Terrorism, Shameless Religious Bigotry and Pakistan

Posted on May 29, 2010 by


by Raza Habib Raja
First published at the Pak Tea House

As I write these sentences, the details of the most shameful attack on the religious sites of Ahmedis in Lahore are unfolding. However, this is not new as Pakistan has been the victim of this brazen behavior repeatedly. The thirty years of state sponsored “true” Islam is showing its colors. In Pakistan all the minorities are constantly harassed and state’s protection has often proved completely ineffective when a serious attack occurs. Although the counterargument can also be made that state is not also able to protect even when Muslims are attacked.

In case of Ahmedis it is a well-known fact that they have been victims of state induced discrimination also apart from being openly hated by the public. In fact even today as this most in human barbarity was unfolding I had the opportunity to actually hear people in my office saying that though terrorism is bad Ahmedis deserved it. Muslims are an extremely intolerant group and yet extremely sensitive when it comes to their own religious sensitivities. And when such minorities are under attack the state protection has often been particularly inadequate and public condemnation virtually absent. After all we all remember Gojra where the government was completely unable to provide protection to the Christians when attackers attacked their houses and literally burnt people alive. In that incidence, there was no “sudden’ attack but mob actually first assembled after being provoked by the religious clergy and then systematically executed the attack. But even much more horrific was the aftermath where instead of widespread condemnation, the public response was apologetic. That incidence was not a political failure alone. It was national shame and depicted weakness at every level of our society’s moral fabric.

What is really dangerous is the complete inability of the media as well as general public to even effectively condemn, let alone stop, horrific acts like religious violence and even general terrorism. The aftermaths of every shameless incidence of hate filled religious bigotry as well as terrorism follows more or less similar pattern. A few sporadic and weak protests are raised while the majority either calls it a grand conspiracy of the West to defame Islam or gives even more hypocritical apologetic defense. Ours is a shallow society which is ready to get enraged over cartoons and Facebook but completely impotent when something far more sinister happens. Killing of so many innocent people should draw far more condemnation and yet all we do is to knit conspiracy theories. In fact our intellectual abilities are generally geared towards knitting conspiracy theories and providing apologetic defense to monsters like Taliban.

In my opinion the failure to condemn and criticize is even more horrifying than the actual tragedy because this insensitivity provides the conducive environment for future sustenance of this hate filled behavior. Our society features rabble rousers and bigots like Zaid Hamids and Dr. Amir Liaqat as the media stars who are actually patronized by mainstream media and promoted by the corporate sector through advertisements. Such characters have openly incited hatred against the Ahmedi community and have also given apologetic defense to terrorism. In civilized countries such people are hated and in our side these are actually adulated. It is this shameless insensitivity, not the grand conspiracies of the West, which breeds terrorism and religious bigotry.

There will be people who would say that in Pakistan even the Muslims are target of terrorism and so therefore this time reference to religious bigotry should not be made. After all, the incident is likely to have been carried out by Pakistani Taliban who have also conducted suicide attacks in the Sunni majority areas. My response would be that we are not even able to condemn these monsters when they attack us. Therefore to expect that our public will condemn when they attack minorities is actually expecting too much and in fact I know that when it comes to minorities like Ahmedis and Shias, actually such incidences are not even construed as something wrong. Due to hatred against the minorities such incidence would actually find little to no condemnation.

And even when such attacks are conducted against the general public they are conveniently blamed on the grand conspiracy of USA.  The central issue is of our mindset which is delusional and has been nurtured through Islamic mythology according to which muslims are superior in calibre as well as virtue and therefore cannot indulge in anything sinister like terrorism. In Pakistan, this pattern of thinking is also supplemented by a strong dose of ultra-nationalism which assumes Pakistan with its nuclear arsenal to be spearheading the revival of the lost glory of Islam. Primarily this mindset is outward looking and assumes that due to Pakistan’s “supreme” importance in the above context, all the non-Muslim forces are jealous and therefore trying to create a conducive environment to purge our nuclear arsenal through planting extremism. According to this delusional mindset, the key conspirator is USA which due to its Jewish appeasement and own insecurities against resurgence of glorious Islam is trying to destabilize Pakistan to find an excuse to purge its nuclear arsenal. Inherently religious bigotry is also strongly imbedded in this mindset because of assumed superiority of “pure” muslims and deep suspicion of non muslims. Consequently even those sects such as Ahmedis who identify themselves as Muslims are often called agents planted by the British and later on USA to wreak havoc in the Islamic world’s “unity”. Hatred against non-Muslims and conspiracy theories become the main paradigm through which we see the world.

