The Perfect Representative of Our Collective Morality

Source: Youtube Channel

It probably would not be a harsh exaggeration, if you compared the collective moral state of the people of Pakistan with that of the Apartheid South Africa, the American South when slavery was practiced and even Nazi Germany. These analogies, if you consider them so, sound very harsh and damning. However, when you see otherwise reasonable and probably morally well aware Pakistanis defend the discrimination against Ahmedis like rabid dogs, you probably don’t see it that way anymore.

How can the Pakistani Muslim people, such beautiful, loving, compassionate people be so brutal at heart? Well, the extent of an evil is trivialized when it is diluted over such a humungous demographic. It is almost shocking if you look at the real degree of this problem. It is truly remarkable how a supposedly desirable trait can eat up all traces of your humanity like the termite.

Well, nothing brings forth the state of this collective social morality than the recent protest by a Khatam-e-Naboowat Group or Labaik Ya Rasool Allah Movement, a blockade protest that even the more pious of my friends have grown tired of. Some of them would mourn when the government will actually take violent action to remove them, which some of them are calling for so angrily. But what is even more hilarious is that people are actually visibly disturbed by this character Khadim Hussain Rizvi, the clear face of completely unwarranted Barelvi extremism in Pakistan.

The excuse is the paranoia that the Western powers and the nefarious Ahmedis are conspiring to change the precious Finality of Prophethood law. If you recall the parliamentary incident of the electoral amendment, exploited thoroughly by the opposition and the repulsive, corrupt Captain Safdar, the protesting Prophet-loving clerics are apparently behind the head of the “cleric committing the error.” You know what they mean by punishing the culprits, the lovers of the Prophet. Talk about unreasonable demands.

Listening to the brutal, heartless, vulgar and merciless message that the leader of this movement has to offer, it is a disappointment to link him to the human race. Especially when he insulted Abdul Sattar Edhi, a rare incident of selfless humanity in the brutal Pakistani history of bloodshed and selfishness. But perhaps this is what the human beings were supposed to come down to. But other than that, this is perfectly what the Pakistani people deserved to have.

Pakistani people proudly and absolutely love the 2nd amendment that has demonized Ahmedi citizens among their ranks. Now they must endure the curse of Khadim Hussain Rizvi as a token of this love they are proud of so much.

I look forward to life becoming even more miserable for Pakistanis.

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The Ignored Mass Hysteria of the Righteous

Source: Telegraph

Source: Telegraph

Not long before the date of the publishing of this post, a woman was lynched and burned alive for burning the Koran by an angry mob of men in Afghanistan. A few days later, another secular Bangladeshi blogger Washiqur Rahman was hacked to death by religious fundamentalists, after Avijit Roy met a similar fate. A few months ago, similar religious justice was dispensed in a small Punjab town near Lahore.

It would probably be fallacious and inappropriate to link allthe religiously motivated mob lynching and killing incidents occurring in these different South and Western Asian countries into a pattern. However, you cannot help but notice the similar convictions and motives driving the angry killers in all of these apparently isolated incidents. Of course, we know that the quoted incidents are just a few of the many such incidents. It cannot possibly be a coincidence that different mobs separated by language and other geographical barriers converge under a common banner of morality.

While it appears that the antitheists only resort to unreasonable bigotry when they blame religion for making good people do terrible things, such incidents of violence only seem to validate their strange claim. It would be very difficult for even the most conservative of critics to actually deny the religious nature of the motivation of the attackers.

It is amazing that these societies, which are apparently obsessed with moral righteousness and justice, let these incidents go largely unaddressed in terms of criticism and outrage. Or actually, some would argue that such strong tendencies are the very factor behind these outrageous cases of mob violence, apparently condoned by the society in their immediate surroundings. Obviously, there are a few who protested all these incidents, but they can hardly engage the majority directly in a reasonable debate over this issue. No wonder why such criticism is largely absent from Urdu language press in Pakistan.

