By Umer Sultan
The New York Times, America’s one of the largest national Newspaper in print and online, published a biography of a militant Umar Kundi yesterday (Feb 27th 2010) under this title “Frustrated Strivers in Pakistan Turn to Jihad.”
When I read a title, I didn’t even think that it will be a biography of a militant. In fact for some naive reason I thought the NY Times, this prestigious newspaper, would have gone deep into the issue of militancy and had tried to show the confusion amongst the Pakistani youth.
Picture- The 1st Shock
I was shocked when I saw the first picture and read the caption of it. This picture has nothing to do with anything with the entire article first of all. Second, why a niqabi (face covered) and hijabi (head covered dressed modestly) women is shown? What has that got to do with Extremism or Jihad?
The picture is taken from a Lahore bus. It is a metropolitan city of the Punjab Province and yes there has been terrorist bombings but it has been going on all over Pakistan. However, the picture of a Police man “checking a bus” while preserved as starring at a Niqabi and Hijabi women is just outright obnoxious. It is so because it affirms to the popular notion of a Muslim woman covered as an oppressed or rather an extremist here in the West. Since the picture has nothing to do with the topic, it is this stereotype that it affirms.
Discovery of Biography: The 2nd Shock
By the time I started reading the “A Student’s Education” on page 1, I concluded that I am reading a biography of some militant rather than an article on the main issue. What did make me feel a little better was this last small sentence in the last paragraph (before the first chapter of education)
The issue is urgent. Pakistan is in the midst of a youth bulge, with more than a million people a year pouring into the job market, and the economy — at its current rate — is not growing fast enough to absorb them. Only a tiny fraction choose militancy, but acute joblessness exacerbates the risk.
So I was okay with this since it is factual and realistic but I knew that some remedy is coming for this fact.
Encountering the Photo of the Militant- The 3rd Shock
Okay this was more like a thought rather than a shock and the thought was that why in the world when I am reading a biography of a militant, his picture is not at the first page, instead of that useless-stereotypical picture in the starting of the article! Wouldn’t that be logical and would actually make sense!
The Conclusion- the 4th Shock
The article then went on, and the research work of the Pakistani Military psychiatrist, Brigadier Mowadat Hussain Rana, which was on 24 young men who were related to terrorist activities in Pakistan was in particular interesting.
However, the shocking was the conclusion. After the objectives of the Mr Kundi’s hardline attitude, his declaration of war against the government of Pakistan despite of the opposition of his friends, and his own extremist spiritual guide, the NY Times author presents that it was all done because of fame. The author said that militants choose to stay on this course because this way of life gives them command and authority, which is true
“Out there I’m a useless guy, unemployed and cursed by my family,” one militant said. “Here I’m a commander. My words have weight.”
After this, the author went on as to how the militants have regrouped every time after the crack down the Pakistani intelligence and the Police forces in the cities, while politician are busy in their as usual immediate political future. But this ending was shocking:
Muhammad disapproved of Mr. Kundi’s choice, because it led to the deaths of hundreds of innocent people. But he understood it. Mr. Kundi wanted badly to be important. Now, in a way, he is.
“He applied his mind,” Muhammad said. “He took what society offered.”
What society has to offer??? Pakistani society has to offer anything to everything just like any other normal society has to offer. Offer of anti government anarchism, like US Joseph Stacks the IRS Bomber (hero in the eyes of his daughter), to extreme liberal life according to Muslims, for example the recent unprecedented fashion shows in Karachi.
The society offers, recognized and well-known Ulema (Islamic Scholars) of Pakistan, which are peaceful and are not that attractive because they don’t arouse the youth to chant anti-american or western slogans but they call them to self-improvement and adhering to Islam. The society also offers extremist preachers on all platforms and walk of life. From University level to national political level.
The choice at the end lies at the hands of the person. Did one choose to follow the footsteps of those who spread corruption and fasad on Earth, or those who worked on self-improvement or the social uplift of their society. The choice is of the person since Pakistani Society has to offer wide range of options like any other normal society has to offer!
What I just saw, however, was the New York Time’s frustrated strivers, striving to write a front page story, that they were able to achieve on Feb 27th 2010.