Kill a human being who does not share your faith and voila, as per yourÂ religious gurus, you have earned the title ofÂ â€˜ghaziâ€™
MyÂ 12-year-old son is a Muslim. He knows the Namaz, reads the QuranÂ with a teacher, and recites the Kalima before going to sleep. HeÂ understands the basic concepts and has no problem lowering the of TV when one is saying prayers, or when asked to put the Quran inÂ a clean, protected space. Asked why he does all these things, hisÂ answer would be simple: â€œMy mom taught me to.â€ My 12-year-old is aÂ Muslim simply because I am a Muslim. His faith is not something heÂ was born with, and all he knows is imbibed through parentalÂ influence. The only thing noteworthy is his perception about theÂ world: how unfair some things are, how people unleash cruelty on oneÂ another. His unfaltering empathy, his profound concern for peopleÂ are things probably no one taught him. When I tell him about painfulÂ events, there is no recoiling in unease; there is merely a rapidÂ fluttering of eyelashes, a telltale sign of an attempt to hide hisÂ tears, this time about the 11-year-old Christian girl who is theÂ latest victim of Muslim ruthlessness.
Islam is a commodityÂ today. It is a commodity for those who practice it in mosques,Â chanting what they learned as children without full comprehension ofÂ what the Quran connotes. It is a commodity for those in madrassasÂ where hoards of pupils, hunched over their religious books, learn asÂ much from the text as their teachers see fit. It is a commodity forÂ those who, to monopolise a few weak souls, roar into theirÂ microphones how one faith is better than the others â€” be it Sunni orÂ Shia. It is a commodity for those who pen reams of hate literatureÂ without any consideration for the historical context of the eventsÂ open to them for distortion, thus providing more opportunities forÂ those who look for an excuse to unleash cruelty on fellowÂ beings.
ItÂ is a commodity for those who have prime time slots on TV channels,Â with a unilateral agenda to top the ratings game, with no thoughtÂ that their biased pronouncements become sacred to those in need ofÂ props to strengthen their faith through tele-scholars. Religion is aÂ commodity for many enfeebled minds who have mastered a simpleÂ principle: you can never go wrong if you have a beard, your shalwarÂ is above your ankles, you have a rosary wrapped around your wrist,Â you can quote Quranic verses as and when required and you have anÂ epithet â€” mullah, maulvi, alim, maulana â€” attached to your name. NowÂ you are invincible. Who in his right mind would raise a finger atÂ you when your hands are humbly joined to pray to Allah? Whatever youÂ do is in the name of religion; which mere mortal has the right toÂ see you for what you truly are?
In no way this implies thatÂ all religious people are identical. There are many who practice whatÂ they preach and to them Islam is to be believed in and not imposed.Â Unfortunately, they are the minority. Their messages of toleranceÂ and brotherhood are constantly overwhelmed by the incoherentÂ cacophony of the fanaticÂ hate-mongers, the bigoted, theÂ unforgiving. Mosques, the only entity to invade our houses throughÂ microphones and loudspeakers, armed with sermons and rants about sinÂ and sinners, have become more than assembly places for prayer andÂ the transmission of Azaan.
Now, for some, these are the licensed areas to spew venom, incite violence and invoke vengeance for all those not walking the straightÂ line of Islam â€” their interpretation of Islam. Not the IslamÂ ofÂ Mohammad (s), but the Islam that teaches one faith to persecute another, one faith to proclaim superiority over others,Â one faith to decide who is a better Muslah, one faith to choose whoÂ lives or dies, one faith to even decide who gets to be a Muslim. TheÂ Islam of MohammadÂ (s)â€” the only person I believe in other than what I read in the Quran â€” is not the distorted version full ofÂ persecution, fanaticism and outright barbarism that some vigilantesÂ of Islam unleash on their own, leave alone on those who are ofÂ different religions.
