The Monster of Free Speech

Is your defense of free speech often met by sarcasm? If yes, you are not the only one.

But it is not always the mullah, the fundamentalist religious fanatic or the nationalist social conservative raising eyebrows when such an idea is brought up. Even apologetic liberals and educated religious moderates are at the forefront of attacking freedom of speech.

You know you have a tough battle at your hands when the lawmakers in your country protest against the right of a publication to publish something, instead of an attack on it. Or when the President of the United States sounds apologetic about the First Amendment, probably explaining his sheer helplessness to the world about this miserable part of the constitution.

It is about time that we stop acting surprised each time we see someone irked at the mention of free speech and getting bombarded with caveats in return. Actually, many of them are pretty sick of the very mention of the expression. Because this idea threatens their worldview dictated by selective morality, which they want followed by everyone.

Still, those of us who consider themselves to be proponents of this idea must not jump to judgments, and should try to understand and appreciate their predicament instead.

They are the ones carrying the heavy burden of defending precarious political positions, so it is not an easy fight. They are the ones brave enough to undertake the Herculean task of either protecting theological stances or justifying ridiculously inconsistent liberal laws that are as dangerous as the evil they are supposed to avert.

Therefore, instead of ridicule and admonishment, these brave individuals and groups deserve our applause and appreciation. Their resolve for building bridges and avoiding conflict is truly inspirational and praiseworthy.

It would not only be unfair, but criminal, if their intentions are deemed as malicious. If someone is so keen to speak ill of somebody, they should focus on their actions instead. But then again, attacking their actions in this case is necessary indeed.

Not only is it a necessity to oppose their actions, but it is a duty. Or their well-meaning zeal to establish everlasting harmony in the world might destroy its calm for good. For their phobia of the expression free speech could destroy the very cornerstone of freedom and democracy.

There is no real necessity to tolerate the preachers of protecting the liberties of intolerant theocratic and undemocratic positions. But what really is needed is to call out their cherry picking of what can and cannot be allowed, and what is and is not moral. What is really needed is to remind them that not all criticism is tantamount to bigotry and violating religious freedom. And that not all religious freedom is for the good of humanity.

So next time, don’t be surprised at all if you see someone getting offended at the idea of free speech. Just realize where they are coming from.

They just deserve your sympathy. Help them out.

To them, free speech is nothing more than a monster hiding under their bed.

They think it doesn’t really exist. But they sure are afraid of it.

 

The post was originally published in The Nation blogs.

 

The Politics of Personality Worship Cults

Source: Pakistan Today/geo.tv

Source: Pakistan Today/geo.tv

An overwhelming number of Pakistanis draw many of their life lessons from religion. It is an important part of their personal beliefs that extends to personal relationships, lifestyle, social habits, world view and politics, of course.

While religion has its due benefits, it could not have possibly affected an area of life more adversely than politics. Not only does it twist the concept of the government and its role, but terribly destroys the approach of the masses toward politics due to Messianic influences in its teachings.

While this sweeping commentary may seem far-fetched to some, it is not hard to observe clear displays in Pakistani politics supporting this notion. None is more obvious than the way we rally around our leaders and how far we are willing to go in our submission.

Religious indoctrination has conditioned people in Pakistan to turn political parties into personality worship cults.

A good number of political parties devote solemn attention and unconditional submission to their holy leaders. Not very different to the way the local religious people devote worshipful attention to their holy spiritual leaders.

Combine that with the Messianic effect and it drives home a very unhealthy approach toward politics, and life itself. It helps followers escape personal responsibility and build unrealistic expectations as far as addressing issues is concerned.

And if by accident, or by deliberated effort, a leader is killed, then they are raised to the status of martyred saints.

This approach to politics is probably a reason behind the support of dictatorships and monarchies among people in the Middle Eastern and Asian countries. Why bother about democracy when you are willing to give up your rights for a beloved leader?

Another problem with personality worship cults is that it deprives a political group of logic and reason, discourages progressive debate and gives way to unreasonable political tactics. But above all, it maintains the golden rule of religions.

The authority must not be questioned.

And where there are personality worship cults, there are blasphemy laws.

Even secular political parties can act like cults, forcing shutting down cities in protest of their leader being insulted. Likewise, you would often see these cult-like parties waste weeks, if not months, over needless juvenile squabbles and obscene name-calling. It always involves one cult party insulting the holy figure of the other, causing wide outrage.

