Saturday, 26 February 2011

The niqab: a reader’s rejoinder to the Grand Moofti

Free will is an awesome thing. It allows humans to behave in accordance with their own beliefs, subject to any restrictions placed by law. An individual can be a vegetarian or teetotaller simply based on her belief about what is morally correct.
So it is with the niqab, or full face veil. The niqab is worn by some Muslim women who believe it is Islamically ordained. Other women shun even the simple hijab.
Last year I wrote an article in which I quoted the former head of Al-Azhar University to support the notion that the niqab is 'overkill.' My post elicited a spirited and detailed response from a reader. While I stand by my opinion, I do appreciate (positive or negative) feedback from readers.   
A Yemeni woman wearing the niqab
In the interest of debate, I reproduce the entire email below. Please note that I have made no adjustments of any sort to the original, e.g. the grammar, choice of words, typos and spelling remaining exactly as in the email.
Unfortunately, the author did not wish to reveal her name. Hence, I have coined a pseudonym for the author, found at the conclusion of the piece.  

"Assalamualakum brother in Islam,
It seems that you take in Sheikh Tantawi's fatwas readily just like every typical muslim in Singapore. He's a sheikh so anything goes. Al-Azhar for your information is not a fantastic Islamic University like everyone in Singapore/Malaysia/South East Asian region claimed it to be. There's alot of bid'ah in their teachings. In fact it's getting more secular by the day like Turkey. And anybody who claims that niqab has no relationship with Islam is clearly ignorant. And below is the evidence including references from hadith, Qur'an (interpretation of the verses by the sahaabah who has been given the glad tidings of paradise)and Islamic scholars:
1 – Evidence from the Qur'aan
Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):
"And tell the believing women to lower their gaze (from looking at forbidden things), and protect their private parts (from illegal sexual acts) and not to show off their adornment except only that which is apparent (like both eyes for necessity to see the way, or outer palms of hands or one eye or dress like veil, gloves, headcover, apron), and to draw their veils all over Juyoobihinna (i.e. their bodies, faces, necks and bosoms) and not to reveal their adornment except to their husbands, or their fathers, or their husband's fathers, or their sons, or their husband's sons, or their brothers or their brother's sons, or their sister's sons, or their (Muslim) women (i.e. their sisters in Islam), or the (female) slaves whom their right hands possess, or old male servants who lack vigour, or small children who have no sense of feminine sex. And let them not stamp their feet so as to reveal what they hide of their adornment. And all of you beg Allaah to forgive you all, O believers, that you may be successful"
[al-Noor 24:31]
The evidence from this verse that hijab is obligatory for women is as follows:
(a)       Allaah commands the believing women to guard their chastity, and the command to guard their chastity also a command to follow all the means of doing that. No rational person would doubt that one of the means of doing so is covering the face, because uncovering it causes people to look at it and enjoy its beauty, and thence to initiate contact. The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: "The eyes commit zina and their zina is by looking…" then he said, "… and the private part confirms that or denies it." Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 6612; Muslim, 2657.  
If covering the face is one of the means of guarding one's chastity, then it is enjoined, because the means come under the same ruling as the ends.  
(b)      Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning): "…and to draw their veils all over Juyoobihinna (i.e. their bodies, faces, necks and bosoms)  …". The jayb (pl. juyoob) is the neck opening of a garment and the khimaar (veil) is that with which a woman covers her head. If a woman is commanded to draw her veil over the neck opening of her garment then she is commanded to cover her face, either because that is implied or by analogy. If it is obligatory to cover the throat and chest, then it is more appropriate to cover the face because it is the site of beauty and attraction.  
(c)       Allaah has forbidden showing all adornment except that which is apparent, which is that which one cannot help showing, such as the outside of one's garment. Hence Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning): "…except only that which is apparent …" and He did not say, except that which they show of it. Some of the salaf, such as Ibn Mas'ood, al-Hasan, Ibn Sireen and others interpreted the phrase "except only that which is apparent" as meaning the outer garment and clothes, and what shows from beneath the outer garment (i.e., the hem of one's dress etc.). Then He again forbids showing one's adornment except to those for whom He makes an exception. This indicates that the second adornment mentioned is something other than the first adornment. The first adornment is the external adornment which appears to everyone and cannot be hidden. The second adornment is the inward adornment (including the face). If it were permissible for this adornment to be seen by everyone, there would be no point to the general wording in the first instance and this exception made in the second.
