ABDUL GHAFFAR KHAN

    Violence is found throughout human history, some relate it to the teachings of religions others argue that the human aspect is to blame. If anything is true, it is that Abdul Ghaffar Khan found the peaceful side of both. Born into a Pashtun family of Peshawar Valley, in what is now known as modern day Pakistan, Badshah Khan or ‘King Khan’ had anything but a peaceful upbringing as will be shown. Despite a culture that not only allowed the killing of fellow men but supported it in many ways, Abdul Ghaffar Khan was able to take a stance of non-violence for his people and his religion. Taking what even Gandhi believed to be a violent people and proving that a path for peace was very much possible. 

The year of 1890 marked the birth of A.G. Khan and his less than peaceful upbringing. He even comments on his violent tendencies as a young child being stocked by his surroundings “ As a young boy, I had violent tendencies; the hot blood of the Pathans was in my veins” (Easwaran 141). However despite his ancestors tendency to violence even in ways such as the badal or code of “blood vengeance” he regected theses ideas and begin to see the teachings of Islam and morals of life to be Non-violent. A.G. Khan begins interpreting Muhamads words as a service to peace and that ‘Jihad’ is actually a struggle within to end violent hearts. He began his work to teach and bring others to this way of thinking, a task not so easy in a land controlled by British authoritarianism and a history of violent customs. Learning from Islam and from the work Ghandi had already begun doing in northern India, Khan pushed for a more united people and religious acceptence. In many ways he defied the norms and gave a platform for progressivism, despite some heavy tragedies in his personal life.

Many would argue that the loss of a wife is a burden kept for years to come, so when it is known that both of Khan’s wives met a tragic end, it is made even more grand that he did not lose his service to love and peace. Despite long stints in various jail systems, well over 30 years of his life, A.G. Khan stood fast against oppression through his Non-violent ways. After knowing this, it becomes easier to believe that he was able to convince well over 100,000 Muslims and Northern Indians to leave their violent ways behind and look at life through a Non-violent perspective under his Khudai Khidmatgars. Known as the “Servants of God'' this group of red shirts wearing pacifists stood fast against British rule and the eventual Pakistani politics. Testament to the teachings of Khan, his followers remained loyal not only to him but the idea of Non-violence despite persecution and in some cases killings of their very own. He spread a peaceful view of Islam amoung his people and fought for the rights of Muslims both male and female as well as those of nearly every religion.

Many Muslims believed, and in some extreme cases today, that “People of the Book” or “Dhimmi” only referred to Islam and that all others were infidels. Abdul Ghaffar Khan brought a new concept to the table, that all religions that have writings on love make its people; a people of the book. “My religion is truth, love and service to God and humanity. Every religion that has come into the world has brought the message of love and brotherhood. Those who are indifferent to the welfare of their fellowmen, whose hearts are empty of love, they do not know the meaning of religion.” (Khan, Abdul Ghaffar). Orthodox Muslims may have rejected this ideology but Khand stood strong to it, even going as far as to support the schooling of christians and english speakers within the country and pushing for equality for females within his communities. He believed that women had as much rights as any man and even went as far to give women the right to wear whatever they wished arguing that they should not be forced to veil themselves for no reason other than tradition. He was decades ahead of what is now considered modern day progressivism and showed this common theme of standing strongly to his values yet again.  

Through his progressive work and influence of Non-violence A.G. Khan had great dealings with Mohandas Gandhi. Living in the region that would soon become Pakistan, he pushed for unity or at the very least unity of his Pashtun people within the region with Ghandi. Working together under the Indian National Congress he was arrested on many occasions in support of a unified peoples and during his jail time dove only deeper into his readings of the Koran which only solidified his belief into its peaceful teachings. However his support from India was cut short after the Muslim leagues eventual taking of power and the birth of Pakistan. This was followed by the assasination of Gandhi in 1948 leaving A.G. Khan on his own. Yet again the strong will of this man is shown and even after swearing allegiance to Pakistan he continues his push for independence of his Pakthuns and the rights of hindus in the region. Going as far to denounce the way Pakistan was being run and even call the Pakistani guards ``worse than the british” (Khan, Abdul Ghaffar). The Khudai Khidmatgars faced even greater oppression under the Pakistani government leading to an eventually killing called the “Charsadda Massacre'' leaving many dead with estimates between 50 to possibly 2000 or more.  This mentality of resistance continued on through his life, leading to arrests or threat of arrest all through Pakistan and even other countries through the middle east. Welcomed as a hero in some places and persecuted and a revolutionist in others, his determination for Non-violent independence remained until his death in 1988. 

