The new moon, as it heralded the arrival of Eidul Fitr this year, has looked down on a country in turmoil. Yes, today people will celebrate as custom demands. There will be true joy behind the family gatherings, the donning of new clothes, the distribution of gifts and the coming together of people who may not meet on any other occasion.
But behind the usual celebrations and festivities, we can be certain that some degree of anxiety will hover. During the month of Ramazan, there have been at least 20 deaths due to terrorism across the country, with security forces and tribal elders seeking a stand against the Taliban targeted in the northern parts of the country. The situation, as troops are called out into Islamabad, means that people will, as has been the case in previous years, fear a trip to public places such as parks or city centres. Traders also report that shoppers have been lower in number this year than in the past both, due to the impact of inflation on family budgets and the constant risk of terrorism we have come to live with. How long we can continue to live like this is an open question.
When we speak of terrorism, we must also think of the IDPs from North Waziristan, who will be spending Eid away from home and with little in the way of festivity or cheer. Some are housed in the camps set up by the government, others with relatives or in school. For none of them is this a situation conducive to celebration. Yes, they will almost certainly receive packages of goodies from philanthropists and possibly the government, but do we think enough about these people and what displacement has meant to the millions who have, through the years, been forced to abandon homes as a result of conflict in which they play no part.
Beyond the displaced masses, we have other people, in cities, in towns, in villages, who really have little to rejoice in. They may try to do so, but this is a hard task when there is not enough money within households to buy new clothes for children or place a good meal on the table. We tend to forget how many families live this way, run down by the constant pain that poverty inflicts and aware that there is virtually no one out there to help them. The state of our economy means their condition has worsened over the last few years.
We hope all these people have been remembered in Eid prayers across the country. This is certainly the least we can do. Without thinking of others, Eid prayers are essentially meaningless, and even though it is been turned into a hugely commercial occasion, Eid of course is essentially a holy day, a time to reflect on our religion and what it really means. We have strayed far away from its true meaning as hatred and violence spreads through our land instead of the peace that Islam and any true belief in it should help create. Even the lavishness with which Ramazan is marked takes something away from the day that marks the end of the most sacred month of the Muslim calendar. Ramazan, after all, should be a time for simplicity and thought rather than one filled with giant billboards advertising special, discounted food deals — that too for the well off strata of society — and offering huge feasts at eating places across all big cities. All this is followed by much squandering of food at upscale hotels and restaurants.
These are matters we need to think about as a society. As we greet each other this Eid, we must also consider what we can do to bring a divided nation closer together; to draw all its people nearer and to end the intolerance which has split us apart so that the true spirit of Eid and all that it means can be revived in a situation where much of it has, in one way or the other, been lost to us.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 29th, 2014.
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