We have saved Islam yet again.
With the burning alive of seven Christians in their houses in Gojra and injuring another 70 in the process, our faith emerges ever victorious, ever stronger. Almost a hundred houses too were damaged in the Christian colony there, just in case the unfortunate minorities in our great country were unable to get the message.
When will we say enough is enough?
Are we familiar now with the sense of doom that comes with the shipwreck? Are we tired of the chaos, sick of the shadows of death and destruction? Have we danced enough with our follies? Have we realized that the ghosts of our dreams have finally come calling on us? Are we ready to admit the problem and not shirk the blame any more? Are we finally ready to rise out of the debris as a nation?
Though it is still a difficult question to answer, for form’s sake let us assume that yes, we indeed are ready to rise from the debris. One does recognize, of course, that—by hoping we collectively realize that as a nation—we have finally sunk to such unprecedented depths that a further drop is not possible, this scribe is, perchance, being optimistic. Optimistic because many a time in the past, just when such a feeling crept in, we as a people surprised everyone by managing to burrow ourselves deeper still, and then thumb our collective nose at the world.
But let’s for a moment agree that with the raging insurgency, a fat daily toll of killings, rampant inflation, sectarian hatred, absent electricity, and a clear and present crop of bungling leadership whose ubiquitous imprints of haywire governance are visible in all departments, we indeed are scraping the rock bottom. Let us make believe that we all agree that Pakistan is now down on its knees because of continued poor governance, non-attendant justice, unbalanced growth, state-sponsored religious fanaticism, oppression of workers, lack of merit and, from education to employment, absence of equal opportunities to all Pakistanis.
If this indeed is the case, then it is fair to assume that...
...From religious and political stability to public order and fiscal growth, Pakistan’s intellectual, social, economic and military elites are now fully aware of the scope of the crises that confront the state; that they no longer feel that this time too, like in the past, they will somehow find a way to crawl through the net.
...That they, especially the military elites, now realize that religion must never be exploited in a society of gross imbalances; that by pandering to religious zealots in state policies, they instead turn religion from a private solace to a public menace. And that no atrocity is ever carried out with such complete conviction as it is when done from a religious belief.
...That the military elites now realize that. as a matter of principle, militaries do not rule the countries that they serve; that the military and the intelligence services are organs of the state and not the state themselves. That up until now, they have been protecting their privilege at the cost of the rest of Pakistan’s society. That they, by having a veto power on all critical national issues, have turned the civilian governments in Pakistan into transient jokes. And that they now accept that they are swollen beyond all reason and in need of trimming some fat to become a hard-hitting professional arm, and volunteer to curb their influence in civilian governance while focusing instead on legitimate threats from within and without.
And for the rest of us, the admission that from the podium and the pulpit, we did allow our so-called Ulema to propagate hate. That we turned a blind eye to them when they were inciting their followers to kill innocent people in mosques and their places of worship, while audaciously claiming Islam as a religion of peace and a complete way of life. That our consciences have been put to a deep slumber with sweet ballads of our marvelous past while the world goes by at a breathtaking speed. That we have been so thoroughly brainwashed by them that we do actually keep hugging past splendors to our chest and remain prostate in prayers waiting for a Saladin to appear and restore us to our ‘rightful destiny’. That the so called Indo-Zionist or American conspiracies against Pakistan are no different than our foreign policy ambitions whether on regional or global scale. And that in fact each nation only works for its own interest and not for its neighbor’s.
That we have now become a completely intolerant society. That though we are particularly prejudiced against those whose faith is not Muslim, we will, given a chance, not shirk away from slitting even each others’ throats on issues as minor as procedural differences. That while today it is the turn of the Christians to see their lives laid waste and their properties rampaged, and not very long ago it was the Sikhs of FATA whose families were held hostage pending a payment of a ‘religious tax’ to the Taliban, it may not be long before we turn on each other in a free-for-all frenzy. That we now understand that we cannot restore ourselves to our glorious past by suicide bombings or beheading of innocent human beings, or by issuing Fatwas to that effect, or by continuing to pray for divine intervention. That out of our love for our religion, we have exalted killers into Messiahs. And that we now finally understand that we truly are standing at the edge of the abyss.
If this indeed is the case then we certainly are ready to rise from the debris as a nation. Cinch up the belts and HEAVE.
If not, then what nation, what debris, what rising? Let the vision of the blind take over for good.
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This story was published in the Baltimore Chronicle on July 30, 2009.