Where does the silent majority stand?

Published: June 19, 2010
The writer works in the development sector  (ammar.zafarullah@tribune.com.pk)

The writer works in the development sector ([email protected])

Now you must have heard the mantra that the “silent majority denounces violence” or “extremism is one facet, the silent majority is held captive by the radicals” or “the silent majority supports the war against religious extremists” and the list can go on.

The liberals have loathed the radicals for being the self-proclaimed custodians of society, whereas the radicals believe that the liberals are the disgruntled marginalised elite who are in no way a reflection of our society. They adherently believe that liberal values are an alien and imposed concept and “the silent majority” is more prone towards their ideals. So whose side is the silent majority on?

The findings of a recent survey titled “Radicalisation in Pakistan” revealed that 63.3 per cent of the respondents were opposed to joining the war against terror, whereas only 22 per cent of them in Fata believed that the Taliban are fighting for a just cause. What is more perplexing is that 45 per cent in Fata did not answer this question.

In the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, Pakistan has suffered heavy financial losses which as per some estimates lie around $35 billion and over 25,000 civilians and 8,000 security personnel have lost their lives. Despite such colossal damages from the heinous acts of terrorism in Pakistan, the apologists dominate the mainstream media. If such explicit or covert support to terrorists was extended in any other civilised country there would be a huge public outrage. The media and former intelligence gurus escape the public backlash despite their incoherent bizarre conspiracy theories that justifies violence, simply because even if “the silent majority” does not endorse and support their viewpoints, it also does not out rightly reject them. As per a new report, sweets were distributed at a local seminary in Gunjranwla after the massacre of Ahamdis in Lahore and Nawaz Sharif, the former premier, came under heavy fire from the clergy when he merely stated that Ahmadis were our brothers and an asset to Pakistan — so much for inter-faith harmony.

Ayaz Qureshi, a leading anthropologist at SOAS, offers an interesting perspective that we always allude to a silent majority but we cannot be sure of its existence for as long as it chooses to remain silent. Moreover, if we leave terrorist activities aside for a moment, it will not be out of place to say that society is increasingly becoming intolerant: people cannot stand a difference of opinion and are adamant on imposing their viewpoints on others. One can’t be sure whether violent extremism gives rise to such intolerant society or intolerance ‘as our national character’ feeds the extremist element, or both of these complement each other. So if we believe that we are the members of this “silent majority” we too need some introspection in addition to speaking out against the extremists. Pakistani society is infused by a profound sense of collective frustration, chaos and cluelessness. Such radicalised social environment is naturally exploited by terrorists.

A de-radicalised society is more receptive towards the notions of democratic governance, women’s emancipation, education and humanism. We have to look beyond operations and counter-insurgency approaches as they can only provide some breathing space, the end goal should however remain to build a society which has zero tolerance for violence and no sympathies for terrorists. A society which is free from radical sentiments serves as the first line of defense against terrorism, thus it is imperative that we address the collective grievances behind radicalisation, as it is perhaps the most effective way of addressing the root causes of terrorism.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 19th, 2010.

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Reader Comments (15)

  • Areebah Shahid
    Jun 19, 2010 - 12:55AM

    The need for the silent majority has never been so critical than it is today. Thus, the author has made a valid point by pressing upon the predominantly liberal masses to make their voice heard. Unless and until the silent majority makes its presence felt, there is little hope of not losing scores of youngsters to the deceptive promises of heaven made by terrorists having purely vested interests. The overwhelming majority of Pakistanis denounce terrorism – which has brought tragedy unto them time and again – however the extremists tend to scream louder than the majority and have for long kept the masses hostage. It is now time to shift the tide and only the active audacity of the general public can make this possible!Recommend

  • Jun 19, 2010 - 1:35AM

    A society which is free from radical sentiments serves as the first line of defense against terrorism oh dear! you lost me there! dont you realise that the Pakistan Army, is the first and only line of defence! The silent majority is silent because its aware of the qurbani’s given by our politicians, generals and bureaucrats, and works hard to furnish their housing schemes, club houses, cars, protocol etc. Recommend

  • Tarique
    Jun 19, 2010 - 2:25AM

    Elite class is as corrupted as our military,political and religious class.The absence of activism of silent majority is not surprising because we as a nation grumble much but do nothing.In French revolution middle class played an active role but here in Pakistan this middle class succumb to cowrdness and a deep sense of security.Recommend

  • Jun 19, 2010 - 9:06AM

    In our country diverging views or open dissent has been always ment with charges of blasphemy n heresy.Our public is taught from birth through our academic books,the omnipresent tv channels that strict,unquestioning,mindnumbing adherence to religous dogma is the right path and anyone daring to have an open discussion is a heretic to be treated henceforth as an outcast.we have become an intolerant,misogynistic,bigoted society who have closed our minds to any rational debate.Recommend

  • Junaid Achakzai
    Jun 19, 2010 - 10:45AM

    The argument put forth might seem like wishful thinking at first, however there is no denying the fact that the masses have slumped into the habit of remaining silent and this habit needs to be broken for now their silence threatens to engulf the country’s survival! I wish the people of our country would understand the power of collective action for together it is only the people of Pakistan who can send a strong message off to the terrorists that they are NOT welcome!Recommend

  • Realist
    Jun 19, 2010 - 12:34PM

    To Junaid

    And what if the silent majority is in favour of the so called terrorits (read Taliban)? That is a possibility. There are after all two sides to every coin.

