No amount of your egos, resources and ‘positiveness’ invested in moderatism such as interfaith dialogues, Sufi music, lectures by moderate clerics and Islamic scholars, and your insistence on how peaceful our faith truly is, will make an iota of a difference.
You are fighting a battle that you have already lost; simply because all the mindless violence in the name of faith in this country has been tolerated for too long, sometimes even rewarded.
Thus, who should those who loot, burn, plunder, and kill in the name of God be afraid of? Not the police, not the courts, not the media, not the government and believe me, not even the Almighty himself!
Why should they? How can they when they have all been playing God – judging, condemning and executing everyone and everything they deem heretical, blasphemous and infidel, without fear, remorse, or any chance of ever being reprimanded.
This faith-driven madness is not a recent happening. It’s been accumulating for decades.
And every time it has reared its ugly head it has not been dealt with the help of the law but with words and gestures that actually end up justifying it.
In 1954 the former Chief Minister of Punjab, Mumtaz Daultana, after failing to solve the problem of food shortages and unemployment in the province, encouraged rabid hordes belonging to the Jamat-e-Islami (JI) to instigate anti-Ahmadi violence just to divert the people’s anger from his failing ministership.
Though Daultana was ultimately removed from his post, soon after the commotion all those arrested for instigating the violence, damaging public property and attacking members of the Ahmadi community were released unconditionally.
Then in 1974, the popularly elected Prime Minister, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, capitulated like a man made from jelly when the JI used another round of anti-Ahmadi violence in Punjab as a way to reignite its failing fortunes and ask Bhutto to declare the besieged community as non-Muslim.
Instead of condemning mob violence, Bhutto, the great progressive democrat, did exactly what the mob demanded. As if overnight the Ahmadi community that had played a major role in the creation of Pakistan and was one of the most vigorous contributors to the country’s economy, was reduced to becoming second-class citizens.
How many Pakistanis questioned Bhutto’s cynical move or JI’s politics of hatred? None.
All that the reactionary Ziaul Haq dictatorship (1977-88) had to do was to turn such politics of hate into actual state policy, thus beginning the now established Pakistani tradition of churning out a continuous flow of blood-thirsty sectarian and Islamist outfits.
But more dangerously, these policies eventually generated an ethos that promised material and political rewards and benefits for anyone willing to become violent, self-righteous, exhibitionist and hypocritical in matters of faith.
[quote]Naseerullah Babar was busy sitting with ISI sleuths conceiving the creation of a dreadful and barbaric force [/quote]
However, once the great tyrant and mastermind of this mindset blew up somewhere over Bahawalpur in August 1988, did the democrats that replaced him reverse the tide?
In 1995, late Benazir Bhutto’s Interior Minister, Naseerullah Babar, was busy sitting with ISI sleuths conceiving the creation of a dreadful and barbaric force that became to be known as the Taliban.
They said they were doing this to ‘end the civil war in Afghanistan and stabilise the region,’ all the while turning a blind eye to all the atrocities being committed by their creations once they took power in Kabul.
It was thus ironic that when Benazir was brutally killed in December 2007, the killers had used the services of Pakistani Islamists who had in turn been inspired by the same Taliban that Benazir Bhutto’s interior ministry had created with the help of Saudi money and Pakistani expertise.
Meanwhile, the other great democrat of the 1990s, Mian Nawaz Sharif, till even 1996, was passionately leading emotional processions to Ziaul Haq’s grave site in Islamabad and promising to ‘continue Shaheed Zia’s mission.’
[quote]Why should a mob out to lynch a blasphemer feel any shame?[/quote]
Though he finally faced a few assassination attempts by members of a sectarian organisation in Punjab in the late 1990s, this didn’t stop some of his party members to hold hands with leaders of the same banned organisation in 2009!
The so-called moderates let out a sigh of relief when General Pervez Musharraf toppled Nawaz and positioned himself as a Pakistani Attaturk.
But he would go on to only tweak the Ziaist mindset by adding to it a fresh dose of schizophrenia. Patronizing modernism, he, at the same time, fattened terrorist outfits seen as ‘friendly’ to the Pakistan military’s ‘strategic goals’ in the region, while attacking the less friendly ones so his regime could continue getting and gobbling military and economic aid from the United States in its war against terror.
This schizoid disposition not only furthered the cause and cancer of moral and material hypocrisy already ripe in the society ever since the Zia days, it is exactly the kind of societal, cultural and political schizophrenia that became the grounds on which Pakistan’s freer and louder private electronic media actually began building its repertoire on.
It was this media that turned armed thugs who, in 2005, had taken over a mosque and a seminary in Islamabad, into heroes.
Even though the Musharraf dictatorship had taken its sweet time to crack down on the thugs who had been harassing the city for weeks, when the crackdown finally came, TV news reporters and anchormen transformed into angry, foaming mouthpieces of the thugs, enough for the Musharraf regime to not only release most of the arrested men, but to actually provide funds and helicopters to the funeral arrangements of the self-proclaimed soldiers of God.
It is also the same schizoid mindset that has given a sudden raise to the profile of men like Imran Khan. He can sound like an impassioned fusion of Chairman Mao, Z A. Bhutto, Abul Ala Maududi and the myopic mullah of your neighborhood mosque within a span of just a few sentences!
So, whom should a mob setting out to lynch a ‘blasphemer’, or to loot, burn and plunder in the fine name of God be afraid of? Why should it have any reason to be ashamed?
Imagine how a young member of such a mob comes back home after a day of looting, burning and killing, and switches on his TV.
Do you think he does so because he expected to hear a blunt condemnation of his actions from the media and the politicians? No.
What he sees and hears on the idiot box are anchors, talk-show hosts, journalists, religious leaders, ‘experts’ and politicians, all shouting at the top of their voices and simultaneously trying to convince their audience how much more ‘ashiq (lovers) of the faith’ they are than the next guy.
Our young mob member would then recline on his sofa, or chair or whatever, smug in the belief that it was he who was the biggest lover of the faith. After all, unlike the talking heads it was he who went out to express his love for the Almighty on the roads. But, of course, the only problem was that this raving idiot’s expression in this respect included burning, plundering and even killing.
We as a nation have for long been staring into the abyss. But what many of us believe is a vision of some kind of a Muslim reawakening is in actuality just the abyss staring back at us.
As a sad Sufi would observe, in our pursuit to become one with the Almighty, we have instead become one with the abyss.