The Horror of a Vulnerable Minority

Source: iAfrica.com

The horrifying and shocking Christchurch mosque attack has forced the world to witness from the viewpoint of an oppressor what the misery of being a vulnerable minority is. After this, can you ever guarantee if any place in the world is safe for you to pray?

The valiant efforts of reassurances and condolences by the New Zealand premier are not enough and not even needed, as appreciable as they are, but she hardly knows better. She simply does not know how to reconcile with the brutal reality of the vicious, violent politics of some in her ethnic community, even living in supposedly quiet, utopian countries such as New Zealand. New Zealand responded with compassion and shock, especially the Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, though there is little mention of her own xenophobic stand.

Just imagine how the innocent Muslims praying on a quiet Christchurch Friday in the mosque would have felt like when they had heard gunfire in its halls. But probably they should not have dropped their guard like that. They took the peace and tranquility of the quiet Christchurch town for granted. The mosque attacker, who was clearly a White Nationalist, had made his intentions clear beforehand on a facebook post about the crime he was going to commit. Muslims cannot breathe in peace in the West, even in the remote and tranquil New Zealand.

Source: wp.com

I would really like to make a part of the debate something that hardly ever sees the light of day and which needs to take place among conservative, liberal, and secular Muslims. And that is how tragedies such as these are politically used to repel political scrutiny into their social and theocratic positions. The left progressives in the West are obviously the greatest allies to them in sheltering their ideologies. This is where the following interview of Canadian Muslim journalist Tarek Fatah, a noted dissident from mainstream Islam, is of paramount importance. Because the absence of this side of the argument will be intellectual dishonesty. I commend Tarek Fatah for his courage.

 

Meanwhile, most people around the world, even in the modern Indian Republic with their preoccupation of hate for Pakistan, continue to ignore the constant fear. Even this Holi, two Hindu women, Reena and Raveena have been abducted by an unknown mob while injuring their family members. This happens just about every other month in Sindh.

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And of course, the constantly abused Christian community in Pakistan, even in Islamabad.

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Nobody in Pakistan seems to care about the continual targeting and murder of the Ahmedi community. Two more Ahmedi doctors were recently killed and their bodies found near Fateh Jung, in the outskirts of Islamabad.

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It is a tragedy how innocent people fall victim to the extremism of all kinds.

This is our Christchurch too. The difference is that it happens all year round. And closet Jamatiyas who would accuse liberals to be quiet about the atrocities of White Nationalists would willfully ignore this in the name of supporting an Islamic Republic.

And when a Prime Minister in Pakistan tries to become Jacinda Ardern, an anti-immigration politician who is the new hero of Muslim conservatives, he is instantly dubbed an infidel and a traitor.

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The Most Tolerant Nation on Earth

Source:  bosnewslife.com

Source: bosnewslife.com

Pakistanis are by far the most tolerant nation on earth.

They are easily the most tolerant considering how much shit they put up with. I am not even sure why are they accused of intolerance in the society, considering their loving, forgiving nature.

Want to try it? Ask the person sitting next to you about the possible hanging of Asia Bibi. Or even the YouTube ban, which is so embarrassing, that it makes you wonder if you should ever say that you are proud to be a Pakistani.

But enough of the elitist first world digital age problems.

Just look at all the tolerance that has been going on all this time. We have been tolerating and forgiving every single atrocity. From the Gojra riots to the Joseph Colony arson, and from the murder of Christian couple in Kot Radha Kishan to the Gulberg Park bombing, all is in the natural order of things.

The recent episode has been the condemnation of the entire community of Christians in Mandi Bahauddin in the name of the honor of the Prophet. We have had such cases several times, in which a person’s loose tongue has warranted the collective punishment of a community. Won’t be the last because we are too tolerant to be moved by such horrors.

Perhaps the only way to survive is to convert to Islam once and for all. Because somehow that makes the rioting majority love the “janitors” all of a sudden.  Though think about it, who would remain a janitor if everyone converted to Islam? Perhaps that thought could ignite some intolerance among the forgiving majority.

I must say, these Christians and Hindus in Pakistan are either too brave or too moronic. And don’t even mention the Ahmedis. They are a special, incurable breed of crazy.

Things like that usually do not happen in most countries, and when they do, it is usually a big deal. But no, it’s just business as usual for Pakistan. Just shut up, look the other way. Hey, harmony and inner peace are important. At least, that’s what my shrink tells me.

We can still question considered outrageous in a parallel universe called Planet Earth, and ask our fellow citizens for their reaction. Only to be met by a silence, by looking the other way.

