A time for introspection and soul-searching

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After every major incident of violence that is perpetuated in name of Islam, religious leaders, politicians and common man of the streets repeat that those who kill and maim others are not Muslims and Islam is not a violent religion. In past few years, too many Pakistanis, no matter what their faith and sect is, have died because someone killed them in the name of religion. The rhetoric that Islam is a peaceful religion will not cut it anymore. We need to introspect why as a society we tolerate violence in general and condone it when it is perpetuated in name of religion.

We bemoan the horrific crimes against Muslims under Israeli and US occupation in Palestine and Iraq and try to justify violence in our society because of those crimes but that is not true. We, as a society, condone torture and violence against weaker sections of the society in name of religion even before the invasion of Iraq and have legislation to support this violence. Both Blasphemy Laws, which can and have discriminated against minorities, and gender biased Hudood Ordinance use religion to maintain the status quo in which a powerful Muslim male is the sole source of authority and there is no room for personal liberty and individual thought. These laws make it very easy for anyone to score against either the non Muslims or women.

We glorify attackers and mass murderers such as Ahmed Shah Abdali, Nadir Shah and Mehmood Ghaznavi in our text books and popular media. We deify them and their acts of barbarism because they were Muslims and those who were killed by them were not Muslims. None of them fought in the name of Islam as we are led to believe. They were kings with colonial mindset who wanted to expand their kingdoms and annex the fertile heartland of river Indus, Ganga and Jamuna. Attaching any exalted and noble intentions to the expansion of their kingdom is factually and historically incorrect.

Shah Waliullah, who is venerated by most South Asian religious scholars, wrote a letter to Ahmed Shah Abdaali to invite him to attack the Marhattas. Shah Waliullah instigated this violent attack, which killed thousands of soldiers on both sides, because he did not like the declining clout of Muslims scholars in the court and hoped that the war would to restore Ulema’s former power and influence. How can a society that lionizes people like him ever hope to achieve peace?

Tackling individual incidents of violence and terrorism can never bring the desired result. Unless the philosophy and ideology behind violence prompted in name of religion is challenged, there won’t be much point in expressing indignation over it. The Jamia Hafsa fiasco is a case in point. The administration of Lal Masjid and Jamia Hafsa violated many laws and started war against the state which is considered treason by the constitution of Pakistan but most Pakistanis including the politicians and highest level of judiciary voiced their opinion against government operation because it was against a group of people who were using religion to support their violent stance.

When religion becomes a source of income and a point of politics for people then people will use it to further their interests and foster violence in name of religion when it hurts their interest. Unless we decide to look inward and deal with such demons, peace will remain elusive.

Originally written for Express Tribune, this is the unedited version.

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20 Comments

  • Be careful, the way you are writing, some people may come after you because truth is bitter.

    Stay safe.

  • I think its great she speaks up. Pakistani society stays silent and does not condone this violence. What fear?

    I say bravo. She speaks for the greater good. May God keep us all safe. Ameen.

  • Are you saying we should voice our opinion and fight back?!?
    After seeing this video one will realize how daunting the task is!!
    Do check it out..

    http://www.ted.com/talks/sharmeen_obaid_chinoy_inside_a_school_for_suicide_bombers.html

  • Because we accept other kind of violence – State violence, institutional violence and only
    talk about what is chic and considered the “in” thing in journalism “violence linked to religion”.

    Tazeen, how many articles have you written about the innocent men, women and children killed by drone attacks? How many articles have you talked about introspection of us as a nation when our own army is perpetrating violence against our own people? How can we talk about being the bastion of peace when we allow this kind of slaughter to happened within our own borders. Have you done any unbiased research in to how suicide bombing phenomenon only started after we joined the war on terror?

    Its people like you the Cowards of Journalism that we as a society are facing these problems. Because you rather toe the line as opposed to speaking up for what is wrong. This nation does not need another article about religious introspection we can pick up a western newspaper for that, thank you.

    The Nazi phenomenon happened not because the Germans hated the Jews but because they were indifferent to what was happening to them.

    Please read this:

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100601/ap_on_go_ot/us_al_qaida_believed_killed

    As long as we as human beings allow the killing of innocent for political gain or political purposes and do not bat an eye lid for them. As long as we believe that the innocent killed in the above attacks are justified then…

    I am sorry but we deserve this violence and more, and lets not cry about something that others face every day

    Try this for a bit of introspection!

