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Towards Reclaiming the Golden Age

February 23, 2010

Okay, so this post is in response to Saad Aziz’s thought-provoking Facebook post: “Struggle for Supremacy: Proactive Enemies on Dormant Minds”

It was very well written,and I would like to apologize for the late reply – wasn’t able to read it before because I sensed it would merit a long reply…here goes. Since I haven’t received permission to repost it here yet, the gist is thus:

Saad recalls that Lord McCaulay found subcontinental traditions to be an obstacle to claiming the Jewel of the Crown, and was instrumental in introducing English to the subcontinent, which played a role in leading to its moral degradation (according to Saad). He then cites the recent news that USAID is planning to invest millions into establishing a TV channel in Pakistan, and draws parallels, saying that Muslims need to reject this attempt to ‘breed slave minds’ and reformulate their own educational system.

For starters, I have a poor grasp of subcontinental history, but I would like to point out that Gandhi and Jinnah were very much products of the British system – especially Jinnah – and it is their education in Britain that enabled and inspired them to literally change the world. Also, let’s not forget that the IBA itself was setup by the USAID back in 1955 who enlisted the Wharton School – more recently, USAID has helped establish the Centre for Entrepreneurial Excellence.

Thus, even though Saad has attempted to analyze USAID’s initiative logically, I don’t agree with the view that “encouraging a reasoning attitude” is akin to “breeding slave minds”.

Let me get this out of the way – yes,this TV channel will probably be nothing more than eyewash and have a lot of propaganda – which makes sense, given that the US wants to change the negative (and largely justified) opinions many Pakistanis rightly hold about it.

Of course it’s not about profit, not directly at least. Is more education in Pakistan a goal? To an extent yes. It does NOT threaten the supremacy of America. Not. Even. Close. Pakistan is way too unstable for that.

Interdependence

I think that we live in a globalized world where increasingly countries understand that their success depends on that of others. A failing state in Pakistan is probably not something that India or America want, contrary to popular opinion back home. They suffer over the long term if that happens. For one, Pakistan is an emerging 170m-strong market of consumers (where many like to show off their wealth if they can) – it’s about the money, baby! And a failing state in Pakistan gives more power to extremists – an entity that both America and India are decidedly wary of.

‘Intrinsic’ Islamic values and traditions are honesty, goodness, and equity. And they are very difficult to find in Pakistan. Children in our country have lost values because our elders abandoned them years ago. Cheating in exams. Respect for the law. Saad, there are more jokes about mullahs than ahadith forwarded in Pakistan. Why is that? Because of an American influence? I’d say it’s because of the reputation ‘maulanas’ have earned for themselves.

Amreeka ke aane se bohot pehle hamari qaum chori aur haramkhori kar rahi hai – Kamal Ahmed Rizvi ne is ko Alif Noon mein bohot khoob dikha liya tha, poore 40 saal pehle. (Allan aur Nanna jaisi jori phir nahin aayi PTV pe!)

Amreeka kya, do sau saal pehle angrezon ke aane se pehle bhi Mughal hukmaraan bhi koi teer nahin maar rahe they. In 1813 the Mughals were busier making (admittedly beautiful) palaces and maintaining harems than achieving progress for their nations and pushing the boundaries of achievement. History is debatable, but arguably the last great Muslim scientists (most of whom were Arabs) were gone by the 19th century. The Mughals were defeated simply because they were disunited and technologically backward. They had swords, the British had guns. The Sepoy Rebellion proved that, given technological parity,it wouldn’t have been so simple for the East India Company to take over. The harsh truth unfortunately is that the Mughals were scientifically backward.

Why can’t we pool in money to counter negative propaganda? I don’t know. But I know that I wouldn’t donate to many of the pseudo-religious groups operating in Pakistan, because they promote hatred, which is not what Islam preaches. In the aftermath of the Danish cartoons fiasco, it was revolting to see campaigns at the mosque calling for blood and the Danish flag painted on the walkway. Didn’t achieve anything – only reinforced the incorrect perception in the West that Muslims are intolerant and excitable.

“As of now, there is a dire need for an institution that has its own news channel, English and Urdu newspaper, a publishing house and an intelligent pool of journalists who challenge and confront the propaganda against Islam that is unleashed 24/7.”

