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.
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Let’s Do This More Often

Source: Pakistan Today

Source: Pakistan Today

So how often do we see clerics accused of blasphemy, and not some poor Christian peasant who would almost surely be attacked for the crime.

A crime without a victim, of course.

But let’s take the case of our pop singer turned hymn-singing amateur Islamic scholar Junaid Jamshed.

I really want to sympathize with Junaid Jamshed over here, but cannot bring myself to. You know, eventually you would have no choice but to defend him against the blasphemy case. But not without the frustration, or satisfaction, that the devil is caught in his own trap.

It is the same religious scholars who have conditioned people like Pavlov dogs to outrage at the remotest imagination of what could be termed as a blasphemy. With the achievement of a Muslim majority humanitarian utopia, it is ensured that the entertainment for such public outrage is mostly reserved for the dominant faith. Not that better things are expected from the minority faiths, believe me, who want their own versions of this madness.

But what makes you want to walk away from supporting Junaid Jamshed is his utter hatred of women. The part of his lecture for which he was accused of blasphemy was actually about demonizing women. And like most of our misogynistic Shia and Sunni scholars, his favorite target was Prophet’s wife Ayesha as well.

So, the real blasphemy that Junaid Jamshed has committed is against women. But unlike his fellow overzealous brothers in faith, they could actually forgive him.

He apologized for his alleged blasphemy. But would Junaid Jamshed repent over how he insulted women? Instead he is worried about saving his life from the very crowd in which he enjoyed mixing.

I bet a part of him would be regretting becoming an Islamic scholar.

So what happens in this case? When someone influential such as Junaid Jamshed is accused of blasphemy.

Well, since registration of cases of blasphemy has become the standard operating procedure for settling disagreements, there is nothing surprising about it. As a matter of fact, just mentioning something about religion can actually qualify you for the honors.

Speaking of which, this piece is not about religion.

It is strictly about politics. It’s always about politics.

It’s about politics, because the powerful and the influential can always get away with accusations. And the likes of the Christian couple that was burned alive in Kot Radha Kishan cannot.

This is just proof that a religious and Islamic system of government is not safe for Muslims, let alone the non-Muslim minority subjects living under its influence. This busts the myth that the rules of this religious system of governance guarantees safety for everyone.

So there is no wonder why the likes of Junaid Jamshed have to go in hiding in secular countries such as Britain. But they don’t think for a moment about people who cannot escape an Islamic Republic.

This is the sort of hypocrisy which makes Pakistani Muslims call for a theocratic state at home but demand secularism in non-Muslim majority countries such as India, so that the Muslims there would feel safe from Hindu oppression. How convenient.

This is precisely why an objective and universally acceptable secular social contract is needed.

And everyone who thinks that blasphemy law should stay is a part of the problem. They are a part of the problem because they block every possibility of using logic and reason when the word religion is mentioned. And by doing so, they are indirectly jeopardizing lives.

But then again, I must confess, there must be some sort of protection for the sacred.

But just to give them a treatment of their medicine, let us accuse mainstream Islamic scholars and politicians of blasphemy more often.

Until they are forced to consider supporting repealing the blasphemy law.

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Note: A toned down version of this post was published in The Nation blog here.

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.

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.

Isn’t an Agnostic an Atheist Without Balls?

Source: quotes.lifehack.org

Source: quotes.lifehack.org

Stephen Colbert is a comedian and I take the statement as a joke. Though it does possibly translate the opinion, if not malice, of a lot of atheists, and probably his own toward people identifying as agnostics.

Professor Dawkins has referred to “permanent” agnostics as fence sitters and has accused them of intellectual cowardice. (Agnosticism)  He has proposed his useful atheistic scale that goes from 1 to 7, depending on how people perceive their belief pertaining to a supernatural being. But he is speaking in more practical terms to someone who has just had the revelation of the absence of a deity after reading “The God Delusion“.

Colbert’s statement is an idea that many people hold probably because agnostics are perceived to be less confrontational than a lot of new atheist converts. That is not necessarily true. An agnostic can be antithetical too. But if you are not being disrespectful to someone, that not necessarily may be a sign of lack of guts, but of good manners.

There are agnostics that tend to believe and agnostics that tend not to believe, bust mostly fall into the disbelief zone for their skepticism. Agnosticism, to a lot of people, like Bertrand Russell, is simply a more accurate philosophical and logical position than atheism. For others, it could be a transitional stage from belief to disbelief, and that is probably what Dawkins refers to as “temporary agnosticism”.

