Double Standards and Hypocrisy

In the midst of the terrible sadness caused by the killings of so many innocent Ahmadis in Lahore, I cannot help but notice the glaring irony of the timing of the slaughter. After all, it was just a week ago that the pious saints in our country were outraged by the religious insensitivity of some random people on a couple of websites.

When the Facebook Fiasco broke, it was widely stated by oh-so-pious Jamaatis that we needed to show a demonstration against this website because the people behind it were clearly not respectful to our Muslim sensitivities. Islam may be a minority religion in America, but that simply makes it all the more important that these websites be constrained – to prevent an outbreak of religious hatred and discrimination against Muslims abroad.

Perhaps these self-proclaimed spokesmen knew what they were talking about. After all, they should know full well what can happen when you stir up hatred of religious minorities, no?

Fast-forward one week, and it would appear that all the worst stereotypes of anti-Islamic idiots are being played out for all the world to see. Rather than respecting the religious sensitivities of a minority, militant terrorists have slaughtered them as they were prostrate on the floor praying. What more cowardly act can there be?

The worst part of the act is the death of so many innocent Pakistanis. Senselessly killed while they were praying, our fellow Pakistani brothers were gunned down in cold blood.

But this act also shows the glaring hypocrisy and false piety of the religious extremists. How can they honestly complain about some stupid drawings on Facebook while they are polishing their Kalashnikovs and preparing to murder innocent people while they pray.

Insha’Allah we will learn an important lesson. These religious extremists cannot be trusted. Their piety is false, their appeals to the sensitivities of good people are merely a strategic tactic to convince us to lower our resolve. The militants have one goal, and that is to kill Pakistanis and destroy our way of life. They will stoop to any lies and deceit to make it happen.

We must not let them divide us. We are not Gojra Christians, Lahore Ahamadis, or Nankha Sahib Sikhs. We are not Sunni, Shia, or Sufi. We are all of these. We are Pakistan. And we will not let these terrorists destroy us.

Pakistan Zindabad.

There is nothing righteous in terror!

by Agha Haider Raza

What happened in Lahore is truly one of the saddest and heart-wrenching incidents I have ever experienced as a Pakistani.  When places of worship no longer carry the sanctity they deserve, the stark divide in religious ideology is made clear in Pakistan.  After wandering around various blogs and reading horrible hate posts by people who label themselves as Muslims, I felt compelled to write to the terrorists and their followers directly.  It is mesmerizing that there are people in my country who actually applaud the heinous crime of killing innocent people, carrying out a crime against Islam, a crime against Pakistan.  I am shocked at the people who have the audacity to support those who kill in the name of our religion, one that bounds my faith for the timeless virtues of tolerance, compassion, and forgiveness.

I’d like to know, who am I or who are you to declare anybody a Muslim or Non-Muslim? Who has given you the right to do so? Are you yourself a Muslim? Do you have empathy towards others? Do you look out for the poor? Do you live a modest life? Look inside yourself prior to naming others for their method of worship.  There is a difference between right and righteousness.  Righteousness lies with the heavens, not with you.  It is shocking that you killed innocents who were bowing before the very God you allegedly pray to! Have some decency. You may agree to disagree, but who has given you the right to take another’s life?

Many of you declare the Ahmaddi community as non-Muslim because of their beliefs and because they have infringed upon your interpretation of Islam.  You argue they have associated themselves with another prophet therefore they are blasphemous.  I ask you, have you not taken divine authority into your own hands by persecuting others based on religion? God put in place the Day of Judgment: what makes you think, you can do his job based on your own twisted ideology?  Let Him be the judge of their religious status. There is no virtue in taking up the mantle of God: indeed, this is where true blasphemy lies.

It is ironic that the very religion you assume you are protecting has been disfigured and defaced because of you.  For a religion that preaches tolerance, compassion and forgiveness, you have surely taken away its essence.  Suggest you find another name for the mind-boggling and demented ideology you follow.  Don’t distort Islam.  Don’t destroy Pakistan.  You may not want to call Ahmaddi’s Muslims, but that power does not lie with you (thank God).  The manner in which anyone practices their faith or religion is between them and their lord.  Get over it!

Pakistan was formed to provide for a minority.  If you look at my flag, Pakistan’s flag; you will see the white stripe that represents them.  Who are you to go and take that away from us? Do you believe in the passion of countrymen? Do you understand the meaning of being a Pakistani? Our patriotism lies in our passion and pride; holed out in caves and hiding your faces, like vipers that slither away after they’ve struck, you reek of cowardice and spinelessness.

