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The extremist mindset

The extremist mindset

The incidents that have unfolded in the past couple of weeks have been real eye-openers. Whether it was the issue of internet censorship or the Ahmedi killings, I feel the reactions to such incidents have taught me a lot about understanding intolerance.
I had no idea what was in store for me when I wrote about the Facebook controversy. In fact, I wrote about it before the actual ban and of course, took a strong stance against internet censorship after the ban was implemented. Little did I know, that it was because of my stance on the topic I was declared a ‘blasphemer,’ ‘liberal apologist’ and my personal favourite, ‘a hijabi CIA, RAW, MOSSAD agent.’ Even worse was the fact that people, whom I would normally interact with on social media, joined the bandwagon and questioned my faith. It had come to a point where a stance against censorship was being put in the same league as being against the Prophet (pbuh).

More than once I was asked to clarify ‘whether I was with the Prophet (pbuh) or with Facebook.’ Such reactions highlight the extremist ideology that has been brewing inside many of us for years, the kind of ideology which otherwise remains dormant but resurfaces at the slightest of issues. Even more shocking were the reactions that came after the Ahmedi killings. Denying that a certain persecuted section of the minority was targeted only reflects the fact that we continue to live in denial.

For years now, there has been talk about the need for a platform where people, mainly the youth, can engage and develop a better understanding of our history, culture and religion. Over the years, we have seen many such reformist movements that ironically either end up getting hijacked for political means or die out altogether. A little apprehensive, given past  history,I decided to attend the ‘Khudi-The Awakening’ launch. Khudi is a social movement that aspires to counter extremist ideologies. As part of the movement, Khudi has also launched an academic magazine.

The man behind the movement, Maajid Nawaz was previously a member of Hizb-ut-Tahrir – the aim of that organisation being to unite Muslim countries across the world under a single caliphate. The ideology of the organisation was an extremist one, not to be confused with terrorism. What makes Khudi even more appealing is the fact that Nawaz’s efforts stem from his own past of dealing with extremism. It is his journey as a young teenager – fighting against racism and then, joining and propagating the message of Hizb-ut-Tahrir, which has led to his reformation. Nawaz’s experiences make his ideas on counter-extremism even more practical and applicable. Here is a man who has survived the ordeal and is now ready to not only narrate his experiences but to help others deal with it. The most important aim about the campaign is acknowledging the need to differentiate between an extremist and a terrorist. It is true that while we tackle terrorist organisations, factors that incite terrorism and extremism keep brewing underneath, making it a never-ending war.

With the absence of a counter-terrorism strategy the only strategies we have are reactive (fighting against militant organisations) rather than pro-active (looking at the root cause). Factors that continue to incite intolerance and hate speech remain hidden, never brought to the forefront. The process of identifying such a mindset is crucial and this is where social movements such as Khudi can play a vital role.

Nawaz has initiated the Khudi movement which promises to promote democratic culture and considers that as the antidote for extremism. However, it might take more than just one such movement to address conflicting ideologies that have been ingrained into our mindset.

There is no doubt that we desperately need to promote democratic culture, the kind that allows us, as a society, to respect individual rights and diverse opinion. After all, democracy is not only limited to using our rights to vote; it is about tolerance and co-existence, it is about celebrating our heroes, it is about standing in solidarity with the victims irrespective of their belief and it is about being humanitarians.

As Nawaz pointed out: “Democracy must forever remain prisoner to human rights. Democratic culture is about respecting human rights, freedom of speech and individual choice.”


sanasaleem80x80 Sana Saleem is a Features Editor at BEE magazine and blogs at Global Voices, Pro-Pakistan  and her personal blog Mystified Justice. She tweets at

The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.


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210 Responses to “The extremist mindset”

  1. Osama says:

    I think it is high time to question Democracy as an idea instead of grilling Islam. What Mr. Nawaz is upto is very evident and I don’t think it needs any explanation. Report published by RAND Corporation in 2005, “Civil Democratic Islam”, is a detail explanation of what people like Mr. Majid Nawaz and company are doing in Pakistan.

