Tuesday, 18 March 2008

The Mysteries of the 'Muslim Mind'

For those who wish to unlock the mysteries of the 'Muslim Mind' I refer you to one of the best articles I have read in a long, long time. It is by Barnett Rubin and can be found here at the Informed Comment Global Affairs blog. Here is the money quote:

"Recently when a reporter who was gearing up for his first trip to the region by reading books on theology and political ideology asked me how it was possible for Hanafi Muslims like the Taliban to ally with Wahhabis like al-Qaida -- was it because the Deobandi school was closer to Wahhabism? I replied (with a pinch of exaggeration) that this had nothing to do with anything, and to understand the Taliban he would be better off looking into the price of bread.

Outside of Afghanistan people want to know if Deobandis are a type of Hanafis that are closer to Wahhabis, but inside Afghanistan all people think about is the price of bread."

This is so true. To some observers (including myself), it had become patently obvious that the PML-Q was going to be trounced in the elections (as long as they were unrigged) simply because of the wheat crisis in the country. After seeing lines of over 1000 people, mostly women, waiting for days outside government utility stores in the hope of being able to buy wheat, the mixture of despair and anger felt by the poor was all too palpable. And even when the PML-Q tried to blame the wheat shortage on the PPP and the unrest following Bhutto's assassination, the charge simply would not stick as the shortages dragged on and on, and their own government's role in manipulating wheat production figures and wheat smuggling became apparent.

To the average schmoe in Afghanistan/Pakistan etc., the issues of Jihad, Sharia, Palestine etc. really don't matter. They just want bread. Take, for an example, our cook. Over the last couple of weeks he would ask for updates about the political situation. Has the new Prime Minister been selected? When will the new Prime Minister be selected? Why is it taking so long for the Prime Minister to be selected? Yesterday his patience was wearing thin. With no Prime Minister yet, he commented, who are we going to complain to about the high price of wheat and food?

The NRO, the Afghan war, Sharia, Kashmir, Iraq, corruption, etc. None of that is what counts. Quiet simply, what matters is the price of bread.

Edit: And of course not long after I wrote this post I came across this article in today's papers about the bread shortage in Egypt and President Mubarak's attempts to combat it.

1 comment:

NB said...

Good point. I wonder how things would have panned out if the wheat crisis hadnt come along.

Also good to see your back to blogging!