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The silent majority

January 04, 2012

It was on this day last year, when a 26-year-old Mumtaz Qadri killed the very man he was meant to protect. Twenty seven bullets to silence Salman Taseer and to make sure that the debate on misuse of blasphemy laws is shunned for good. It was this day last year that I realised that this might be the end of it all, the end of hope, the end for tolerance, the end of any show of courage, bravery or rational debate on the blasphemy laws or anything for that matter.

Some of us had already witnessed the vengeance before, the ‘either you are with us or against us’ mentality.  It was made to look like it was our word against God’s. We had witnessed people jubilant over murder too and witnessed the transition of a murderer to a martyr. The reactions that followed the attack on Ahmadi’s in Lahore were the first signs that humanity had stooped down and been reduced to convoluted assumptions of faith and piety.

In the past year, minority minister Shahbaz Bhatti was also gunned down outside his mother’s residence, silenced so he may never speak out against the injustices suffered by minorities again. While clerics, television anchors, columnists and even politicians sought to persuade us that Taseer had brought it upon himself, that anyone who dared to speak out against the blasphemy laws would suffer the same fate and that if they had the opportunity they would do the same.

Spectators that either choose to agree with the jubilant or nod their heads condemning the murder but justifying the reaction to 'such sensitive matters', all the same. Something had broken irreparably.

The few of us that were horrified and enraged took to the streets and protested. Knowing well that for every chant, every word, every argument we make there could be a Qadri waiting to gun us down, lynch us so we may never be able to question again. Not much has changed. But should that stop us?

Salmaan Taseer stood for tolerance and he was killed at the hands of extremism. Nothing justifies his murder, and anyone who does has blood on their hands. I do not expect things to change overnight; they will not go away anytime soon. But I choose not to give up hope, not to remain silent and to keep fighting back, even if it’s our words against their bullets.

I, like many others, take my courage from the Taseer’s. Shehrbano Taseer, who despite losing her Abba so suddenly and violently, stood defiant, courageous and composed. At a time when people should have showered her with words of comfort, she was battling with questions, the likes of which could pierce through the most strongest of souls: “How did you feel when your father’s murderer was showered with flowers? People refused to read his funeral prayers? His murderer is being turned in to a hero of sorts.

She chose to reason, to educate the world that the hatred that killed her father hurts all of Pakistan.

As these walls keep closing in on us, like Shehrbano Taseer, we have no other choice but to resist. We live in an irreparably broken society, and I don’t wish to deny the reality, but despite that we must continue to hope, because hope gives us what we otherwise would not have: a chance.

While the courageous amongst us are ridiculed, threatened and attacked we must continue to support and reason. Silence is not an option, it never was.

 

Sana Saleem blogs at Global Voices, Asian CorrespondentThe Guardian and her personal blog Mystified Justice. She recently won the Best Activist Blogger award by CIO & Google at the Pakistan Blogger Awards. She can be found on Facebook.

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