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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What the Recurrent Gaza Conflict Brings Out in People

Source: abc.net.au

Source: abc.net.au

The periodic, recurrent, Gaza crisis which is bound to happen every few months for certain reasons, brings out a lot of things in different people.

It brings out the compassion and mercy in hearts and souls around the world for people suffering in the prison-like cities of Gaza.

It brings out the Nazi in most Pakistani nationalist conservatives, some of the more educated of which would claim they do not hate Jews but would chant “Death to Israel” in the same breath.

It brings out the hideously antisemitic internet memes attributing antisemitic quotes to their führer Adolf Hitler, that would make you wonder if Nazism is dead.

Source: shariaunveiled.wordpress.com

Source: shariaunveiled.wordpress.com

But Pakistan suffers from antisemitism in the true technical sense of the word, because other than the major chunk for the Jews, the rest of it is directed at the Arabs out of political disapproval. Especially for their hedonistic inaction on Palestine.

And not to forget, the Iran backed terrorists are not so dangerous.

It takes out the most nauseating moralists in just about anyone, from nationalist conservatives to anti-establishment liberals, who would twist logic in whatever form as they deem necessary to fit their worldview.

It brings out the usual twisted logic among liberals that you get to hear from time to time that conditions the righteousness of outrage to preference of wrongdoings in the order of immediate geographical proximity.

It also brings out the good old emotional blackmail in the overzealous political activist. One who would stop at nothing to hurl abuses at their target audience for watching football, and even worse, inventing non-existing obligations, in order to milk action.

Action for nothing.

Source: The News

Source: The News

It brings out the completely unreasonable policymakers in the Pakistan Foreign Office.

The policymakers who would very rightly condemn the Israeli brutality, but would never utter a word about the Hamas rocket strikes. Now this point is absolutely relevant because it defines your diplomacy toward the belligerent parties.

How can people possibly support terrorist groups over a legitimate state and the only democracy in the Middle East? If you ignore the growing intolerance at home thanks to the artificially created demographic.

Source: timesofisrael.com

Source: Times of Israel

It brings out the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a formidable wartime leader to his potential voters who easily comes across a war criminal to most people watching the Gaza operation on TV.

It brings out the illusion of defiant war heroes in the de facto Hamas leaders Ismail Haniyeh and Khaled Meshal, whose authority is doing hardly anything but jeopardizing the life and peace of their captive subjects.

It brings out the Israeli Defense Forces as vigilant publicists reaching out to the world meticulously chronicling the incoming rockets and highlighting Hamas war crimes of using civilians as a shield for their weapons.

It also brings out the Western progressive and radical left critics of Israel to abandon their usual devotion to political correctness and equate Zionism with Nazism.

It at least brings out the best of propagandists out of anyone commenting on this complicated conflict.

In the end, you would feel that the criticism of Israel is absolutely justified, as always and the criticism of such critics is pretty foolish. Especially considering the completely cynical disregard to the peace process ever since Bibi Netanyahu took office.

Still, it is encouraging that the Israelis are reportedly warning citizens before attacks. But many wonder if it is of any use.

Where are they to go in that desert of misery and despair?

But to my mind, the responsibility on Hamas is just too incredibly great.

It all comes down to how much you are going to put up with a next door terrorist regime which is hell-bent to jeopardize your peace continuously. Leaving them no option but to go on and act without mercy.

Still you would ask why does not Israel simply flatten out Gaza City with bombs? Or why does it refrain from making such attacks in the West Bank?

The Hamas armed resistance would otherwise be respectable, but to my mind, saving every life in their given situation should be a priority. Which does not seem to be a priority of any party at the moment.

Gaza right now is Hell on Earth.

Sadly, you can’t do much worrying about a government who are content on making it even worse for themselves.

Somehow you hope that the current operation will bring the violence to an end for good.

What Sochi is All About

Source: Google Inc.

Source: Google Inc.

So it is a very politically correct and morally righteous thing to condemn the Sochi Olympics, isn’t it?

