A time for introspection and soul-searching

Published: May 31, 2010

Tazeen Javed lives in Karachi and blogs at A Reluctant Mind. (tazeen.javed@tribune.com.pk)

In the past few years too many Pakistanis, no matter what their faith and sect, have died because someone killed them in the name of religion. We need to introspect why we tolerate violence and condone it when it is perpetuated in the name of religion.

We bemoan the horrific crimes against Muslims in Iraq and those under Israeli and US occupation in Palestine and try to justify violence in our society because of those crimes. But we also condoned such violence in the name of religion even before the invasion of Iraq. Our blasphemy laws and the gender-biased Hudood Ordinance use religion to maintain the status quo in which a powerful Muslim male is the sole source of authority and there is no room for personal liberty and individual thought. These laws make it very easy for anyone to score against non-Muslims and women.

We glorify such as Ahmad Shah Abdali, Nadir Shah and Mehmood Ghaznavi in our text books and popular media. We deify them and their acts of barbarism because they were Muslims and those they killed were not. None of them fought in the name of Islam as we are led to believe. They wanted to expand their kingdoms and annex the fertile heartland of river Indus, Ganga and Jamuna. Attaching any exalted and noble intentions to the expansion of their kingdom is factually and historically incorrect.

Shah Waliullah, who is venerated by most South Asian religious scholars, wrote a letter to Ahmad Shah Abdali to invite him to attack the Marathas. Waliullah instigated this violent attack, which killed thousands of soldiers on both sides, because he did not like the declining clout of Muslims, scholars in the court and hoped that the war would restore the ulemas’ power and influence. How can a society that lionises people like him ever hope to achieve peace?

Tackling individual incidents of terrorism can never bring the desired result, the philosophy and ideology behind violence prompted in name of religion needs to be challenged. The Jamia Hafsa fiasco is a case in point.

Lal Masjid and Jamia Hafsa violated many laws and started a war against the state which is considered treason by the constitution but most Pakistanis, including politicians and those in the judiciary, voiced their opinion against the government operation because it was against a group of people who were using religion to support their violent stance.

When religion becomes a source of income and a point of politics, people will use it to further their interests and foster violence in the name of religion. Unless we decide to look inward and deal with such demons, peace will remain elusive.

Published in the Express Tribune, June, 1st, 2010.

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Reader Comments (10)

  • Amjad Mehboob
    Jun 1, 2010 - 12:39AM

    Always in the History,Greatest Crimes against humanity were committed in the name of GOD.Religion was always used as tool for political gains,and who used it had have nothing to do with it.Recommend

  • Fakhar
    Jun 1, 2010 - 12:58AM

    Karl Marx rightly said that religion is opium of the masses. But our dictators thrusted heavy doses down our throats on the prescription of cold war lords that now our bodies are poisoned.There is no cure.Recommend

  • faraz
    Jun 1, 2010 - 2:00AM

    Actully, our muslim “heroes” killed men irrespective of religion; many of their victims were muslims. Ahmad Shah Abdali looted Dehli and Muslim areas of Punjab. Verses of Mir Taqi Mir echoe the cries of distress of a city plundered by Abdali. Nadir shah killed afghans, faught Mughal army and sacked muslim cities of Kabul, Peshawar and Dehli. Ghaznavi’s first battle took place near Multan against muslims of Ismaeli sect.Recommend

  • Nosheen Ali
    Jun 1, 2010 - 4:59AM

    Agree with all your points, except the point on the Lal Masjid issue. The problem there was that the government condoned the violent acts of the mosque earlier — reportedly, our intelligence establishment had long-standing links to the Lal masjid brothers — and then when public pressure built, decided to bombard the place in a most thoughtless way instead of arresting and trying the criminals who were right there. Remember, ordinary people send their kids from far-flung areas to mosques. From the perspective of elite Pakistan, the operation was “right”. But the Lal Masjod operation was one of the worst decisions and a turning-point, because it really kickstarted the wave of suicide attacks and gave a new lease of life to all sorts of militants. Our problem is not just that we refuse to condemn religious bigotry, spectacular or ordinary. It is also our language of brute force that we think will solve a problem that we have systematically bred over decades.Recommend

  • Jun 1, 2010 - 10:26AM

    Somehow all Muslims have the violent and cruel streak.Recommend

  • Jun 1, 2010 - 11:52AM

    The major reason for the current political, social and religious anarchy in Pakistan is people’s blind and emotional attachments with their political parties and religious sects that never let them see things in the right perspective.

    The day we learn to logically and freely analyse each and every misdeed and wrongdoing of our manipulators and string-holders (both political and religious), will be the harbinger of a positive, constructive and progressive change in this country.

    Emotional loyalty is the core stigma of all the developing nations that is why they have failed to break the self-imposed barriers of obduracy in defending their beliefs.

    I would like to repeat here, as I wrote in a comment to another article by Shibil Siddiqui, we need an honest, sincere and devouted leader like Quaid-e-Azam. The space to be filled with a true leadership is widening day by day.

    The heads of political parties and religious sects do not fall in the category of leaders. Most of them are rather slaves to their filthy desires of controlling and manipulating mob psychology of the crowds who follow them like brainless sheep.Recommend

  • Mansoor Khalid
    Jun 1, 2010 - 12:18PM

    I believe that religion not only brought economic benefits for the Mullah but also a false respect in an illiterate society and in a way he was able to exercise his authority over some matters. The need of the day as the author points out is to look inside us and fight the demons there.Recommend

  • Dr. Altaf ul Hassan
    Jun 1, 2010 - 12:55PM

    A good piece with correct analysis of the facts,although may be bitter for many.The present dilemma which we face today is the logical consequence of imparting the education to this nation based on fabrication,mutilation and concorction of history in syllabi taught in our Schools,Colleges,Universities and Madrassas as per our own desires.End result is the religious and sectarian extremism giving birth to an intolerant society having a world view incompatible with the rest of the world.Recommend

  • Jun 1, 2010 - 8:43PM

    It is easy to spot the mote in other people’s eyes but miss the beam in one’s own. The writer has been so overwhelmed by her own prejudices that she has missed the wider picture. An alternative viewpoint is presented here: http://sakibahmad.blogspot.com/2010/06/self-destruction-of-pakistan.htmlRecommend

  • Ammar Zafarullah
    Jun 8, 2010 - 1:05PM

    I welcome the author’s call for introspection; we need to reflect upon how the society is radicalized to an extent that we shy away from rejecting violence. How every sane voice that call for rationality is dubbed as a Zionist. Whereas zealots such as Zaid Hamid and LaL-masjid clerics are the role-models of the society. The state of denial is deplorable and simply disgusting Recommend

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