Posting From Pakistan
Published on: July 23, 2010
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  • WigWag

    Be safe in Pakistan and happy snorkeling in your undisclosed location Professor Mead.

    Anyone wanting to read a terrific book about the contemporary situation in Pakistan written by a courageous and talented young journalist should read “To Live or To Perish Forever” by Nicholas Schmidle. It is available for the Kindle.

    For those who might be interested, here’s a short description of the book from “Publishers Weekly.”

    “Journalist Schmidle offers a gripping, grim account of his two years as a journalism fellow in Pakistan, where his travels took him into the most isolated and unfriendly provinces, and into the thick of interests and beliefs that impede that nation’s peace and progress. The author reports on the murky relationship between the Pakistani intelligence agencies and the Taliban and how American bombings have actually helped the Taliban gain influence in the border regions. While Schmidle amplifies the danger an unstable Pakistan poses to its neighbors and the world, he also turns a constructively critical eye back to American support of mujahideen during the Afghan war against the Soviets and shows how American intervention was both a help and an exacerbation of problems between Pakistan and Afghanistan. As a witness to Musharraf’s last days in power and the rage that followed Bhutto’s assassination, Schmidle has, with this effort, established himself as a fresh, eloquent and informed contributor to the ongoing dialogue regarding Pakistan, terrorism and the strategic importance of engaging Central Asia in efforts toward peace and stability.”

  • Lea Luke

    “. . .in this fight mainstream Islam and the mainstream west are on the same side.”

    Shouldn’t “west” be capitalized in this context?

  • Richard Sutcliff

    Have a great trip! It would be worthwhile to re-read Benedict XVI’s Regensburg address in its full context. Pope Benedict was (excuse the anachronism) “Sherrodized” when a segment of that speech on Islam was quoted out of context. It’s actually a very thoughtful speech and one that should have been given much more serious treatment. I certainly hope you will be able to give him that treatment and not present him to our Pakistani friends as an example of Christian extremism.

  • K2K

    Best wishes on your Pakistan trip. I just finished reading SC William O Douglas’ “West of the Indus”, and he also noted the vibrancy of Pakistan’s intellectual life in 1957 at the beginning of his 7,000 road trip from Karachi to Lahore and then west to Istanbul.

    Good luck dispelling the belief that ‘America is after Pakistan’s nukes’. That is what is on the mind of Pakistanis in The Bronx.

    Let us know what the Punjabis think of the Pashtuns, and what the Pashtuns think of the Baluchis 🙂

  • Mike M.

    ““. . .in this fight mainstream Islam and the mainstream west are on the same side.”

    I completely agree with this. My suspicion however is that the percentage of Islam that is what the west would consider “mainstream” isn’t nearly as big as the west wants to believe it is.

  • PetraMB

    “Just as the wild eyed violent statements from various misguided extremists in some parts of the Islamic world don’t reflect the views of the majority of pious Muslims”

    Well, Pew has been tracking for several years the “confidence” that some Muslim publics feel in Osama bin Laden:

    http://pewglobal.org/database/?indicator=20&survey=12&response=Confidence&mode=chart

    It’s now down to a mere 18 percent in Pakistan, but there were times when it was over 50 percent there.

    Furthermore, re. “the views of the majority of pious Muslims”, it’s quite interesting to read the recent Foreign Affairs piece by Marc Lynch. While Lynch focuses on attacking Paul Berman, in the process, he tells us quite a bit about what he sees as “mainstream Muslim” views, and the message is basically that we in the West have to gratefully embrace anyone who is not as radical as bin Laden:
    http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/66468/marc-lynch/veiled-truths?page=show#

    Here’s e.g. what Lynch has to say about Qaradawi:
    “Qaradawi is a pivotal figure who straddles the divides within today’s Islamist world. He is a fierce advocate of democratic participation and a critic of al Qaeda, which makes him an icon to mainstream nonviolent Islamists and an object of outrage among Salafi jihadists. He is best known for his doctrine of wasatiyya, or ‘centrism,’ which lays out a middle ground between secularism and fundamentalism. He rejects the doctrinal extremism of the Salafists and the violent extremism of al Qaeda […] At the same time, he often takes issue with U.S. foreign policy and is certainly hostile toward Israel, not to mention being a highly successful proselytizer of the Islamist worldview. This potent mixture may be troubling, but it largely defines the mainstream Muslim position. Indeed, one of the keys to Qaradawi’s popularity is his ability to anticipate Arab and Muslim views; like Ramadan, Qaradawi is a barometer of Muslim opinion as much as a cause of it.”

    Well, if Qaradawi is “a barometer of Muslim opinion”, I’d say mainstream Muslim opinion is pretty reactionary, xenophobic, antisemitic, etc.
    Here’s e.g. Qaradawi being — as Lynch puts it so politely, “hostile to Israel”, i.e. holding forth on the Holocaust, Hitler and the Jews:

    • Walter Russell Mead

      I note that the figures you cite demonstrate that support for Al Qaeda in Pakistan is not only low, but that it is falling dramatically. This is happening at a time when the US is extremely unpopular here. That alone should do much to break down the stereotype that public opinion in Islamic countries is monolithic or simpleminded.

  • Fred

    Mr. Mead, I think you have the whole “burn a Koran day” thing wrong. As an American, I’m very ambivalent about days such as that and the recent “draw the prophet Mohammed” day. On the one hand, having been raised in a culture of religious tolerance, I feel a certain revulsion against attacking something sacred to someone else. I may not respect a particular religion or its adherents, but as an American citizen, I do feel obligated to respect the fact that it IS someone’s religion. After all, as a Catholic, I would object to a “spit in the holy water” day.

    On the other hand, having been raised in a culture of free speech, I become infuriated when a South Park or a Penn and Teller are silenced by death threats from fanatical savages. “Burn the Koran” and “draw the prophet” days are a way for Americans (not just Christians) to strike back. To show those who would silence us that we will not be silenced. You may practice your religion any time and anywhere you want, but it will not be exempted from criticism. It will be subject to the same freedom that (for better or worse) produced “Piss Christ.” If you don’t like it, c’est la vie, or c’est l’Amerique anyway.

  • Mead,
    I shall be looking forward to meeting you in Islamabad.I also hope that you will be willing to share diversity of views and how we Pakistanis look at the WASP domination of the world. It may help you in understanding our sensibilities as people who are in midst of a storm that may take the world either way.

    I write regularly for NATION Pakistan.

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