When militants carry out attacks, we tell ourselves and the world that they are not Muslims and religion has nothing to do with their barbaric acts. When a Pakistani like Tashfeen Malik is involved in an attack overseas, we point out that she spent time in Saudi Arabia. When a Pakistani like Saad Aziz is involved in attacks in Pakistan, we say that he must have been influenced by RAW. Maximimum Pakistanis are moderate and peaceful, we say. And I am desperate to believe it. But two events this week have shaken my confidence.
The first is the case of the 15-year-old boy who cut off his own hand and delivered it to his Imam after accidentally raising his hand when asked who had stopped praying. Raising one’s hand at the wrong moment is an honest mistake that every schoolboy has made at one time or another. Instead of understanding the boy’s predicament and comforting him not to worry, though, the crowd quickly accused him of blasphemy leading him to cut off his own hand and deliver it as apology. This is horrible enough, but what came next made me fear for our country.
Ahmed said that he has seen a video in which the boy is greeted by villagers in the street as his parents proclaim their pride.
No complaint has been made, he said, so no police report has been filed and there will be no investigation.
This what we have let Pakistan become. A country where children cut off their own limbs out of fear of being labeled a blasphemer, and their parents and villagers praise them for it.
I know what you are thinking. This is a terrible thing, but these are poor ignorant people. They are backwards and uneducated and do not represent Pakistan. True. And I was happy to shake my head in sadness for this poor boy as another evidence of need for more education. Until I saw this.
This video is Capt (r) Muhammad Safdar MNA son in law of Nawaz Sharif giving speech in favour of Mumtaz Qadri. This is not a 15-year-old boy who knows no better. This is not a backwards villager or an uneducated mullah. He is a retired Army officer who was educated at MCJ. He is elected Member of National Assembly. And he is a member of Prime Minister’s family. In other words, if the poor boy who cut off his hand represents Pakistan’s poor, Capt Safdar represents the elite. And here he is proudly praising an extremist murderer and I am reminded of the crowds of lawyers showering a killer with rose petals, and a passage written by another lawyer Feisal Naqvi hits me like a brick.
So far as I have been able to tell, there is a very small supply of enlightened Muslims and a very large supply of unenlightened Muslims. More importantly, the social credibility of the enlightened portion of the Ummah seems to run a very distant second to fire-breathing idiots who demand that we should stone sinners to death.
I am a middle class liberal Pakistani. I pray. I fast. I pay zakat. And I also believe in tolerance and moderation and have no need for hatred and extremism. I have always believed that I was not alone. I was part of the ‘silent majority’ of Pakistanis who also do the same. Right now, that belief is shaken and I am worrying more that I am actually a member of shrinking minority. For the sake of our country, I pray that I am mistaken.