The Nation on Friday included a column that reads as if it were dusted off from the 1980s under Gen Zia. The author, Mr Tarik Jan, affixes to secular journalists the label of ‘communist’ and attempts to persuade readers of a Zia-era form of Islamism under the disguise of twisted logic. Worse still, his conclusion reaches to points that are beyond the pale and may approach the promotion of terrorism against innocent citizens.
The author of the column, ‘Legitimising the illegitimate’, is Mr Tarik Jan who The Nation identifies in his by line as ‘a freelance columnist’. But a quick internet search reveals that there is more to Mr Jan’s CV than merely writing an occasional freelance column.
Mr Tarik is a member of the previously exposed ‘virtual think tank’ O.M. (Opinion Maker) Center for Policy Studies that has been tied to intelligence agencies and retired military officers from the Zia era. According to the Opinion Maker website, Mr Tarik Jan’s primary focus is fighting secularism and promoting an Islamic state. The ‘virtual think tank’ lists book titles by Mr Jan as the following:
- The Life and Times of Muhammad Rasul Allah – Universalizing the Abrahamic Tradition;
- The Secular Threat to Pakistan’s Security;
- Pakistan Between Secularism and Islam – Ideology, Issues, and Conflict;
- Islam and the Secular Mind
- Engaging Secularism;
- Muhammad Rasul Allah – Toward the Universal Islamic State;
- Pakistani ma’sharay kay liyay la-din fikr kay mazamaraat
While Mr Tarik Jan appears to be a well funded writer of Islamist literature, we have been unable to find a public record of any religious training. Rather, the only connections we have been able to establish for Mr Jan are ties to military and intelligence related organisations.
Despite a lack of known religious training, Mr Jan uses his column to dismiss the idea of ‘secularism’ as “a worldview that robs the universe and the planetary existence of its moral and spiritual essence and tries to understand it as mechanical materialism”. This is Mr Jan’s interpretation based on the writings of George Jacob Holyoake who is credited with inventing the term. But Mr Holyoake invented the term in 1956 and died in 1906.
Mr Jan admits that the definition has changed over the past 100 years, so it must be asked why he prefers to use a definition from 1856. Could it be that he ignores modern definitions and practices of political secularism because he realises that modern definitions undermine his case?
Mr Jan goes on to say that secularism has no place in Pakistan because it is “a foreign originated concept…turned into an ideology and stretched to embrace politics, economics, morality, and other aspects of life and uses state machinery to impose it…” But cannot the same be said of Islam which was not revealed in Pakistan but brought here and transformed from a religion into an ideology by Gen Ziaul Haq?
One particular example of the danger of secularism that Mr Tarik Jan points to is Dr Pervez Hoodbhoy’s “saying that rains did not fall because of people’s prayers; rather there are laws of nature that are instrumental in the cloud formation and rains”. The author complains that the scientist did not tell the people “Who created the laws of nature”.
To Tarik Jan, such expressions are not merely an annoyance. Rather he writes that “the Quran declares such attitudes as amounting to kufr”. The author then goes on to declare that ” Muslims always considered the caliphate as a model system of governance”. And what of those who do not agree with Mr Tarik Jan about the wisdom of a caliphate government?
In the last leg of the Umayyad when the zanadiqah (atheists and secular) mounted their assault on the moral core of the Muslim society by spreading licentious living, free sex, liquor, gambling and above all atheism, the Abbasid caliphs Al-Mahdi and Al-Mansour decided to crush them. They not only killed them, but also engaged eminent scholars to write books for the eradication of the then secular threat. Likewise, Al-Mahdi’s parting words to his son Al-Hadi are a reflection of his Islamic concerns: “If Allah ever gave you the chance to rule, do not spare any effort to crush the Mäni’s followers.”
This is a disturbing statement on its own. Does Tarik Jan believe that secularists should be killed? Does he believe that he is like the Abbasid caliphs “scholars” who “write books for the eradication of the then secular threat? We must especially examine such a statement with an eye to other evidence of Mr Tarik Jan’s intended meaning. For that, we will look to his past.
In 2008, following 26/11 attack, a reporter from TIME Magazine spoke to Mr Tarik Jan and wrote that he,
pines for the golden era of the Mughal period in the 1700s and has a fervent desire to see India, Pakistan and Bangladesh reunited under Islamic rule.
Reading the closing paragraph of his column with Mr Tarik Jan’s previous statements fresh in the memory, it is hard not to come to the conclusion that his column is in fact advocating the murder of anyone who does not support a new caliphate. If this is correct, The Nation is not engaging in innocent debate, it is projecting terrorism.
The role of religion in society and government is a legitimate topic of debate. Articles by learned religious scholars are a welcome addition to the discussion so that the people can evaluate different points of view. But there is a chasm of difference between learned religious scholars and paid propagandists who believe that they are promoting jihadi ideology to undermine the state and bring about a new caliphate.
Why did The Nation not reveal the true identity of Mr Tarik Jan? Were they not aware of his past statements and beliefs? Were they not aware of his association with ‘virtual think tanks’? Rather than answering questions about religion and secularism, Mr Tarik Jan’s column in The Nation only raises new and troubling questions about what is being offered in the media to unknowing and unsuspecting readers.