Preaching to the converted — II

Published: February 2, 2011
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The writer is a barrister and human rights activist, currently based in the UAE 
alizeh.haider@tribune.com.pk

The writer is a barrister and human rights activist, currently based in the UAE [email protected]

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.

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Reader Comments (18)

  • Feb 2, 2011 - 11:55PM

    Not sure what the point of this rambling piece is. My guess is that the pronoun “we” is being applied to Pakistanis who self-consciously tag themselves with the label “liberal”. My contribution today to another of Tribune’s opinion pieces is equally – perhaps more – relevant here:

    People who are so hypocritically eulogising the incomparable Professor Abdus Salam are the ones who are responsible for the descent of Pakistan into an ignorant and intolerant society, the very antithesis of Islam that Muhammad Rasul-Allah brought to mankind. The great Prof. Salam had been educated in an Urdu-medium school, he had firm roots in Islam and the noble aspects of Islamic culture. To him the English language was a means to an end, not an end in itself. Just look around you and witness a tiny minority of “brown sahibs” lording over the overwhelming majority of unfortunate “natives”, feeling cowed by a torrent of bad English being directed at them.

    In response to some self-righteous drivel issuing from people who like to refer to themselves as “liberal” – a peculiarly Pakistani fetish, this – I wrote:

    “I have a problem with the convoluted logic of Pakistani “liberals”. They owe their “good education” to the graft and the corruption and the sucking-up-to-the-British that their parents and forefathers indulged in. And what has this “education” achieved? It has alienated the tiny “educated” minority from the overwhelming majority of Pakistanis. Not just that – these “fortunate” people are also alienated from their culture and their history. Some even speak Urdu with a deliberately distorted accent!
    Let us start at the beginning and define what we mean by EDUCATION.”

    Needless to say there was no response.Recommend

  • Sumeet
    Feb 3, 2011 - 1:14AM

    I think a better solution would be connecting with ones own humanity, heart, and conscience rather than religion or a book anyone can distort or interpret words or a book, no one can do that to whats within.Recommend

  • Spam Robot
    Feb 3, 2011 - 1:31AM

    Please keep your hate hate speech to yourself. We are not ready to let half-baked intellectuals teach us how to shop for Islamic scholars or formulate strategy to counter our problems. Never!Recommend

  • Usman
    Feb 3, 2011 - 3:27AM

    i like!Recommend

  • Feb 3, 2011 - 4:17AM

    Brilliant write-up. The suggestion that we need to engage our poets, writers, musicians and artist in the struggle is great but we already know a substantial number of these people represent the other side of the divide throught the Urdu press advertently or inadvertently promote the cause of the obscurantist. The author has however missed the most potent and most reliable source for change in the society: the teachers. We know this present obscurantism has happened through a systematic process of indoctrination in our educational institutions initiated by Gen.Zia through the so-called Islamisation and jihadization of our education system. This has come through education and if we really want to uproot this menace from our society, education is the way out. Education that develops the faculty of critical thinking, rationality, humanitarianism, justice and peace. The role of the teacher is paramount in this regard. And this role of the teacher as a peace maker, and as an upholder of reason and rationality must be widely propagated through the media. The textbooks and the curriculum which are full of extremist venom must be purged. But the task of reform really lies with the teacher. ‘If you want to see the condition of a nation, see the condition of the teacher’. Keeping in view the sway of the Urdu newspapers and the availability of only conservative papers in our educational institutions, I would suggest that the government and educational institutions right from the school level through to the university level take steps to make the far more liberal voice in the English newspaper available to students and teachers in educational institutions. Therefore all educational leaders and teachers should be encouraged to read English language newspapers and to pursuade their students to do the same.Recommend

  • Zubair
    Feb 3, 2011 - 4:48AM

    Pakistan was founded on the basis of bigotry and hatred. How can we expect that fire not to engulf us now? The people who are broadcasting on Star and Zee TV have learnt to live together because they had a totally different upbringing. Recommend

  • muhammad amjad
    Feb 3, 2011 - 9:17AM

    click on the following link for a touching tribute to salman taseer in benazir bhutto’s voice:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZK2PIAKlgnE

    it is a video of benazir bhutto’s recital of a poem with benazir bhutto’s & salman taseer’s video.Recommend

  • pmbm
    Feb 3, 2011 - 10:10AM

    Are we ready to learn our religion for ourselves? OR leave it to idiotic ignorant mullahs? Islam is not supposed to have any clergy. Mohammad Asad’s translation of The Quran and his other publications are the best source. Each muslim is expected to be responsible human being answerable for his/her behavior.Recommend

  • pmbm
    Feb 3, 2011 - 10:16AM

    Are we ready to learn, understand and contemplate our religion? OR, Are we going to leave it to ignorant mullahs?Recommend

  • Down with Blasphemy Laws
    Feb 3, 2011 - 10:17AM

    Alizeh has spoken! And I hear you Alizeh. Our Government does not have the might or ability (The PM is forcing Sherry to withdraw Bill proposing amendments), but we the people will have to start. There are so many religious channels in Pakistan, NOT ONE, speaking against this daylight hijacking of Islam. So many men with beards (and those without) on TV, NOT ONE, setting the record straight against terrorism. Our Political parties, with a few individuals as exceptions, are out right supporters of Taliban and the extremist mindset – and none of them too religious in their personal lives.

