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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Reflections on protest held in Lahore in solidarity with Palestinians


Today i attended a protest against Israeli atrocities and support for Palestinians  organized at Liberty market Lahore. Here, i share some thoughts which i think support what i said in my previous post titled "Decolonizing the narrative of Palestinian cause"

In 2009 when Israel launched operation Cast Lead in Gaza, i attended a solidarity show and vigil organized at the same venue in Liberty. Couple of things markedly differs both the protests organized for the same cause, which i believe to an extent, speaks about the mood of Pakistani public. In 2009, the crowd present was a mixture of liberals and conservatives, where secular slogans went along with religious slogans. Today's protest was completely possessed with religious sentiments. Banners calling for Caliphate, union of armies of all the Muslim lands, martial style slogans, and most importantly, even some, calling for Ghazwa Hind to be launched. My focus is not religion, but rather a particular type of politicization of religion in service of the State.

I said in my last blog that such a religious view of crisis in Palestine is totally in line with the official narrative of Pakistan. Al though it is not formally pronounced, as in text books, but this narrative is clearly promoted through all other possible informal means. The story goes like this. Forces from Pakistan will be unleashed which will first conquer India, and eventually, they will end up in Syria, and from there a combined force of all Muslims will go ahead and annihilate Jewish power in Israel. This is the narrative informally promoted by the State, and interestingly Taliban as well, through their propaganda means. The conflict between both of them is about who is the actual executioner of such a millennial project.

All this happened in today in commercial hub of Lahore glut with all symbolic features of capitalism, such as big Plazas, huge billboards, multinational firms outlets etc. This narrative only serves to reinforce religious nationalism in Pakistan and by no means serves the Palestinian cause. And unfortunately, the mood in the air clearly displayed an overwhelming support for such a narrative.

My friends present in the protest, i believe, were not fully taking into account the dynamics of international politics. States pursues their national interest. There are no perennial friends nor such enemies. Belief in a such world view where all Muslims are brothers and must fight for Palestinian cause together may sound like a very romantic idea, and i personally admire such solidarity, but this does not fix in the dynamics of contemporary world within which Palestinian crisis has to be located.

Its not a religious crisis, its a secular crisis, its not a eternal fight between good and evil, rather a fight over land and resources with its peculiar historical features. To pursue such a line of thought only serves the national elite because in this particular religious narrative of Palestinian cause, the elite, those who control the State, and the State itself, assumes a larger than life value, because its them who will spearhead the movement against Israel. This is in total contradiction with the theory as well as the practice of modern politics. States such as Pakistan, or for that matter, any other State, no matter how on surface promote religious idea of national polity, are essentially secular in terms of pursuing their interest. By secular here i mean, its not the religious but worldly interest they go after.

I also observed presence of such groups as Hizb ul Tahrir in the protest. But over all, people draped in modern attires, possessing modern gadgets, speaking half English-half Urdu, and standing in the midst of commercial hub calling were calling for Caliphate. I am no way whatsoever speaking against the merits of Islamic political theory. Absolutely not, for that is not the purpose of this post.  Rather, and i believe, the picture i have sketched here, reader will find it useful to understand the political outlook of urban youth of Lahore. They are beneficiaries of capitalist economy but at the same time were raising slogans for the political order that in essence against modernity as we understand it and its economic off shoots such as modern capitalism.

Such confusion i believe is due to the hijacking of the genuine passion of youth for political activism and its channelization into a carefully crafted controlled sphere of political activity. While the youth genuinely feels for Palestinian cause, but the ultimate solution they were chanting in favor of was utterly divorced from reality, and exactly in line with the State narrative of seeing the issue, which is essentially a secular, in religious terms, and the narrative which prescribe State an essential central place, because the State is the very mean through which such a narrative will find its realization. Pakistan, after conquering India will free Palestine.

To see the world in such a black and white terms, through us and them categories, is a vision prone to Genocidal tendencies. This is exactly how the Nazis thought, this is exactly the State of Israel trains its citizens to believe in, and this is essentially this colonized and hijacked narrative of Palestine make Muslim youth believe in. The general interpretation is, everything else constant,  that Jew is a perennial enemy. If people with such a mindset ever secure power, they will of course do the same what Israel is doing with Palestinian, and what Nazis did to the Jews. Humanitarian dimension is routed out from Palestinian cause by such a religiously inspired narrative.

Such millennial thinking also make people prone to the propaganda of the forces which the State of Pakistan is claiming to be fighting against, i.e. Taliban. Taliban propagandist means also promote a world view where human are discreetly divided into religious blocks and the final Armageddon is impending. Even the vocabulary is quite, to an extent, same as which the passionate youth in today's protest was using, i.e. religious war against India, then Israel etc. How can you eliminate a force which finds social space in the society due to mental affinity with the masses? An unarmed terrorists, in my opinion, would find no difficulty integrating into a society in which people, at least, on ideological terrain, as long as he does overtly propagate violence against the domestic but only the Other, would not find his idea suspicious. At least with such millennial thinking gradually getting widespread, religiously inspired violent people are not likely to face much trouble surviving in the society.

Finally, and i will be writing about it very soon, is , what i have come to believe a significant relationship between capitalism and religious radicalism in Muslim societies. Capitalism, with its hyper exchange economy, commercialization and uncertainties, by all means, progressively drives societies into disarray. Social crisis, a fundamental and inevitable achievement of capitalist economic system, unfolding in the Muslim societies, society which have not been experienced a historical process of secularization of identities, is likely to set in motion a radical religious response. As social bonds keep weakening, mistrust and confusion prevails, people are likely to be attracted to organic ideologies as panacea for social disarray. I  intend to deal with this phenomena in detail sometime in future.

Overall, the trend in general public political opinion in Pakistan, as i see, is of a growing religiously inspired nationalist nature. Its pro-authoritarian and prone to fascist tendencies.



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