That institution exists: it’s called Dawn News. Not too successful, is it? Why does Dawn News fail where Geo succeeds? Unfortunate reality again: our people prefer the largely sensationalist yellow journalism of the Jang group to the relatively more balanced and realistic fare Dawn presents, in my opinion. The good news is that Dawn is going to be launching Urdu transmissions soon (credit Hassaan AY) – so now the Pakistani public will be exposed to a new and different perspective in prime time.

Wow.

That’s a lot of thought. But I hope no one takes it the wrong way. I agree with most of your points, Saad Aziz – that we must re-embrace our traditions and have a better education system that balances our past, present, and future. We do have a great heritage, and the key to success for Muslims does lie in a return to the basics and reconnecting with our spirit. Like every major religion/belief/thought process, Islam has been hijacked and abused. We can make things better by doing the little things right. Don’t backbite. Be kind. And so on and so forth. I am no one to preach – but I am idealistic – as one of the crazy ones, I believe.

I bashed the Mughals before for technological backwardness; but that doesn’t mean the Muslims haven’t achieved much. They’ve actually contributed a great deal to the progress of science and technology – mankind is indebted to greats like Ibn e Sina – but we aren’t doing much to highlight that legacy.

However…now now, this is interesting, the BRITISH are presenting it to the world through a series of wonderful exhibitions and videos (originally shared by the ever praiseworthy Saad Raza Abbasi). This initiative is the brainchild of Iraq-born Professor Salim Al-Hassani but has been given a platform in Manchester, not Islamabad or Makkah, which is a pity. View all the videos on their official Youtube channel, or for a quick taste, watch the brilliant short film from Facebook.

Thank you, Saad Aziz, for kickstarting this conversation. Let’s hope someone else carries it forward.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Farooq Shaikh permalink
    February 23, 2010 1:38 pm

    You both arent completely wrong. Infact, what saad aziz has quoted is a fact because Lord maculay himself admitted this in his report and in later in his biography (Havn’t seen the original one but read somewhere quoted) about the findings which saad talks about.
    But the problems is not whether the west, Christians, Jews , Hindus, Isreal , USA or India is conspiring against us or not? They definitely are and I don’t find it interesting or amazing when someone tell me that “Oh Look wat US is doing!”
    As hasan Nisar (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tO4GJuKMrak) (especially at 2:00) correctly points that why don’t we are ablt to counteract? Why we just behave like cry babies and keep on complaining about whatever they are doing? Why we aren’t in a position to fund a University or an educations system in the west or in the United State under Islamic States Agency for International Develepment (ISAID)? So certainly there is a problem within ourselves which we need to rectify before blaming the west.
    Secondly, if the educational system of the Mughals was so good “or if the people of the region were extremely skilful and intelligent” why the British were able to capture India so easily. So, certainly there were problems which are beyond the scope of this discussion.
    Now coming to what Muslims Ummah Should do?
    From the past 200 or so years we end all our discussion with a single line, “Its high time the Muslim Ummah stands united against all these odds”.
    I don’t think so. Muslim Ummah should not bother standing up. The people which comprise Muslim Ummah should start doing there own part. Students start taking their projects seriously and stop plagiarizing. Civil servants start serving, soldiers and generals start doing what they are supposed to do, teachers start teaching and everyone else who performs any duty starts performing with utmost devotion and as laid according to dictates of shariah .If everyone performs his duty the Ummah wouldn’t need something special.

    • February 23, 2010 7:49 pm

      I completely agree with you. Someone pointed out recently that Allah (swt) really asks us to take care of ourselves and worry about ourselves rather than try to correct all the wrongs in this world. Hum log khud agar theek raaste pe chalein to inshallah sab theek hi ho ga.

      • Moiz permalink
        February 24, 2010 1:18 pm

        Well ur comment here nabeel is partially right. I believe it is like starting from oneself and then trying to correct others too.

  2. Saad Aziz permalink
    February 24, 2010 1:25 pm

    nice follow up Nabeel..well as long as there is life, there will be conflicts of opinion..but my intention was and will be to get people to think which many have stopped doing as a matter of fact.

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