In times of suicide assaults

We have finally grown better, it seems, at coping with terrorism and going on with our lives.

Intezar Hussain November 11, 2010

In a way, the recent suicide attack in Lahore is the first of a kind. The suicide attacks so far had had a target each; this one had two. It killed, or tried to kill, two birds with one stone. There was a sea of devotees brimming over at Data Darbar on account of the urs. At nearby Karbala Gamay Shah, the mourners milled around in anticipation of a chehlum procession slowly winding its way towards it.

Great planning, one must say, for this way the attack had an impact on two fronts. Of course, both gatherings, from the planner’s point of view, represented heretic innovation. Why not suppress both with a single strike?

But we have finally grown better, it seems, at coping with terrorism – at going on with our lives. So while chaos was natural after several lives were lost and many people were injured, it did not amount to a stampede. The urs rites went on and the chehlum mourners too went their way.

What does that mean? I believe it means that having gone through so much we have grown the thick skin needed to deal with the suicide attacks. Good for us. Happy or unhappy, life needs to be lived. See how determinedly the suicides, people like us and from among ourselves, go one with what they see as their job. Let’s go on with our job of living.

If life had to be lived in a world without suicide attacks it has to be lived with them around. There is no way the business of living can stop. Nor can the affairs of religion be suspended. The sea of people at Data Darbar clearly does not fall in the category of worldly activity; nor the elegies and mourning at the chehlum procession. Both these congregations were aspects of our religious tradition.

The suicide bombers and suicide planners, too, according to their belief, pursue good. Those praying at the mosques fulfill a religious duty, but those bombing the mosques too believe they are doing their duty in killing them. Both are Muslims but from that point on it is all relative.

I recall here Nazeer Akbarabadi’s famous ‘Admi Nama’ (Of man). The central idea is that the sinner and the saint are all human. It has a stanza pegged on the mosque. There are men, it says, who build the mosques, and preach and lead the prayers; men who join them in reciting the Holy Quran and in prayers; men who look for the opportunity to steal their shoes; and men (therefore) who must watch for them.

Let me say in the same vein that there are men who are Muslims; and among them those who build mosques and those that say their prayers there and those who bomb and kill them. To each his own – the point about relativism.

A man cannot be stopped from thinking. And one’s thought processes can lead one in random directions. A mind after all is all about beliefs. See how strange some people’s views are and yet everybody manages to find a justification for them.

Strangely, the new Punjab governor has remarked that no Muslim is capable of such an atrocity. And how, sir? What is there that a Muslim is not capable of? I remember that when terrorist strikes started here this sentence was an integral part of all VIPs’ reactions. And when the attackers started targeting mosques our then president Rafiq Tarar would particularly say with great confidence that no Muslim was capable of bloodletting in a mosque; that it had to be our enemies. And he made me wonder how our president could be so ignorant of our history. But then I would think he was not really ignorant of history; that he was just saying such things to cheer us up.

Gradually the sentence disappeared from our political leaders’ discourse. For one thing it had become a cliché, for another, those behind the strikes had started proudly claiming responsibility. And they were right. Why should they let their heroic actions be credited to Jews and Christians?

*Translated from Urdu

Intezar Hussain An eminent Urdu fiction writer who writes short stories and novels, and also columns for newspapers in English.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.


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