The Amendment of Excommunication

Source: Dawn

Source: Dawn

It has been 40 years since the passage of the Second Amendment to the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

Probably this is a one of a kind legislation in the history of the world, at least up till that time. The provision declared Ahmedi Muslim or Ahmediyya sect (also commonly referred to Qadianis), whichever is correct, as Non-Muslims.

This would be a great shock for any Ahmedi citizen living in Pakistan, and considering it is a largely Punjabi sect, many of them did too and still do consider themselves Muslims living in Pakistan today. It would also be a great matter of interest to a Muslim, particularly those eager to see this provision passed, with the religious political leaders instrumental in its realization.

However, for someone who is not interested in either of these groups, other than that they are the citizens of this country, there is a reason why it still is a matter of great concern. It is a matter of great concern for anyone interested in secularism because it is a provision of law respecting the establishment of a religion, or at least favoring one unnecessarily.

Apparently, the provision only seems to be just another jolly good case of casting one religious cult out of the broader circle of a larger faith, but it is much more than that in this case. In this context, this excommunication pretty much means legalization of social condemnation, leading to trivializing of their persecution.

In the 21st century Pakistan, the Ahmedis almost enjoy pretty much the same social popularity and the citizenship status that the Jews enjoyed in the Third Reich. The only difference, perhaps, is concentration camps. And of course, the Holocaust.

To someone who wants a secular constitution in place, eliminating and prohibiting any religious law, the Second Amendment is a disgrace.

Source: Dawn

Source: Dawn

It is an understatement to claim that it was put into effect as an act of appeasement of the religious clerics such as Abul A’ala Maududi, whose support was necessary to unite the country under the then Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. This provision seems to have the blessing of the supposedly secular bureaucratic establishment of the state to this day.

But it is important to make another point here. Our commitment to and sympathy for any religious group should be for their civil rights and free exercise of religion, which must not include intrusion on private rights. For any further approval as members of the society, they would have to remain out of political roles in public life and the law as much as possible as a religious community.

Now just as giving a state under the control of Sunnis and Shias can produce such disastrous results, it would not be wise to trust a group such as the Ahmedis to involve religion into politics and state affairs. Only strictly sticking to the secular principles would guarantee the right solution instead of taking sectarian sides.

What a religion decides about another is none of the business of the state, as long as it does not involve the violation of personal freedom of even a single individual.

This is precisely why the Second Amendment is wrong and should be repealed.

Regardless of what mainstream Muslims and Ahmedi Muslims may think of the excommunication affair.

Jinnah, Secular Pakistan & False Heroes

Source: Express Tribune

Source: Express Tribune

Often September 11 is a day when you could find people having a debate about secularism in Pakistan here and there. It is also the 9/11 anniversary, but let’s keep the conversation to secularism.

The death anniversary of founder of Pakistan Muhammad Ali Jinnah is considered a moment for this debate, primarily due to a speech he delivered on August 11, 1947.

However, the proponents of Islamic Republic who claim he was not secular do have a point. Ah, Islamic Republic, what an oxymoron.

The day every single secular bone in Mr. Jinnah was dead when he decided to join the cause of the Muslim League.

Call it the bigotry of Hindu leaders or the failure of Indian National Congress to suck up to the unreasonable demands of separate electorate, but that act should sum it up for anyone, if not the disastrous partition of 1947.

Needless deaths. Needless riots. Needless stupidity which has now become synonymous to the Indian people.

The supposedly secular Jinnah, who reportedly got furious over someone calling him the King of Pakistan, was perfectly alright with the dangerous slogan “Pakistan ka matlab kya, La ilaha il Allah” or “What is the meaning of Pakistan? No god but Allah.”

But a lot of people even claim that such slogan was a later invention, and there is no wonder not many would believe them.

And what of the forsaken millions of oppressed Muslim left to suffer at the hands of “Hindu imperialists”, who certainly would be seeing this as an opportunity for revenge for over five centuries of Muslim rule?

At another instance, you find him saying that the state of Pakistan would be an Islamic State modeled after the City State of Medina established by Prophet Muhammad himself. He has also referred to Islam as democracy. I know a lot of people would defend this statement, but this calls for a serious reality check.