We have tolerated you people for far too long.  I want my mosque, church and temple to have the sanctity they deserve.  Pakistan was not formed to allow space for religious persecution.  A country of 180 million people has shed enough tears on the passage of its loved ones.  Stop the bloodshed; my country has seen enough blood.

Regardless of religious status, the members of this community are Pakistanis.  They pay taxes and they contribute to the GDP of your country. I shouldn’t even say “your” country, for you have no reverence for the very motherland that has provided you with a ground under your feet.  You have no esteem for a fellow Pakistani.  You have distorted the meaning of being a patriot.  You have no respect for those who disagree with you in your community.  Stop using my religion to spread terror amongst the innocent.  I believe in a faith that allows for disagreement, I have trust in a religion that does not take the lives of innocents, I follow a faith that provides for a community of different religions in a country called Pakistan.  Get out of my religion – get out of my country!

Black fell the day

by Nadeem Paracha

Extremism is nobody’s friend. It only deals in might gained from coercion. It does not rest after it has defeated its ideological opponents because then it goes on to destroy even those supporters whom it deems too soft or moderate. 

This is an aspect of extremism that a lot of its more ‘moderate’ supporters in Pakistan have not comprehended. Educated men and women can be heard and seen concocting outlandish explanations and justifications in a bid to sympathetically define the economic and political reasons behind religious extremists’ acts of terrorism. What they do not realise is that to the extremists these sympathetic ‘moderates’ are as much infidels as any westerner or a non-Muslim.

It seems many ‘moderate’ Pakistani Muslims who (sometimes rather mindlessly) echo the usual anti-West rhetoric doing the rounds in mosques, madressahs, drawing rooms and TV studios do so for two reasons. Interestingly however, I believe, a firm embracing of the ideology of the extremists is the least of these. Because one either has to be clinically insane (like a suicide bomber) or stark, raving stupid (like Faisal Shahazad) to fall for such an ideology.

The other reason is the most prominent though. It has something to do with a state of mind that is a culmination of fear, ignorance and guilt. Thanks to the maliciously tempered history taught to us of Islam and Pakistan in our schools and colleges, I have noticed that very few young Pakistanis have any ability left in them to question (in an informed manner) what is dished to them by the courts, the state, the clerics and the televangelists as ‘Islam’ and ‘nationalism.’ This, despite the availability of a vast treasure of knowledge available in bookstores and libraries with which a questioning mind can easily puncture the spew of lies, half-truths and myths spun into the nation’s collective psyche—all in the name of defending the country’s Islamic heritage and the so-called ideology.

Some ten years ago when Islamic evangelists were out in force asking Pakistanis to stop saying Khuda hafiz and replace it with Allah hafiz, no ‘moderate’ bothered to ask them why. They heard the word ‘Allah’ and that was it. No questions asked. So naturally, the same social preachers then got enough leverage to continue, asking Pakistanis to stop saying wa-alaikum salaam to non-Muslims who greet them with asalamalaikum. 

These are trivial nuances but the sort that go a long way in gradually turning society into an intolerant whole that some men and women would like Pakistan to become. Their weapon is distorted history unquestioningly understood as correct by a majority of Pakistanis. Learned, rational and modern Muslim leaders and intellectuals like Jinnah, Iqbal and Sir Syed Ahmed Khan — the three main icons behind what became the ‘Pakistan Movement’ — have gradually been turned into myopic near-fanatics with a blind hatred of Hindus. These great men are taught in schools as being the original purveyors of a theocratic state, a notion that has no roots in reality whatsoever.

Historians of note, such as K.K. Aziz, Dr. Mubarak Ali and Asiq H. Batalvi who have convincingly rubbished the history taught in schools peddled by the state and its right-wing allies, have been sidelined. A concerted effort to subdue and repress the rationalist Islamic scholars of yore and today has been underway by organs pushing in narratives of traditionalist religious scholars (Khurshid Ahmed, Maryam Jameelah), political Islamists (Maududi) and even some obvious crackpots (Amir Liaquat, Zaid Hamid), to portray a highly aggressive, xenophobic and militant image and understanding of Islam, especially in the context of Pakistan.

