By Mahwash Badar
April 18, 2016
I’m sure everyone remembers Ahmed Mohammed, the clock boy. Does everyone also remember the furor it caused in the pious Muslim circles? Sure, it was pretty ridiculous of the authorities to nab him from his school in the US and it was fairly stupid of them to mistake a homemade clock for a bomb but I do remember the self-righteous outrage in the circles that generally wouldn’t do this ‘please share to spread awareness’ kind of thing if the subject was Naveed Rafique.
Who is Naveed Rafique you ask?
He is a 13-year-old boy from Jaranwala, Punjab. Naveed was a position holder in his previous classes and on March 29, when he wanted to sit for an Islamic Studies exam in his school, the exam superintendent told him he couldn’t recite the verses without wuzu or ablution. Naveed did not know how to perform ablution.
Naveed Rafique, you see, is Christian.
The Islamic Studies exam carried 100 marks. 75 were for the written test and 25 for the viva. Naveed had secured 27 out of 74 marks in his written exam and because he was not allowed to sit in the viva, he failed to get the passing mark (which is 33%). The Education Assistant Director of the middle school examinations says he is “investigating” the claim.
The whole situation is laughable, after it stops being sad and miserable. What are they investigating? That a 13-year-old Christian boy is able to pass his exams based on his ability to perform ablution? That it is ridiculous to begin with for non-Muslim children to be forced to sit and give exams for beliefs they do not ascribe to? That there is no parallel safeguard or framework for cases like these?
And God knows how many children are subject to fear and confusion because they live in a country where minorities are not protected at all. Just a few weeks ago, the Taliban claimed an attack on the Christian community, one of the bloodiest attacks on innocent women and children in the past years.
There are fewer than four million Christians in a population of 192.8 million Pakistanis. That’s less than three per cent. The fact list regarding Christians in Pakistan is foreboding and gory. Pakistan’s late minister of minorities Shahbaz Bhatti was shot by gunmen who were ‘self-described’ Taliban. Bhatti was aiming to protect blasphemy accused Aasia Bibi, who is in jail to this day. Her family awaits her pardon and for her case to be dissolved but to no avail.
Former Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer was shot dead by his own guard, Mumtaz Qadri, because he publicly defended Aasia Bibi and criticised the Blasphemy law. When Pakistani authorities executed Qadri this year, many flocked to the funeral of the convicted murderer, throwing garlands at his dead body. Do you remember Shama and Shahzad Masih? Their young son told the world that his Amma and Abba were tied to the tractor, dragged through the fields and set on fire. Where was the outrage?
Last year, the Punjab Cardiology Hospital issued an advertisement stating only “Non-Muslims from minorities will be accommodated for sanitation work”. So, basically what we’re doing to Christians is forcing them to study our religion, and once they study Quranic verses and learn ablution, we ask them to become sweepers or cleaners. Then, they either have blasphemy or the Taliban to worry about, whichever comes first.
Three per cent. Less than three per cent, and they live in fear of the majority. Imagine what their life is like. The affluent or well-to-do members of the Christian minority in Pakistan may have some avenues still, but think of the ones in the lower socio-economic sphere. Think of Naveed Rafique. Think of Shama and Shahzad. Think of Aasia Bibi. Think, dear patriotic Pakistanis, before you share photos of Israeli terror and Donald Trump and Bharatiya Janata Party and Muslims in Burma and Yemen and Syria. Think of all those poor, terrified, silent Christians who do not know what their crime is living in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Think of every mullah who has tried to hijack power in our country.
In the words of Jaun Elia,
Ab Nahee’n Koi Baa’t Khatre Ki
Ab Sab Hi Ko Sab Hi Se Khatra Hai.
(There is nothing to be afraid of anymore
Now there is nothing but fear everywhere)