Attempting to Explain the Unexplainable

Ali Sethi’s op-ed in today’s NY Times is a poignant series of reflections on the complex history of religions and religious nationalisms on the Indian Subcontinent. His starting point is the recent attacks on Ahmadi Muslims in Lahore, on 27 May 2010,  in which more than 80 Ahmadis were reportedly killed. The Lahore Ahmadiyya Movement is a minority Muslim sect in Sunni dominated Pakistan that has been considered heretical by the Pakistani State, and hence persecuted, since nearly the birth of Pakistan in 1947. The central claim of heresy leveled against Ahmadis has to do with their interpretation of the concept of jihad and their belief that Muhammad was not the final prophet. Ahmadis believe that all of God’s prophesies were brought together in the person of Mīzrā Ghulām Ahmad (1835-1908), the tradition’s founder. Ahmad had a liberal, interfaith approach to religious discourse, and he was regularly engaged with his Muslim, Hindu, and Christian neighbors on the Indian Subcontinent. Sethi’s remarks on the Ahmadi tragedy and the history of Islamization in Pakistan make for engaging reading. And he presents some useful insights on the persistent struggle with cultural memory in South Asia, particularly concerning the effects of Partition. Given the U.S.’s involvement (read: regular drone attacks) in the region, and the general lack of knowledge of modern South Asian history among Americans, this first person account of growing up in the region—amid multiple Talibans, inter-Islamic dispute and violence, the use of religion by politicians and military leaders, among other things—is important and, I hope, will be thought-provoking.

1 thought on “Attempting to Explain the Unexplainable

  1. wildbillyscircusstory

    I read (okay glanced) at a news story today that the Indian government is relaxing a blockade. Does that pertain to your post? Sorry. I’ve been of single-minded purpose the last week, all of it work-related. I’ve been gathering news bits here and there, but not been able to follow them with any depth.


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