  2. Ibn-e-Maryam says:

    Very good article. You have just tasted an appetiser of accusations and finger pointing. Now imagine, what Ahmadis and other ‘discriminated’ people have to face on a daily basis in this ‘land of pure’. Our daily lives have been made ‘illegal’ by the discriminatory laws of this country.

    Yesterday, BBC ran a short documentary, and a Sunni ‘Aalim’ claimed that Ahmadis should be killed ‘through court of law and not by individuals’. This is the state of the knowledge and belief of these ‘ulama’. The Holy Quran is full of teachings of patience and tolerance, and these ‘ulama’ neither act on these teachings nor talk about them.

    Anyways, good article and I hope you will continue to write on these very sensitive topics, even after facing an onslaught of allegations. Thanks very much

  3. Donald says:

    Ali Khan, I agree, the democratic dream or Islam, need to choose between them!
    The new fitna of Secular democratic Islam is wishfull thinking, is the Shariah lacking and incomplete?

    • Ali Khan, S says:

      With your permission, I will put the question a bit differently by saying ” secular democracy or the democracy defined by Islam?”. This question should be treated respectfully, tolerantly and academically, not emotionally and belligerently. Furthermore, I am not really qualified to debate on this but from what knowledge I have of my religion, Islam, I certainly believe that the TRUE Shariah is modern and comprehensive. As I said it should be appropriately debated and strongly feel (on the basis of my continual study of Islam) that Islam does offer a solution where the human rights are respected and dignified, productive co-existence with the rest of the world is possible. The debate on this line should continue.

      I believe the Shariah is not lacking nor it is incomplete. If we look at the constitution of Pakistan, we will see it is a good and balanced system of democracy in Islam (regrettably, it is only good in papers but is not implemented due to a lack of will, as is typical with the other systems in Pakistan).

      • Osama says:

        Islam has its own complete system of ruling. There is no need to take Western Democracy.

  4. kanwal says:

    gr8 article

  5. anis says:

    200% agree with the writer

  6. Taha says:

    Err Miss Saleem…

    What, other than celebrating democracy as a value, is on the manifesto of Khudi?
    I am afraid I could not find that in your article….
    like how does it plan to inculcate the value in our otherwise sick-of-democracy bourgeoisie?

  7. Azhar says:

    Article is well written and is quite an eye opener

  8. Iftikhar Husain says:

    I have gone through the replies to this article somebody has suggested educate the mullah that is the only thing sensible. The khilafat movement in twenties and thirties failed because Muslims cannot unite themselves. Split with in Islam is the biggest trouble. It is a nice article.

    • human says:

      Every time the matter boils down to blaming the mullahs. Why not go a step further and ask: why are Mullahs the way they are? After all, they are the ones who have learnt and imbibed the teachings of Islam to the best possible extent. But no one has the guts to openly discuss the answer to this crucial question, because the answer is as much obvious as it is dangerous to spell out.

      • Kabeer says:

        The answer is simple when our religious schools stopped teaching other subjects besides Islam (the way every sect think is) the dawn fall of intellect started in our religious students, which has created havoc in our Islamic societies because without intellect you can only produce Taliban, fanatic terrorists.

    • samyak says:

      Sensible? Are you joking? How can you educate Mullahs? Be practical and please explain a way to do it.

  9. Ammembal says:

    Dear Sana and friends
    Thank you for the wonderful blog.

    Well done!

  10. raju says:

    interesting!!!. but democracy is not that good guys, if it is used like in India, it will be a renamed autocracy+bureaucracy. where only people with money or power in hand can really enjoy the fruits of democracy.

    • Ammembal says:

      Dear Raju,
      The point we are missing here is that development of a nation is an ‘organic’ process and unfortunately, slow. In fact, it is unlikely that we will see the fruits of our efforts in our life-times. That should not stop us from trying our level best.
      I live in the UK now. Even here, you find vestiges of corruption and bureucracy, after centuries of uninterrupted parliamentary democracy. Pakistan desperately needs good guidance. Indians are of the same genetic make-up as Pakistanis. The problem is that Pakistanis have been strenuously trying to deny this. Actually, answer to their problems lies in the East. We are their natural allies. Genes dont lie! India may not be perfect but she is on the right track. Other South Asian countries can learn out of her experiences, both good and bad. Democracy and secularism are certainly amongst the good ones, warts and all.
      Warm regards

      • raju says:

        hi Ammembal,
        pls come to india and live here for one quarter year, and rewrite the comment, india is not what you see in media and listen through phone from your friends. I never suspect the spirit of common indian or its heritage, but present india is not a common indian, it’s effective population is just around 2 or 3 million bada babus or netas or corporate gaints. as you said, yes india is on right and luxorious track, unfortunately somany are left with denial onto that track.


