The Dec. ‘7 assassination of Benazir Bhutto, the former prime minister of Pakistan who had returned from exile to challenge the government of President Pervez Musharraf, shocked the world.
When former Bhutto adviser and long-time friend Husain Haqqani comes to speak in North Jersey next week, he plans to draw on the assassination as an example of what he calls the growing civil war of ideas within Islam.
"The Muslim world is undergoing a serious internal crisis," he told The Jewish Standard in a telephone interview on Tuesday, the day on which Pakistani elections were to have been held. They have been postponed until next month because of the unrest following Bhutto’s death.
He said, "The world doesn’t realize that the Muslim world is diverse, with many ideas, including modernity, democracy, and greater tolerance. After Sept. 11 people think the Muslim world has a preponderance of people like Osama bin Laden."
Haqqani served as Pakistan’s ambassador to Sri Lanka from 199′ to 1993 and has been an adviser to three Pakistani prime ministers. In ’00’ he came to the United States as a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington and an adjunct professor at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University. He will speak at Temple Sinai in Summit on Tuesday, Jan. 15, and at Temple Sinai in Tenafly on Jan. 16. The event is cosponsored by the American Jewish Committee and Interweave, in partnership with the Jewish Community Relations Council of UJA Federation of Northern New Jersey and a handful of other religious organizations.
Since Sept. 11, ‘001, politicians and analysts have called on the so-called moderate voices within the Islamic world to take a stand against the radical forces of Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups that speak in the name of Islam. Haqqani, who counts himself among the Islamic world’s moderates, said that some of the people calling for moderation are causing more divisions rather than healing them.
"There are some people who have made a career out of complaining about the lack of moderation," he said. "Our voices are not as amplified as some people.
The Muslim world has some people who are Muslim-born critics of Islam. They need to be heard. They need to be protected. They need to be respected. But reform in the Muslim world is not going to come from people who question the validity of Islam among Muslims."
Moderates exist in the Muslim world, he said, from academia to theology. Just as Judaism has Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform streams, so does Islam. But when observers use an us-versus-them mentality, the moderates find themselves trapped, Haqqani said.
"The people who paint the Muslim world with a broad brush and say anybody who is not willing to abandon Islam completely are making a wrong argument. We need to strengthen the reformist approach and marginalize the violent tendencies and to amplify the moderate voices rather than constantly questioning their existence."
In a Dec. ‘8 article in The Wall Street Journal, Haqqani wrote that Bhutto’s assassination drew attention to the need for building a moderate Muslim democracy in Pakistan and that instead of fighting terrorism, Musharraf is "calibrating terrorism."
Many governments in the Islamic world, including Musharraf’s, claim that they are all that stands between democracy and terrorism, Haqqani told the Standard. To that effect, "calibrating terrorism" instead of eliminating it serves a purpose in presenting the image of these leaders as fighting for Western values while keeping tight grips on power.
"Benazir Bhutto was a fearless and courageous woman who touched a lot of lives and had a lot of support," he said. "She also had the guts to stand against terrorists and dictators."
Haqqani said that democratic elections must take place as rescheduled. "The continuation in power of Musharraf is a blow to democracy in Pakistan," he said. "An election would provide Pakistan a way forward. If General Musharraf succeeds in postponing or canceling the election, it will not only hurt democracy but the stability of Pakistan."
For information on Haqqani’s talks, visit www.interweave.org or call the JCRC at (’01) 488-6800,