No nation, no matter how young, can excuse criminal violence. The measure of a successful democracy lies in the strength of its laws, and the debate amongst its elected leaders with the public to amend or repeal them. If the structure of society cannot be respected, and a nation enters lawlessness, the results will be untold bloodshed and the death of many dreams.
If we cannot come together as a country to silence the voices that yell for the blood of others, we will be admitting that our existence as a civil society is a façade. I say this as a true Patriot, one who is tired of watching her country spiral into an ugly riot culture.
It is said that the loud voices of a few drown out the opinion of the silent majority. One hopes that is true in the case of the riots against Aasia Bibi. I, a fairly mild-mannered person, was overcome with anger and disgust when I first heard about the case of a 45-year old, mother of five sentenced to death for blasphemy. I know without a shadow of a doubt in my heart that the majority of Pakistanis do not support the decision to kill her, yet the riots continue.
The vocal religious lobby has once again painted a picture of Pakistan that shames the average Pakistan. Pakistanis follow the laws of their religion (which endlessly preaches love and harmony amongst all), and they also follow the laws of common decency.
But we cannot have a debate on Aasia Bibi. If we could, perhaps the following could be pointed out:
- • If we looked into our religion, we would see that our Prophet (peace be upon him) set forth a constitution upon his migration to Medina. The first article of the constitution was that all the inhabitants of Medina, the Muslims as well as those who had entered the pact from the Jews, Christian, and idolaters, were “one nation to the exclusion of all others.” All were considered members and citizens of Medina society regardless of religion, race, or ancestry. People of other faiths were protected from harm as much as the Muslims, as is stated in another article, “To the Jews who follow us belong help and equity. He shall not be harmed nor his enemies be aided.”
- • Since the upper hand was with the Muslims, the Prophet strictly warned against any maltreatment of people of other faiths. He said:“Beware! Whoever is cruel and hard on a non-Muslim minority, or curtails their rights, or burdens them with more than they can bear, or takes anything from them against their free will; I (Prophet Muhammad) will complain against the person on the Day of Judgment.”My mother would also tell me the story of how the Prophet (pbuh) won over the love and respect of those who had previously cursed him, thrown stones at him, and damned his followers. I believe, according to the laws and example of our Holy Prophet, the blasphemy laws are entirely unIslamic.
- • An honest debate about the Aasia Bibi would bring up the facts: the other women, who refused water from a non-Muslim, cursed Aasia. By defending herself and her faith, she has been found guilty of blasphemy!
The poor suffer twice for the riots: the destruction in their cities scars their lives, and secondly, their society is pushed farther away from a day where opportunity is made available to them.
We can allow the yelling right wing to scream of their hatred of all who disagree with their repulsive worldview. We can allow them to represent Pakistanis as angry, spiteful people. We can continue to watch our media remain neutral. We can continue to allow our principles to lay shattered at our feet. Or we can stop accepting this as “the way things just are,” a phrase I have heard muttered in sad resignation by many fellow Pakistanis.
If we allow for these vile barbarians to write the narrative for Pakistan, we do our country a great disservice. The riot culture, and all that it stands for, must end. It can only be countered by civil debates and discussions on a local and national level. Cooler heads must prevail in setting a standard for debating issues. Our greatest talent is our “aqaal,” or ability to reason, and that must serve as a main tool as we right wrongs and progress forward. The real peril of being a riot culture is that we would no longer have any other culture.