Our internal censors

You have to somehow justify persecution of a religious group, blacking out their role in political history of country.


Ajmal Kamal March 16, 2012

Before coming to the last — and the most masterful — deletion from Saadat Hasan Manto’s Urdu short story Naya Qanoon at the hands of the great men editing educational texts for our textbook board, I would like to speak about a comment my last column received on its web version. A reader of my column had this to say about it:

“It’s an old style of analysis in which writers consciously forget some obvious mistakes while praising some incident or personality. In the good old days, in their anti-colonial writings many progressives as well as secular intellectuals praised Hindu, Muslim and Sikh fundamentalists in their so-called anti-imperialist drive. In this article, the writer praised Sir Zafrullah Khan in such a way too. Any ordinary student of history knows why Zafrullah was made the foreign minister. Not because of his minority position but due to his influence and close relations with 10 Downing Street. In the early 1930s, when Mian Sir Fazli Hussain had come back to Punjab, he proposed Zafrullah’s name to be chosen to sit at a place where British-Indian policy was framed. If one reads the autobiography of Sir Zafrullah, Tahdees-e-Nimat, one can map his fundamentalist position too. He recorded an incident when, as foreign minister, he was in France to open Pakistan’s embassy and after the meeting he laid the founding stone of the French branch of Jamaat Ahmadiya. I do not want to add here the controversial incident of the funeral prayers of Jinnah yet, it is a known fact that Sir Zafrullah was a religious fundamentalist. I have read his speech in defence of Liaquat Ali Khan’s Objectives Resolution, which is also a proof of my claim.”

In my view, such comments show how our internal censors work. These are based on the doublethink that our education system and other tools of social management aim at producing. You have to somehow justify the persecution of a religious group and blacking out their role in the political history of the country, since the powers that be, have decided that a targeted minority group is to be treated as non-Muslim — the shameful 1974 Amendment to the Constitution of Pakistan has effectively this to say to Ahmadis: ‘Since we are the powerful majority, therefore you are non-Muslim.’ What it doesn’t feel the need to acknowledge is: ‘Had you been the powerful majority, we would have been declared non-Muslim!’ As citizens of the Islamic Republic, we are officially required to issue a written fatwa against Ahmadis, while applying for a national identity card or a passport. If we have written ‘Muslim’ in the compulsory column that asks us to state our religion, we must sign a declaration which says that we consider Ahmadis (as well as their splinter groups such as the one called Lahoris) as non-Muslim — even if we have no idea about their respective beliefs and even if we feel we do not have the authority to pronounce a judgment about someone’s faith. Otherwise we’ll not be granted the status of a first class citizen.

The same logic is at work in the comments reproduced above. If you are not condemning the officially-designated adversaries, then you would be taken as praising them. The praise that I showered on Sir Zafarullah last week is as follows: (i) I used the honorific “Sir” before his name as he was knighted by the King (just as our very own dreamer-poet Sir Iqbal was); (ii) I called him a prominent lawyer of Punjab, and (iii) I mentioned that he was appointed as the first foreign minister of Pakistan by its first governor general (He was himself formally appointed to the exalted post by King George VI).

Our friend complains that I failed to condemn Zafarullah for having a reputation of being close to the British PM — which obviously makes him an imperial agent (the prime quality for which he was chosen to be made foreign minister. The one who chose him for this quality has to be revered as anti-imperialist since our national mythology demands so).

Furthermore, I have been accused of not castigating him for being a religious fundamentalist even when it is a fact of history that he spoke in favour of the Objectives Resolution in the constituent assembly— which is why his name deserves to be deleted from national history (the ‘deobandi maulvi’ Shabbir Usmani who helped draft the sorry resolution along with other religious fundamentalists belonging to different sects, the first PM Nawab Liaquat, who encouraged it to be tabled in the assembly, and the ‘honorable’ Muslim members of the assembly, who passed it with a majority vote are, however, to be treated differently as they have not been declared non-Muslim).

This is the kind of illogical logic that our nation-builders and educators strive to produce.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 17th, 2012.

COMMENTS (24)

Omaidus | 9 years ago | Reply

It is a matter of great sorrow that, mainly through mistaken notions of zeal, the Muslims have during the period of decline earned for themselves an unenviable reputation for intolerance. But that is not the fault of Islam. Islam has from the beginning proclaimed and inculcated the widest tolerance. For instance, so far as freedom of conscience is concerned the Quran says "There shall be no compulsion" of faith... — Muhammad Zafarullah Khan, Addressing the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan, c. 1949

to those mistaken souls, or so liberal that they have become bigoted to religiousness, think one is bigoted and fundamentalist if he is religious, to them the concept of Islam for Ch Zafrullah is presented here and his views on Objective resolution.

Yasser Latif Hamdani | 9 years ago | Reply

Jinnah himself called Zafrullah the most able Muslim in India. End of story.

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