Counter Insurgency Pakistan II : Laws of “Revolutionary War” favor the insurgent

Pakistan Army is in for a long haul or rather very long haul against TTP if the following characteristics of an insurgency excerpted from Counter Insurgency Warfare: Theory and Practice, David Galula, are anything to go by

This is where Mao Tse-tung is misleading. What he calls “the laws of revolutionary war” are in fact those of the revolutionary side, his side. The one who directs a war against a revolutionary movement will not find in Mao and in other revolutionary theorists the answers to his problems. He will surely find useful information on how the revolutionary acts, he may perhaps infer the answers he is looking for, but nowhere will he find them explicitly stated. Some counterrevolutionaries have fallen into the trap of aping the revolutionaries on both minor and major scales, as we shall show. These attempts have never met success.

Theories and formulas abound for counterinsurgency
What, then, are the rules of counterrevolutionary warfare? Here we can observe another curious fact. Although analyses of revolutionary wars from the revolutionary’s point of view are numerous today, there is a vacuum of studies from the other side, particularly when it comes to suggesting concrete courses of action for the counterrevolutionary. Very little is offered beyond formulas—which are sound enough as far as they go— such as, “Intelligence is the key to the problem,” or “The support of the population must be won.” How to turn the key, how to win the support, this is where frustrations usually begin, as anyone can testify who, in a humble or in an exalted position, has been involved in a revolutionary war on the wrong—i.e., the arduous—side.

Counterinsurgency is a thankless job
The junior officer in the field who, after weeks and months of endless tracking, has at last destroyed the dozen guerrillas opposing him, only to see them replaced by a fresh dozen; the civil servant who pleaded in vain for a five-cent reform and is now ordered to implement at once a hundred-dollar program when he no longer controls the situation in his district; the general who has “cleared” Sector A but screams because “they” want to take away two battalions for Sector B; the official in charge of the press who cannot satisfactorily explain why, after so many decisive victories, the rebels are still vigorous and expanding; the congressman who cannot understand why the government should get more money when it has so little to show for the huge appropriations previously granted; the chief of state, harassed from all sides, who wonders how long he will last—these are typical illustrations of the plight of the counterrevolutionary.

Insurgent will not fight in open
Afflicted with his congenital weakness, the insurgent would be foolish if he mustered whatever forces were available to him and attacked his opponent in a conventional fashion, taking as his objective the destruction of the enemy’s forces and the conquest of the territory. Logic forces him instead to carry the fight to a different ground where he has a better chance to balance the physical odds against him.

Control of population is key
The population represents this new ground. If the insurgent manages to dissociate the population from the counterinsurgent, to control it physically, to get its active support, he will win the war because, in the final analysis, the exercise of political power depends on the tacit or explicit agreement of the population or, at worst, on its submissiveness. Thus the battle for the population is a major characteristic of the revolutionary war.

No decisive battles but a long war
In the conventional war, the aggressor who has prepared for it within the confines of his national territory, channeling his resources into the preparation, has much to gain by attacking suddenly with all his forces. The transition from peace to war is as abrupt as the state of the art allows; the first shock may be decisive. This is hardly possible in the revolutionary war because the aggressor— the insurgent—lacks sufficient strength at the outset. Indeed, years may sometimes pass before he has built up significant political, let alone military, power. So there is usually little or no first shock, little or no surprise, no possibility of an early decisive battle.

In fact, the insurgent has no interest in producing a shock until he feels fully able to withstand the enemy’s expected reaction. By delaying the moment when the insurgency appears as a serious challenge to the counterinsurgent, the insurgent delays the reaction. The delay may be further prolonged by exploiting the fact that the population realizes the danger even later than the counterinsurgent leadership.

The protracted nature of a revolutionary war does not result from a design by either side; it is imposed on the insurgent by his initial weakness. It takes time for a small group of insurgent leaders to organize a revolutionary movement, to raise and to develop armed forces, to reach a balance with the opponent, and to overpower him. A revolutionary war is short only if the counterinsurgency collapses at an early stage, as in Cuba, where the Batista regime disintegrated suddenly, less under the blows from the insurgents than through its own weakness; or if, somehow, a political settlement is reached, as in Tunisia, Morocco, Cyprus. To date, there has never been an early collapse of an insurgency.