The agnostic is just conceding that they don’t know and that they cannot know. While an atheist thinks that there is no supreme being simply because there is no evidence at hand. Though this does not mean that agnostics do not agree to the lack of evidence. To different people, either positions can make sense, and not much to others, who would see it as splitting the hair.

Source: Telegraph

Source: Telegraph

But to settle the matter, let us examine the quote of the philosopher that I personally consider the greatest authority on skepticism, Bertrand Russell, (No, Dawkins is not half as much brilliant or even sensible) from his 1947 pamphlet Am I An Atheist Or An Agnostic?.

As a philosopher, if I were speaking to a purely philosophic audience I should say that I ought to describe myself as an Agnostic, because I do not think that there is a conclusive argument by which one can prove that there is not a God.

On the other hand, if I am to convey the right impression to the ordinary man in the street I think I ought to say that I am an Atheist, because when I say that I cannot prove that there is not a God, I ought to add equally that I cannot prove that there are not the Homeric gods.

I just think agnostics are philosophically and logically more correct than atheists, not lacking balls or any other round objects.

However, you can come up with more accusations if they did not even appreciate or understand the Russell’s teapot analogy.

Quick Web Reference: Agnosticism
Quick Web Reference: Russell’s teapot

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Answer to the Quora Question:

Atheism: What do you think about this quote: Isn’t an agnostic just an atheist without balls?

The Logic Behind Honor Killing

Source: Sajjad Qayyum (AFP/Getty) under fair use

Source: Sajjad Qayyum (AFP/Getty) under fair use

Call me naïve, ignorant, immoral or disconnected from my culture, but I never could understand the logic behind honor killing.

I have thought about the subject a lot anyway, but hearing a recent news of one of these frequent incidents made me want to ask the question loud.

Why do brothers and fathers, or any other male (or sometimes even female) members of a Pakistani family, who outrage so much when a female of the clan is found to have a relationship against their wishes, and what particularly changes in the nature of sexual relationship when she copulates with someone of their choice under a matrimonial bond?

Marriage merely becomes another tool to control people, doesn’t it? But seriously, someone is still having sex with that woman. Oh, is it about sex?

This emotion known as “gairat” is rather loosely and perhaps erroneously translated into “honor” and this emotion is shared by population throughout the country, and even in other countries such as India, Afghanistan and actually people here and there all around the world.

While gairat has something to do with family honor, it is also related to sexuality and the jealousy affiliated with it. There would be probably be no film noir had there been no such sentiments in the West. I am not even sure if such emotions can be termed natural or not, but they surely make sense.

Now while it seems a very noble and chauvinistic quality, it probably kills its very supposed purpose by finding satisfaction from killing the very “offender-victim” it is meant to protect.

And if a jealous cuckold husband kills an adulterer or a cheating couple gets rid of the inadequate husband, it would make sense, but it requires the brain of Sigmund Freud to get your head around fathers and brothers killing daughters and sisters and sons killing mothers.

But during a marriage, which, at least and especially in Indian culture is a mere material transaction for the woman to spend the rest of her life as a slave, the family honor is somehow fulfilled giving away their daughter in such a manner. This shameless public display of humiliation is somehow considered honorable.

What is even worse, many, if not most, of these families would tolerate all sorts of atrocities in the name of married life. You would expect them to wreak even more havoc in the event of acts such as domestic abuse, not that such exceptions do not occur, often depending on the social status of the offended.

So in the Indian subcontinent, domestic abuse is widely considered nothing unusual in the married life by most traditional people, who find separation and legal divorce process a disgrace.

The rationale behind honor killing is certainly that women are property, the attachment of great offense to its violation and that women do not have the privilege of pursuing sexual liberties like men. People are brought up believing that all around the world in one way or another actually.

Though in the conservative Pakistani society, even men are not completely free to pursue sexual relationships, with peace at least, either. Because let’s face it, men are also victims of honor killings and are at least traumatized when a partner is targeted.

This is why I consider establishing a sexual or marital relationship in the Pakistani society a great risk that could potentially take your life. You just never know where you would offend the honor of a person, and usually one person in a group is enough to initiate a riot.

It is like committing a blasphemy with which most people somehow get away easily, but not everyone is so lucky. And you could be next.

