan’s weak government to amend or abolish the law. This, I think, was a huge mistake. It changed the nature of the debate from being merciful to a poor woman to pressure from American and Western Christians to force a change in Pakistani society’s sacred religious principles.
In this context, an accused assassin of a popular governor became a symbol of defiance against American & Christian pressure against Muslims and a defender of the Prophet. Perhaps, a Muslim fighter against modern Christian Crusaders? Is this so hard to understand?
I guess it is if you are a member of the American Elite and Media Elite in particular. If you think, I am being harsh, think back to their coverage of the Tea Party in America in 2010. This is the same elite section of American Establishment that once derided Core America as “small town people clinging to religion and guns”. These are the same people who expressed outrage that over 70% of Americans were against construction of a new Mosque near the sacred Ground Zero. These American Elite accused Core Americans for becoming intolerant. It was preposterous.
There are over 90 Mosques in New York City, by some counts. So why did Americans protest so passionately against one new Mosque in New York? It was because that project seemed to symbolize an “in-your-face-America” message. It came across as a deliberate affront to America’s sacred memories and beliefs. So the American majority stood up and said, “Don’t tread on us”. The American Elite still don’t get this.
The American Elite express disapproval of religious beliefs and promotes an arrogant secularism. If they approve of someone, they call him or her “liberal”. If they don’t, they call the person “traditional” or “religious”. They misuse America’s clout to force their “secularism” on governments of countries that depend on American aid. They do not get the basic fact that the core of most societies is religious. They do not understand that their demands come across simultaneously as arrogant “irreligiousity” (to paraphrase Stratfor) and as attacks on sacred principles. So is it any surprise that their actions usually misfire as they did in Pakistan!
Perhaps they should watch Bill O’Reilly of Fox speak of “secular-progressives” in his tone of dripping contempt. If the American Elite cannot convince Bill O’Reilly, why do they think they should pressure Pakistan? If they cannot understand Core America, why do they think they can understand Core Pakistan or Core India?
How does this discussion lead to core India or to US-India relations? That is a topic for the next article.