Extremism, also known as inflexibility or rigidity, is a complex phenomenon. It has no nationality and religion but it has become a big challenge for the whole world. The immoderate or irrational actors, social conservatism as well as the sentimental attribute of society with religious narratives, uncompromising views, and measures beyond the norm, we cannot deny the negative effects of extremism. Whether it is Pakistan, India or USA, the extremist elements are present in every society.
“The question is not whether we will be Extremists, but what kind of Extremists we will be. The nation and the world are in dire need of creative Extremists”. (Martin Luther King Jr.)
Extremism is not seen as a tactic or an ideology, but as a pathological illness which feeds on the destruction of life. Latest radicalism among Muslims which is also conflated with extremism is explained as a;
“Tendency to be exclusive instead of inclusive vis-a-vis other communities on the basis of religious belief” (Ayesha Siddiqi, ‘Red Hot Chilli Peppers Islam).
There are many shapes of Extremism like Socio-Political extremism, tribal or caste kinship, Politico-religious party, immediate and extended community, non-state pressure groups, socialization processes, cultural affiliation, linguistic and behavioral extremism, ideological frictions, historical narratives of conflicts faith-based and vigilante movements, personal charisma or appeal of ideologies, tribal or family head, normative traditions, practices and imperatives such as ‘Badal’ (revenge), honor killing and prejudice. Such belief systems include good vs evil framing, a need for self-purification divine sanctioning of horrendous violence. Especially youth buy ideologies from families and peers, through media, communities or educational system (including Madrassah) and politicians.
About spectrum of extremism in Pakistan, In a research article published in the UK based Journal-Perspectives on Terrorism, eight trends of terrorism have been conceptualized and empirically tested within prevailing environments of Pakistan viz. Human-Political syndrome, infrastructural and criminalized warfare, regime, and system’s change, normative-cultural, ideological-real politic anarchism, spatial conquests, non-seasonal and strategic.
Tendency of Xenophobia in Pakistan, especially in youth, is creating intolerance and suspicion about foreigners. A report released by the Jinnah Institute in Islamabad reached a very bleak conclusion in this regard, describing;
“The existing educational curriculum of our public education system as one “of hatred”, one “which wholly or partially, is biased selective and inculcates in the child a parochial and subjective outlook” (Syed M. Ali, ‘Time to address Pakistan’s Xenophobia).
The psychological formation is spurred at an early school-going age. In our school, there is always a Rat’ta system. We don’t teach history to children. They are left to read a carefully selected collection of falsehoods, fairy tales, and plain lies. By making an in-depth study of 66 textbooks in use in the school and colleges of the country, a former Pakistani historian K. K Aziz identified excessive errors of fact, emphasis, and interpretation, having ravaging effects on the students and the nation at large.
According to a report compiled by the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI), which examined textbooks for grade 1 to 12, most textbooks (encourage) or (justify) discrimination against women, religious and ethnic minorities and other nations”.
Nationalism in itself is not extremism. It just focus on national identities like flags and anthem. Ethno-nationalism doesn’t absorb ideas, other culture and religion or colors. They just live in their own shell and never compromise. Ethno-National Extremism (pro-social freedom fighting) also exists in Pakistan throughout its history. Hazara, Saraiki, Sindhi and Balochi conflict movements are Ethno-Nationalist struggles which aim to achieve their objectives for separate strengthened autonomy. Religious and societal vigilantism (a person or group of people taking law in their own hand) is the permissibility of non-state actors to take one-sided action through violence to enforce the “Sharia” apart from the hand of the state.
Joshua T. White writes in ‘Vigilante Islamism in Pakistan, Religious Party Responses to the Lal Masjid Crisis’ “forceful imposition of Sharia in neighborhood and armed contestation with state by clergy and students of Lal Masjid and Jamia Hafsa Islamabad during July 2007 was violent extremism in operational sense and religious vigilantism in terms of intent”.
Throughout in the history of our country, we can find extremism in politics as well. All political actors in Pakistan adopt different styles, symbols or narratives. Verbal abuse, threats including strikes, sit-ins, shutdown, Gherao(siege)of buildings, parliament or provincial leadership etc. Through blame game, they try to provoke their supporters.
