Please speak up, please speak up already. These are the words, feelings or sentiments from myself going out to the religious right, in fact such thoughts go out not only to them but also to the religiously sensitive people in Pakistan that are continuously on the rise. It seems that through some sort of an indirect process we have been pushed as a society towards the religious right, some would call it a push towards heightened religious sensitivity or insensitivity towards others. In the past week or so, we have seen the brave 14 year old Malala from Swat dominate the news regardless of whether your source of media is right, left or center. We have also seen countless tweets, blogs and Facebook status's dedicated to her. We have also heard condemnation of the attack on her from ordinary people and even opportunistic politicians who want to capitalize on the 'Malala' is our hero fever spreading across the nation. However what we are yet to witness in significant volume is condemnation of those barbarians behind the attack 'Tehrik e Taliban Pakistan', TTP for short. Just to be clear this blog is not about 'Malala' though I should have joined the remaining left leaning liberal lot in dedicating one to her, I will touch on her in another blog later.
One should not be too surprised at the silence of public figures for proactive and vocal condemnation of the attack, for public figures even though we expect a great deal of bravery from them, have their own lives to worry about including the lives of their loved ones. Even well guarded politicians are unsafe in this country, even from their protectors. It seems like just yesterday that the governor of the Punjab province was brutally murdered by his own body guard for speaking up against the draconian blasphemy laws in Pakistan. And what happened afterwards, that cold blooded murderer. The silence that followed was very overwhelming, and this is the very silence I am speaking about.
The religious right or the religiously sensitive were silent or reluctant to fully speak out what was required when the Governor was assassinated and even today they are not speaking up as much as they should in condemnation of the Taliban. A quick brief up on the religiously sensitive urban lot, they are even found even among educated circles in society, and they are deeply sensitive about even the smallest of things associated with religion. First of all, I can not emphasis on this enough, they fail to understand and realize that religion is a very personal affair and not something that should be made a public spectacle out off. Secondly, they can not bear to see others living a way of life that is different from the one they have chosen for themselves, the same can be said about the Taliban, they want the rest of Pakistan, maybe even the rest of the Ummah to subscribe to their ideology and live a way of life they have chosen for themselves. Thirdly, this lot believes anything and possibly everything is justified in the name of religion, even if it means silencing innocent people, harassing others for not being religious, this includes accusing people of being blasphemous for not being as religious as them, taking the law into their own hands when it comes to others, the list is endless.
It is this very 'Anything Goes' with respect to religion that needs to be stopped and people need to be reconditioned into becoming more tolerant and compassionate towards others. Unless a sense of empathy exists for other human beings, I do not see people breaking their silence and speaking up against intolerance and barbaric acts of violence in the name of religion. There is more to people's silence than fear, it is part apathy and part conditioning around blind unquestioned and unconditional acceptance of things in the name of religion. Small example from my past, a few years back the government of Pakistan took the initiative to end the controversial 'Hudood Ordinance' laws from the dark days of Zia's rule. Around the days leading up to the much needed changes to laws, in living rooms across the country and even among educated diaspora Pakistani's, all I could hear were baseless arguments and a sense of sympathy for existence of such laws. Even when I tried to put forward the reasoning that this law has led to mistreatment of women in Pakistan for decades, it is exploitative and needs to be abolished, the apologists for religious law and the religious right had the same argument across various living rooms and their social circles that 'its the fault of the woman, she should not have ventured out of the house with Non-Mehrum men in the first place, she is responsible for what happened to her and rightfully deserves to be punished'. I feel so embarrassed even writing this, this is the same kind of insensitivity of apathy that is seriously screwing the country over. It is because of this religious conditioning that people having lived through Zia times that there is the 'Anything Goes' among people and deep down people see groups like the Taliban as fighters of Islam struggling for a Holy Cause instead of seeing them as terrorists.
Let's see what the future holds for Pakistan, for now I can only hope and pray that in the days to come people start waking up before the war comes closer to home and girls like Malala are in every neighborhood of Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad and every other major city of this country.