2 – Evidence from the Sunnah that it is obligatory to cover the face
The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: "When any one of you proposes marriage to a woman, there is no sin on him if he looks at her, rather he should look at her for the purpose of proposing marriage even if she is unaware." Narrated by Ahmad. The author of Majma' al-Zawaa'id said: its men are the men of saheeh.
The evidence here is the fact that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said there is no sin on the man who is proposing marriage, subject to the condition that his looking be for the purpose of proposing marriage. This indicates that the one who is not proposing marriage is sinning if he looks at a non-mahram woman in ordinary circumstances, as is the one who is proposing marriage if he looks for any purpose other than proposing marriage, such as for the purpose of enjoyment etc.
If it is said that the hadeeth does not clearly state what is being looked at, and it may mean looking at the chest etc, the response is that the man who is proposing marriage looks at the face because it is the focus for the one who is seeking beauty, without a doubt.  
When the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) commanded that women should be brought out to the Eid prayer place, they said, "O Messenger of Allaah, some of us do not have jilbaabs." The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said, "Let her sister give her one of her jilbaabs to wear." Narrated by al-Bukhaari and Muslim.
This hadeeth indicates that the usual practice among the women of the Sahaabah was that a woman would not go out without a jilbaab, and that if she did not have a jilbaab she would not go out. The command to wear a jilbaab indicates that it is essential to cover. And Allaah knows best.  
It was narrated in al-Saheehayn that 'Aa'ishah (may Allaah be pleased with her) said: The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) used to pray Fajr and the believing women would attend the prayer with him, wrapped in their veils, then they would go back to their homes and no one would recognize them because of the darkness. She said: If the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) saw from the women what we have seen, he would have prevented them from coming to the mosques as the Children of Israel prevented their women.  
A similar report was also narrated by 'Abd-Allaah ibn Mas'ood (may Allaah be pleased with him).  
The evidence from this hadeeth covers two issues:  
1 – Hijaab and covering were the practice of the women of the Sahaabah who were the best of generations and the most honourable before Allaah.  
2 – 'Aa'ishah the Mother of the Believers and 'Abd-Allaah ibn Mas'ood (may Allaah be pleased with them both), who were both known as scholars with deep insight, said that if the Messenger (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) had seen from women what they had seen, he would have prevented them from coming to the mosques. This was during the best generations, so what about nowadays?!  
It was narrated that Ibn 'Umar said: The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: "Whoever lets his garment drag out of pride, Allaah will not look at him on the Day of Resurrection." Umm Salamah said, "What should women do with their hems?" He said, "Let it hang down a handspan." She said, "What if that shows her feet?" He said, "Let it hang down a cubit, but no more than that." Narrated by al-Tirmidhi; classed as saheeh by al-Albaani in Saheeh al-Tirmidhi.  
This hadeeth indicates that it is obligatory for women to cover their feet, and that this was something that was well known among the women of the Sahaabah (may Allaah be pleased with them). The feet are undoubtedly a lesser source of temptation than the face and hands, so a warning concerning something that is less serious is a warning about something that is more serious and to which the ruling applies more. The wisdom of sharee'ah means that it would not enjoin covering something that is a lesser source of temptation and allow uncovering something that is a greater source of temptation. This is an impossible contradiction that cannot be attributed to the wisdom and laws of Allaah.  
It was narrated that 'Aa'ishah said: The riders used to pass by us when we were with the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) in ihraam. When they came near us we would lower our jilbaabs from our heads over our faces, and when they had passed by we would uncover our faces. Narrated by Abu Dawood, 1562, classed as saheeh.