In other words, Jinnah was one of the liberal Muslims who deemed the sort of state as the Medina to be a perfectly safe constitution for the non-Muslim community. The sort of liberal Muslims who are under the delusion that Islam provides safety to the non-Muslim communities through its message of universal peace.

Now Pakistani secularists, most of them with the center-left PPP and ANP have a dilemma. How to pitch secularism to an Islamic fundamentalist crowd, raised on admiring the merits of the Caliphate.

Perhaps in the world of cults and personality worshipers, what is missing in Pakistan for the failure of the secular movement is the lack of real heroes. Secular circles are usually seen hailing Jinnah and Bhutto as their leaders and heroes, while they should be the ones in the forefront to criticize them.

Source: ppp.org.pk

Source: ppp.org.pk

Why not openly endorse Jawaharlal Nehru as a secular leader rather than Jinnah, and why not discard an Islamic Socialist like Zulfikar Ali Bhutto who signed the Second Amendment?

I know a lot of folks recognize atheist freedom fighter Bhagat Singh as a hero. I am all for choosing Benazir Bhutto as a relatively better secular and surely a liberal leader and I am glad that we have leaders such as Sherry Rehman and Bushra Gohar among us.

Though what is needed is a consensus on secularism. The left should not and must not have a monopoly over this issue. A secular right is badly needed in the sub continent.

But stick with the August 11, 1947 speech by all means to haunt Islamists. I actually respect the man’s acknowledgement of keeping religion separate from the state. However, his actions are hardly coherent with his words.

In any case, rest assured that Jinnah was no secular hero. Primarily, because of his politics under Muslim League as Muslims are not a nation or an ethnic group. It is a religious group and obtaining a state for it would mean giving up the secular cause and taking up a religious one.

As a matter of fact, the Indian Jamaat-e-Islami of the time would have offered some relative sanity if you were a Jinnah follower.

If only we would have the courage to admit that with such an artificially created religious demographic, Pakistan was wired to be an Islamic state from the very beginning. Little else would be expected from a political party thriving on the politics of discrimination and separate electorates.

While my opinion has changed about Muhammad Ali Jinnah over time, my view pertaining to secularism and logical political choices remains the same.

You don’t have to follow someone’s example to do the right thing. Jinnah was a politician, and therefore, his contradictions only make sense.

Just use your brain as secularism is the most reasonable, uncontroversial, universally acceptable and common sense social contract.

In the words of an acquaintance, former civil servant K. M. Cheema, the case for secularism must stand by itself.

We Win or No Democracy

Source: AP/Indian Express

Source: AP/Indian Express

The current political crisis in Pakistan is a case of dangerous and deluded impostors posing as saviors and false prophets, playing with the hopes of children.

We have a political group in our country which is willing to accept democracy only if it manages to win an election. It is willing to accept the function of a state if only it submits to their dictates.

And if not, then the democratic system they so disapprove of must go in favor of military rule, or even mob rule, no matter if nearly 60% of the population voted for it.

They would rather see the military rule established, then see this corrupt, unjust democracy exist.

In other words, a considerable number of people in this country need babysitting. Actually, babies are easier to manage.

It is a world of well meaning idiots who believe that the eschatological Messiah has arrived, and no one else has the right to rule. Like followers of a cult’s true prophet, they would bow their heads to every demand he makes.

It is a world of delusional moralists who would cite fundamental rights to justify their excesses as they would selectively invoke Islam and Hadith, while otherwise having contempt for democracy.

It is a world of audacious cynics whose day would not pass without making a dozen jests about the futility of democracy and the rule of law.

It is a world of self-righteous patriots who would gladly jump to shout treason and would justify insulting and storming the symbols of the state.

It is a world in which there is no room for dissent.

Yet their struggle must go on for true democracy, which is as elusive as the cryptic true Islam that they follow. One that is being  perpetually misinterpreted.

Their struggle must go on until the demands from their beloved leader are met, in the exact order and no matter how unreasonable they sound.

But the protest must go on till true justice is served.

Until this air conditioned populist revolution is brought about.

Until the ultimate act of salvation is attained.

Until the Mighty Imran Khan becomes the Prime Minister.

And the President, and the Chief Justice, and the Caretaker, and the Emir, and the Law.

