June 15, 2011 Special Dispatch No. 3916

Noted Pakistani Author on 'Radicalization Everywhere' in Pakistani Society: Koranic Ringtone on Cell Phones 'Prepares the Bed of a Radical Nursery'

June 15, 2011
Pakistan | Special Dispatch No. 3916

Burqa-clad women enforcing Islamic Sharia code in Islamabad in 2007

In a recent article, Pakistani author and commentator Naeem Tahir argued that Islamic radicalization has seeped into in the Pakistani society on a mass scale. He noted how Islamic symbols such as Koranic ringtones on cell phones are used to influence public mind and further commercial interests, despite causing disrespect to the holy book of Islam.

In the article titled "Radicalization Everywhere," Naeem Tahir noted:"By propagating this misplaced religiosity, the person [who uses the ringtones] prepares the bed of a radical nursery. Both purchasing and playing the tune have negative connotations. There is a strong chance of disrespect for the recitation [of the Koranic verse used in the ringtone]."

Commenting on mass-scale radicalization in Pakistani society, the Pakistani writer also cited a recent case of Muslim legislators belonging to the ruling Pakistan Muslim League (N) party who objected to their fellow member Kamran Michael presenting the provincial budget for 2011, because he is not a Muslim.[1]

Following are excerpts from his article:[2]

"The Only Purpose… [the Koranic Ringtones] Can Serve is the Strengthening of a Radicalized Mindset"

"You call the mobile number of an acquaintance and what you may hear is recitation from the Holy Koran or a naat (hymn). The first impression is that this person, having the recitation of the Holy Koran as his 'call tune,' is very pious or religious because he/she is reminding us of the virtues of listening to the Koran. However, one wonders about the location of the phone when the bell rings. Could it be in a bathroom? Could the person be sitting on the toilet throne? Could the phone be lying at a place not suitable for the recitation of the Koran?

"Such ringtones – recitations from the Holy Koran – are an exploitation of public sentiments that hold Islam in reverence, and are commercially beneficial to the seller of the recording as a phone 'tune.'

"The person who buys it perhaps feels that he is doing a service to the religion by reminding others. In fact, he promotes commercial exploitation. By propagating this misplaced religiosity, the person prepares the bed of a radical nursery.

"Both purchasing and playing the tune have negative connotations. There is a strong chance of disrespect to the recitation. Even when the phone is answered, the recitation is abruptly cut off – not a mark of respect. The person who opted to adopt such a tune is falsely relieved of his duty to religion. His primary duty is clear personal understanding and actions according to the message of the Koran, and not just making others listen to a tune. The only purpose it can serve is the strengthening of a radicalized mindset.

"The attributes of God Almighty written on pieces of tin and nailed to trees is a common sight. Soon these were dotted with bird droppings. In a windstorm, some of these may well fall onto the roadside. Why did anyone think it necessary to display the attributes of the Almighty on trees? Two possible reasons: a) he obtains some sort of business benefit in manufacturing and installation because the person who is given the proposal will find it hard to refuse for fear of being labelled un-Islamic, and b) to create a mindset by showing religious symbols and overwhelming passersby. Both these purposes serve the ruthless attempt of financial benefit and subtle radicalization."

"I Saw a Photograph… of a Person Wearing a Typical White Cap and a Beard, Chalking Graffiti On A Wall That Read: 'Talibanization is the Only Way For the Survival of This Nation"'

"Several Urdu newspapers use Koranic verses in their texts somewhere or the other. Is it not exploitation to sanctify a commercial daily newspaper by sticking in Koranic verses? We all know the use these newspapers are put to later on – mostly trampled, made into wrappers for comestibles, and then thrown into the wastepaper basket. Is it okay to let the name of the Almighty or a part of his message be treated in this way? The only thing achieved by the publisher is perhaps commercial advantage by appearing 'acceptable' to a public that holds religion dear to its heart. In a quiet way, such newspapers or magazines try to add 'sanctity' to their publications and influence the reader's mindset.

"I have also seen posters carrying the 'Bismillah' [To Begin in the Name of Allah] phrase and lying on roadsides being trampled.

"It is a common sight for someone to stop beside your car at a road crossing and try to sell the Ayatul Kursee (Verse of the Throne) or other such material, and you buy it with a mixed feeling of charity and religious duty. In fact, it serves none of these purposes; the tablet only hangs on the rear view mirror, promotes a radicalized display and increases the profit margin of the manufacturer. These tablets are not thrown away because of 'fear.' Fear has always been an instrument of oppression used by the extremists. Islam is love. Let us not mix Islam with fear and serve someone else's purpose.

"Some time ago, one of my friends claimed that now 97% of the people in our public have a Talibanized attitude. I laughed at his exaggeration. But, three days ago, I saw a photograph in an English daily of a person wearing a typical white cap and a beard, chalking graffiti on a wall that read, 'Talibanization is the only way for the survival of this nation.' I had to pause and think about my friend's assessment. Maybe he was right."

"I Say 'Everywhere' in the Title of This Piece Because Radicalization is Deeply Infested; In the Courts, Terror Suspects are Allowed to Get Away More Often…"

"Have we lost the distinction between a true peaceful Muslim and a Talibanized individual? Have we all gotten terribly confused? Do we not realize how different the Koranic message and the Salafis' extremist interpretation, followed by Osama bin Laden and his disciples, are? I say 'everywhere' in the title of this piece because radicalization is deeply infested. In the courts, terror suspects are allowed to get away more often than not – usually on the plea of lack of evidence [as an excuse to free a militant]! Would a trained terrorist leave a trail of evidence behind for the convenience of prosecutors…?

"As for the [military] establishment, I need not say much. Radicalization is dangerously entrenched and is evident. Educational institutions and syllabi – it exists 'everywhere.'

"Finally, notice this. An English newspaper of June 7 said on its front page, 'In Punjab, a Christian cannot present the provincial budget. Some… [ruling party legislators] object to the faith of fellow party member, Kamran Michael.'

"The promoters of extremism have gradually and schematically radicalized society in the last 60 years. The following of this faith is increasingly accompanied by the show of it. The show is meant to influence. Therefore, crowd psychology works and oppression is created. By and by, radicalization spreads. From this nursery, the extremist takes birth. This is what my friend meant – 97% of our society is a fertile nursery for radicals…"


[1] The Express Tribune (Pakistan), June 7, 2011. Kamran Michael ultimately presented the provincial budget on June 11, 2011.

[2] Daily Times (Pakistan), June 11, 2011. The text of the article has been lightly edited for clarity.

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