The vicious cycle of hate and violence

Published: February 2, 2015
The writer is affiliated with Express TV and is an editor at The Friday Times. Currently, he is a senior fellow at the United States Institute of Peace. Views expressed here are his own

The writer is affiliated with Express TV and is an editor at The Friday Times. Currently, he is a senior fellow at the United States Institute of Peace. Views expressed here are his own

The recent issue to have riled up a good number of Pakistanis — including jihadi networks — is the alleged blasphemy against Islam committed by the French magazine Charlie Hebdo. The imagined gatekeepers of the Ummah and the country in possession of an ‘Islamic bomb’ must protest against the ‘degradation’ and ‘defamation’ of the ‘faith’. Nowhere in that discourse is mentioned how brutal murders by gunmen could be justified, let alone explained.

European societies must not be bailed out for their growing Islamophobia and the uneven integration of the ‘Muslim’ into secular societies. Nor can the double standards on free speech be condoned. Western Europe needs to introspect where it has gone wrong in breeding such alienation and discontent. But that is their problem.

For Pakistanis, and many Muslim societies to get outraged at the offensive material about their faith, is at best duplicitous.

In Pakistan, we grew up with Friday sermons and prayers that ended with calling for the defeat of Christians, Jews and Hindus. In some cases, there is an explicit invocation of divine help for their ‘destruction’. The grievances that such sermons manifest are political, often real, but largely imagined. Mahsaal, a Lahore-based NGO, has compiled a few sermons and one of them dated 2010 advocates thus: “O Muslims, get up and take in hand your arrows, pick up your Kalashnikovs, train yourselves in explosives and bombs, organise yourselves into armies, prepare nuclear attacks and destroy every part of the body of the enemy. The Holy Quran instructs us but since we have not followed it the Europeans have published the cartoons …”. This was perhaps said in the wake of the Danish cartoons saga where we only harmed ourselves by burning public buildings and getting innocent Pakistanis killed.

This phenomenon is not restricted to mosque leaders. Our textbooks are replete with references to kafirs or infidels. A distorted picture of other religions is presented. A major study by the National Commission for Justice and Peace published in 2012 said that Pakistani school textbooks view religions other than Islam “with contempt and prejudice”. For instance, an Urdu grade five textbook has a lesson with a story about a selfish Jew who owned a well and never allowed Muslims to take water from it. Punjab textbooks are the most problematic. Some books also have material on “the Muslim world and colonialism” berating Western and Christian governments for narrow-mindedness and fanaticism. Let us not even talk about the Hindus as they are conniving, cunning and mean. Little wonder that Pakistani cricketer Shahid Afridi referred to Indians as small-hearted. He retracted the statement later but the textbooks spoke through his words.

The Shias in general and Hazaras in particular have been under attack. There are mainstream groups — violent and ostensibly non-violent — that castigate them to the extent of calling them infidels. Zikris in Balochistan are no longer safe either. The Ahmadiyya community is openly declared ‘wajibul qatl’ (fit for murder) on national television. There was some online protest against a leading televangelist doing this again and again, but nothing happened. Churches and Christian settlements have been attacked, killing hundreds; and working class Christians have been burnt alive. But we hardly witness protests against these atrocities, especially from clerics and faith-based networks that want to showcase Islam as a religion of peace. One of the key reasons for this is the subterranean brainwashing that has seeped into society — certain groups of people are fit for murder anyway.

Al Bakistan — as so many number plates in Lahore declare our country as such — identifies with Saudi Arabia, where churches and temples are not allowed to function. Many Gulf states — the unfortunate representatives of mainstream Islam globally — have limited freedoms for non-Muslims. Iran is no better with a repressive control over its population. Both these models present a version of state conduct that easily turns into a stereotype.

Protests against Charlie Hebdo have focused on blasphemy. Much has been said about our blasphemy laws and the way they are misapplied to settle scores. Our moment of  shame continues: a few days ago, Mumtaz Qadri, the self-confessed killer of former governor of Punjab Salmaan Taseer, was represented by a large number of lawyers (more in number than the policemen), including two former judges of the Lahore High Court. Every person has a right to defence and the law provides for that. But the inclusion of two former judges in Qadri’s legal team is symbolic. Earlier, it was thought that extreme ideas had only influenced the lower functionaries of the state. That is now proving to be a comfort-inducing fallacy. Radicalisation has made its way into the higher echelons of state. Being religious or pious is not the issue here, but imposing a worldview in secular dispensation of official duties is a problem.

The former chief justice is on record on having said that if parliament were to declare Pakistan a secular country, the judiciary would strike this down. Sadly, neither parliament, nor the courts or the people of Pakistan want that. And this is why the vicious cycle of hate and violence is not going to end anytime soon.

