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Norwegian Tragedy: Alarming Message for Pakistanis

By Imtiaz Gul

Weekly Pulse, July 29, 2011

Is it strange or surprising that Anders Behring Breivik, the Norwegian mass murderer of over 90 people considers Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s Pakistan as a contagion that will engulf entire Europe by 2083? For Breivik, Pakistan represents an embodiment of contradictions and denials; injustice, mis-governance and disorder which, in the long run, he fears would go on to galvanize other countries across the Indian Ocean and the Atlantic. Until now, as a consequence of the roughly 3,000 major attacks on markets, public places, security forces and shrines, including 300 suicide strikes, and the constant military struggle against Islamist militants have turned Pakistan into one of the most dangerous spots on the face of the earth. Couple with corruption and the contradictions of indifferent, self-serving ruling elite – politicians, army and bureaucracy -, this state of insecurity have resulted in the thesis that Breivik has propounded on Pakistan, which is being ruled either by the military or by political parties which are more like cults, mafias and family fiefdoms than political representative bodies

The fact that Braivik singles out Pakistan for the future problems of Europe, must jolt self-pitying Pakistanis out of the usual state of denial. As usual most would dismiss Breivik as a sick young man, nurturing hatred and bias against Pakistani Muslims. But rejecting Breivik’s Manifesto 2083 – a projection of Europe in slightly over 70 years from now – hardly serves such disapproval. 

Breivik plunged Norway in a state of mourning after gunning down some 90 youngsters attending a summer camp on July 22nd. But his Manifesto should, by implication, send Pakistanis in introspection for certain facts of life that they don’t acknowledge as the primary source of friction with local cultures. 

It is a moment to ponder as to why, of all the Muslim societies, Pakistan seized Breivik’s imagination as a country typical for “denial of justice, intrusive religiousity, denial of rights to non-Muslim minorities? Pakistan, for him epitomizes a state that lives off injustices, denials and repression, where religion is the primary tool of the business of politics. 

Breivik’s knowledge of Pakistan and Pakistani-origin Norwegians is based on his personal experiences, and extensive study of writings of people like Allama Muhammad Iqbal and Maulana Abul Ala Maududi, as well as prominent human rights activist Hina Jilani and Dawn columnist Irfan Hussain. 

It is a moment to ponder as to why, of all the Muslim societies, Pakistan seized Breivik’s imagination as a country typical for “denial of justice, intrusive religiousity, denial of rights to non-Muslim minorities? Pakistan, for him epitomizes a state that lives off injustices, denials and repression, where religion is the primary tool of the business of politics. 

Breivik’s knowledge of Pakistan and Pakistani-origin Norwegians is based on his personal experiences, and extensive study of writings of people like Allama Muhammad Iqbal and Maulana Abul Ala Maududi, as well as prominent human rights activist Hina Jilani and Dawn columnist Irfan Hussain.

In his manifesto, Breivik uses his personal experiences – friendship with a Pakistani Muslim immigrant to Norway , who across to him as people who despite having lived several years in Europe still resent Norway and the Norwegian society because it “represents the exact opposite of Islamic ways.” Because of his close ties to the Muslim families, Breivik must have also observed the paradoxes that most Pakistanis, Arabs and Turks live in; treating sons different from the way they treat their daughters. 

The image that Pakistani, Turk or Algerian Muslims have created for themselves is nothing new but the fact that people in Europe have started fearing and viewing them as “inflexible” members of societies which are feeding them and which are based on equality of human beings. But for these Muslim members, these values don’t matter all. 

Pakistani and Muslim immigrants’ refusal to assimilate into European society also seem to drive Breivik’s fears. Much of this disinclination or inability to integrate is basically rooted in most the conservative backgrounds that most Pakistanis come from. This also results in a ghettoized style of living. 

One is pained to come across numerous examples of the kind of reclusive lives most Pakistanis live in the USA or Europe. Last year, for instance, I met a young Pakistani driver in Washington. His father had also entered the USA as a driver. The young man was born in the US but he still finds the American ingredients of a breakfast i.e. bread /cheese/ coffee, marmalade sort of “not for us.” He loves paratha ( greased bread) and lassi, or black tea. The family lives together in a big house – with women busy serving the rest of the household most of the time. Their lives are hardly from their relatives back in Pakistan. 

I have no hesitation in saying that - based on personal experiences in most of Europe – Great Britain, Germany, Spain and France in particular –most Pakistanis and Turks live in enclaves that they create for themselves, and usually cocoon themselves; living among own community and on to themselves, practicing religion, and spending their lives as they did before moving to these places. 

A big number of Pakistan fathers – though they must have had ball of a time with local women in their younger years - tart having nightmares much before their daughters reach adolescence; the fear of their girls dating with British, Norwegians or German boys drive the majority of such parents crazy, and they start thinking of how to preempt that eventuality. They think their “honour” would be at stake if their girl were to date with local, non-Muslim boys. Either finding them a partner from within their enclave or scheming to send them back home – which meanwhile is a total alien culture for all those rose in English, German, or French schools. 

As far back as in the mid 1980s, when I visited the Scandinavian countries for the first time, I could see how people from Pakistan – all of them practicing Muslims - were literally abusing the state welfare system, milking the system , to be precise, by taking advantage of loop-holes in the family and health care system

This practice continues do even today. Very recently, a friend based in Paris, informed me he has been blacklisted for abuse of laws that bestow certainprivileges even in the parents of immigrants settled in France. This was a painful story to hear. And there countless such stories – across the European continent. 

The picture that emerges from the lives of majority of Pakistani immigrants is pretty dismal. They love to enjoy the social benefits but refuse to integrate in the societies that have offered them opportunities – jobs, freedom and care by the state. And here at home, political and economic conditions are even more dismal. And precisely these conditions have shaped Breivik’s thesis on Pakistan. I am neither buying this thesis entirely nor am I treating it as a piece of ultimate wisdom. But it does highlight certain , practical and daily life issues, that need deep reflection as to why a foreigner arrived at these conclusions.

The writer heads the Centre for Research and Security Studies, Islamabad

Email: imtiaz@crss.pk