We privately do question these atrocities, but would seldom do it in public. With the exception of a few nutcases such as Sabeen Mahmud, Jibran Nasir, Taimur Rehman and Farzana Bari, who are so passionate in their activism that it honestly makes me nauseate and feel ashamed at the same time. That is why they remain constantly under the attacks of extremists and nationalist conservatives.

And I wonder if they make a hypocrite like me feel ashamed, what about folks with much higher moral standards? At least to not look the other way.

But do these handful really represent the majority of our society? While they are acting on the logic of the attendance of the Islamic funeral alright, but is their tiny participation enough to make a difference? Perhaps not, because these drivers-of-foreign-agenda are far outnumbered by more tolerant, more patriotic, nicer people.

The tolerance of our moralist political commentators on the television is particularly praiseworthy, who would constantly babble sermons against financial corruption day in and day out. While their passion for mourning the stolen wealth of the nation is exemplary, they would also look the other way when atrocities against non-Muslims, or even the peasants of Renala Khurd, are brought up.

Perhaps, it is time that the educated, civilized Pakistan become a little intolerant in order to discourage, if not put an end to, atrocities against the cornered. Too much to ask?

But then again, it’s probably propaganda funded by foreign NGOs anyway, for which I have thanked these mysterious organizations several times before.

It is probably wise not to care for the sheep and steer clear of the shearer. Because that appears to be in the self-interest of those who have not gotten to the position of the vulnerable yet. Besides, it’s safe.

Granted, but should we be doing that and claim moral superiority for the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and its great, true national faith? Because God knows that claim is true.

That still raises some serious moral questions of a population pious enough to go to great lengths not to miss a fast on even a single day in the scorching, dehydrating heat of June.

 

Too bad God only cares about those who really believe in him and those who fast during the month of Ramadan.

 

A version of the post was originally published in The Nation blogs.

Day 3: Kissa Khwani by The Citizens Archive of Pakistan – “Evolution of Cities”

Source: Kuch Khaas/Muhammad Waheed Photography

Source: Kuch Khaas/Muhammad Waheed Photography

The Citizens Archive of Pakistan, a platform dedicated to documenting oral history, organized a three day event called “Kissa Khwani” in Islamabad, named after the famous Kissa Khwani Bazaar in Peshawar, which was meant to promote the tradition of preserving oral historical accounts and storytelling. On June 22, 2013, the third and final episode of the three day event, “Evolution of Cities” was held in Islamabad.

The panelists of the Islamabad event included columnist Ishrat Hyatt, renowned award winning photgrapher Syed Javed Kazi, Shafiq Siddiqui, urban town planner and senior director of CDA and Fauzia Minallah, nature conservation and peace activist and founder of Funkor Child Art Foundation. The event was moderated by Parveen Malik, the President of Asian Study Group.

I am sure a lot more significant sister event was held in Lahore with the same topic, where panelists included one of my favorite speakers and writers about history, travel and archeology, Salman Rashid. The Lahore event also included urban town planning expert Imrana Tiwana, artist and preservationist Dr. Ajaz Anwer, journalist Nusrat Jamil and architect Nayyar Ali Dada.

The event started with the moderator Parveen Malik recalling her early days in the twin cities when she moved in here with her husband in the ’60s. She talked about hanging out at the Shezan Restaurant, at the London Book Store and spending New Year eves at the famous Flashmann’s Hotel. She also talked about the covered market in Islamabad, which was sold off to everyone’s shock, apart from one of the Nafdec theatres in Islamabad, which was temporarily closed after a bureaucrat’s wife was bitten there by a rat.

She also mentioned a discotheque, aptly named “Disaster”, in the early days of the Islamabad Club where families used to hang out and dance. The discotheque was shut down after one Saturday night, a couple of MNAs demanded entry into the club and jumped into the swimming pool after stripping when denied. The membership fee was a few hundred rupees in those days, which is now up in hundred thousands.

Ishrat Hyatt talked about the peaceful environment in Rawalpindi and Islamabad in the 60s. She recalled how parents had complete faith that their children would return home safely each time they went out. She mentioned the unforgettable sight of fireflies in Rawalpindi, which gradually disappeared as the city expanded. She mourned the loss of a bunch of beautiful cottages that made way for the construction of a cricket stadium.