You can understand the occurrence of individual apathetic sociopaths, but it is worrisome when such behavior becomes a socially accepted norm. The degree of violence that is associated with this perceivably divine system of justice is pretty much an insult to humanity by any standard. However, in this day and age, this medieval system of witch hunting is pretty much alive and well.

Would it be too bizarre to claim that these people have been exposed to certain instructions or a common moral code that encourage them to act in this manner? Surely, there must be a common idea uniting thousands of people to come together and target a defenseless person so brutally. Ah, just imagine the horror of a mob beating you up. Imagine the pain and humiliation. Oh wait, let’s not even go there. Invoking the theory of mind is such a cliché, or perhaps hardly of any use in this case.

Or would it be too offensive and inappropriate to question the morality of the community condoning their practices?

It is interesting to note how consistently such faith related killings occur. Yet it is hard to point out the elephant in the room. Probably there really isn’t a pattern, nothing to do with what these people were actually supposed to follow, but you cannot help but notice why it is happening, especially if you find the chants of these mobs at work hard to ignore.

Nevertheless, it would have been encouraging had such behavior been confined to angry and vicious mobs and fringe radicals looking to stone infidels to death. The problem is that some of the states supposed to stop the madness are even worse, putting it into legislation. While the scholars who would conveniently condemn a vigilante witch hunt would happily offer an alternative legal route for the same.

You might be tempted to falsely term this widespread organized righteous behavior mass hysteria, but that would be a gross understatement.

The post was originally published in The Nation blogs.

 

My Pakistani Person of the Year 2014: Muhammad Jibran Nasir

Source: Jibran Nasir

Source: Jibran Nasir

Up till this morning, I had been pretty clear in my mind that my Pakistani person of the year would be none other than Malala Yousufzai. But then again, I thought there should be better reasons than just being the Nobel peace laureate for the year. She is making her difference alright, and the Nobel Peace Prize is certainly the highlight of the year before she largely becomes irrelevant.

But who has contributed something different for Pakistan this year?

Who is it that has been willing to face the danger of challenging Mullahs for their understanding of what is good for the country, without putting their personal safety first.

For these reasons alone, my Pakistani of the year has to be Muhammad Jibran Nasir.

Though I cannot fully get myself to agree with the Charter of Demands of the movement. Article 3 more specifically, which gives PEMRA and PTA more reasons to live, and calling for the kind of social media profile witchhunt and ideological targeting that could kill free speech in this country. Because while it would be meant to target those inciting hate (hopefully), such internet policing would eventually target pro-secularism elements.

I also oppose suppressing the voice of Maulana Abdul Aziz, who is only doing the cause of secularism a favor by honestly expressing his Islamist beliefs. Let his madness be known to all.

Furthermore, I have no interest or inclination to call for the protest of someone who did not condemn or had celebrated the Peshawar massacre, and so what if he ultimately apologized? It means nothing.

But despite all those differences, his cause is absolutely right.

There should be no doubt in anyone’s mind that the clerics of Lal Masjid and the administrators of Jamia Hafsa are killing freedom of hundreds of children. And it is not hard to imagine that if it were up to them, they would take away whatever freedoms we enjoy.

Even during the anti-Abdul Aziz protests, a father was looking for the release of a detained daughter in the female seminary of the mosque run by the wife of Maulana Abdul Aziz.

This, apart from their active militant activity back then,  is why the Lal Masjid operation carried out by the military in July 2007 was absolutely justified, though seemingly a little excessive in its execution.

Jibran Nasir became a hero for the secularists and liberals in Pakistan as soon as he started his protest movement, but he also gained the support of most skeptics when he received the first death threat from the Lal Masjid terrorists.

A death threat from these people is no joke. It is not freedom of religion, though that is what gives them a free pass, and it is surely not freedom of speech.

If that was not enough, Maulana Abdul Aziz dug his own grave by threatening Nasir, the MQM chief and other protesters. It was primarily his own stupidity more than anything else that got him into trouble. Even resorting to sending out threats of suicide attacks. But the credit must go to the protesters outside the Aabpara police station who persisted on the calls of his arrest.

