Thursday, November 19, 2009

A possible alternative

    • Ashok Malik
    • Many Indians fear the collapse of Pakistan and the imminent takeover of the state by a rampaging army ofAllah. They worry the Pakistani elite — English speaking, whisky drinking, Western and liberal in its personal lives — will simply run away, leaving behind a rump civil society: Illiterate and undereducated millions who will become cannon fodder for the Islamists.

      Reality may not be so black and white. It is more likely the Islamisation of Pakistan’s polity and society — the tussle between an upper crust that is half embarrassed, half in denial and, at the back of its mind, very, very afraid, and the mullah-jihadi duumvirate — will be a gradual one.
    • The author may not have intended it that way, but Sadanand Dhume’s book My Friend, the Fanatic (Tranquebar), just released in India, not only interrogates Indonesia’s conversion, inch by inch, from a country of pluralist Muslims to one where Islamism is clearly on the ascendant, but also offers us a prism through which to understand Pakistan.

      As Dhume, a Washington-based writer and cartographer of the many social Islams that inevitably seem to gravitate towards the one political Islam, puts it in a conversation, Indonesia represents the eastern edge of a historical contest between “the Sanskritic and Arabist civilisations”. The contest was lost centuries ago at its western end — Afghanistan — and has ceded ground, by miles rather than inches, in Pakistan.
    • The Islamist straitjacket can be pushed back but never broken. To think that could be Pakistan’s best case scenario.