Posts Tagged ‘SAFMA’

Allama Iqbal, Zaid Hamid, and Khalifat ideology

Friday, August 26th, 2011

Following Zaid Hamid’s recent appearance on Meher Bokhari’s show Crossfire, South Asian Free Media Association (SAFMA) announced that it was planning to file a libel notice against Zaid Hamid for accusations he made during the programme. Last night, to discuss the issue on his show Shahid Nama, Shahid Masood invited as his guests two individuals whose views could not be further apart.

On the one hand was SAFMA co-founder Marvi Sirmed, a political commentator and journalist who holds Masters’ degrees in Political Science, Science Education and English Linguistics and has worked with Members of Parliament. She has also been the Institutional Development Specialist with the Ministry of Women Development, Government of Pakistan and as Policy Advocacy Specialist with National Commission on the Status of Women.

On the other hand was Zaid Hamid, a political commentator who has a Bachelor of Engineering (BE) degree in Computer Systems Engineering and the individual at the center of SAFMA’s complaint. Mr Zaid Hamid is the former host of the programme Brasstacks.

During the debate between Marvi Sirmed and Zaid Hamid one point of disagreement related to a claim by Marvi Sirmed that Allama Muhammad Iqbal was against the creation of an Islamic state. Miss Sirmed claimed that she had proof in a letter written by Iqbal to The Times newspaper of London in 1931. Due to the research of a reader of this blog, we are able to confirm that this letter was written. A photocopy of the letter is below:

Letter to The Times by Allama Muhammed Iqbal

The question is part of an ongoing debate about  the way that Zaid Hamid presents Allama Iqbal in his media programmes as an advocate of the creation of a new Khalifat. An example can be seen in this video clip:

But was this the view of Allama Iqbal? According to Dr Javid Iqbal writing in October 1987 issue of Iqbal Review, the answer is no. Justice Iqbal wrote that Allama Iqbal “has no hesitation in approving the establishment of a multi-party system or political groupings in modern Islamic Democracies, for, in his opinion, this was in accordance with the practice of early republican phase in Islam”. He goes on to quote Allama Iqbal as supporting an expressly democratic system of governance and rejecting an imperialist Khalifat as “failed in practice”.

Let us now see how the Grand National Assembly has exercised this power of Ijtihad in regard to the institution of Khilafat. According to Sunni law, the appointment of an Imam or Khalifah is absolutely indespensable. The first question that arises in this connexion is this – Should the Caliphate be vested in a single person? Turkey’s Ijtihad is that according to the spirit of Islam the Caliphate or Imamate can be vested in a body of persons, or an elected Assembly…Personally, I believe the Turkish view is perfectly sound. It is hardly necessary to argue this point. The republican form of government is not only thoroughly consistent with the spirit of Islam, but has also become a necessity in view of the new forces that are set free in the world of Islam*…In order to understand the Turkish view let us seek the guidance of Ibn Khildun – the first philosophical historian of Islam.

Ibn Khildun, in his famous ‘Prolegomena’, mentions three distinct views of the idea of Universal Caliphate in Islam.

(1) That Universal Imamate is a Divine institution, and is consequently indispensable.

(2) That it is merely a matter of expediency.

(3) That there is no need of such an institution. The last view was taken by the Khawarij.

It seems that modern Turkey has shifted from the first to the second view, i.e. to the view of the Mu‘tazillah who regarded Universal Imamate as a matter of expediency only. The Turks argue that in our political thinking we must be guided by our past political experience which points unmistakably to the fact that the idea of Universal Imamate has failed in practice. It was a workable idea when the Empire of Islam was intact. Since the break-up of this Empire independent political units have arisen. The idea has ceased to be operative and cannot work as a living factor in the organisation of modern Islam*…Such is the attitude of the modern Turk, inspired as he is by the reality of experience, and not by the scholastic reasoning of jurists who lived and thought under different conditions of life.

Would Allama Iqbal have supported Zaid Hamid’s desire to see “the flag of Pakistan fly atop Delhi fort”? Did he believe in “Two Nation Theory”? Unfortunately, Iqbal is not here to answer the question himself, and so we are left to debate our own interpretations and hypotheses about his beliefs. Debates about interpretations of the words and intentions of Jinnah and Iqbal will continue, and it is perfectly reasonable to debate these issues as a part of discussions about politics and history. But these debates should be based in the actual words of the fathers of the nation, and not fantasy re-imaginings of what someone might wish Iqbal or Jinnah had said.

