In a country perceived to be teeming with hypocrites, the good news is, there are still enough rational voices to make a difference. The venue of this heart-warming discovery is the readers’ forum of a blog on a Pakistani news website.

The blogger is a young woman. She was touched from behind in a public bus and she figured the culprit was an old man with white beard. She did not react with hostility and the old man had the last laugh. She connects the incident with newspaper reports of ‘maulvis’ raping little children, and with her own impression of maulvis promoting disturbance and racism in their sermons, and arrives at the obvious conclusion that ‘the most respected group of people (the elderly and the maulvi) has been transformed in to the most feared one’. And by way of explanation she says: ‘When a person is given the respect that he does not deserve, this is the inevitable outcome,’ with the assurance of someone who has either been a maulvi or who has respected maulvis before the disillusionment.

The usual maulvi-bashers joined the party and added their own experiences with and views about the ‘maulvi sahib’, ‘qari sahib’ and generally all bearded men, in the forum section. A medical doctor who practices Islam and sports a shara’yee beard wrote in to say how he likes his beard but hates the word ‘maulvi’, and wished that he would be seen as a man, a doctor, and not just a ‘bearded man’. A woman blogger chided the writer for turning one man’s indecency into a charge of depravity against all men with long facial hair. Another chaffed at linking morality with religiosity. Yet another pointed out that all aged men are not dirty old men, all bearded men are not maulvi, and all maulvis are not child molesters.

Who is a maulvi anyway? Who decides who is and who isn’t?

In its original form ‘maulvi’ is the title of honour one earns after successfully completing madrassah syllabus, and a mark of respect even in secular circles where teachers and other learned people addressed each other as ‘maulvi sahib’.

In contemporary connotation, however, the term is either used for the prayer leader of the local mosque, or for a narrow-minded and intolerant person, with or without a beard. In both cases ‘maulvi’ is essentially a lowly person, held responsible for any and all ills, as in: ‘this country’s gone to the dogs because of the maulvis’. A maulvi is a man or woman who closely measures every centimeter of exposed skin to calculate the temperature of hell’s oven in which that skin will burn. Someone who’s sure of being right, always, and therefore, never willing to learn or change their views.

It’s the kind of person you cannot argue with. They are masters at the art of one-way communication, and it’s all outbound. Maulvi, as they say in Sialkot, is a state of mind and not a state of affairs. Maulvi is a quality that is independent of religion, occupation, gender, age, and place of birth. Other than the religious maulvi there is the professional soldier, the meticulous bureaucrat, the ‘progressive’ leftist, the ‘liberal’ thinker … who are all maulvis in their own way. Their truth is the only truth. They will not allow any other view or opinion to be expressed.

The non-traditional maulvis – the clean shaved, English-speaking, trouser-wearing, self-described liberals – are not easy to recognise, without the litmus test of censorship. Liberal thinking is born out of, and thrives on, plurality of opinions, expressed without fear and favour. Every idea, every view and every notion can compete for the audience’s attention and discussion. There is no room for censorship in a liberal discourse. The two are mutually exclusive; you couldn’t argue in favour of banning Satanic Verses and be a liberal. A liberal may give his view of Salman Rushdie as a pretentious writer and of his books as nonsensical prose, and still defend his right to publish and sell books, and speak in public.

The same goes for a discourse on religion, sex, gender, and everything else dubbed ‘sensitive’ in the civilian language. There are too many ‘too sensitive’ subjects and taboo stories to kill if we let individuals decide what cannot be said. It is for this reason we have institutions, and constitutions, and principles, and ethics. There is a global consensus on minimum standards and the conduct of mass media. Media content that, among other things, passes off unsubstantiated claims and blames as facts, defames, unjustly harms, spreads hatred, uses abusive language, spreads malicious rumours, or may cause violence and unrest, can be rejected, and the editors and managing producers will only be doing their professional and civic duty.

Maulvis are not satisfied with this arrangement. They don’t want to see, read, or hear some things, which is a choice they are free to make, but then they decide that it must be bad for by everyone and demand for it to be deleted, banned, killed. The literary maulvis in India successfully opposed Rushdie’s appearance at Jaipur Literary Festival this year. The leftist maulvis in Pakistan can’t stand Islam and are just as unreasonable in their hatred against religious maulvis as the religious maulvi are against them. The journalist maulvi will err seldom but always on the side of political correctness, which is a religion in itself.

