Extremism in Contemporary Pakistan: Threats, Causes and Future Policy

By Khan, Saqib; Javaid, Umbreen | South Asian Studies, July 1, 2016 | Go to article overview

Extremism in Contemporary Pakistan: Threats, Causes and Future Policy


Khan, Saqib, Javaid, Umbreen, South Asian Studies


Introduction

This article possesses three main aims: firstly to consider the threats to Pakistan posed by religious and ethno-nationalist extremism; secondly to locate support for extremism in a socio-economic, political and historical setting; thirdly to suggest a range of policy options which can stem the tide of militancy. Religious extremism is a major challenge faced by Pakistan.

Religious Extremism

"Religious extremists are willing to Murder because they embrace theologies that sanction violence in the service of God. They have no sympathy for their victims, because they view those Victims as enemies of God. And they sacrifice their own lives because they expect huge and immediate after life rewards in return for martyrdom". (Iannaccone & Berman, 2005)

'Religious extremism is simply extremism when ideological beliefs are religious in nature and ideological behaviors are religiously motivated and rationalized'.

According to the researcher ''religious extremism is the adaptation and recognition of religious extremist ideologies mostly given by religious elite for the purpose of political and sectarian benefits and they want to impose that religious ideology to the other people by religious interpretations' '.

Definitions of religious extremism and modernization keep changing. An individual or an organization can be labeled as religiously extremist in one context and politically moderate in another. For example, those belonging to the Tableeghi Jamat, the non-political Wahhabis may be called radicals in the religious context but politically they probably are not.

Olivier Roy considers Islamic radicalism a combination of two elements: a call for the return of all Muslims to the true tenets of Islam or what is perceived as such; and, a political militancy against the foes of Islam who could include existing Muslim rulers. (Roy, 1994)

Many Pakistani scholars, however found it difficult to agree with the first element of Roy's definitions of Muslim radical movements, because many religious organizations call for a return to the Quran and Sunnah but that does not mean that they should be branded as radicals or extremists. (Ahmed, 2009)

Pakistan on issues related to religious extremism and militancy are largely an expression of the people's religiosity which would not be acceptable to the majority of the people of Pakistan. Religious sensitivities run deep in Pakistan and the people often have a violent or aggressive demeanour on matters touching upon their religious beliefs and international politics. Religion remains a core element of people's belief system and illiteracy and critical thinking confuse the views of most of people on issues such as extremism, Jihad, religious violence, radicalization and terrorism. The majority of the people in the country are confused to understand the complex phenomenon of religious extremism, violence and terrorism. (Sial and Anjum, 2009)

Dr. Davin Hansen has also noted in his recent research on radicalization in Pakistan that People in Pakistan had a common tendency to use radical rhetoric when discussing other religions, sects, nations and people, but when it came to their practical behavior, the majority of Pakistanis was moderate. (Hansen, 2012)

Some analysts have the opinion that the non-violent extremism and some analysts call 'virtual radicalism', is present in Pakistani culture and society to a significant magnitude and the non-violent or virtual radicals be blamable for Ideological support and a breeding ground for the militant extremism .The transformation from the former to the latter is also very difficult to envisage and both forms of extremism are discrete but they are equally critical. It was dominance of religious speeches, fatwas, and radical rhetoric, an expression of extreme feelings of anger and promotion of hatred instigated among the masses mainly by the religious political parties that motivated a police guard to assassinate the Punjab governor in January 2011 in Islamabad because of the latter's criticism of the man-made blasphemy law. …

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