War is many times more expensive for counterinsurgent than insurgent
Promoting disorder is a legitimate objective for the insurgent. It helps to disrupt the economy, hence to produce discontent; it serves to undermine the strength and the authority of the counterinsurgent. Moreover, disorder—the normal state of nature—is cheap to create and very costly to prevent. The insurgent blows up a bridge, so every bridge has to be guarded; he throws a grenade in a movie theater, so every person entering a public place has to be searched. When the insurgent burns a farm, all the farmers clamor for protection; if they do not receive it, they may be tempted to deal privately with the insurgent, as happened in Indochina and Algeria, to give just two examples. Merely by making anonymous phone calls warning of bombs planted in luggage, the insurgent can disrupt civilian airline schedules and scare away tourists.

Because the counterinsurgent cannot escape the responsibility for maintaining order, the ratio of expenses between him and the insurgent is high. It may be ten or twenty to one, or higher. The figure varies greatly, of course, from case to case, and in each situation during the course of the revolutionary war.

Insurgent is fluid whereas counterinsurgent is fixed
The insurgent is fluid because he has neither responsibility nor concrete assets; the counterinsurgent is rigid because he has both, and no amount of wailing can alter this fact for either side. Each must accept the situation as it is and make the best of it.

If the counterinsurgent wanted to rid himself of his rigidity, he would have to renounce to some extent his claim to the effective rule of the country, or dispose of his concrete assets. One way of doing this, of course, would be to hand over everything to the insurgent, and then start an insurgency against him, but no counterinsurgent on record has dared apply this extreme solution.

In the revolutionary war, therefore, and until the balance of forces has been reached, only the insurgent can consistently wage profitable hit-and-run operations because the counterinsurgent alone offers profitable and fixed targets; only the insurgent, as a rule, is free to accept or refuse battle, the counterinsurgent being bound by his responsibility. On the other hand, only the counterinsurgent can use substantial means because he alone possesses them.

Fluidity for one side and rigidity for the other are further determined by the nature of the operations. They are relatively simple for the insurgent promoting disorder in every way until he assumes power; they are complicated for the counterinsurgent, who has to take into account conflicting demands (protection of the population and the economy, and offensive operations against the insurgent) and who has to coordinate all the components of his forces—the administrator, the policeman, the soldier, the social worker, etc. The insurgent can afford a loose, primitive organization; he can delegate a wide margin of initiative, but his opponent cannot.

It may never become a conventional war
Once the insurgent has acquired strength and possesses significant regular forces, it would seem that the war should become a conventional one, a sort of civil war in which each camp holds a portion of the national territory from which he directs blows at the other. But if the insurgent has understood his strategic problems well, revolutionary war never reverts to a conventional form.

For one reason, the creation of a regular army by the insurgent does not mean an end to subversion and guerrilla activity. On the contrary, they increase in scope and intensity in order to facilitate the operations of the regular army and to amplify their effects.

For another reason, the insurgent has involved the population in the conflict since its beginning; the active participation of the population was indeed a sine qua non for his success. Having acquired the decisive advantage of a population organized and mobilized on his side, why should he cease to make use of an asset that gives his regular forces the fluidity and the freedom of action that the counterinsurgent cannot achieve? As long as the population remains under his control, the insurgent retains his liberty to refuse battle except on his own terms.

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Counter Insurgency Pakistan I : Insurgency doctorine or How Pakistani Taliban are taking on the state

The purpose of this post is to understand insurgency doctrine of terrorist outfit Pakistani Taliban aka Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan aka TTP in light of the insurgency doctrines described in classic counter-insurgency book “Counter Insurgency Warfare: Theory and Practice“, David Galula.

Obviously all wars are different and its pretty hard to squarely fit terrorists in one category or other as terrorists may use every available trick (cheating, lying, exaggerating etc) to gain advantage whenever they can. However, based on certain characteristics and traits of terrorists and their activities, we can broadly classify as following on of the following two patterns:

  1. Communist party method: orthodox pattern
  2. Bourgeois nationalist pattern: short cut pattern

The first one is a long and arduous one which communist parties followed in China and Vietnam wherein they indoctrinate the inductees in their cause through training and brainwashing and then subsequently send them out to fight. Lashkar-e-Taiba in Pakistan which has pretty good network of schools, charities and training facilities follows this method.

