Conservative candidate calls for ‘revolution’ in Pakistan
This is quite at variance not only with the stated position of HM Government, but also with the Conservative Party’s rather more cautious and responsible official policy on the matter, which is that General Musharraf should grant free and fair elections and release political detainees following the recent violent crackdown on anti-government demonstrations.
Yet Atta-Ur-Rehman Chishti can’t be doing with this sort of tedious diplomacy and political moderation. This is jihad, pure and simple, and ‘there is no other option’, he said. Mr Chisti will, of course, continue to sit back in his comfortable armchair in the Garden of England and ponder the next step of his meteoric political rise.
He does not appear to realise that General Musharraf has been a steadfast ally of the UK in the ‘War on Terror’, and is presently confronting his own home-grown terrorists with their illiberal Islamist creed. Of course, none of this excuses the General’s actions, and Cranmer places him and his regime at the remotest boundary of acceptability, not least because of his accommodation of pro-Taliban and pro-al Qaeda movements. But while he has undoubtedly given succour to Islamists, he has simultaneously constituted a bulwark in the prevention of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal falling into their extremist hands. At his core, General Musharraf is a moderate – at least in religious, if not political terms – and this is of great importance in an era of increasingly aggressive assertions of religio-political Islam.
But none of this matters to Atta-Ur-Rehman Chishti, who never supported the ‘War on Terror’, opposed the Iraq war, and supports the irredeemably morally-compromised UN. He professes to be a close friend of Benazir Bhutto, and apparently they talk ‘every day’. As a result of their conversations, he declares: ‘We have decided the concessions made by Musharraf are not enough’.
We have decided? The astonishing arrogance and pomposity of the man is astounding, yet it is consistent with the strident tone emanating from the ascendant Conservative Muslim Forum, which has already demanded that Conservative policy must conform to their particular brand of Islam. Among their policy demands have been that Iran has a right to nuclear weapons, the Party should cease its support for Israel, a compulsory history curriculum in schools should give ‘full recognition to the massive contribution that Islam has made to the development of Western civilisation’, and preachers who advocate a rejection of democracy and its institutions should not be denied entry into Britain. They even support al-Qaradawi’s message of ‘gay-hate’.
All of this has gone unchallenged by the Conservative Party leadership.
And now a Conservative candidate is articulating the Salafist creed of Islam, which, like Wahhabism, is concerned with political supremacy and the restoration of a golden age in Islam. But while Wahhabism asserts a notion of divine right, Salafism adopts a form of egalitarianism that deconstructs any notions of established authority within Islam. It takes a more Protestant approach to authority, asserting that all Muslims are equally qualified to return to the original sources and speak for the divine will. By liberating Muslims from the antiquated traditions of the Islamic jurists, Salafism has contributed to the real vacuum of authority in contemporary Islam. It purports to heed the values of modernism and to come to accommodation with the West, including the principles of democracy, liberty, and respect for the nation state and their constitutions.
By advocating revolution in Pakistan, Atta-Ur-Rehman Chishti is articulating an Islam which is fundamentally centred on power and the assertion of power. And he is being consistent with Salafist Muslim apologetics by invoking the logic of necessity or public interest to justify this course of action, at the expense of moral imperatives.
It is utterly irresponsible of a prospective Conservative MP to be inciting violence and bloodshed by urging the people of Pakistan to rise up in revolution. And to portray Benazir Bhutto as the rightful saviour of the nation is to ignore the fact that her name is also synonymous with corruption. Mr Chisti should be working towards uniting British Pakistanis around the Conservative cause, not stoking damaging divisions by advocating the Bhutto cause. He really ought to consider that not all British Pakistanis support Benazir Bhutto, not all denounce General Musharraf, and not all desire to civil war in their heartland.
And his incitement to revolution is all the more unacceptable because this man is supposed to be an adviser to David Cameron on race issues. He seems remarkably unsuited to such a role, manifesting, as he does, a self-absorbed, intolerant, undiplomatic, and unconciliatory arrogance. But will the Conservative move against him? Demand an apology? Force him to toe the Party line? Threaten him with deselection?
Not a bit of it - simply for fear of being accused of being racist.