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Oct 27, 2005 1:35 pm


Pakistan Earthquake, (5)



This article, "For Devout Pakistani Muslims, Aid Muddles Loyalties," in yesterday's New York Times contains more material than I have time to unravel right now, but this passage deserves highlighting:
Pakistani officials and political analysts cautioned that any relief-related change in perceptions would be limited. The international aid may sway the perceptions of moderate Pakistanis, particularly well-educated city dwellers, they said, but it is unlikely to sway the country's small core of militants who support Al Qaeda.

"Even if paradise is delivered to them, they'll keep abusing us, the Americans and the Jews," said a close aide to President Pervez Musharraf, a military ruler and religious moderate who has survived at least three assassination attempts from suspected Islamic militants."This is going to take a long time."

Islamists are also doing their best to aid earthquake victims and curry support, and in an unknown number of cases, succeeding.

It goes without saying that the well-educated city dwellers likely to" change their perceptions" are the ones whose"perceptions" were pro-American to begin with. But it is worth asking, in what respect is the" close aide to President Pervez Musharraf" not a"well-educated city dweller"? What about his"perceptions"? Where did they come from?

A bit of commonsense: since aid cannot really" change perceptions" of phenomena that have nothing to do with aid, surely the relevant question is not"How does aid change perceptions of 'America'?" (whatever"America" is supposed to mean in that ill-conceived question), but how Pakistani"perceptions" of the world are formed in the first place. And for Allah's sake, please don't say"in madrasas" unless you're prepared to argue that most Pakistani urbanites have been educated there.

Why, in particular, do Pakistanis display so bizarre an animus against"the Jews"? What have"the Jews" ever done to Pakistan--except, in the case of Daniel Pearl, get murdered there? Even if we equate"Israel" with"Jews" (and we shouldn't) what, indeed, has Israel done to it? If concern for the Palestinians is the issue, why is it that Pakistanis never remember General Zia ul Haq's role in helping King Hussain put down the Palestinian-led Black September uprising? (More fundamentally, why don't they remember the Pakistani government's decision to keep Zia there to do the job?) For that matter, why do they never remember that the Palestinian complaint against Israel is a mirror-image of the Indian complaint against Pakistan-- viz., that the partition of each relevant country-to-be (Palestine and India) was an injustice? If solidarity with Muslims is the issue, why do Pakistani perceptions not include the treatment of East Pakistani Muslims at the hands of the West Pakistan army? Don't the iniquities of"the Jews"--or of Israel, or both together--pale before that? Yes, is the answer. But none of that seems to figure in popular"perceptions." Why?

If you read the article all the way through, you'll see that American relief efforts are widely interpreted in conspiratorial terms, whereas Islamists efforts are not so interpreted. Why the double standard? If Americans have ulterior motives in sending help, do Islamists have only pure ones? Bear in mind that Islamists have said that the earthquake was punishment for Pakistan's sins. Why the acquiescent receptivity for so troglodyte a message? (A sensible discussion of the topic is here.) Having acknowledged the double standard, we need to seek an explanation for it. But acknowledgement would be a start.

Send a New York Times reporter to ask some of those questions. That would be"news fit to print"--as well as news worth a thousand trips to the"Muslim world" by Karen Hughes, ten thousand blog posts by Juan Cole, and a hundred thousand pages by Edward Said.



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