Fake liberals and liberal fascists

Published: August 25, 2012
The writer is a lawyer and partner at Ijaz and Ijaz Co 
in Lahore

The writer is a lawyer and partner at Ijaz and Ijaz Co in Lahore saroop.ijaz@tribune.com.pk

‘Fake liberal’ and ‘Liberal fascists’ are two terms that it is clear upon even the most basic examination cannot be used interchangeably and are probably on the opposite ends of the ideological spectrum. The first suggests a feigned adherence to the ideals of liberalism and hence the individual undertaking this fraudulent posture is not really a liberal, whereas the second suggests an excessively strong commitment to those ideals bordering on fascism so as to allowing no dissent and the individual is “too much of a liberal”. Of course, a combination could be argued where an imposter is also a zealot so as to justify the employment of a new term ‘fake liberal fascist’ (that usage would come with an additional peril of whether the fakeness applies only to the ‘liberal’ part or does it extend it to the ‘fascist’ portion as well). I know this might be getting tedious and is perhaps, even semantic nitpicking. However, the fact that these two terms are used as frequently as they are and often perfectly interchangeably highlights that we have become so crude in our sneers that we have abandoned all commitment to language and reason in their formulation.

“The word Fascism,” Orwell wrote, “has now no meaning except in so far as it signifies ‘something not desirable’.” As an admission, I have been guilty in the past of using the term rather loosely and I shouldn’t have, nevertheless the term ‘Fascism’ has its use in Pakistan today. When Shias are periodically off-loaded from buses lined up and shot dead on public highways, the term ‘Fascism’ unmistakably lurks. A murderous cult with clear and public visions of a master race/sect is conducting “genocide” of one set of citizens; the term is useful in its full historical accuracy. So when those engaged in one-upmanship use terms like ‘liberal fascists’ they do not only expose their lack of knowledge of language or critical thinking faculties, infinitely significantly, they soften and make commonplace a word of the utmost condemnation and horror, similar to ‘genocide’ (which I can now claim to use with awareness in this context).

However, those having a flair for using these absurd, meaningless terms are exactly the sorts who find the emphasis on “Shia” killing and an 11-year-old Christian girl suffering from Down’s syndrome charged with blasphemy a bit too much and an attempt to detract from the “real issues”. This is nonsense of the most sinister and malicious kind. No issue is more real than murder and witch-hunt. Twenty-two Shias killed for their sectarian beliefs is not the same as the same numbered killed in a highway robbery or even by dengue fever. All loss of innocent life is to be condoled, yet not all funerals require the same mourning or outrage. Those who are being hunted and murdered in this country deserve our immediate attention and in Pakistan, there cannot be enough of it right now. Hindus are being persecuted so as to make them leave the country, the nation’s premier atomic scientist is allowed to come on television and spew hatred against the Ahmadis — this I say, with no hesitation, deserves the same if not more attention than the power crisis. The silly idea that when one speaks about an issue she ignores all others, if accepted, would make it impossible to speak on any issue.

Being a liberal or a conservative is no badge of pride. William Hazlitt in his essay on Edmund Burke wrote: “It has always been with me, a test of the sense and candour of anyone belonging to the opposite party, whether he allowed Burke to be a great man.” Whatever the flaws in Pakistan’s liberal community are (there are admittedly many), the opposition also falls considerably short of the Burkean ideal (with some rare exceptions). Oddly enough most people want themselves to be portrayed as the “real” liberals as if there is something inherently wrong with being a ‘conservative’ or a ‘centrist’.

The neat classifications of ideological divisions are from a different lexicon meant to cater to different times. Our challenges right now are elemental, even primitive and require more clarity. To condemn the murder of Shias, the persecution of the Christian girl and the barbaric nihilism of the suicide fanatics does not allow for shallow nuance. Silence on the issue, attempting to change the topic or worse, criminal rationalisation is not “conservative” or “anti-liberal” etc, actually it is no political thought; it is terrorist apology at best and probably complicity.

Differences on the strategy for “our” war on terror are valid and often helpful and so are the objections to drone attacks. Yet, using this and the drawing of false moral equivalences to explain or rationalise the theocratic fascist (another term that I am sure will stand the test of historical verification) assault on our society by the religious fundamentalists is malevolent and masochistic. The supposedly youthful anti-imperialist drawing inspiration from the once great Professor Noam Chomsky and the suicide bomber are in unspoken and perhaps, unknowing agreement here.