The evidence shows that the life of Abdul Ghaffar Khan was dedicated to the love and independence of “Gods Creatures''. He certainly has earned the title of the “Frontier Gandhi '' yet is hidden away in historys teachings. The unfortunate suppression of his deeds can mostly be attributed to those in Government during his life that did everything in their power to suppress and keep his ideology from spreading and dismantling the Pakistan they have created for themselves. However; A.G. Khan is proof that Islam is not a violent religon by nature. Despite the Violent teachings of Bin Laden's Jihad and the unfortunate stereotypes formed by the 9/11 attacks, the voice of a more peaceful Islam is found in Badshah Khan. He paved the way for a more progressive and Non-violent way of thinking not only for his fellow Muslims but for people as a whole. He also showed that even when faced with a people built on violence, the proper words and teachings can bring them to peace. His teachings and methods may be silent to much of the world, but with time perhaps even the modern day can learn from him.

A LOVING FEAR

            One thing has remained true throughout human history, and that is the fact no matter the topic. Be that the debate of religion, politics, economics or even the point of life, the idea of love and fear is always at the center of the argument. The 1500’s was an era of great change and enlightenment thought which writers pull inspiration from to explain modern day issues. The writings of Niccolò Machiavelli on the power of man and our ability to be loved or feared is not only prevalent today but shall be for as long as we survive as a species. In his book “The Prince” he speaks of how those in power stay in power and how easily they can lose it. His thoughts are based upon thousands of years of human history and many decades of his own personal experience. Because of this it can be shown that “The Prince” is not only applicable to the kings and princes of his time but even the prime minsters and presidents of modern day.

            To show how Machiavelli and his words have reached far beyond his years, it is best to look first at one of the most monumental and defining moments of our modern history. Nearly 400 years after the writing of the prince one of the greatest battles for power came about. That is the happening of World War II. During this time, many leaders and nations came both into power and into question. Italy found itself in the hands of one Benito Mussolini, the fascist dictator who seemed to have live by a Machiavellian approach to Italy’s politics. He even writes an Entire essay “Preludio al Machiavelli” dedicated to relating Machiavelli’s ideals to modern day Italy in a fascist approach. In this essay Mussolini says “The individual tends to escape continuously. Tends to disobey the law, tends not to pay taxes, tends not to make war. Few people – heroes or saints – sacrifice their self for the altar of the state. All the others are in a state of potential revolt against the state.” (Mussolini, 1924).  This idea of dedication to the state and the need for the prince to not only find support in his people but his people to support the prince is outlined specifically by Machiavelli when he writes “…a governing group, having been set up by the -conquering- prince, will know that it can’t survive without his friendly support; so it will do its best to maintain his authority. Someone who wants to retain his hold on a city accustomed to freedom will do best to get its citizens to co-operate with him.” (Machiavelli, The Prince). This idea of support for your leader and your nation is what leads Mussolini and many other leaders such as Hitler, Stalin and even Lenin to pull inspiration from the writings within “The Prince”.

            A statement uttered repeatedly is the question of if it is better to be loved or feared as a leader? Many incorrectly state that it is better to be feared than it is to be loved. However, if you look deeper into Machiavelli’s mention of this in Chapter 17 of his book “…one ought to be both feared and loved, but as it is difficult for the tow to go together, it is much safer to be feared than loved, if one of them has to be wanting.” (Machiavelli pp 68). What he is saying here is actually quiet the opposite of what common rhetoric of the times state. He explains that it is best to be feared and loved, which means if you can be both respected for your power by your people but loved by them for what you do with it, this is the absolutely the best route to go. However, the “fortunes” of most prince do not allow for a situation like this to arise often. Because of this if you can only choose one route or way to rule your people, then the way of a miserly or feared leader is the safer option. Safe still does not mean best in terms of the betterment of the nation you are ruling but in reference to the holding of power over that nation. Hitler used this idea of fear and strength to not only rule his nation but take over surrounding ones in resounding speed. Mussolini did the same but within his country, attempting to crush the idealist republic views of old Italy to support the more dictatorship style government he wished to create.