According to UN definition “the salient characteristic of electoral violence that besides preventing citizens to exercise their rights as well as harming candidates and their supporters, including violent acts targeted against objects and buildings such as deliberate destruction of campaign materials, vehicles, offices or ballot boxes etc”.
Intra-Sectarianism and inter-faith Extremism is also a big challenging factor in the society. Pakistan is home of 3% religious minorities from all major and minor religions and traditional confessions. The Hindu community is the largest with 1 4 million population. All these minority groups are at risk of extremism. The majority is also on the same line. A huge difference of point between Shia and Sunni, an extremist picture of the cold war between Saudi Arabia (Sunni) and Iran (Shia) which is heating up. Hazara community in Pakistan feels insecure about protection and identity.
Honor and Cultural killing is another part of extremism. “Commonly, it is not considered as a matter of faith, but more to do with misguided notions of family honor (than) with radicalism or terrorism” (Felix Lowe UK based journalist and author ‘Honor Killings Linked to Terror Groups). Qandeel Baloch Murder case is another case of honor killing.
In recent years, we saw many cases of cultural extremism as well such as bombing on Sehwan Sharif, destruction of ancient Buddhist shrines as well as forced shut down of music shops and attacks on Sufi/Ghazal nights.
“Sufis were always spreading love with their music, and if some kind of extremism is a threat to it, it is a threat to all humanity” (Singer and musician, Adnan Sami).
These activities are drives in the country by mainly stems from Taliban and criminal elements also taking part in these efforts as part of organized crime.
“In March 2013, 150-years old baba Khan Singh temple was demolished overnight by the land mafia in Mardan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa” (Human resource management).
Barak Obama ex-president of United States said, “We are not at war with Islam. We are at war with people who perverted Islam. Islam is not part of the problem is combating violent extremism, it is an important part of promoting peace”.
Malala Yousafzai also gives a statement on terrorism. She says, “Terrorism will spill over if you don’t speak up”.
In Islam there is no space for extremism, it believes in humanity and peace. The word jihad does not mean terrorism.
“In Islam peace is a name of God: it is mentioned 136 times in Quran, while the word fighting or war is mentioned only six times. On the other hand, the word Jihad which is wider from the Arabic root (Jahada) meaning to strive against an undesirable opponent- an external enemy, Shatan, or the base inner self” ( Omer Mekki, ‘ Emergence of Jihadophobia).
Ex-prime minister of UK David Cameron said, “What we have seen with Islamist extremism, whether it is in Mali, Somalia or Afghanistan, is that the disease is not necessarily the individual country. The disease is the Islamist extremism, and that’s what we have to fight, that’s narrative, that’s we have to beat”.
Misguided groups, racist, secular, neo-Nazi, anti-faith, anti-Semitichate groups are engaged in horrific violence and threaten.
“People inspired by democracy, human rights, and economic opportunity will turn their back decisively against extremism”(Benazir Bhutto, Late).
A modern shape of behavioral and language extremism can be seen on social media, spreading misunderstands, hypertension, anger, and fears. Children and youngsters are more influenced by extremism through media.
Cass Sunstein, an American legal scholar, explains “Research shows that if people are talking and listening to like-minded others, they become more unified and more extreme. Personalized Facebook experiences are a breeding ground for misunderstanding and miscommunication across political lines and ultimately for extremism”.
Conflicts gradually turn into extremism that change into the aggressive power. Mishal Khan Murder case is one of the best examples of it.
“Extremism thrives aimed ignorance and anger, intimidation and cowardice” (Hillary Clinton).
Curiosity is a natural thing, especially children and youth raise questions, try to satisfy them and help them to understand complex things otherwise they will collect false information or can be misguided or brainwash by the third person.
As George Carlin said, “Question everything and never stop thinking. If someone says “Do not think”, say, “I will think about it”. If they say “Do not ask Questions”, immediately ask, Why?
The behavior of non-acceptance can be harmful. Keep your communication lines clear and open. Talk to the children what they think about religion and different situations around them. For building peace, equality really matters. There is a need to strengthen the civil society and do efforts for the protection of human rights. Don’t sow the seeds of sectarianism in your heart. Don’t shut the door of thinking instead shut all doors of hates. Boycott those pages, groups, and messages which are promoting anti-faith, anti-social terrorism and sectarianism, in fact, file a complaint against those to PTA.