To speak against this murder and mayhem means to expose oneself to the charge of ignoring the power crisis, inflation, unemployment, Muslims in trouble in random parts of the world, in short a “government apologist”. A charge, I will gladly embrace as opposed to being a mouthpiece and a tool (even if unwittingly) of homicidal fanatics bombing our schools, hospitals and mosques.

Morality ordinarily has a very little place in political views, however, if  “liberalism” is taken as per the maybe simplistic definition of its enthusiastic opponents as creating too much of a fuss over the murder of minorities, Shias and suicide bombings etc., then it becomes a question of morality and even humanity. As we progress, I am sure that we will evolve our own definition of what being ‘liberal’ or a ‘conservative’ entails in our political and economic sphere but I hope we will never see (or perhaps, more accurately cease to see) the day when insidious justifications of murder of innocent civilians by terrorists are treated with any credibility or respectability.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 26th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (47)

  • Taha
    Aug 25, 2012 - 11:22PM

    I didn’t understand a single thing. Can Pakistani English writers not understand effective articles can be written without big words and quotes telling us you’ve read a lot of books?


  • Falcon
    Aug 25, 2012 - 11:32PM

    Well said. A very focused article without the usual digressions. We need to build consensus on national issues of utmost significance without resorting to calling each other sell-outs to one ideology or other.


  • Mohammad Assad
    Aug 25, 2012 - 11:35PM

    What? No scorn directed at Imran Khan?


  • ThisMeansWar
    Aug 25, 2012 - 11:47PM

    Its a thin line we all walk upon. We conservatives are not strict about everything, and even liberals have some boundaries (as I assume). Opinions change with time and place, and they are not hurtful as long as they are not pumped down your throat! But there are some laws which we are not bound to break; Islamic laws, State laws. Thats why we have “law enforcing agencies” for. For enforcing the defined punishments. For all the rest, I dont oppose you my lovely liberal counterpart.
    Cheers. :)Recommend

  • Aug 25, 2012 - 11:50PM

    I would request the author to write in some what simple English and avoid unheard English words. Don’t expect the readers as brilliant students of the university. It makes the article difficult to understand.

    Facist is the word exactly opposite to Liberal So no liberal can be facist and no Facist can be Liberal . that is simple and conclusive. Pakistani fundamentalists only are capable to create such words for the ignorant people.


  • elementary
    Aug 26, 2012 - 12:04AM

    Agreed.Regardless , if one is conservative, liberal ,centrist or any combination in between ,we should all be unanimous in condemning the killings of shia’s and persecution of minorities,and should do so most vociferously .
    If talking about this important issue does not mean you don’t see inflation,power crisis,unemployment,,misgovernance as problem ,vice versa must also be true except that it might hurt a favourite party.


  • Arifq
    Aug 26, 2012 - 12:08AM

    Saroop, brilliant to say the least, probably your best writeup, timely, objective, bold and honest. Sir, you are a true patriot and a fine human being, today you have made me proud as a Pakistani and i wish you all the best. As for the pseudo intellectuals and newbie politicians who describe liberals as “scums” may I remind them that the founding father of this nation was a liberal. Noam Chomsky has written extensively on how the Muslim religious lobbies and military juntas conspired with capitalistic west to counter nationalist, socialist and communist voices from Indonesia to Pakistan and Egypt. What is happening today in Pakistan is the same with one difference, western “scum”, minorities and globalist are on the receiving side. I hope and pray people read this article with compassion and love of this country.


  • nomi
    Aug 26, 2012 - 12:15AM

    Good article, Unfortunately, liberals in Pakistan are treated as traitors and agents of the enemy.

    Some liberals might have an overly positive view of countries which Pakistan view as its enemies, but it does not mean they do not love their country.

    Zia infused this mentality – My way or the highway which goes against the very thinking of a genuine liberal.


  • zeeshan sheikh
    Aug 26, 2012 - 12:41AM

    for me liberal and muslim are contradictory terms. go check the definition.

    muslim: submits will & obey to one God.

    liberal: open & ready to accept every view. even two opposite views. they are ready to obey God and devil at the same time.