As soon as the blasphemy is committed against the party leader, logic and reason are locked out of the debate. And well, then there is no debate.

The sooner we move to issues in our political debates, the sooner we would be able to help restore people’s faith in democracy. But while doing so, we need to learn an even more important lesson.

Let’s stop blaming others for our problems. Let’s use democracy as a tool for the same. Don’t render it useless by turning it into a war of cults.

No, democracy is not perfect. It does not promise you prosperity, or paradise.

But that’s no reason to wait for a Messiah, or blindly rallying behind one.

The post was originally published in The Nation blogs.

The Mystery of Openly Operating Banned Religious (Terrorist) Organizations in Pakistan

Source: The Nation

Source: The Nation

What does the banning of a religious organization really mean?

What is the point of announcing their addition to the list of condemned organizations when there are hardly any curbs on their activities?

It is easy to criticize the Government of Pakistan in this regard, but hardly anyone accounts for the complex problems they have to deal with.

Even if we say that these problems are of their own making, it does not eliminate the need to consider the difficulty of the task at the hands of the government.

They simply just cannot take these banned organizations away from the public.

Or maybe they can.

But this goes to show the sheer force of the religious political groups prevalent, and growing, in Pakistan. A force that is so enormous that even the government of Pakistan and the military are afraid of it. Nobody wants a religious uprising to deal with.

This is what happens when you declare a war against an ideological enemy without convincing the people of your country against it.

It would be understandable to see the anger of the members of the Jamaat-ud-Dawa if their political activities were to become illegal.

Furthermore, the likes of ASWJ would also be seen protesting on the roads if such a decree pertaining to their organization would come into effect.

Of course, we cannot even imagine the day when political parties such as the JI, JUI, ST and MWM are prevented from running in the elections.

But apart from that, it is hard to oppose organizations that you consider heroic.

This is why when it comes to narrative about the local Jihadist organizations, charity must begin at home.

But has there been any active effort to confront such narrative, which is only affirmed on occasions such as the Kashmir Solidarity Day? An otherwise seemingly harmless holiday observed to show moral support for the oppressed Kashmiri people, mixed with vows to liberate them from their oppressors.

Again, from a nationalistic viewpoint, attacking India for any such purposes sounds pretty fair. However, the sad part is that this narrative provides a lot of fodder for these banned militant outfits to feed on.

So probably the state should think twice before giving the narrative around this holiday its blessing. Surely, the holiday can be observed without any belligerent calls to Jihad.

But the general impression remains that a good number of masses in Pakistan views Islamist militant organizations positively and accept their active role in politics.

Merely playing to the galleries would not be sufficient for the federal and provincial governments. Simply adding these militant outfits to the list of “banned organizations” to create an impression on Western powers would not work.

An ideological awakening and education of the masses are required to ensure a gradual social change.

Or at least for the government to be able to enforce the bans that it proposes.

The post was originally published in The Nation blogs.

It Could Have so Easily Been You and Me

Source: CBS News

Source: CBS News

Why is no one in Pakistan talking about Raif Badawi with the exception of a couple of bloggers here and there?

Why is he not in the news?

Because he insulted Islam or the Saudi royalty? But of course.

But what does this tell the world about us? Or about our leaders who took the trouble of protesting against the Charlie Hebdo cartoons, but would dare not even think about the flogging of the Saudi blogger.

Both liberal and conservative free speech critics would find great offense in a political cartoon mocking a holy religious figure, but would not find any problem in a theocratic monarchy persecuting the freedom of its citizens.

Therefore, the draconian penalty of 1,000 lashes to blogger Raif Badawi largely goes unaddressed by the likes of President Barack Obama and other Western leaders, and overshadowed by the sad demise of King Abdullah. With the exception of a few extremist bloggers, Western publications and maybe Amnesty International.

I heard a few US senators did manage to write a letter strongly protesting the flogging. I hope that really happened.

But the torture goes on, despite appeals and concerns about Badawi’s health.

Obviously, the penalty of 1,000 lashes is carefully designed to prolong the humiliation and mental torture, without attracting significant disapproval of the Western countries. Not that they really care though.

After all, it is important to set an example.

I know it is dangerous and sensitive to talk about anyone who has allegedly blasphemed, but let us put this case this way.

Let’s not even waste our time with the question whether Raif Badawi insulted Islam or not, and whether he should be punished for it or not, without giving up the defense of his right to.