    X

  • Mr X,
    I agree with you about the drone attacks and innocent people being killed, however the point about “deserving the violence” is seriously foolish.

    Even if you believe that we deserve this violence ( and more, you say)…. do you believe your children too deserve this ?
    Their innocent eyes which sparkle at the sight of an ice cream, deserve being shut forever by a bullet in their little hearts ?

    Surely not Mr X. No one deserves being killed by a bullet. No one.

  • Well Ma’m Tazeen, u on one hand say that why we hav 2 bring Islam in evrythng (wth wich i dnt agree ) and thn when it cmes to Suicde bombng ,and mass killng (mainly of non-muslms ) u say “why all this in the NAME of religion “. . .No miss,no . . .its no Islam its simple physcs. . .A reaction 2 an action (although heres nt equal as they have jets and the other side has none of these stff ) and if Bin Qasim and others nt our hero thn wt should i teach my chldrn :Raja Dahir was a famous ruler ,He provided safe heavn to the bandits that lootd ferries enroute to Arabia bt stll he was a “just” rule . . .and bla bla . . .”

  • @as

    YES we deserve the violence because we do not stop the violence.

    When people like Tazeen cheer for our army bombing our people, she is cheering the killing of fathers, mothers, brothers , sisters, and children.

    So why should violence only happen at one end of Pakistan, I think all of Pakistan should suffer the same violence these people are going through every day.

    I am sick of these double standards. Even one innocent life is unacceptable be it a non pro western shalwar kurta wearing former afgan!

    X

  • I am not sure under what circumstances Shah Waliullah had invited Abdali because every historian interprets history differently but that’s cent percent true:

    When religion becomes a source of income and a point of politics for people then people will use it to further their interests and foster violence in name of religion when it hurts their interest.

    Pakistan is a violent society. We need to accept this fact.

  • Abdali had returned to Kandhara (Kingdom of Gandhara.. ancient times..till 700 C.E…whose capital was Purushpura..modern day Peshawar) after sacking the Golden Temple..he was invited back to defeat Peshwas as part of a holy jihad….

    The biggest mistake the Peshwas did was going into the war without any allies..On the other hand, Durrani had made treaties with all of Afghanistan, Modern day pakistan, Iran and some part of Tajik..this war was of huge importance…because the defeat of the Marathas paved the way for the English to enter Indian subcontinent..If not for this defeat, the British in all probability would have never managed to capture the subcontinent..

    the defeat still rankles the people of Maharashtra..with the marathi language littered with terms like… ‘panipat zhaala’ and ‘vishwas gela’, sankrant kosalali, etc

  • I LOVE YOUR BLOG!

    Keep up the great work!!

    Common Cents
    http://www.commoncts.blogspot.com

    ps. Link Exchange??

  • You know i keep hearing this everywhere… we “letting” it happen… we not “doing something” about it etc. Nobody asked me my opinion/permission before throwing a bomb or shooting someone. So what’s with the self attack? My suspicion is that we’re a herd mentality in denial looking for someone to make choices for us. If that’s the case, the sooner we learn to accept that, the easier it is to make room for change.

    An anonymous comment said
    “Pakistani society stays silent and does not condone this violence. What fear?”
    My raised eyebrow goes out to that vague why don’t we do something about this concern tag that comes with it. And im not even trying to be remotely condescending here. Practically speaking, who is this “Pakistani Society” (or Indian / Religious Society depending on your agenda or where you live)? We speak of it like it were an individual… and treat it like one too… with values, judgment, ethics, intelligence, etc. Surely it cannot be an average of the individuals that make up that “society”, because crowd psychology differs greatly from that of the individuals contained in it… its a well known fact.

    I seriously doubt if religion is an individual’s concern… at least in in this generation we’re in. Its always an artificially created group’s concern. So when Tazeen says “Unless the philosophy and ideology behind violence prompted in name of religion is challenged, there won’t be much point in expressing indignation over it.”, I completely agree, because its always the individual who expresses opinions.

