By Sami Shah
October 13, 2011
We are all metaphors and symbols, our identities rendered into abstraction. What we have is a nation populated by representations. Each and every one of us is no longer the sum of certain parts, no longer an individual with personal hopes, dreams, ambitions and aspirations. Instead, we each represent singular ideologies. Our National Identity Cards need no longer bother with photographs and fingerprints, instead should just state a philosophical position. Because everything we do, every word we say and every activity we partake in symbolises something larger than us. Or smaller.
Mumtaz Qadri is the perfect example. He is not just a lone unique character who occupies a certain position in space and time. His actions are not personal to his deeply flawed understanding of religious belief, nor are his thoughts a singular example of extreme violent tendencies rattling around in a head full of bad wiring. Instead, the self-confessed murderer represents so much more. He is now a living and breathing logo for a movement that will destroy anything that it perceives as contrary to its beliefs. Mumtaz Qadri’s face is, to extremist illiterates with no appreciation for the complexity of Islamic jurisprudence, what the peace symbol is, was to the anti-war protestors of the 60s. His entire being has been condensed into a point of debate. Alternately, Judge Pervez Ali Shah who gave a decision that is in accordance with the legal framework he took an oath to uphold, is no longer an individual doing his job nor a man in hiding in fear for his life, but represents the potential for fair and true judgments in the Pakistani courts of law. The focal point of this entire event, Salmaan Taseer, can never again be seen by us as a politician or a business man or a father or a husband. His bullet riddled body, the moment it gave up the last breath of life, became a rallying point for secularists and a tragic representation of sacrifice for an ideal.
This rendering of us all into simplistic representations doesn’t even have to invoke such nationally focused figures. To give a more self-obsessed example: I am no longer Sami Shah, a struggling comedian with blatant and farcical aspirations towards intellectualism, nor am I a man who struggles to make ends meet in a time of rising expenses so he can provide for his child. Those are real and human descriptions that no one has any interest in. To Western journalists I am a warrior who wields punch lines to defeat the Talibanisation of this country and to locals I am an uninspired Liberal Secularist, which means I represent a doomed ideology. If you read this and other English papers then you are a Westernized Elitist and if you don’t read it you are a Fundamentalist Conservative with tendencies towards Conspiracy Theorist. This game, if you want to play it, is fairly easy. Rahman Malik, for example, with his newly awarded Doctorate degree, is representative of the Privileged Elite. Or he can also represent a Mockery of PhD Students Everywhere. A more tragic example is that the men who raided a school in Rawalpindi represent Growing Extremism and the innocent girls they beat for not wearing Hijab represent the Continued Collapse of Female Education. Similarly, the growing number of dead journalists are cumulative representations of Curbs on the Freedom of Press. Saleem Shahzad became an iconographic representation of Military Abuse. The massacred Hazara Shias are symbols of Governmental Discounting of Religious Persecution. And so on. Ad infinitum.
What is lost in all this wanton slinging of lazy descriptors is the human? The person who was once an Individual and a Life to be Valued and Considered. That is a representation no one is interested in any more. Even though it represents a Tragedy.
Source: The Express Tribune, Lahore