Patriotism and Religiosity in Pakistan

Posted on December 2, 2009 by


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By Umayr Hassan

I can appreciate, why you don’t want this to be yet another discussion about Zaid Hamid. It is indeed difficult to reasonably discuss a commentator disinclined to cite his sources. (I will underline, though, the constant parading of the “Syed” part of his name: his supposed ancestry does not already make him a better person or citizen). So, let’s focus on the problem of national and religious zeal that seems to concern both you and Zaid Hamid. I’ve appended your original note at the end of this.

1. Your first paragraph vaguely presents diversity as a reason for strife. Which schools of thoughts do you refer to? Assuming them to be limited to religion, ethnicity and politics: one can reasonably argue that diversity in all three pre-existed current conditions. Islam has never been a homogeneous religion with pre-existing axioms for life (even the Quran was revealed piecemeal, according to situational relevance [1]). The political differences within the early Muslim community had started with the election of Abu Bakr to caliphate (ensuring the dominance of Meccan followers over the Medinites), intensified by the murder of Uthman bin Affan, precipitating the formation of a Shia faction. The diversity of religious and political ideology within the early Islam only intensified as the empires of Islam expanded and new ethnicities came into contact with Arab-Islamic culture. Why shouldn’t we connect murder and mayhem with diversity, all the more strongly given the crises of early Islam? The rationale for political differences and the manner of political action are *different* events: e.g. while the elevation without election of Abu Bakr to caliphate may be questionable, that should not necessarily entail a battle to resolve differences. Discussion may be a good alternative. Aisha and Ali eventually ‘resolved’ their differences through dialogue.

Within Pakistan, and in contrast with early Islam, there is much greater diversity within religion (sects and sub-sects based on different sources and interpretations of Islamic law) and perhaps greater ethnic diversity (think of the number of languages and dialects spoken in Pakistan, then clans and sub-clans). In relation to this diversity, some sects may present themselves as authentic, the real deal, the true Islam e.g. the Salafis [3]; some may even force this arbitrary conclusion upon all others e.g. the Khawarijis [4]. Yet diversity within religion may partly be due to the application of scriptures to concrete political problems, which may be different across space and time. Perhaps early Shiaism was a way of asking: Who should succeed the last prophet of (an Abrahamic) faith in (a patriarchal) society, and what exactly is the religious and political significance of ‘his’ role (the problem of Khilafah/Imamah regarding the roles of the king and priest). Finally, this “scriptural reading” [5] isn’t a mere innovation (bid’ah) since the meaning the Quran is already tied to political situations/problem of early Muslim community (rules of war, treatment of women and children, relationship with the Prophet and with the people of the Book, etc).

Our affirmation of diversity is crucial. Without tolerance, based on knowledge and understanding, of other sects and religions; it is more likely that religious differences result in bloodshed (as in the case of Taliban, who impose their version of Islam as always already true) instead of a potentially richer understanding of the religion itself. Finally, this affirmation also cannot be pre-determined by any particular religious discourse as blasphemy laws, or those defining ‘true Islam’, do in Pakistan.

2. What does it mean to love one’s country? If folks start decorating their houses with national flags (potentially wasting money that could have helped the needy), are they really patriotic? If some people organize online communities to “Go Green” and blazon national symbols, are they still really patriotic? Anyone, regardless of their real intent, can earn publicity through such blatant patriotism – the former requires some resources and the latter a social networking profile. Thus, one’s “love” for one’s country cannot be judged to be authentic solely by public display of national symbols. But why should one be judged for patriotism and who should be the judge of that? Can loving one’s country mean condoning the burning of Churches and murder of Christians citizens of Pakistan [6, 7] or the state’s terrorizing of Hindus citizens [8] or the Baloch people [9]? Can it mean condoning Islamo-fascism as preached by groups like Tanzeem-e-Islami, Hizb-ut-Tahrir, Sipah Sahaba, Jamaat-ud-Daawa and Jamaat-e-Islami, among others – with their grand delusion of taking over the world on the one hand and fighting US domination of the world on the other? Thus, loving one’s country may entail not only fighting against state institutions (e.g. the government and army) but also fascist-militant organizations that seek to take over our diverse society and impose its own quasi-Arab culture.

Perhaps loving one’s country should first mean making sense of its history and ethno-geography. The history of Pakistan’s formation cannot be reduced to the so-called two-nation “theory” – until unless Pakistani Muslims keep re-applying this theory to allow Christian and Hindu minorities a separate state within the state of Pakistan. As indicated before, Islam is too diverse a religion to easily allow designation of Muslims as one nation. Jinnah probably used “nation” as a rhetorical device to hammer political awareness into the Muslims of the subcontinent. We must also not ignore doubts regarding the reasons for the Partition of the subcontinent [10]. Partition as an event may be a fact, but that does not automatically justify its occurrence. There’s a lot more to be said about the history of Pakistan military’s involvement in politics.