While a local judge has issued the warrant, Maulana Abdul Aziz has not been arrested as of December 31, 2014.

Meanwhile, Jibran Nasir has been accused of all sort of things that the pro-Islamist, pro-Taliban nationalist right wing considers to be evil under the sun. He has been called an anti-Islam agent of the Indian, US and Jewish lobby, member of the MQM, a Hindu-loving Holi-celebrating traitor and an Ahmedi, the ultimate enemies of the state and the root of all evil in the universe.

No, he is not anti-Islam. It is probably people like me who would bash him for not being precisely that. But no, we won’t.

He responded to each and every falsehood though, and has proved to be the moral victor. But moral victories do not matter in the real world, or at least in Pakistan.

While I am aware that the militantism that the anti-Abdul Aziz movement is taregeting does not address the root of the long term problem of faith based violence, but I must also concede that his movement is probably the best shot we got. This, along with the government’s decision to crack down on religious extremist elements.

However, our law enforcement still looks pretty weak, and almost unwilling, when it comes to cracking down on the real culprits, namely Islamist extremists, and would be far more comfortable targeting the protesting workers of AWP as easily as they would drink water.

It is people like Jibran Nasir who are actually making a difference for Pakistan, out in the battlefield, and putting the rest of us to shame.

Dear Pakistani expats, this is the sort of person you may want to support.

His battle is the battle of the people of Pakistan and is the battle for democracy.

And for all you Islamists out there, he is not alone.

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Read about my Pakistani person of last year here.

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.

The Example of Shahbaz Bhatti

Source: Asianews.it

There are not a lot of countries which have to endure unpleasant occurrences such as the assassination of Shahbaz Bhatti, since which a year has passed on March 2 this year, but even rare are examples set with such crude nudity and such evident clarity that religious extremism can really plague a society like a cancerous tumor. Pakistan is one country that proudly boasts fundamentalism as a part of its dysfunctional constitution and law.

Like always, you cannot be absolutely sure about who did it but the evidence and the messages left at the spot clearly point towards the Pakistani Taliban, a separatist faction which wants to enforce its brand of militant Shariah in the country, which many argue is what the Shariah is, but that’s another subject. It is thought that Bhatti was assassinated for his criticism on the Blasphemy Law. Ever since he has been silenced, so have been most of the voices in the country who were outspoken about it.

In any case, this pretty much puts to rest any false assertions about the Islamic constitution and law, or at least an Islamic Republic, protecting minorities. Even if that is true in theory, it certainly is not in practice. This is usually what I tell Muslim Pakistanis, like many other people who support a Secular constitution and law, that no matter how much you are confident about the provisions in the Islamic law, or Shariah, to protect the minorities, that is not how non-Muslims see that law and that is precisely the reason why there should be an “agreed upon” and uncontroversial constitution and the law, which should not be disputed by any party. As a matter of fact, most of the non-Muslims will immediately raise objections as soon as they hear about the Shariah or the Islamic Law.

People may or may not agree with it, but Bhatti’s assassination has been an alarming point raising question marks about the kind of protection the law and constitution of the country offer to its citizens. I am not talking about communities and minorities here because it sort of disturbs me calling for the rights of this community and that community. Every citizen has their rights and we don’t really have to refer to people as minorities, as if they are not completely a part of the society.

The bottom line is that Shahbaz Bhatti’s assassination has been a wake up call for the Pakistani state and especially the Pakistani people that only a secular constitution, which is not loaded with communal bias, is the foundation to the solution of the problems of the country regarding civil rights.

To remind you of the neverending need for protest and the great struggle for civil rights in Pakistan in the face of pointless religious extremism, leaving you with the best sign spotted in a Shahbaz Bhatti assassination protest.

Hope she gets heard some day.

