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Newsletter for April 2013
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The return of jahiliyah
By Razi Azmi
At a time when enlightenment is
seeping through the Islamic heartland in the Middle East,
jahiliyah (stubborn arrogance) is taking Pakistan by the throat.
If the founder of the country, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, were alive
today, he would live in fear, like the millions of others who
share his secular ideology.
Murderous thugs control the country in the name of Islam, from Khyber to Karachi and from Lahore to Lasbela. This is no accident; it has been a long time coming. The chain of actual events and the process of constitutional and mental regression that have led to this can be traced back to Pakistan’s beginnings.
Intolerance and bigotry first began to creep rather innocuously into Pakistan’s body politic with the passage of the Objectives Resolution under Liaquat Ali Khan. It gathered pace under Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s politically expedient concessions to the Islamists. Ziaul Haq’s constitutional amendments and propaganda on the pretext of Islamisation turned it into a fearsome juggernaut.
At the mundane level, followers of a religion that means ‘submission’ and ‘peace’ and preaches tolerance first systematically got rid of the Hindus and Sikhs who chose to live in Pakistan after partition. Then they began to bay for the blood of Ahmedis, a minority sect of Islam at the time, and did not rest until they were put at par with infidels or worse.
With the known ‘infidels’ out of the way, religious fundamentalists needed new enemies to keep their fires stoked and their hateful hunger satiated. So they turned on themselves, creating a whole new set of heretics, apostates, blasphemers and infidels.
The Wahabi/Deobandi sect, organised variously as Jamaats, Jamiats, Taliban and Lashkars, went after Shias, Christians and Barelvis. Now it is the Barelvis, organised as Tehriks, Jamiats, etc, who have vowed to physically liquidate all real and alleged blasphemers — Sunnis, Christians, Hindus, Shias and Ahmedis. Only Allah knows where and when this will end.
Secular minded, peaceful and tolerant people, even if they constitute the majority, are no match for these fanatical, armed marauders when the state itself cowers before them. Not that the majority can claim to be totally blameless in the acceleration of this descent into mayhem. As long as Pakistan’s blasphemy laws were primarily directed against non-Muslims, the majority did not care and even welcomed these laws. But soon it turned into a Frankenstein ready to devour its own creators. Over half of the nearly one thousand persons charged under the blasphemy laws are mainstream Sunni Muslims. Some accused have been killed in jail or outside the court. Many rot in jail for years before they are released without a conviction, only to be killed later.
A qari (cleric) was burned alive some years ago after being thrown out of a police station where he had taken refuge to escape a lynch mob. A doctor has recently been arrested for trashing the business card of a medical salesman, part of whose name happened to be Muhammad. Even as I write, a Muslim who had been aquitted by a court about a year ago after being accused of blasphemy, has been shot dead near Rawalpindi.
Leaders of mainstream Islamic parties represented in the federal and provincial parliaments and cabinets openly extol murderers and suicide bombers, government ministers and security officials blame the ‘foreign hand’, and Urdu newspapers and TV anchors rant against the West.
It has to be admitted that the so-called silent majority is in general agreement with them as far as the ‘vile’ West is concerned, somewhat ambivalent on the issue of suicide bombings since it began to hit home, a little embarrassed about the harassment of our poor Christians but in total agreement on the persecution of Ahmedis and the physical liquidation of alleged blasphemers.
One recoils even to think that in the country founded by Jinnah, tens of thousands of people would join processions led by politico-religious parties demanding the death sentence for a Christian mother of four for some words she is alleged to have uttered but which she denies, and that lawyers would applaud the cold-blooded murderer of a provincial governor as a hero.
Contemporary Muslims, one and all, like to boast about the contribution of earlier Muslims to science and civilisation. Not many know that the Muslim scientists who give them a sense of pride in their past were invariably secular minded rationalists who were able to pursue their chosen interests under enlightened caliphs or kings.
A London-based Wahabi journal has denounced them for precisely that: “The story of the famous Muslim scientists of the Middle Ages, such as Al Kindi, Al Farabi, Ibn al Haytham and Ibn Sina shows that, aside from being Muslims, there seems to have been nothing Islamic about them or their achievements. On the contrary, their lives were distinctly un-Islamic. Their achievements in medicine, chemistry, physics, mathematics and philosophy were a natural and logical extension of Greek thought.”
Add to the list the name of Al Razi, called the “most brilliant genius of the Middle Ages” for his contribution to medicine, and that of Ibn Rushd, the great rationalist Muslim philosopher. All the above-mentioned suffered persecution at the hands of fundamentalist rulers and religious bigots.
In India itself, the brightest periods of Muslim rule are associated with secular emperors like Akbar and Shah Jahan. The decline of the Mughal Empire commenced when Aurangzeb began to push orthodoxy, punishing free thinkers and persecuting minorities.
There is a famous statement attributed to Pastor Martin Niemöller that tries to explain how the Nazis were able to purge all who opposed them one by one, while everyone who was not immediately affected remained silent. It goes like this:
“First they came for the communists; and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist. Then they came for the trade unionists; and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews; and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew. Then they came for me; and there was no one left to speak out for me.”
Unless the majority immediately and forcefully speaks out against the religious inquisition and witch-hunting, for the acceptance of religious diversity, and in support of tolerance of dissenting and minority viewpoints, Pakistan is fully on course to push itself into the dark pit of jahiliyah.
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