Convert a Hindu into a Muslim; you buy yourself a seat in heaven with 72 virgins. Kidnap a crying Hindu girl and marry her off forcibly to a grinning Muslim hick; you have marked yourself as a true follower of Mohammad (s). AllÂ your sins are cleansed. Erase the word Allah from the grave of the only Nobel Laureate of Pakistan and you deserve a standing ovation.Â Stop the Ahmedis from going to their places of worship and you haveÂ fulfilled your religious obligation for the day. Demolish parts ofÂ those buildings, thus making them indistinguishable as mosques, andÂ you houour Islam. Kill a human being who does not share your faithÂ and voila, as per your religious gurus, you have earned the title ofÂ â€˜ghaziâ€™.
The number of Shias forced off buses en route to their families, identified and killed,Â is something I cannot sum up in hundreds of words. Innocent Muslims killed by fellow Muslims who decided, on only God knows whose authority, that only their faith mattered. These inhuman acts cannot be encapsulated in a few words. The enormity of what happened in my country over the last few months is beyond my capacity to make senseÂ of, hence my inability to capture it in my text coherently. Here, asÂ a Sunni, I lower my head, offer a prayer, and apologise â€” with allÂ of me.
Hindus, victimised simply because theyÂ are born as Hindus –just as my son was born a Muslim â€” are the onesÂ to whom we owe another apology. For the love of God, this is as much their country as it is ours. Any country that celebrates a NationalÂ Minorities Day validates the incongruity of its fundamentalÂ principles. Hindu, Christian, Parsi, Sikh, Jew, anyone of any faith,Â colour, creed, who has lived here for centuries, before we claimedÂ it as only ours, is as much a Pakistani as those who pray to Makkah.Â Jinnah said it, our religion preaches it; when did we become theÂ arbiters of faith of which only Allah is theÂ arbiter?
For all who saluted the assassin of the former governor, Salmaan Taseer, the less said the better. Why waste words on those ignorant preachers of religion who killed the one man who had the moral courage to stand up for aÂ condemned-to-death-on-a-blasphemy-charge poor Christian woman, AasiaÂ Bibi? She does not matter. Why would the individual who spoke forÂ her matter? Governmentâ€™s inability to expedite the court-orderedÂ punishment handed down to the assassin shows the level of fear ourÂ rulers have when it comes to blasphemy laws that need a majorÂ revision, if not a complete repeal.
The mentally disturbed man in Bahawalpur district, beaten to death and burnt by a mob that on the instigation of their local mosque speakers saw blood, is the person we owe an apology to. He was a â€˜blasphemerâ€™;Â the verdict was given, but by whom? True Muslims? Faith apart, how do you kill a man without a trial and get away with it? Of course,Â you can, if you are a self-appointed vigilante of Islam in theÂ Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Rest assured, you would never beÂ penalised.
The biggest slap on our tattered moral fibre comes in the shape of the arrest and jailing of theÂ 11-year-old Rimsha Masih. A pre-teen non-Muslim girl playing near a garbage pile is a blasphemer? A girl who has no notion of theÂ sanctity of the holy text of another faith is a blasphemer? A girl who picked up pages of a discarded Arabic language lesson book (qaida), taught to pre-Quran-reading Muslim children is a blasphemer? Forget about her Down Syndrome for a bit. Which religionÂ allows this treatment of a child based on some deeply flawedÂ interpretation of religion? Islam? To me, the answer is simple. AndÂ there is just one example to follow: Prophet Mohammad (s). RaiseÂ your hand if you have read and believe the story of the man who threw garbage on the Prophetâ€™s (s) door every day. How did he treat him? I rest my argument. Let us all think: who is the so-called blasphemer here? The 11-year-oldÂ Christian girl who was playing with discarded pages or those who threw the pages there? What happened to the Quranic injunction ofÂ aamal (actions) connected to neeyat (intent)? There is no answer. We are all just impostors, hypocrites, cowards, who hide behind theÂ name of Allah, when there is nothing left to our moral, social andÂ religiousÂ discourses.