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.

Suicide

Artist: Philippe Bertrand (Source: Wikipedia)

What I cannot really understand is why people think that committing a suicide is a cowardly act, or even worse, something wrong. I really can’t understand it, despite trying. I simply can’t figure out what is so cowardly and wrong about it.

The people around me tell me that it is a cowardly act because supposedly suicidal people shy away from the harsh  realities of life and are not strong to face them. Well, on the contrary, I think that people who shy away from the harsh realities of life are those who are the happiest and call people who commit suicide cowardly and weak. I am pretty sure that these are the kind of people who pile up armies of newborn babies without the second thought.

Yes, I do agree that a person in charge of looking after a child of his or her own would be  irresponsible in committing suicide, but in that case I would really criminalize their act of procreation without responsibility and you could extend it to their act of suicide if you choose to.

Yes, suicide is criminalized. How pathetic is that. But according to some moral standards, such as the ones practiced by most of the post-colonial Pakistani and Indian societies, suicide or attempted suicide is actually considered a punishable crime.

Well, I can agree that suicide is not a healthy act in itself, I can even agree that it is a cowardly act, but how in the world is it a crime? It’s pretty frightening how moralists try to take control of everything. Now you cannot even commit suicide in peace?

I think committing suicide is everyone’s right.

Actually, they need to declare it a basic human right, so moralist and fascist governments and laws do not deprive people of this right. So that no government can lodge an FIR against anyone who survives a self-immolation attempt and sends them to jail instead of offering them therapy.

You can speak ill of them at their funerals if you want, that is your right. But frankly, this sort of moral highhandedness sickens me to the stomach. Also, the feeling of guilt that the families needlessly bear afterwards.

It is not that I want the society to radically change their view about it. I don’t want to judge them on the moral grounds that they thrive on. But I would like to see a suicide given its due respect.

To me, a suicide takes a lot of courage because it is not easy to resist life. Also, it is not easy to consciously end your own life, with a realization of what awaits in the immediate future. You can experience how it feels like by merely imagining for a moment that you are about to kill yourself.

While everyone who suffers from depression have suicidal tendencies every now and then, it is the mental pressures of depression rather than any “cowardice” that drives the suicidal people to such an extreme step.

Of course it is a fair deal that the society offers these people a lot of depression to deal with, or let me be a bit more lenient towards them, that life gives them a lot of depression to deal with as long as they suffer the abuse gladly. So how in the world is that a crime and how in the world is that cowardice? I say they endure all the pressure rather well because I am quite sure that a lot of people who ridicule and criminalize suicide would be horrified by the very mention of that feeling.

Only a few days earlier, there had been a lot of debate about school children and hostel students committing suicides within a span of three or four days. While the incidents shocked the entire nation, I would like to point out that the verdict from some of so-called intellectuals that the suicidal persons had stopped believing in the mercy of God was a completely preposterous diagnosis of the problem.

Like always, religious morality gets in the way of the much needed understanding of suicides. They don’t understand that even the most affluent people may commit suicides under depression and that is why some start making it a political issue. And the same suffocating and bullying morality that ridicules the people who commit suicide ensures that they are driven to find a moment of peace for themselves in this very manner.

Let’s just hope that there is no moral mob on the other side to deprive them of that peace.

But I envy the suicide and am very impressed by their courage.

We are the cowards.