 The words "When they came near us we would lower our jilbaabs from our heads over our faces" indicate that it is obligatory to cover the face, because what is prescribed in ihraam is to uncover it. If there was no strong reason to prevent uncovering it, it would be obligatory to leave it uncovered even when the riders were passing by. In other words, women are obliged to uncover their faces during ihraam according to the majority of scholars, and nothing can override something that is obligatory except something else that is also obligatory. If it were not obligatory to observe hijab and cover the face in the presence of non-mahram men, there would be no reason not to uncover it in ihraam. It was proven in al-Saheehayn and elsewhere that a woman in ihraam is forbidden to wear the niqaab (face veil) and gloves.  
Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah said: This is one of the things which indicate that the niqaab and gloves were known among women who were not in ihraam, which implies that they covered their faces and hands.  
These are nine points of evidence from the Qur'aan and Sunnah.  
The tenth is:  
Rational examination and analogy which form the basis of this perfect sharee'ah, which aims to help people achieve what is in their best interests and encourages the means that lead to that, and to denounce evil and block the means that lead to it.
If we think about unveiling and women showing their faces to non-mahram men, we will see that it involves many bad consequences. Even if we assume that there are some benefits in it, they are very few in comparison with its negative consequences. Those negative consequences include:
1 – Fitnah (temptation). By unveiling her face, a woman may be tempted to do things to make her face look more beautiful. This is one of the greatest causes of evil and corruption.  
2 – Taking away haya' (modesty, shyness) from women, which is part of faith and of a woman's nature (fitrah). Women are examples of modesty, as it was said, "more shy than a virgin in her seclusion." Taking away a woman's modesty detracts from her faith and the natural inclination with which she was created.  
3 – Men may be tempted by her, especially if she is beautiful and she flirts, laughs and jokes, as happens in the case of many of those who are unveiled. The Shaytaan flows through the son of Adam like blood.  
4 – Mixing of men and women. If a woman thinks that she is equal with men in uncovering her face and going around unveiled, she will not be modest and will not feel too shy to mix with men. This leads to a great deal of fitnah (temptation) and widespread corruption. Al-Tirmidhi narrated (5272) from Hamzah ibn Abi Usayd from his father that he heard the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) say, when he was coming out of the mosque and he saw men mingling with women in the street; the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said to the women, "Draw back, and do not walk in the middle of the road; keep to the sides of the road." Then the women used to keep so close to the walls that their garments would catch on the walls because they kept so close to them. Classed as hasan by al-Albaani in Saheeh al-Jaami', 929  
Adapted from the words of Shaykh Muhammad ibn 'Uthaymeen (may Allaah have mercy on him) in Risaalat al-Hijaab.  
And Allaah knows best.
This is a fatwa issued by one of the most famous and prominent Islamic scholar in history, Sheikh Ibn Uthaymeen. Are you suggesting that Sheikh Tantawi's fatwa should be heeded before the big scholars of Islam. Afterall Sheikh Tantawi is just another sheikh. He's not even a scholar and we know that he's been hired by the West to corrupt the religion from within. Go watch youtube videos of how the West hire 'Islamic Scholars'. They even admitted that if they can't take muslims out of their religion, they will change Islam itself. How? By hiring these so called Islamic scholars. And even if niqab is not obligatory, he has no right to force a woman to unveil herself. And I bet they forgot to add a remark he passed to the girl as soon as she removed her niqab. He said,' You're not even that attractive, why the need to put it on' Anybody who says this especially one who claims to be a sheikh and pass bodgy fatwas should be flogged. He has a lot to answer for on the day of judgement. Issuing a fatwa with ignorance. And creating hatred amongst the muslims. Imagine how many muslims are criticising our muslim sisters who are brave enough to put on the face veil despite the challenges facing them from the 'muslims' and non-muslims. I have studied on it, not from my own interpretation of the Qur'an but rather from the interpretation of the sahaabah found in hadiths and explanation by Islamic scholars. I do not think that it is obligatory but it is DEFINITELY Islamic. Niqab is Islamic. And those who label niqabis as deviated has surely wronged themselves and their sisters. Stop trying to please the West and stop apologising for your religion. And oh 'Grand' Mufti? What a joke. Only Allah (SWT) is grand."
Fatima Niqab binte Abdullah
Received by email on February 20, 2011

