Can we dream of a revolution?
By Ataul Haq
Sufficient said and heard about the ailments and toxicities of the country we live in and issues of extremism in the faith we very proudly practice. Nobody denies that nothing is permanent but the change, so why it should not be inevitable to the whole Religious-politico-legal narrative? The famous saying goes on that the world is sure to fall into evil when the nobles keep mum. Silence becomes an act of adding and abetting.
Analyzing fear of Muslims in West, generally, is that certain followers distorted manipulated and evolved religion into a fighting faith and wanted to spread not only through proselytizing but violence. But the mainstream intellectuals do not raise voice or construct their alternate premise. Regardless of what the critics say about the faith interpretations, the collective sense of the West is, no doubt, agitated on the inaction of the Muslim societies and scholars, not to disown militant ideas vehemently and vociferously.
Moreover, it is always too late to put on hold the disruption and deterioration that have set the chain of violent events.
The vast but fragile minority of Muslims living in the west endorses this concern since they are prone to bear the brunt of hate on either side. The reaction has already begun. The longer we drag on, the greater the risk becomes serious.
Notwithstanding good statements from the western leaders, the general populace is in genuine fear. Some writers in the West explicitly warn their rulers, against liberal policies towards faiths that preach conquering their lands, where Muslims take refuge, the abode of peace and prosperity. The western critics attribute the radicalization of Muslim youth to the policy of open immigration, multi-culture, multi-ethnic and multi-faith ideologies that promoted large Muslim immigration to West.
By this analogy, there seems a growing fear that the interests of our fellow countrymen abroad and Muslims at large are in serious jeopardy. The recent statements of the presidential campaign in the US are evident of the feelings over there and could serve as fresh warning signals. It is high time that the criticism is not mistaken as bias and ignored as insignificant. The civilized world is becoming fast unaccommodating to afford any extreme ideology and is anxious to preempt. It could be the intolerance of Hindu for beef or Sunni towards Shia, all manifestations of radicalization is to die like the unnatural ideology of communism that committed suicide in its own birthplace.
Remarkably heartening is the fact that people want change for good so passionately and desperately that no barrier can stop them to march for it. They are unmistakably disillusioned with the hollow slogans of both pseudo-rightest and leftists. However, the irony is that people have no option but to see it through jaundiced political eyes, hoping against hope from the politicians with no guts. That is the helpless way of doing things wrongly relying on the electoral systems cleverly crafted on the basis of feudal and tribal roots. What is the remedy then? Do we wait for the revolution; strong enough to force things set right but also look legitimate to many in this society of starkly divergent views?
Revolution in a country like Pakistan is a far-fetched idea. More so, who qualifies to spearhead the revolution?
The available breed of politicians is inept for it; the military is traditionally and rightfully not trained or convinced of it. It is averse to any radical change the burden whereof would they be carrying. The social blend of the communities, living in major urban centers, is not congenial to it. People are divided into water-tight compartments of faiths, ethnic identities, the tribal and clan distinctions with large disparities of education, social status, and income. Common people generally, being awfully illiterate, don’t know the history of nations; leave alone the concept of revolutions. The literate middle class is in the spin of hard chores of living for survival. Bureaucrats, habitually shy away from the drastic change that could endanger their convenience. The intellectuals are divided and if not they know who listens? Many journalists in organized media are biased; they have personal axes to grind. The labor or students considered to be the bedrock of revolutions are non-existent. Industrialization is a dream devastated long ago while access to quality education is the domain of privileged few.
The religious class is either power-mongers addicts to luxuries or absolute fanatical followers of their respective school of faith. Both of them could not and cannot create any genius who could add value to present day interpretations or to graft consensus opinion thereon to address the challenges of the time. Had this class been enlightened, there would not be this saying that “my people have been lost sheep; their shepherds have led them astray”.
Unfortunately, taking any significant step short of a revolution is also neither imminent nor doable in the complex political and socially chaotic scenario. So do we continue to suffer from the ill-managed, ill-governed system?
What can we do as ordinary citizens? To me, it is EVOLUTION to change my world-view on faith. Who denies how better the progressive societies do in their treatment of women and minorities? Religious sages all over the world insist that contemporary religious ideas about gender equality and minorities are fair. If this is the fact, can we stop subjugate women in lots of ways like not letting them vote, not letting them inherit property, discounting their legal testimony, forcing them whom to marry, marrying them to settle bloody feuds, denying them higher education, not making them work on the pretext of the veil, paying them like enslaved servants and not letting them use birth spacing methods?
On minorities, it is still beyond the understanding of folks that mosques are not always available everywhere in the west yet they provide their faith places, churches for the Juma prayers of the Muslims. It is the height of respect for freedom of faiths and worship. We cannot imagine this treatment for the minorities here in Pakistan. In contrast, we use unattested traditions, sayings and stories in provocation and instigation against every faith and sect arousing and exploiting superficial cheap religious emotions.
While it will take considerable time to correct the skewed thinking of religious intolerance and strike right at the Takfeeri and Jehadi mindset, however in the meanwhile, can we do something on our own and light some candles individually? Some examples could be; creating awareness and contempt for forcible conversion to other faiths, distancing from making mockery of religious personalities, symbols, icons and views, prevent belittling other faiths, not listening to the blasphemy rumors and stop those wanting to go for vigilante action against the mere accused, prefer shopping from the Hindu, Sikh, Christian and other minority traders where they are doing business, mixing with them in their social and religious celebrations where they there is an invitation, allow kids to play with theirs, encouraging them to participate in the play groups and teams for sports, remembering and describing to children and youngsters the stories of our elders adoring the good neighborly relations with minorities before partition, advising our kids to behave friendly with fellow minority students.
More importantly, can we send a message to the Imam of France and UK mosques to spread the message of love? Can’t they stop Muslim youth to join ISIS? The youth raised and treated exceptionally well by the welfare societies of the West were expected to integrate there. They were the hope of their origin and fabulous parents who migrated with a dream of better life. The irony is that they, instead of adding quality to the life in the countries they live in, are profiled for suspicion and disloyalty. Indeed, they are small in numbers yet their impact is terrifying. There are numerous writers and media houses painting the radicalization to the religious teaching completely ignoring the human and social factors like mental health, education, family life, and socio-economic circumstance. In fact, however, it is the political interpretation of an imagined law code that calls for Caliphate.
The caliphate exemplified so far in Kabul by Taliban and ISIS in Iraq has such ruthless and shameful record, one in a free society is most dreaded imagine living there under. To find an escape with ISIS, these boys are simply radicalized. They will repent to see where they are heading to. They might lament it by now but how could they desert from the iron clutches of the savages they are fighting side by side. If they ever succeed to return to their land, nobody knows what the fate will unfold for them. Where would they go if they are stripped of their citizenship? Would they like to be deported back to Pakistan? It is the least concern on my part rather the wrong perception that Muslims cannot be trusted. We should beware of the sensitivities of the vibrant and vigilant societies in the USA where naivety of police mistaking a watch for a bomb and handcuffing the boy Ahmad was ostracized openly. This society is neither prepared to groom and prettify haters among its ranks nor did the faith ever preach hate.
Admittedly, mere treatment of women and minorities fairly is not the anecdote for all the ills. The complex issues, we suffer from, need wholesome approach and will from the strongest quarters, however, evolving to change on women and minorities will have a snowball effect, softening our stiff attitude leading to softer gestures for desired EVOLUTION into a compassionate, tolerant and loving human being.
Writer Ataul Haq has been working at senior posts in the fields of Development, Diplomacy and Administration.