Photographer Javed Kazi painted a picture of his pleasant walks across Rawalpindi, from the Charing Cross all the way up to Topi Rakh, the location of the Ayub National Park. Kazi observed that the natural beauty of the city offered numerous photo opportunities. Structures such as Flashmann’s Hotel and the 1907 built St. Paul’s Church are located on the same road, known as the Mall. A 30 feet high statue of Queen Victoria also stood at the square by the St. Paul’s Church, which was later uprooted.

According to Kazi, one of the most remarkable structures in Rawalpindi from the colonial times is the Rawalpindi Cathedral, which was built around 1852. Another significant building of the period was the Presidency, which was actually the palace of Sikhs related to the legendary Sujan Singh of Rawalpindi. The building now serves as the campus of Fatima Jinnah Women’s University.

Other structures by the Mall Road included the Odeon and the Plaza theatres, which were surrounded by gardens at the time. Freemason’s Hall was one of the little known structures of the city on the way to Florence Road. Rawalpindi also housed religious structures of Hindu and Sikh communities. There used to be a major Hindu temple in Bagh Sardaraan, while there was a Gurdwara of Narankari Sikhs in the Narankari Bazaar located in Rawalpindi city center.

Shafik Siddiqui of CDA commenced a long account laying out the history of the creation of Islamabad with the mention of the formulation of the Federal Capital Commission under President Ayub Khan. The commission selected a territory of approximately 350 square miles spanning an area from Kohala to Hassan Abdal and from Rawat to the location of Khanpur Dam, beyond the Margallas. The commission ruled out the idea of moving the federal capital to East Pakistan.

The Greek architects of Islamabad, Konstantinos Apostolos Doxiadis, chose to plan the city in a grid iron pattern. This was a feat in its own right, since the grid pattern is suited for planes, instead of plateaus and hills that make up the territory of Islamabad. To the astonishment of the audiences, he mentioned that the notorious Nullah Lai, used to be a source of fresh water supply for the residents of Rawalpindi and Islamabad, which was discontinued after an epidemic broke out in the 1990s. The rest is history.

He also mentioned that four major highways were planned to be built around the city, namely, the Kashmir Highway, Islamabad Highway, Capital Highway and finally the never-built Sawan Highway, which was meant to replace the GT Road. He observed that the CDA plans to remove encroachments around the city were badly affected by corruption and lack of law and order, apart from fear of certain religious groups.

Fauzia Minallah began her account by expressing her attachment to the natural beauty of Islamabad. She recalled that she instantly fell in love with the place when she moved there. She passionately talked about the pleasures of exploring the Margallas and the Saidpur village. She spoke fondly of her experience of interacting with the natives of the village and especially with the village potter Rahim Dad, who had a pottery workshop in the village.

She mourned the loss of tolerance in the society, apart from the gradually diminishing natural beauty. She told the story of the chopping down of the “Buddhist Tree” in the E7 sector at the hands of religious fundamentalists for being sacreligious, where her Japanese friend Tajima Shinji used to meditate. I found this rather ironical because I once tweeted that maybe the only way people in our culture could preserve trees was declaring them sacred.

She also noted that Saidpur used to be a pilgrimage site for Hindus but they cannot dare visit the place anymore out of fear of extremists. She observed that the fundamentalist Muslims were narrowing down the living space for people from other communities, giving them an impression that they are not welcome here. Perhaps it was her, or Parveen Malik, who mentioned that the very name of the city, Islamabad, was like a warning to people following other faiths.

She also attacked people who called Islamabad a “dead city” due to the lack of social activities. She said that Islamabad was never a dead city to her because of its immense natural beauty and for being very habitable. She said that people should understand that every city has its own mood and this is how Islamabad is meant to be. It is not supposed to look like a city with high rise buildings.

According to Minallah, the construction of high rise buildings in Islamabad has been disastrous to its appearance and environment. She warned that unusually high structures are not meant to be built in Islamabad due to its high earthquake risk for being located on a fault line. She also criticized the “so-called developmental projects” from the CDA which were a threat to the trees of the city and which polluted the then pristine fresh water streams of Saidpur village. The stream now pretty much looks like an open sewer.

Minallah mourned the insensitivity of the town planners regarding ancient and heritage structures, as well as precious trees. She mentioned that most of the urban development of the city was misguided. She insisted that people would rather have cinemas instead of shopping malls. Answering one question she rejected the notion that people do not have a good sense of their connection with nature and their heritage. She insisted that the results of the 2013 elections confirmed that the people of Pakistan were aware.

On my question about the pathetic transport system in Islamabad, which was particularly unfriendly to anyone who dared to commute to the Capital from Rawalpindi, Mr. Siddiki admitted that it has been a problem area. He said that much had been planned to develop the transportation system of the twin cities, but out of lack of funds and sincere will,  no such projects materialized the way they should have. He also blamed the local tranporter’s unions for the problem.