The liberal maulvi refuses to hear the counter view, both from family and peers. Instead of reasoning and arguing in favour of his or her own point of view, they forcefully demand that the counter view should be stopped, banned, killed, should not be put out in public, because it will corrupt the audience. That is precisely the argument a religious maulvi relies on in favour of censorship – that audiences are innocent, naive, even stupid, and need to be protected from potentially harmful material circulated in the public sphere.

So there. The one with a long beard may or may not be a maulvi, and the well dressed and educated one may or may not be a maulvi. The appearance does not decide. Words, actions and intentions do. So then who is maulvi in the blog and forum mentioned above? The author, the journalist who decided the headline for that blog: ‘Keep your hands to yourself, Maulvi sahib’, the readers who badmouthed maulvis in liberal solidarity? Or the straight-talking, bearded, practicing Muslim?

Who is a maulvi’s opposite number, the liberal, among these characters? The objective and critical readers who pointed out the narrative’s shortcomings without malice or prejudice? Or a reader demanding this or some other piece of writing killed for being politically incorrect?

The uplifting part of this reading experience was in numbers. Maulvis had their say in the forum, though none were rabid enough to demand a ban. Rational and liberal responses were few but they stole all the attention and received likes in three digits. In other words hundreds of readers took the blogger and maulvi-bashers for real ‘maulvis’ and chose to side with the more liberal comments. As long as these voices are around, driving the discourse, maulvis won’t have their way. These are your voices. Keep them trained and keep them coming.

 


Masud Alam is an Islamabad-based writer, columnist and journalism trainer. He can be reached at masudalam@yahoo.com

 


The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Masud Alam is an Islamabad-based writer, columnist and journalism trainer. He can be reached at masudalam@yahoo.com

The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

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Comments are closed.

Comments (59)

