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A voyage into the intolerant mind

by Amjad Nazeer, 14 March 2011

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Viewpoint, No.42

Who is next? Shall we read this from the pamphlet flown besides the bullet ridden body of Shahbaz Bhatti or somewhat more too? Something deeper and disturbingly pervasive around us? Something partly brutal and bloody and partly preachy and persuasive but it has been there for decades difficult to deny. Fanatic and fundamentalists play it with bullets while the soft-spoken suffocate every breath of freedom and fragrance with their voluminous oratory. The pamphlet is the dossier of death and intimidation, the manifesto of a blinkered mind scripted in red and must not be read as an isolated act of murder or an ignorable statement.

Dehumanize and gun them down. This is what the religious dogmatism does or intends to do to the non-Muslim minorities for they have a mission to purify arz-e-pak from all those worshipping God differently or a different god. The very phrase of “eisai kafir Shahbaz Bhatti maloon” amply manifests the hateful mentality of the murderers, damning and casting a human soul aside in a single breath, just because he was ‘a Christian’. Immune from guilt, the wilful words are deployed to dismiss the ‘humanness’ of a person and justify the heinous crimes, opening up their genocidal intent against the followers of ‘other faiths’. In its worst form, once the ‘inequality’ and ‘sub-humanness’ of a group is made tangibly or tacitly ‘natural’, the horrible assaults become acceptable and quickly pass into oblivion.

Need not to go too far this is what the Hindutva brigades did to organize one of the worst massacres of Muslim minorities in Gujrat (2002). Constructing the fictitious greatness and glory of Hindu raj in pre-Islamic era they provoked thousands to kill thousands of innocent Muslims. Many a Hindus, directly or indirectly involved in this dastardly act, still take it justified. What the Guild of India said about Hindutva, Taliban’s brand of Islam paints exactly the same picture against Christians in Pakistan: “Ancient wrongs, real or imagined, were sought to be collectively avenged by the savage violations of the rights of a living and demonized, “enemy,” (through) appalling emotional partitioning of minds into “we” and “they”.

The words ‘kufr’, ‘kafir’ and ‘maloon’ used twice each do not simply mean ‘infidel’ and ‘cursed’ as they are usually translated in English. In the extremists’ lexicology, the two imply a whole range of meanings and connotations, substantially contributing to dehumanize and demonize ‘the other,’ in this case the ‘Christians’. ‘Cursed, damned, condemned, disgraced, dirty, disgusting, the hated, ignorant and sinful’ are just a few imports, it alludes. Its sisterly incitement and indictment is to kill ‘the damned’ and ‘demonized other.’ And with the carnage of a minority representative, as told by the said statement in bold letters, ‘yeh hey iss maloon ka ibrat nak anjam,’ the self-assumed, self-proclaimed ‘divine mission’ of eliminating ‘the other’ is complete. Everyone whosoever they kill, surely becomes, ‘jahanam wasil,’ claims the leaflet, as if paradise is their preserve alone. Entitlement of takfeer is the textual commencement to legitimise the crime in the eyes of the Muslim masses.

Speaking in Islamic theological terms, one might ask, how cum Christians, ‘people of the book’ be declared kafir as the Arabic word kafir refers only to those who deny the existence of God and the prophethood while the Christians believe in God and venerate all the prophets. Contrary to the much acclaimed Islamic mercifulness and monotheistic origin of Abrahamic faiths the radical Islamists are not willing to acknowledge equality of the other two. Dividing people into Muslims and Kafirs itself is a barrier in constituting unified humanity and upholding humanness of all.

Seeking a divine consent and putting God divisively to their side, the statement opens up with a strait threat rather a declaration of war against the Government of Pakistan for intending to amend the blasphemy law. The matter of fact is the government has reiterated time and again, that it has no plans to do so. Clearly the law is being purposely manoeuvred to terrorise both Muslims and non-Muslims and instil fear in their hearts and minds.

By self-orchestrated warring battalions of “we, supposedly the army of God”, and “you, the alleged enemies of Allah”, having no option but an all out war, essentially ending in the annihilation of either side, the pamphlet strives to justify the politically motivated acts as ordained by the almighty God. Reading it through, the ridiculous ambiguity of “we” and “you” becomes clearer. If “we,” is ummat-e-Muslima in their minds, then it includes “you” too, for the majority of this country is Muslim including the representatives of the state too. And if that “we” employs, ummat-e-Muslima, then certainly ummat-e-Muslima has never appointed ‘them’ to judge the matter between God and his persons.