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Libya catches the ‘Tunisian Flu,’ the Arabian Peninsula resists

Change comes rapidly, more so if it has been repressed for several decades. Such is the case with the Arab world where the latest strongman facing extinction is Libya's Colonel Gaddafi. Libya follows hot on the heels of Egypt where former president Hosni Mubarak stepped down a few weeks ago.
Unplanned regime change is never easy. (Of course, as in Iraq, the Americans will testify to the difficulties of 'planned' regime change.) Egypt remains messy; future planning is fraught with peril. Near term, businesses do not invest, tourists cancel visits and economic activity in general suffers.
Nevertheless, Egypt's institutional governance structure remains largely intact. The unitary command structure of the Egyptian military is intact. The bureaucratic framework waits to implement orders from new rulers, whomsoever that may be.
Libya's scenario is different.
There are reports that air force pilots have defected to Malta rather than obey orders to bomb other Libyans. Libyan diplomats, including from Libya's mission at the United Nations, have resigned in protest at Gaddafi's use of force against protestors. In some instances, these same diplomats are calling for the Libyan military to overthrow Gaddafi's regime. 
A view of Ottoman Tripoli in 1675 (John Seller)
If Egypt is messy, Libya is potentially a disaster. There is every possibility the country degenerates into a 'free for all' melee once the existing power structure collapses.
Libya's institutional framework was always subject to the often eccentric whims of the Colonel. In the past, Gaddafi has even attempted to entirely disband the bureaucracy. Oil wealth and a harsh security regime stopped people from asking hard questions.  
Surely, the oil wealth still exists but in the past there was no Tunisian Flu. The Tunisian Flu does not spread like a normal viral infection. It spreads through the airwaves connecting the internet and more traditional forms of communication, the mobile phone.
To the Arab world's traditional ruling elites, the Tunisian Flu is deadlier than any other known virus. The ministries of health can buy inoculations for any sort of flu barring the Tunisian Flu. The new strand of virus is tantamount to biological warfare.
Within the Arabian Gulf, Bahrain has been notable for its relative political freedoms. It has had a noisy parliamentary structure for many years. Bahrain has always tolerated the odd demonstration or protest march, though hitherto none have posed a serious threat to the regime.
Bahrain is more vulnerable than the other Gulf Kingdoms to a change in governance structures. It suffers from sectarian cleavages exacerbated by perceptions that the ruling Sunni majority subtly discriminates against Shia Muslims, especially in immigration matters. Bahrain's depleted oil reserves mean the state's ability to spread largesse and quell unrest is limited.
No one is more aware of the stakes than Bahrain's royal family.
However, events in Bahrain are more important than they seem: the unrest provides a window into neighbouring Saudi Arabia. The Saudi regime is heavily invested in Bahrain, politically and economically. Saudi Arabia is the lynchpin for the Gulf region, a regional superpower not used to tolerating dissent.
Were the Bahrain royal family to be ousted, there is little doubt that some sort of a protest movement will develop in Saudi Arabia. Subsequently, the Iranian government might be tempted to quietly support the unrest so as to enhance its role as a regional superpower. In such a scenario, Iran's potentially increased influence over the crucial Straits of Hormuz will cause much consternation in the oil markets.  
Saudi Arabia is among the top producers of oil in the world. The country is also the 'swing producer' within the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), i.e. Saudi Arabia varies its production in line with oil's supply and demand dynamics to ensure a semblance of stability in the international market.  Any prolonged unrest within Saudi Arabia will have repercussions on the global energy market.
However, given the strategic nature of Saudi Arabia's oil industry there can be no doubt the authorities have a contingency plan to secure the country's oil facilities in the event of serious unrest. Surely, the increased protection will not be foolproof, nor will it be cheap. Oil prices may still spike, as they already have, at the hint of instability in the heart of the Arabian Peninsula. Nevertheless, the measures should keep oil flowing into the global energy markets.
Saudi Arabia does not have a Shia majority population, but the Shia community is concentrated in the oil rich eastern part of the country. Historically, the Shia community has little say in Saudi political system. Shia discontent spills over into violence periodically.
In the past, Saudi Arabia has dealt with serious unrest, bordering on insurgencies. Some may remember the take-over of the Holy Kaaba in Mecca by Islamic militants in the late 1970s. More recently, Al-Qaeeda inspired militants undertook a sustained campaign of terror against the Saudi government. Both threats were effectively neutralized by the regime.
Forty or so years ago, the domino theory dominated US political thought as it sought to contain communism in Southeast Asia and Eastern Europe. Communism may be dead and buried but the domino theory might soon return to vogue, at least to address change within the Arab world. 
The energy markets should not count on a quick and easy resolution to the current crisis in the Middle East. The Maghreb has undergone a revolution of sorts and its ripples are being felt in the oil-rich Gulf kingdoms. The law of unintended consequences may yet turn the Tunisian Flu into an Arabian plague.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Social integration, Singapore’s shariah law and Minister Mentor Lee

