The Window of Opportunity

Maulana Abdul Aziz - Source: AP/B.K. Bangash

Maulana Abdul Aziz – Source: AP/B.K. Bangash

I have observed that most Pakistani secularists find the idea of talks with the Taliban nauseating. However, a new window of opportunity has dawned for their cause by the turn of events in the past weeks.

The religious conservatives of the country have really put themselves in an awkward position by making practical steps to negotiate with the Taliban.

The Taliban have made their lives even more difficult. They have responded by demanding the imposition of Shariah Law throughout the country and have rejected the constitution. Curiously, these are demands that are not even acceptable to most conservative parties, except for the extreme religious groups.

This makes a common Muslim wonder why would there be such resistance to a system that they have been taught is the solution to every ill in the world. How are the likes of Maulana Abdul Aziz wrong in their insistence that the obvious demand of Shariah imposition should not even be a matter of debate.

What, then, is making the Pakistani political leadership so suspicious about Shariah imposition?

Even though every Muslim is supposed to be an Islamist, the fact remains that an overwhelming majority of them are not.

At least not in Pakistan.

Their lifestyle, their customs, their way of life and their voting patterns, all suggest that they want nothing to do with Shariah Law.

Pakistanis watch movies, love music and love to dance. They may indulge in a lot of social ills, but they would have problems with someone blowing up music shops and telling the women of their family how to cover themselves. They also like to shave and do not mind skipping their prayers.

They also do not seem to be prepared to sacrifice their almost Western lifestyle in cities and traditional ways in rural areas to embrace an 8th century code of life.

To them, Shariah is a word that must be revered and must not be challenged, but it really has no place in their lives.

While the Taliban have reminded the people of Pakistan of what Shariah is, it is the perfect time to convert them against this threatening and authoritarian ideology.

At least it is time to ask some tough questions about Shariah, if we must not get too carried away with our ambition.

And make no mistake about it, it can be done in the most discreet and polite manner.

There is no harm in asking them why they would want to support something they do not practice. There is no harm in asking why they would not embrace Shariah as it is if they are Muslims, and why would they reject secularism then.

Everyone can start with their near and dear ones. I ask my family this question everyday, and no, it would not get you killed if you do it respectfully. Charity begins at home and it can easily be propagated to bigger platforms through leading secular opinion leaders.

They would surely shy away from the taboo subject. Surely, they would find it hard to step out of the reassuring shelter of faith, but a little perseverance could pay well.

This is the first step to win the battle against the Taliban. And the first step to convince people why proactively countering the indoctrination of Islamism is essential to their liberty, peace and way of life.

This is the perfect time to reiterate that secularism will prove to be the best social contract to resolve the multitude of religious problems. This is something politicians on right and left must agree on.

It is the perfect time to offer reason to those who are willing to take it.

But don’t get me wrong. This is not a time to build fences. It is not a time to merely win debates and score ideological points.

It is a time to win hearts and minds. We must overcome our curmudgeonly cynicism to see that perspective.

Even in the darkest of thunderstorms, there is always that silver lining.

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Sweeping the Ashes Beneath the Green and the White

Source: Nayyar Afaq/Unknown

Source: Nayyar Afaq/Unknown

Happy Pakistan Day. The Day of the Green and, yes, even the White.

Of talking about Quaid-e-Azam and Allama Iqbal and their delusional visions that brought about a humanitarian disaster. A lab with some 180 million lab rats, and I am not even counting those which have passed away.

I don’t want to be a cynic today, though there are few better other occasions. I love the idea of Pakistan Day. But that’s not what I am talking about here. I want to talk about our conservative ideals.

This addresses Pakistanis primarily. Pakistani Muslims and Pakistani Muslim Nationalists.

Those who are proud of their infallible ideology which can never possibly fail when it comes to righteousness and how people should be treated.

The ones with an all-encompassing code of life that covers just about every area of life with great justice and peace.

The ones who have presented the best way to the world to treat those who refrain from believing in their faith even though residing in their domain.

I want them to recall what happened on the fateful days from late February to June 2002 in the Indian state of Gujarat that resulted in the death of 790 Muslims and 254 Hindus as per the official figures.

I want them to recall Muslims houses burned by Hindu mobs there with little or no intervention from the police. And I want them to recall how they and all of us had reacted to that, criticizing the Indian state’s failure to protect the minority religious group.

Thankfully not with such drastic consequences, but equally horrifyingly, a mob of angry and pious Muslims, most of them young boys apparently, set fire to the houses and possessions of poor Christians living in Badami Bagh, downtown Lahore because one of their boys was said to have blasphemed against the Prophet.

Source: Express Tribune

Source: Express Tribune

There is something common between a few of incidents in the Gujarat riots and the Joseph Colony riots in Lahore.

The police made no attempt to save the victims.

But then again, this is usually the case historically in the subcontinent. Isn’t it?

Has not Shahbaz Sharif been as complicit as Narendra Modi in his handling of the affair?

Gojra riots and Gujrat riots. Even the letters try hard to separate them.

Yes, is Shahbaz Sharif Pakistan’s Narendra Modi?

Maybe not, not for us to decide maybe and who cares, but what about the role of Punjab police, who are supposed to protect the defenseless Christians?

Oh well, but why complain about it. The only difference however was that Muslims in India are strong enough to fight back against the Hindu mobs, or at least have been known to. Since they have mobs of their own attacking Hindus too.

Though it is actually ridiculously unfair to even come close to compare Gujarat riots to the Joseph Colony incident on so many levels, but the degree of offense can only be made out by humanistic and secular eyes. We are dealing with the absurd and ridiculous over here .

The riots in Gujarat sparked after Muslims set a train containing Hindu pilgrims on fire, after a Muslim girl’s kidnap, while others say it was an orchestrated conspiracy. But neither did the Pakistani Christians do anything as wrong, or that is at least what anyone not a fervent Muslim would think, nor are they strong enough to have even the remotest hope of responding back in anger.

Alright I don’t have to make it too long. The point is clear here.

I want the conservative Muslims of Pakistan to read it and I will try sending out that message in Urdu as well. But while keeping little more odds of staying alive, I can still send out the message to the one or two of the Pakistani Muslim conservatives Pakistani Muslims who happen to stumble upon this blog.

The Pakistani Muslims who would criticize Indian Hindu extremists for harming Muslims would tolerate incidents like Joseph Colony and Gojra riots at home, being as complicit and as protective of the culprits as their similar adversaries across the border.

To my eyes, there is hardly any difference between the two, which is why they hate each other so. And that is the ultimate insult to them.

Source: Mohsin Raza/Reuters

Source: Mohsin Raza/Reuters

But make no mistake about what happened in Joseph Colony. Make no mistake about its horrors and the misery of having your home attacked and your possession and memories burned to ashes and dust.

Home lost, families forced to live under tents or in indefinitely temporary camps, as was or would have been the case with some rendered homeless in Gujarat.

Let it be for possessing the land or whatever political crimes may be the reason behind this incident, the fact remains that the masses acted on their religious beliefs, and we love to protect that part of our faith.

And oh, how terrible this tragedy has been, and how wrong it was and there were only a handful of people doing it and how it should not have happened, would be the answers we have to it. But we wouldn’t want to face what is causing this behavior over and over again. That’s all there is to this matter and nothing more.

Good and evil do not matter anymore.

The key here is not to emphasize how atrocious the Joseph Colony tragedy is, but to tell Pakistani Muslim Conservatives how idiotic they are.