The animal within
The incarceration of an 11-year-old on charges of blasphemy and threats to her life, the shaving of the eyebrows and the head of a tailor for being tardy and the chopping off the nose, tongue and gouging out the eyes of an adversary during the Eid holidays should have sent shivers down anyone’s spine. In any humane society, under these circumstances, all public gatherings, including Eid khutbas, should have seriously addressed the sinister ways of using religion as a cloak in using perverse forms of violence. The disease is contagious and has taken deep root in Pakistan. Such violence is condoned, defended and glorified through some sections of the media. Names of influential perpetrators are blacked out, while the vulnerable victim and family members are grilled to death. Simply calling for a “report”, on the directives of the head of state of the country, is not enough. At the very least, the perpetrators should be arrested, their acts publicly denounced and persecution in the name of religion, especially against a child and that, too, from a minority religion, deprecated in the strongest way possible.
There is often doom and gloom in the country, but one had hoped that the Eid holidays will bring some calm. And they did indeed. Even cell phone calls were made unavailable for Eid enthusiasts. It was a strange kind of calm with news of barbarism the only entertainment. How in the world can any decent person rejoice, even at Eid, after reading that an 11-year-old has been sent to jail for presumably desecrating the Holy Scriptures? Those accosting and tormenting her wanted her blood. The keepers of the law pushed the poor child in prison, in the hope of appeasing her bloodthirsty neighbours. It is moments like these that make one question all faiths that can churn out such bloodthirsty followers. It is not simple bigotry (which by itself is unbearable) but the cruellest form of it mixed with a desire for blood — a child’s blood. Can one imagine the trauma of an innocent child being hounded and then locked away on the charge of blasphemy? If anything is heresy it would be to use religion to intimidate, persecute and harass people and that, too, a mere child.
The exhibition of religiosity in our society has reached dangerous heights. There is total freedom of religion but its manifestation has limits. Declaring other fiqhs like those from Fiqh-e-Jafferia kafirs is a crime. An open invitation to kill them and slogans seeking revenge against them are pasted all over in public spaces, including even on government properties. Surely, the state has a responsibility to arrest those seen so obviously blackening the walls of cities in this manner? This inertia and fright has emboldened religious militants. The Hazaras in Balochistan and simple travellers from Gilgit have been massacred ruthlessly. Not only the government, but all those who are selling themselves as the saviours of the nation must speak up. Violence is not a left or right issue. It is an issue of Pakistan’s survival and dignity. It is a disgrace for any country when its religious minorities leave because of persistent persecution.
Anger is not limited towards religious minorities alone and in fact extends to all vulnerable classes. The tailor gets humiliated. What for? For not getting the sahib’s and the begum sahiba’s clothes ready in time for Eid! A kami gets his eyes gorged out for illicit relations. Where is the law that the puritans made for such vices? It seems that all it has done is to lend further legitimacy to those who preach hate and sit on judgment of other people’s virtues. Let this end now. Let the next Eid be dedicated to peace. Let the faithful not confine themselves to the sacrifice of the best fed animal they see but take care of the animal within.