More on Afridi

Looks like Afridi’s comments (similar to the ones I talked about in my previous post) are raising quite a storm in India and elsewhere, especially in the online community. He said something to the effect that Indians do not have as large a heart as Pakistanis and Muslims do. Since the proverbial fit hit the shan, Afridi has gone into damage control mode claiming that he was quoted out of context.

Afridi. Image source:

The fury that came out of the Indian online community either in support of or against Afridi had the usual Aman-ki-Asha defense or Pakistan-is-a-terror-supporter attack. I will not comment on either side of the arguments except that I saw many good arguments on both sides. However, I do wish to make a point about “Pakistan is a terrorist state” versus “Pakistanis are terrorist sympathizers” argument that seems to have conveniently folded itself into the argument associated with Afridi’s statements.

On one side, while many agree that the political establishment in Pakistan sympathizes with and actively supports terrorist acts against India, they caution that one should not claim that the state’s support for terrorism is the same as the people’s support for terrorism much like Muage vs. Zimbabweans. On the other side, there are many who argue that a state establishment cannot function without an approval from the masses (even a tacit approval through silence is sufficient). In the latter camp, Greatbong argues that assassination of moderates like Taseer points to a popular sympathy (albeit a tacit one) for Islamic fundamentalism.

I agree with the sentiment that one should not equate the actions of the political establishment with the people of the state. This statement is easy to defend when talking about the people of the state, but the same arguments do not hold when you are considering individuals. The difference is the similar to how statistical inferences, while applicable to a large dataset, become irrelevant when considering the outcome of a single event. Let me explain. While the American public may not favor massive human rights violations in Iraq and may even be against the war in Iraq, you cannot claim the same to be true of some American individual. I know many Americans who actively support America’s invasion of Iraq and deposing of Saddam Hussain. I also know many Americans who oppose it.

The American I know who oppose the Iraq war are quick to blame their political establishment and, if pressed, are willing to offer their apologies to Iraqies and an outright admission that they oppose their goverment’s actions.

Let’s go back and consider Afridi’s comments specifically with respect to this argument ”Pakistan is a terrorist state” versus “Pakistanis are terrorist sympathizers”. Reacting to Gautam Gambhir’s statement that India’s victory over Pakistan will help soothe the pain over 26/11 Mumbai attacks, Afridi said: “I think they were very stupid comments by Gautam Gambhir. I was not expecting this from Gautam. This is all politics, what do you know about who carried out the Mumbai attacks?” [source]

Despite overwhelming evidence that 26/11 attacks received support from Pakistani establishment, Afridi asserts that there is no knowledge of the perpetrators of 26/11. He could have distanced himself from the whole thing by simply saying “This is just politics.” and stopping there. But he did not. For some reason he felt compelled to defend the Pakistani establishment. That sounds like Afridi is batting for the Pakistani establishment. So I cannot give Afridi a reprieve on the ”Pakistan is a terrorist state” versus “Pakistanis are terrorist sympathizers” schism.

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