Singapore's Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew (MM Lee) did some straight talking recently. MM Lee is quoted as saying, "I would say today, we can integrate all religions and races except Islam... I think the Muslims socially do not cause any trouble, but they are distinct and separate.[i]"
MM Lee's comments were certainly not straight from the hip. They were well thought out and designed to encourage discussion on a tricky issue. A social debate made more urgent by the resurgence of orthodox Islamic fervour within Southeast Asia's Malay-Muslim heartlands of Malaysia and Indonesia.
Examples of the region's flirtation with Sunni orthodoxy include the detention and arrest of Shi'ite worshippers in Malaysia following a raid on a Shia place of worship. (Shias have been declared 'deviants' by SE Asia's orthodox Sunni theologians.) Increasing attacks on followers of a 'deviant' sect, the Qadianis, in Indonesia. Finally, a polarizing debate about Muslims celebrating Valentine's Day underscores the shrinking space for secular thought within Malaysian society.
Undoubtedly, Singaporean Muslims of all sects and denominations may feel secure in practicing religion in accordance with their personal conscience. There exist both Shia and Qadiani places of worship in Singapore. Yet, MM Lee's comments provide cause for all Singaporeans to pause and consider the basis for his remarks.[ii]
Undoubtedly, one reason that Singapore's Malay community feels itself to be part of a distinct and separate community is because the Republic of Singapore confers such distinct legal status on the Malay-Muslim community through the Administration of Muslim Law Act (AMLA).
For Muslims, AMLA is as much a part of Singapore's legal code as the Maintenance of Parents Act. AMLA is only applicable to all Singaporean Muslims, Malay or otherwise. No other religious or ethnic community in Singapore has a separate legal structure operating in parallel to Singapore's civil legal framework.
Muslims who disagree with any of AMLA's provisions have limited options to 'circumvent' AMLA. Hence, Muslims who do not conform to Singapore's interpretation of Islamic law, for reasons of personal conscience, must face the Republic's legal enforcement mechanisms.
No other religious community in Singapore must, by force of law, conform its behaviour to religious law. AMLA is enforced through separate shariah courts and its interpretations are 'guided' by an appointed religious statutory body.

There is considerable diversity within the Islamic world about the nature and interpretation of Islamic law. The above map illustrates the geographical influence of the main schools of Islamic law.(Source: Wikipedia)
Integration among diverse communities is carried out at a personal level. It cannot be forced upon individuals. Bonds created by a well designed school system and (for males) National Service work well in fostering linkages across class and ethnic structures. Nevertheless, social integration is a constant 'work in process.' There is always room for improvement.
Policymakers must respond to new challenges with creative solutions.
In the case of Singapore's Malay-Muslim community, one mechanism for reducing differentiation and perceptions of distinctiveness within the Malay-Muslim community is to repeal legislation specific to the Malay-Muslim community, i.e. AMLA. AMLA erects concrete boundaries between Singapore's various ethnic communities.
All Singaporeans must be subject to an identical legal framework, irrespective of religious persuasion. Religious law is not a solution for protecting Singapore's religious minorities. Civil law is sufficient.
Pious Muslims may choose to exercise state guaranteed freedoms in consonance with personal religious beliefs.
MM Lee's controversial comments on integration shed light on one peculiar aspect of Singapore's ethnic framework: the existence of Islamic shariah law for Singaporean Muslims. Policymakers must conduct a review of the need for shariah law within a theoretically secular state.

[i] The quotations have not been lifted directly from MM Lee's book. I am relying upon the blogosphere's accuracy for the quotations.
[ii] The Board of Directors of the Association of Muslim Professionals (AMP) issued a formal statement about MM Lee's comments. The insertion of a link to the statement should not be construed as an endorsement (or otherwise) of AMP's views.

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Fables of Pakistan’s Tezgam Express and the suspension of time

It is said that nobody walks in LA, unless they are compelled by circumstance. In Pakistan, few travel by train, unless they too are compelled by circumstances.  
So when I insisted on taking a train journey from Karachi to Multan, it seemed to most that I had lost my mind. Why would anyone wish to substitute a 90 minutes flight with a fifteen hour train journey?
Enter one of Pakistan Railways most well known trains, the Tezgam Express (loosely translated as the 'Rapid Express'), which travels from Karachi to Lahore. (In Pakistan, the better known 'inter-city' trains have names, e.g. the Khyber Mail, the Karakoram Express, the Moejodaro Express, etc.)
Pakistan Railways insignia
There is nothing rapid about the Tezgam. The approximately 966 kilometres Karachi to Multan journey took fifteen hours to complete at an average speed of 64 kilometres per hour. Surely, France's TGV or Japan's shinkansen with average speeds above 300 kilometres per hour put Pakistan Railways to shame.