A faint glimmer of hope was kindled in the aftermath of the Peshawar attack. But that is also fading fast. The National Action Plan — a comprehensive way forward — is not too clear or committed on the mass-deradicalisation that Pakistan needs. This long-term detox project will only begin the day we decide that Pakistan is a nation-state, not an Ummah outpost; and a peaceful, pragmatic state, not an ideological one reeling under the contradictions of its identity.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 2nd,  2015.

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Reader Comments (24)

  • Rahul
    Feb 2, 2015 - 3:31AM

    No one could have said it better.


  • Sam@ABE
    Feb 2, 2015 - 3:43AM

    Very courageous article. The problem is that the people with the other mindset have guns and resort to violence whereas for people with your mindset, all you have is words.


  • Toba Alu
    Feb 2, 2015 - 4:34AM

    The truth in your article by and large explains the half-truth in the second paragraph. Or do you believe they all left their mental baggage at the border when crossing into Europe?


  • Zaheer
    Feb 2, 2015 - 4:40AM

    I used to have fiery hatred for Hindus until I left Pakistan and lived among Hindus. I could not make any connection with Arabs yet when I met with Indians I could communicate with them. We shared a similar language and culture. What I thought was uniquely Pakistan or Muslim was true at all.


  • haroon
    Feb 2, 2015 - 4:43AM

    Media and the journalists only seem to make a fuss when innocent people die from a terrorist attack. Hundreds are been killed from US drones and military operations. We never hear a single beep. Instead we see these attacks as something positive and calls are made to conduct more attacks. The National Action Plan seems to be in actual fact National American Plan. All policies are been put into place which is demanded by the US. All Pakistanis and our Pak army is against;
    – the invovlement of US in our affairs
    – allowing private army(CIA and Blackwater) of the US to conduct all activites
    – allowing Drone attacks for the last TEN YEARS

    Pakistan did not face terrorism threat before 2005. Its only after US faced major setbacks in Afghanista, they realised the Pakistani side of tribal belt needs to be taken care of otherwise it will continue to hurt them in Afghanistan. They ordered Pak Army generals to conduct operations in Tribal areas. On one side they are killing people in the tribal region for the last ten years, on the other side they label anyone who tries to fight back. If they do not fight back then CIA and Blackwater orchestrate bomb blasts and then blame the tribal groups who they want eliminated.


  • Muhammad
    Feb 2, 2015 - 8:03AM

    Couldn’t agree more with you. You said what a lot of Pakistanis really want to say!


  • Bhola
    Feb 2, 2015 - 8:11AM

    It is plain simple, ruling elite is busy expanding their luxury DHAs …and deprived masses are kept busy in day dreaming …


  • Feb 2, 2015 - 8:50AM

    What a bold and courageous excerpt. Hats off to you!


  • Anjaan
    Feb 2, 2015 - 10:19AM

    The author must be praised for his honesty and courage that he is not afraid of spilling the beans about Friday sermons and prayers in Pakistan, and the text books preaching hatred and contempt for other faiths … !! … propagating hatred in the name of God and religion is a sin … God has his unique way of dispensing justice, hope the people of Pakistan understand that … !!


  • South Asian
    Feb 2, 2015 - 11:14AM

    Many of my Indian (Hindu) friends had similar feelings until the left India.


  • Toticalling
    Feb 2, 2015 - 1:28PM

    @ Zuheer I have may Indian friends and feel ashamed to admit that i get along better with them than many Pakistanis.


  • Uzair
    Feb 2, 2015 - 1:45PM

    I am an expat in Europe and this paragraph seems like an attempt at sounding balanced: “European societies must not be bailed out for their growing Islamophobia and the uneven integration of the ‘Muslim’ into secular societies. Nor can the double standards on free speech be condoned. Western Europe needs to introspect where it has gone wrong in breeding such alienation and discontent. But that is their problem.”

    False. The western societies are NOT beholden to stone age concepts of intellectual discourse and treatment of women that they should entertain Muslim shariah demands. Why is that ONLY Muslims have trouble integrating? Why do ALL other religious or national groups integrate even if they keep some of their own identity? It is always because for Muslims their religion has massive precedence over anything else, so a large number of Muslim immigrants, even second and third generation ones, REFUSE to integrate no matter how much the host country’s people and government try to help them.


  • jagmohan
    Feb 2, 2015 - 2:40PM

    Before I congratulate Raza saheb,I am oblized to congratulate Mr.Zaheer for his personal
    authentic experience with Hindus/Indians in America, as he shared with them common
    bond of language and culture,as I have experienced in America and many other countries.
    In spite of Kashmir matter Indians by and large do not feel alienated or averse to awam
    of Pakistan, even in face of frequent incursions on border,there is hope things will some
    day cool down and good relations will prevail.
    Raza saheb has labored a lot to see things objectively,he has performed his role as a
    global citizen and ultimately that is to serve interests of Pakistan among others.His articulate
    views must be pondered and acted upon to lift up Pakistan to its high potential.What
    remains is publication of his views in Urdu and vernacular press so that true picture may
    perculate to majority of populace and turn the tide against extremism.Hope lives on.


