I am amazed by my compatriots in Pakistan. Every day I meet someone who leaves me spell bound wondering what exactly happened in this country that has turned us into what we are. Sometimes the comments are so ridiculous you want to laugh. But you do not because immediately you are reminded that this one thought process is replicated in a 100 other young men and women across the country. What exactly are the issues we suffer from? Let me list them one by one.
The Identity Crises: To-date we have not discovered whether we are Muslim first and Pakistani second or vice versa. I wonder how people will feel if they realize that globally, there are only two religiously motivated ideological states in the world today – Pakistan, that was created in 1947 and Israel created in 1948. Both were outcomes of the same redrawing of borders post world war and the retrenchment of the British Empire.
So, while we condemn what Israelis do to our brethren in Palestine, do we want to do the same to our neighbours in Pakistan through our blasphemy law? I hear this chant all the time: send them to India, if they’re not muslim! Why? In
today’s world is our identity as a Muslim threatened in Pakistan if we interact with a Christian in the office or at lunch? Will we lose our caste if a hindu washed our dishes? How does treating non-muslims like achoot (untouchables) help us prove we are better muslims when this is inherently a hindu custom? After 66 years of independence in a muslim majority country, why are we threatened by the religious minorities?
Which Sect of Islam: Where did we learn to fight between Shia and Sunni, Deobandi and Nadvi and wahabi and sufi Islam? When did our discord with each other assume guns and militant killing? It is a well-established fact that Shia-Sunni divide in the middle-east is a result of persecution of a religious minority. Once again, how does killing Shias makes us any better as muslims?
The meaning of being a muslim: I went to a school which taught us in class 3 through the government approved Islamiat text book that Allah has demanded two things from a good muslim – HuqooqAllah and Huqooq ul-Abaad. The latter deal with rights of the community – your neighbor, spouse, parents, siblings, offsprings. How you deal in business and so on and so forth. Huqooq ul Abaaad have been declared superior to Huqooq Allah by the Almighty.
I wonder if anyone in Pakistan who claims to be a good muslim knows, or wants to know this? Why is our concept of being a muslim, and that too a good one restricted to wearing the veil, saying salat, and killing anyone in the name of Jehad who disagrees with us. This is regardless of the number of times we tell lies during the day or cheat, or steal?
Can I wear jeans and be a muslim: Appearances and rituals control our ability to determine who is a good muslim. The mark on the forehead, the veil covered head. Oh, she is wearing the hijab, but has jeans on. Is she a muslim? Unfortunately for Pakistanis, qamiz shalwar is only worn in Pakistan and India. Muslim women in other parts of the world wear their own national dress. In the arab world this can be the abaya or a pair of jeans and a t-shirt. In the UK, it can be a long skirt, or a pair of jeans and a tshirt. What I am trying to say is that clothes do not make or break your basis for being a muslim.
Also, there is a very long list of other things you are required to do before achieving spiritual leadership. However, in our country, islam seems to begin and end with a woman’s right to her appearance, what she wears, whom she talks to and whether she works. What a man does or wears is immaterial as long as he prays five times a day and sports a beard. He can as already explained, be a serial killer and still go to heaven because he used to pray 5 times a day. Where, how and when did we jam such warped logic into our citizens is beyond me.
I was schooled in a Convent in Lahore as were a lot of people in the eighties in Lahore. From St Mary’s to Convent of Jesus and Mary, Sacred Heart to Cathedral, St Anthony to St. Peters – the missionaries were everywhere teaching us tolerance, peace, how to respect religion and your identity without hurting the other’s sentiments. Contrary to what everyone thinks, my father is a villager, and I’ve lived all my life in Pakistan. But I grew up knowing people were humans first and Pakistani or Italians or British next, and muslims or Christians last of all.
I hope some day, in Pakistan, we go back to the country I remember as a child when we were tolerant as a society. Or maybe go back to the country my mother remembered in her college days where women were free to wear burqas or sleeveless shirts as they desired, and my mother cycled to her university class, and my aunt would slap a boy full on the face for daring to whistle…….