One of the best signs ever seen in a Shahbaz Bhatti assassination protest rally. Source: Abid Nawaz/Express Tribune

Shahbaz Bhatti – Another Martyr for Sanity

Shahbaz Bhatti (1968 - 2011) - Source: AFP

To some people the fact that the Pakistani Federal Minister for Minorities, Shahbaz Bhatti, was assassinated on March 3, was not a surprise after what happened to the late Governor Salmaan Taseer, but it is yet a huge and shocking tragedy. The pamphlets that were left behind at the site of crime were from the Tehreek-e-Taliban Punjab, the Punjabi wing of Taliban, which read that death was the only punishment for blasphemers of the Holy Prophet. This terrorist organization also accepted the responsibility for his assassination.

This is kind of confusing because Shahbaz Bhatti was not a blasphemer. But anyway, how many times have people discussed that. Some of the people also think that there is an international conspiracy behind his murder to defame Paksitan’s name (as if we need their help), but for the sake of argument, let us also consider that possibility.

But the question to ask, again, is what Pakistanis are doing themselves? What the religious leaders in Pakistan, and the silent moderate Muslim majority of the country fail to understand completely is that just stating that Islam is a faith that takes care of the security and rights of the minorities is not enough. The whole world can clearly see that it is not the case, since the recent protests against the proposed bill to amend the Blasphemy Law involved clerics openly calling for death of the people criticizing the law publicly.

Imagine what would have been going through the minds of every non-Muslim in Pakistan when he or she would have seen the Minister responsible for their affairs slain brutally by terrorists, which are harbored and sympathized by many within Pakistan. Even if foreign intervention is involved, it could play no more than, say 10%, of the part, as all the acts of terrorism are carried out by local terrorist groups, most of them religious in nature.

The lesson to learn from the assassination of Shahbaz Bhatti, who is yet another Martyr for Sanity in an insane country, is that we need to get our textbook right. Shahbaz Bhatti is the kind of Pakistanis we need at a time when religious fanaticism is on the rise ever since this menace grew out of all proportions in the dark reign of the military dictator General Zia ul Haq, who used his influence to force so-called Islamic laws on the country for his own political ends. He was the very same man in whose rule the Blasphemy Law found its current shape.

I am often asked by my close friends about what good would the secular amendments in the constitution do. It is simple. The people of other faith or that of no faith at all are not concerned even a bit about what your religion has to say about them, neither should they be entitled to even listen to, let alone the idea of complying with, the rules that you set according to your religion about them. That is the most absurd idea ever, and unfortunately, this is what has been happening in Pakistan.

You need to offer a common ground for every citizen in the state in a Secular constitution, so that each and every citizen, regardless of religion, sect, language, ethnicity or caste would be able to relate to it. That is the only way in which not even a single person will be considered left out. A communal constitution will always make minorities, and I hate this word by the way, think at the back of their minds all the time that they are not accepted in the country, no matter how many stories you tell them about the way some Muslim rulers had treated the minorities in their time. It is just not good enough.

Shahbaz Bhatti is a great loss for Pakistan because he was a sane voice and was bravely and openly defending the rights of the minorities. Unfortunately, he fell like Salman Taseer as well, among some of the few voices openly questioning the Draconian Blasphemy Law. While the PPP workers would mourn the loss of another comrade, they should be mourning even more that these heroes were not supported by the party leadership as they should have been. At least, they should have owned their efforts which are changing Pakistan right now.

While the minorities in Pakistan in general, and the Christian community in particular, would have felt that their voice has been silenced in Shahbaz Bhatti, there is still time for Pakistani political and religious leadership to concentrate towards building an egalitarian and tolerant society instead of one dominated by a particular community. The bureaucratic and military establishment should support them by all means possible for carrying this out, and let there be intolerance towards intolerance. Besides, they have been equally active in creating this mess during the Zia regime anyway.

I am not claiming I know all the solutions to this complex problem, but let us make a start. If all Pakistanis are united to prevent incidents like the assassination of Salmaan Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti, there is no force in the world which could cause another national tragedy.

 

For now, Pakistan salutes Shahbaz Bhatti, a national hero.