During the last two decades or so, Pakistan has been in the eye of the storm: the centre of religious extremism, terror and bigotry. Over 80,000 innocent Pakistanis have become the victims of the dark and sinister forces of religious fanaticism and the mad irrational race to impose a particular form of religious dictatorship on the country.
Over 8,000 men in uniform have been sacrificed on the altar of religious extremism. This figure is more than the total casualties suffered during the wars with the arch enemy India.
Ironically, the silent majority of the country is totally silent. The death and destruction and the anarchy seen across the length and breadth of the country has not seen any shouts of protest or howls of anger because the silent majority are the people who are simply too scared to speak out. The gory drama enacted in Sialkot is a glaring example of a hidden cancerous tumor in our society that has now spread to all the vital organs of our society including the brain of our country. Such ugly and shameful displays of religious violence and acts of cruelty inflicted in the name of Islam will continue to haunt us in the future and with much greater intensity. The eruption of violent religious vigilantism in different parts of the country like Sialkot, Lahore, Faisalabad, Charsadda or Sargodha during the recent past have also resulted in shameful incidents of total apathy by the onlookers and even scenes of people making videos of a burning human body and taking selfies to be preserved as war trophies.
Intellectuals, politicians, scholars and social activists either agree with the dark forces of religious terrorism or sometimes may even nod their heads, very reluctantly condemning the heinous act but justifying the public reaction to such sensitive religious matters. The silent majority is silent in fear. Very few sensitive members of society horrified and angered at the happenings dare to protest in the form of speeches, newspaper articles or candlelight vigils, but always fearful of some Mumtaz Qadri lurking in the shadows to shoot or lynch any voice of dissent that dares to challenge the might of the forces of religious fanaticism and extremism.
Salman Taseer dared to challenge the forces of bigotry, was not afraid of calling the blasphemy laws black laws, and he paid with his life. We even witnessed the ugly spectacle of rose petals being showered on his murderer while the civil society watched silently. Nothing in the world can justify the murder of Salman Taseer or Shahbaz Bhatti, but there are many who still find justification for such barbaric heinous acts committed in the name of religion. Ordinary citizens dare not speak up in fear of the powerful forces of religion arrayed against them. They dare not question the bloodthirsty forces hell bent on imposing their religious agenda on the nation. The silent majority remains silent like lambs being led to slaughter. This fearful scenario will not change any time soon and the eerie silence of our civil society will prolong the agony and pain of our society.
Hats off to courageous individuals like Shehrbano Taseer who manage to stand defiant and proud before such bloodthirsty and vindictive forces of religious extremism. At her great moment of pain and suffering she was asked, “How do you feel when your father’s killer is showered with flowers? And clerics of Lahore refused to lead his Namaz-i-Janaza? And his murderer is being portrayed as a hero of Islam?” She had to answer these questions when her father was gunned down by his own bodyguard. She chose to remain defiant, courageous and composed, giving out a strong message that the fanaticism that killed her father could one day destroy this country. For Pakistan’s survival, the silent majority must speak up and form a wall of resistance to defy the dark and sinister forces of religious extremism and bigotry. We have no choice but to resist and defy, or perish.
Many innocent non-Muslims and even Muslims have suffered for speaking out against the blasphemy laws. Religious leaders, TV anchors, columnists and some politicians have warned the silent majority that anyone who dared to speak against the blasphemy laws will suffer the fate of Salman Taseer.
The only voice of reason and courage from the religious scholars was that of Javed Ahmed Ghamdi. He is a very rare voice of reason and logic. He has a deep knowledge and understanding of Islam and makes a very practical and forceful use of his knowledge of the Quran Sunnah. He is very well versed in Islamic jurisprudence and is a great public speaker. He made a video of the Sialkot incident titled, “Who is really responsible” in which he listed the reasons that have brought this country to this ugly and tragic situation.
According to Ghamdi, four parties should be held responsible for the present shameful situation. Firstly, our religious leaders who have encouraged fanatics like Mumtaz Qadri and turned them into heroes of Islam. Who the courts of Pakistan consider a murderer is celebrated by religious leaders as a martyr. Secondly, those lawmakers who enacted the blasphemy laws. According to Ghamdi, the blasphemy laws are against Quran, Hadith and Islamic jurisprudence. According to him our religious leaders know this and have accepted in writing that these laws do not conform to Islamic tenets but nobody is prepared to amend them. Thirdly, he blames some state agencies who support and nurture such elements for political and strategic reasons and he gives the example of how Justice Qazi Faez Isa became a target of such forces. Fourthly, he blames the political leaders and intellectuals who remain silent.
Javed Ghamdi’s frank and honest assessment should be food for thought for our nation. He is a renowned and respected Islamic scholar of our times. His word and advice must be heeded; civil society must take a stand against the evil forces of religious fanaticism, catch the bull by the horns and destroy this monster or the silent majority will be led to slaughter like the lambs of sacrifice.