Kudos to television journalist, Talat Hussain, for surviving the audacious Israeli attack on the Freedom Flotilla, and returning home to tell the tale.
Now, if only our brave media personalities could exhibit exactly the same kind of commitment and guts in condemning all the gore and tragedies that take place in the name of faith in our own country …
That would be asking for a bit too much, wouldn’t it? After all, they know that if they were to do so, not only would they suffer labels of being ‘liberal extremists,’ or ‘western/Indian/Zionist agents,’ but no prominent government functionary would dare or bother receive them as heroes either.
The way certain frontline members of the present government received Talat (as if he had just returned after liberating Palestine from the clutches of the aggressive Zionist state), the question arose (at least in some cynical minds), where exactly were the same ministers and elected politicians (from both the PPP and PML-N), when the Ahmadi community was picking up the bodies and limbs of their dead ones slaughtered by extremists on the May 28?
Not a single leading member of the ruling cabinet and the opposition (except Interior Minister Rehman Malik) bothered to visit some of the injured Ahmadi men, women and children at a hospital in Lahore.
But interestingly, prominent ruling functionaries and their counterparts in the opposition were ready with rose garlands and flying accolades for the returning three Pakistanis (yes, that many) from the tribulations on the Turkish ship.
Late Benazir Bhutto in her book ‘Islam and Reconciliation’ insists that democracy and democrats are the nation’s best defence against extremist thought and organizations. This makes sense - but in theory only.
Because never mind the obnoxious reactionary claptrap that is gleefully spouted by the lunatic fringe present in shape of religious parties, certain TV personalities and ‘security analysts,’ have our (more sober) elected representatives sounded any better?
Subdued lip service and worn out statements of condemnation were all that the country’s prime minister and the chief minister of Punjab had to offer to the loved ones of those mutilated by the extremists. But what else could they have said?
They are all products of a constitution penned by elected parliamentarians (in 1973); a constitution a part of which actually gives vent to the views and demands of Sunni Islamic parties known for their unabashed hatred for ‘heretics’ and minorities.
So what can one expect even from elected parliamentarians whenever the country is faced by a situation in which groups of self-righteous majority Muslim sects pounce upon every opportunity to practice their hateful fantasies of religious cleansing and the genocide of ‘heretics.’ Does not certain section of the glorious 1973 constitution give them this divine right?
No wonder the prime minister seemed more concerned about a single TV journalist, and as usual the leaders of the main opposition party, the PML-N, are still struggling to condemn the terrorists by name.
Punjab CM, Shahbaz Sharif, called them ‘criminals.’ In Sindh and Karachi, dear sir, we call gangsters in the slums of Lyari and dacoits in the forests of Dadu and Moro, criminals. But those who explode themselves in market places and worship grounds and hurl grenades at unarmed civilians in the name of Allah and Islam; we call them Islamic extremists – or more clearly, the Taliban and their sectarian foot soldiers in the shape of the supposedly defunct Sipah Sahaba, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, etc.
Shahbaz remained numb and mum even when the Punjab’s chapter of the Thereek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) - also called the ‘Punjabi Taliban’ - proudly owned the gruesome attack on the Ahmadi’s places of worship.
What’s more, when Rehman Malik suggested that there should be an armed operation against the ‘Punjabi Taliban,’ the Punjab CM erupted with anger, accusing Malik of ‘creating division between provinces and ethnicities.’
Ah, if only Mian Shahbaz Sharif is willing to show similar anger and concern about armed religious extremists running wild. Easy to bad mouth the Ppresident and his interior minister, but not so much the monsters that spill innocent blood?
Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s vision and wish of a tolerant, modern and democratic Muslim Pakistan today is not only being held hostage by the extremists and the legacy of a long reactionary dictatorship of General Ziaul Haq, many democrats too are being held captive by their own religious biases and a clearly flawed and lopsided constitution.
Recently, only a handful of PPP, ANP and MQM’s women legislators in the national assembly were willing to openly condemn the killing of the Ahmadis. It was after the initiative taken by these brave women that some of their male colleagues decided to join in.
