No illusions, just reality

In Pakistan, the Shooter Is the Hero: The depressing public reaction to the assassination of Pakistani politician Salman Taseer:

“Nowadays, he’s perfectly heroic,” says Imran Shiekh, the owner of a small jewelry store tucked away in the market’s depths. “Qadri did the right thing, and he did it well. Ninety-nine percent of Pakistanis would agree.”

I’d like to see some surveys on this. But note the following results from Pew Global Attitudes Project:

We shouldn’t oversimplify of course. It is not always easy to draw straight lines between illiberal attitudes and sectarianism. Egypt by these number is just as deviated from Western liberal norms, but let us note:

On New Year’s Eve, Islamic terrorists in Egypt attacked a Coptic Christian church during religious services, killing more than 20 worshipers and wounding an estimated 100. The bombing occurred after months of increasing tensions between Egypt’s historic Coptic minority and Muslim fundamentalists, leading Coptic officials to wonder publicly at the ability of their community to remain in Egypt.

So what happened in the wake of that attack ought to be noted. Last Thursday, on the Coptic Christmas Eve, thousands of Egyptian Muslims showed up at Coptic churches around the country to offer themselves as “human shields” against attacks. The services were broadcast live on several Egyptian television stations.

All that being said, we need to accept and deal with Pakistan as it is, not how we wish it would be. Pakistan is very different from Western liberal nations. Far more alien than Turkey, and perhaps even Iran. After 9/11 I remember Pakistan’s ambassador Maliha Lodhi talking about Islam, geopolitics, and terrorism, on the radio. A caller questioned Pakistan’s status as an officially Islamic state. Ms. Lodhi did not flinch or equivocate, but defended Pakistan’s fundamental Islamic nature without any apology and total confidence. Totally reasonable, but can one imagine how Westerners would react to someone asserting that the United States is unapologetically a Christian nation? Actually, we do know, as the cultural center and liberal elements resist such sectarian assertions of fusion with national identity in explicit terms. But Western norms are fundamentally different.

Pre-modern civilizations, Greece, Rome, China, Islam, and India, had a conception of themselves and the Other, the barbarians, civilized and utterly savage. In the modern world we’ve turned away from such notions, but I suggest that perhaps such attitudes were luxuries of the Western Age. With a multi-polar world China, India, and the Islamic world, will all challenge the West. There will be points of commonality, but there will also be points of difference.

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