I remember the first time I was publicly corrected for not being righteous enough in my religion. I was chatting with some friends in a cyber cafe waiting for one of the patrons to finish looking at what I’m certain could only be very pure and religious material. My friend Altaf was heading home and I said after him Khoda Hafez. Suddenly a topi-daari appeared above one of the stalls and looking around the room said “Eh! Who said that!” He proceeded to berate me for saying ‘Khoda’ which is Farsi instand of ‘Allah’ which is Arabic. “Arabic is the language of God not Persian!” he yelled at me. “But please, sir,” I replied, “that was only my friend Altaf, and I do not think he is God. So I think it should be okay.” My friends laughed, but the topi-daari only looked at me with such hate that it made my arms feel cold.
What is the point of this, I still wonder today. This event took place years ago, but since then I think I have heard this debate about Khoda Hafez and Allah Hafez even more. What I thought was just the rambling of a crazy old man has become a matter of discussion among people who I thought knew better.
Nadeem Paracha has called this plague ‘Spiritual Malaria’ in his latest post for Dawn Blog. Take a moment to read this and then think about it next time someone tries to help you be more ‘correct’ in your speech – are they helping or infecting you?
This strand does not propagate violent action, as such but by preaching convoluted trivia in the name of rituals and ‘correct moral behaviour,’ they have actually rendered a number of Pakistanis incapable of rationally questioning the wisdom of implementing certain archaic practices in the modern-day Pakistani setting.
What’s more, such apparently apolitical beliefs have also found many locals mentally and morally crippled when it comes to openly condemning acts of terrorism and see through the religious bias and apartheid exhibited by the majority Muslim sect in Pakistan against minority religions and opposing Islamic sects.
This is why such things matter. What seems like only trivial complaints from a crazy man become part of mainstream discussion. Next thing you know, we have lost perspective on not only what is important, but how to critically evaluate the messages that we are bombarded with. If crazy people stop sounding crazy, it’s not because they have suddenly become sane. It’s because we have become insane ourselves.