At least one minister, of the wagon load this government is burdened with, has shown the courage to resign from her post to show her resentment on the cowardice of the majority of her colleagues.
Neelofar Bakhtiar not only had the courage to go for paragliding but also to stand up to the Islamist vigilantes of the Lal Masjid. She has decided to challenge their right to issue Fatwa against her in the court and not a single colleague came forward to second her. The self-styled vigilantes were quick to issue a Fatwa against her just because she hugged another veteran paraglide after landing safely. She had taken this jump to raise funds for a good cause. What she did was her personal choice and did not hurt anybody. No law in the country says that she cannot hug anybody.
Some months back a fanatic, who was let loose, in spite of two murders on his hands, shot a Punjab government lady minister as according to him women should not be working with men. The problem with religious extremists is that they want to enforce their social and moral values on others
Extremist religious leader have been privileging religion in the country and trying to thrust Arab tribal values on the people of the Indus civilization. They fail to understand that Islam was spread successfully by the Sufis in the sub-continent because they were sensitive to the local culture. If this task would have been left in the hands of the Salafists only, perhaps we would have had small Muslim population here.
Most politicians are afraid of the religious extremist and have always avoided challenging them upfront. This consistent capitulation since the adoption of the objectives resolution in the early 50s and its inclusion in the constitution by General Zia-ul-Haq has encouraged bigotry in the country. Present government’s predicament is that it has many fundamentalist within its ranks. The Minister for Religious Affairs says that knighting Rushdie justifies suicide bombers. Punjab Assembly speakers Sahi says at the assembly’s floor that he will kill Rushdie if the controversial writer ever crossed his path. Sindh Chief Minister Arbab Rahim says that people were crushed by the billboard in Karachi storm because God was angry on the display of vulgar pictures of women models. Chaudhry Shujaat, according to Lal Masjid representatives was convinced that their cause was just.
The extremists are actually doing a disservice to the religion. Take Rushdie’s affair first. It would have been better and more impressive if the Muslim scholars had contested him on an intellectual front. They have full right to disagree with him but have no justification to talk about taking his life. It is an accepted fact that violence is a weapon used by those who fail in a rational debate.
The argument given by all fundamentalists, no matter which religion they belong to, is that what is pronounced divine by them cannot be argued or discussed. Hence all the intolerance shown by them whether it is issues of interpretation of religion or the values which they think are ordained by the divine power are sacred. Such people argue that when it is an accepted democratic norm in modern polity that no race should be criticised, then why anybody should be allowed to question anything which is religious? The issue is that one cannot choose a race as he/she is born in it, but one can choose a philosophy, mythology, sect or a religion. Isn’t that’s the case with those who convert to Islam? Forget the double standards in this regard that a born Muslim is not allowed to convert to any other religion or philosophy. What these obscurantist are saying is that a religious person is not making a conscious choice but he/she follows the path blindly per force of their birth in a particular family.
Lastly, I would like to ask Sindh Chief Minister that if the killer hoardings fell because of the wrath of the God, then they should have fallen on those who sponsored and made these hoardings and not on poor people who were passers by. Is the CM sure that the victims were not as good Muslims as he is if not more? What a sad joke we have become!!
The writer is a freelance columnist. (firstname.lastname@example.org)