Pakistanis love myths. Whether it the myth of the Islamic Bomb or the myth of Pakistan as the saviour of the entire Ummah, we love to feel good about ourselves.
These myths allow us to live in a fantasy world, to ignore the true horror of our times. One such myth is that of the silent majority. The myth goes something like this:
The violence and intolerance in Pakistan is the undertaking of an organised minority and that most Pakistanis are, in fact, tolerant.
Whether it is a terrorist attack or a case of honour killing, it is the go-to myth for Pakistanis.
All of us feel satisfied in the belief that the silent majority abhors such practices. Yet, nothing ever changes in Pakistan. This silent majority never makes its presence known.
Like all of you, I have also waited, all my life, for this silent majority to finally stand up and put a stop to all the nonsense that is going on in the country.
You can’t blame me for believing in this myth either. My family, friends, and teachers all believed in it as I was growing up.
When I told my wiser colleagues that, after all these years, my trust in this silent majority was wavering, I was advised to keep believing.
I was told that the problem was that the silent majority was, well, silent. The task of activists and well-wishers of Pakistan was, then, to help the silent majority became vocal about the need to resolve the many contradictions of our society.
So, I continued to believe. I witnessed a generation of young activists emerge, all of whom were given the same advice. They all tried to make the silent majority speak against the deeply unjust socio-economic system of our country.
Some activists were killed, some were forced to leave the country, and others disappeared. But as a group, they still persisted.
The silent majority, however, was nowhere to be seen. Apparently, the silent majority was in deep slumber.
This week, the nation surrendered at Faizabad. I watched the revolution live on television but it wasn’t the kind of change I had been waiting for. This was not the coming of the silent majority that had been foretold.
I went back to my wiser colleagues and asked them to enlighten me as to what exactly happened at Faizabad. I was told that I was panicking for no reason and that this was only a minority that had laid siege onto the federal capital.
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This week was a painful one for me, for I finally learned that I had been living a fantasy all my life. There was no silent majority in Pakistan that some mysterious event was finally going to jolt them out of their sleep.
I used to laugh at children for believing in unicorns and fairies. This week, it occurred to me that I was no different. I was living in cloud cuckoo land as well.
This week it dawned on me that it was this fabled silent majority all along that had transformed the society into what it is today. The majority of this country is intolerant, and this is why they have remained silent in face of mounting social and cultural crisis. Their silence was tacit approval of the ugliness around us.
I feel sorry for the activists and the intellectuals who have spent their lives believing they could succeed in waking the silent majority up. The silent majority was always awake and had been laughing at those trying to summon a mythical group.
This week, I understood that I am actually a minority in Pakistan. The critical task for us now is to embrace this status and work to convince the intolerant majority to let us live in peace in their country.
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