Through decades of disseminating glorious fantasies and myths about what a Pakistani Muslim is to believe and behave like, advocators of a hybrid version of faith and national ideology—in which conservative and traditionalist understanding of the faith is updated by a myopic and paranoid understanding of modern society—have been successful in turning much of society into an unquestioning, knee-jerk mass. This mob has little or no capacity to think beyond what is handed out as faith and patriotism.

What goes missing in such a society is the ability to think and reflect. Its knee-jerk applause for popular Islamist causes and conservative social behaviour make it a society that is both fodder and food for nihilism—all in the glorious name of jihad, patriotism and good morals. This misplaced understanding of nationalism and religion is not only the vocation of crackpots and the clerics, but can now be found in the courts of law, intelligence agencies, the military and elected politicians alike.

Their propagated goals are the supposed Islamisation and sovereignty of the Pakistani state. But the truth is, so far the many actions taken to achieve this goal have only managed to continue making society collapse inwards, and gradually turn Pakistan into a kind of forbidden island whose inhabitants simply refuse to give up (ideological) cannibalism, even if this means their existential, economic and diplomatic exclusion from the rest of the world.

VIDEO: Ambassador to US Speaks At Harvard University

Ambassador to USA Husain Haqqani recently spoke at the Harvard University Institute of Politics about Pak-American relations – the long and difficult relationship between the two powers, including the commonalities and differences between the two. Actually, he says quite correctly that while we do not agree on everything, there are important things we can do together.

Frayed Ends of Sanity

by Nadeem Paracha for DawnBlog

Over and over again I have been using Dawn and to hit home the point about the vicious, soul destroying mindset the bulk of Pakistan’s urban middle-classes (especially in the Punjab) have fallen in to.

I have tried to give numerous examples to highlight this devastating observation and here again is another one: On May 28 when terrorists associated with what is called the ‘Punjabi Taliban’ attacked various places of worship of the Ahmadiyya community in Lahore, the TV channels were out in force covering the gruesome event. However, that did not stop them from running happy-go-lucky commercials of their corporate sponsors during breaks, giving the whole event a rather surreal feel.

But this can be expected from this unfortunate republic’s many TV channels. There is now not an iota of doubt left about the level of sheer cynicism, sensationalism and demagoguery that they operate on. Most of them have become a reckless reflection of some of the most obnoxious, conspiratorial and chauvinistic sections found within the country’s convulsing middle-classes.

That said, one however does expect some semblance of decency and reason in the polished corridors of the companies that advertise their brands on these channels. Couldn’t any of these companies that always claim to be ‘good social citizens’ have the presence of mind and heart to ask TV channels to stop running their ads during the coverage of blood-splattered events?

Can’t they see how strange their ads look and sound when squeezed between images of blood, gore and tragedy? Don’t these ads with an unending series of plastic smiles and jingly material-worshipping actually end up mocking the tragedy that is unfolding live on the TV screens?

I don’t think such a thought even crosses their minds. And how can it when a number of the same companies so nonchalantly end up sponsoring TV shows run by utter hate-mongers. It’s quite a sight, really, watching macho, loud demagogues and so-called TV anchors spiting venom against the West and then asking for a break that are riddled with commercials of Western multinationals.

A religious TV show on a popular TV channel that in 2009 instigated violence against the Ahmadiyyas continues to be sponsored by various colas, facial creams, telecom brands and shampoos, and so is the show whose host is under scrutiny for allegedly having sympathies and links with terrorist organisations.

In my eyes the companies who claim to represent the decent, ‘family-oriented’ and peaceful ‘modern’ sections of the educated urbanites carry an equal amount of blame as do the channels that let hate-mongers run amok in the studios just to jack up their ratings.

It’s like shouting populist slogans mingled with idiotic juice, milk and telecom jingles over the dead bodies of all those unfortunate souls that these very channels so enthusiastically report and show.

Is there no one among us so-called educated urban classes with the sight, mind and conscience to at least question the kind of convoluted and surreal corporate-jihadi anarchy so clearly visible on TV channels?

Can’t we see that much of what is being preached and ‘debated’ on our channels in the name of religion, justice, reform and politics (and cynically being sponsored by multinationals), is one of the major reasons behind the confused and ravaged state our middle-classes (especially its youth) have come to suffer?

