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Smokers’ Corner: Bad projections

Updated April 03, 2016

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Illustration by Abro
Illustration by Abro

Terrorists killing children. This article should end right here. But the killings go on. When an ogre detonated his suicide vest in Lahore’s Moon Market some years ago, dozens of children lost their lives. Four years later, over 140 students were ruthlessly slaughtered at a school in Peshawar. And last Sunday many children were killed in a blast at a children’s park in Lahore. Dozens were mere babies.

But life goes on. There is always a tomorrow in which to live, as if a brutal yesterday did not happen. Repress, repress and repress that terrible memory. So many ways to do it. Become a deflector: ‘The extremists are foreign agents.’ Even if they are, exactly how does it make the meaningless, heartless attacks on crowds of women and children any less painful?

I really don’t care what country or faith the ogres belong to. They were all born human who mutated into becoming monsters. Agents, maybe, but many of them were born here. Right here. And they believe and claim to be better Muslims than you and I. And certainly better people than the country’s so-called ‘minorities’.


So many ways of being in denial about terrorist attacks


So repress, repress and repress this terrible dilemma. So many ways to do it. Become an apologist: ‘Poverty and injustice are driving them to do it’. Driving them to do what? Kill children? Slaughter women? Massacre men? And if poverty and injustice are the real culprits, then the ‘agents’ are in the right?

Explore: Time to confront the Taliban apologists in our midst

Make up your minds, already. Either the ogres are enemy agents or victims of poverty and injustice. You can’t. Because you are quite clearly confused. Or worse, you simply replace agent with victim (and then vice versa), according to whatever suits your knee-jerk argument.

But thank you for trying to soften the unimaginable distress and pain suffered by mothers who lost their children and the children who lost their mothers in terror attacks. Thank you for making them feel a lot better by telling them that the killers were agents. I am sure they have overcome their grief.


One can snicker at their foolhardy mutterings, but know this: The ogres can also be described as alter-egos of the apologists. It can be a TV anchor, a confused middle-class lad, a politician in the assembly, or even a rich aunt who has recently rediscovered piety. Truth is, the ogres may as well be anarchic projections of what lies inside the apologists; but is repressed. The enemy is quite literally within.


So, repress, repress and repress the terrible realisation that the ogres might just be from among us. So many ways to repress this awkward feeling. Become a radical ‘expert’. After all, Israeli military killing Palestinian children makes it alright for our poverty-stricken brothers here to kill Pakistani children. Or are they agents? Stupid question.

It’s all connected: 9/11, 7/7, Paris, Brussels, Lahore, Karachi, Peshawar, Baghdad, Istanbul … all done by a powerful, all-encompassing, sinister lobby out to discredit our faith. Ah, so the ogres are employed by this lobby? Stupid question.

They are poverty-stricken and have faced great injustice from the state of Pakistan. Ah, so they are not serving the sinister lobby? They are, but they do not know this. Or they do know this, but poverty and injustice have made them vulnerable to exploitation by sinister lobbies. So they are brother-agents then?

What about those who were living pretty decent lives and came from relatively well-to-do backgrounds but decided to become terrorists?

Read more: Is it possible to spot the lone wolf terrorist before they attack?

It’s simple. They feel the pain of their brothers stricken by poverty and injustice. So they are not agents but brothers and sisters with deep feelings who too have become agents because they have deep feelings for their faith and the fate of their brothers (and some sisters).

There you go. That’s it. Perfectly okay then for agent-brothers to slaughter women and children. And anyone ever calling you confused, or just plain dumb, is, of course, an enemy agent serving the lobby out to destroy our faith. So, shouldn’t this make them brother-agents as well? Stupid question. Move on.

Also read: Muslim mothers fight 'toxic' merchants of terror

This article has deteriorated into becoming a cyclic farce. Quite like the arguments and rationales of apologists. How else are they to be understood? They have become unintentional self-parodies.

One can snicker at their foolhardy mutterings, but know this: the ogres can also be described as alter egos of the apologists. It can be a TV anchor, a confused middle-class lad, a politician in the assembly, or even a rich aunt who has recently rediscovered piety.

Truth is, the ogres may as well be anarchic projections of what lies inside the apologists; but is repressed. The enemy is quite literally within.

And notice this: colleagues across the nation’s offices will readily discuss a cricket match or a funny viral video. But most simply keep quiet about a terror attack. So what is it? Shame or just plain apathy?

Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, April 3rd, 2016