The Death Penalty Delusion

public hanging

Nawaz Sharif has lifted the ban on death penalty, and Gen Raheel has signed the death warrants for six convicted terrorists. The reaction has been fairly predictable, with right-wing hypernationalists beating their drum to hang someone, anyone, in the streets and left-wing human rights activists worrying about whether death penalty makes us no better than the killers we are killing. I have a different opinion than either of these. I’m not going to lose any sleep over whether a terrorist loses his life. Hang him if it makes you feel better. Hang him from a lamp post if something about that makes you feel more like a man. But don’t expect me to be there cheering it on, either, because it won’t matter. It won’t make one bit of difference.

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What does ISI ‘M’ Wing hope to achieve by crude propaganda?

Pakistan Love ISI posters in Islamabad

ISI is the most powerful spy agency in the world. We know because once a year we see a Facebook post or we are forwarded an email about how ISI was ranked as the world’s top spy agency by “US Crime News” or some other media group that doesn’t seem to exist except in the imagination of whoever invented the story. More important than knowing where ISI ranks among other spy agencies (actually, there’s no such think as ranking of spy agencies), we should be asking what ISI media wing hopes to achieve with all of this crude propaganda.

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Ideology and Education: A Deadly Combination

Ahmed al-Ghamdi

Ahmed al-Ghamdi is no unbeliever. He is not even a liberal. The conservative Muslim lead the mutaween in Mecca. One day, he was devotedly studying Qur’an and Sunnah when he discovered something that surprised him:

“I wanted to go to their underpinnings, so I began collecting all the texts relating to [gender mixing] from the Quran and the Sunna. My conclusion was that not a single text or verse in the Quran and Sunna specifically says that mixing is haram. The word ‘mixing’ is not even in the Quran.”

When Al-Ghamdi reported his discovery, he was fired from his position with the religious police. He was fired not due to his being wrong, but because his discovery had challenged the ruling power structure. In this instance, education and critical thinking were seen as a threat to the status quo and were therefore punished. In Pakistan, we are experiencing a similar backlash against critical thinking and education, but the stakes are much higher than merely losing ones’s job.

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Fake Quotes and the Rise of Idiocracy

Question Everything

Imran Khan is no stranger to controversial statements, but his most recent controversial statement isn’t even his own. In a speech and posting on Twitter, the PTI chief quoted an 1835 address by Lord Macaulay to the British Parliament about Western cultural hegemony and subjugation. Only, Lord Macaulay never gave this quote – it is the invention of Hindu nationalists in India.

Imran wasn’t the only person to fall for a fake quote recently. Following the announcement that Malala Yousafzai had won the Nobel Peace Prize, a quote attributed to her denouncing Islam began circulating all over social media. Like Imran Khan’s Lord Macaulay quote, this quote was also fake.

Though these two quotes seem entirely unrelated, there is an important thread that connects them: A willingness to believe anything without question if it supports one’s political beliefs. I see this every day. If you say something with confidence, no matter how ridiculous, people are ready and willing to accept it and repeat it without the slightest bit of verification.

Think about the utter nonsense that has been passed around as facts lately. From Agha Waqar Ahmad’s infamous ‘water kit‘ to America’s miraculous ability to control the weather, it seems that there is no con too obvious that we won’t swallow it hook, line, and sinker.

Worst, those who dare to point out the obvious reality are forced to live as virtual outcasts (if they are even permitted to live at all). We are a nation that has produced a Nobel Laureate in Physics, but we have all but erased him from the history books because he was the wrong religion. Highly educated people are called ‘jahil‘ on national television by uneducated media men for trying to inject a minimum of reason into a discussion.

This trend has deeper ramifications than merely making us look foolish on social media. It is the reason why Federal Ministers can get away with blaming ‘hidden hands‘ for national problems instead of taking responsibility. It is the reason why jokers like Ahmed Quraishi and Zaid Hamid are given airtime to spin fanciful tales of ‘hindu-zionist conspiracies’.

We do not enjoy the luxury to wallow in idle fantasies. We are facing existential crises from preventable diseases spinning out of control, jihadi militancy, sectarian extremism, economic decline, and increasing international isolation. To counter these threats, the need of the hour is reason and critical thinking. Sadly, our education system too lies in tatters.

In his political speeches, Imran Khan has promised to not only change the Prime Minister, but to change the system. But what Imran Khan thinks is a wave of populist democracy is better termed as populist idiocracy. And until we change that, there can be no progress under any government.

The Right To Be Wrong

Keep calm and let's agree to disagree

When I first started writing for this blog, I thought the hardest part was not finding topics to discuss but handling the abuse that came with giving an opinion. After receiving some particularly nasty emails, I told my father I was thinking of giving up writing. He could see I was clearly depressed about it because I truly enjoy writing and discussing important topics. Not because I think I have all the answers – no one does – but because I believe that it is in discussion and debate that we find them. Baba sat me down and said, ‘beta, before you make your decision, I want you to recite Al-Baqarah 256’. I paused. With a puzzled look I said, ‘There is no compulsion in religion? But what does this have to do with my problem?’ My father nodded his head and said, ‘Now tell me this: These pieces you write, are they about something more important than religion?’ I was still puzzled. ‘Of course not. They are important issues – politics, economics, foreign policy, etc etc – but not more important than religion’. My father nodded again. ‘If Qur’an teaches us that there is no compulsion in religion, how can there be compulsion in these issues that you are writing about which you yourself admit are of lesser importance?’ I didn’t know how to respond, so I just stared at him. He smiled and continued, ‘Prophet Muhammad (SAW) used reason, not compulsion, to spread Islam. Follow his example. Don’t let anyone bully you into silence, and don’t let them compel you to agree with them. Admit when you are wrong, and allow others the right to be wrong sometimes also.’

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