No Punjabi please! We are Muslim Punjabis

Updated 13 Feb 2015


- Illustration by Abro, originally published in 2009
- Illustration by Abro, originally published in 2009

We Punjabis don’t need the language bequeathed to us by our forefathers because we are Muslims and Pakistanis. In very simple words, this is the kind of logic we use to debunk the rationale of adopting our natural tongue as our official language. Our warped mind in the face of incessant ideological onslaught has turned the logic on its head by creating logicality of what is absolutely illogical. In a long process of mixing apples with oranges we have landed in a zone of twilight where we fail to know which is what. The illogicality of our Punjabi logic is thoroughly exposed the moment a sane mind scratches its surface.

Does our Islamic faith requires or urges us to forfeit our historically born linguistic identity? If so, how we explain the phenomenon of a large number of diverse communities with diverse linguistic identities which profess Islamic faith and are accepted as such. Before the advent of Islam the Arabs were pagans and their language was Arabic. After having embraced Islam they did not renounce their linguistic and cultural identities. On the contrary, both of these identities got catapulted to the stage of history with long ranging consequences. Their language and cultural roots are the assets they are proud of till date.

Same is case with Iranians who, after adopting Islamic faith, did not throw their language in the bin of history. They love their language today as much as they did before the seventh century.

The Holy Quran nowhere makes the speaking or learning of Arabic mandatory in order to enter into the fold if Islam. If that were the case, Islam would never have been a universal religion spread across the continents. In the Quran one comes across several verses which very clearly not only recognise the linguistic and cultural diversity but also point out their intrinsic and functional significance.

Confusion created by the faith inspired Punjabi Muslim ideologues is as much irrational as it is misleading. Those who with their blinkered vision make out Punjabi language as a threat to their Muslim faith because it is spoken and used by Sikhs, Hindus and Christians, conveniently forget that the Arabic is a shared language of the Muslims, Christians and Jews in the Middle East and North Africa. If ‘Arabic of Christians and Jews’ does not pollute the faith of the Arabic speaking Muslims how can ‘Punjabi of Sikhs, Hindus and Christians’ can contaminate the faith of Punjabi speaking Muslims who happen to be in majority? But we Punjabi Muslims, indoctrinated and brainwashed, have lost the capacity to pause and ponder.

Questioning the pious comfort zone created by false consciousness is a task conditioned minds find hard to undertake. That disowning one’s language in the name of Islam is an act against Islamic injunctions never occurs to us. So much for the Punjabi interpretation of our faith!

Our Muslim identity is almost one thousand years old while our Pakistani identity is still in its infancy in terms of historical time; it’s barely seven decades old. It needs to be nurtured and nourished with delicate care to ensure inclusive politico-economic future for all of us in a modern polity.

But again we Punjabis, with our convoluted logic, have turned our Pakistani identity into a monolith that weighs heavily on our diverse linguistic heritage making it crumpled and de-shaped. All this is done in an apparently well-meaning but misleading endeavour to achieve national cohesion through the imposition of a single national language in a highly diverse linguistic landscape shaped by a long historical process in the distinct regions which constitute the state of Pakistan.

In our politico-religious zeal to level things we deliberately ignore the fact that it were these very regions, diverse and distinct, that brought Pakistan into being through a free expression of their political will in 1947. The expression of such a will envisaged a Muslim majority state that would protect and promote their rights; religious, economic, political and cultural.

The core component of a culture is language that preserves its speakers’ past, articulates their present and projects its future in an imaginative construction. Denying the speakers their language means taking away their past, present and future from them. And this is what the reactionary forces tried to do to the most of the nationalities in Pakistan which has resulted in a political crisis that still lingers on. Punjabis in collaboration with Urdu speakers raised the slogan of ‘one nation one language’ which was politically dangerous and culturally untenable. Other nationalities resisted this ill-conceived move vociferously and refused to slaughter their languages and cultures at the altar of pseudo national unity. What is left of Pakistan if you eject the languages and cultures of Pashtuns, Sindhis, Balochis and Punjabis from it?

Pakistan faces catastrophic prospects of being reduced into a linguistic and cultural wasteland by Punjabis who foolishly postulate that our regional linguistic identity and Pakistani identity are mutually exclusive. Linguistic diversity is a fecund source of intellectual and cultural richness. By renouncing their highly expressive language Punjabis have not enriched Pakistan. They have, in fact, impoverished it. Only the brain dead can celebrate impoverishment as an achievement. —

Published in Dawn, February 13th, 2015

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