        • Prakash says:

          Dear Raju ,
          Yes it is true that majorirty of people in India are not getting their basic rights , this happened in past and will continue in future also , basicly it is humans basic instinct of struggle for supirority . But in this moderen era , we so called sane people should come forward to ensure the basic rights of weaker section . This is applcable to all countries .

          • Prasad says:

            I agree with Raju and Prakash. India as seen in TVs and other media belongs to those with money and power. Commonman has rights in the Indian Constitution, not in the Indian society.
            As of ‘youth’s reply. it is just childish.

          • youth says:

            you have better choice to go China ..try for a citizen ship.then only you can understand what is basic rights..

  11. Imran Baig says:

    Telling the truth is the most important thing in a leader. By telling the truth we can correct whats wrong because the truth hurts. But if you dont tell the truth you can correct whats wrong and that is exactly whats going on in Pakistan. The leadership needs to change. There are two kinds of leaders in the world – self serving leaders and selfless leaders. We must take the steps to recognize those leaders and proceed towrds making a progress.

  12. Ali Khan, S says:

    “As Nawaz pointed out: “Democracy must forever remain prisoner to human rights. Democratic culture is about respecting human rights, freedom of speech and individual choice.”

    One simple question: define “Democracy, human rights, freedom of speech and individual choice” in the purview of Islam.

    I request that please do not make haste in replying. Give some serious thought before replying. One hint though, be educated, studied, well-read in Islam. Just do not rely on your gut feeling and one’s so-called logic because the logic is limited by the limited knowledge it is built upon.


  13. Usman Chaudhry says:

    Dear Sana,

    Read you blog was happy the way you proved yourself to be sane. Bravo! I feel sorry for you if you were made to believe as blashphemous and made to question your loyalty to faith.

    Let us rise above to make every minority part of us and our beloved country. Let the charity begin at home. Can’t throw stone and blame others for our misery. Lets put some action in our words and make it sound louder than words.

    Usman Chaudhry
    Lahore, Pakistan

  14. arjoshi says:

    I counted the bloggers – here’s the report – I can officially tell you that as of now at 3:30 pm, 23 June, there were a MAJORITY of supporters for the writer as against a MINORITY of those who want her to take a walk/correct herself.

    Looks like, for a change, while Pakistan is still at war…with itself, we have a blog where the introspection and our expressions, are more aligned to the quieter, peaceful bunch who wish to ensure the peaceful religion of Islam is not hijacked by some of the more on the side of TTP or at least, Right of Center bunch.

    However, without these Right of Center guys, there isn’t any debate, so more power to them too.

    But am I glad that for once the naysayers were lesser in number….a swallow doesn’t a summer make, so dare I dream that more rational peace loving Pakistanis, who see both sides of their war, shall speak up against the minority which is more aggressive and labels anyone “different” from their worldview of Islam, social mores, history (their version) as kafir/infidel/non Muslim etc? Still, it is a good dream and after the churning shall come a better tomorrow in Pakistan too. More power to Iqbal’s philosophy of Khudi and this movement.

    • Raki says:

      You are right. But, alas, your conclusion applies only to people who can read and write English, and have access to a computer. The fact is that the vast majority of Pakistanis get their news and make their views based on what they hear via loud speakers.

    • ali says:

      Joshi… pay attention to your country…

      • arjoshi says:

        ;-) . Ali, I am! Paying attention to my country ;-)

      • Raki says:

        Mr. Ali, how/why do you assume that Joshi is not a Pakistani? Can someone with a Hindu name not be a Pakistani?