            The question isn’t if “The Prince” is applicable to todays society and leaders but rather what parts of the prince are applicable to which leaders. This book speaks of the psychological reactions of both the ruler and his subjects as humans. Not specific to any one nation or religion, while it does have heavy bias and influence from the 1500s Italian states Machiavelli was able to speak on more than just that. His book is more of a commentary of how we as humans act in a position of power rather than a creative writing based solely on the need to sway the Medici family to believing his intelligence. Look at modern American politics and the way presidents are not only elected by gain reputation. In chapter 21 Machiavelli writes “A prince is a true friend or true enemy, when, that is, he declares himself without reserve in favor of some one or against another. This policy is always more useful than remaining neutral.” (Machiavelli pp 93). This is almost a perfect explanation of our Faction based party system in American politics. The Republican vs Democrat argument is the main way politicians gain influence and notoriety and eventually the votes. By exclaiming your desire against another candidate or policy you are either hated or praised by majorities of people. Yet the individuals who wish to remain somewhat neutral in the arguments rarely receive any sort of attention let alone votes. Being a libertarian and not announcing enemies or strong commitments leads to the eventual loss of influence or reputation and of course the loss of an election.

            The above examples are merely a fraction of those that can be related to Niccolò Machiavelli’s writing. He writes in terms of princes and Italy but that can just as easily be replaced by the term leader and in any government or country. His book is one that has learned from the successes and failures of the past, and while the book itself has now also fallen into the past this does not make it any less relevant to today. For as long as humans argue and fight with each other the rise of princes or leaders will always be there, and the subsequent fall of those very same people will follow. Knowing why and how, is what will prevent the “vile” princes from obtaining power and keep the “good and kind” princes in control, so to look at the book as simply a commentary of his time is not only a waste but what can cause a repeat of the past, a past of tragedy in some cases.

VIOLENT PERSPECTIVE

When some people hear the word “terrorist”, the images that conjure in their head can be of people on the edges of society and full of evil. They may think of powerful or terrifying individuals who could easily be spotted in a crowd. But the actuality is, often they are no different than your everyday person. “When we go looking for people capable of inflicting such great harm, the last thing we expect to find is little Mohamad in his blue flip-flops”[1]. Terry McDermott addresses the fact terrorists start out as everyday people, the path to extremism is long and complicated and by accepting that we can better respond to any form of radicalism.

The Hamburg Group[2] ended their lives as an extremist group who saw themselves as soldiers of god. This level radicalism seems absurd and unthinkable to many of us, yet many of the members of this group may have thought the same years prior to their involvement. Understanding what brought them to the extremes of Martyrdom, creating one of the greatest tragedies in the modern-day United States, is what will allow us to understand and eventually prevent such atrocities from ever happening again.  Mohamed el-Amir and the leader pilot of the group found his roots in Egypt[3] Growing up with mostly a strict life, some could compare to the strict views of a Catholic family only in the perspective of Islam, Mohamed grew very much isolated from the happenings of the more Secular Cairo. “There was no hanging around, no friends, very strict rules.”[4] This comment from a neighbor of Mohamed el-Amir gives an idea of what it was like for him. However due to this focused lifestyle both Mohamed and his siblings entered and exceled into University. However, like many other students he struggled in certain areas, being less inclined to artistic design and top-ranked in structured mathematics. He also showed outburst of child like anger when things did not go the way he wished. All these qualities explained so far give a picture of any other hardworking college student, so what changed? That question is more complex than chalking it up to “Islam radicalized him”. Though he was devoutly Islamic it would take some time before the more radical ideologies crept forth. After many pilgrimages he became quieter more reserved, constantly studying and interpreting the Quran. It was not until his supposed visits to jihad camps in Afghanistan[5] , his talks with leaders such as Mohammed Fazazi, Mamoun Drkazanli, or any of his readings of extremist papers like Al-Jihad, that the real concrete changes begin happening. The same can be said for the others of this group, they all found their interpretation through the mentors and views of their life slowly. Not one specific moment or person is entirely responsible for brining them to extremes. It also can’t be pinpointed to any specific day or moment either, the teaching of such a violent and extreme interpretation was a slow one. They built on each other’s confidence bias and “…talked endlessly about conspiracy theories and the damage done by Jews…” growing their own perspectives of martyrdom more and more every day. To them the extremes became their normal, the normal became their enemy. This is only bolstered further by the violence and ways of life they witnessed the western world unfold around them. Seeing everything they saw as good be diminished and replaced, to see their own brothers and sisters discriminated against gives them just the platform to continue this train of thought.  It is easy to use the attacks done on us to justify some sort of violent retaliation, and it is just as easy for them to do the same with the right perspective.