Pakistani
December 1, 2012 12:35 am
All these fake "maulvis" of all kinds r there because of us, not b/c they deserve or qualify for that status. If v learn Quran with translation from multiple sources, or better learn Arabic and then understands Islam, then v all will b maulvis of right kind, not ridiculing others for their shortcomings. There's absolutely nothing wrong in being religious. Islam is the most liberal religion- gives u choices in dressing, eating, getting married, enjoying your life and resources to the fullest. Profanity, adultery, corruption, condemning other is not liberalism. Live and let other live in a civilized way is the Islam.
SD01
December 2, 2012 4:58 am
You are the aggresive one here even when one says something peaceful and useful as Babur above..
Ahmed
November 29, 2012 3:38 pm
Very well said. The very concept of a molvi should be an affront to every true muslim (since there is no concept of a priesthood in Islam), and yet the opposite has been the case for too long in Pakistan. No wonder the molvi has turned Pakistan into a hellish place that matches their own final destination.
Ara
November 30, 2012 1:16 am
I was taught from the very beginning. "Jo maulvi kahay wo kar, jo maulvi karay, wo na kar"
Moazzam Salim
November 30, 2012 6:39 am
Being a maulvi or a priest does not necessarily mean a great moral/ethical personality. Look at the Church and its constant involvement in sexual abuse of children all over the world, a pattern similar to what our maulvis have produced over the years. One has to admit that even theologists are only humans. Like all others they sin and generally take a different path than the one they preach. I personally believe that how a male or female acts in his/her life depends upon the attitude of his/her family during the childhood and the way they get their education both from the school and their homes. The more a person is associated with the society the better the morality and ethics; dissociated persons lacking in human contact generally feel that they are above the rest and cant be touched.
G.A.
November 30, 2012 1:06 pm
There is no place for clergy in Islam. The link is direct between man and his Creator with no medium in between. Pakistanis need to stop putting these mullahs on a pedestal they don't deserve. Stop giving them free publicity through your Facebook posts for God's sake! Some of them are very questionable.
ali
November 30, 2012 9:41 am
I no longer get into any meaningful discussion with another pakistani for fear of being ostrasized.
LKK
November 29, 2012 8:42 pm
Read again, this time with comprehension. The author has taken care of providing the link. You will find it in his article.
AA
November 29, 2012 8:44 pm
This author always does an excellent job. Highly intelligent with complete control of the language.
Shafiq Khan
November 29, 2012 8:45 pm
Interesting topic indeed. The words change their meanings during the period of usage. In some parts of British India the title of "Maulvi" was given to the lawyer, and then to well educated individuals and now it is somewhat a derisory term. The so-called Maulvis and their ignorance has something to do with it. Hence the " Murekh mullah coor meranda ehi" (ignorant Maulvi is telling lies)When they talk with seeming authority about things they have no clue of, which they often do about other religions. The people who grow facial hair because of a religious conviction need to follow the practices of the prophet, as much honestly as they can. Keeping a beard for religious conviction and a big belly is contradictory. Keep a beard and eat so as not have a paunch is good practice for religious people. Probably consistent with the practice of pious people. Then it must follow that before every thought and action they must believe that Allah all mighty is "Hazer -o-Nazer", and stop doing or even thinking things not allowed by that All Mighty. That make one with "Taqwa" , if that is the sort of Muslim you are, title becomes insignificant. A Maulvi or anything else, makes little difference . Your aim is to be a decent human being, who does the right thing in every situation. Those shouting through the loudspeakers and spreading hate and violence are strangers to Allah's grace and His forgiveness.
MAH, Abu Dhabi
November 30, 2012 6:25 am
alas there is nothing new in this piece for almost all of those who clicked on this link. i would rather have this in Urdu on one of the more awami newspapers .... but perhaps if that were possible, there wouldn't be a need for such articles, right!
kdspirited
November 29, 2012 9:00 pm
Even baba bulleh shah in his poetry thaught maulvis were trouble makers and needed to be stopped. Well written piece but I wish that these liberal voices would scream so loud that people would be forced to hear them. I wish they were on the streets instead of online
B. Ally
November 29, 2012 9:04 pm
Maulvi is a symbol of religious perversion and a mile stone of extremism.
mahmood
November 29, 2012 3:43 pm
Maulvi used to be a title given out of respect to the people educated enough in Islam to lead prayers and give good advice. But these days, every person supporting a beard is called a maulvi, not knowing the person's character or morality, this term has also become a taunt, for the people who are trying to follow the sunnah of prophet (PBUH), but again, these people don't want to be called maulvis either, because of the bad reputation that this title has gained, In any case, this lady thinks that everyone who has a beard is a bad person, which is not right.
zain
November 30, 2012 5:50 am
Oh come on writer,broaden your horizons! this is a common social issue and people are well aware of it.So please instead of filling pages on such topics have an eye of an observer and come up with some contemporary & serious social issues to brag about.
Tayyab
November 30, 2012 5:31 am