The One Role I Would Have Loved Robin Williams to Play

Source: grio.com

Source: grio.com

I could not possibly have been more devastated to hear any news from Hollywood than the death of Robin Williams.

I always anticipated this day with dread and anxiety. But I never imagined it would be upon us this soon. This soon.

August 10, 2014.

Heartbreak.

Well now that he’s dead, I can’t meet him. Lucky folks like Michael Dare have, but he’s a star himself. To me, at least. Oh well, there goes one more item off my bucket list.

But I hope he would be in great peace, if only oblivion and non existence, unlike the predicament as in What Dreams May Come. I just watched that film right after his death and you can’t begin to imagine how ironically overwhelming that was. I guess you can.

But what I greatly respect him for is that he committed suicide. An intellectual act that I have great respect and sympathy for. Even though it may not have been planned in this case. Even though it is largely maligned and even Robin’s case was encountered with malicious and insensitive comments.

And for those who say that suicide is selfish, so be it. Selfish is not necessarily bad or evil. Everybody is selfish. Love is selfish.

But speaking of suicide, for years, I have been longing to see him in one role. A role that personally fascinates me like very few others.

The role of Do. The role of Marshall Applewhite, the founder of the Heaven’s Gate Cult.

A shocking piece of news that hit the world in March 1997, right at the time when the spectacular Hale-Bopp comet was kissing our South Western skies.

OK, now, I am not pretending that I am a filmmaker, though I write scripts, but let’s assume for a minute that I am. Or perhaps even a financier, or just somebody who is working chores for the production company. But somebody involved in the production.

Now I would have loved to be a part of the production in some way.

I would have at least loved to watch that film. But that opportunity is lost forever.

So many losses to mourn.

I believe suicides are largely misunderstood, but Marshall Applewhite’s was a special one. His cult adds just so much more mystery to it, which makes for a great story that the world needs to know. No matter how distant and detached its portrayal may be.

I bet a lot of kids born in the new millenium haven’t even heard of it.

I know a lot of you would call, or at least consider, me a dick for putting Marshall Applewhite in for what looks more or less like a eulogy post for Robin Williams. But I am actually so overwhelmed by this that this is all what I can sincerely write about.

I used to watch Applewhite’s or Do’s video for hours. And there is something about his eyes that mesmerized you. And just like everyone who likes to tell stories, I thought. Hey, this would make a great movie.

The next logical question was who could actually play Applewhite.

Well, who better than Robin Williams. The man who can play anyone and anything.

He actually would have been my first choice to play Peter Sellers in The Life and Death of Peter Sellers, and it is said that he was considered. But given the physical likeness, probably we were better off with Geoffrey Rush playing him. Another very talented actor.

Source: morthings.com/news.com

Source: morthings.com/news.com

But long story short, Robin Williams is just perfect to play him.

Considering how most people consider Applewhite a fanatic, no, this is not meant to be a satire or a comedy. It is supposed to be a biopic drama. And if you think Applewhite’s life was funny, well good luck.

Where is the compassion?

But I am not ashamed to say I am sympathetic of Marshall Applewhite, despite he can arguably be charged for murder of other followers of the Heaven’s Gate cult. But what a fascinating cult. As intellectual in a way, as it was delusional.

But Robin Williams could have so perfectly captured the emotional personality of Do. at least he would have been successful able to emanate the vibe of the charismatic cult leader. Only he could have done it so perfectly.

Recall Robin Williams playing Sy Parrish in One Hour Photo? One of his most dazzling and darker films in recent years. I won’t say it would convince you, but it can actually tell you of the great versatility of his acting talent. And that he was perfect for the role.

Hell, he was perfect for any role.

So I mourn, and become teary eyed, not just because we have lost Robin Williams. I always found his humor with a tinge of sadness.

Some idiot had complained about how mourning on social media was actually about the people themselves. Of course, it is. The mourning is about us. We have lost Robin Williams. He is dead. He is happy. Hopefully.

Again, I always found his humor with a tinge of sadness.

I found Bicentennial Man too heavy to watch. Is there a darker, sadder film with someone funny in it? Even fun films such as Jumanji have that emotional bittersweet value that you can’t separate your childhood from it.