The group also did not start directly opposed to the united states, but they did garner a sense of war fare and a stronger attachment to the holy war during their time in Afghanistan[6]. Fighting against Communists to reclaim their country introduced gun violence as a way of life for many people living in Afghanistan at this time. They faced bloody conflict after bloody conflict and saw the suffering of fellow Muslims everywhere they looked. “…my Muslim brothers in Palestine are suffering. Muslims in Bosnia are suffering, everywhere they are suffering. Muslims in Bosnia are suffering, everywhere they are suffering. And if you check the reason for the suffering, you will find that the U.S. is the reason for this.”[7].   They begin their attacks and make demands, they fought against what they saw as an occupying force that would not leave. Bin Laden only furthered their thoughts and pushed their ideals. The statement titled the “Declaration of War Against the Americans Occupying the Land of the Two Holy Places”[8] wrote out not just for the group but many other Muslims affected by the many wars prior. With the context of what they faced, it gives greater perspective to the pushing of the extremes in no way does it justify the actions taken on September 11th but it allows us to see the path that brought them there. A path surrounded by violence and the inability to end it, a path in which they applied their own interpretation of Islam too. By seeing this path or rather the experiences that pushed them down it, we can better understand what to do our selves to prevent others from following it.

McDermott lays out all this information in a way that helps explain the unexplainable, and at least at the basis understand how someone can fall into such extremes as to commit acts of violence and terror. The 9/11 hijackers are no special group of men in terms of ability, they did not have evil born in them necessarily nor did the religion they learned as children lead them into this ideology of violence. Rather it was the years of outside influence, the many wars ravaging their countries, the many leaders who mentored them on their own radical interpretations. It was a complexity of things that brings people to this ideology. The common theme here is the conflict among us all. The wars our nations fight, the lives lost, all have led to groups and even nations to see no other alternative to stop it than to go to the extremes. When people feel powerless to make change, they attempt to find that power. Some find it in a peaceful way and unfortunately others by more violent means. By understanding everyone we fight against may once have been like us, understanding that they did not need to be masterminds or tacticians to pull off levels of terrorism at this scale. We then can work on the real problem, the fact that situations exist in which every day man has no other choice to make change but through extremism. The fact individuals in this world are faced with injustice and discrimination and no way to change it is what needs to be focused on. We must look at the details that brought these men down their path, the inability to maintain what they saw as a good life, the interpretations of doctrine both religious and secular as violent and radical and the lack of power their voice held peacefully. To ask if we can end the conflict among men, specifically Radical Islam and our western world is no easy question to answer. However the only way to find an answer is to look at all perspectives, no matter how hard it may be to understand.

 

 

 

Bibliography

McDermott, Terry Perfect Soldiers: The 9/11 Hijackers: Who They were, Why They Did It (HarperCollins, 2005)

 

[1] McDermott, Terry Perfect Soldiers: The 9/11 Hijackers: Who They were, Why They Did It Preface 2nd page.

[2] McDermott, Terry Perfect Soldiers: The 9/11 Hijackers: Who They were, Why They Did It Key Figures.

[3] McDermott, Terry Perfect Soldiers: The 9/11 Hijackers: Who They were, Why They Did It Chapter 1

[4] McDermott, Terry Perfect Soldiers: The 9/11 Hijackers: Who They were, Why They Did It Chapter 1

[5] McDermott, Terry Perfect Soldiers: The 9/11 Hijackers: Who They were, Why They Did It Chapter 4

[6] McDermott, Terry Perfect Soldiers: The 9/11 Hijackers: Who They were, Why They Did It Book 2 Chapter 1

[7] McDermott, Terry Perfect Soldiers: The 9/11 Hijackers: Who They were, Why They Did It Book 2 Chapter 5

