Recent events prove now is the time for a modern nationalism

Diverse PakistanSeventy years ago, certain social and political ground realities existed which resulted in the political movement that created this country. I am not questioning the motivations or the historical environments which preceded the formation of our proud nation. However, it is also undeniable that since the past 70 years the regional and global order has undergone evolutions that have created new social and geopolitical realities that call for an evolution of our strategic and theoretical thinking to match.

Just as a person must evolve and adapt to take his proper place in the community when he ages, nations and societies must also evolve and adapt otherwise they will be unable to properly achieve their rightful place in the global community. What was necessary and proper 70 years ago has been established just as one’s culture and personality are established as one matures. However, one is not the exact same as he was even 10 or 20 years earlier but rather becomes more complex even as he is still grounded in his past.

Recent events have made clear that we have entered a new era in which the religious nationalism that may have made sense in the past is no longer sufficient to guide us in the new millennium. This has become increasingly obvious with the troubles of our participation in the Saudi military alliance, which was presented as a ‘Muslim NATO’ but was soon exposed as a dangerous experiment that threatens our own national security. The stakes were raised once again when a Saudi-led alliance of Arab states announced cutting diplomatic ties with Qatar and closing borders, putting Pakistan squarely in another bad position.

While alliances with Muslim allies are causing no end of uncomfortable situations for Pakistan, it is ironically the atheist China which is proving to be more sensitive to our own needs. Where Saudi has given some loans that must be repaid, China is investing billions in infrastructure and resources that will advance Pakistani businesses and develop our own economy. It is not just economically that atheist China has proven a strong ally, but also in terms of respecting Pakistan’s positions in global forums such as the UN. Even on Kashmir, China has respected Pakistan’s position but not from any religious motivation as China is not Muslim proving that religion is not the only bond that can bring two nations together.

Just as religion is not the only bond that can bring two nations together, also it is not the only bond that can unite our own nation.

Now imagine a Pakistan that would have embraced its diversity instead of treating it with fear and loathing. Imagine a Pakistan that would give equal rights to all its citizens without considerations of religion or gender. Imagine a Pakistan that would not be held hostage by its religious clergy and where the rulers would refuse to be blackmailed by these contractors of faith. Pakistan as a territory blessed with geography, relief, natural resources and a rich cultural heritage.

If its leaders had any vision it would be the magnet for the world both for business and for tourism. The tourism potential alone should have been enough to transform us rapidly into a rich and prosperous nation.

As an example, we can see India is being torn apart by religious chauvinism and majoritarianism. We cannot allow ourselves to fall further into the same trap. Now is the time for an updated nationalism not based on our differences but on our diversity which is our strength.

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.

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

 

Gaza Can’t Be Saved With Religion

Religion and War

Israel escalated it’s attack against Gaza yesterday by launching a ground invasion, adding tanks and soldiers to the already indiscriminate air strikes. Hamas has refused any offer of cease fire and warns of ‘heavy price‘ for the latest invasion. Meanwhile, the world is struggling to find a solution that will stop the unnecessary killing. Well, most of the world. In Pakistan, our leaders and supposed ‘security experts’ are trotting out well worn emotional responses without a hint of reason.

I have already discussed the insanity of PTI’s suggestion that Pakistan nuke Israel, though I did not even bother to mention then what such an irrational policy would result for Pakistan itself.

Ansar Abbasi has made a similar suggestion recently, except not just for Pakistan but for all Muslim countries to launch a joint military operation against Israel.

Maleeha Lodhi, may be more sophisticated, but she appears to have the same suggestion also, although presenting it in a more subtle, plausibly deniable way.

Maleeha Lodhi obviously doesn’t mention war by name, but since Egypt, Turkey, Qatar and Pakistan have all been working to try to negotiate an end to the violence, it is not unreasonable to assume that diplomacy is not a satisfactory means for our ex-diplomat.

Details aside, the idea is always the same – that the Ummah is under attack from Jews and all means necessary to secure the Ummah against the Jews is justified. Ironically, this is essentially the same idea that is guiding Israel’s policy of state terrorism against Gaza – a religious obligation to kill.

Gaza can’t be saved with religion. That does not mean we should not pray to Allah to intervene and stop this madness, but it means that giving the same prayers that the Israelis are giving – ‘Oh God Kill Our Enemies’ – is part of the problem not part of the solution. In the meantime, we need to start looking for solutions that do not involve religious violence. Both for Gaza, and for ourselves.

Reflecting On Quaid’s Birth Anniversary

Quaid-e-Azam

25th December is revered and remembered with a public holiday to pay tribute to the father of the nation Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah on his birth anniversary. For Christian Pakistanis, it is also revered as the birth anniversary of Jesus (Prophet Isa, PBUH). While most people will not consider these two leaders to have much in common, actually, there is some commonality to be found.

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