I mean my social media feed is having multiple orgasms over this beautiful Google Doodle.

Hey, Russia is homophobic. Fuck that event. I agree. But here is the deal.

There is something curious about the way Western media has covered this event, even before it kicked off.

All of a sudden everyone in the Free World has risen up for gay rights on a sporting occasion, which is a good thing by the way, even though still being on a learning curve to fully accept gay marriage.

But hey, I am not going to present a lot of logical fallacies to make the point. I’ll get down to business.

The coverage of the Sochi Olympics has mainly been about the Free World v Putin more than anything else. Certainly more than it has been about gay rights.

Because frankly, if it were really about discrimination, a lot of countries would not even be the members of the International Olympics Movement right now.

But I do not really expect people to even talk about that, because that is precisely what they do not want to be talked about from this side of the fallen Iron Curtain.

And while I am writing these lines, I see Gary Kasparov going after NBC for how they are covering the Sochi Olympics. Look who just jumped over the Berlin Wall. Good for him.

It is not an appropriate thing to say, but I don’t really have that kind of a job to lose.

The smear campaign of the Western media has really appeared to be more about Putin than it is about gay rights. Though some would argue this is precisely the point.

I am not usually for doubting intentions and would only comment on actions, but hey, I am commenting on actions.

And Google comes out with its gay Olympics doodle to insult Russia and undermine the Olympics. But it will be actually celebrated for that.

I mean I know Russians have been terrible organizers, to the point of being pathetic, and screwed up a lot of things. I even think they did not deserve the Olympics, but I guess that tomorrow Western nations would get to host the event too.

But at least the reliable Russian incompetence is offering a lot of schadenfreude to people who are upset the Western powers could not prevent it from getting underway altogether.

I don’t think it is very wise to sabotage an international sporting event with such political antagonism, and yes, this is precisely what it is. Even if about gay rights, though it is fortunate that the cause is gaining more traction as a result.

I guess if the media is so sensitive about political causes, they should make sure that all such issues should be taken care of before any major sporting event is organized.

Alright, I concede it is really a logical fallacy, but hey, this could happen.

The Arab media and the scattered Arab people should have called for boycotts of London 2012 to protest the Iraq War. Remember, Britain was the prime partner of the United States in turning Iraq into a junkyard.

Or perhaps, Google should ensure to draw a doodle condemning how the Fukushima Plant has contaminated the planet irreversibly ahead of the Tokyo 2020 event.

Hopefully, the media would not forget raising the anti gay laws in Qatar when the 2022 World Cup approaches. It’s good if some of them are already doing that.

But tell you what, it would not be half as much as what the Sochi coverage has been.

But I bet no one in the media would demand America to shut Guantanamo Bay down, to suspend anti gay laws in States at home and perhaps ask the Nobel laureate President to stop bombing random weddings from unmanned drones.

Living in the house of glass and throwing stones?

Yes, I know it is emotional blackmail. But this would be a rather conservative way to describe this sort of coverage of a sporting event by the Western media.

Putin is an authoritarian and it makes sense to trash his system. But there is a time and a place.

I am just waiting for the time for Russia to return the favor in the future events. There is a good chance that the authoritarian Putin would still be around for that long.

Putin is a propagandist too but his propaganda machines are not this loud.

And not half as much politically correct.

Sheepthink: Presenting Problems as Solutions

Source: godtreasure.net

One of the most fundamental aspects of politics that you can observe is that it works mostly by the manipulation of human emotion.

And why not. With its practitioners being the guardians, as well as traders, of morality and justice, it becomes all about addressing the grievances of the wronged, given the incessant tendency of the human kind to be drawn to conflict and violence.

The imperfect state of affairs and the injustice and inequality caused by the abuse of power and authority all over the world in one way or another only fuel the tensions among people who feel they have been deprived and cheated.

Therefore, since there are always people who are deprived and even oppressed in some way, there will always be platforms that would offer help, genuinely or not. And often those platforms would ultimately resort to the same ills they have been claiming to liberate people from, should they have their way.

