The Value of Freedom

Source: npr.org

Source: npr.org

Alright, let’s give credit where it is due, even though I mostly find promoting Google Doodles very distasteful.

I woke up to this Google Doodle, and in a minute and a half, it made me realize something very striking.

Source: Google

You don’t value freedom, or even recognize its cost, until you find it gone or threatened by political forces that could so easily part individual from individual.

Today is the 25th anniversary of the fall of Berlin Wall, an almost universal symbol of tyranny and everything contrary to freedom, since the beginning of the Cold War.

And that’s the only thought that comes to my mind today.

How fragile freedom is.

Today, it means nothing to us because we have overcome the political conflict that gave rise to the human tragedy of a divided German Republic. The supposed liberators of the city ended up having it divided in the most terrible manner, even with deadly consequences.

How would you react if that happened to your city tomorrow? No matter where you live and no matter who forces the division.

There are many other examples too. The Koreas, the partition of Kashmir and the Indian sub continent, the Arab Israeli conflict.

But it’s easy to observe that not just 25 years, but a much shorter period, was sufficient to forget the misery of more than 3 decades of suffering that Berliners endured in the name of political conflict.

It is important to notice how two opposing political forces can actually divide a part of your lives for their own authoritarian power grab.

Just imagine you being unable to walk into a part of your own town, just because it belongs to an alien political entity now.

Is there anything more horrifying?

That’s just how precious freedom is.

The scary part is that all of this can happen tomorrow. All over again.

Source: TIME
Source: TIME

Brutality Defining Justice

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Source: Wikimedia Commons

When justice needs to be served, how much is enough?

How much should be done to undo the wrong that has been committed and to relieve the wronged?

How much should the severity of the punishment be to inflict the same degree of pain that the victim of the crime suffered?

Is an eye for an eye enough? Or do we need to go beyond that to ensure that we have perfectly balanced the pans of the scale of justice?

How much torture would suffice the necessary urge for revenge?

Well, it’s hard to answer. Because every person has different needs and standards when it comes to revenge. But you do need a close-to-objective standard to establish a state-level punishment that would satisfy a mass audience.

So what could be the most potent standard?

Thankfully, there are systems of governance in the world that have just the answer.

Be as brutal as you possibly can be.

Sadly, gone are the days of medieval torture in Europe and even the Electric Chair has been outlawed in the most conservative states in the US.

But not to worry, there is plenty of other help.

Shariah Law punishment is alive and well, and growing healthy by the day.

Perhaps not everyone is chopping off everyone’s hand, but the intent is commendable.

Saudi Arabia recently beheaded another Pakistani for smuggling heroin. Well, the bastard certainly deserved that. That ought to teach those drug dealers a lesson.

But before you cry Islamophobia, well, it’s not the only guiding principle. there are a lot of guidelines in the secular law around the world, which can be just as illuminating.

Take China’s brutal punishment of Liu Xiaobao for an example. Is speaking your mind treason? And is treason even a crime?

Or perhaps take a few examples from the civilized world?

US citizen Jonathan Pollard is still in prison for spying for Israel in the United States. Could someone explain to me what has Private Manning done to deserve, how many, 35 years in prison. Or even how the terrorist financier Afia Siddiqui could probably survive 86 years of confinement, even though she has not apparently directly killed a single man. Or maybe Shakeel Afridi’s sentence.

But then again, isn’t our Blasphemy Law a by-product of the civilized world?

Oh, but that was the British Empire. Apologies.

Forget even that. What did private property destroyer Gullu Butt actually do to deserve 11 years in prison? Seriously, I would like to know.

We are probably just a bunch of self-righteous passive-aggressive closet sadists who thrive on publicly humiliating and killing one of our own. Which sounds more like symptoms of some sort of mass moralistic psychopathy. And in order to hide that instinct of ours, we have created the label of justice. Because we are not brave enough to apologize for our dark side.

And oh, swift justice. Isn’t that what Ambassador Zafar Hilaly recently quoted on Capital TV to hint why people loved the Sufi Muhammad regime in Swat so much. But he won’t recall it now. It was in the heat of the moment.

And then there is the news and opinion media to serve this very purpose. To satisfy our insatiable appetite and lust for punishing and humiliating someone. Like these cannibals and necrophiliacs.

But why bring local politics in.

Anyway, let’s go for more recent, safer examples.

Source: Golara Sajadian/AFP/Huffington Post

Source: Golara Sajadian/AFP/Huffington Post

Take Reyhaneh Jabbari for instance.

The poor woman killed someone who was about to rape her, which actually doesn’t make her an angel, but she did it in self defense. You never know if the rapist is going to not kill you, and prevention of rape is a right after all. So violence for violence, as per the eye-for-an-eye rule, is perfectly justified.

