At about 6 pm on Sunday evening, a young suicide bomber (said to be 18 years old) blew himself up in a crowd returning from the testosterone-heavy flag lowering ceremony held every evening at the India-Pakistan border at Wagah, near Lahore.
Things got rather heated over radical Islam and Islamophobia on the HBO show 'Real Time with Bill Maher' on Friday, October 3. when Maher and his guests —author Sam Harris, Gone Girl star Ben Affleck, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof and Michael Steele— discussed ISIS and radical Islam.
Maher essentially continued from the programme the week before when he had contended that "if we're giving no quarter to intolerance, shouldn't we be starting the mutilators and the honour killers?"
Since Ben Affleck, who objected to Bill Maher's "gross, racist, disgusting," ideas has been in the news even otherwise, we thought we should place on record what he actually said on the programme.
Way back in 2012, Salman Rushdie had called it a "piece of garbage", President Obama had appealed for its removal, his administration initially blaming it for the deadly September 2012 protests at the American embassy in Benghazi, Libya that resulted in the killing of the US Ambassador to Libya, but YouTube had refused to take off the Innocence of Muslims, a purported documentary on Prophet Mohammed's life, citing USA's freespeech provisions.
I recently wrote a piece titled “Pakistan, myths and consequences”, in which I argued that Pakistan’s founding myths (whether present at birth or fashioned retroactively) make it unusually difficult to resist those who want to impose various dangerous ideas upon the state in the name of Islam. The argument was not that Pakistan exists in some parallel dimension where economic and political factors that operate in the rest of the world play no role. But rather that the usual problems of twenty-first century post-colonial countries (problems that may prove overwhelming even where Islamism plays no role) are made significantly worse by the imposition upon them of a flawed and dangerous “Paknationalist-Islamic” framework. Without that framework Pakistan would still be a third world country facing immense challenges. But with this framework we are committed to an ideological cul-de-sac that devalues existing cultural strengths and sharpens existing religious problems (including the Shia-Sunni divide and the use of blasphemy laws to persecute minorities). Not only do these creation myths have negative consequences (as partly enumerated in the above-linked article) but they also have very little positive content. There is really no such thing as a specifically Islamic or “Pakistani” blueprint for running a modern state. None. Nada. Nothing. There is no there there. Yet school textbooks, official propaganda and everyday political speech in Pakistan endlessly refer to some imaginary “Islamic model” of administration and statecraft. Since no such model exists, we are condemned to hypocritically mouthing meaningless and destructive Paknationalist and Islamist slogans while simultaneously (and almost surreptitiously) trying to operate modern Western constitutional, legal and economic models.
Finally, 15 years after the literary feud between Salman Rushdie and John Le Carré erupted in the letters pages of the Guardian in 1997, the latter has told the London Times "that their mutual loathing has finally come to an end."
Back in 1997, Rushdie had accused Le Carré of promoting censorship and had gone on to characterise him as a "dunce" and a " pompous ass.'' Christopher Hitchens too had jumped in the exchange and said that Mr Le Carré 's conduct reminded him " that of a man who, having relieved himself in his own hat, makes haste to clamp the brimming chapeau on his head."
"Two rabid ayatollahs could not have done a better job. But will the friendship last?" Mr Le Carré had countered, pointing out that he was more concerned about saving lives than about Mr Rushdie's royalties, and that Mr Rushdie was ''self-canonizing'' and ''arrogant.''
Mr Rushdie was allowed the last word by the newspaper, and had gone on to say about Mr Le Carré: It's true I did call him a pompous ass, which I thought pretty mild in the circumstances. "Ignorant" and "semi-literate" are dunces' caps he has skilfully fitted on his own head.