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.

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The Window of Opportunity

Maulana Abdul Aziz - Source: AP/B.K. Bangash

Maulana Abdul Aziz – Source: AP/B.K. Bangash

I have observed that most Pakistani secularists find the idea of talks with the Taliban nauseating. However, a new window of opportunity has dawned for their cause by the turn of events in the past weeks.

The religious conservatives of the country have really put themselves in an awkward position by making practical steps to negotiate with the Taliban.

The Taliban have made their lives even more difficult. They have responded by demanding the imposition of Shariah Law throughout the country and have rejected the constitution. Curiously, these are demands that are not even acceptable to most conservative parties, except for the extreme religious groups.

This makes a common Muslim wonder why would there be such resistance to a system that they have been taught is the solution to every ill in the world. How are the likes of Maulana Abdul Aziz wrong in their insistence that the obvious demand of Shariah imposition should not even be a matter of debate.

What, then, is making the Pakistani political leadership so suspicious about Shariah imposition?

Even though every Muslim is supposed to be an Islamist, the fact remains that an overwhelming majority of them are not.

At least not in Pakistan.

Their lifestyle, their customs, their way of life and their voting patterns, all suggest that they want nothing to do with Shariah Law.

Pakistanis watch movies, love music and love to dance. They may indulge in a lot of social ills, but they would have problems with someone blowing up music shops and telling the women of their family how to cover themselves. They also like to shave and do not mind skipping their prayers.

They also do not seem to be prepared to sacrifice their almost Western lifestyle in cities and traditional ways in rural areas to embrace an 8th century code of life.

To them, Shariah is a word that must be revered and must not be challenged, but it really has no place in their lives.

While the Taliban have reminded the people of Pakistan of what Shariah is, it is the perfect time to convert them against this threatening and authoritarian ideology.

At least it is time to ask some tough questions about Shariah, if we must not get too carried away with our ambition.

And make no mistake about it, it can be done in the most discreet and polite manner.

There is no harm in asking them why they would want to support something they do not practice. There is no harm in asking why they would not embrace Shariah as it is if they are Muslims, and why would they reject secularism then.

Everyone can start with their near and dear ones. I ask my family this question everyday, and no, it would not get you killed if you do it respectfully. Charity begins at home and it can easily be propagated to bigger platforms through leading secular opinion leaders.

They would surely shy away from the taboo subject. Surely, they would find it hard to step out of the reassuring shelter of faith, but a little perseverance could pay well.

This is the first step to win the battle against the Taliban. And the first step to convince people why proactively countering the indoctrination of Islamism is essential to their liberty, peace and way of life.

This is the perfect time to reiterate that secularism will prove to be the best social contract to resolve the multitude of religious problems. This is something politicians on right and left must agree on.

It is the perfect time to offer reason to those who are willing to take it.

But don’t get me wrong. This is not a time to build fences. It is not a time to merely win debates and score ideological points.

It is a time to win hearts and minds. We must overcome our curmudgeonly cynicism to see that perspective.

Even in the darkest of thunderstorms, there is always that silver lining.