But no, she did something so terrible. The Iranians had to hang her despite all the Western propaganda. So they did. End of story.

But then again, she committed a murder. Numerous others are publicly hanged in Iran, with their executions seen in live media broadcast. According to many of my social conservative friends, this is the best form of punishment to help deter crime.

Let’s see the other extremity too.

Unlike her, somebody like Mukhtaran Mai survived a gang rape, which by the way, was ordered by a village judicial council or jirga to address another grievance. And dozens of women like her undergo that rather weird form of punishment.

Or maybe another, which involves calling for castration for rape. Death for rape. You know, folks back in India could be as brutal and heartless as the vigilante mobs and other brutal penalizing authorities.

Well, I can’t say I hold the moral high ground here. I definitely don’t. Following the brutal murder of a young girl after her gang rape in a bus in New Delhi, I felt the same way. But I do realize, I was wrong and probably not any better than the rapists.

Maybe I am as barbaric when push comes to shove. I support shooting at violent rioters to prevent killings and damage to private property anyway. And ironically, oppose capital punishment.

But my personal hypocrisies are secondary here. I could believe in private revenge, like a million superheroes, or I may not, but it’s setting a moral example for state governance is what matters here, doesn’t it?

Having said that, I still support, as in Jabbari’s case, killing for self defense, and even in theory and in part, the apparently savage Stand Your Ground laws in the United States, despite their discriminatory application, which demands abuse reviews and possible amends. It’s not a perfect world if you are looking for justice.

There are a lot of liberal folks in Pakistan who wanted to put Mumtaz Qadri to death. Recall him? The same guy who killed Governor Taseer because of his criticism of yet another barbaric guiding principle, the Blasphemy Law.

I am one of those who are against capital punishment for Mumtaz Qadri. I even think that the blood money laws, if not coerced, are among the better parts of Islam.

But probably a lot of folks would blame people like me for the death of a British blasphemer in Rawalpindi’s Adiyala Jail after the incarcerated Mumtaz Qadri incited his murder in religious zeal. He actually believes that shit.

I’d take them seriously, but we have a lot worse problems to deal with.

Because half of people in Pakistan want the country to look like this.

And this is what the other half wants.

And Justice has been served.

Happy Halloween.

The Questions You Should Not Ask

Source: AP/HBO

Source: AP/HBO

In recent days, a clip from Real Time with Bill Maher has been circulating all over the social media, and even in news publications. The clip is about the confrontation between Academy Award winning actor and director Ben Affleck and atheist scholar and neuroscientist Sam Harris.

Well, no introduction to the clip needed.

                               Source: HBO

This brief confrontation led to a number of critiques, both on Ben Affleck and Maher and Harris. The primary criticism on the latter was about their Islamophobia and bigotry. In comparison, Affleck was attacked for not being thoughtful in the debate.

There is little doubt about the fact that Ben Affleck was emotional form the word go, and Sam Harris even claimed he was “gunning for him from the start.” But in short, Affleck lost his cool and should have acted in a saner manner.

But instead of wasting our time with Affleck calling Maher and  Harris “racist”, which they most probably are (who cares), let’s focus on the other side of the debate.

You could argue that both of them have been displaying behavior toward Muslims, which could be termed hostile by many. Despite their claims that they do not engage in Islamophobia.

What is noteworthy is that most of their critics completely ignore their objection on tolerance of cruel and illiberal fundamental beliefs among Muslims. And the questions they raise are:

  • What is the punishment for apostasy in Islam?
  • What is the punishment for adultery in Islam?
  • What is the punishment for blasphemy in Islam?

The answer to all three questions happen to be death, like it or not.

These are the questions that you should not ask.

Even the recent opinion article from religion apologist and scholar Reza Aslan, who claims the moral high ground by saying that both sides lacked sophistication.

Curiously, that eloquent article conveniently lacked any mention of those questions, which kills the criticism on Maher and Harris for someone who is familiar with their rhetoric.

Now this could put some serious questions in the minds of someone who would actually want to disagree with them.

But yet another problem with this is that those who have already picked a side would not be prepared to change their minds. However, from my own experience, I know it is not true for everyone.

What Maher and Harris mean is that we probably have a big problem when that many Muslims actually believe in fundamental beliefs that have no room in a modern Western civilization. And which are simply unacceptable by any standard but their own.

And especially because their population makes up such a significant portion of the world population. So why not talk about it and take a step toward sorting this issue.

However, asking these very questions have become unacceptable in the unwritten rules of the Western progressive liberals. While they accuse people like Sam Harris to be indulging in bigotry and Islamophobia in the guise of criticizing religion, they could be accused of tolerating illiberal and even dangerously brutal beliefs in their eagerness to avoid being xenophobes as well.