And if this “you” is the Christian segment of our society, they do not represent the people and politics of Pakistan in any sense. Pitiably enough, Shahbaz Bhatti was the only non-Muslim member parliament of the sitting government. Decoding the statement further, if their factionalism indicates the Muslim and Christian worlds, it is utterly a hilarious division for neither ‘all Muslims’ nor ‘all Christians’ are part of any such battle or belligerence, save the warring minority of powerful states. No two societies can ever exist apart in the world for ideas and commodities always keep trading in between. Same is true for Muslims and Christians in Pakistan at multiple levels because no hard and fast social and cultural boundaries exist in between. Except faith, Christians share every aspect of Pakistani society and culture. In-fact, the apathetic and anti-social mindset is the product of highly myopic mentoring of certain madarsas.

The statement then takes a shift from addressing the Government or the moderate Pakistanis to the Christians at large and addresses them as ‘aye saleebi lashkario’...and goes on further. Trumpeting the drums of war against ‘the Christians of Pakistan’ or most probably against ‘all Christians of the globe’ the statement quite absurdly equates the present situation to ‘the crusades’.

The poignant phrase saleebi lashkar, refers to the Wars of Cross and Sword fought in the medieval centuries under very different circumstances, place and context. At least, one bit widely agreed by the Muslim and Western Christian historians, is essential to mention here flying in the face of the given reference. While entering in the Dome of Rock at Jerusalem, the triumphant Salah-u-din Ayyubi stumbles upon a fallen cross. He picks it up carefully and places it back on its place. Further on he declares a complete freedom of faith and functioning of Judaism and Christianity in Jerusalem during his rule.

A sizeable portion of the unlettered Christian working class, who the attackers unnecessarily cross swords with, can hardly figure out what does ‘saleebi lashkar’ imply, what the crusades were, when, why and where did they happen? One fails to understand, how cum the utterly vulnerable and impoverished Christians of Pakistan, hardly ploughing through their day to day living, could be in a position to constitute a ‘crusading army’ and why would they? Their humbleness, law abiding citizenship and patriotism are widely known in the length and breadth of Pakistan. Terming them as an ‘army of the cross’ is stereotyping, scapegoating and a blind act of misjudgement. Their religious identity is being muddled with politics and the local is violently yoked to the foreign without a reason. It must be considered that the Christians delivering commendable services in the health and education sector would rarely ask the faith of a child helping him/her utter the very first letters or interrogate about faith before healing a sick or the wounded.

If it is directed towards the Euro-American Christians around the world, who does not know that Shahabaz Bhatti and the gentle Christians of Pakistan never represent any Euro-American Christian population or their representative states. Secondly, it is not Christian alone Europe and America are now home to millions of Muslims too. The proxy rivalry is misplaced and misrepresented in their syllabi of jihad.

Airing the words ‘ibrat-nak-anjam’ strives absolving them from the guilt of an egregious murder and legitimizing the act to the larger Muslim community. The statement assumes that ‘they alone’ are the ‘divinised souls’ and ‘all the rest are sinful’ and liable to be punished for purifying Pakistan. It reminds me of Christopher Morley who said, “Instead of puritans landing on planet rock how much pleasant the world would have been had the planet rock landed on the puritans.”

Concealed in the beginning, the myth of global Islamic rule is then unfolded in the words of ‘jab tak keh allah ka din ghalib aa jaye’. Mythical existence of the great Muslims’ past and fictional accounts of fatah-o-nusrat and Islamic glory is struck to muse hopes for themselves, their aides and adherents. ‘Shahdat ki manzil’ appropriates jihadist ideology and prompts up the fairytales of afterlife, alas through killing common Muslims and non-Muslims. Through a select interpretation of history, past is being popularly reinvented and sacred figures reconstructed to motivate young minds for similar acts of brutality. The religious ideology, inaccurately intertwined with history and power, is being manipulated to create an intolerant mindset. It is, off course, never going to help Pakistan save making our decline faster.

One fails to understand how such people justify killing those struggling for equality, peace and love for humanity.

Amajd Nazeer is peace and human rights activist