By D. Asghar
Oh no I am not going to the usual lament and shame exercise on the recent incident, which brought more black marks on our collective fabric. Yes the incident, where allegedly a personal row, quickly transformed into charges of blasphemy and an angry mob went into a rampage burning the houses of their fellow citizens in Badami Bagh area of the fort city of Lahore. The crime of the victims that they were Christians and it is extremely easy in the “land of pure” to get a Non- Muslim in a rather quick trouble by leveling this charge against them. From there on, what transpired is common knowledge. The promises, the compensation, the inquiries and very respectfully, the suo moto, all in vain. Because, this ugly episode will recur again and again, and we will continue the cycle of this so called denial, damage control and obfuscation, over and over again.
What I am going to focus a bit, is why are people so enraged. If you recall, the impetus behind demanding a separate land was the presumed persecution that Muslims, were going to face at the hands of the Hindu majority of the undivided India. Now what do you say to the people on the other side, when we cannot even tolerate any Non-Muslims on our own soil. Forget about the Non-Muslims, the God forsaken Muslims can’t even get along with one another. The circus of rage plays itself out so often that one just wonders, where did it actually begin. It perhaps began at the pulpits, where the enraged clergy decided to awaken the rather “not so faithful” with their fiery sermons.
I was pleasantly surprised when I moved to this part of the world and did not see a clergy on fire, screaming off the top of his lungs at the microphone on a Friday afternoon. Instead, I found a well-dressed man (mostly in a Western suit), on a pulpit in an Islamic Center, going over the essentials of our faith or highlighting a trait of the Holy Messenger (PBUH). There were no loud speakers mounted around and outside the building and no neighbors complaining about the unbearable yelling and screaming of a strange person. The people who stood in front of us were professionals of their field and did the Friday sermons, out of sheer reverence and or love of their faith. These were not paid and salaried Imams, but people of faith driven by their faith on a purely voluntary basis.
The people here listen to the sermons and try to apply the teachings in their real lives to the best of their abilities. The idea of a plural homogenous society, where all citizens regardless of their faith make a meaningful contribution, in itself is very uplifting. None of us infringe upon each other’s religious freedoms and nor do we compete for each other’s congregations. No bells ring endlessly from churches or temples nor are their loud speakers mounted at every Islamic Center to transmit the calls for prayers. Yet the people actively participate in their respective faiths. To say that it has taken a few years’ worth of efforts to get here would be more than just appropriate. Overall, people are comfortable and know that their progress and prosperity depends on their collective societal efforts. Their faith and their beliefs are a tool for their personal spiritual strength.
I am not making an argument, that back home our malaise rests solely on the basis of our enraged pulpits. But I can reasonably argue that it all begins there. The people get a sense of direction from that particular area. Very often those pulpits make sweeping comments about other faiths or geo political issues. The enraged masses that are charged by such fiery sermons start to reflect in a negative sense and may I add that from there on become the victims of never ending spiral of failure.
Blaming others for our own short comings has been the favorite past time of the folks back home. Again, no one is arguing that Pakistan is free of foreign influence, but to argue that governmental organizations don’t function, or utilities and proper sanitation are not available because so called Backwater and other clandestine organizations are conspiring is downright ludicrous.
It is time that we as a nation, realize that those days of rage are over and if we continue on the path of rage and destruction, we are digging our own graves, so to speak. Pakistan is a collective and cohesive nation formed by many people of many faiths, who are equal citizens protected by equal rights and freedoms. The pulpit s has to go through self-correction and lead this nation towards a positive path. No doubts that we have gone astray and no doubt that we still have time to fix ourselves.