So what is the solution?

How are you going to confront most Muslims for their irresponsible beliefs that they would gladly defend?

Should you just shut up because that’s racist?

What Has She Done?

Source: Niklas Elmehed/Nobel Media/nobelprize.org

Source: Niklas Elmehed/Nobel Media/nobelprize.org

So what has she done?

That pesky Malala.

What has she accomplished to deserve the Nobel Peace Prize, you are asking? Especially, since she said she didn’t deserve it.

Here is what she has accomplished what I or any of you could not have.

Despite being a little girl, she stood up to a very clear and present threat from the Taliban, which actually jeopardized her very existence.

In case anyone had any doubts, the Taliban actually ended up shooting her in the head and it’s a fucking miracle she’s even breathing.

They still vow to go after her.

She just had to speak out an innocuous little thing to get all this attention that she just wanted to go to school. Yes, that’s all what it has been about.

But it snowballed into something gigantic thanks to the ignorance of her haters.

You think it’s all obvious? No, it’s not.

But she won the prize also because she was important enough for an activist to address the United Nations Youth Assembly. She has also been active for causes such as speaking for the Nigerian girls abducted by Boko Haraam and addressing the concerns of Syrian children refugees.

She is not just a local figure anymore, but a global figure.

What really matters is  that the world sees her as a global ambassador for education, for girls especially.

Now why girls? You know, why be a sexist? But you have to be, because in her culture, people do go out of their way to target women like her. To deprive them of education.

Now when does it prick the most that she has won yet another prize valued by the West? Well, when you constantly apologize for the Taliban, Islamism and obscurantist misogynistic forces.

But it probably happened for a plain reason that Malala has become a Gandhi like figure to the West. Right up there with the likes of Nelson Mandela and Mother Teresa, and even Gandhi was not awarded this prize, thanks to his shocking Holocaust satyagraha statements.

And this is precisely why Malala is important to the world now, even if she is of no consequence to the social conservatives and Islamist nationalist conspiracy theorists in Pakistan.

So don’t be surprised if you find completely irrelevant babbling complaining why Edhi not receiving the Nobel Peace Prize is such a disaster (as if they cared about that too) and sharing articles making ridiculous comparisons with a random girl testifying against drone strikes backed by an American congressman.

Source: Daily Telegraph

Source: Daily Telegraph

Which reminds me that part of why Malala is condemned is because she is backed by Western powers. Hell, even President Obama met her with his entire family. He never did that for the Pakistani Prime Minister. That’s really fucked up.

She even had the courage to criticize him to his face about the drone strikes of the Nobel Peace Prize recipient President.

But that’s how powerful Malala has become.

Maybe she has sold her soul to the devil.

I never really had tremendous respect for the Nobel Peace Prize anyway, because I had read somewhere that only a devil would put a prize on peace. Maybe George Bernard Shaw’s statement, not too sure.

But  I was greatly impressed when I saw the likes of President Carter, President Sadaat and Prime Minister Begin winning one for the Camp David Accord of 1979, and when I saw Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres and Yasser Arafat receiving it.

You know, bitter adversaries working hard to attain some peace. Back then, I really found this shit inspiring. That part I still admire though.

But overall, the idea has been pretty empty and meaningless. You know what they say, hey, that’s the award that President Obama got for who knows what. And oh, even Henry Kissinger received it.

Must be something evil for sure.

I know this one, like all of them, is highly political. But who gives a fuck. Somebody said something nice about Pakistan.

But if I ever was delighted for a Nobel Peace Prize, for the first and most probably the last time, it is for Malala Yousafzai.

——————————————–

Donate to the Malala Fund please. 

In Hell

Source: amusingplanet.com

Source: amusingplanet.com

So how does it feel to be in hell?

It doesn’t even matter if you believe in it or not. Living through it is perhaps only a matter of time.

It’s constant pain. Constant agony. Constant regrets. A sense of loss that doesn’t go away. Something you have lost that will never come back. All alone. Vulnerable.

It is when your existence becomes a case study of the Murphy’s Law.

It is when history repeats itself and you watch it happening. Condemned to.

It is when you fail to learn from your mistakes and know you won’t. Curse yourself for it.

It is when your indulgence leads you to the sort of informed and conscious complacency that you can’t help resist.

It’s like looking a maneater in the face and waiting for him to devour you.

It’s like staring into the face of a distant train approaching and waiting for it to hit you.

It is like perpetually falling from a height and just expecting to hit the ground the next moment and starting over again.

It is when you wish you never existed. But isn’t that always true, even when pleasure is wrapped around you.

It is when you simply wish you could go back in time… Time… Time… Isn’t it always about it?

