Blood­stained memo­ri­als to a life

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Books -

IT is im­pos­si­ble to read Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion: Is­lam, Democ­racy and the West with­out be­ing starkly con­scious of the dra­matic events that pre­ceded its pub­li­ca­tion. It was com­pleted, so we are told, last year, on the same De­cem­ber morn­ing its au­thor was as­sas­si­nated dur­ing her cam­paign to re­gain the prime min­is­ter­ship of Pak­istan. And in the open­ing chap­ter, Bhutto de­scribes how the man­u­script it­self was maimed dur­ing the home­com­ing pa­rade in Karachi that ended her years of ex­ile.

A sui­cide bomb­ing killed 179 peo­ple at that pa­rade, which Bhutto sur­vived, in part thanks to the young men who acted as hu­man shields to pro­tect her. As she de­scribes: ‘‘ Within hours of my reach­ing Pak­istan, some of the pages of this book would be sym­bol­i­cally charred by fire and splat­tered with the blood and flesh of dis­em­bod­ied in­no­cents thrown up by dev­as­tat­ing ter­ror­ist bombs.’’

No doubt this im­age of the blood- con­se­crated man­u­script is in­tended to im­press the im­por­tance of its mes­sage on the reader. But it had the op­po­site ef­fect on me; I phys­i­cally re­coiled and slammed the book shut. And I re­mem­bered Asif, one of the young men who Bhutto’s po­lit­i­cal party had sought to re­cruit as they trawled the coun­try from one end to the other in search of peo­ple who could be per­suaded or paid to at­tend her grand home­com­ing. Asif’s dis­dain for such of­fers turned to out­right dis­gust af­ter the pa­rade’s bloody con­clu­sion. ‘‘ They of­fered to pay us. Pay us to travel all that way, just to be killed.’’

In the end, Bhutto paid for her po­lit­i­cal am­bi­tions with her life. But it is worth re­mem­ber­ing that she was pre­pared to pay with the lives of oth­ers as well, re­gard­ing with ap­par­ent equa­nim­ity a se­cu­rity strat­egy that con­sisted of in­su­lat­ing her­self with a gen­er­ous layer of bod­ies be­long­ing to peo­ple whose loy­alty she ex­tolled but whose lives she does not seem to have val­ued highly.

Two strands run through Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion . The first out­lines Bhutto’s per­sonal po­lit­i­cal phi­los­o­phy. Here, she re­jects claims by Mus­lims and non- Mus­lims that Is­lamic and West­ern val­ues are fun­da­men­tally in­com­pat­i­ble. Bhutto and her col­lab­o­ra­tor Mark Siegel cob­ble to­gether ev­i­dence from a range of Mus­lim schol­ars to ar­gue that Is­lam in essence is demo­cratic in spirit, tol­er­ant of other reli­gions and sup­port­ive of women’s rights.

There is a lengthy re­pu­di­a­tion of Samuel Hunt­ing­ton’s clash of civil­i­sa­tions the­sis, which

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.