Siddiki also mentioned that religious extremism and blackmailing have been on the rise in Islamabad for years and it has been a major hurdle for the CDA to carry out disciplinary measures. Parveen Malik noted that mosques in Islamabad were not allowed to build madrassahs, but just about every mosque had been violating the law, without attracting the attention of the CDA. She mentioned that President Musharraf wanted to take action against the madrassahs but Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman intervened and convinced him not to.

The panelists and participants seemed to agree that the newly constructed high rise buildings looked ugly and out of the place in Islamabad. Many raised the point that the rusty water supply pipes in the city should be fixed, which were getting mixed up with sewage at places.

But as a citizen of Rawalpindi and Islamabad, the cause that appealed to me the most was the preservation of trees. Fauzia Minallah deserves applause for raising the issue. I wish there were ways we could help people who stand up for nature for a change.

In the end, I found the Kissa Khwani event a very fulfilling experience as far as interacting people was concerned. I congratulate the Citizens Archive of Pakistan for organizing the event.

I really hope this town sees another one of these events.

Note: This is not a paid post.

The Ramadan Independence Day Post 2012

Source: The Citizens Archive of Pakistan/DAWN

There is something special about the independence day of 2012. It falls in the Holy Month of Ramadan.

Actually, it is one of the rare occasions that the anniversary of independence falls on the same day both in Gregorian and Islamic calendars.

Patriotic and religious people in Pakistan will tell you that Pakistan gained its independence from the British Raj on the 27th of Ramadan, 1366 Hijri, which was on August 14, 1947. A Holy Night in the Islamic tradition. The night when the Koran was first revealed to Prophet Muhammad.

65 years ago, a massive communal migration took place across the borders of the then East Pakistan, West Pakistan and the modern Indian Republic. Everybody knows about probably the greatest migration in human history.

It was spectacular to some, hard to believe. A matter of faith and hope for others. Not a choice for the rest.

To me it was insane, brutal and tragic. With due respect to the immigrants and the cause of migration. They are certainly the bravest souls of the Indian independence movement. Not Jinnah or Nehru or Azad or Gandhi.

After 65 years, Ramadan coincides with the independence day again, almost the same date, the 26th maybe, and it seems that the communal migration has still not come to a halt.

Only days ago, there was news of Hindu families visiting India saying that they were unwilling to return to Pakistan as they feared for their lives. Furthermore, there has been pretty consistent migration of Sindhi Hindus from Pakistan to India, who have been a regular victim of abduction, abuse and forced conversion to Islam, particularly their women.

This seems to be a dream come true for the Muslim religious purist. After all, this country was made for Muslims.

The other day I overheard a child in a public transport van that I was sharing with a family. She was surprised on learning that Hindus and Christians lived in Pakistan too, just an innocent little child. The word Pakistani was synonymous to Muslim to her. Her mother had to explain to her how and why non-Muslims were Pakistani too.

I don’t blame her. That’s the way most fervent religious parents bring up their children in Pakistan.

I grew up hearing this slogan, like millions of other Pakistanis.

Pakistan ka matlab kya. La Ilaha Il-Allah.

What’s the meaning of Pakistan? No God except Allah.

Teach a child this and don’t expect them to consider any non-Muslim a Pakistani anymore.

My word, recalling this slogan just sent shivers down my spine. It always horrified me, if my memory serves me well.

I am shocked it never occurred to the able leaders of All-India Muslim League.

Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the Quaid-e-Azam, was supposedly a secular politician. But apparently even he did not bother setting the record straight with that kind of slogans.

But his actions spoke much louder than his words or whatever principles he supposedly followed.

Some are worrying about the Hindu migration. Outraging. Complaining what the state is doing to protect them. I’d rather like to see them safe anyway they possibly can be.

But why worry?

So if Muslims were migrating to Pakistan from India in 1947 and Hindus were migrating from Pakistan to India, why be surprised that they are still at it in 2012?

Why even bother with the white band in the flag?

This was what we wanted and we are achieving the goal.

Slowly, but surely.

Source: Wikipedia

To a Hindu-free Pakistan.

The Real Pakistan.

The Pakistan of Allah.

The Pakistan of Ramadan.

The Pakistan of Layla-tul-Qadr.

The Pure Pakistan.

Happy Independence Day.

And

Allah-o-Akbar.

Courtesy/Artist: Sabir Nazar © 2012