    When the group is pointed at, the individuals will instinctively ask “me?”… and not “us?”. I think that invisible wall around a group has to be broken down first before anything can happen. A group is far easier to manipulate/control than a bunch of individuals… Organized religion and politics know it all too well. Its a slow but sure process… perhaps even multi-generational, but i think decentralized mediums of information like internet, books and getting outside perspectives/opinions are the key to getting this blindfold untied.

  • Your criticism of shah walliullah is bizarre
    I could say that you want to want freedom to wear bikinis and free access to alcohol that is why you want islam to be marginalized from society

  • Well put, Tazeen! Excellent citations from history. With a distorted view of history that’s been used to instill a false sense of exaltation in us, we have become a nation of cowards who shy away from admitting anything that’s remotely related to truth.
    The recent saga of extremism truly exposed this cowardice towards admitting others as rightful as us.

  • Anonymous…
    that’s weird..some of the self-righteous right wing Hindu groups in India share your opinions..the only difference is the name of the religion that they think is being persecuted..in their minds the maghrabi janta in India, who wants access to haram things like alcohol, are hatching a plan to marginalize Hinduism…it is very ironical..since both you and the right wing Hindu nuts share a common goal and ideology, may be you want to contact them..they go by different names in India..BJP, RSS, Shiv Sena, Ram Sene,etc…

  • Tazeen, the history of mankind is awash in blood. We as a species are the descendants of mass-murderers and marauders. And no matter which country, religion- any religion is a means of discrimination. We may live in societies which proclaim their separation of religious authority and state and some in lands of religious laws. But we still pander to the divisions that religious creates. I just finished reading Ayaan hirsi Ali’s Infidel- and while I have been a practicing atheist,- the radical non-religiousity of the Dawkins, Ali, Hitchen brand has seemed too strident to me. Not any more. All religious ideology tends to have as its basis the creation of division between people. While seeming to pander to the finer instincts in people, religions work to ultimately divide persons from their common humanity in the name of differences , mostly due to the accident of birth. The intolerant extremism we see in certain places of the world and the relentless shrieks that “they” are after “our” way of life is a common tragedy for all of us human beings. It is not like “you deal with your fundamentalists, we will deal with ours( if we have any)”- rather a fearful reminder of the depths to which fellow humans can stoop and the hate they can create. And I feel that unless we see this and relegate religion to the incredibly personal belief section of the deepest reccesses of our beings, so deep that we cannot discuss it(or the lack of thereof)publicly- and try to develop ways to harmonize with thsoe we have more than ideological differences, we are not very likely to create any kind of peace and stability.
    We are all to blame for what happens in the name of ideology- it is a collective curse we need to find a way to thwart.

  • congratulations for winning first ever Best Humor Blog of Pakistan

  • “Anonymous said…
    I could say that you want to want freedom to wear bikinis and free access to alcohol that is why you want islam to be marginalized from society” – This is a priceless gem of a comment! I wonder why you wrote that comment under “Anonymous”…come out man, so we can all pat you on the back for your critical and in depth analysis of the whole issue! After all, everytime a woman speaks out in Pakistan, it must be for one and only one agenda – To be able to wear a Bikini and drink alcohol!
    Very well summarised, you have simplified the complex issue so well,other illiterate brothers of yours should have no isses ‘understanding’ it.

  • A very sensitive issue that you have highlighted Tazeen, as per Dawn repot today the survey reveals that 63.6 per cent of the respondents were against joining the war on terror, and 46.3pc were of the opinion that the Taliban were not fighting for Islam. This points out towards the magnitude of radicalization in Pakistan. Unless serious attempts are made to sensitize the population violence will continue to foster, I read on a blog that after Lahore attack on Ahmedi’s sweets were distributed at a mosque in Gunjranwala. Now this makes me sick how low can we fall?

  • Oh wow! An attack on one of the most respected authorities of the Ahl al Sunnah in recent history – Looks like someone’s really dying to be a Pakistani Ayaan Hirsi – What happened? Is the US Immigration application not proceeding fast enough?

  • An act of violence cannot justify another act of violence. Sucide bombings have been happening long before drone attacks and army operations.When these people come and blow themselves up in the market and then when the army retaliates its killing innocent muslims. I dont support drone attacks or killing innocents but its a two way thing. Lastly the biggest problem in our society is that religion has taken over everything. people go around calling each other kafirs declaring themselves best muslims etc. we need to find a solution for that.

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