Left-wing zealots

We will stop at nothing to act the self-proclaimed gatekeepers of Islam. Our greatest tragedy is the fact that Pakistani society has been polarized to the point where anyone advocating on the side of reason, is labelled a left-wing zealot, a westernized drone and ironically, an extremist.

Maria Amir June 26, 2010


Of all the ancient adages, I have often considered the one by Descartes “I think, therefore I am” to be one of the most powerful definitions of human potential -- but I am not so sure it applies in Pakistan.

Most Pakistanis consider ‘critical thinking’ to be an unnecessary appendage to their existence. I have lost count of how many times I have heard so-called ‘educated’ people express pedantic opinions by completely disregarding the need to add any counterweight to their claims.

Take Pakistan’s relationship with the US, many would not pause for a second before blaming the latter for all our problems without sparing a passing thought to the fact that our country constantly covets American hand-me downs, both culturally and economically. We will stop at nothing to act the self-proclaimed gatekeepers of Islam, without realizing that other religions require similar respect.

Just yesterday, an acquaintance mentioned how the UK had exposed its claims to ‘free speech’ as hollow by banning proselytizer extraordinaire Dr Zakir Naik entry. I mentioned that the UK had every right to choose whom they would let enter into their territory but she responded with “They are terrified of our culture, which is why they are banning the burqa in France and marginalizing Muslims everywhere”.

“Do you consider preaching violence to be ‘free speech’ because Naik was banned for preaching violence. As for the burqa, European countries function on the premise of Enlightenment principles, if British people consider the burqa to go against their society’s premise, they have the right to outlaw it. Those who feel slighted by this reserve the right to immigrate to countries where Islamic expression is appreciated, like Saudi Arabia. Would we allow Europeans living in Pakistan to wear a bikini?”I asked.

Our greatest tragedy is the fact that Pakistani society has been polarized to the point where anyone advocating on the side of reason, is labelled a left-wing zealot, a westernized drone and ironically, an extremist.  Those of us that still ‘think,’ are programmed not to profess their opinions unless these are concealed well enough to not incur the wrath of the rabble.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 22nd, 2010.

WRITTEN BY:
Maria Amir The writer has a Masters degree in Women's Studies from Oxford University and writes on identity, culture and current affairs
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.

COMMENTS (12)

Think therefore | 10 years ago | Reply Ms.Amir... you are right when you say "Most Pakistanis consider ‘critical thinking’ to be an unnecessary appendage to their existence." I cannot help but whole heartedly agree with you when you point out to the fact that we expect hand outs from the US while condemning it... but "we" does not include a lot of our educated minds and critical thinkers... our "rulers" (because thats what they are... certainly not leaders) our the ones who constantly turn to the US for protection... That we mimic them culturally is also right... but I know for a fact that there will come a time when enough would be enough... when a new culture will be born in Pakistan...and indeed the east and that change however muted at the moment is still felt on the horizon by a lot of critical thinkers.... Your article paints the west in blinding white... It is free speech when they draw a bomb as a turban placed on the head of a caricature of the Prophet of Islam but its not when someone here says something... Is Naik that potent a proselytizer... This is the way the west has reacted to Islam throughout history... during the period just before, during the Spanish Inquisition jews and muslims were coerced to abandon their faiths and either become Catholic or atleast show "respect" for catholic norms by hanging pork hams outside their doors... they would have banned the veil and hijab too but unfortunately their own nuns wore the hijab and upper class women the veil... We should not attempt to be gate keepers of Islam or its spokespersons untill and unless we learn enough arabic to independantly read the Quran and think critically based on our privileged educational backgrounds...
tanveer | 10 years ago | Reply Well as the author said Dr Zakir's free speech, she should consider the limits of "FREE SPEECH".Caricatures on our prophet were made on this basis. Is this the free speech? When anyone speaks against Jews in a senate, he gets fired. And by the way Dr said all that what was alleged in another context. Please refer to the original speech (I heard it on his own channel).
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