Islam in Pakistan: A Tale of Distortion and Hypocrisy

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How many times in our lives have we successfully managed to convince ourselves that Western media is responsible for propagating the negative image of Islam and acquitted ourselves of the heinous offenses we commit everyday or silently, spinelessly observe being taken place around us in our country in the name of Islam.

Pakistan, the land of the ‘pure’, has unquestionably turned into the land of the self-righteously puritanical and self-complacently so.

When General Zia, the self-proclaimed savior of Islam, arrived brandishing the flag of Islamization to legitimize his unnecessary existence, he successfully sowed the seeds of the hollow, hypocritical version of Islam whose bitter repercussions we continue to reap till today. Zia’s parochial and distorted view of Islam presented the prohibition orders, the lethally vague blasphemy laws, the utterly flawed Zina Ordinance, and the Ehtaram-e-Ramzan law for which one could be jailed for eating in public and so on. One common underlying factor that is evident in all the components of Zia’s Islam is punishment.

I am not an authority on Islam, but I possess adequate knowledge to claim that Islam is not just about penalty, prohibition, punishment and castigation of the defenseless. Islam was a political and social revolution in itself whose foundations were laid upon the very essence of peace and compassion. Islam introduced and endorsed the concepts of accountability, of human equality regardless of caste and creed, of social justice, of all men being equal before law and of protecting the weak and vulnerable of the society, financially and socially. These very tenets of Islam when adopted can revolutionize and reform the face of a nation. But implementing these meaningful measures required sincerity and long-term commitment which Zia severely lacked. So instead, Zia chose to design malevolent, retribution-oriented laws which brought forth all the scandalization and sensationalism that promised him an immediate recognition as the upholder of faith. And that left us with the legacy of bigotry, riot and murder.

Apparently, while we were too busy believing that Islam is all about declaring the sects we do not like as infidels, others continued to adopt and inculcate within their social systems, the virtues and principles of religion that we should have inherited.

Ever since, the Islam of Pakistan has been shaping up to appear more like a superficially symbolic and a hypocritically melodramatic phenomenon and less like a religion of peace. Exhibit A: a Danish cartoonist in some other part of the world decides to draw the caricatures of our Prophet (PBUH), and we tear down our own country, burning tyres, blocking roads, damaging the infrastructure of our own towns and going to the ludicrous heights of filing blasphemy complaints against Mark Zuckerberg. Exhibit B: a mentally deranged man is alleged to have burnt Quran and we practically burn the man himself alive in public. Or an 11-year old Christian girl with a Down’s syndrome is seen to have manhandled the Noorani Qaida is severely beaten and imprisoned.

I, by no means, intend to defend and promote someone’s acts but to only highlight our internal contradictions that plague ourselves and our society.

My discontentment originates from the fact that if a goddamn faithless man’s drawings are to be considered as disrespect worthy of setting your country on fire, then why on God’s earth, a faithful man’s routine disregard and disobediences towards the teachings of our Prophet (PBUH) are not categorized as a sign of contempt that calls for stirring an equal controversy. Dictionary lists the word blasphemy to mean “irreverent behaviour toward anything held sacred.” Call me excessively concerned, but I believe disobeying and disregarding someone’s orders are just as irreverent as anything else. We lie, slander, backbite, bribe, cheat, spread intolerance and hatred, despise and hurt the poor, exploit the weak and blatantly violate and ignore our Prophet’s guidance everyday and yet have the heart and conscience to declare others as blasphemers while only a little introspection would be enough to convince us that we, ourselves, are the real blasphemers.

Similarly, we get so busy picking and hunting the rough-handlers of Quran that we completely forget that we also have one copy of the same Book lying dust-covered in some dark, forgotten part of our shelves back at our homes for us to read, understand, and apply to become better human beings who build better societies.

While Shias are dragged out of buses and shot dead at point blank range, and the drones keep eliminating innocent lives, we continue to apathetically switch the channels, too lazy to raise a voice. But we see the news of Veena Malik pose naked and we make a point of carrying out a detailed investigation into the matter scrutinizing all pictorial evidence and then let go a vehement outcry damning the model for tarnishing the image of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. We imply: ‘Look we are the Muslims of Pakistan, we cannot tolerate Blasphemy and Behayayi. The other atrocities and misdeeds that are equally against the teachings of Islam and are actually hampering prosperity in Pakistan are there but we have comfortably chosen to turn a blind eye to them. We whine, under the fits of self-pity, about being misjudged but we are adamant that we will not mend our ways until we have absolutely and irrevocably reduced our Islam to just burning tyres and burning men.’

Sarah Khan

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