  15. Zainab Ali says:

    Love of mankind should be real aim of our lives; we have learned from the history that politics and religion, when combined always create confusions and extremist mindsets. There should be a clear distinction between religion and politics and that’s what we all need to understand.

    • Goga Nalaik says:

      Please be explicit and say clearly that you are for a secular Pakistan.

      and if you say so, you’ll not be alone …!

      Goga Nalaik

  16. Hira Mir says:

    The author seems confused. Telling us incidents and campaigning against extremism. What would be useful is the solution to change this mindset. We all realize we cannot win this war until we promote a secular state with religious tolerance.

  17. Mansoor Khalid says:

    A very well articulated observation. The extremist mind-set has been injected in our systems almost two decades back by a dictator who once held a conference to resolve energy crisis with the help of jinns. The fight today put up against such indoctrination by the civil societies is the first drop of rain in desert.

    • burhan says:

      Unless and until the mullahs are reformed and educated, we all one day would be brandished as Kafirs.

  18. Ms. Sana, there is one positive aspect of the story that is people despite all of the isms, negative media campaign (including Internet), western military aggression creating fear psychosis among us, we still love Prophet (pbuh) and react whatever means we have on any satanic aggression on this account. Ms. Sana if extremism is to love Prophet (pbuh) then how come it is bad, as Prophet (Pbuh) himself has said that our faith is complete only when we love him more than anything (including mother, father, children so and so forth). There has to be a level where we should stop our tongues to wave. Can we be liberal to listening some one abusing your mother, sister, father, son, daughter or brother. Any sensible human being will not keep mum but will definitely react and this is a positive act. How come anyone can presume that we the Muslims who love their Prophet than their lives as an article of faith will stop to react. The stopping of FACE BOOK or not is a different issue. Ms. Sana, I appreciate our sister has a capacity to write but that must not make her feel that she is above someone who should not be reacted to. I would like to request you to try to identify the real factors which are inhibiting Muslims to progress and work on that rather than go against an abstract term extremism which at times is a very good to follow. To me Muslims should be educated thoroughly Book of Allah (Quran) and Sahih Hadith (Says of Prophet) along with modern technical sciences. The first one shall definitely make your countrymen honest, loyal and brotherly and second one will help you to solve your both inside and outside problems. I suggest we should work on these two aspects of Muslim life more.

    • Eshwaran says:

      Dear Sana,

      Your Contention that “Extremism should not be confused with Terrorism” is itself confusing. Etremism is the forerunner of terrorism. All Terrorist were once Extremists. All extremists are potential Terrorists.

    • oracle says:

      Well said, the most important tragedy of our times include, leave what ever is old or traditional and you’ll be modern and speak against your own beliefs and bring out the controversial issues and you’ll be famous.. but these short cuts don’t last for long!

    • Mohd Yakub says:

      Love for the prophet (pbuh) is one thing. The “love” which is being demonstrated by some people is like idolatry – which is haram. Know the difference. There is a reason why idolatry has been banned in Islam. Nowhere does it say that a non-Muslim drawing a caricature of the prophet (pbuh) is blasphemy… nowhere.

      • sandip says:

        “There is a reason why idolatry has been banned in Islam”
        May I ask you a question?
        If God (Allah) is everywhere, then why do you need to go to mosque to worship? You can worship from home!
        You can believe in sacred places but you do not believe in sacred images?
        That is a BIG contradiction

      • Mr. Yaqub, you should try to understand what is in the text before answering, it is not good to write on the subject you donot understand. Further, kindly inform us how many photographs, caricatures, sculptures have been made by Prophet’s companions (pbuh) or Prophet (pbuh) himself. There is a famous tradition about Prophet (pbuh) wherein he cut a cloth into pieces in the house of Hazrat Ayesha (RA) (the mother of faithful) on which pictures of some living creatures were designed on.

      • oracle says:

        I quote Mohd Yakub saying Nowhere does it say that a non-Muslim drawing a caricature of the prophet (pbuh) is blasphemy… nowhere

        Just imagine a cartoon of your beloved one (eg. father etc) with strange nose and a bomb in turbine.. will you accept it?? if answer is no, then how could it be accepted for prophet? but if answer is yes then friend unfortunately I can’t be as modern as you!