This mindset has become particularly vigorous after 9/11. Throughout the post 9/11 period, I have just listened to non-sense conspiracy theories and complete irrational apologetic defense. Everything is generally blamed on USA and in this process we end up strengthening dark nihilist forces of terrorism and religious extremism. In fact I remember when these monsters attacked Islamic International University, after two day students were protesting not against Taliban but against Kerry Luger bill!

In near past, just because USA was forcing us to take a timely action against the militants, we were all against it because in our heads it was against us and our “own” people. Those delays eventually enabled the militants to have a complete foothold in places like Swat. When news regarding the Taliban atrocities started to emerge, we refused to believe them because some of the western channels were also airing them. As late as 2009, when flogging video went on air, instead of being appalled, the entire media thrust was on proving that it was a fake.   It had to be propaganda against Islam and us. The Nazam-e Adl deal was virtually endorsed by our media and a large section of sensation loving romantic nationalist urban middleclass. And when ANP successfully maneuvered the situation to expose that militants were indeed animals, almost overnight they became bad Taliban who had been created by USA. We conveniently overlooked the fact that in fact USA had been pressurizing us to take action earlier and only a few days before we were reacting violently to opposition to Nazam-e-Adl by calling it interference in our internal affairs. And not surprisingly when reality dawned about Taliban by virtue of a live speech of Sufi Muhammad, we were quick to point out to the possibility of emergence of “Bad” Taliban. In this parallel universe every fact had to be spun to be consistent with the original premise.

Our irrational and hypocritical hatred of the West which is characterized by chanting slogans against them while begging for their visas and foreign aid has now reached such gigantic proportions that even when clearer evidence is presented in front of our eyes about what creed of people Taliban are, we are completely unable to condemn them. Instead we are either calling barbarism a reaction or trying to bifurcate them into good and bad Taliban. A “strategic” asset, created by our own armed forces and defended to madness by our own media, is now believed to be partially bought over by USA. USA the devil becomes our sole point and in that hatred we completely overlook where we are heading. As blood litters our streets, rather than collectively denouncing the ideology of hate and barbarism, our sole reaction is pointing to the same premise in one way or the other. This sole reaction shows the depleted soul of the nation.

We are ready to hold rallies when a few are killed due to a drone attack but speechless when literally hundreds are killed by the Taliban monsters.  Rather than trying to fight the miserable creed of monsters we are coming up with new spins of national sovereignty, reaction to US policies, nuclear arsenal, grand conspiracy of US and God knows what else. Consequently, it is becoming exceptionally difficult for the government to muster the political will to sustain this fight which is no longer physical. The hatred is misplaced, the enemy is within, but we are totally oblivious to it and in the process strengthening the forces of extremism through appeasement, apologetic defense or outright denial

Right now it has to be understood that despite differences, at least in one critical aspect, USA’s and our interests are common: we face a common enemy. And yet just because they are saying it, we are opposing it and in the process treading on a self destructive path.  Our every new interpretation is contradictory to the previous one, but it does not matter; because irrational instincts are driving our introspection. It stretches beyond that. Anyone who opposes Taliban vehemently and does not buy these wild theories is labeled as an unpatriotic, liberal elitist or someone who is a sellout.

The effects of this mindset, if unchecked, will go beyond the current battle against Taliban. As the anti US rhetoric is whipped into frenzy and becomes a popular rallying point, the politics will no longer be an art of identifying core issues and striving to address them but merely expanding the borders of this parallel universe.