The second one is short one wherein their is no overarching cause as such other than to create disorder and chaos to gain control over land. They may use certain slogans as religion, sect or ethnicity but other than that they do not have any fixed plan for governing and administering the acquired piece of land. They use terrorizing tactics as explained below. TTP is clearly following this methodology.

1. Communist party method: orthodox pattern

In this step, the first objective is the guerrilla’s survival: the final one, the acquisition of bases in which an insurgent government and administration will be established, the human and other resources exploited, and regular forces created. Guerrilla warfare with no bases, says Mao Tse-tung, is nothing but roving banditism; unable to maintain links with the population, it cannot develop and is bound to be defeated.

Objectively, there is no difference between ordinary, everyday bandit activity in almost every country and the first guerrilla actions. What makes it possible for the guerrillas to survive and to expand? The complicity of the population. This is the key to guerrilla warfare, indeed to the insurgency, and it has been expressed in the formula of the fish swimming in the water. The complicity of the population is not to be confused with the sympathy of the population; the former is active, the latter inactive, and the popularity of the insurgent’s cause is insufficient by itself to transform sympathy into complicity.

The participation of the population in the conflict is obtained, above all, by a political organization (the party) living among the population, backed by force (the guerrilla gangs), which eliminates the open enemies, intimidates the potential ones, and relies on those among the population who actively support the insurgents. Persuasion brings a minority of supporters—they are indispensable—but force rallies the rest. There is, of course, a practical if not ethical limit to the use of force; the basic rule is never to antagonize at any one time more people than can be handled.

MQM in its early days and 90s used this strategy on an ethnic card. However, it has since matured and become pretty mainstream and distanced itself from it urban warfare past of 90s.

Where to operate? In the areas that the counter-insurgent cannot easily control and where the guerrilla gangs can consequently survive and develop. The factors in selecting the first areas of operations are:

  1. The strength of the insurgent’s organization among the population that has been achieved in preliminary work.
  2. The remoteness of the areas from the center of the counter-insurgent’s power.
  3. Their inaccessibility due to terrain and poor communications.
  4. Their location on both sides of administrative borders, which makes it difficult for the enemy to coordinate his reaction.

The North West region of Pakistan where TTP is currently based fits the above location descriptions pretty well.

Demoralization of the enemy’s forces is an important task. The most effective way to achieve it is by employing a policy of leniency toward the prisoners. They must be well treated and offered the choice of joining the movement or of being set free, even if this means that they will return to the counterinsurgent’s side. Despite its setbacks in the early stages, this is the policy that pays the most in the long run.

A colleague of the author visited a camp at Hsuchow in central China, where the Nationalists kept 5,000 Communist prisoners.
“Where were they caught?” he asked the Nationalist general in charge of the camp.
“Between you and me, we have no more than ten real Communist soldiers among these prisoners.”
“Who are the others then?”
“Nationalist soldiers caught and released by the Communists. We don’t want them to contaminate our army.”
Thus, the Communists had achieved the trick of having the Nationalists themselves watching their own men!

The first clear sign of the Chinese influence on the Vietminh came in 1950, when the Vietminh suddenly changed their attitude toward French prisoners. Instead of slaughtering them, they undertook to brainwash them.

This is where TTP is deviating clearly from Orthodox doctrine. Being a roving band of bandits with nothing but a garb of religion, they definitely do not have superior moral or psychological basis to indoctrinate the captured soldiers. As such, they slaughter them even releasing videos of the slaughtering.

The insurgent must solve a problem created by what we have considered a tactical asset: the scattered nature of his operations. Although this makes it difficult for the counter-insurgent to cope with them, the insurgent must also reconcile the dilution of his forces with the need for unity of action. The solution is a clear, common doctrine widely taught and accepted.

The expansion of the insurgent movement raises the problem of political and military cadres. They are selected on the basis, above all, of their loyalty and, secondly, of their concrete achievements in the field. How important the Communists consider the loyalty of their personnel, cadres, and troops can be seen from the following story. In 1952, a Vietminh regimental commander, hard pressed by French troops in the Red River Delta, pleaded for replacements. The answer from the Vietminh command: “Impossible to send you replacements now; they have not yet received full political indoctrination.”

