Fight the rising intolerance

Today, we cannot agree to what constitutes murder. If we fall silent, tomorrow we may fail to recognise it at all.

Syed Nadir El-edroos January 05, 2011

When Princess Diana died in a fatal car accident in 1997, a friend asked our Islamic studies teacher whether Diana, as a non-Muslim, would go to heaven for her humanitarian work. With a reassuring and calm smile, she replied, “No! All non-Muslims go to hell.”

Those who have grown up during the noughties have witnessed their schools turn into fortresses, gun-toting security guards, barbwire topped walls and sandbags — all of which represent institutions’ seriousness in tackling possible threats of violence. Their surroundings emphasise what they see on the news or read on the internet.

An entire generation has grown up accepting violence as a part of life. They are exposed to vivid displays of violence through the media. When young, impressionable students open up to their teachers and ask them to help them make sense of the violence that saw the murder of Salmaan Taseer, what answers will teachers provide?

‘One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter’. Given yesterday’s events however, ‘One man’s murderer is another man’s hero’. The Jamaat-e-Ahle Sunnat Pakistan declared the assassin, Mumtaz Hussain Qadri, ‘Ashiq-e-Rasool, Ghazi-e-Mulk’ (Lover of the Prophet, Commander of the Country).

The gulf is obvious. A large number of individuals have offered explanations, justifications and celebrated the actions of Mumtaz Hussain Qadri. That we fail to distinguish between murder and heroism speaks volumes of how fundamentalism, intolerance, glorifying self-sacrifice and death have been embedded in our national psyche.

The event, as narrated by an eyewitness, details how in a calm and collected manner the assassin committed the crime, threw his gun to the ground, raised his arms and surrendered. The iconography of the act, and the manner, in which this story has been repeated and transmitted through print and oral repetition, presents the gunman as the archetypical hero that many of us associate heroism with.

We should not kid ourselves. Salmaan Taseer’s assassination was not the act of an individual. His views and actions were shaped by a society that encourages and glorifies an individual who takes the law into their own hands. If such actions are backed by religious sanction, in this case by mass nationwide protests declaring the victim wajibul qatl, the archetype of the brave ghazi insures social acceptance, nay even hero worship.

So what will students discuss in their classrooms? How will their teachers respond when asked whether such events can ever be justified? Given the large amount of sympathy that Mumtaz Qadri has received, there is a fair chance that he will be celebrated by some.

This is why it is so important that Salmaan Taseer’s death is not met with a withdrawal of progressive voices from the public domain. Progressive forces cannot allow the latest chapter in our nation’s story to be written by those who glorify death and offer little to live for.

Children and young adults are the best exponents of new technology and are able to not only consume opinions, but also participate in reinforcing them. If progressive elements fall silent, we will allow those who preach intolerance, a monopoly in recording our present and shaping our future.

Today, we cannot agree to what constitutes murder. If we fall silent, tomorrow we may fail to recognise it at all.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 6th, 2011.


Zinda Qaum | 12 years ago | Reply As'salamualaykum, In the light of the recent events, I urge you to please share the following with your readers. I hope you will not ignore it as it is of vital importance that Muslims understand their religion. “In Islam, there is no place for unjustifiable killing. Even in case of capital punishment, only the government can apply the law through the judicial procedures. No one has the authority to execute the law other than the officers who are in charge." (The eminent Muslim scholar, Sheikh Muhammad Al-Hanooti, member of the North American Fiqh Council) Sheikh Ahmad Kutty, a senior lecturer and an Islamic scholar at the Islamic Institute of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, states: “Islam holds every soul in high esteem and does not allow any transgression upon it. It does not allow people to take the law in their own hands and administer justice, because doing so will be leading to chaos and lawlessness. Therefore, based on this, Islam does not permit such killings. First of all, in order to sanction killing, it must be through a binding verdict issued by an authoritative law court. Individuals themselves have no authority either to judge cases or pass judgments. Therefore, a Muslim should not sanction such killing because doing so will be leading to the rule of the law of the jungle. A civilized society cannot be run by such laws.” It goes without saying that people are not entitled to take the law in their own hands, for it’s the responsibility of the Muslim State and its concerned bodies to maintain peace, security, etc., and to prevent chaos and disorder from creeping into the Muslim society.” Thanks, Jazak'Allah khair.
Asim | 12 years ago | Reply @ Vish You might be a proud Hindu, but I am a proud muslim. I cherish my religion after reading other religions, and I have converted to Islam. I know that mullahism is not Islam, and that there are more than one hidden forces maligning the name of Islam. Because of my this understanding my love of Islam has raised, my faith and belief are elevated. I truly believe that media and mullahs are working on someone else's will to disrepute the true Islam. I have the true Islam which is the message of love and peace and logic and reason and nature (fitrat).
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