Such is the terrible cycle of politics, call it a deliberate system or a natural random occurrence.

However, in a bid to change the society for the better, greater control of the government is often proposed as a remedy to the prevalent inequality and injustice. Yes, what but the government is the solution to every wrong on earth?

Government control is absolutely necessary when it comes to providing security and protecting fundamental rights, consumer rights and the environment from abuse and malpractice. But more often than not, invitation to greater regulation results in taking a yard when an inch is offered. Arguably the same is true for certain private entities, but it remains to be the very occupation of the government.

Often the solution which is supposed to liberate people from the clutches of evil capitalistic oppressors are the very vehicles of the corruption ensuing this misery.

So is completely abolishing either private enterprise or government regulation the solution?

In the meantime, people would continue to be exploited by political emotional blackmail in one way or another. I would not mind as long as they would at least understand the value of their individual liberty, which they are gladly willing to give away in exchange of an imaginary utopian orgasm.

Establishing social justice by infringing on people’s right is nothing but sheepthink.

Maybe the only solution is just not dropping your guard.

The OryaAbbasi Inquisition: Ganging Up on the Defenseless

OryaAbbasi - File Sources: currentaffairspk.com and foxcey.com

OryaAbbasi – File Sources: currentaffairspk.com and foxcey.com

A recent talkshow by Kamran Shahid on Dunya TV about Malala’s now-controversial biography “I am Malala” has become a talking point for Pakistanis. The participants of the show included columnist Orya Maqbool Jan, journalist Ansaar Abbasi, physicist and analyst Pervez Hoodbhoy and Ambassador Zafar Hilaly. After watching the show, there are quite a few observations that I would like to make. The show can be found here.

And now, the commentary.

The show is the perfect exhibit to demonstrate that Pakistan is not a free speech society, even though such talk shows may appear to give the impression of the contrary. In a society, where expressing certain opinions pertaining to a certain religion is like sealing your death warrant. And the state only makes matters worse, which makes you thank your stars it is not half as effective.

A lot of people are attacking the host of the show Kamran Shahid for inviting people with conflicting views for better ratings, just so that he can have a heated argument. But I fully support him for this. First of all, there is nothing wrong with that. That’s great TV. He is only doing his job and I actually appreciate him for bringing together the likes of Veena Malik and Mufti Sb before.

However, there is a different reason altogether for which Kamran Shahid deserves criticism and ridicule. Shahid did an awful job at moderating the show, and it can be argued that it was deliberate. However, I would refrain from saying so. In any case, it was criminal negligence as he allowed religiosity to be a moral high ground in the debate through his word and moderating action.

Orya Maqbool Jan started the show by referring to certain passages from Malala’s book. His main focus was outraging at Malala mentioning that “her father was opposed to Salman Rushdie‘s The Satanic Verses but was a firm believer in freedom of speech”. He also rejected Malala’s criticism on curbs on women’s participation in public life and on media during the Zia regime, citing many female playwrights that rose to prominence at the time on the state television.

Pervez Hoodbhoy - Source: Newsweek Pakistan

Pervez Hoodbhoy – Source: Newsweek Pakistan

Pervez Hoodbhoy, in return, had zero arguments in Malala’s defense. As a matter of fact, he did more damage to Malala’s cause than a conservative could have imagined, though the aging scholar performed far better emotionally than I expected.

Hoodbhoy started out by saying that Orya and Abbasi were lying and that they were misrepresenting facts and maligning Malala, including an ad hominem attack on their English language skills. Apart from this opinion, hardly any argument was offered by the former QAU Professor.

The only solid argument from his side was about writing PBUH (Peace Be Upon Him) with the mention of Prophet Muhammad, as Ansaar Abbasi had raised this rather obnoxious and easily beatable objection on Malala’s book.

This is where Kamran Shahid proved his lack of impartiality as the moderator, as he stupidly mentioned the anecdote of his thesis submission abroad in which he wrote PBUH with the name of Prophet Muhammad, despite the warning from his supervisor that writing it implied bias in a research report. This way Shahid tried influencing the debate as if not writing PBUH with the Prophet’s name was something immoral in terms of faith.