[8] McDermott, Terry Perfect Soldiers: The 9/11 Hijackers: Who They were, Why They Did It Book 2 Chapter 4

ANTHROPOLOGY, ACADEMIA AND 9/11

            September 11th, 2001, is a day that lives in infamy and became the key formative event for much of the population within the United States. For many they remember a day at work, at school or just out and about doing chores and suddenly being shown the terrible footage of the two planes crashing into the world trade center. Some of us listened to the calls of family members involved or even were present in New York the day it happened. No matter the perspective the shift seen in society both as a nation and our view of other nations changed dramatically. I am most curious about the shift in Academics from both the Professors and students and more specifically the Anthropologists view. How did teaching styles change and were students more focused on topics that otherwise would have been a burner elective? Did the prejudices and stereotypes edge their way into not only professors teaching style but even official studies abroad? I will be Interviewing Dr. Lori Lee who earned her Ph.D. in Anthropology specializing in Historical Archaeology, I will be using her unique perspective as both a student and a professor to gain more insight on how 9/11 affected her and those around her.

            One of the very first questions I wanted to ask Dr. Lee before anything thing else was simply where she was during 9/11. I wanted to know where she was living, what brought her there and where she wanted to be at that time. These details of what most consider small talk at a dinner table are in fact quite important if we are to understand 9/11 from her unique perspective and really compare and contrast the effect that event had on the academic community both in schools and in the field.  After many conflicting schedules myself and Dr. Lee finally found time to speak. I asked her my question on her life in 9/11 and to say it was quiet the surreal situation is an understatement. Only three weeks prior to 9/11 Dr. Lee was married and living on Saint John, an island in the Caribbean and the smallest of the three U.S. Virgin Islands. She explained that she was working as both a Bio technician and a Cultural technician with the National Park service there. She spent most of her time living and sleeping in an Eco-Tent, however the week of September 11th she had the task of house siting for the superintendent of the program she was working under. This is an important detail to take note of as her access to news and more specifically U.S. news was limited because of her usual living situation. However, because she happened to be staying at a house with a T.V. and cable, she had the opportunity of being informed of the first plane crash before many of her coworkers. Dr. Lee explains “the first plane was all we saw, I was getting ready to leave for work so I didn’t have an opportunity to stay and watch”.  Dr. Lee explains that when she arrived at work she spoke with her resource manager about the plane crash, the manager either, not listening or at the very least not understanding the gravity of the situation essentially ignores her statement and focuses on the days work. This disregard of the importance of the situation often stems from who is spreading the information as we will see later in the paper in the months following 9/11 and the disparity it created. Some individuals have fallen into the belief of stereotype and sexism, the idea that pertinent information can not come from anthropologists or women. This belief unfortunately was shown by many during this time creating an even greater divide in an already divided topic.

            Continuing her day Dr. Lee explains she was able to pull up some news articles on the work computers and found the knowledge that a second plane had in fact collided with the tower. She brought this information forward to the same resource manager who responded Ironically with “why didn’t you tell me”, this response shows that he was in fact not listening to what Dr. Lee was attempting to relay much earlier in the day. Following this, the consensus came down that as federal employees they should not be congregated in one place and they were all sent home. This is where the perspective of 9/11 that Dr. Lee has is so unique compared to others, she was being sent “home” for the day from work. However, home is a foreign U.S. Territory with a population where many individuals are not necessarily fond of the control the United States has over where they live. Dr. Lee explains that bars were her usual source for news and updates as that was the most accessible T.V. While watching from within the bar, Dr. Lee notes that when reports or pictures of the 9/11 attack were shown it was not uncommon for some individuals to show not just indifference but in some ways a positive sentiment to what happened. This contrast seems unthinkable to many American’s living within the states, the concept that you could be ok with such a tragedy seems in many ways heartless. However, one must understand the perspective of many of the individuals there and the knowledge they had at the time. Many of the residents there are not allowed U.S. citizen ship yet deal with US rule. This power dynamic has left some people with a distaste and distrust of the United States, pair this with the idea that many of them did not have all the information on the actual numbers of death and those effected, and it is possible to understand, perhaps not accept though, the perspective of those that cheered instead of mourned when images of 9/11 appeared. Now while all this is going on, Dr. Lee is also working on her dissertation, she was finished with all her course work but still communicated with the school through email and meetings. Due to a series of events bolstered by the difficulties of 9/11 she was unable to pursue her original dissertation and instead completed her dissertation on the consumerism of enslaved peoples of the antebellum era, in the advent of time we did not discuss deeply on the details however it led to a discovery and questions I had not expected to come across during this interview. A different angle of 9/11 I had not thought about nor had any knowledge of was the fact that many historical items were lost during the towers collapse. Among those lost was the remains and items from over 496 African Burials within the Manhattan area nearby. An African Burial ground that is expected to have well over 1000 graves with beads and works directly from Africa was being excavated partially due to construction. This led to a large debate and eventual understanding that these items and remains need to be protected led to them being held in the world trade center while waiting for a new area to be made ready for them to remain. Unfortunately, they never made it back out of the trade center and were destroyed with the building collapse. This crushing blow to the anthropological world was one of many. The months and even years following 9/11 showed a huge shift in national agenda and consequently the funding seen in academia.