Similarly, many of us need to realize our privileges as urban Punjabi folks who (paradoxically) are mostly unaware of our Punjabi heritage. Many of our privileges – fairly consistent power, water and gas; urban transit and road network, including the motorway; access to some of the best educational/vocational institutes and hospitals; airport; parks; well-preserved historical monuments etc – are simply not available in other parts of Pakistan. The villages around the famous Sui gas reserve do not have access to gas; most people of Baluchistan do not have access to clean drinking water and medical facilities (try reading one of early FASTRising pamphlets on the plight of internally displaced tribes in Balochistan). I say that loving one’s country means, first, acknowledging the presence and extent of these problem and then connecting with the people (e.g. the folks at Bolan Medical College) to help address some of the problems. And these are only *some* of the problems of Pakistan’s richly diverse ethno-geography.

Perhaps I’ll keep updating this note to reflect and help you understand exactly why it is important to oppose the doctrines that hide behind jingoism and zealotry. I think they are dangerous for this country, whose political and economic systems must be based on social justice, which is why I strongly support people who would like to learn from pacifism, secularism and socialism to find more suitable alternatives. Calling for peace between India and Pakistan does NOT make one a traitor: it is all the more necessary now to be able to question the billions that Pakistani military spends every year without ANY accountability to the civilian government. Calling for the separation of religion and politics does NOT make one impious: it is all the more necessary to be able to ensure that all citizens of this country are guaranteed equal rights – Muslims should NOT be more privileged citizens of Pakistan.

Finally, regarding your assertion that people who oppose ZH (?) should instead take action. Clarifying the problems of political economy, in relation to history, is part of that action. You must have heard about FASTRising, Young-Professionals and Student Action Committee, their involvement in the lawyers movement. I encourage you to visit the FASTRising website and check out its past events and activities. Institute for Peace and Secular Studies, too, has been actively participating in or organizing various events regarding non-violence in Lahore. The Lahore Chitrkar and Danka are useful information repositories. If you need any specific information about political activities, let me know and I’ll try my best to help you.


From the first verse (“Read in the name of your Lord who created”) to the last (“Today I perfected your religion for you…”), the meaning of the revelation was tied to the biography of the Prophet and that of the nascent Muslim community. Hence the irreducibility of the Quran to a self-evident, self-contained text independent of history of its references as well as its compilation and transmission.

See, in particular, “Election of Abu Bakr to Caliphate”. The history of early Islam focuses and privileges the Meccan converts and companions of the Prophet more than the Medinites, hence it may seem obvious to students of Islamiat that Abu Bakr or Umar should become the khalifah.

“The Salafi Da’wah is that of the Qur’an and the Sunnah. It is the Religion of Islam – pure and free from any additions, deletions or alterations.”

“The Khawarij decreed that if committing cardinal sins become common in a Muslim land then it deserved to be considered dar harb, literally a land of war and those who live in it forfeit their lives and possessions.” Cf. Taliban justification for killing Muslim soldiers.

Margaret Aymer, Professor of New Testament, describes “scriptural reading” as a way of utilizing the scripture (Bible in this case) to understand the current political problems of a community (e.g. slavery of the Black/African-American people). See her text, “First Pure, Then Peaceable: Frederick Douglass Reads James”.

“9 Christian killed, 100 homes looted , 50 homes burnt by Muslim protestors in Gojra”

“On 6 February 1997 at about 9:00 a.m., 30,000 to 35,000 militant Muslims attacked a Christian village, (Chak 72/10 R) called Shantinagar (land of peace), located 10 kilometres south-east of Khanewal city. Attackers were equipped with various types of weapons, in the presence of 400/300 policemen.”

“Take the case of Pram Sri Mai, a married Hindu woman, whose application for a computerised national identity card was turned down by the National Database and Registration Authority which even charged her with having an illicit relationship with a man and bearing illegitimate children.”



This is my response to the following note:

Unluckily in our society there are many schools of thought [divide and rule thingy]. People are tuned to different mindsets and have a difference in perception; hence we always end up fighting each other. Consequently, despite the potential, we are far from being a World’s leading country in any domain.

I have been listening to this guy for almost a year now and I found him very patriotic and a true muslim. I admire him for his courage and I respect him for speaking the truth… I agree to most of his statements. I am not here to defend him but to set things straight as enough of this pro ZH and anti ZH naive discussions. Even if he says ‘Pakistan Zindabad’ there are certain people who will have objections to this statement as ZH said that.

Regarding his past, there was a hilarious accusation tagging Zaid Hamid with Yousaf Kazzab. Most people have figured that out but some are still stuck in that. I listened to that audio recording many times and I figured out its FAKE and made to create a doubt in people’s mind. Then there was a war propaganda thing mostly by Indians and also by the selfish people who care nothing but their lives and their cities…who don’t give a damn on a blast in Peshawar or a drone attack in Waziristan…half the country is at war and they want someone peaceful after all Phir Bhi DIl Hai Hindustani . He answered to this clear enough

When I watch his videos and then I look at why many people oppose him. I do not wonder…Jo loag Asif Zardari ko vote de saktey hain wo Zaid Hamid ko galiyan bhi de saktey hain…:/ I don’t know if I should laugh at those people or mourn at my country’s fate. I think I should leave everything. Pakistan can take care of itself if it is supposed to.

To conclude it if somebody thinks Zaid Hamid is fake/agent/crazy then simply don’t listen to him nobody is forcing you. And if you think he’s wrong then why don’t you step up and start doing whats right!! dont you love your country? Khud kuch kerna nahi aur jo ker raha usko bhi nahi kerney dena…now that’s Pakistani. Even if he’s doing it all wrong, he is at least trying to do something for the dead nation.