If we ever overcome TTP insurgents, it will be relatively easier to rehabilitate the captured soldiers as most of them would not have been indoctrinated. True TTP brainwashes them into fighting for them in the name of religion. However, their target is the state because it is “infidel” and may be insurgents join them for their love of religion. The rehabilitation should comprise of teaching the captured TTP warriors that the picture painted by TTP of the state and religion is completely wrong and misguided.

What is very different from past insurgencies and probably what the author is describing in his book is that TTP has made inroads into Karachi which is at the other end of the country. It does not provide the location advantages of North West Pakistan neither does it provide as steady a stream of local recruits. Yet still they have been able to mark their presence. This is something that needs to be further analyzed.

As the overall strength of the insurgent grows while his opponent’s decreases, a balance of forces is reached at some point. In the assessment of the insurgent’s strength must be included not only his military assets but the solidity of his political structure, the fact that the population is mobilized in his areas, the subversive activity of his underground agents in the counter-insurgent’s areas, and finally, the insurgent’s psychological superiority.

From then on, the scope and scale of the insurgent’s operations will increase swiftly; a series of offensives aiming at the complete destruction of the enemy will constitute the last and final step.
At any time during the process, the insurgent may make peace offers, provided there is more to gain by negotiating than by fighting.

Now we come to the second method. As you read through it, you will realize that how neatly it fits the recent pattern of TTP

2. Bourgeois nationalist pattern: short cut pattern

First step: blind terrorism
The purpose is to get publicity for the movement and its cause, and by focusing attention on it, to attract latent supporters. This is done by random terrorism, bombings, arson, assassinations, conducted in as spectacular a fashion as possible, by concentrated, coordinated, and synchronized waves.

(See Pakistan Faces New Wave of Attacks, WSJ)

Second step: selective terrorism
This quickly follows the first. The aims are to isolate the counterinsurgent from the masses, to involve the population in the struggle, and to obtain as a minimum its passive complicity. This is done by killing, in various parts of the country, some of the low-ranking government officials who work most closely with the population, such as policemen, mailmen, mayors, councilmen, and teachers. Killing high-ranking counterinsurgent officials serves no purpose since they are too far removed from the population for their deaths to serve as examples.

See (Suicide attacks in Mohmand kill 104; peace jirga main target, Dawn; A young suicide bomber dressed in school uniform has blows himself up at an army compound, BBC; Deadly attack at Pakistan funeral procession attended by many anti-Taliban militiamen, BBC)

The early supporters are set to work collecting money from the population. Although money, the sinew of war, is interesting in itself, this operation has important side effects. The amount of money collected provides a simple standard to gauge the efficiency of the supporters and to select leaders accordingly. It also implicates the mass and forces it to show its revolutionary spirit. “You give money, you are with us. You refuse money, you are a traitor.” A few of those unwilling to pay are executed.

See (Taliban Spread Terror in Karachi as the New Gang in Town, NYTimes; Creeping threat: Taliban in Karachi, DAWN)

In order to involve the population further, simple mots d’ordres are circulated, such as “boycott tobacco”; a few violators caught smoking are executed. These assassinations have value only if they serve as examples; therefore they must not be hidden or committed on the sly. The victims are generally found with a tag explaining that they have been condemned by a revolutionary tribunal and executed for such and such a crime.

See (Blast in Sohrab Goth kills 4 near drug den, The News. The report does not state this but it was reported at the time that Taliban asked the drug dealer to shut down his business but he didn’t so the bombed his place.) There are other videos available online of Talibans carrying out beheadings in Karachi for breaking their laws but due to gruesome nature, I am not linking to them.

The insurgent has to destroy all bridges linking the population with the counterinsurgent and his potential allies. Among these, people (generally the liberal-minded) inclined to seek a compromise with the insurgents will be targets of terrorist attacks.

ANP has been talking about negotiating with Talibans and even organized an All Parties Conference to agree on a strategy (see APC supports peace talks with Pakistani Taliban, DAWN) yet Talibans continue to kills it workers nationwide (See Over 700 ANP activists slain to date. Recently they have expanded their hitlist to include other secular parties such as MQM, PPP (See Pakistan election: Taliban threats hamper secular campaign, BBC)

When all this is achieved, conditions are ripe for the insurgent guerrillas to operate and for the population to be mobilized effectively. From there on, this pattern rejoins the orthodox one, if necessary.

