Dr Pervez Hoodbhoy
By Yasser Latif Hamdani
November 04, 2013
After making fools of themselves on TV by abusing a world renowned physicist like Dr Pervez Hoodbhoy, the twosome of Ansar Abbasi and Orya Maqbool Jan have taken to their columns, declaring war on reason, rational discourse and education. The column this week in daily Jang by Ansar Abbasi was appropriately titled Jahil Kaun — Ansar Abbasi (Who is Ignorant? Ansar Abbasi). How brutally honest! Orya Maqbool Jan’s column in daily Duniya was titled Daleel ki Maut — Orya Maqbool Jan (Death of Logic — Orya Maqbool Jan). Again one cannot help but agree.
Ansar Abbasi proves his ignorance not just of worldly education and the modern world but also about Islam itself in his column. He claims that only Islamic knowledge is real knowledge, and therefore, all other knowledge is fake by implication. Nothing militates more against the spirit of Islam than this statement. Let us remind Mr Abbasi of the Holy Prophet’s (PBUH) saying: “Go to China if you have to in the quest for knowledge.” Now it is entirely possible that Mr Abbasi thinks China in the 7th century was inhabited by Sheikh-ul-Islams, but those who do not use their echo-chamber of self delusion to sound out their own illogical drivel know better.
It is a well known fact of Islamic history that the Holy Prophet (PBUH) freed non-Muslim prisoners after numerous battles on the condition that they would first educate Muslims. Clearly, those non-Muslim prisoners were not educating Muslims about Islam. Islamic civilisation reached its zenith in the closing centuries of the first millennium AD. It did so not because Mahmud of Ghazni was busy plundering the subcontinent. The main reason for the golden age of Islam was the hunger for knowledge that its scientists and freethinkers demonstrated. If Mr Abbasi had come across Averroes, Avicenna, Rhazes or Jabir bin Hayyan, it is near certain that he would have denounced them as heretics and jahils (ignorant) as well. Later, the mullah orthodoxy suppressed free thinkers and scientists from 1200 AD onwards. The torch of knowledge passed to the west. The rest is history. Mr Abbasi ought to read it some time. Almost 800 years of aversion to knowledge has brought Muslims to their knees. Ansar Abbasi seems to be just one cruel manifestation of the long-drawn-out decline of the Muslim world and Islamic civilisation.
What seems to have really gotten Mr Abbasi’s goat is that Malala Yousafzai, in her book, wrote that she could not understand why Ahmadis who call themselves Muslims are declared non-Muslim. Whether Ahmadis are Muslims or non-Muslims only God can say for certain. If Malala is wrong for expressing her opinion, what about Mr Mohammad Ali Jinnah, who on May 23, 1944, said precisely the same thing as Malala? Indeed Mr Jinnah went a step further and warned against people calling Ahmadis non-Muslims. It is a well-known fact that Mr Jinnah found amongst all the great Muslim advocates of the subcontinent only an Ahmadi to argue Pakistan’s case before the Boundary Commission. The Ansar Abbasis of that time — the Majlis-e-Ahrar — condemned Mr Jinnah as ‘Kafir-e-Azam’ and his Pakistan ‘Kafiristan’. Need one remind people of the foulest language bigots like Ataullah Shah Bukhari used against him?
Then we have Orya Maqbool Jan. One does not need to post his picture while standing obediently in front of the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to remind people of his true character. He is a ‘civil servant’ in Pakistan. The Civil Service rules state very clearly that a civil servant is not allowed to give television or radio interviews or contribute articles in newspapers. Mr Jan not only flouts the rules but also is possibly paid to do so. Why is he allowed to continue to poison the minds of the people of Pakistan when he is bound by these rules? Who has exempted him from the law? These rules cannot be disregarded. A civil servant cannot be permitted by his superiors to write in newspapers because it would be unfair to others who are not civil servants. It may prejudice those who criticise him. What next? Are military men also going to write columns in newspapers now?
Out of this whole mess comes out Malala Yousafzai, the ‘bravest girl in the world’, unscathed. A rose is a rose by any name. The very fact that she has these two columnists attacking her is an indication that she has hit them where it hurts the most. Malala needs no certificates from narrow-minded people. To be abused in this manner should be a badge of honour for she can be sure that she is on the right path.
Our society will move on regardless of people who wish to hold it back. Human progress cannot be contained or else barbarian hordes in history, like the Kharjis, would have thwarted our progress long ago. Eventually, reason must overcome superstition. Aisha Sarwari in this newspaper wrote of putting footnotes where they belong. I disagree. These enemies of reason and progress will not even make it to the footnotes.
Yasser Latif Hamdani is a lawyer based in Lahore and the author of the book Mr Jinnah: Myth and Reality.