My dear Kashmiri friends, don’t let Geelani take you to Hell!

By Sultan Shahin, Founding Editor, New Age Islam,

Our goal is azadi baraa-e-Islam (freedom for Islam), intoned Syed Ali Shah Geelani, the octogenarian leader of Kashmir’s separatist movement, thus stirring up a lately dormant debate on the compatibility of Islam with other faiths. Indeed in Geelani’s perverse mind, Muslims can only live in an Islamic state. “It’s as difficult for a Muslim to live in a non-Muslim society as it is for a fish to live in a desert,” he wrote some time ago in his prison memoir Rudad-e-Qaf.

You really need to have a truly twisted, indeed underdeveloped mind to hold such views. Muslims have been living and working with non-Muslims since the time of the Prophet. There are more Muslims living in non-Muslim majority India, for instance, than in either Pakistan or Bangladesh. They may have their problems, of course – who doesn’t? – but ask them if they would like to go live in Pakistan or Bangladesh and you will know what they really feel about their life here compared to what it would have been if their parents had chosen to migrate to these countries at the time of Independence and Partition. In fact it is Pakistanis and more so Bangladeshis who are voting with their feet today in favour of a Hindu-majority India. And of course, which Muslim citizen of a so-called Islamic country anywhere in the world won’t give his right hand to be able to migrate to the Christian-majority West.

Geelani read Jamaat-e-Islami founder-ideologue Maulana Abul Ala Maudoodi’s books in his early teens, picked up his worst ideas and has apparently gone beyond his mentor in perversity. For Maudoodi never supported the idea of Partition and the establishment of a separate Islamic state for Muslims to be called during the anti-colonial independence movement. He believed that Jamaat-e-Islami would be able to establish an ideological Islamic state in Free India with the help of the Hindu majority which would see no reason not to support a party wanting to create a state based on the ethical principles of Islam, even if they didn’t belong to the religion. He thought that since Islamic ethics is the same as Hindu ethics and they put stress on the same values, Hindus would have no problem voting for a Jamaat-e-Islami government which would govern according to the Islamic rules of Justice and fairplay and equality to all. It was only when Pakistan became something of a fait accompli, and he saw the opportunity of actually ruling even a small state in the name of Islam, rather than the whole of India as he had envisioned in his teenage he decided to shift to Pakistan. And yet while going away he asked his Indian followers who had decided to stay back to sever all organisational and practical relationship with him and the Jamaat in Pakistan and be loyal to the Indian state that they had chosen to be a subject of, as this is what Islam teaches in a very clear-cut manner.

But as a young fire-brand Jamaat-e-Islami leader from Jammu and Kashmir, Geelani decided to rebel against his mentor and established a Jamaat-e-Islami, Kashmir, separate from the Indian organisation called Jamaat-e-Islami Hind. His Kashmiri Jamaat was more loyal to Pakistan than the Pakistani Jamaat itself. It would be a subject fit for neuro-psychologists to study how a teenager brain can stop growing and gaining new influences from his environment when it is not even fully formed physically, according to a recent scientific discovery, until the age of 26. But that is not our concern now.

What does concern us is this. Unfortunately, a number of Kashmiris, depressed and distressed on various accounts, mainly as a consequence of two-decade long militancy and Indian state’s inevitable response, have started listening to this teenage, practically infantile mind, which is almost completely divorced from reality.

You might think I am being unfair to a venerable old man, the same age as my late father who passed away 35 years ago. Steeped in Indian culture, we are not supposed to be discourteous to old men, especially if they appear to be demented. But tell me, has this man even thought for a moment, for instance, what would happen to his finely trimmed beard in an “Islamic” Talibanised Kashmir that he intends to create? Hasn’t he seen photographs of the Taliban and the poor Afghans made to suffer Taliban rule for several years? What did they do to the beardless and the fashionably bearded people like Geelani? Does he really know what happens in an “Islamic” state? There is an Islamic state in our neighbourhood called Pakistan, incidentally the one Geelani wants Kashmir to join. This Islamic state killed at least one million Muslims – some estimates put the figure at three million – when a part of it sought justice from this state that would not allow a legitimately elected leader in free and fair polls that it had itself organised to take his rightful place.

Here is how a horrified journalist from Britain, a non-Islamic state, by the way, described a scene he saw in the then East Pakistan: “That evening I got to know what ‘disposal’ meant. Just before the curfew was sounded at 6 o’clock, I saw Sebastian and his three companions, all tied loosely by a single rope, march down the street and into the compound of the Circuit House. Minutes later I heard screams and the maddening sound of clubs beating on flesh and bone. Then the screaming stopped, as though turned off with a switch. The silence, to my anguished ears, suddenly became the loudest sound in all the world. It has echoed a million times and it still blows my mind.”

Does it sound like a report from Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Germany 65 years ago? No, this was Sunday Times correspondent Anthony Mascarenhas reporting from Yahya Khan’s Islamic East Pakistan’s capital city of Dhaka 37 years ago in his blood-curdling book The Rape of Bangladesh.

Had Geelani not ceased reading after he read Maudoodi 70 years ago, he would have known what happened and what is happening to the Muahjiras, the Baluchis, the Sindhis, the Pakhtoons, the Hindus, the Christians, and indeed the Kashmiris of Pakistan. But ignorance can indeed be bliss. You cannot expect me to be discourteous enough towards an old and demented character to say that Geelani is knowingly taking Kashmiris to Hell.

But there is really no end to his craze for Pakistan. If he at least listens to the radio, he would know what is happening to the Taliban in Pakistan. They are at war. Maybe a half-hearted and complicated war, in which not all sections of Pakistan establishment are willing participants. Nevertheless Pakistan is killing and allowing its allies to kill not only the Taliban, but even those who share their ethnicity, no matter if they are civilians, women and children. Missiles come and hit entire villages where even one Taliban is supposed to be hiding, killing all the people there and destroying the whole village. And what does Geelani want to do: Talibanise Kashmiris and take them to Pakistan!

There is nothing one can do to Geelani. There is no way you can reach him. But his followers are young Kashmiris. They like him and listen to him. Teenager to teenager, that is not unexpected. Quite understandable! We wise parents of our teenage children are well aware of this. Teenagers only listen to other teenagers. But even when you know your advice is not wanted; is probably no going to be heard, you love your kids and you tell them things, even while they are running away from you. In this case, there is just one thing I would like to tell my young Kashmiri friends, some of whom I know personally and love immensely. You like Geelani. Quite natural! He speaks your language. Full of raw enthusiasm, sound and fury. He has always been a young fire-brand, as he was when I met him first in 1972. But just remember one thing. Syed Ali Shah Geelani is a teenager past his prime. You have a life to live. You have problems. Very real problems. Genuine problems. Solve them, in the here and now. Don’t let him take you to Hell. Take Care! Fi Amanillah!

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