    I think its better if the silent majority remains silent. After all people in West Pakistan were always told that the Bengalis want to remain in Pakistan. But when they finally broke their silence, break up of Pakistan was the result. Hope that is not the case with FATA, NWFP and Baluchistan.Recommend

  • macNurv
    Jun 19, 2010 - 1:12PM

    A majority which is SILENT is nothing but a useless bunch, who will accept every thing. Recommend

  • Fareed Ahmed
    Jun 19, 2010 - 2:06PM

    The silent majority in magnanimous show of tolerance over the years has lent a deaf ear to Ahmadis being called ‘wajib-ul-qatil’ by clerics and media.Recommend

  • imran
    Jun 19, 2010 - 2:13PM

    @Realist ur current hypothesis is wrong bcos when army went in FATA, NWFP the silent majority did not rise against the army as they did in west Pakistan….that shows they r not in favour of those so called terrorits (read Taliban)
    @macNuru i cent% agree with u…..Recommend

  • Realist
    Jun 19, 2010 - 5:04PM

    @ Imran

    “the silent majority did not rise against the army as they did in west Pakistan”

    I think you mean to say East Pakistan (now Bangladesh), right?

    They haven’t risen up yet. Where do you think the Taliban are getting there fighters from? They are not Indians as the popular conspiracy theories suggest and certainly are not Americans or Israelis. They are Pashtu speaking native people. The rate at which they are killed everyday (if reports are to be believed since media is not allowed to operate there), they should have been eliminated long time ago but that is not the case. Neither their numbers nor their support in local areas (logical from the number of fighters they have and the frequency with which they conduct their operations) seem to have dried up. You put two and two together and who knows what can happen.

    FATA after all has always stressed its independence. You will also recall that they joined Pakistan on the condition that our laws will not be applicable there (hence the term Ilaqa-e-Ghair) but now our Army is carrying out operations there to etsblish the “writ of the Government” (thus breaking the agreement, which Mr. Jinnah signed). Couple this with the fact that FATA has much deeper tribal connections with the tribes of Afghanistan rather than Pakistan and right now Pakistan is a front line ally of NATO, whcih the Pashtuns of Afghanistan are beginning to see more as an occupier rather than a liberator with every passing day. This can get get pretty hairy. Question that we should be asking, “Is our Government playing itself into a trap?”

    Have we forgotten about this?




  • Junaid Achakzai
    Jun 20, 2010 - 3:02AM

    To Realist

    Had the silent majority stood up for its rights from the very beginning instead of putting up with the atrocities of the state, justice would have prevailed (not because the state would have become miraculously judicious but because the state simply does not have the ability to stand against the overwhelming collective demands of its people). Hence, had East Pakistanis clustered together earlier instead of waiting for the atrocities of the state to bypass their thresh hold, i would say the situation would have been different. Nevertheless, when they did manage to get their act together, they got what they wanted, hence proving the power of people over the state!

    That said I feel you are going completely off track! If you still have the nerve of calling individuals, who are responsible for reducing scores of our brothers and sisters into mere clots of burned flesh, ‘so called terrorists’, any argument seems quite pointless. Taliban apologists are more dangerous than the terrorists themselves and as the author points out, sadly the apologists, rule the national airwaves posing as pseudo intellectuals whose constant ranting is entirely useless and their ideals nefarious!

    Down with the apologists!! Recommend

  • Rashid Saleem
    Jun 21, 2010 - 12:52PM

    The need for the liberals to voice their thoughts openly without fear has never been needed more than today in this society. The liberals must break the notion of being ‘a silent majority’ or ‘the elite’s hobby’. I am 1010% sure that this survey also included people from middle class and much of them would be in favor of a de-radicalization of this society.Recommend

  • ali hamdani
    Jun 21, 2010 - 12:56PM

    Silent majority is nothing but a useless bunch that will accept everything and anything in coming time. Unless this majority speaks up, we cannot win the war on terror.Recommend

  • Amna Zaman
    Jun 21, 2010 - 1:07PM

    Interesting article. Author rightly mentions about the silent majority which consists of you and I as well. The apologists should be removed from the mainstream media as they influence many others.Recommend

  • Sadia Hussain
    Jun 21, 2010 - 4:26PM

    The **Taliban apologists** always try to exploits the silence of the masses as they term it as a covert support for their actions, the silent majority needs to come out loud and denounce violence in all forms and shapes.

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