By Nadeem F Paracha
January 13, 2011
Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto had once famously described Pakistan as a social lab for ‘Islamic experiments’. It may have been a cynical comment. But four decades later, that’s what Pakistan looks like as zealots run amok. Prophetic words?
In the 1970s former Prime Minister ZA Bhutto once described Pakistan as a social lab to conduct various ‘Islamic experiments’. I don’t know whether Bhutto was being cynical or enthusiastic about this, but yes, it most certainly seems that this is exactly what this unfortunate republic has been all the while.
Forget about secular societies in the West that just can’t make head or tail about the way many Pakistanis behave and react in the name of religion; I have also seen people belonging to various Muslim countries sometimes scratch their heads when contemplating the behaviour of Pakistanis in this context. Are we as a Muslim majority nation really all that unique? For example, why only in Pakistan do people rise up to demand that a particular sect be declared non-Muslim — as if considering everyone else as heretics makes us feel and look more pious?
Why only in Pakistan do people remain quiet when certain man-made ‘Islamic laws’ are openly exploited to conduct personal vendettas against minorities?
Why only in Pakistan do people go on strike when a Government even hints at amending such laws, despite the fact that the more sober Islamic scholars have over and over again termed such laws as having few, if any, historical and theological precedents or justification? Are such laws yet another way for us to loudly mask the glaring social, political and economic hypocrisy that has become a way of life for us?
Then, why only in Pakistan do people come out to destroy their own cities and properties for an act of blasphemy taking place thousands of miles away? And anyway, in this respect, how seriously should the Almighty take a nation that won’t even bother to manage its own garbage dumps or dare speak up against the many gross acts of violence and injustice that take place in their Islamic republic and for which many are ready to burn buses and shoot people?
Why only in Pakistan do many people still consider violent extremists and terrorists to be some kind of gung-ho mujahids fighting nefarious infidels and superpowers, even when on most occasions it is the common Pakistanis that are being slaughtered in their own markets, schools and mosques by these romanticised renegades? Why only in Pakistan, as more and more people now pack mosques, wear hijab, grow beards and lace their sentences with assorted Arabic vocabulary, society, instead of reaping the social and cultural benefits of this show of piety continues to tumble down the spiral as perhaps the most confused and contradictory bunch of people?
Of course, we always have a handy set of excuses for all this. We lash out at ‘Islam’s enemies’ (most of whom exist only in our heads and in our history books); we scorn our politicians and ulema, but at the same time we are ever ready to kill, loot, plunder and go on strikes on the call of these very people. We blame western and Indian cultural influences, but have no clue what to exchange these with. So, unable (rather unwilling) to appreciate the fact that we share an ancient, rich and regal culture with the rest of the subcontinent, we look towards the West Asia.
We reject our own culture but adopt a half-baked understanding of Arabian culture as our own. No wonder a Pakistani continues to smile and keep quiet about the insults he constantly faces in various oil-rich countries, but he would make a huge hue and cry if and when he faces the same in a European or American city. After all, we are Arabs, and so what if our Arabic is not up to the mark, we’re getting there. But unfortunately, that’s all we’re getting at.
I pity myself and my nation. Each one is now a serious causality of all the brazen experiments that have taken place on us by those who wanted to impose their own concept of Islam in our Governments, schools, streets and homes. So the next time you meet a hip, young Pakistani dude quoting a religious text, or a Pakistani who stops you from jogging at a park because he wants you to join him for prayers (you can’t ask him to join you for jogging, though), or a burqa-clad woman claiming she is a better woman than the one who does not wear a burqa, or watch a cooking show host talking more about god than the biryani she is cooking, or a bearded barber advising you not to shave, just forgive them all.
Treat us as causalities of the faith which we ourselves have distorted beyond recognition. A faith that was supposed to make us a vibrant, progressive and tolerant set of people, has, instead, and due to our own warped understanding of it, turned us into a horde of very ripe looking vegetables.
The writer is among the most popular Pakistani columnists. He writes for Dawn. Courtesy: Dawn.