But you can’t stop adoring his films.

I love Robin Williams the revolutionary in Good Morning VietnamPatch Adams and Dead Poet’s Society. I love Robin Williams the psychotic in Insomnia and One Hour Photo too. And even more so the ascetic lover in The Fisher King. Oscar anyone?

And of course, everybody loves Mrs. Doubtfire.

Can anyone possibly hate him? I guess there are a few nuts.

RIP Robin Williams.

Certainly the greatest actor of our times.

Bureaucratic Excesses and the National Language Question

Today is Pakistan’s 68th independence day and we still have a lot of unresolved issues in our backyard.

Recently, Marvi Memon, a PML-N MP from a Punjab reserved seat, introduced a Constitutional Amendment bill into the National Assembly. The bill was about proposing to declare Punjabi, Sindhi, Pashto, Balochi, Hindko, Shina and Barahvi among others to be national languages as opposed to their current regional status.

It was rejected by the multipartisan National Assembly Standing Committee on Law and Justice, 4-1. The bill sought to amend the Article 251 which declares Urdu the only national language.

A lot of people have a problem with this, but since it was voted out under due process, I do not. However, I do think such underdog bills deserve a chance for a broader voting in the House instead of the scrutiny from the Standing Committee.

Another disturbing aspect here was the interference from the bureaucracy during the debate on the bill. The Special Secretary of the Law Ministry, Justice (R) Muhammad Raza Khan, opposed the bill because as per him the bill was pointless under the light of Article 28, which guarantees the fundamental right of preserving a language and a script.

But perhaps, this bill is not about preserving these languages as Marvi Memon explained. Her point is to honor the languages by declaring their status as national. 

Source: Express Tribune

Marvi Memon – Source: Express Tribune

It just sounds like another piece of political correctness, unnecessary to some, but our constitution gets so much wrong in the textbook after all. So maybe it is important. Article 1 anyone?

He also opposed it because declaring another language, Bangla, as the national language, apparently caused the separation of Bangladesh in 1971.

Well, first of all, people should get their 1971 history right. But let’s not get into that.

What the honorable Secretary forgot is that the UN International Mother Language Day is inspired by killings in a protest against neglecting Bangla as the national language. And he also seems to ignore other constitutional and political differences that led to the 1971 war.

The argument about more than one national language threatening the union of the federation is also beyond me, since English and Urdu will remain to be the official languages and those who use Urdu to communicate to those with a different mother tongue would still continue to do so.

Not sure if there is any evidence to suggest that more than one languages weaken a federation. South Africa seems to have 11 official languages.

However, since the purpose is symbolism for people on both sides of the debate, the arguments from other side may or may not make any sense.

In any case, underdog bills should be given a chance of voting in the House and bureaucracy should stay away from the process of legislation and leave it to elected MPs. That’s the only way to see where the representatives of the people stand on this issue and to overcome federal authoritarianism. 

Some of the arguments against more than one national languages are really strange. But as long as the proposals are voted out democratically, I have no problems at all.

 Happy Independence Day.

 

The Pragmatist’s Resolution to the Gaza Conflict

Source: Ilia Yefimovich/Getty Images/Vox.com

Source: Ilia Yefimovich/Getty Images/Vox.com

If you are sick to your stomach of the recurrent, and I repeat recurrent, Gaza conflict, well you are not alone. The episodes of this conflict are bound to occur after a small period and the tragedies will only grow worse with time.

The Hamas control of Gaza Strip and the consequent blockade is not a point of equilibrium and is unsustainable. This is why the conflict keeps on escalating every two years, or so it seems.

If Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ends the conflict now, and if you are realistic, it would only mean one thing. We are going to see another Gaza episode two years from now, and maybe sooner.

Did more than 60 Israeli soldiers die for a nothing campaign?

I am sure Israelis are sick of it, and you can be very sure that it is a matter of survival for the people of Gaza.

The most dreadful thing about the nature of this conflict is that neither Hamas nor the Israeli leadership will care for the human tragedy. They say they would, but we all know what to expect. And probably this war is one that has made so many civilians vulnerable more than any conflict zone in recent history.