This is not an overstatement. Certain TV anchors and their shows have proven to have enough power to actually instigate violence. Examples are in abundance of idiots listening to idiots on TV, gathering hateful ideas about certain Muslim sects, ‘minorities,’ and personalities, with some actually going to the extent of committing murder in the name of religion.

And yet we can still see such TV anchors and their favourite side-kicks holding fort on prime-time television, and multinationals willingly sponsoring all the hatred and venom that is spewed on these shows.

So what is that narrative upon which a bulk of Pakistan’s ‘political’ and ‘religious’ TV programming is based on?

For years this narrative has gleefully been disseminated by the state, the clergy, schools and now the electronic media.  It’s quite simple: Pakistan was made in the name of Islam (read, a theocratic state). Thus, only Muslims (mainly orthodox Sunnis) have the right to rule, run and benefit from this country. ‘Minority’ religions and ‘heretical Islamic sects’ living as Pakistani citizens are not to be trusted. They need to be constitutionally, socially and culturally isolated. Parliamentary democracy too can’t be trusted. It unleashes ethnic forces, ‘corruption’ and undermines the role of the military and that of Islam in the state’s make-up. It threatens the ‘unity’ of the country; a unity based on a homogeneous understanding of Islam (mainly concocted by the state and its right-wing allies). Most of our political, economic and social ills are due to the diabolical conspiracies hatched by our many enemies (especially India, Israel and the West in general). They want to break up Pakistan because Pakistan is the ‘bastion of Islam’ in a volatile region dominated by Indian, American and Shia Iranian hegemony. The many terrorist organisations operating in Pakistan are foreign funded …

This narrative can go on in its bizarre depiction of what we as a country are or should become. Not for a moment are we ready to stand back a bit and look at what we have made of ourselves and of what we call our home. We call ourselves ‘moderate Muslims,’ and yet applaud or quietly tolerate the hate-spewing claptrap that pours out from our mosques and TV screens. We cheer about the fact that Pakistan is one of the very few democratic Muslim countries with a constitution, and yet we will not speak a word about those clauses and sections in the same constitution that have triggered violence and repression against women and have sanctioned a religiously apartheid state that only allows the orthodox Muslim majority democratic rights to rule the country, or run in an election.

Isn’t it obvious that not only do these sections in the much celebrated constitution go against the modern-Muslim vision of men like Mohammad Ali Jinnah, Iqbal and Syed Ahmed Khan, but are also against the basic spirit of tolerance, mercy and justice so vividly present in the Quran?

We have clearly lost sight of what Pakistan was supposed to be: A democratic, modern Muslim country where religion had nothing to do with the matters of the state and where the so-called ‘minorities’ were free to practice their respective faiths.

These are not my words. And neither are they the words that Pakistani children are taught at school, in spite of the fact that these words and thoughts were spoken by the founder of the country, Jinnah, when he succeeded in carving out a country for the Muslims of the subcontinent, thinking that they would struggle under what he believed would become a ‘Hindu theocracy.’

So what happened to that Pakistan? The obvious culprits in this regard are the many years of repressive military regimes and their growing nexus with obscurantist forces that we have had to burden and face. But were the democrats any better?

The 1973 constitution that legitimised religious apartheid was inaugurated under a brilliant and popularly elected Prime Minister and approved by equally elected members of the parliament. And even though the same constitution was further riddled with myopic laws against religious minorities and women by a fanatical and hypocritical ‘Islamic’ dictatorship, how many democrats that came after the demise of this dictatorship ever bothered to at least debate or review these laws?

So much has become taboo in this country — so much so that the question now arises, can we ever become a truly free, enlightened and intellectually robust nation? Or will we keep hiding behind our fragile masks of religiosity and ‘patriotism,’ a mask that goes up in front of our faces every time we are confronted by a situation in which our views and actions (especially in the name of faith) are questioned.

We do not debate. We react and then huddle up behind our flimsy and lopsided historical and national narratives for reassurance, cursing the world for our ills, looking out for ‘infidels’ and ‘heretics’ among us, or for scapegoats in the shape of media-constructed punching bags.

The nightmare we are living today has a lot to do with all this. We remain in a slumber, carving out an isolated ideological comfort zone for ourselves, while obnoxious, sectarian and so-called puritanical keepers of the faith attack and kill in the name of God whenever and however they please. We claim to be treading a middle-path between liberalism and fanaticism, when the truth is, it is exactly the middle-path that has gone entirely missing in how we think, behave, act and react.