    Merge fanaticism and illiteracy and you get the mess we have made of Islam today in Pakistan.

    So I echo your call a hundred times over.

    Stand up and talk!
    So first make sure you are just not an uneducated liberal, so educate yourself. Stop the fundo on the road, interrupt the uneducated Mullah in the mosque (if he is preaching hate or teachings contrary to Islam), call on live shows and set the record straight, educate those around you (from your domestic staff to those who you mean),
    Stop this jahalat!Recommend

  • Down with Blasphemy Laws
    Feb 3, 2011 - 10:18AM

    *
    *

    Alizeh has spoken! And I hear you Alizeh. Our Government does not have the might or ability (The PM is forcing Sherry to withdraw Bill proposing amendments), but we the people will have to start. There are so many religious channels in Pakistan, NOT ONE, speaking against this daylight hijacking of Islam. So many men with beards (and those without) on TV, NOT ONE, setting the record straight against terrorism. Our Political parties, with a few individuals as exceptions, are out right supporters of Taliban and the extremist mindset – and none of them too religious in their personal lives.

    Merge fanaticism and illiteracy and you get the mess we have made of Islam today in Pakistan.

    So I echo your call a hundred times over.

    Stand up and talk! So first make sure you are just not an uneducated liberal, so educate yourself. Stop the fundo on the road, interrupt the uneducated Mullah in the mosque (if he is preaching hate or teachings contrary to Islam), call on live shows and set the record straight, educate those around you (from your domestic staff to those who you mean), Stop this jahalat!Recommend

  • SharifL
    Feb 3, 2011 - 11:03AM

    A good article, but unless we diagonose the reasons why religion is being hyjacked, nothing is going to happen. Just accusing the Mullahs without reason brings us to dead end. WE have to say that the need of the day is reformation. If it says in quran ‘to kill those who join other gods’ you have to defibne who should be doing the killing. Should such caes be dealt with courts or can anybody take the law in his own hand? The reason why so many support the killer of Salman Taseer is that his action is not contradicted by the holy book, as my quote above shows. Society must clarify such suras to leave the actions only to state and judiciary and not initiated by any individual.
    Can you recommend that in a paper withouit being threatened with death? If any suggestion, even when based on shaky grounds, is not allowede, then talkimg of sanity is of no value. Recommend

  • Wake up
    Feb 3, 2011 - 11:14AM

    @Sakib Ahmad: Not sure what the point of your rambling piece is. The author identifies issues facing this nation. You, as you infer, the real “educated”, are clearly stuck in some complex of quality of English and/or accents. Fascinating. Recommend

  • rehan
    Feb 3, 2011 - 12:05PM

    If “we” haven’t identified ‘rational and moderate’ clerics,let YOU the author please name a few(you are a learned researcher/reader)for “our” benefit.Let us see your choice.Recommend

  • S Imam
    Feb 3, 2011 - 5:34PM

    I can feel the pain where you are coming from. But reality is much harsher: Salman Taseer’s murder and the apathy that followed, shows that our liberals are far from reality. They have failed to understand the language, diction, ethos, fear, aspirations and ambitions of common people in Pakistan. That’s the major exposure that our liberals hate the common people who they claim to work for, perhaps for them common people do not matter, for them the liberal agenda articulated by the foreign funded NGOs is more important. It’s high time our liberals returned to the issues of their common people! I understand Salman Taseer’s assassination is a sacrosanct act, but it was a gross misunderstanding between the common people and what he was trying to put across. He did not what he was saying and what were his intentions and how this gap was manipulated by the rightist media for its own political ends. My hear bleeds for Salman’s tragic death (he is Shaheed because he was supporting a poor and a wronged woman, a sunnah of our Holy Prophet (PBUH)! But our media portrayed his noble work in such a dishonest and a diabolical way that it appeared as if he was supporting the desecration of the person of the Holy Prophet (PBUH). We must not for get that for a common man the sanctity of the Prophet (PBUH) cannot be traded!Recommend

  • Feb 4, 2011 - 12:50AM

    @ S Imam

    Thanks for your words of sanity amid the babel. The fact is Pakistan is being squashed by the twin monsters of mullahism and a peculiarly Pakistani version of liberalism. The harm that these self-styled liberals have done to Pakistan has been brilliantly spelt out in this article in Urdu, published today:

    http://www.jang.com.pk/jang/feb2011-daily/03-02-2011/col2.htmRecommend

  • pmbm
    Feb 4, 2011 - 10:53AM

    Does Quran really say “kill those who join other gods”. i do not think so.Recommend

  • Uza Syed
    Feb 10, 2011 - 5:41AM

    @Sakib Ahmad.

    Ha, ha, ha!

    Too full of yourself —— !Recommend

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