Conclusion

Following the news trail and statements of Taliban attacks in Pakistan and mainly urban centres, it is quite clear that TTP is following the short cut strategy. As mentioned in the beginning that classifications are not mutually exclusive so they may use certain strategies that were classified under the orthodox strategy. Any way, the objective of both strategies is the same. To have a piece of land where to set up government, impose your ideology and laws.

This is where TTP is extension into Karachi is hard to fathom. Being the lifeline of the country’s economy, TTP should face immense opposition for threatening it. Yet has been taking over slowly and so far successfully. Whereas running an insurgency in North West of Pakistan with its porous border with Afghanistan and rough terrain is easy, trying to establish a base in Karachi which is an urban landscape covered on one side by sea, flat land on the others with the rural areas of south Baluchistan and Sind not really offering any welcome to Taliban neither in terms of shared ideology, culture nor language. So the question arises, how TTP intends to establish their base and government in Karachi in a region surrounded by relatively inhospitable land for them as well as population which overwhelmingly votes in the secular parties in elections.

Yet TTP has been able to not only infiltrate Karachi but is now engaged in turf war with existing stake holders and even going so far as to eliminate them one by one. They have already unseated ANP from their strong holds in Karachi, their extortion racket now reaches all suburbs of Karachi and they are now openly challenging PPP and MQM for a larger share of the pie.

When was proposal for Pakistan officially made?

It has become fashionable nowadays to say that Pakistan was forced upon us by British or Congress as Muslims never demanded an independent state in clear cut terms. It is said that by asking for “independent states” instead of “an independent state” we were asking for something else and it was non-acceptance of Cripps proposal by Congress that compelled us towards Pakistan.

Below I present an excerpt from Dr. Ambedkar’s book “Pakistan or partition of India” which was published in Dec 1940 (9 months after Lahore resolution) which makes it clear as daylight that what Indian Muslims were asking for was an independent state and nothing else.

In March 1940, Hindu India was startled to attention as it had never been before. On that day, the Muslim League at its Lahore Session passed the following Resolution :—

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3. Resolved that it is the considered view of this Session of the All-India Muslim League that no constitutional plan would be workable in this country or acceptable to the Muslims unless it is designated on the following basic principle, viz. that geographically contiguous units are demarcated into regions which should be so constituted with such territorial readjustments as may be necessary, that the areas in which the Muslims are numerically in a majority as in the North-Western and Eastern Zones of India should be grouped to constitute “Independent States” in which the Constituent Units shall be autonomous and sovereign;

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What does this Resolution contemplate ? A reference to para 3 of the Resolution will show that the Resolution contemplates that the areas in which Muslims predominate shall be incorporated into independent States. In concrete terms, it means that the Punjab, the North-Western Frontier Province, Baluchistan and Sind in the North-West and Bengal in the East instead of remaining as the provinces of British India shall be incorporated as independent States outside of British India. This is the sum and substance of the Resolution of the Muslim League.

Does the Resolution contemplate that these Muslim provinces, after being incorporated into States, will remain each an independent sovereign State or will they be joined together into one constitution as members of a single State, federal or unitary? On this point, the Resolution is rather ambiguous, if not self-contradictory. It speaks of grouping the zones into “Independent States in which the Constituent Units shall be autonomous and sovereign.” The use of the term “Constituent Units” indicates that what is contemplated is a Federation. If that is so, then, the use of the word “sovereign” as an attribute of the Units is out of place. Federation of Units and sovereignty-of Units are contradictions. It may be that what is contemplated is a confederation. It is, however, not very material for the moment whether these Independent States are to form into a federation or a confederation. What is important is the basic demand, namely, that these areas are to be separated from India and formed into Independent States.

