And We Are Muslims ??

Muslim Matters

And We Are Muslims ??

By Mehr Tarar

Kill a human being who does not share your faith and voila, as per your  religious gurus, you have earned the title of  ‘ghazi’

MehrTararMy  12-year-old son is a Muslim. He knows the Namaz, reads the Quran  with a teacher, and recites the Kalima before going to sleep. He  understands the basic concepts and has no problem lowering the of TV when one is saying prayers, or when asked to put the Quran in  a clean, protected space. Asked why he does all these things, his  answer would be simple: “My mom taught me to.” My 12-year-old is a  Muslim simply because I am a Muslim. His faith is not something he  was born with, and all he knows is imbibed through parental  influence. The only thing noteworthy is his perception about the  world: how unfair some things are, how people unleash cruelty on one  another. His unfaltering empathy, his profound concern for people  are things probably no one taught him. When I tell him about painful  events, there is no recoiling in unease; there is merely a rapid  fluttering of eyelashes, a telltale sign of an attempt to hide his  tears, this time about the 11-year-old Christian girl who is the  latest victim of Muslim ruthlessness.

Islam is a commodity  today. It is a commodity for those who practice it in mosques,  chanting what they learned as children without full comprehension of  what the Quran connotes. It is a commodity for those in madrassas  where hoards of pupils, hunched over their religious books, learn as  much from the text as their teachers see fit. It is a commodity for  those who, to monopolise a few weak souls, roar into their  microphones how one faith is better than the others — be it Sunni or  Shia. It is a commodity for those who pen reams of hate literature  without any consideration for the historical context of the events  open to them for distortion, thus providing more opportunities for  those who look for an excuse to unleash cruelty on fellow  beings.

It  is a commodity for those who have prime time slots on TV channels,  with a unilateral agenda to top the ratings game, with no thought  that their biased pronouncements become sacred to those in need of  props to strengthen their faith through tele-scholars. Religion is a  commodity for many enfeebled minds who have mastered a simple  principle: you can never go wrong if you have a beard, your shalwar  is above your ankles, you have a rosary wrapped around your wrist,  you can quote Quranic verses as and when required and you have an  epithet — mullah, maulvi, alim, maulana — attached to your name. Now  you are invincible. Who in his right mind would raise a finger at  you when your hands are humbly joined to pray to Allah? Whatever you  do is in the name of religion; which mere mortal has the right to  see you for what you truly are?

In no way this implies that  all religious people are identical. There are many who practice what  they preach and to them Islam is to be believed in and not imposed.  Unfortunately, they are the minority. Their messages of tolerance  and brotherhood are constantly overwhelmed by the incoherent  cacophony of the fanatic  hate-mongers, the bigoted, the  unforgiving. Mosques, the only entity to invade our houses through  microphones and loudspeakers, armed with sermons and rants about sin  and sinners, have become more than assembly places for prayer and  the transmission of Azaan.

Now, for some, these are the licensed areas to spew venom, incite violence and invoke vengeance for all those not walking the straight  line of Islam — their interpretation of Islam. Not the Islam  of  Mohammad (s), but the Islam that teaches one faith to persecute another, one faith to proclaim superiority over others,  one faith to decide who is a better Muslah, one faith to choose who  lives or dies, one faith to even decide who gets to be a Muslim. The  Islam of Mohammad  (s)— the only person I believe in other than what I read in the Quran — is not the distorted version full of  persecution, fanaticism and outright barbarism that some vigilantes  of Islam unleash on their own, leave alone on those who are of  different religions.

Convert a Hindu into a Muslim; you buy yourself a seat in heaven with 72 virgins. Kidnap a crying Hindu girl and marry her off forcibly to a grinning Muslim hick; you have marked yourself as a true follower of Mohammad (s). All  your sins are cleansed. Erase the word Allah from the grave of the only Nobel Laureate of Pakistan and you deserve a standing ovation.  Stop the Ahmedis from going to their places of worship and you have  fulfilled your religious obligation for the day. Demolish parts of  those buildings, thus making them indistinguishable as mosques, and  you houour Islam. Kill a human being who does not share your faith  and voila, as per your religious gurus, you have earned the title of  ‘ghazi’.

The number of Shias forced off buses en route to their families, identified and killed,  is something I cannot sum up in hundreds of words. Innocent Muslims killed by fellow Muslims who decided, on only God knows whose authority, that only their faith mattered. These inhuman acts cannot be encapsulated in a few words. The enormity of what happened in my country over the last few months is beyond my capacity to make sense  of, hence my inability to capture it in my text coherently. Here, as  a Sunni, I lower my head, offer a prayer, and apologise — with all  of me.

Hindus, victimised simply because they  are born as Hindus –just as my son was born a Muslim — are the ones  to whom we owe another apology. For the love of God, this is as much their country as it is ours. Any country that celebrates a National  Minorities Day validates the incongruity of its fundamental  principles. Hindu, Christian, Parsi, Sikh, Jew, anyone of any faith,  colour, creed, who has lived here for centuries, before we claimed  it as only ours, is as much a Pakistani as those who pray to Makkah.  Jinnah said it, our religion preaches it; when did we become the  arbiters of faith of which only Allah is the  arbiter?

For all who saluted the assassin of the former governor, Salmaan Taseer, the less said the better. Why waste words on those ignorant preachers of religion who killed the one man who had the moral courage to stand up for a  condemned-to-death-on-a-blasphemy-charge poor Christian woman, Aasia  Bibi? She does not matter. Why would the individual who spoke for  her matter? Government’s inability to expedite the court-ordered  punishment handed down to the assassin shows the level of fear our  rulers have when it comes to blasphemy laws that need a major  revision, if not a complete repeal.

The mentally disturbed man in Bahawalpur district, beaten to death and burnt by a mob that on the instigation of their local mosque speakers saw blood, is the person we owe an apology to. He was a ‘blasphemer’;  the verdict was given, but by whom? True Muslims? Faith apart, how do you kill a man without a trial and get away with it? Of course,  you can, if you are a self-appointed vigilante of Islam in the  Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Rest assured, you would never be  penalised.

The biggest slap on our tattered moral fibre comes in the shape of the arrest and jailing of the  11-year-old Rimsha Masih. A pre-teen non-Muslim girl playing near a garbage pile is a blasphemer? A girl who has no notion of the  sanctity of the holy text of another faith is a blasphemer? A girl who picked up pages of a discarded Arabic language lesson book (qaida), taught to pre-Quran-reading Muslim children is a blasphemer? Forget about her Down Syndrome for a bit. Which religion  allows this treatment of a child based on some deeply flawed  interpretation of religion? Islam? To me, the answer is simple. And  there is just one example to follow: Prophet Mohammad (s). Raise  your hand if you have read and believe the story of the man who threw garbage on the Prophet’s (s) door every day. How did he treat him? I rest my argument. Let us all think: who is the so-called blasphemer here? The 11-year-old  Christian girl who was playing with discarded pages or those who threw the pages there? What happened to the Quranic injunction of  aamal (actions) connected to neeyat (intent)? There is no answer. We are all just impostors, hypocrites, cowards, who hide behind the  name of Allah, when there is nothing left to our moral, social and  religious  discourses.


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