        • imran ahmad says:

          I invariably agree with Hamid. The issue is that we are affected by the western liberalism which has no limits and failed to see there extremist mindset. Nothing is far above than the honor of our Holy Prophet S.A.W. It puts our faith in question and the reaction is very legitimate but one thing is lacking that is the strategy to deal with these types of actions. I agree with the writer that to kill minorities is a moronic act. But we need to completely probe the events triggering such an act. Further I would like to bring into light that unfortunately some of our minorities are working against the ideology of Pakistan which should be checked by all of us.

  19. Bu Umar says:

    Ms Saleem seems to be confused. She begins with incidents, puts in a sort of apology for supporting her stances, and then ends up with promoting another campaign against “extremism”.
    Gather up courage girl and speak the truth!!!

    • Sana Saleem says:

      Umm I dont see myself apologizing? Please point out where exactly? There is nothing to apologize about. Thanks for the ups on ‘courage’ bit though!

  20. Aamir says:

    Excellent article Sana. In this confused and chaotic country, its so refreshing to see someone with a clear head. Your are a good writer, keep writing.

  21. Analytical Engine a.k.a. Unnees Bees says:

    I am a foreign Muslim and of course, Pakistanis have a much greater right to appreciate/criticize the writer than trivial people like me. I would not like to mix issues, but,when will Nadeem Paracha Bhai learn something from Miss.Sana Saleem. Both are social critics, but sister Sana along with her criticism of the ‘half-Muslims’ also practices Islam whereas Nadeem Bhai is only interested in satire and in him , deen ka naam-o-nishaan nahi.

    • R says:

      Surprise surprise…another Muslim passing on judgements based on his perspective of what a Muslim is or should do. I am quite sure you have never met Nadeem. Based on his articles you have concluded that he is “not a good muslim.”

      Where as Sana is; simply because she has posted a picture with the Hijab on?

      Nadeem is a better Muslim than most. His is the true war, one fought with the pen not with the sword!!
      Islam places the highest importance on intellect and intellectual discourse. One who understands this notion serves Islam more than the one who simply prays five times for the fear of ending up in hell!!

      • Hammad says:

        Mr R, we truly should take into account “What a Muslim is and how he is supposed to be” .. Everything rests on this. If you yourself not clear on the “Muslim” topic please do not critic others. No one know who is better than whom. The criteria lies with only HIM. Ms Sana writings are appreciable due to the mere fact that MR NFP’s satires are based on assumptions. Albeit I have some reservations with Ms Sana’s story of “Blocking Facebook” being part of extremism. I think one way or the other people try to show their love and affection with our Holy Prophet (PBUH). How we express it, thats a different story. Its human nature, when you do something wrong, you always try to find a way to put it right, by looking for an opportunity. Same case happened here, people got incited and tried to show how much they care or whatever. I don’t call this as extremism.

      • Ali Khan, S says:

        Please do not say Nadeem is serving Islam because even a person very modestly educated in Islam can judge that Nadeem has no intentions to server Islam.
        From what Nadeem Paracha has shown of himself through his writings is that he loves ridiculing Islam. He is a muslim or not, I do not know. But he is ignorant and utterly unqualified to criticize/analyse Islam. With this background, his mindset, as depicted through his writings, is malicious towards Islam. All he is doing is make fun of Islamic ways without giving any reasoned analysis. Worse is that he gets appreciated too for what he does….what a chaotic nation we are who do not care to even study their religion to find right from wrong. We pretend to be intellectuals but are in fact complete ignorant.

        • Goga Nalaik says:

          You need another 20 years to understand NFP.
          NFP is no doubt a precursor…
          It is unfortunate to note that you’ve already closed all windows and doors and you refuse any further intellectual growth.
          May I remind you that your religion doesn’t allow you to judge the way you did. Everyone is responsible for his deeds. If you are persuaded that you are a good Muslim, I’m happy for you but please don’t ever think you are a better Muslim than your neighbour and try to be modest. God Almighty likes modest people.

          May I suggest you to never make hasty conclusions!