Dear Friends. if someone is trying to follow the teaching of islam, he should not be offended, if called molvi or whatever. But as the writer rightly suggests, that we should always look at the character/ action of indiviual not the label. this world is full of hypocrates and its not your job to decide who is right or wrong.
Aqil Siddiqi
November 29, 2012 7:41 pm
Molvis are the culprit, that has turned Pakistan upside down and of no return. They are the most hypocrite people of them all. I am sorry, but I have no respect for them, as what they done to my country beside other elements. Aqil Siddiqi(BC, Canada)
Neer Nayan
November 29, 2012 7:47 pm
An excellent essay, almost uninhibited and precisely to the point with a tongue-in-cheek approach! We all have a 'maulavi' in us, just unwilling to listen to the other side of the facts, and dictating our actions!
Chaman
November 30, 2012 1:27 pm
You don't have to argue with such people but can do two things. Discuss issues with the likeminded. There are many more like who are also afraid to talk to any one else. The group is large but slient. Keep writing. Pen makes an impact but takes time. Secondly, raise your children the way you are intelligent, educated and open minded. That is the path I chose for myself and I feel it worked well for me.
Sohaib
November 29, 2012 6:11 pm
Super super like! I have never came across such an unbiased and rational analysis of radical mindsets both liberals and religious plaguing the social, print and television media in Pakistan. What a piece!
Gerry D'Cunha
November 30, 2012 12:07 pm
I am sorry to say 'moulvis' (not all) are the one to be blamed for bringing bad name to islam by preaching 'hatred' 'revenge' in their mosque on fridays and inciting the innocent people to react to violence instead of preaching their congregation of love and tolerance in accordance to the teaching of their prophet.
Mustafa
November 29, 2012 6:43 pm
What a shame People criticizing Beard......
Babur
November 30, 2012 2:59 am
Man! we think too much and act too little..... Over analyzing everything, asking questions, nobody provides solution....
alimh133
November 30, 2012 9:49 am
I no longer get into any meaningful discussion with another pakistani for fear of being ostrasized. I mark myself guilty of taking with me all that I see meaningful for this world. What a waste.
AK
November 30, 2012 10:24 am
You misunderstood the point around beard dear. Re-read the blog again.
Uqaab
November 29, 2012 3:55 pm
An absolutely fabulous piece!
Hamza
November 29, 2012 3:46 pm
please provide the link for the blog mentioned in the article
Ahmed j
November 29, 2012 9:08 pm
I have always thought of maulvis. This word is not taken in a positive manner at all and the maulvis have to blame themselves. Keeping a beard is considered a sunnah of our beloved prophet but the maulvis forget that there are countless other practices which is also a sunnah but why do they only follow this particular sunnah. Why all maulvis are over weight. Holy prophet was physically fit to fight battles. Why bearded maulvis eat a lot when our prophet used to live on dates and milk. In my view keeping a beard for maulvi is like a camouflage to hide their serious follies and give wrong impression to others. Keeping a beard should be the last or final steps of being righteous. The initial step has to be cleansing of the inner soul followed by physical cleanliness then mannerism and etiquettes and the last to grow a beard which in my view is least important. There may be few pious maulvis but majority, I have come across are hypocrites. I have also followed the same in women who cover themselves under wraps. No one would deny the fact that all women who sell their flesh cover themselves under folds of cloth, this is their camouflage. I am not taking the name of the garment as I will have a barrage of one-way communication, and it’s all outbound by those who are the masters at this art.
Muhammad Saleem
November 29, 2012 7:32 pm
Its all true and well said!!!! Can you provide link to the Blog referenced in this article?
karim
November 29, 2012 7:38 pm
It is in the article.
Capt C M Khan
November 29, 2012 7:06 pm
Read the article and read all comments. FAILED to understand the message of this article, so sorry.
shabkhez
November 30, 2012 10:17 pm
True evaluation of a moulvi by the writer. The period of Mullahs is predicted to be black times for humanity. Perfect positive example is the Turkey of Atta Turk.
Tahir
November 29, 2012 5:42 pm
Good article. I am one who is simply scared of entering into any kind of debate with the bearded variety (Zakir Naik et al) wielding their hatered at everything that is not Muslim and un-Islamic but then there are other bearded persons like Javed Ghamdi who I could listen and feel there is still hope.
RSS
December 2, 2012 8:11 am
He is Indian.
akbar bajwa
November 30, 2012 4:40 pm
Loved every bit of it
Syed-S
December 1, 2012 12:46 am
Most probably, this article was not meant for you.
brainwashed
November 29, 2012 4:50 pm
The author and likes of him are on one end of the spectrum and conservative religious folks with/or without beared or on the other end. Let keep the sick and perverted folks out of this discussion, which is universally wrong in both the quarters. The question is are we Muslims or not. If we are Muslims, are we obligated to follow a certain conservative life style or do we not beleve in judgement day or do we beleive through Allah's emense Rehmat, all will be forgiven and we all end up in Jannat. If you want to live a life that you do not want to follow any Islamic rules, please, do it, by all means thats your progative, everyone is on their own. But for God sake stop pissing on religious folks because you do not have the moral courage to follow what is right. Yes, Some Maulvi's are less educated and make wrong decision, but majority are good....So go on to your music, parties, dress shoes and concerts.... When you are serious about Islam find a good Maulvi, to guide you. Inshallah.