Ansaar Abbasi maintained a consistent mantra of calling Pervez Hoodbhoy “jahil” or ignorant throughout the course of half an hour of the debate, until Hoodbhoy was forced to leave amid such onslaught just before the show ended. However, for someone as religious as Abbasi, calling someone else ignorant sounded pretty hilarious and stupid.

Ambassador Zafar Hilaly, who was wondering what he was doing there, was asked to present his opinion about drone strikes and on talks with the Taliban. He was only seen shaking his head in disapproval as the war of relatively civil curse words went on between Abbasi and Hoodbhoy, as Orya continued shouting out of his lungs to stop their exchange in order to read the passage from Malala’s book.

The only reason there should be sympathy for Dr. Pervez Hoodbhoy is that Orya Maqbool Jan and Ansar Abbasi, who for convenience and for promoting my branding of their inquisiiton, would be referred to as #OryaAbbasi as the duo’s pseudonym from this point on, ganged up on him. I repeat, OryaAbbasi literally ganged up on Hoodbhoy, interrogating in a frighteningly self-righteous manner.

OryaAbbasi started an inquisition of Hoodbhoy to publicly frame him for opinions offensive to Muslims, paired with a hilarious but threatening diabolical laughter, as if warning him of consequences. Hoodbhoy was obviously dumbfounded for being trapped in this cul-de-sac. He narrowly dodged the inquisition by answers considered somewhat acceptable by the standards of the Pakistani Islamic society.

OryaAbbasi asking Hoodbhoy about his position on The Satanic Verses and whether Ahmedis are Muslims or not is fine, and perhaps encouraging in theory, but doing so on public TV in a society such as Pakistan is dangerous, to say the least. Because someone believing in free speech or not agreeing with excommunicating the Ahmedis would most probably be threatened by the extremist Muslims who consider it righteous to kill someone with such views.

The OryaAbbasi inquisition could also be a frightening insight to the future of Pakistan is an increasingly authoritarian and theocratic state. The state already requires its citizens to declare in writing that they are not in any way affiliated with Ahmedis. Would this imply that the National ID card and Passport forms would also carry a declaration condemning The Satanic Verses, if not on more informal levels However, Pakistani Muslim individuals would still not see this as an invasion of their personal and social freedom.

In order to successfully tackle the OryaAbbasi inquisition and to effectively respond Muslim and other religious fundamentalists, Pakistanis need a secular liberal spokesperson who is not fearful of their life like Taseer or Christopher Hitchens. This is why I have tremendous respect for Christopher Hitchens, because he had very real death threats as well, but he never compromised on free speech, and he even defended Rushdie at the time when he was in hiding for his life.

A nervous, frail and emotional debater such as Pervez Hoodbhoy, despite his prestige and knowledge, is not able to take on these harassing fundamentalists. Partly because of the self-censorship that you need to exercise about Islam in the Pakistani society for the sake of security. 

Unless people are clear that it is the values of an Islamic authoritarian society that is the threat and the enemy of freedom, no one would buy the mild apologies for passages from Malala’s book that liberals have to offer. Because let’s face it, this passage from the book has opened a bit of a Pandora’s box, but I still support it. It is her freedom to write whatever she likes and I agree with it. 

If Malala has written that her father believed in freedom of speech, it is the duty of the secular-liberal debater to defend free speech as a superior value no matter what. This is what Malala’s fight is about anyway, but we are failing her. Now that Malala has been put in this position by the likes of OryaAbbasi, we need a better public defense of her.  

As crazy as it sounds, but they hardly have any argument if they don’t defend what they believe in. This is about liberty and freedom from theocracy, and the only argument is to reject religious authoritarianism.

Unless there is a debater who presents arguments that attacks the fallacy of faith and theocracy, liberal and secular debaters will always be on the losing side, shut up by religious emotional blackmail. 

Any volunteers?