During Musharraf’s rule, the term ‘liberal extremists’ was invented and extensively used. He himself, on occasion, said that both religious and liberal extremists are harmful for the country. The term was never defined. It was a political statement made to appease the religious right; saying that the government is not only targeting religion but is also against the ultra-modern and westernised section of society.
Middle class morality is dominant in our society. The standards of morality reflect a mindset and are not necessarily related to financial status. Numerous rich families follow and practice morals and values akin to middle class morality. At the same time, there are people from the middle class who are liberal and rational in their views and conduct. Education, in this country, does not guarantee clear thinking; it only imparts knowledge in particular areas and subjects and teaches students how to read and write. People on the internet, who support and condone the murder of Salmaan Taseer, have basic formal education. People with middle class morality standards are convinced that their lifestyle and values are the only right ones and all others are evil. They invent, and are strong believers of, conspiracy theories. For every wrong done, some foreign power or agency is held responsible. The morality circle they draw, keeps on expanding. They are now leading a lifestyle that they could not even imagine adopting in the 70s and the 80s.
Progressive political parties like the PPP, the ANP, the MQM and the nationalist parties always poll more votes as compared to religious political parties, but they remain under the pressure of radical elements, rejected by the masses. They dare not touch the laws enacted during Zia’s rule. All efforts are made to appease the clergy. Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani is scared of calling Salmaan Taseer a ‘shaheed’, and even announced that no proposal to amend the blasphemy law is being considered by the government.
In a democracy, all citizens have the right to their own views, even if these are beyond the norms of society in general. They are entitled to express these views, provided they do not hurt the beliefs of others and impose these through use of force, or advocate violence against those who do not agree with their viewpoint. The radicals have been using violence to impose their viewpoint on others, but no political party or social group advocates liberal extremism in this country. There has been no incident of violence reported where liberals have forced conservatives to follow their lifestyle. The known liberals are reluctant to make their views public out of fear of backlash from the radicals. There is no militant liberal organisation existing. So, who are the liberal extremists?
Published in The Express Tribune, January 14th, 2011.