Sufism On, Extremism Gone
|June 11, 2012||Posted by Shehla Rashid under Kashmir, Politics, Shehla Rashid in Print|
Quite a few years back, it was politically fashionable to talk about “Kashmiriyat” – the simplistic assumption that Hindus and Muslims in Kashmir have coexisted peacefully for centuries (without any particular emphasis on the social and economic compulsions that forced such coexistence).
The government would issue radio and TV ads asking people to be nice towards their neighbours, because that constitutes “Kashmiriyat”. While “social rot” has, indeed, occurred in Kashmir due to the prolonged conflict, the solution does not lie in the imposition of a morally and politically loaded “Kashmiriyat” on a deeply alienated people, but in dignified conflict resolution and in their social and economic rehabilitation.
After vigorously pursuing the “Kashmiriyat” propaganda for a few years and realizing that, for many Muslims, the nation-state and ethnicity are both secondary to religion, a lot of “energy” is now being invested into the invention of a history of Sufism – a supposedly moderate brand of Islam (the lack of nuance is theirs, not mine). While it is okay to spread Sufism for the sake of it, doing so with the intention of turning Kashmiris into a docile race again (one might ask when Kashmiris had turned violent en masse in the first place) is an over-simplification of the entire problem of extremism, which, for many people, is synonymous with the Kashmir issue itself. Well, first of all the government needs to differentiate between political and religious extremism: its failure to do so in 1989 led to the worsening of the situation. Political extremism (including secular insurgency) found takers because the political space for genuine dissent had been crushed violently for about forty years. Religious extremism can be easily attributed to Pak-backed elements but it must be borne in mind that Pakistan had started backing infiltrators long before a popular insurgency helped such extremist militancy gain a wide support base here. Even Sheikh Abdullah had used religion as the mobilizing element in the 1930s because all other channels of dissent had been choked. For the rest of the discussion, I’ll use extremism to mean religious extremism unless specified otherwise.