May 21, 2015
Just like our political leaders have mastered the art of condemning each and every unfortunate event that takes place in this country, our so-called religious leaders seem to belch out a fatwa after every ‘Halal’ meal (Lays chips) they devour. One would conveniently turn a blind eye to the intoxicated ramblings of these bigots, but considering how an over-dose of religious fanaticism has plagued a significant amount of our population; many among us take these fatwa’s rather seriously. The latest amongst this series of unfortunate fatwa’s is the one passed against our beloved Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid; over his comments on the poisonous ideology that is being emanated through religious seminaries in the country.
The minister was next in line to incur the wrath of the fatwa-brigade after a recent speech at the Karachi Arts Council where he termed religious seminaries as ‘universities of ignorance’ that are steeped in intolerance. While many feel that the minister’s statement could have been more carefully phrased in order to avoid putting all the seminaries in the same bracket, it would be fair to say that it was quite evident that Pervez Rashid’s comments were directed towards the Madrasas complicit in such heinous activities. What ensued later was not much of a surprise as banners were put up in Islamabad and Rawalpindi slandering the minister. Moreover, terming the minister as an agnostic and heretic, Jamiat Ahl-e-Sunnat Wal Jamaat is now demanding capital punishment for the minister. The leader of the religious party stated that the minister’s comments were derogatory as he mocked Islamic education; however, Mr. Rashid was precisely stating that the knowledge being imparted to madrasah students is anything but Islamic.
While the reaction from the extremists was exactly what we have come to see over the years, it is the manner in which the government buckled under pressure that is worrisome. In light of the uproar his statement had caused, Pervez Rashid felt the need to clarify his stance on the issue as he issued an apology and stated that he had nothing against religious seminaries, and that his statement was misinterpreted. Next, Defense Minister Khawaja Asif took it upon himself to defend Mr. Rashid as he once again reiterated that the information minister was only referring to a few seminaries against whom there is evidence of involvement in terrorism. More interestingly, he added that out of the approximately more than 20,000 seminaries in Pakistan, only about three to four per cent assist miscreants or directly facilitate terrorism.
What is the reason for this apologetic behavior from the government? Why is it that that these religious parties are able to push the government in a corner just by issuing a fatwa? Do they not have any recollection of what transpired in Salman Taseer’s case? Have we learnt nothing from all those who lost their lives as a result of this fanaticism? A statement is misconstrued, the fatwa brigade gets started with its propaganda and next a vigilante takes it upon himself to serve justice as per ‘Shariah’ law. Moreover, Khawaja Asif’s statement with regards to how there are only a ‘few’ seminaries that are involved in such activities was ludicrous to say the least. If that is the case, there would have been no reason to include the regulation of seminaries as a key point in the National Action Plan. And if there are only a handful of madrasah’s that have to be dealt with, why did they later remove the above point from the NAP stating that it is a complicated and extremely time consuming endeavor that cannot be pursued in the short-term? Firstly, we need to be cognizant of the fact that we are embroiled in two battles, one against terrorism, and the other is against extremism. While the former is being dealt with the Operation Zarb-e-Azb being carried out in various parts of the country (that too selectively), the latter is an issue with regards to which we have hardly taken any measures. It is high time that the government finds the resolve to stand up to these extremist influences and does not go on the defensive every time they turn up the pressure using their propaganda tactics. On a side note, Axact should now perhaps consider selling fake fatwa’s with the help of these bigots. There would considerable amount of people willing to pay $13,000 for a fatwa signed by Hazrat Mumtaz Qadri.