Liberal
November 30, 2012 8:02 am
Liberals are not against good maulvis but are against bad maulvis. Liberals are against Maulvis who instigate innocent people against other religions and sects. Maulvis who have secret lives. Maulvis who support terrorists.
Farah.
November 29, 2012 4:26 pm
want to knw abt the blog mentioned above written by a young lady
Hashmat Ali
November 30, 2012 12:19 pm
Read your amazing piece of writing. This article "na ker maulvi" is totally an eye-opener. We, the people of this country, have become judgemental, prejudiced and really self obsessive. we think only I am correct and no other person is right. It is total racism, calling a person a name due to his appearance. Your writing made me think that I am also wrong. Mostly when a driver in front of me is not driving carefully, my first guess is that he must be a bearded man, shame on me! Thanks for writing about it. We need to respect each other and why not, maulvi is us, we ourselves. I become a blacksmith, you become a goldsmith, some becomes officers, some become maulvis, and yet we disrespect ourselves all the time. I would say that the only problem with us is that we lack the true understanding and essence of education. Our logical and common sense part of life is almost finished. may be, it is due to frustration, depression or the political conditions, whatever the cause may be but we have lost the touch of humanity and love. hatred is something we are proud of today. thanks sir, for reminding me that we all are humans.
Noman
November 30, 2012 6:34 pm
such a superb and vivid piece of writing
ali bazmi
November 30, 2012 6:56 pm
the writer is so innocent, that he is asking the readers to judge but still he intentionally disgraced the respected word of moulvi...by giving the title of ''Na ker maulvi''... i am ashamed myself that i fall for such a title..
Aqil Siddiqi
November 30, 2012 7:54 pm
Where do you live my friend, I am sure not in Pakistan :)
YA
December 3, 2012 10:57 pm
Stop blackmailing everyone in the name of religion….
Mystic
December 1, 2012 3:33 am
Nice plug for a friend, maulvi saab.
sf
December 1, 2012 4:39 am
unfortunately in Pakistan any one with long beard and proper topee is considered molvi or a mullah with or without any education and they have their point of view.
Zeeshan
December 1, 2012 5:07 am
There is no good or bad Maolvi. Maolvism is a curse in all its forms.
JustSaying
December 1, 2012 8:43 am
The number of 'thumbs up' you got suggests the quality of comprehension of commenters here.
alimh133
December 1, 2012 9:46 am
Am I allowed to offer solutions or will you shoot me down and then glorify the killer?
Introspection
December 1, 2012 10:20 am
Sir, your understanding of the basis of ‘Islam’ is the crux of your problem. Here’s the Basis of Authority in the Islamic State: 4.59 O you who believe! Obey Allah, and obey the messenger and those of you who are in authority; and if you have a dispute concerning any matter, refer it to Allah and the messenger if you are (in truth) believers in Allah and the Last Day. That is better and more seemly in the end.
Introspection
December 1, 2012 5:59 am
Sir, your understanding of the basis of 'Islam' is the crux of your problem. Here's the Basis of Authority in the Islamic State: 4.59 O you who believe! Obey Allah, and obey the messenger and those of you who are in authority; and if you have a dispute concerning any matter, refer it to Allah and the messenger if you are (in truth) believers in Allah and the Last Day. That is better and more seemly in the end.
Shanzay
December 1, 2012 10:00 pm
I don't have any prejudice, I hate all maulvis equally.
Gerry D'Cunha
December 1, 2012 8:30 pm
Aqil: I live in a land where there is peace;love and tolerance for all human race regardless of their religion
Shah
December 2, 2012 2:11 pm
Maulvi is the person who taught many of us how to say Kalma, when the efforts of parents caesed just after memorizing only the first Kalma, oblivious of the fact that there are five more. Maulvi is the person who guides us about ablution and prayers. Maulvi is the person who gives azan to invite us to succeed in hereafter and leads five time prayers to retain the ummah united. Moulvi is the persons who gives ghusal to the departed ones and leads a janaza and fateha. History bears witness that a mosque was built during the life of Prophet Mohammad (saw) to conspire against islam – which the Prophet ordered to demolish. We must not vituperate the entire institution for unfitting conduct of one mosque and its custodians. Thus we must wardoff any revilement against all the Molvis for the inappropriate conduct of a few.
Saifullah
December 1, 2012 4:25 pm
May Allah guide the writer and all of us...
Aqil Siddiqi
November 30, 2012 10:14 pm
Wonder, how you became a captain?????
Aqil Siddiqi
November 30, 2012 10:15 pm
Other way around, only some Molvis are good and majority are bad. Open your eyes my friend.
YA
December 3, 2012 10:55 pm
Brainwashed is right.... Are we muslims or not, what a question, you are a muslim for the salvation of your soul, leave the soul of other alone. Islam is a diverse religion with multiple philosophical outlets which have evolved overtime in interpretation and tradition, so when you stop blackmail everyone in the name of religion....
Sahar
December 7, 2012 11:24 am
I appreciate the writer's comments on my blog. I believe that the word maulvi has been defamed by the maulvis themselves. In pakistan, everything is misused. People requesting for a glass of water barge in the house and rob.. You give a car lift to a 'helpless' and your are robbed on gunpoint. Similarly you get shocked by the behavior of moulvis and some elderly people in our society.
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