Thank God for Israel. We should be sending them bouquets right now. Great big arrangements of tube-roses and gladiolas, with a little card pinned to a leaf. Inside should be a cute drawing of a teddy bear with hearts popping around him and a hand-written message saying “Dear Israel, stay villainous! You make us look good! Love, Pakistan.”
The killing of aid workers on the way to Gaza by typically over-zealous, kill-hungry Israeli forces is a tragedy. It is an act of heinous cruelty by a nation that has worked hard towards innovating in the field of heinous cruelty. And most importantly, it distracted attention away from us. Because right now, we are looking pretty heinous and cruel ourselves. Almost 100 innocent Pakistanis killed in a single act of terrorism, perpetrated on the basis of religion, condoned by a government that is conspicuously silent in regards to criticism of the event and sanctioned by a nation that never once raised a voice of protest against such repugnant discrimination.
The deafening silence in the wake of the tragedy was surprising, even for the most cynical of social observers. Other than a few angry blog posts or a few pained opinion columns, nothing. This lack of judgement was to be expected from religious groups. The only reason they were so quiet was probably because they were choking on vicious glee. Majority of their ranks despise anyone who doesn’t subscribe to their obsessively specific definition of Islam, so the fact that they feel no sorrow over the deaths of so many countrymen because of a difference of belief is not surprising. Repugnant, but unsurprising. The politicians outdid themselves. Just when you thought there weren’t enough reasons to despise them, to curse their very existence, they proved that no insult is too insulting for them. From surrounding themselves with enough policemen to act as human force fields and depriving the rest of the population from much needed protection, to playing a game of watch-me-protest-louder-than-you when the cause is a ludicrous attention-grabbing stunt on a social-networking site. It’s not like they were tired. Television channels were spoiled for choice when it came to footage of politicians energetically shaking fists and loudly damning Zionism just two days after the Lahore attack.
And finally, there is us. We. You. Me. The general population of Pakistan. We are complicit in the killings of that day, with our silent acceptance of the various unnecessary and vindictive condemnations of a minority that believe something different from the majority. We don’t protest because it would be too difficult. We don’t protest because it might mean danger to us. We don’t protest because Facebook is back online and there is so much catching up to do. Instead we all sign away the rights of a group of people when we get our ID cards and passports and tolerate our media personalities spewing hate speech on national television with nary a batted eyelid. We even continue to sponsor their shows with advertising, happily associating our brands and products with ideological venom.
I dread the day the world gets a closer look at us. When everyone else realises we have tattooed medieval discrimination and bigotry onto the very soul of our nation. Because then we won’t look like righteous defenders of Muslim honour, nor will we look like tragic collateral damage in a war on terror. We definitely won’t be able to convince anyone of claims to enlightened democracy. Instead we will be considered worse than Israel. They oppress others. We oppress our own people under the cover of silence. Someone else did that not so long ago. You might have heard of them. They used to be called Nazis.
Published in the Express Tribune, June 3rd, 2010.