By Shamim Masih
April 05, 2016
With due respect to Muslims, multiculturalism is a failure in Pakistan. That being one of the reasons for creation of Pakistan, it is very unfortunate where things stand today. It is quite ironical when Muslims migrate to western nations, and expect them to accept them, and when they do not on any level, Muslim label them as racists. Do Christians migrate to Muslims nations? Do Muslims accept Christians with open arms in their countries? The answer is sadly no.
The fact is that Muslims do not let religious minorities to live in their countries with freedom to practise their religion as they wish. I am by birth a Pakistani, not an immigrant; even before the partition my forefathers used to live in the same area called the Punjab province. In the early 2000, we moved to Islamabad and Rawalpindi, and settled in rented houses, owned by Muslims.
Pakistan has become a Sunni Muslim-dominated country, and a narrow-minded mindset has changed the concept of the creation of Pakistan. The founder of Pakistan, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, struggled for a country where people of all ethnicities and religions would be allowed to live peacefully, and as per their faith. He clearly announced that every person was free to live in accordance to his faith. On March 12, 1949, the second constituent assembly of Pakistan passed the Objectives Resolution, which was proposed by the first Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan. The Objectives Resolution proclaimed that the future constitution of Pakistan would not be modelled entirely on a European pattern, but on the ideology and democratic faith of Islam.
The legislative election in 1954 saw the Awami League come to power, and its leader, Huseyn Suhrawardy, became the country’s first Bengali prime minister. The declaration of constitution in 1956 led Pakistan to pronounce itself as the Islamic Republic of Pakistan (official name), with the adoption of parliamentary democratic system of government.
Since then a strict version of Islam that is against the very essence of Islam has prevailed in Pakistan, in which a large segment of religious clergy took it upon itself to spread hate against other religions. Thousands of people have either been killed or sent to prisons in an effort to ‘save’ Islam. Many Muslims believe that theirs is the only sacred religion, ignoring the importance of Christianity as another divine religion, and they are committed in a self-avowed mission to ‘protect’ it by killing others. There are clerics all over Pakistan who give Fatwas, and thus end up creating self-professed vigilantes of faith.
Good Friday is a Christian ritual, and it is a common practice in which Christians gather for mass to pray to God. Honestly speaking, I am not too religious and do not attend church on a regular basis, and on such occasions I usually pray at home as I feel every man has his personal affiliation with his creator. There is more than one reason behind my reluctance to attend church regularly: I have certain issues with some so-called pastors whom I think of as religious businessmen.
Therefore, my family members and I gather for the Good Friday service and pray in our house. Once, while the service was on someone knocked at the door; I went out to check, and found my landlord there. He said to me that the house was not a church, and that we are not allowed to say our prayer at home. If we wish to continue, we better leave the house. I explained him that we did not invite any outsider, and it was only other the family members who had gathered to pray on our religious event. However, the landlord did not listen to any reasoning, and ordered us to vacate the house. It was not the first time that he had told us in no uncertain terms to stop praying in our house; in June last year when we gathered for my mother’s death anniversary, he disturbed our gathering, and said the same thing.
Was this country only made for Muslims? Do we, Christians, have no right to live our lives? Will justice be done? Is this a safe place for our children? I am familiar with government-issued statements that minorities have been given equal rights; some minority parliamentarians are doing the same. Moreover, some so-called patriots try to show their loyalty by criticising and alienating others. But my question is: where does a common Christian person stand? A major portion of the Pakistani Christians lives below the poverty line, and it is this same segment that faces problems in everyday life.
Pakistan is a Muslim-dominated country, and Muslims have completely changed the landscape by building mosques and madrasas on every corner; this is something that we, Christians, have no issue with. However, we ask: why are Christians not allowed to build churches? In the capital, Islamabad, there are dozens of mosques and madrasas that have been constructed illegally, but there is no action that is taken. Illegalities are hidden in the guise of piety and religion. The founder of the nation, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, created this country, and gave all its citizens equal rights, but his successors have changed the ideology of Pakistan. And the biggest victim is the Christian community of Pakistan.
Shamim Masih is a freelance columnist