Dr. Lee explained that following 9/11 “political ideology and diverseness, academia and funding were greatly effected” and that “Paid research was only for national security”. This brought up many questions and just as many issues. Many began to ask if people are going to be forced to give up information like many have seen before. Dr. Lee told of situations where governmental or outside agencies was use anthropologists to learn information about a nation or people in order to control or hurt them. With many Anthropologists’ working in or on the Middle East environment, this question of immoral use of information became a focus. This brought lots of funding on studies and projects that before were not really on the main stage. This sudden focus of the worlds views on this topic brought forth what Dr. Lee calls “just in time scholars” or in other words, scholars that have been working in the field of the middle east that are now being looked at as the expert in that field however may not have the expertise required to make proper decisions politically about their field of study. Some may argue that this dynamic led to many of the poor decisions seen in the wars and actions pushed by the United States the years following.  Unfortunately, this massive shift in focus and study meant that many of the advances being made in other fields outside of National Security lost funding and public view. The work of Dr. Lee and the Plantations and Slaves on Saint John were not easily relatable to national security so any access to funding was minimal if existent at all. This lack of funding meant many projects across Anthropology and even other fields had to be abandoned or were greatly slowed down in progress. Dr. Lee comments on this effect and how we are today in academia, “we are in a very different academic environment than it use to be”. She explains that many of her colleagues shifted focus on what they were studying and many of her friends decided to drop everything and join the military. This was seen across the states, this shift had a massive impact on not only what was studied but also who was studying it. Majors that were not as populated became more sought after. Teaching styles and the talk on a way forward became even more divided in this already divided environment. Dr. Lee mentions that although there was a lot going on as a whole the Anthropological community was looking at ways to help avoid conflict as much as possible. Understanding the situations and the cultures involved to better handle the way forward. Another aspect she noted was different was the involvement of politics on campus, with the addition of so much focus on foreign policy, the politics found its way into much of academia. This influence of politicizing education led to situations where certain topics were not allowed to be talked about or could only be explained in a certain way. This has never been seen to be acceptable in academia before and is something that could greatly hurt and already hurting community.

These tough situations were made even tougher by the intense strengthening of Security and the stark reality of racism.  Dr. Lee’s Husband at the time was originally born in Chile and travel across South America for art. Before 9/11 traveling from the Caribbean to the United States was relatively easy and normal. Following the months and now years after 9/11 Dr. Lee explains she saw extreme security measures and stereotyping. Her husband was stopped nearly every time for interrogation while traveling through the U.S. The Anti- Muslim sentiment was seen growing across the nation, the Anthropological communities main goal was to disparage and stop any misinformation or interpretation of not only the religion but its people. Yet again another pressure thrown on to an already stressed community in Academia.

            All these stressors and details combined give a greater understanding of the effect 9/11 had on many communities and ethnicities especially that of Dr. Lee’s community of Anthropology and academia. We can see that 9/11 brought fourth many diverse perspectives and ideologies found within the United States as well as the disparity in groups such as the anthropologist and even the female anthropologist. This effect is seen today in the politicized environment we find all of academia in right now as well as the need to focus on more than one perspective of any debate. Dr. Lee’s stories explain the surreal difference in all of those perspectives as well as just how complex a situation 9/11 created within the many different groups in and outside the United States. She has given insight onto the changes that academics faced as well as the overlooked importance of the effect 9/11 had on academia and those within it.