  • Tch tch
    Aug 26, 2012 - 12:47AM

    lol Once great Noam Chomsky

    No wonder you always lovingly quote that turn coat ,Imperial Cheer leader Hitchens…Telling…very telling….Mubarik and his ilk, Bashar and his ilk also think they are “Liberals”…The Pakistani version is no different…


  • pl
    Aug 26, 2012 - 12:58AM

    liberal and conservative. two terms that originated in the US. please refrain from using it if you dont know its meaning. the pakistani versions of liberal and conservative are just made up with no political or philosophical background. please dont misuse these terms as labels due to lack of political evolution and education.


  • sadhana
    Aug 26, 2012 - 1:35AM

    In present day Pakistan and India, the term fascist is best applied to people with a spiritual hunger for massacre of others and who consider such massacre a necessary moral choice.


  • choptocut
    Aug 26, 2012 - 4:37AM

    As usual brilliant , keep it up Mr. Ijaz.


  • Mustafa Moiz
    Aug 26, 2012 - 6:05AM

    Get off it. Shias have it far better in Pakistan than Sunnis do in any Shia majority or Shia ruled countries.


  • Mustafa Moiz
    Aug 26, 2012 - 6:05AM

    All Pakistanis who call themselves liberals aren’t really, just anti-Pakistan.


  • Max
    Aug 26, 2012 - 6:06AM

    Kaghazi hai perhaan haar pakker-e-tasweer ka (Mirza Ghalib). (artificiality is the name of the game). I wish, I can translate this better but find myself unable to do so.


  • Zohair
    Aug 26, 2012 - 8:17AM

    Excellent analysis dissecting the concepts of morality & political bias. Innate outrage on injustice is a part of being human and should rise and resonate and be registered without questioning and embellishing it with one’s particular mindset and individualized code of ethics.Recommend

  • Zalim Singh
    Aug 26, 2012 - 9:03AM

    liberal fascism and Islam are words which are related. They cannot exist without eachother these days. Any guy criticizing Islam is termed Liberal Fascist.


  • Feroz
    Aug 26, 2012 - 9:23AM

    Nice article ! It is very sad that 65 years after independence people have to debate who is a liberal and who a fascist. Tragic indeed !


  • Manji Wich Daang
    Aug 26, 2012 - 9:24AM

    “The silly idea that when one speaks about an issue she ignores all others, if accepted, would make it impossible to speak on any issue.” This statement is trivial without context. The context here being the author’s predisposition to voice his concern which stays within a very narrow spectrum of issues; issues which reinforce a certain narrative. I couldn’t agree more with his characterization of the of fascism as it permeates our social fabric, both in its complicity or silence. However his assertions about the Chief Justice going rogue are alarmist and have a certain angle. But he is entitled to these opinions. It is in that sense, that I find author’s elision and an absolute silence on the questions of governance, a systematic suppression of a narrative which would fault the ‘secular’ forces of PPP/ANP/MQM. The question and its logical answer wouldn’t fit the apriori assertions of religious orthodoxy being at the heart of all that ails us.


  • Shahzad
    Aug 26, 2012 - 9:54AM

    You can say liberals are those who do not do crimes in the name of patriotism and religion. And people who do such crimes especially in the name of religion are obscurantists.


  • sidjeen
    Aug 26, 2012 - 11:21AM

    i don’t know if anyone in Pakistan has been killed in the name of liberalism to use the term fascist for liberals. however i will gladly call myself a liberal fascist rather than being an apologist for those murdering hordes.


  • Shahid Jamil
    Aug 26, 2012 - 11:48AM

    The supposedly youthful anti-imperialist drawing inspiration from the
    once great Professor Noam Chomsky and the suicide bomber are in
    unspoken and perhaps, unknowing agreement here.

    What exactly the expression “once great Professor Noam Chomsky” mean? Has he become a less great Professor Noam Chomsky? Is he not great at all? When did this happen and who decided to pronounce this judgement on him? And of course what are the credentials of those who have come down with this judgement?