But what if the law of the land requires your free expression about your society to be punished like this? Especially when half of the people in Pakistan want the country to turn into Saudi Arabia and the other half wants it to become Iran.

 

What if you were arrested and publicly flogged for wondering why Ahmedis are persecuted in Pakistan?

What if you were penalized for wondering why Hazara and Shia are being targeted and publicly naming the culprits?

What if you were wondering about the unjust theocratic influences on the law and the constitution, and therefore on the society?

What if questioning the theocratic parts of your constitution would put you on a trial for treason?

The kind of opinions that could so easily be projected to be insulting to religion and, therefore, the religious figures, you never know.

 

Raif Badawi’s opinions were not too different to these seemingly innocuous political inquiries.

This is where more moderate and liberal elements in the society are the only hope to inch toward sanity. This is why they need to focus on Raif Badawi and put more pressure on enemies of free speech such as Saudi Arabia and Iran, and even though not as much, but Pakistan too. But I am glad I am enjoying enough freedom to write these lines and am proud of that.

As we speak, Raif Badawi’s second round of flogging has been postponed for the third straight week, albeit for health reasons. We should continue to speak until the floggings are called off as a matter of principle.

 

There is a reason why Raif Badawi matters so much.

It could have so easily been you and me.

 

The post was originally published in The Nation blogs.

Post-Traumatic Stress Governance

Source: Dawn News

Source: Dawn News

The way constitutional amendments are passed in Pakistan makes you marvel at the degree of national unity we enjoy.

You would probably never see such unity among any nation in the world.

Despite speaking passionately against the ruling, not a single MP or Senator dared casting a vote against the constitution. Some even voted against their conscience.

It’s good to know that some politicians in this country take up the constitution seriously enough to consider it a matter of guilty conscience.

But the question remains. Why was not a single vote cast in the opposition of the passage of the constitutional amendment?

Why did the JI and the JUI-F boycott the voting session instead of casting a more effective nay? Did they not betray their loyal voters?

There is no doubt about the fact that the 21st constitutional amendment is a resounding insult to the judicial branch of government in Pakistan. A legally sanctioned statement making fun of its perceived inability to dispense the elusive commodity known as justice. No one is bothered.

Despite the gravity of the situation, let’s concentrate on the silver lining in this dark thunderstorm. Maybe, the government has finally made up its mind to eradicate terrorism from the country, despite all the cynical skepticism.

What if the military courts really would deliver the kind of “swift justice” that the people of this country have been waiting for? Hopefully, not the kind of swift justice that the Taliban are known for.

But why have a trial in the first place?

Or maybe there is hope because Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman believes that the bill for the constitutional amendment reflects secular thinking for linking religion with terrorism. Finally, our parliament ended up doing something secular. Though he is unaware that even many secularists are worried about that too.

Perhaps, the way constitution can be altered in Pakistan offers some distant hope for the secularists. Who knows, some day, some compromising situation would bring all the politicians together and make them all unanimously vote to remove the Islamic provisions from the constitution.

All we need is stirring a little sense of urgency for that.

Now that the constitution has been altered pretty drastically, you can only wonder what happened.

What changed so drastically after the Peshawar massacre that it required bringing about such drastic changes to the way the state worked?

How did the terrorists manage to change the way our government works? A lot of people are perplexed about the way the government, all the political parties and the military have reacted.

To others, disappointed that the civil courts keep on releasing or delaying indicting suspect terrorists, the sudden change came as a sigh of relief. This might deliver some justice, finally.

Yet harsher critics merely saw the recent government legislation using the Peshawar school attack as an excuse for imposing undemocratic constitutional measures.

Let’s just blame their destruction of the constitution on their post-traumatic stress symptoms, instead of deliberate intent to sabotage.

But let’s not take the overzealousness of our administrators for malice.

Let us judge actions instead of the intentions.

Though for some, that would make the case even worse.

The post was originally published in The Nation blogs.

Don’t Impose Freedom on Us

Source: The Nation

Source: The Nation

We condemn Charlie Hebdo shooting, because no matter how we want to see the incident, it is hard to condone the killing of human beings, but…

We don’t really support this insane idea of freedom of speech, wherever it came from.

An idea that is against the very nature of human beings. Nature just does not work that way.

That’s not the order that God has created.

You know, it is appalling to see people in Muslim countries pretending to be liberals and secularists to please their Western masters to suppose that free speech is a universal human right.

