Last week, in a blog titled 'The Convenient Curtain of Myth', I tried to show the dangers of viewing international politics through popular mythological conceptions which produce theories like the India-US-Israel triangulation as a conspiracy to destroy Islam and Pakistan. Little did I know this would turn into a hotly debated topic fueled with national pride and egoistic emotions. I figured I should utilise my slot this week to respond to some of the eye-catching comments, while covering different themes of the debate, and at the same time injecting some much needed humor into the situation.

One factor which triggered, and possibly catalysed the response was the fact that a lot of Indian readers of the Dawn Blog took a liking to my article, sparing no compliment to laud my criticism of their neighbouring country. While some of them were possibly well meaning, and some of them were likely out of spite, it saddened me to see the comment board for my deeply introspective article turn into an Indo-Pak conflict zone, largely defeating the purpose of my initial attempt. I am certain that if the Indian comments had been absent, the comments from my Pakistani brethren would have taken a different course.

The deeply rooted mistrust of the motivations of the Indian readers is evident in this comment:

TR Says One look at the article and I knew there would be more responses from across the border than within. A positive article will find these people absent. The same article if written in our ‘neighboring nation’ would have been greeted with a severe backlash by these same people.
Clearly TR was more interested in the comments section as soon as he saw the article; I wonder if he even bothered reading it or skipped straight to the comments.

Another sceptical Pakistani writes:

Akil Akhtar By writing such articles all the writer has achieved is a fan club in India and opportunity for the fan club to bag Pakistan. ...all nations are extremely intolerant toward other races and religions and blind Nationalism is their god. Same is true for India which blames Pakistan for everything so what is the difference if we blame India for the terrorism in Pakistan.
Something positive here: at least Akil realises that nationalism with a capital 'N' is a god with a small 'g' – isn't it time we smash this false idol? And if 'they' want to kill us, and we want to kill 'them', then what’s the difference, we're all dead at the end of the day. Please get over your insecurities.

The confusion manifest in this 'us-vs-them' thinking is evident from the comment below:

Saud Usmani Says: If it is not Islam or Pakistan ‘they’ are against and if our neighbors are not the ‘foes’ as we were told since the day one, and if there is no international conspiracy, who are THEY?
I wonder myself sometimes, what is this 'They' at the end of the day? You hear things like 'they are out to get us,' or 'it's all because of them.' What is this ‘them’? Do we even have a cohesive concept of 'us' yet? Isn't it wrong to single out someone due to the location and circumstances of their birth?

If I thought I was on to something for a second, I should realise that there are equally silly people across the border as well:

verming Says: Jews and Hindus have not much time for the nation Pakistan. In any case why should we (Hindus and Jews ) waste our resources on you when your nation is quite capable of taking Pakistan down.
We Hindus and Jews? What?! They have actually banded up together! I'm sure verming has all the time in the world to scour strange comment boards to say that they're just too busy for this nonsense.

If we step away from the cross-border skirmishes for a second, we find that apart from Pakistan and India, people just love comparing Islam and the West. I'd called this a false dichotomy in my article, but this respondent clearly likes his 'way of life' theory:

Hasan Says: Well, Islam not just a religion, it’s a ‘deen’, a way of life / a worldview just as the West is a way of life / worldview. So, in that sense, they are comparable.
Yes, and in the sense that both you and an ape are primates, both of you are comparable as well. Sorry, I should just let the other comments deal with this one:
Ayesha Khan Says: The world view of Indonesia is in no way similar to Saudi Arabia. If the world view of all Islamic people was the same, Iran and Iraq would not have had a war either.
And:
NASAH Says: unfortunately every religion of the world claims the same that it is not a religion it is ‘the way of life’.
I guess I was foolish to think that I could just walk away from the Islam v. the West debate:
Sadia Says:

Again the coin has not been viewed from both sides. It is not only the Muslims from Pakistan getting caught in the resonance of ‘faux-mythologies’, it is the West as well.

Why can't we look at our side of the coin first, clean it up nice and shiny before we move onto the other side of the coin? It's easy to point fingers all over the place, I'm not saying there aren't false mythologies in Europe – look at Nazism. That doesn't mean we use it as an excuse. After all, don't we have a human responsibility?