But Pakistan’s military dictators, religious parties and parliamentarians aren’t an exception. More than ever they are becoming a stark reflection and echo of many Pakistani Muslims, most of whom too were left scratching their heads when confronted by the tragic sight of scores of Ahmadi men, women and children being slaughtered by the extremists.
Of course the ‘liberal extremists’ were first to register their outrage (on the net), but the majority of Pakistani Muslims remained awkwardly quiet. And why not! Their understanding of Islam and Pakistan is riddled with glaring theological misconceptions and historical half-truths. Though they may never sound as obviously rabid as, say, the Nazis of Germany did (in their hatred against anything non-Aryan’), but by their silence and denials in the context of the rising incidents of intolerance, sectarian chauvinism and audacious acts of holy terror, haven’t we become silent but willing agents of the fascist Islamist agenda?
Many Pakistani Muslims, even of the ‘moderate’ stock, do not realize that they too would become instant victims of the extremists if these monsters succeed in imposing their wicked fantasy of a supposed ‘Islamic state.’
This ‘Islamic state’ that the reactionaries - ranging from conventional religious parties such as Jamat-i-Islami and Jamat Ahle Hadith, to terror and extremist outfits like the Taliban and its many sectarian lashkars are advocating - has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with any of the Quran’s central themes like justice, equality and mercy.
Keeping in mind the hatred spouted by some religious parties and the violence imposed by the terror groups is enough to understand that the vision of this so-called holy state that each one of these men and groups want to enforce is about violently eliminating not only non-Muslms and those belonging to non-Sunni Muslim sects in Pakistan, but also those Sunni Muslims considered as ‘moderate.’
Now imagine a state such as this that is also blessed with nuclear weapons.
History teaches that the charisma, appeal and dynamism of any version of fascism are squarely depended on a continuous need for violence, aggression and war. The fascists would first eliminate their obvious opponents, and then turn their guns against perceived enemies of the state and their ideology. These may be minority communities who do not fit into the puritanical worldview of the fascists. Fascists would use them as scapegoats to whip up ‘unity’ among the majority and to explain the state’s economic and political failings. Finally, the guns and bombs would be aimed at the world at large, because according to the fascists, the outside world could not tolerate the ‘progress,’ ‘might’ and ‘piety’ of the fascist republic.
Simply put, any kind of fascism is a recipe for a bloody disaster. Once a fascist ‘Islamic state’ has gotten rid of all non-Muslims, ‘heretics’ and people from minority Islamic sects, it is then bound to lead its people to a kind of war that might mean their complete and final obliteration.
That’s why when extremists and their supporters in Islamic parties and among the many half-literate middle-class sections talk about the ‘supremacy of Islam’ and the need to implement the shariah law, they are actually talking about reaching and implementing a parasitical state of nihilism.
In conclusion I would like to share a queer observation: The Shias constitute the largest ‘minority Muslim sect’ in Pakistan (about 20 to 25 per cent of the population). This community has for many years been at the receiving end of violence and hatred unleashed by a number of militant Sunni sectarian organizations. Hardly has one seen certain frontline Shia organizations such as the Imamia Students Organization (ISO) vehemently protest against such violence. But ironically, ISO is always out in force whenever Arab Muslim organizations such as the Hezbollah and Hamas come under stack from Israeli state aggressors.
Same is the case with a majority of Sunni religious parties and a number of urban middle-class Pakistanis. They are likely to protest and make a loud noise if Muslims come under sigh in Guatemala or Sisley, but would remain tight-lipped and inauspicious when Muslims, non-Muslims and so-called heretics are attacked and murdered by those who claim to be the only true and good Muslims.
The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.
Nadeem F. Paracha is a cultural critic and senior columnist for Dawn Newspaper and Dawn.com. He is also the author of two books on the social history of Pakistan, End of the Past and The Pakistan Anti-Hero.
He tweets @NadeemfParacha