It is when you give up hope.

It is when you look for a rope.

It is when you wish you had no regrets… you thought you had no regrets…

 

It is when you find out that life is one big regret.

 

 Source: Polygram Filmed Entertainment/Universal

Her Mother Didn’t Have to Die

 

 

The other day I was writing a post on the Lahore PAT protest and police violence, so I came across this video.

Let’s keep politics aside for a moment.

Now call me an idiot or accuse me of emotional blackmail, and I’d gladly agree, but nothing has affected me more recently than this. Because I can so easily see myself in her position.

Now the question that the little girl asks is so clear, so valid, so astonishing, that not only it moves you to tears, but also makes you reflect on its possible answer, which no adult would be able to give to her.

One simple question.

Why did they kill her mother? Really, why.

There is one thing that I know pretty clearly and that is that her mother did not have to die. But would she understand why.

Her mother should not have been putting her life on the line for a cause as ridiculous as removing a security barrier from a religious leader’s home. For her children’s sake at least.

Seriously, what was this incident about anyway?

But surely it was not her fault. Probably she was just trying to evade a bullet or a baton around the residential compound.

Probably she was a passer-by or just happened to be caught up in the great mess. Maybe she was just a Minhaj-ul-Quran employee and was doing her job.

But perhaps the Punjab police should have thought twice before relentlessly firing at the people and beating them.

But didn’t some cops die too?

I don’t know.

I just know very clearly that her mother did not have to die.

It’s not only unfair. It’s irresponsible.

Countless individual lives are ruined by politics everyday with people dying for the convenience of politicians.

War is understandable and hard to avoid, but such petty politics.

Nobody learns any lessons.

The Blaspheming Hilarity

Source: Pakistan Today

Source: ARY Digital/Pakistan Today

Never before in the history of Pakistan has the political tool of Blasphemy ever been used in a more hilarious and ridiculous manner.

Because never before an obviously reverent religious piece has been turned into a perceived blasphemy. And never before the adherents of the sect that would otherwise hold the work of art in honor out of religious fervor would be resorting to lodge complaints of blasphemy against it.

It is just like crying blasphemy for a hymn honoring Allah and the Prophet and calling for its ban. It makes no sense to a casual observer.

But it would make perfect sense when seen in the context of the campaign against GEO TV, after it launched an attack on the DG ISI in the aftermath of the assassination attempt on Hamid Mir.

More than Shaista Lodhi’s “blasphemous” show, the following show by Mubasher Lucman, created all the stir. Ironically, the same song had run on his own channel.

 

Never before have two media groups been at odds with each other for committing a blasphemy. Never before have prominent anchors and artists been the targets of the blasphemy police in this manner.

Is it a coincidence that a talk show anchor forges a blasphemy out of thin air of a hymn that is frequently used by the adherents of a certain sect? Not only was this an effort to wrongly accuse of blasphemy, but one that could have deepened the sectarian rift in the country.

What is actually even worse is that the Shia scholars have joined the ranks of pro-establishment commentators in accusing the network and participants of the show for committing the blasphemy. They have joined forces with the Sunni Ittehad Council, which has issued a fatwa against GEO that watching the cable network is haraam or forbidden.

All of a sudden, there are rallies and protest marches all over the country. None of it seems to be a coincidence or a spontaneous reaction. But it could actually be, as nothing else unites this nation of religious harassers more than blasphemy.

A couple of days later, the Islamabad High Court issues notices to not only the GEO Network, Mir Shakeel ur Rehman, Shaista Lodhi, Veena Malik and her husband, but also to Mubasher Lucman, ARY Digital, Nida Pasha, singer Amjad Sabri and the poem of the hymn Aqeel Mohsin Naqvi. All in a bid to ban the Shia mankabat or religious ode or hymn or whatever it is.

Now how come the idea of banning a piece of religious music is not blasphemous? Why are the Shia scholars quiet about this piece of sacrilege to something that they would otherwise revere.

As a matter of fact, the Shia folks pretty much have no choice when it comes to the GEO Network Blasphemy controversy. On one hand, there is the pressure from the state establishment, and on the other, there is the vicious Sunni blasphemy police.

But one thing is for sure.

Never before has the phenomenon of blasphemy appeared so clearly as a political tool as it has in this controversy.

Especially when there clearly was no blasphemy. And an alleged one that was noticed all of a sudden by everyone when an anchor spots it on a network against which he spews venom every night and still continues to do so.

And a network that just committed blasphemy against the most powerful intelligence agency in the country.

Only today, PEMRA has announced the suspension of the license of GEO Network channels for airing the blasphemous content. To be further confirmed on May 28.

So which blasphemy is greater?

The one against the family members of the Prophet or the one against the ISI and the military?

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