By Zeeshan Khan
April 2, 2013
Our young minds are bred on a notion propagating other religions as inferior and portraying them to be anti-Islamic
Terrorism, violence, fear, suicide bombings, mob with staves vowing to uproot all forms of modernisation, protests leading to massacre, clerics giving sermons for jihad against anybody who does not stand by their version of Islam. Shias, Ahmedis, Hindus and Christians being threatened and killed. Taliban taking over parts of the country. This is Pakistan, as we know in 2013. In such chaos when a Muslim is not guaranteed to be safe, one can imagine the state of fright our non-Muslim brothers live in. They get more vulnerable during festive events, like Christmas or Easter. It is tragic how they cannot even celebrate freely because of the constant threat looming over them.
Pakistan has always been very hostile to minorities, despite clear instructions from the father of the nation. In his speech on 11th of August 1947 (particularly famous among liberals), Jinnah gave total rights and freedom, of religion and its practice, to all citizens on equal grounds. We all have seen memes and jokes taking rounds on social media about what Jinnah should actually have said, “You are free to go to your mosques, temples and churches”, but ‘at your own risk’.
Joseph Colony and Gojra are not the only incidents of Islamists’ hostility towards Christians. There have been several occasions where Muslims have violently displayed their religious supremacy in Pakistan. Their houses were torched, chapels destructed, children killed, women raped, Bible and other holy scriptures desecrated.
Some of the most disturbing incidents, which could not make it to the flashes of breaking news, were:
In 2002, a cleric called for Muslims to kill Christians, right before Christmas day, motivating two men killing three girls during a Christian sermon in Chianwala.
On June 5, 2006, a Christian labourer, Nasir Ashraf, drank water from a nearby public water facility, using a glass chained to it. Muslims, who caught him do that, battered him for polluting the glass. A crowd gathered and assaulted Ashraf, with bystanders cheering the attackers and calling Ashraf a ‘Christian dog; he was hospitalised later.
In June 2009, International Christian Concern reported the rape and killing of a Christian man in Pakistan, for refusing to convert to Islam and those who raped the poor man were obviously Muslims.
During a press conference in Karachi, on May 30, 2011, Maulana Abdul Rauf Farooqi and other clerics of Jamiat-Ulema-e-Islam Sami-ul-Haq group, demanded to ban the Bible. Maulana Farooqi said, “Our lawyers are preparing to ask the court to ban the book.”
Such incidents led the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) to endorse Pakistan’s nomination as a ‘Country of Particular Concern’ by the State Department.
Children at tender age, through academic books, are infused with ideas full of religious heroism and demagoguery, glorifying one religion over the other. Our young minds are bred on a notion propagating other religions as inferior and portraying them to be anti-Islamic. Consequently, they grow up to be self-righteous, superior individuals, set out to make the world right according to their own ideals.
In a very positive move, Pakistani pop singer turned activist, Shahzad Roy, in a private TV channel’s programme raised a few very pertinent questions about the syllabus and how religious discrimination is practised in our education system. The issue got extremely controversial resulting in serious criticism from ‘Islamic cyber soldiers’ on social media and other platforms. Consequently, Roy had to tone down his course of action.
The intolerance for other religions has steeped so deeply in our society that Christian house cleaners and helpers have to convert to Islam merely for economic purposes. For most Muslims, they are considered ‘untouchables’ and would not get a job in a society, thumping with Muslim population. The irony is that when these Christians convert to Islam, they are rated as ‘second class or ‘half-Muslims’ and are called ‘Muslas’. Had Bertrand Russell been a Pakistani, instead of intellectualising the premise of his famous essay “Why I am not a Christian”, he would have justified the notion with fear, discrimination and victimisation.
This Easter Muslims should repent more vehemently for burning down the properties of our Christian brethren, for looting their abandoned homes, for declining their rights and for denying them the basic sense of ownership they have of this country being an equal citizen. Next time a Muslim, goes to torch a Christian home, he should not forget that 1,400 years ago, a Christian Leader, Nijashi bade refuge to a Muslim delegate when everyone had turned against them. Next time a Muslim kills a Christian girl, he must remember that it was a Christian wanderer, who first prophesied that Muhammad (PBUH) would be the last prophet when he was just a child. Religion is to make us better humans; let us not use it against it.
Zeeshan Khan is a senior producer at a news channel