Nawaz Sharif just dealt an important blow to extremism

Muhammad Abdus SalamPrime Minister Nawaz Sharif has dealt an important blow to the forces of obscurantism and extremism today by renaming of Quaid-i-Azam University’s (QAU) physics department to the Professor Abdus Salam Center for Physics and creating a new programme named the Professor Abdus Salam Fellowship to grant five annual fellowships for Pakistani PhD students in the field of Physics.

Dr Muhammad Abdus Salam is a national hero, though he has been treated very badly and nearly forgotten only because of his religious sect. By openly recognising Dr Abdus Salam in such a public and lasting way, PM Nawaz has dealt an important blow to extremism in the country. It is a first step only, but it is a crucial one to undoing the normalisation of hate and sectarianism that has taken root in so much of our society.

 

Why ‘bans’ are worse than futile

Welcome to BanistanOur proclivity for banning things for one reason or another resulted in the hastag #Banistan appearing on social media a few years ago. During this time, YouTube was banned, though it was easily accessible to almost everyone with a little work around. This caused many to note the futility of our obsession with ‘banning’ things that we don’t like. However banning is often worse than just futile, as was noted in an excellent letter to Dawn on Monday.

APROPOS the letter ‘Liquor Shops’ (Nov 23). The writer maintains that liquor shops in Sindh should remain sealed because alcohol is bad for health.

What our perpetual sermonisers do not take into consideration are the following: 1) alcoholism in Pakistan after prohibition was imposed in April 1977 has always remained higher than what it was before prohibition; 2) the curbs have given birth to bootlegging mafias, or worse, those selling tainted alcoholic beverages; and 3) very rarely have any serious crimes been reported in which consumption of alcohol was involved.

Third, many Hindus and Christians known to me are forced to buy alcoholic beverages on the black market since the court ordered the sealing of the licensed wine shops. Interestingly a non-Muslim friend tells me that people meet their needs by driving to Hub, where the sellers are making hay while the sun shines.

The Sindh government must make a more realistic law regarding the sale of alcohol as the current law was made in 1979 and has lost its relevance. Last but not least, should we not be more concerned about the bad health effects of things like extremism, bigotry and domestic violence?

M.M.D.D. Karachiwala

As this person correctly points out, a ban can not only be worked around, but there are also unintended consequences from the workarounds that may make the cure worse than the disease.

Same can also be said not only about bans on alcohol but Bollywood films also. Some argue that such bans will not only protect Pakistani culture but Pakistani film industry also. But does banning Bollywood films actually get rid of them? Obviously it does not, it only takes them out of the legal economy and pushes them into the illegal economy of bootleggers and pirates.

‘Black economy’ of Pakistan, or the informal economy of goods and services that escapes the eye sight of authorities, is estimated over $100 billion. This is where criminal gangs and militant groups get much of their funding. So when we ‘ban’ alcohol or foreign movies, we are really just pushing them into the black economy and providing more funds for terrorists and mafias. In other words, we not only fail at the stated goal of stopping the thing we are banning, we are actually making our society worse by funding the worst criminal and extremist elements.

Honouring Dr Muhammad Abdus Salam (1926-1996)

15th October 1979: Joint Nobel Physics prize winner and Imperial College of London professor Abdus Salam, originally from Pakistan. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)

15th October 1979: Joint Nobel Physics prize winner and Imperial College of London professor Abdus Salam, originally from Pakistan. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)

Today is the 20th death anniversary of Dr Muhammad Abdus Salam, the first Pakistan to receive a Nobel Prize, which he was awarded in 1979. He was also awarded Sitara-e-Pakistan (1959) and Nishan-e-Imtiaz (1979) along with dozens of other honors both nationally and internationally. In a just world, he would be honoured as a hero. But the respected physicist did not live in a just world. He lived in Pakistan.

Dr Muhammad Abdus Salam was not only the first Pakistani to receive a Nobel Prize, he was actually the first Muslim to receive the Nobel Prize. After his death, this honour was noted on his headstone. Today, however, his grave has been defaced and the word ‘Muslim’ removed on the orders of government officials. His crime? He was an Ahmadi Muslim.

Dr Muhammad Abdus Salam grave

Today we express our sadness not only for the loss of Pakistan’s great hero Nobel Prize winner Dr Muhammad Abdus Salam, but for our own country that is so psychologically insecure that we cannot even honour its greatest citizens.

Interior Ministry to Turkish Teachers: Get Out of Our Country!

Turkish teachers expelled from PakistanThe decision to expel desperate Afghan refugees may have been a humanitarian disaster, but the Interior Ministry’s latest decision raises serious questions about how low the government will go to please foreign leaders. Ahead of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s visit, officials have informed Turkish teachers that they have three days only to get out of Pakistan.

After a failed coup attempt, Turkey’s authoritarian leader has undertaken a Stalin-esque purge of society that has shocked the conscience of the world.

More than 100,000 people had already been sacked or suspended and 37,000 arrested since the abortive putsch in an unprecedented crackdown President Tayyip Erdogan says is crucial for wiping out the network of Gulen from the state apparatus.

Thousands more academics, teachers, health workers, prison guards and forensics experts were among the latest to be removed from their posts through two new executive decrees published on the Official Gazette late on Saturday.

Now, we have become willing participants in this shameful episode of history. There is no evidence that these humble teachers have any connection to plotters and coup makers.

Some have noted that countries go to war and do much worse things for allies, so why are we so surprised at this? However I think the decision must also be thought about in the terms of current world events. Who will we be willing to turn over to Donald Trump? One what grounds will we protest if a Marine Le Pen government in France begins a purge of Muslims?

Our leaders shout that they will not take dictation from foreign governments, but their promises are hollow. First we got rid of the refugees, now we are willing to get rid of teachers. Who will be next? You?

The Nightmare Comes True

Trump Muslims

Their country was founded as a homeland where they could finally be safe. Their religion would not be an issue. Their mosques would be be secure, and their children would not face discrimination. Here, their community members flourished. They were in government, they were successful doctors and scientists. Alhamdulillah, life was good.

Then something happened. A dark fog began to gather in the words they were hearing in the streets, and they began to worry that even here they would not be safe. They tried to protect their children, shooing them out of the room when the TV anchors were talking about politics. There was talk about banning their religion, demolishing their mosques, turning them into second class citizens in their own country.

They told themselves it couldn’t happen here. The father of the nation had declared this nation would be a homeland for them, too. But it did happen. The political movement was too strong, their neighbors were too apathetic, or did they secretly hate them too? The constitution was amended, and their religion was blacklisted. They found themselves attacked with impunity. Their mosques were demolished. They were forced to endure every type of humiliation. They were mocked and ridiculed and their faith was spit on.

The nightmare came true.

Anti Ahmadi Sign