Rage running out

10 Oct 2012


Malala Yousufzai – photo courtesy Nighat Dad

I surprised myself on the day young Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head by the Taliban in Swat. I was surprised at how calmly (or with such overt apathy) I absorbed the terrible news.

I usually get extremely restless, and fall rapidly in and out of bouts of anger and rage whenever I hear about the madness, the mayhem and the murder being so seamlessly committed in this country against soldiers, cops, politicians, and more importantly, against the civilians, by a host of ogres, in the name of faith, fight and freedom.

But all that rage betrayed me on the day young Malala was stopped, identified and shot point-blank in the head by those who claim to have brought a superpower to its knees (the Soviet Union) and are now fighting the good fight (ordained by the Almighty), to bring down another superpower, the US.

Yes, dear faithful and fellow revolutionaries, our heroes, the ones whose lives are being cut short and mutilated by the American drones, Pakistani fighter jets, soldiers and cops, this time gallantly decided to take on their greatest enemy: The educated young female.

I went numb. It was the strongest bout of apathy I have felt in years.  But just for a moment I did want to see the look on the faces of those who have been obsessively raising the drone argument every time they are faced with the embarrassing task of explaining (if not outright justifying) a hideous task of those whose name they dare not speak, but to whom they want to ‘talk peace.’

But then, I remembered. I remembered how when the ‘Swat flogging video’ (in which a member of the Taliban was publicly flogging a woman), was released to the mainstream TV channels, a Taliban spokesperson justified it.

His gloating was followed by a journalist, who fancies himself as a great crusader of a free judiciary, and who agreed with the spokesperson (live on TV), and then angrily took to task his own news group for repeatedly running the video.

Hours later after realising that their justifications, shamelessly constructed on their clearly distorted interpretations of religious scriptures and Pushtun traditions, had failed to stem the tide of condemnation that came charging in from across the country, the apologists suddenly changed their tune.

To them, suddenly, now the video was not showing a beating of a young woman according to the scriptures or Pushtun customs anymore; now it was a farce.

Yes, hours later a new delusion had been convoluted in to shape: The video was a ‘fake.’

Such apologists can be found across religious parties (even in some non-religious ones), across sections of the mainstream media, and within even large segments of the so-called educated urban middle-classes.

To them, when holy warriors kill cops and soldiers, they are doing so because of the American drone attacks in the tribal areas of north-west Pakistan.

But one does wonder: When a drone hits an area and takes out militants (as targets) and common civilians (as collateral damage), how come the enraged warriors add Sufi shrines populated with humble, homeless fakirs, mosques packed with worshippers, and markets buzzing with men, women and children to their list of enemies that are to be attacked ruthlessly through bombs and suicide nuts?

And so I remembered. I remembered the showering of the cold-blooded killer of former Governor of Punjab, Salman Taseer, with rose petals.

This killer gleefully pumped multiple rounds of bullets into the Governor’s body in Islamabad because in his peanut-sized (and yet congested and contaminated) brain he was sure the Governor was a ‘blasphemer.’

Was he asked to repent? Or forced to think about what he had just done: i.e. played God by deciding whom to send flying into hell? No.

Groups of wild-eyed lawyers in Lahore were seem showering rose petals on him, and a political outfit, one of whose heroes, Islamic scholar Sarfraz Naeemi, was slaughtered by the Taliban, hailed Taseer’s killer as a beloved soldier of Islam.

It was as if one sub-sect of Sunni Muslims was trying to outdo the other sect; and both trying to outdo one another in the art of grabbing the headlines through committing the most brutal atrocity, all done and glorified in the name of faith, ‘anti-imperialism,’ cleansing the country of heretics, et al.

And their apologists will make sure that the people be reminded over and over again the following: Cops are killed, soldiers beheaded, worshipers blown up in mosques and shrines, and innocent men, women and children slaughtered in markets because of drone attacks. And if a holy brute is caught red-handed inflicting an atrocity that cannot be justified with this convoluted explanation, then, of course, either there’s a conspiracy to ‘give Islam a bad name’ (through ‘fake videos’), or the perpetrator is not a Muslim.

This is not just said in a figurative manner. It has a profound literal ring to it as well: He’s not a Muslim because he’s some uncircumcised non-Muslim recruited by ‘anti-Islam forces’ to discredit Islam and those gallant, bold men who are fighting a superpower to turn Pakistan into a citadel of true Islam.

Remember that, fellow faithfuls and revolutionaries. Send out the message through bulk SMS deals, Tweet it, paste it on your Facebook profiles, shout it out in mosques and on TV channels.

Oh, how wonderful it would have been for these fools had it been a drone missile that had stopped Malala’s school van, identified her and then attacked her. Pakistan would have erupted and carried ‘true believers’ and courageous men to the seat of power and better still, the new caliphate.

I sincerely apologise to young Malala for being unable to demonstrate any worthwhile anger or rage for what happened to her. I apologise for this rage fatigue.

In just 14 years she has gone through and achieved so much more than I have (or can) in my forty-plus years.

Remember also, fellow Muslims, what astray Muslims like me say is a pit of tar-like delusions in which we have fallen, is actually a doorway beyond which lies salvation and the glorious path to a revolutionary and pious life and a comfy afterlife.

A monster does what a monster does and a mere condemnation of him is a farce.

But yes, those who really deserve condemnation are us Pakistanis as a people. I apologise to Malala for a society who has forgotten to apologise. Half of it is busy frantically convoluting scenarios to explain away this cowardly act and hold on to the delusions upon which they construct their politics and fire their oh-so-revolutionary rhetoric; while the other half, like me, are sinking (or being sunk) into a sticky puddle of apathy and cynicism.

Both are a far cry from what Malala was. Nay, is! Jeeti Raho.


Nadeem F. Paracha is a cultural critic and senior columnist for Dawn Newspaper and Dawn.com



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