However, despite the swanky swish of a modern bullet train or Swiss Rail punctuality, I would not give up the Tezgam for either system!

Train travel the way it was meant to be: lazily relaxed. Walking down train carriage corridors, as in 1960s mystery movies; feeling the strain on the locomotive as it pulled Tezgam's nineteen bogeys; being gently rocked to sleep in a swaying sleeper berth pulled by a decades old diesel electric engine. The adventure of buying dinner from the platform during a fifteen minutes halt at Hyderabad Station platform, drinking tea served by waiters darting in and out of carriages during a halt at smaller cities.
The final exploit: purchasing breakfast in Bahawalpur early in the morning in order to gulp it down during the remaining one hour before the Tezgam rolls into Multan. The charm of the 'Old' beats the efficiency of the 'New' in most things. Trains are no exception.
There are many ways to enjoy Pakistan, but all of them require the suspension of time. Pakistan cannot be enjoyed in a rush. Racing through Pakistan is like asking a short distance sprinter to run a long distance marathon. It is impossible.
And so it is with Pakistan Railways. The only way to enjoy being in this overtly Muslim nation is by adopting a Zen attitude. Embrace the chaos and stop searching for logic. Everyone plays a part within Pakistan's rational, hierarchical anarchy: the military, militants, politicians, mullahs, secularists, bureaucrats and common citizens.
Pakistan is full of stories found only in books or in one's imagination. Me, I hope to read more of her stories during my next epic train journey, from Lahore to Karachi by the Karakoram Express.

Thursday, 3 February 2011

American ‘terrorist’ arrested in Pakistan

An American male going by the name of Raymond Davis was recently arrested after shooting dead two civilians in a busy Lahore neighbourhood. Davis was initially described as a 'technical advisor' by the US government. In subsequent statements the US government 'changed' his status into a diplomat, thus claiming diplomatic immunity for Davis.
Yes, the American government is asking for diplomatic immunity so its citizens can kill young boys on Pakistan's streets. The incessant drone attacks in Pakistan's tribal areas are obviously not killing enough people to satisfy the US security establishment.
Following the incident, the US administration is acting with all the subtlety of a marine charged with breaking down the front door of a suspected Taliban insurgent's house in Kandahar.
To Pakistanis, the 'Lahore shootout' reflects the disdain with which Americans treat Pakistan. Pakistanis get the impression that American security experts in Langley and the Pentagon treat their nation as another 'occupied' country, along the lines of Iraq or Afghanistan. American 'technical advisers, 'often carrying a Blackwater visiting card, operate with an arrogance that only serves to diminish US interests within Pakistan.
Clearly, Pakistan's political establishment cannot wish the Davis case away. Simultaneously, President Zardari's weak People's Party government can ill afford another confrontation with either the US government or its domestic political foes. In effect, the Americans have handed another political gift horse to Pakistani Islamists and anti-US forces.
Unfortunately for the Americans, Pakistan is not as compliant a client state as Iraq or Afghanistan. Davis especially must be learning this lesson the hard way; in a Pakistani jail where his judicial remand has just been extended by another eight days.
Opposition politicians, a vibrant media, an assertive judiciary and a politically aware population are difficult constituencies to appease for an ineffective people's party government. Even if Zardari and his cohorts wish to appease the Americans, back door dealings will have wait until after national emotions have cooled. Davis, meanwhile, will likely have to spend another few months in a Pakistani jail contemplating his own actions.
The Lahore shootout is a test case for Pak-US relations.

The Americans have behaved badly, not just in allowing their security contractors to equate Pakistan's streets with Kabul's but also in their subsequent statements.
The 'dirt' associated with the episode just keeps oozing. There are constant questions about Davis' real identity, the authenticity of his passport, false statements to the Lahore police about withdrawing money from a local bank, possession of illegal weapons, carrying six cellular sim cards of various mobile phone networks and so on.
However, one thing is clear, if a Pakistani 'diplomat' shot and killed two persons on the streets of any American city there would be hell to pay – and international media headlines would not forget the matter for weeks. But perhaps the Pakistani Foreign Office and the US State Department disagree on the job description of a diplomat.