The Resolution is so worded as to give the idea that the scheme adumbrated in it is a new one. But, there can be no doubt that the Resolution merely resuscitates a scheme which was put forth by Sir Mahomed Iqbal in his Presidential address to the Muslim League at its Annual Session held at Lucknow in December 1930. The scheme was not then adopted by the League. It was, however, taken up by one Mr. Rehmat Ali who gave it the name, Pakistan, by which it is known. Mr. Rehmat Ali, M. A., LL.B., founded the Pakistan Movement in 1933. He divided India into two, namely, Pakistan and Hindustan. His Pakistan included the Punjab, N. W. F. Province, Kashmir, Sind and Baluchistan. The rest to him was Hindustan. His idea was to have an “independent and separate Pakistan” composed of five Muslim provinces in the North as an independent State. The proposal was circulated to the members of the Round Table Conference but never officially put forth. It seems an attempt was made privately to obtain the assent of the British Government, who, however, declined to consider it because they thought that this was a “revival of the old Muslim Empire.”

The League has only enlarged the original scheme of Pakistan. It has sought to create one more Muslim State in the East to include the Muslims in Bengal and Assam. Barring this, it expresses in its essence and general outline the scheme put forth by Sir Mahomed Iqbal and propagated by Mr. Rehmat Ali. There is no name given to this new Muslim State in the East. This has made no difference in the theory and the issues involved in the ideology of Mr. Rehmat Ali. The only difficulty one feels is that the League, while enlarging the facets, has not christened the two Muslim States with short and sweet names as it might have been expected to do. That it did not do and we are left to carry on the discussion with two long jaw-breaking names of Muslim State in the West and Muslim State in the East. I propose to solve this difficulty by reserving the name Pakistan to express the ideology underlying the two-nation theory and its consequent effect, namely, partition, and by designating the two Muslim States in the North-West and North-East as Western Pakistan and Eastern Pakistan.

— “Pakistan or Partition of India”, Dr. B.R.Ambedkar – 1945 second edition. (First edition published in Dec 1940)

What is the Islamic view of homosexuality?

It’s well know that Islam looks down upon homosexuality. But as time passes we hear more and more propaganda from within as well as outside Muslim communities to somehow reconcile Islamic teachings with homosexuality. Below I paste the best write up that I have read on the topic. You can click on the title of the article to go to the main website where it is posted

On Gay Pride in Islam
Sheharyar Shaikh

People should be very free with sex; they should draw the line at goats. ~ Elton John

About a week ago I received a news story of an interview of a prominent gay activist with a mission to reconcile his “gay-ness” and those of others with God’s final message of Islam. He established and now directs an organization whose objective is to empower gay Muslims. Welcome to al-Fatihah: A US-based non profit gay support organization founded in 1998 that started out as an online discussion group and now runs over ten chapters in three countries. Its founder, the 28-year old Faisal Alam, says that at the age of sixteen he began to realize that something was wrong – “something I didn’t have a word for”. Alam was attracted to his own gender. A few years later he began venting his homosexual urges at local gay clubs during his university days in Boston where he would be “Muslim by day and homosexual by night”. An engagement with a Muslim girl came to a crashing halt when she discovered “that there was something wrong with their relationship”. After a nervous breakdown in 1996, Alam started an online mailing list with a mission to “advance the cause of homosexual Muslims”. Today al-Fatihah boasts of thousands of Muslim members around the world. It has created a 12-member “scholarship committee” that has produced a booklet that challenges the “traditional interpretations” of the mainstream Muslims. For future it plans to create homosexual friendly curriculum and arrange workshops in Islamic schools and centres.

There is no secret concerning the existence of Muslim homosexuality in history. Even if in history it was mostly secret. The fact that homosexual Muslims normally kept their affairs hidden was a proof of their tacit self-admission that their orientation was not socially approved and/or divinely blessed. This is beginning to change. The contemporary homosexual activists, who often portray a flaming presence in the workplace and public arena, are now demanding their inclusion in our mosques, religious schools and centers.

And yes, we have all heard the recent arguments in support of homosexuality. Some cite animal species that engage in homosexual acts in order to prove that it is natural behaviour. However some animal species also eat their young and their own excrements. The Quranic worldview portrays angels of possessing reason but no desire; and of animals having desire but no reason. So why must humans look towards the animal kingdom for sexual guidance? Others claim that homosexual behaviour is part of one’s genetic makeup and thus should be excused. There is no concrete evidence to prove that homosexuality is congenital. If it were so, we would not see cases of identical twins, who share the same genetic makeup, exhibiting opposite sexual orientations. Furthermore, if a homosexual could justify his behaviour by referring to his genetic programming, what would prevent a committer of incest or bestiality to also justify his behaviour on similar grounds? The society would have to cater to such claimants – because hey, it’s genetic! Even if the ever-so-evasive “gay-gene” is discovered some day, the fact that homosexual behaviour must uncontrollably result from it will remain to be proven.

