Yesterday I came across a status update from Yasir Qadhi who is a popular scholar among the Muslim youth in the USA. He mentioned that after this brutal act (school massacre in Peshawar), it would be impossible for anyone to justify the profound display of barbarianism by TTP (Tehreek e Taliban Pakistan). Little he knew what was in store.
It is unfortunate that as soon as the social media picked up on the developing story of the massacre, the Taliban apologists were on the internet in droves. They knew defending the act was not possible so perhaps a better strategy was to dodge, throw in a red herring and create a distraction. Here were some of their excuses on offer:
1. Muslims are killed all over the globe (from Burma to Palestine) why such a strong reaction if TTP did it. Why didn’t you rise to Iraq and Afghanistan being invaded. Why didnt you mourn Burma tragedy.
2. If you have events like red mosque (Lal Masjid), you are bound to have repercussions. If you are bombing them in Waziristan, what else will they do.
3. This cant be an act of a Muslim, these are definitely agents of RAW and Black Water who are on a crusade. One of the body found of an alleged TTP member three years ago had a tattoo, hence proved they are foriegn.
The sympathy with the Taliban is not isolated and not just limited to Pakistan. However, Pakistan punches above its weight in having TTP sympathizers perhaps because in a deeply religious society, state interference has remained minimal in regulating religious affairs. This has lead to neo- wahabism finding its roots in the society, planted firmly by the Saudi petro dollars.
When you throw in a radical ideology and mix it with the restive portion of the population that has been hardened by difficult livelihoods than you get a vitriolic product that dissolves anything in its way. Monsters once produced cannot be contained as Pakistan has learnt sadly. These battled hardened warlike men form the core of the TTP, for them civilization is a decadence and war is the industry. Fortunately, they represent an extremely tiny chunk of the population.
But what about the apologists, who are they? Well the TTP apologists are a bigger chunk of the population that are a product conditioning by the Neo-Wahabi investment. Ironically their concepts have been wrongly cemented by their own experience. Some features of the apologists are as follows:
• Their faulty understanding that disowning Taliban is akin to disowning Islam
• Reluctance to join anti-taliban front because that means aligning with the seculars
• Distrust of the state apparatus because of built up grievances (lack of justice and security)
• Resentment of the tidal wave of global secular cultural domination
Listed below are the three tactics (or fallacies) that are regularly employed by the Taliban apologists. The sole purpose of them is to shift the focus of the anger brewing in the masses away from TTP.
1. Widen the scope, shift the focus and condemn all the attacks
Just when you think there would be unequivocal condemnation of this barbaric attack, out come the Taliban trolls, reminding us of all other attacks in which Muslims were killed home and abroad by entities other than Taliban. They would show their amusement and ask why there is such a strong reaction to an event that (for them) is not extraordinary? They are oblivious to the fact that it is their own countryman and neighbours that are being picked up in body bags. They would blame Musharraf or vehemently curse the USA but lose sight of the native perpetrators of the crimes.
2. Condemn the crime but never the criminals
When the apologists are cornered, their second strategy is to condemn the event but not the criminals. Luke warm statements like “This event is condemn-able, whosoever did this shouldn’t have done it” are often heard. By using the terms like “whosoever” they try to decouple the TTP link to the event in question. Interestingly when they are told that the TTP have claimed the attacks, they point towards the unreliability of media both mainstream and social.
3. Bring in a Conspiracy Theory
By issuing statements like “There is an involvement of foreign hand”, the Taliban apologists try to exalt TTP of their sins. They fail to recognize that to carry out such attacks that the Taliban have conducted on the Naval bases, Air force bases and the army head quarters, even foreign hands needs local aid. All of these acts therefore point to apologists within the ranks of the military and there are proofs of insider elements being involved.
Of course there is no denying that foreign agents cannot be ruled out, any rival would throw fuel to fire. This however shifts the focus from the problem at hand, which is your native population that has been brainwashed to become self regulating and self perpetuating machine. To operate, they don’t need to rely on the backing of an external player.
Like it or not we need to engage with the apologists and bring them back in the fold by addressing their reservations with humility and perseverance.
Pakistan needs to realize that TTP is not an outlaw group; it is an ideology that has found roots in the mindsets of the populace, in some cases shallow, in others deep. Therefore the military may take the offensive against the TTP but can only go as far as countering insurgency. The civil society and the clergy have to pick up the mantle and weed out the divisive takfeeri ideology or we will remain engaged in an unwinnable war.