  • Noble Tufail
    Aug 26, 2012 - 12:09PM

    Your topics are always evidence based and full of sense sir. a great piece as usual to clear the fog….somebody should combine the pakistani version of definitions of fairly easy terms otherwise. A qualitative analysis of comments in response to this article will also be intersting.


  • Pessimist
    Aug 26, 2012 - 1:09PM

    Mr. Ijaz has become my favorite writer because of his well thought out and articulate pieces. Keep it up, Mr. Ijaz.


  • nomi
    Aug 26, 2012 - 1:11PM

    @ Zeeshan Sheikh

    What sort of nonsensical comment is this. God and devil?

    Any person who tolerates other views, but sticks to his own is a liberal. In ideal liberalism, there is no coercion. You are free to think and express yourselves, but tolerance for others must be observed.

    Your way of thinking is like I described earlier – my way or the highway.


  • ann
    Aug 26, 2012 - 1:43PM

    @zeeshan sheikh
    not just islam but every religion for that matter cannot be liberal considering your definition of liberalism….even abiding by the laws of state goes against this definition…
    the thing is liberalism means progressive,freedom of speech,religion,press etc,respectful of others rights,humanistic, open-minded etc…
    so respecting a person’s choice of living if not criminal and harmful to the other is being liberal and sorry to disappoint you but islam teaches all these things which unfortunately our mullas dont preach because of their personal interests. when majority of muslims will start following the true islam, mullahs power will be lost…they’ve messed up this religion for us for so long that now we see islam through their eyes…..


  • Abid
    Aug 26, 2012 - 1:55PM

     All loss of innocent life is to be condoled, yet not all funerals require the same mourning or outrage.



  • zeeshan sheikh
    Aug 26, 2012 - 2:16PM

    @nomi what kind of liberal you are. you are labeling my comment ‘nonsensical’. This is what I wanted to prove the definition of liberal fascist.


  • RH
    Aug 26, 2012 - 2:55PM

    @zeeshan sheikh: go check the definition..which I’ve just made up. LOL


  • Aug 26, 2012 - 3:45PM

    Excellent article only understood by those who have heart & mind at right places! We have reached a pathetic stage & no end in sight till our army decides to reverse their policies of non state actors working as proxy soldiers.


  • Falcon
    Aug 26, 2012 - 4:21PM

    Beautiful verse from poetry of Ghalib. I didn’t know you were a poetry fan as well.


  • elementary
    Aug 26, 2012 - 5:06PM

    @Max: “Kaaghzi hay pairahan” Is meant to convey the protest rather than artificiality as far as my nderstanding of this verse is . In olden Persia one method of protest was to wear Paper dress .Ghalib in this verse is saying my every word is a protest as it is in a paper dress.


  • Hasan Mehmood
    Aug 26, 2012 - 5:11PM

    {A charge, I will gladly embrace as opposed to being a mouthpiece and a tool (even if unwittingly) of homicidal fanatics bombing our schools, hospitals and mosques}

    And so would I with a weeping heart.


  • Concerned
    Aug 26, 2012 - 7:29PM

    @Taha: I guess that is why we need an ‘education emergency’. Big words are used to express complex ideas, or to stroke one’s ego depending on how you see it.


  • Hasan Mehmood
    Aug 26, 2012 - 7:31PM

    (Your comment is awaiting moderation)

    How long it will take?


  • nomi
    Aug 26, 2012 - 7:34PM

    @ Zeeshan

    Lol, you can label liberals as accepting the point of view of a devil, and you are calling me a liberal fascist?

    Its your extremism that refuses to even allow the other point of view to be heard. For you everything else is a lie and the only truth is whatever anyone can make up and justify in the name of Islam.

    Your extremism has created intolerance. Which liberal propagates intolerance? And let me assure you that anyone who does propagate intolerance is not a liberal but an extremist either from the west or the east.


  • Fcksaroop
    Aug 26, 2012 - 8:21PM

    @Talha, well said. Writers like this quote so heavily from
    English/American literature, that sometime I wonder who
    their audience is?