Then Muhammad Tariq says:

I think the writer need to know that humans cant live in the vacuum, one has to have some source of inspiration and these are religion, history, culture etc.
Yes, and I think the commenter needs to know that we as human beings have the responsibility of creating our own culture, values, art and aesthetics, and all those things that could inspire us to be great. Why should we abuse these 'inspirations' and use them as scapegoats, and easy excuses, and turn them into some sort of conspiracy factory?

But wait, there's still more:

Malik Assani Says: ...a humble request to you to be a little careful with our race, roots, religion, spirituality, identity, dignity, name, honor, integrity and other things we are proud to be the possessors of. As for you, I have sympathy for you as you must be regretting to be born here in the ‘east’. Equally but much less bothersome is my discomfort to have you here amongst us.
In an equally humble retort I would argue that we should be critical of all these ideals instead of merely being 'proud' of them, that way maybe we can craft a better more amiable identity for the future. And isn't pride the reason why the devil was scorned from the heavens by the divine?

And what is this 'East' that you're so proud of? As soon as you hit the eastern edge of your border you start getting all queasy. I can only wonder how broad this East is if it starts and ends with you.

And just when my fellows started getting uncomfortable at having me on this side of the border, I get some reconciliation from the other side:

Sunjoy Says: Asif: You are on the wrong side of the border. Sane people like you need to be on this side of the border.
If that were the case, I wonder what Sunjoy is doing on that side of the border. Stop oversimplifying things, there are equally insane people on every side of the border, get with the program… man!

And finally I get some relief from both sides of the border, that thin line which defines our ‘peoples’:

Omar Says: as a Pakistani I don’t find the article demeaning at all. Once we start asking the tough questions we will start getting some answers. Questioning the purpose and direction of the nation in no way undermines one’s patriotism. The same applies to our interpretation and practice of our religion.
Sanity! Oh I must either be dreaming, or must have accidentally stumbled on the other side of the fence. Thank you for having a critical eye. Omar, my friend, we need more of you.

But wait, there's more encouragement from the other side of the border:

Jai S Says: There is an inclination amongst the Pakistani people to brand anybody who tells the truth as a traitor.
Pakistani people? Truth? Traitor? Forgive me for betraying my own fan-base for a second, but what about poor Jaswant Singh? All the man did was write a book, and guess who called him a ‘traitor’? Not the Pakistani people for sure.

Oh, and here's that humour I promised in the beginning – enough with the seriousness, I say.

lucky Says: I think Pakistan needs to be ruled by taliban for few years. Since Pakistan had also faced martial law. And after that only they can decide what they want and where they are heading to.
Yes, I think we need to try everything from the buffet table of governing systems, maybe a little bit of authoritarianism, with a side of autocracy, perhaps we need another despot. That ought to show those Pakistani people, whining about the Taliban. Maybe after we've had our just desserts we just won't be hungry for all these governmental systems anymore.

And if you talk about democracy, our prized and cherished democracy, here's my favorite response of the lot:

rangeela re Says: Why can’t the taliban / TTP stand for elections in Pakistan. If they win then let them have their Islamic state. whats wrong with it?
Sigh! Why can't we all just be friends? Heck I don't know, maybe all that desk banging that goes on in the parliament gives the Taliban a headache; maybe they think Nawaz Sharif should be disqualified for ball tampering. I don't know, there are a million answers to this one, and I'll let the comment board debate why the TTP aren’t calling for a midterm run-off.

Oh and please, try to stay a little light hearted about this one. Let's try another shot at commenting, and this time, if we could leave putting each other down for once, that would be great. Would it be too much to ask for everyone to be civil and have an informed debate for once?

asifakhtar80x80
Lahore-based Asif Akhtar is interested in critical social discourse as well as the expressive facets of reactive art and is one of the schizophrenic narrators of a graphic novel. He blogs at http://e-scape-artist.blogspot.com/ and tweets at http://twitter.com/e_scape_artist.

The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily represent the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

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