          Goga Nalaik

          • Ali Khan, S says:

            you are as ironic, contradictory as your beloved NFP. Now you have judged me as one who did not understand NFP. By the way what do you know about Islam anyway? or what does NFP know about Islam anyway? (see the similarity between you and NFP?) I never said I am a better muslim. All I said that NFP is not qualified to analyse Islam. ( ‘cuz what he criticizes is NOT Islam!) It is like I being an engineer star evaluating economic policies. Do you understand what I mean? That is what NFP does. I know Islam enough to see that what NFP associates to Islam and criticize it is in fact not Islam, in the first place. It is like saying that you are dangerous because you are a snake, whereas you are not a snake!
            So my suggestion to you is to do as you preach and not make hasty conclusions. Be well-read on what you are criticizing or supporting. This is also a message for your beloved headless, illogical and malicious NFP.

        • Tim says:

          NFP does make fun religion but having said that i find him more tolerant than other bloggers on dawn who preach tolerance and condemn extremism.

  22. iqbal says:

    Mr Chak Dont worry about America and west,they are doing fine.Pls put all your efforts to save your country from enemy within.

  23. Raki says:

    There is more to Democracy than voting to elect the people who would govern the people.

    Democracy is to submit to the Rule of Law. It is when the schools, parents and society teaches the kids not to take law in their own hands, whether for honor, revenge or religion.

    Democracy is to submit to compromises in politics and governance to make the system work.

    Democracy is to submit to the Law of Contracts in the letter and spirit, in business, domestic or international relations.

    • Raki says:

      Democracy is when no one in the military dare do or say anything not sanctioned by the people and representatives elected by the people.

  24. Saleem Jutta says:

    Save Pakistan from these talibans who are bent on destroying the Pakistan of Quid-e-Azam. These politicians need to be reigned in before they turn Quid-e-Azam’s Pakistan into ashes. I wish Khudi the great success.

  25. Trust in Allah Sana and keep moving forward and writing – the voiceless majority who are being manipulated and hurt by extremists depend on you.

    And just been on the Khudi website – EXCELLENT – its about time Pakistanis awoke!

  26. malik says:

    I think the thirty years of brainswashing has done its job. Talking to these people is like hitting your head against a wall. Thank you Gen. Zia.

  27. Dabir Ahmed Pir says:

    Sana in your job fear from those who are likely to react violently to your writings is inbuilt . I wanted to point out that on two occasions when blasphemous cartoons appeared and a strong reaction was shown by the so called MUSALMANS, what actually happened was that in Lahore a procession was taken out by the FAITHFULS on the Mall Road….the sentiments were shown by looting and destroying private and public property, looting ATMS, burning and destroying cars and motorcycles of the innocent AND MUCH MORE. How can NAMUS-E-RISALAT be supposedly brought back by punishing those who have nothing to do with the BLASPHEMOUS CARTOON at all. THINGS HERE ARE ALL SCREWED UP. If you are able to change the hearts and minds by joining some one then please do so. HELP PEOPLE UNDERSTAND……..

  28. What is wrong to be Muslim, every Muslim should be proud of being Muslim, not ashamed, as some hypocrites may wish to be. Khudi, independence is nature of humanity as the word human, originally Human means, His desire, desire of Allah the merciful. What could be worst than, Muslims have been made slaves to the non Muslims on the name of Modularization or modern. Khudi is the commandment of our creator and to live by it is the way of Muslim, not the way of modern, pretending to be Muslim.

  29. Babur says:


    Ridiculing the concept of khudi & relating it to extremism is ignorant on your part to say the least & is an indication of your lack of knowledge on the subject.

    I suggest you read Allama Iqbal & try to understand his message & then may be you can comment on it. You dont have to agree with it, & you dont have to follow it but do read it. Hope thats democratic enough for you!

    I am sure you will be surprised on finding how relevant it is to our times & as a young educated Muslim woman, you would connect with it spontaneously.

    • Sana Saleem says:

      Babur, I suggest you read and reread and reread again and tell me where I ‘ridiculed’ khudi and it’s concept, if anything I said this is what we need. I appreciate the stance and call out for more such social movements.

  30. Shahzad Malik says:

    Dear Sana,

    Keep up your good work. We as a nation need more and more people like you.


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