Tuesday, September 7, 2010


By Dr Hasan Askari Rizvi

The state is expected to fulfil its obligations towards the citizenry by providing security, basic services, facilities and economic opportunity. On the other hand, the reciprocal obligation of citizens to the state is weak or non-existent. An individual is more committed to the notion of the Muslim ummah

Three Pakistani cricket players are under investigation in the UK on charges of ‘spot fixing’ in cricket matches during the current series. Even if these charges are not fully substantiated, the fact that such charges surfaced against leading Pakistani cricketers is a major disappointment to cricket fans in Pakistan.

This is not the first time that Pakistani cricketers stand accused of malpractice. In January this year, Shahid Afridi was caught biting a ball in the Perth One-Day International (ODI). He later claimed that he resorted to this “in the heat of the moment as the match was a close one”. Prior to this, Pakistani players have been accused of ball tampering or match fixing in collaboration with betting bookies or their agents.

An incident of unfair means relates to the game of golf. In May 2010, Pakistani golfers were found guilty of deceiving the organisers of a world amateur golf competition in Malaysia.

All cricket players know what constitutes an offence in cricket. The key question is, why do they get involved in such affairs without paying any attention to the negative fallout for Pakistan? Immediate and quick material gains may be one important consideration, but how come the ‘self’ becomes more important than society and the nation-state they represent?

Material gains are important considerations but these incidents represent a far deeper crisis in Pakistani society, caused by the failure of the Pakistani state to socialise the youth into the notion of social responsibility and the citizen’s obligations towards the nation-state. This leads them to ignore the negative implications of their behaviour for the image of Pakistan and fellow countrypersons, especially those living outside.

Take the example of Faisal Shahzad who attempted to explode a bomb in Times Square, New York. He never gave any consideration to the implications of his action for Pakistan’s image and its social consequences for the youth with Pakistani backgrounds living in the US and other western countries. These considerations were not a part of his orientation.

Such incidents can be traced partly to the shift in the Pakistani youth’s mindset over the last two decades from social responsibility and societal good to religious obligations. The Islamic orthodoxy-dominated worldview emphasises an individual’s obligation to God Almighty (Allah) as the primary concern. This requires the strengthening of ties with Allah by pursuing prayers and other basic rituals of Islam. The obligations to the community are secondary and flow completely from an individual’s obligations to Allah. The notion of humanity is replaced with the idealisation of the Muslim community (ummah) and the scope of societal responsibility is articulated with reference to Islam. All matters relating to individual and collective life, and domestic and international politics are viewed as a function of religion.

The Islamist worldview manifests an ambiguous attitude towards the nation-state. On the one hand, the state is expected to fulfil its obligations towards the citizenry by providing security, basic services, facilities and economic opportunity. On the other hand, the reciprocal obligation of citizens to the state is weak or non-existent. An individual is more committed to the notion of the Muslim ummah (trans-national Muslim community) and the political discourse is dominated by phrases like “We, the Muslims” rather than we, the citizens of the state. The state is relevant to the extent it helps to achieve individual and collective ideals as articulated in orthodox Islamic discourse.

The loyalty ladder has two dimensions. The primary loyalty of an individual is to Allah whose closeness can be achieved by following the teachings and prayers of Islam. The other rung of the loyalty ladder is from an individual to Islamic movements and then to the trans-national Muslim community. The state does not figure except as a facilitator for achieving these goals. Further, most Islamists question the legitimacy of the rulers of Muslim states on the grounds that these rulers do not serve the cause of Islam. Rather, they function as agents of the west.

This perspective views the world as a dichotomy: the Muslims and the rest of the world, and that the Hindus, Jews and Christians continuously conspire against Islam and the Muslims. In other words, the state and its rulers are viewed as illegitimate and there is a negative disposition towards the non-Muslim world.

Such a skewed worldview of the Pakistani youth has been shaped gradually by the policies of the Pakistani state, going back to the early 1980s. It was not merely the madrassa education that socialised the youth in a uni-dimensional worldview derived from Islamic orthodoxy and conservatism. The state education system also instilled in the young people these values. For over two decades, starting in the early 1980s, the military government of General Ziaul Haq promoted Islamic orthodoxy and militancy through state education. The state apparatus, the media and patronage were also used to strengthen these perspectives. The US supported General Zia’s efforts to promote religious orthodoxy and militancy because it served the American agenda against the Soviets in Afghanistan.

Any review of high school and college education between 1983-84 and 2004-2005, especially the course content of Pakistan Studies, will make it easy to understand why the notion of citizenship of Pakistan as a nation-state has been replaced with religious obligations as a Muslim, and societal good has been diluted in favour of Islamic activism.

The intellectual and emotional linkages of this generation with Pakistan are ambiguous, viewing domestic and international developments within the parameters of Islamic orthodoxy. The emphasis is on a display of religiousness and they tend to live in a self-created world of religious illusion that distorts or rejects the realities of domestic and international politics.

With such a blinkered worldview there is nothing wrong in engaging in activities that cannot be condemned from a purely religious point of view. There is nothing wrong in match fixing or ball tampering if it does not dissuade an individual from fulfilling one’s obligations to Allah. Further, a victory in sports against the non-believers is a desirable goal and, thus, the rules of the game take a back seat in their priorities.

The cricket issue is going to be resolved soon in one way or another. However, the biggest challenge is how to retrieve the Pakistani generation that has been lost to religious orthodoxy and militancy. There is a need to underline the primacy of the nation state and emphasise social responsibility and societal good as the foundation of a stable society and world order.
The writer is a political and defence analyst
Courtesy Daily TImes Sep 5, 2010

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