RSOP conducted an interview of Dr. Mobarak Haider, which got published in the Sep-Dec, 2012 issue of The Rationalist. Dr. Mobarak Haider is a writer and an intellectual and author of books “Tehzibi Nargasiyat” and “Mubalghe Mughalte”.
Q. Dear Sir, first of all, we on behalf of RSOP would like to express our deep gratitude for taking out time to answer our questions and would also like to take this opportunity to thank you for joining our education network on Online Social Media. Sir, your book “Cultural Narcissism” was very well received by the progressive people all over the world. Can you please summarise the theme of the book for our readers who have not yet read the book?
A. The book’s Urdu name can be translated as ‘Civilizational Narcissism‘. It endeavors to point out the present psychological state of Muslims. It tries to show that we, the Muslims in general, led by political Islam, are afflicted with pathological narcissism, a state of deep delusion. We justify everything that is presented as Islamic and hate modern human rights as evil. Our pride and love of the past is pushing us to a dangerous clash with the present-day realities.
Q. In your talks here and abroad you suggest that the Muslims all over the world, due to their superiority complex are not only left behind but this complex is a very flawed concept. What do you think about the notion that “Islam is the ultimate and best religion in the world“. Does your argument not contradict this notion?
A. No and yes. Our belief about Islam does not prove our claims of superiority firstly because Qur’an or the prophet never claimed that Islam provides solutions to all problems or that it is a complete code of life. I have discussed this in detail in my book “Mughaltay, Mubalghay“; and secondly because we are miserably incompetent in our collective systems, which incompetence increases as our emphasis on Islam becomes more aggressive. There is nothing in the Muslim countries which the world can admire or copy. Self-love and self-righteousness keep us from improving our performance.
Q. The recent phenomenon of tension and violence across the Muslim world due to a movie has raised many questions. What do you think about the behaviour of the western world towards accepting Muslims as a part of the society and realise their sensibilities in such matters?
A. There is not a single nation or government in the modern world that insults our sensitivities. The recent movie or the earlier cartoons were not produced by any representative body or government. These are acts of a couple of individuals, and their governments have taken serious note of the mischief. Modern states guarantee freedom of belief and expression of their citizens and the Muslim citizens and visitors in western countries equally use these laws to preach their faith and their views. Modern states cannot change these established laws which people have earned after centuries of struggle. We cannot ask the western world to give up their freedom to please us. In reality it is we who do not respect law anywhere in the world. We must learn to improve our own level of religious tolerance for others. We have a foul record of behaviour toward minorities in our countries.
Q.“Freedom of Speech” is thought to be one of the fundamental rights in a liberal sense. How do you define this terminology?
A. I have explained above the status of rights in the western world. But this freedom of speech has already some restrictions placed on it; it does not allow hate speech in these countries. The state deals with hate speech according to the relevant law. But they cannot hang someone for a bad word or expression as we can proudly do in our countries.
Q. Is political Islam a threat to world peace or is it an overblown perception that exists only in the minds of the deriders?
A. I think it is a threat. We can see how the world has changed after 2001, how tensions have grown in international relations, how good citizens, Muslims and moderns alike, suffer scrutiny on airports and how immigration procedures are tightening. The political Islamists have a clear mission. They wish to arouse the entire Muslim world against the rest of mankind. West is the first target. Other non-Muslims will be the next. All those who disagree with Islamists are equally evil in their eyes. They are spreading disruption and clash between Muslims and the world through campaign for Shariah laws in the whole world.
Q. You have stated 10 underlining beliefs that define political Islam in your book. These beliefs are pretty much mainstream Islamic thought that are mimicked at every level of our collective lives. A simple glance at these essential elements of political Islamism reveals the dangers and traps amply. How best to wage a war against such a belief system?
A. These beliefs are baseless. They are not based even on Islam. The ruling Muslim elite promoted them through centuries and our narcissism nourishes them today. We have to educate our masses to return to reality. This task can best be performed through correct syllabi in schools and colleges and through media debates.
Q. What kind of early education at home be given to the children in Pakistan? Are you happy with the present norms inculcated in the young minds of our children?
A. Education at home is every family’s domestic matter and right. But we have to understand what real life requires of us in the modern world. What is being taught in Pakistan on different levels of education is not only academically wrong but is politically suicidal. They teach hate against the world and against our own minorities and smaller Muslim groups. Therefore the international community has the right to demand correction and reform in our curriculum. That is a painful option but it seems to be the only one in the present state of affairs. If the world community doesn’t demand today, they will do so tomorrow.
Q. Pakistan is demanding an international law on blasphemy? Do you find this a legitimate demand and how will Pakistan deal with the situation at home?
A. The demand is no more than weak populism of our government. They know it is not possible to impose Islam on the free world. We are too naïve and too presumptuous to see our reality. In the heat of our fever we tend to forget that ‘beggars can’t be choosers’.
Q. What role Pakistani expatriates can play in improving the situation in Pakistan? Are you happy with the existing activities of Pakistani Diaspora and what changes do you suggest?
A. They have a choice. They can accept the advanced world as their teachers. That will mean joining modern societies, integrating with them and benefiting from their knowledge. Thus they can act as ambassadors of progress in their lands of origin. But if they choose to take their uneducated Imams as leaders, nothing will be achieved. Instead they will blast the hopes of their coming generations.
Q. Do you feel the electronic, print and social media in the Muslim world is doing enough to educate, enlighten and empower the Muslim community?
A. No. On the contrary they have been promoting the sickness among our unfortunate Muslim people for decades. During the past one decade that negative role touched its pernicious heights. But recently some slight change for the better is visible to the keen eye. More efforts on national and international levels are bitterly needed to improve the educative role of our media.