We, too, need a multi-pronged strategy. With immediate effect, we need to engage all our men and load all our artillery. Where are our poets and writers, our musicians and singers? Why are our TV serials still stuck in the Star Plus/Zee TV syndrome and not addressing issues at home? Why are our theatre halls not lined up with plays on how our religion has been hijacked and distorted, and on the plight of families whose sons are brainwashed to kill and die in the name of religion? And what exactly is our strategy to intellectually counter the falsehood being sold in the name of religion? Have we identified Muslim clerics, both within and outside Pakistan, who profess a rational and moderate view on Islam? We know that a couple of clerics spoke against Salmaan Taseer’s murder and condemned Mumtaz Qadri. Where are these clerics today? Have such clerics been made part of a plan to educate and inform the people about their religion which speaks of tolerance, forgiveness, peaceful coexistence and love?
There have been some suggestions for monitoring and recording Friday sermons and other announcements made from mosques. However, no significant initiative has been taken to form a nationwide watchdog organisation, which would be owned and run by members of the civil society, in this regard. Such an organisation would be the first point of contact for reporting hate speeches that incite violence, the announcement of fatwas and the misuse of mosque’s public speakers in order to misguide people towards extremism and violence. This organisation would then be responsible for filing an FIR against the relevant clergy and build public pressure against all such so-called alims and imams. The Citizens for Democracy (CFD) does seem like the most suitable candidate for this role. However, the CFD should perhaps review its manifesto in light of our current needs and effect a larger national role — a CPLC (Citizen’s Police Liaison Committee), if you like, for defeating the ideology and practice of religious extremism.
We must also understand that organisations alone cannot assume the sole responsibility for reforming society. Each and every moderate-minded Pakistani bears equal responsibility to roll up his/her sleeves and enter the fray. Salmaan Taseer’s assassination has unveiled the ugly face of religious extremism in a way that it is no longer possible for us to be in denial or remain silent. To do so would be to write our own death sentence. This enemy of the state is too big and too powerful for you or me to tackle alone. We must unite and organise ourselves, for the price of ambivalence is high. Are we ready to lose our country and our identity to an illiterate and fascist mindset? Are we ready to let fear and terror reign over our lives? Are we ready to let half-baked mullahs judge us and our beliefs on the basis of their ignorant ideas? Never!
Published in The Express Tribune, February 3rd, 2011.