But it is only understandable why people are so outraged about the event of the greatest cosmic significance in their lives. After all, the propagation of the human race depends on it. It must be pure and noble.

It is a pity that God chose sex as the method of procreation and created the vulgarity of genitals in the human body.

Nevertheless, sex is a sin. And the penalty is death.

How to Judge an Act

Source: APP/Dawn

I am pretty sure it always would have been sick to live in Pakistan, but I can tell you it is getting sicker by the day and I am afraid it will only get sicker in the future. For a people who have isolated themselves from the rest of the India supposedly for their superior moral values and purity (therefore the name Pakistan or “Land of the Pure”), away from unclean, uncircumcised and idol-worshiping Hindus, they have become so decadent that they have apparently lost all human common sense of what is right and wrong.

As if they needed any further degradation? Some might add.

In today’s Pakistan, the 21st century Pakistan, when humans are jumping off the edge of the stratosphere of the planet, we are still insistent on enforcing beliefs in barbarian medieval nonsense. But let us even keep religion out of it, because a lot of my friends are insistent that I am too obsessed with it, though it really is that way because everyone around me is. Though you cannot really keep it out of the discourse in context of the Pakistani society, can you? But saying that, it at least establishes how self-important and self-conscious it is of its morality.

Whenever you see some kind of moral idiocy emerge to public discussion, it is usually the result of some rotten and twisted piece of moral conclusion in a reaction to the wounded collective ego of a mob. You know, mobs like nations, religious communities and political parties, or may be even other groups. But so much for generalizations. Let us leave such privileges to the morally correct so that they can decide who is patriotic and who is moral and who is religious or not.

I have just discovered a new standard on how to judge an act. To be able to tell whether it is right or wrong. To be able to tell whether you are supposed to celebrate or mourn it. Simply see what kind of people are condemning or applauding it. So you would be able to tell whether you see such an act as a real occurrence or dismiss it as a charade pulled off by the master superpower forces of the world. There are no limits when you are thinking with a bias and starting your arguments with one. So it seems.

So now some of us, particularly the only patriotic, the only religious and certainly the most morally righteous ones of all, have sunk to a new low by imagining the shooting of a 14 year old as the justifiable punishment to “an American agent” at times and to be a complete fraud that had never actually have happened in the first place at others. I would particularly envy the intelligence of all those who are able to hold both these views on the Malala shooting incident at the same time. But then again, in a world ruled by Godly-Satanic superpowers, anything is possible. Of course, it must be something good if pro-West secular hypocrites are condemning it.

But I don’t really wish to be harsh. Not everyone thinks like a complete idiot, and I am talking about nationalist-religious patriots, even though it implies otherwise by definition. This is when matters of common sense and those of great sensitivity are discussed, such as the ones that involve 14 year old girls being shot by unreasonable and barbarian terrorists, or militants, or freedom fighters, but certainly criminals. As much as I believe in peaceful Pakistanis and peaceful Muslims, I am more than ever convinced that I am living amid individuals blinded by one of the most horrific moral standards and religious-nationalistic ideologies and who would go to any extent to justify their beliefs.

And I don’t say this out of frustration on dealing with their arguments, quite the contrary since they can so easily be proved wrong. Though making them believe that they are wrong is another story. But I say this because of the violence and the risk that it involves. I say this because you cannot breathe in this society without offending someone somewhere and getting threatened for who knows what. I say this because it is not safe, it has never been safe, to say what you think is right and to express what you really believe in.

I more than welcome and support the right of expression of ridiculous arguments, because all they end up doing is showing broad daylight. A lot of my friends oppose hate speech very strongly, to the extent of banning it. I oppose hate speech too and when it comes to direct threats, I would lean in favor of removing it from published and broadcast content as well, but I’d just like to make a point here. Firstly, you can’t completely ban hate speech any more in the world of social media, but even if you wanted to, displays of hate speech perfectly tell you the bigots from people who are controlling and fighting prejudice abuse, or the prejudices their upbringing imprinted them with.

You cannot help but feel disgusted at people targeting Malala like this. I made this point earlier too, but I am honestly sick up to the throat with this nonsense. The Pakistani nation is in a state of denial right now and they are in a state of denial because they are too afraid to face and consciously accept what they believe in, or what they think they strongly believe in.

Yes, denial is that easy when the reality is that ugly.

Like life.