This is why there are very strong arguments for relieving Gaza of Hamas control. And to me, this is the pragmatist’s resolution to the current Gaza conflict. It is not a permanent solution, far from it, but it is a start toward a better life.

In a way, Israel has been presenting this proposition, which is evident by the way the conflict has escalated. The world seems to be largely OK with it. Therefore, the American, the European and Egyptian sanctions on the Gaza Strip. Nobody wants to see Hamas in Gaza Strip.

The problem is that most pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel protesters simply do not find Hamas a problem. Good for their moral high ground, bad for the pursuit of any resolution.

So what would kicking out Hamas of Gaza mean? Better lives, open borders, no embargoes and no war. There would still be Israeli occupation, which means that there would be no freedom, but it surely could mean no war.

Or alternatively, handing over the administrative control to the Palestinian authority, while the IDF remains in charge of border security. Well, because we know as a plain fact that the Palestinian Authority is simply incapable of it. That’s why Hamas occupied Gaza in the first place.

And there is a reason why Hamas is not an acceptable party to peace. The kind of freedom that Hamas wants, that is to end the occupation of land where Israel currently exists & of Jerusalem, is not acceptable. Moreover, their charter is pretty much about the annihilation of Israel and the Jews, so case closed.

This is why the Gaza Palestinians who are not insistent on a two state solution that some in Israeli right are blocking are a part of the problem. Not seeking compromise under the given circumstances is what blocks peace in the Middle East and intensifies the tribalism of the conflict.

And we know that this conflict is all about moral dilemmas and not as much about logic, as explained in this article.

Then again, Palestinians who want freedom would never favor Israeli occupation of Gaza. They’d rather become martyrs to present their case. And the politics never ends and neither do the killings. While I sympathize with their cause, I wonder if the Hamas way is the best way.

But the greatest tragedy of Gaza, as in any war, is the individual. Someone who should not have suffered due to a political conflict.

But nationalism is blind to the individual. It always has been.

Ignoring Local Atrocities

Source: dawn.com

Source: dawn.com

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the not-so-correct political logic of accusing individuals of selective outrage.

Now I agree that such arguments are best reserved for academic debate instead of political campaigns.

I would not want to make this a habit, but perhaps I would actually like to engage in using such a line of reasoning every now and then too. And I’ll tell you why.

There is a deep problem concerning more educated but nationalist conservative Muslim Pakistanis who believe in the myth that Pakistan is fair and safe to all non-Muslim religious minority groups.

They simply fail to recognize a problem exists when it comes to local minority groups.

They would simply want to dodge the question about secularism, Shariah and the atrocities on the minority groups at home.

One of the more fresh and good examples is the recent incident of arson targeting an Ahmedi home in Gujranwala over an alleged blasphemous facebook post, which resulted in the death of a woman and two children. As usual, nobody stopped the rioting mob.

Now, these are the events that sadly do not even make it to their information radar, or even the mainstream media. Or are simply ignored, heh, let’s say because the body count in Gaza has exceeded a thousand. Yes, I know it sounds ridiculous.

But I actually agree with ignoring the problem of, say persecution of Ahmedis at home, and picking up the Palestinian cause in the Gaza conflict. Hey, you are free to do that.

It is the same crooked reasoning with a complete lack of respect for individuals that lets Pakistani nationalists ask why Malala does not speak up about Gaza and is so concerned about kidnapped Nigerian girls.

Well, you can only do so much.

It is this sort of jingoism which is why I actually find many protests at home in bad taste and want to think twice before joining. It is almost always an insult to your intelligence, but you need to put up with it for the sake of solidarity.

While politics is about emotional blackmail, it is also about compromises. Even though I greatly respect the policy of not joining any protests at all as well.

No, the ones who don’t speak up are not “criminals”. Yes, that is the word they use. Jesus, the rhetoric.

But then again, you have to stoop to the level of the Pakistani nationalist conservatives (actually, true for most political groups) to engage them and to proselytize. You need to really appeal to probably the kind of reasoning that they would understand and respond to.

Maybe, you need to do that when they accuse others of moral double standards and not even recognize secularism as a fair social contract, and opting for Islam instead while justifying murder for blasphemy.

I still think this line of reasoning is bullshit, but hey, who cares what I think.

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