Marvi Sirmed and Zaid Hamid are both entitled to their own visions for the future of Pakistan. But nobody is entitled to re-writing the past.

*Emphasis added

President Zardari Addresses SAFMA

Monday, November 8th, 2010

President Zadari addressed the 4th national conference of South Asian Free Media Association (SAFMA) on Sunday during which he urged the media to take a more positive tone and assured journalists that his administration will not take a crack down on the media as previous governments have done.

The President acknowledged the struggle of media for the cause of democracy despite the difficult conditions in which journalists work.

He assured that next elections would be free and fair.

President SAFMA Pakistan Nusrat Javed and senior journalist Ziauddin also spoke on the occasion and pledged their support for continuity of democracy, rule of law, across the board accountability, fight against terrorism and extremism and for a free media and independent judiciary.

Ziauddin said media will always be in a confrontation with a government as it is watchdog for the interests of society.

Both Zardari and Ziauddin are correct. A free media will always be in some tension with the government because it is a watch dog that must keep the government responsible. But a watch dog that is always barking when there is nothing there is not good either. Both the government and the media have their responsibilities that must be held accountable. Government must be held accountable if there is any corruption and also journalists and editors must be held accountable if they are not reporting facts.

It is a positive sign of progress, we believe, that President Zardari and President SAFMA Pakistan Nusrat Javed can speak respectfully for each other about ways that each can do his job and still respect the work that the other is doing also.

Could Media Start Nuclear War?

Sunday, January 10th, 2010

There are many negative outcomes that can result from media providing misinformation and exaggerated claims: uninformed public, destablized government, and international embarrassment for example. But lately media has been playing a most dangerous game with exaggerated misinformation, namely the statement of Indian General Deepak Kapoor.

Gen. Kapoor’s statement, to be clear, was completely irresponsible and I do not defend his statement at all. But let us look at what was actually said, and how this has been interpreted in the media.

Gen. Kapoor said that he believed there was the potential for a limited war between India and Pakistan under a nuclear overhang. As both India and Pakistan are nuclear powers, there is obviously some “nuclear overhang” to any battle between the two. But the media immediately began to say that the Indian was threatening nuclear war, which has the obvious result of setting back any peace process and making unnecessary fear in the minds of the people.

Retired Air Vice Marshal and formed Ambassador Shahzad Chaudhry noticed this right away:

Just a couple of weeks back General Kapoor opined that a ‘limited’ war was possible under a nuclear overhang. The statement got morphed and misrepresented as if he had spoken of a ‘limited nuclear war’.

This same observation was again made recently by Abbas Rashid in his column, “The difficult road to peace.”

Consider, for example, the bolt from the blue delivered last November by none other than the Indian army chief about the possibility of a limited conventional war between the two countries under a ‘nuclear overhang’. It was a highly irresponsible statement and not one for him to make, in any case. It did not help that on our media it was more than once articulated as ‘limited nuclear war’ by talk show hosts and guests, underlining the need for a greater sense of responsibility and professionalism on the part of the media.

In many matters, media misinformation and exaggeration can be simply an annoyance. But when it comes to the delicate peace between two nuclear powers, the stakes are too high for the media to play to the gallery and exaggerate the statements of Indian generals, no matter how ridiculous they are. Mr. Rashid’s advice would be well considered by media commentators:

The media too needs to play a supportive role rather than focusing disproportionately on the negative aspects, and resist the temptation of playing to the gallery. The South Asian Free Media Association (SAFMA) has been doing useful work in this context for some years now by facilitating extensive interaction between media persons belonging to the region, not least those from India and Pakistan. This has contributed to greater sensitivity to each other’s perspectives and concerns. But there is obviously a long way to go as was so clearly depicted by the media coverage in the aftermath of the Mumbai terror attacks of November 2008. In that context it is certainly good news that two large media groups in Pakistan and India have joined hands in a commitment to work for peace between the two countries. Both have extensive outreach and can also help in setting the tone for many others in the media whose role has not been particularly helpful.