The homosexual groups like Iman, al-Fatihah, etc, not only want the mainstream Muslims to accept them as they are but, also, most appallingly, bring Islam and the Quran as evidence in support of their behaviour. Islam backs their homosexuality, they insist. Alam claims that “Islam has…never intruded into the bedroom of its followers” – a blatent lie. “We are fighting …1400 years of interpretation”, says Alam, laying the blame squarely on “straight, homophobic men” in charge of textual interpretation. Pervez Sharma, the gay director of the documentary “A Jihad for Love”, profiles two Turkish lesbians in his movie who he describes in an interview as “sufis”. What travesty! Is it the same sufism that goes at lengths to teach one restraint over one’s carnal desires and direct one’s love towards God? Some advocates cite “homoerotic” poetry of the Sufi tradition to lend legitimacy to an Islam-approved idea of homosexuality. Do they not know that the traditional Sufi masters used metaphors and similes to express their love for the religion and religious symbols, not clandestine homosexual relationships? Hence recurring words like “wine” stood for divine love; “the cupbearer” for the Prophet (S); “the beloved” for God/the Guide; “the lover” for the poet himself, etc. Sharma’s comment in an interview that “the Wahhabis and the Tablighis have looked down upon the Sufis” is also incorrect. While it is true that Wahhabis (properly known as the Salafis) warred against Sufi innovations, the Tabligh movement on the other hand seeks inspiration from age-old Sufi ideas and practices.

I believe that most gay activists who wear the Islam label know the right path. They know in their heart that the Quran explicitly condemns their behaviour. But instead of admitting their wrong and seeking help from God to overcome their inclinations, and we all have inclinations, they commit further sin by seeking to legitimize their behaviour in Islam. Ali Orhon, a Turkish homosexual who had a troubled marriage lasting ten months, is at least honest enough to admit that the Quran is anti-gay. “If there was any pro-gay interpretation, I would have seized on it”, he says. Yet consider Muhsin Hendricks, “the first gay Imam” from South Africa, who after graduating from a Pakistani madrasah and then coming out as gay, now counsels Muslim homosexuals in an effort to reconcile their Islam with their sexuality. “Let Allah be the judge in the end of the day” he says in an interview. But, Allah did judge, Mr. Hendrinks. The destruction of Lot’s people on account of their brazen homosexuality is mentioned over twenty times in the Quran. God’s displeasure towards Soddom is best reflected in the way they were destroyed; the land on which they dwelt was first pelted at night with “marked stones from Heaven” followed by the land being flung into midair, turned upside down and then smashed onto the ground crushing and burying everyone by sunrise (11:82, 15:74). Furthermore, God leaves the Soddomite region, in form of the non-life giving Dead Sea, the lowest point on the earth surface (1,378 ft below sea level), as a warning and reminder to humanity to never repeat Soddom’s lowly and lifeless ways (37:137-138, 15:75-77). But see how Faisal Alam chooses to interpret the Soddom account. He makes the dishonest claim that Soddomites were destroyed because they were “stealing and were not hospitable to their guests”. Prophet Lot rebukes the townspeople at several Quranic instances for forsaking women in preference of men (27:55, 26:166, 7:81) – even offering his daughters for marriage (15:77). Moreover does it make sense that God of Islam would curb free heterosexual sex by enforcing stringent laws (24:2) but condone free homosexual sex? The verses clearly comment on the Soddomite involvement in consensual “filthy acts” (al-Khaba’ith) (21:74) especially during their parties and social gatherings (29:29).

Because no homosexual was ever punished by the Prophet (S) this proves, Alam reasons, that homosexuality is permitted in Islam. The Prophet (S) did not punish any homosexual because none was ever brought to him for judgement. All we have is reports of effeminate men called Mukhannathun (such as ad-Dalal, Tuways etc) in Jahili Arabia who resembled women in their gestures, manner of talk and gait owing to their natural disposition and therefore carried no blame. Only one such man is reported to have been banished by the Prophet to the suburbs of Medina for deliberately imitating women by wearing henna on his hands and feet (Sunan Abu Da’ud, Book 41, Hadith 4910).

