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.

 

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May the Best Rioters Win

Source: @safya777

Source: @safya777

We know that there is not much that we can trust our government with in Pakistan, but there is one thing about which you can be completely certain. You can count on the government to not provide you with any security whenever a violent rioting mob is on the loose.

Now, violent rioters in the sub-continent in general, and in Pakistan in particular are not isolated incidents. It’s a pattern, a culture, which is not just openly practiced, but even encouraged by otherwise seemingly sane individuals and political leaders.

We have invented a million functions of the government from the regulation of online speech to forcing the prices in the market, but sadly we have completely lost focus of the most essential and fundamental one. Establishing law and order and protecting the lives and the property of citizens.

From Gojra riots to Joseph Colony tragedy, Kot Radha Kishan and Sialkot lynch mobs to the Yohannabad violence, and from the Benazir Bhutto assassination riots to May 11 shootings in Karachi, the common winners have been the rioting forces, looters, rapists and criminals. The only losers have been unarmed, defenseless, peaceful, law-abiding citizens.

While it is not hard to understand that the government is almost incapable of blocking terrorist attacks, despite its best efforts, it can at least use its police to stop a riot from culminating. Especially considering the recent examples of police violence on violent political protesters in the PTI and PAT rallies in Islamabad.

However, stopping a riot is not the usual custom. Especially when the riot is of religious nature, the police prefer to witness the complete carnage instead of taking any action and relying on footage captures for trying to catch the criminals afterwards. In all fairness, sometimes the police have valid reasons too, because no one wants to be tried for murder just because they prevented a crime. But largely, it kills the purpose of trusting the police and necessitates civilian arms.

It really does not matter if there are laws encouraging protection of self-defense. It is whether such laws help protect people or not is what is important.

I don’t care who the rioters are in any of the several past or future cases.  I don’t care who or what they associate with. I don’t care what their grievance is. If they resort to threatening people’s lives and private property, they are criminals. Invoking constitutional right to assembly to justify their madness is not only inappropriate and abusive, but also intellectually dishonest.

If they are threatening life and property, the law enforcement authorities are justified to use whatever force is possible to disable and disperse them. Either that, or pay the damages to the victims suffering at the hands of these violent mobs. Sadly, you cannot pay for lost human life with money, if the government ever had the intention to compensate the victims due to their negligence.

I don’t see any harm in shooting at a violent rioting mob to disable and disperse them when they are clearly about to hurt people or threaten their property, and a lot of harm in letting them run loose. There is no other way to deal with such threats to public safety. Unless the police are empowered and adequately equipped to do so with reasonable exceptions, I don’t see any end to this culture of madness in the near future.

The more humanitarian side of our political spectrum could see the condemnation of mob violence as provocation to further violence or even suppressing people’s rights to protest, but encouraging the culture of mob violence is even worse. They should revisit their definition of hate speech as far as political rhetoric and its impact are concerned.

Actually, it is justifying and apologizing for violent riots and tolerating the suspension of law and order which is inviting more unrest and harm. It is precisely the tolerance of state toward violent rioters that brings rioters to the streets more violently than ever before every excuse they get.

The way things are right now, you can only perceive the law enforcement authorities to be inviting people to take it to the streets and indulge in violent riots. Because apparently that is the only way your grievances are going to be addressed in this country and nobody seems to have a lot of problems with it either.

Any group that is not resorting to violent riots is idiotic, as they are missing out on this tremendous equal opportunity to clinch their rights by burning cites to ashes, robbing banks and businesses, and lynching defenseless people to death.

The more enlightened elements of the society are actually losing the battle by just resorting to vigils. If they want something done, say restoring the YouTube, they should begin a riot just like the one that forced the government to ban it.

The more oppressed segments of the society, such as the Hazara, should stop with their peaceful protests already. Christian communities in Punjab should stop turning the other cheek as their colonies are burned to dust and should retaliate by burning some more buildings to ground.

No aggrieved party should wait for the courts to try the murderers of their people. They should be lynched to death and burned alive.

Let the violent mobs run loose on the streets of the country and deliver the swift justice that we have been aching for so badly.

May the best rioters win…

The post was originally published in The Nation blogs.

 

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.