Whither Pakistan? Dare One Criticize a Muslim Country?

What I find so interesting about the present turmoil in Pakistan is the continuing and disproportionate hatred heaped upon Israel in the British media, despite the appalling chaos in the Muslim nation created during partition by Mohammed Ali Jinna and with the blessing of the Earl Mountbatten.

No one ever mentions the fact that one million people died during partition in 1947. The British media have obsessed for decades on the "millions" of Arab refugees whose descendants live in camps because of the advent of the Jewish state in 1948. For years it has been all the more intriguing to me that the Guardian could have printed an article entitled "Israel Simply Has No Right to Exist" (Faisal Bodi, January 3, 2001) and that not one Jew in Britain came out onto the streets to defile the Guardian Building, burn copies of the newspaper, or create mayhem around the country at the idea of Israel ceasing to exist. Imagine if I had dared entitle this piece, or the Pajamas piece I wrote in December, "Pakistan Simply Has No Right to Exist." I would have had to escape to a remote island in the Antarctic.

Israel came into being in the same timescale as Pakistan at the twilight of the British Empire. The similarity ends there. What I try to tell angry Britons at the dinner table or in the workplace is that Israel rose from the ashes of the Shoah and that a people facing global annihilation was entitled to a small strip of land that had already begun to bloom after a hundred years of cultivation by previous generations of Jewish immigrants. Unlike in Pakistan, other faiths can worship inside Israel. Unlike in Pakistan, gay men and women can stage an annual parade. And except for Islamic terrorism from Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and Hezbollah, Israel is a safe holiday destination for people of all nationalities and religious beliefs. In Britain it is customary for young people to enjoy a "gap year" and I always tell my incredulous friends that Israel is an ideal destination for safety and home-style comforts. They either break into a tirade about not sending their children to an "apartheid state that engages in genocide" or they simply do not believe me, thinking it a military garrison with tank commanders in Ray-Bans using Christian and Palestinian children for target practice.

When Daniel Pearl ventured into Pakistan to explore the world of Anglo-Muslim shoe-bomber Richard Reid, he was kidnapped, murdered, and mutilated. Israel-haters will argue that Rachel Corrie ventured into Gaza and was killed by an Israeli bulldozer. The difference is that Danny Pearl thought he was entering a bustling metropolis but ended up being shown not-quite-traditional Pakistani hospitality.

But no, the Muslim community in Great Britain rails about Zionists under every bed when it ought to be engaging in frank discussions about the endless chaos and violence in Pakistan. The majority of British Muslims are Pakistani; I live in a community that is heavily Muslim and my nearest neighbors are Pakistani. (I often try to explain to my fellow Philadelphians the vast contrast between life in a major American city and that in what Melanie Phillips calls "Londonistan.") I have watched Iqbal grow up and am now watching his little children grow up. On 9/11 Iqbal shocked my street by laughing and saying, "America finally got it in the neck," but he has tried to mend fences with me. Notwithstanding this we know his children only watch Islamic television channels. If one takes a walk one finds oneself in a densely populated area of Muslims with endless shops, cafes, and pharmacies owned by Pakistanis, Iranians, Palestinians, and other Middle Eastern nationalities; what engages this population when its spokespeople appear on the BBC and other channels is the issue of the Palestinians.

The anger of the young Muslims loudly demonstrating against a British military parade on March 11 will ring alarm bells because the turmoil in Pakistan is expected by many to reverberate on Britain's streets. On March 16 demonstrators in Pakistan blamed the national unrest on anger at the U.S. and its drone attacks on Taliban hideouts. This is nonsense; the world knows that the turmoil relates to the firing of judges by Musharraf and the instability that has reigned since the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. It has been reported that many young Anglo-Muslims, including the "airline plot gang," study in radical madrassas in both Britain and Pakistan; the anger generated by this situation has spilled over onto the British mainland.

The present discord inside Pakistan was preceded by the recent fatal terror attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore on March 3, the worst incident of violence in world cricket since fans at Lord's Cricket Ground threw missiles at the Australian team in its match against Pakistan in June 2001. No cricketers died in the Lahore attack because the grenade thrown at their bus did not detonate; eight policemen were killed. (I had to chuckle when I saw Imran Khan saying the level of protection provided the Sri Lankans was a disgrace; here was the same man I had seen in 2005 at Canary Wharf joining an angry mob whose all-day rhetoric included the comparison of modern Muslims to an emasculated Hitler between the two world wars, rendered powerless by the Western powers.) The future of international cricket inside Pakistan is in doubt; in 2001 cricketer Steve Waugh warned "someone will be killed."

On March 16 at a meeting of a group for which I volunteer, an elderly British colleague said, "It enrages me when I think that the Jews came here in 1945 after seeing such unspeakable things perpetrated on their people, but not one of them rose up against British Christians; radical Muslims have never been threatened with annihilation like the Jews, but come here and use Britain as a platform for their grievances."

Here is what I have to say to our huge population of Anglo-Pakistanis: It is time to get your own house in order. It is time to stop demonizing enlightened, democratic, and dynamic Israel, which spends a great deal of its valuable man-hours and woman-hours defending itself against Islamic violence. When Israel "goes soft" it suffers. Now that Musharraf is gone from Pakistan the Taliban is gaining ground. In May 2005, Imran Khan inspired thousands of Pakistanis to take to the streets when Newsweek reported that American forces had defiled a Koran in Guantanamo Bay. I foresee the day when we will wake up one morning and find Pakistan overrun by extremists as loathsome as the ayatollahs of Iran.

There is a wonderful British expression, "teaching my grandmother to suck eggs," which means I need not tell PJM readers this, but for those not in the know or who might live on Mars, India and Pakistan are nuclear; instead of the media railing about the mortal danger from Israel and its putative nuclear capabilities, I suggest the world switch its paranoia mechanism to the turbulent tinderbox that is Pakistan and engage with this country's monumental crises before the world evaporates not from Israeli actions but from a crazed Taliban with a bomb.