Yet the legal efforts towards legalizing homosexuality are gaining momentum in the Islamic world, with Lebanon leading the struggle. Gay issues are freely shared in a popular weekly TV programme called “ash-Shater Yahki”. The Lebanese gay magazine “Barra” alleges 35 percent of Lebanese men to have had sex with other men. It is ironic that a nation only a short car-ride away from the Biblical region of Soddom should boast of “Acid – the first gay nightclub in the Middle East” among queer cafés, bathhouses, cinemas and bars. Who can forget the summer of 2006 when the first ever gay Arab rights conference organized by Helem, a Lebanese gay advocacy group currently active in a homosexuality legalization struggle, was held in Beirut for three straight days? But this is not to pick on Lebanon alone. The 2005-closure of a UAE nightclub for its gay night, the 2002-arrests of 52 alleged homosexuals on a pleasure boat in Cairo, reports of homosexuality occurring in religious madrasahs in Pakistan and other similar accounts disclose a disturbing trend: the Islamic World is undergoing softening attitudes towards illicit sex and sexuality, especially among its youth. “Imam” Hendricks cites only two options available for a Muslim homosexual: “leaving Islam or suicide”. We say there is, and always was, a third option: restraint and repentance – something not unfamiliar to the mainstream heterosexual Muslims of the world. But to attempt to justify homosexuality in the Quran and Hadith is not only dishonest, it also brings to question one’s status as a Muslim (Not my fatwa. Please refer to fiqh on the issue).

Indeed the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) has said, “Allah has forgiven my Ummah of the whisperings of their souls so long as they do not talk about it or act accordingly.”

And for those among us who are struggling with their nafs while admitting its shortcomings, there is perhaps no better verse than the following to bring hope to their situation:

Say: “O my Servants who have transgressed against their souls! Despair not of the Mercy of Allah. for Allah forgives all sins: for He is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” (az-Zumar 39:53)

Problem with democracy

The major problem – one of the major problems, for there are several – one of the many major problems with governing people is that of whom you get to do it; or rather of who manages to get people to let them do it to them.

To summarize: it is a well-known fact that those people who must want to rule people are, ipso facto, those least suited to do it.

To summarize the summary: anyone who is capable of getting themselves made President should on no account be allowed to do the job.

Douglas Adams, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe

What does it mean that man is Khalifa on earth?

The man who is truly what he should be is described in the Quran as ‘AlKhalifatullah fil Ard’ i.e., the viceregent or representative of God on earth; he is not ‘rasul’ since he does not receive the divine message directly from heaven, but he receives it none the less — mediated through Muhammad — and is required to convey it with equal accuracy and with a comparable purity of intention, allowing no personal opinions or feelings to intervene. In this sense, the pious Muslim performs — in a minor key — the task which the Prophet fulfilled on a universal scale.

But there is one of Muhammad’s ‘titles of Glory’ in which every believer shares, the title of ‘abd’. Muhammad was the perfect ‘slave’. The believer must strive towards this perfection. Just as the Messenger could not have fulfilled his function had he not been the ‘slave of God’, so the viceregent is effective and true to his vocation only according to the depth and purity of his ‘slavehood’.

With the assertion of man’s viceregal status we step into dangerous territory. People need little enough encouragement to attribute grandeur to themselves. To tell them that they represent God on earth might seem like an invitation to megalomania. The modern age, sentimental and idealistic despite its superficial cynicism, is even more deeply shocked than were earlier ages by the human capacity for wickedness. This wickedness is indeed the measure of the grandeur of our vocation (no animal is wicked), and like a deep shadow it bears witness to a great light.

The monstrous evils of arrogance and oppression are due to men assuming the robes of viceregency without first submitting as ‘slaves’ (and knowing themselves to be ‘slaves’). Man alone is capable of monstrosity on this scale, because man alone stands above — or is capable of standing above — the tide of time and contingency. It might even be said that if there were no viceregency there could be no hell, for none would merit hell. It is for the betrayal of our vocation — therefore self-betrayal — that we are punished, and it is for living beneath ourselves that we run the risk of being trodden underfoot.

Gai Eaton, “Islam and Destiny of Man”