No, it’s not.

Even though our terrible governments have signed that meaningless document called the Universal Declaration of Human Rights presented in that phony organization called the United Nations. Totally worthless.

Freedom of speech is not a universal right.

Getting offended is a universal human right. It is our fundamental right to be offended and we will defend it, even if we have to kill for it. Or at least some of us among the angry, aggrieved people of the world could.

And let us warn you that it could happen again. Yes, indeed, two billion people in the world would have no option but to kill one cartoonist after another if they keep on offending our feelings.

Even if the instruments of their offense are nothing more than random lines on a paper.

But you are not allowed to draw those lines.

You are not allowed to cross that line.

We can tolerate your words, but not sketches and caricatures.

Actually, not even your words.

No, free speech is no human right. Even though let us concede that we are momentarily using this very right to express this important idea. But we are only indulging in this great wrong to educate you about morality and ethics and to eradicate this ignorance from the world to make it a better place.

Dear Western hypocrites, learn once and for all that we have a phobia of caricatures, so stop exploiting our weakness.

Also, we have a strong phobia of being criticized. So stop doing that too.

And last, but not the least, just shove this idea of free speech up your asses.

We want to have nothing to do with it.

There should be no free speech and yes, there should be restrictions. Humans don’t function properly without restrictions. Free speech cannot work with religion anyway.

But still we want just enough freedom of speech to deny the Holocaust, which by the way never happened and six million Jews were actually abducted by their secret alien antichrist Meshiach to blame it on Adolf Hitler, the real messiah. Even though he would have thrown Arabs and Muslims in concentration camps too, if he could.

But who cares, at least he killed many of them and left a few to tell us why he was doing so, may God be pleased with him.

Or would you allow us to use the N word for blacks, K word for Jews and F word for gays, would you?

Enough of your hypocritical Islamophobic bigotry.

We strongly urge you to stop drawing cartoons again, or we will become offended again.

And when we get offended, you know what happens.

Stop imposing freedom on us.

We just want enough to destroy a little that we are left with.

 

 

The post was originally published in The Nation blogs.

We are all Taliban

Source: Dawn

Source: Dawn

The entire nation is in mourning.

The terrorists strike again where we are most vulnerable. Killing our children. Making us realize that we still have a lot to lose and proving how cruel they can possibly get.

Cruel. That’s how we have come to define our enemy.

But how are we dealing with them? Other than complaining about people not being mournful enough of the incident.

We are responding by suspending the moratorium on the death penalty and applauding the Prime Minister for it.

And what do I hear from many of my fellow countrymen?

Enforce the death penalty. Hang the terrorists in public squares.

Cruel. Justice must be cruel and merciless.

If only we could keep our cruelty to the battlefield, where it belongs, and out of our towns, legislatures and courtrooms.

Forget that. We actually want to follow the example of Iran and the Taliban themselves. We have people drooling for revenge justice. We are broadcasting the images of the corpses of the hanged terrorists and are just a touch away from live broadcast of public executions.

We condemn the extremist terrorists for their barbaric actions but believe in the same heinous extremities.

It is safe to say that a good number of those who would be described as moderate Muslims believe in public punishment, amputations, stoning to death and an eye for an eye.

Does this mean we would like to see many of our politicians hanging in public, just like what the Taliban did to Dr. Najeeb? I would really like a survey asking that question.

But ask any ten people and you would find a healthy number of replies hinting toward such revolutionary goals.

In other words, how does that make us any different from the enemy?

But wait, who is our enemy?

You might see the condemnation of the heinous act of the Peshawar carnage, but you would find voices reluctant to attack the attackers.

Some of our most prominent commentators would see India behind the attack. Others would blame the CIA and the Mossad for the problem.

Of course, how could our Muslim brothers possibly do something like this to us?

The very occurrence of the incident is evidence that the attackers were not Muslims, but non-Muslims in the guise of the holy warriors.

We are never going to win this war anyway. How can you fight your own self and claim to win? Down with the military operation which resulted in this massacre.

Yet, India and America are behind it.

But no need to appease Western influenced politicians and civil society. There is no need to pretend that we hate our brothers, who are our very own people.

Their beliefs and ours are the same.

We want Shariah compliant public executions now. We don’t care who is being killed in the name of God, we want revenge.

We are all Taliban.

The post was originally published in The Nation blogs.
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