  • TAKhan
    Feb 2, 2015 - 6:33PM

    At last, we can now observe that critical self introspection regarding our own deeds, and on our textbooks, sermons and bigotry is being projected unambigously in a number of write-ups. There is no point in constantly repeating the world that all these wrong doings have nothing to do with Islam. They certaily have to do a lot with ‘Islam’, the same way that Inquisition had a lot to do with the Roman Catholic Church in the 12th century. To prove that ‘Islam is a religion of peace’, the Pakistani clergy is not the most suitable example.


  • vijay
    Feb 2, 2015 - 6:54PM

    @South Asian: not true. I stay in India and have Muslim friends. Truth is religion is not a issue in most metros.


  • nana
    Feb 2, 2015 - 10:06PM

    Only native dharmik practices and spirituality will save not only Sindh but also whole AfPak region. AfPak elites tried more red than red Russians in case of Afghanistan and Poonjabi & Urduwale salariats wanted to be more Anglo than Angloes but these elites, in particular Poonjabi & Urduwale salariats made sure that common AllahRakhi’s kids go to madarassas and can be used as cannon fodder against India or work on their feudal farms.

    Sufism is a response of natives who were forced to convert to barbaric Bedouin ways under duress. Transport yourself to the time when within 40 years Bedouins converted the natives (Zorastrian and Dharmik) and put yourself in their shoes. Would you not follow unorganized Sufism to save your native spirituality and practices and create organized muscular Shiasm?


  • Gp65
    Feb 2, 2015 - 10:25PM

    @South Asian: “@Zaheer:
    Many of my Indian (Hindu) friends had similar feelings until the left India.”

    It is possible that your Indian Hindu friends had a negative feeling towards Pakistanis until they left India but that is possibly true about your Indian Muslim friends too. It is very unlikely that your Indian Hindu friends had such intense negative feelings towards Muslims.

    First of all, most Indian Hindus have at least one muslim friend. Either it is a neighbour they played with or classmate in school or college or colleague at work, hence they are not unaware or unfamiliar with Muslims. Secondly, Hindu temples do not have a priest who installs hate against other religions ,neither do Indian textbooks.

    So false equivalence.


  • American
    Feb 3, 2015 - 12:10AM

    Author: Western Europe needs to introspect where it has gone wrong in breeding such alienation and discontent. But that is their problem.
    You cannot integrate some one who refuses to integrate. Western Societies have a wonderful blend of immigrant minorities…not just Muslims. There are Hindus, Buddhists, Athiests, Sikhs, Jews, and so many different sects of Christians.
    Why is it that only Muslims have this problem of integration into secular societies ?
    The world is increasingly viewing this as a “Muslim Problem”.
    The author has conveniently avoided the question by blaming the host societies. May be the problem is with the guest that insists on disloyalty to the host country and refuses to assimilate ?


  • numbersnumbers
    Feb 3, 2015 - 1:06AM

    WOW, so you claim that “…CIA and Blackwater orchestrate Bomb blasts (in Pakistan!) and then blame the tribal groups…”!!!!
    And of course you have credible references to back up your Delusions of Denial, don’t you?????
    BTW when I Google “list of terrorist attacks in Pakistan”, I note many terrorist incidents (starting in 2000!) that you somehow missed when you claimed that one existed before 2005!


  • Ranjha
    Feb 3, 2015 - 3:46AM

    The mass-deradi­calisa­tion will only begin the day we decide that Pakist­an is a nation-state, not an Ummah outpos­t

    And also, it is a country owned by people not by egghead journalists like you!


  • harkol
    Feb 3, 2015 - 9:14AM

    A person who can’t respect other’s faith, looses the right to demand respect from other’s for his faith.

    A country which discriminates people of it’s minority religions, looses right to speak up for the victimization of it’s own majority religion.

    And a country founded on religion, run in the name of religion, will find it impossible to fight religious fundamentalism, because religion is the Raison d’être of such nations.

    The only way countries make progress – leave religion in personal domain of citizen, not in the scope of governance/law.


  • Anonymous
    Feb 3, 2015 - 9:37AM

    Very good


  • Sid
    Feb 4, 2015 - 5:20AM

    Brave words. Alas they will be lost like a drop in the ocean. Nobody in Pakistan, neither awan, nor state has any interest, will or means to do anything about de-radicalization. If not arrived already the point of no return is pretty close. And this I say not with any ill feeling towards Pakistan, but as frustrated reminder which stems from the current state of Pakistan.


  • Yo2Da2
    Feb 4, 2015 - 11:00PM

    I though there were more comments on this opinion than today. The moderators should try to do a better job of screening the first time around. Later culling removes some of the continuity in readers’ commentsRecommend

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