By Raza Habib Raja
Liberalism as a philosophy is more inward looking and therefore does not try to blame others for the follies of one’s own nation. Thus it takes a stark divergence from the conservative and ultranationalist philosophies who assume that identity cultivated on the basis of religion, ethnicity, or geographical location is always under threat from outside forces. Therefore liberalism’s natural thrust is towards self introspection and on fostering cooperation with the different ethnicities and nations. This orientation always bring it into conflict with the ultranationalists who often accuse liberals of being “unpatriotic”, soft and even traitor!
Pak Tea House is one of the liberal website in Pakistan and let me assure you such websites are rare. We are committed to cultivating a spirit of self introspection and are doing our bit to cultivate an atmosphere of tolerance and plurality. Another major objective of Pak Tea House is to promote goodwill towards the foreign countries and particularly those against whom the ultranationalists right-wingers have been whipping hatred and what we believe misunderstanding. India is our neighbour and is also an important stakeholder in this region. But more importantly India and Pakistan share a troublesome history (of course Pakistan is also partly guilty) starting from a violent partition and subsequent wars and proxy wars.
We at Pak Tea House firmly believe that the two neighbours should bury the hatchet and move forward. There are so many issues which are our common issues and we admit that our side has also been guilty of rumor mongering and a state sponsored cultivation of institutionalized hatred of India which was primarily done to ensure integrity of the state and to carve out justification of a large army. For these reasons we are constantly striving to cultivate a favourable image of India.
However, I regret to say that the behaviour of few (not all) of the Indian commentators is proving to be completely detrimental to our aim. These commentators are just spewing hatred and coming up with various ways to humiliate Pakistanis, which at least on this site as well as other liberal sites, are largely moderate. The liberal theme of self introspection actually becomes a counterproductive weapon as some of the Indian commentators use the self critical articles by liberal Pakistani authors as an opportunity to mock and ridicule.
Constant derogatory references to religion are being made. Personally I am not a religious guy but I understand that mocking someone’s religion is not a prudent thing to do. Religion is a part of everyone’s identity. Even Einstein, an atheist, started to proclaim himself as a Jew, when his coreligionists were hounded and prosecuted by the Nazi regime. Mocking Islam will only reinforce conservatism and religious fervour particularly when it is being mocked by those who do not share it.
Apart from this, constant and needless references to “failures” of Pakistan are made and “successes” of India are being touted. Articles about peace are mocked by touting about strength of India’s GDP. I vividly remember some comments boasting of 1.3 trillion dollar economy and being dismissive of any “peace” as India does not need Pakistan for economic purposes.
This kind of behaviour mirrors the Pakistani rightwing nonsense and in a twisted way strengthens it. After seeing the comments the Pakistani right wingers are often in a position to “justify” their nonsensical hate mongering against India.
Moreover just like Pakistani rightwing brigade which generally spins everything under the sun to levy the blame on RAW and CIA, these Indian right wingers also blame ISI for everything from Mao rebels to Mumbai attacks. Literally each one of them tries to project himself as a foreign policy expert and like a true arm chair theorist comes up with mind boggling spins.
This behaviour, while being obviously bigoted, also seriously undermines the efforts of Pakistani liberals and successfully paints them as “unpatriotic” in the eyes of normal Pakistanis. Obviously when articles about peace are being mocked in a humiliating tone, the peace makers end up appearing as weak and unpatriotic. The mocking comments become a weapon in the hands of Pakistani right wingers who end up having a citable evidence of Indian hatred.
Of course one can argue with the “freedom of speech” angle and say that since it is an open forum therefore anything should go. However, every privilege in this world comes with a responsibility. Freedom of speech is a privilege and comes up with a responsibility that it will be used with care and not for mocking as well as insulting others.
Yes freedom of speech has to prevail and it will prevail. But I can only request that it should be used in a mature manner. Those Indians who are desperate to settle scores of Mumbai attack, frankly Pak Tea House and for that matter any liberal website is not the place or the forum to do so!! If you think that Pakistanis are bigoted and deserve rebuke frankly there are so many Pakistani rightwing sites and your responses will be well placed there.