  • Hasan Mehmood
    Aug 27, 2012 - 12:18AM

    In my humble view unless the debate is moved away from secular vs Islamist, liberal vs fascist and Pro West vs Anti West Paradigm, we shall never ever be able to deal with these barbarians / marauders wearing a cloak of Anti Imperialism and Religious pretensions.
    A religious scholar or a conservative intellectual need not go onto the back foot or tie themselves in twisted logic while dealing with these issues. We should not drag concepts like liberalism, conservatism, fascism, secularism and religious fundamentalism in primitive issues of genocide or hate killings. THIS IS CRIME AGAINST HUMANITY PLAIN AND SIMPLE AND NOT SANCTIFIED BY ANY ISM. No conservative Mullah will be a less Muslim if he condemns these activities without any ifs and butts and no liberal / secular would enhance his stature by highlighting such issues. All the above mentioned ISMS should only come into play on a higher plane such as Democracy Vs Theocracy, Women’s Higher Education, Minorities rights to employment, Limits on media obscenity, role of religion in day to day living, moral codes for ruling elite, dress codes in public, enforced voting by women in tribal areas, control of gambling and drinking and all such matters which can be debated. BUT FOR GOD’s SAKE HOW CAN ANYONE DEBATE IDEOLOGICAL KILLINGS AND HARASSMENT OF DEFENSELESS MINORITIES. And yes I agree with those who have objected to Author’s style. Its not only difficult to understand, but downright confusing and lacks any clear cut focus.

  • Aug 27, 2012 - 1:50AM

    Sorry the writer didn’t lower the intellectual level of the conversation to suit your taste.


  • elementary
    Aug 27, 2012 - 3:30AM

    @Hasan Mehmood: Didn’t I say the same. We should rise above these ideological labellings and condemn the killings unanimously.


  • Aug 27, 2012 - 6:39PM

    Bidah! we should all become Mullahs – even the women! We should change the name of Pakistan to Mullahistan a place where Mullahs can roam free without hindrance!


  • Iron hand
    Aug 27, 2012 - 8:23PM

    Ironic that the people who need convincing can never be convinced, as they are certain that their view of the world is the only permissible view, and that anyone who doesn’t agree with them must either be silenced or butchered.


  • Zohair
    Aug 27, 2012 - 9:03PM

    @Mohammed Abbasi: Lol! Yes, and make a movie ‘Mullah Jat’ or ‘The Mullah Moolah’. Bound to be blockbusters

    Those criticizing the language of the article, please appreciate the honest conviction in Mr Ijaz’s tone. It can seem foreign to most at times. Please reread Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead to get that

    In all seriousness, I’ve been stabbed in Karachi once anf lived to tell the story. To all who agree with a free society with freedom ending at the beginning of other’s noses, please proactively start suggesting ideas to curb the target-killings at least. One needs to emphasize the need for community policing by educated, compulsive young blood who live in the same locality and have a stake in maintaining peace. Also, can we enforce zonal colouring of motorcycles (e.g. red for Nazimabad, blue for Saddar etc) or some other way of improving chances of identifying escaping motorcyclists. Another measure would be for the CPLC to explore public interest in funding hiring retired FBI agents for advice. Desperate measures, all, but needed to just stop this mass murder


  • Shahid
    Aug 27, 2012 - 11:54PM

    Fake Liberal is a self deception term of conservatives, who are ashamed even to call themselves as conservatives, though they are. It is the Real liberalness, of a person which hurts conservatives, and thus they try to see it in their own false/imaginative way. This term reminds word “traitor”, which very great leaders of Pakistan received at the hands of these conservatives. So far liberal fascist is concernd, both are opposite of each other, its use is meaningless, and manifests only the intellectual bankrupcy of Pakistani conservatives/fundos. Another point, conservative need no suffix of fascist, as in itself it fulfil the need of this word too.


  • imran
    Aug 28, 2012 - 10:30AM

    Demanding for strict actions against those who want to snatch freedom of other through guns is not “liberal fascism” as portray by Hamid Mir and other critics. But this ingredients is a basic component of liberalism as the defense of liberalism lay in society. As Islamic hardliners don’t believe on the freedom of others they must be crush through all mean to defend the liberty of individuals.


  • Hasan Mehmood
    Aug 28, 2012 - 8:52PM

    Well said. Those who dont believe in rule of law or human rights dont deserve any protection.
    Sufi Mohammad of SWAT on camera refused to accept High Court and Supreme court. And guess what? The same very courts acquitted most of his supporters. Recommend

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