December 11, 2008
Anti-Semitism in Pakistan—hate on a sliding scale
(Page 2 - Previous Page)The far right: Jihadi literature
It is easy to be fascinated by hate material, not just because its language is so colorful, but because the motivation behind it is such a mystery. Assistant professor Altafullah Khan, author of "Profile of Journalists in Peshawar" and editor of "News Media and Journalism in Pakistan and Germany," and lecturer Faizullah Jan of the University of Peshawar's journalism and mass communication department have long been preoccupied with the jihadi press.
They have co-authored two papers, "Jihadi Press: An Overview" and "Alternative Print Media in Pakistan: Reacting to the Mainstream." According to them, today's jihadi literature has surfaced as "an alternative to the mainstream media," which is regarded as Westernized and hence untrustworthy.
During the Afghan war with Soviet forces (1979-89), a new press emerged in Pakistan, particularly in the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP), to promote a jihadi worldview and to highlight the achievements of the different militant outfits on the war front. After the Soviet withdrawal, Indian-held Kashmir became their focus and these newspapers proliferated after Sept. 11.
The names of these newspapers combine the militant and the religious like Zarb-i-Momin (the Blow of the Pious Muslim), Ghazwa (Holy War) and Shamsheer (Sword). None of them carry photographs of living beings, as this is considered un-Islamic. Instead, they make do with images of inanimate objects, such as buildings, roads and tanks. Their editorial content consists of news and opinion on Muslim hotspots the world over, particularly Palestine, Afghanistan, Kashmir, Iraq and Chechnya.
Many of these newspapers -- such as Zarb-i-Momin published by the welfare charity, Al Rasheed Trust, that "advocates a jihadi worldview" -- report on the activities of the Taliban and similar banned organizations. Others engage in sectarian rhetoric against Shias, Hindus, Jews and Christians and espouse the position that it is un-Islamic for women to acquire an education. Another favorite subject is the glorification of the history of Muslims, and some even carry a poetry section geared toward this.
The language of these publications is particularly interesting. The eight-page Al Qalam, for example, appears every Thursday from Peshawar and reports on Indian-held Kashmir such as this: "Mujahideen, in a clash, dispatched four Indian army men, including an officer, to hell."
In an editorial about Western "provocation," the word "Satan" was used as a stand-in for the West or Western leaders and appeared no less than 11 times. Its headline read: "Need for a common stand against the Satans of Europe."
The government continues to ban these publications, but new ones surface with different names, or the jihadi groups resort to distributing pamphlets outside mosques or at rallies. It is difficult to tell who is behind their publication.
Al Qalam (The Pen), for example, which is run by the banned group, Jaish-e-Mohammad that was founded by Maulana Masood Azhar (a religious leader who supports Muslim separatists fighting in Indian-administered Kashmir, is on India's 20 most-wanted list and is accused of terrorism), has no print bylines or masthead.
Azhar writes under the pseudonym of Sa'di and gets space on the front page. He uses extremely abusive language for Jews, criticizes them and urges Muslims to boycott their products and wage war against them.
These publications, however, inhabit the fringes of society and preach to the converted. "[Their] role is more or less that of the affirmation of a voiceless opposition among a section of society," conclude Jan and Khan of the University of Peshawar. "[They are] by no means a threat to the mainstream. [They have] not even entered the daily routine debate at the public level."