The current resurgence of Islam, particularly in the Middle East, has thrown up all kinds of questions. (See news story, April 20 issue, p. 46.) At the far edge of that region is Pakistan, where a stern religious traditionalism has now been introduced, decreeing public stoning, flogging, and the chopping off of a hand or foot as legal punishments. Adultery and rape are capital offenses: lesser (though still severe) penalties attach to theft, slander, and the use of alcohol. The country’s military ruler, General Zia ul-Haq, told journalists that Islam was “a benign religion,” adding: “A little knock on the knuckles will do you the world of good. Fear is a deterrent. Man basically understands a little toughness.”

Behind the general’s policies lie centuries of history out of which the professedly Christian West has not emerged with clean hands. Islam has not forgotten two centuries of medieval Crusades. Christian leaders preached them, financed them, led them, made of them a Holy War, and popes granted indulgences to warriors, even though they committed atrocities on civilian populations.

Only in the mid-twentieth century did Pakistan, part of the old Indian Empire, emerge from a long period of colonial subservience. The same could be said of a large part of the Muslim world of 720 million persons from West Africa to Indonesia.

It is a world that Westerners do not understand very well, if at all. In Muslim eyes, for example, it is wrong to think that religion and politics should not be mixed. There is, indeed, powerful impetus for the Sons of the Prophets in the Koranic injunction (13:11): “God changes not the condition of a people who will not change it themselves.” Given that philosopy, there is nothing abnormal in a revolutionary ...

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