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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Sawal-e-Coexistance

While reviewing the morning news online across various websites both Pakistani and Non Pakistani, the usual bit of events and columns ends up making the front page. If your in Pakistan, your quite likely to find columns and news stories with respect to the growing war of words or the so called growing divide between the religious right and those that are advocates of a secular state. This is particularly relevant in Pakistan's liberal left leaning media outlets where there is an abundant presence of advocates of secularism and the seperation of religion from legislation. The religious right as well as the secularists have been in the news again over the upcoming issue over Valentines day. As millions of rupees are being spent by major brands on Valentines day dedicated marketing, money is also being spent on advertising defaming Valentines day as an act of utter immorality and one which will lead the destruction of the moral fabric of society. Such advertisements which can be found in the form of large hoardings as well as Vehicle mounted advertising are also making claims that the wrath of hell fire awaits a society that tolerates vulgarity and indecency etc. First things first, who are the religious right and their organizations to label what is moral or immoral, what is decent or indecent, what will or what won't break down the fabric of society. These people and their organizations have no legal authority to enforce their school of thought or their way of life upon others. Their usual claims for doing that is that this is all God's will and it is mandatory for them to make sure the world lives in accordance with Islamic law or the Islamic way of life. Our society's move towards moral and religious policy by unofficial unsanctioned non state actors as well as individuals with that school of thought are making coexistance a difficult proposition. It is also further pushing the liberal secularists towards the other extreme, further widening this divide.

Our society had managed to make some progress towards a return to liberalisation in the early 90's in the years following the demise of Zia, who played a very big role in Islamization of society. Too much emphasis was given to following Islam literally, too much focus was placed on symbolic rituals and practices and Islamicc spirituality which goes hand in hand with the sub continent version of Sufi Islam, got replaced by a Wahabi influenced version of Islam. Islam maybe a complete way of life, but those advocating an Islamic way of life are only able to imagine a literal 7th century version of it instead of realizing that the religion itself stands the test of time and it has its place in society in every century, decade or year. Let's just look at the recent Hoo Hah this lot has raised against Valentines day, what is so shameful about it if I might ask? Considering the nature of our culture and society, most couples celebrating it are likely to be married one's, secondly, where are these same voices when injustices are happening in our society, where are these very voices when human rights violation happens, exploitation of people happens at times at the hand of the some of the religious right.

Before any one starts labeling me as a secularist or an apologist for their cause, let me make it clear to you, I do not associate my self either school of the schools of thought and I am just a simple guy who believes religion is a very personal affair, and not something that should be made a public spectacle out of, there is absolutely no need for moral policing by the religious right or even people who are religious. Religious policing is becoming way too common for comfort levels on an every day basis. Last I checked God has mentioned His own Holy Book that is there no compulsion in religion, so does not that make every form of moral and religious policing and the need for it as null and void? It would not be unfair to conclude, that maybe religious people do not have a problem with different cultural symbols, rather they have a problem with people living a life that is different from the one that they have chosen for themselves. Is it possible, they want other people around them to live lifestyle as them, or does the way of life of others around them remind them of the other life they could have had or one they left behind.

A lot of now really orthodox conservative religious lot have come from non religious back grounds and have only recently been roped in through the help of TV evangelical types for example Dr Aamir Liaquat, who is known to have a huge following and a huge influence on people's thinking ability. What more proof do u need when he made a large audience cry on live television by talking about the Hell Fire, or the fact that he Ahmed's infidels and the next day a few got shot. Just how exactly will we manage coexistance when the religiously sensitive lot is so hell bent on making others adopt their way of life for themselves also. For a lay person, it is almost like 'since they live dull uninteresting and inactive lives, so should everyone else'

On a personal level I have lost count of the number of times I have encountered religious who have tried to make me carbon copies of themselves by either claiming to get offended by me not praying or fasting, or by using scare tactics. For one I can not understand how can you get offended if some one doesn't pray or fast, what is there to get offended about, how is blasphamy as some claim it to be? Scare tactics are particularly very common these days, they usually involve un natural inducement of fear for the Hell Fire and the Grave and the Questions we will asked about our slackey attitude towards important ritualistic practices etc. News flash for you guys, you are not answerable for my deeds, you will not be the one lowered into my grave, I will be, so the responsibility is fully with me over what destiny holds for me in the after life, and just how confident are you about bright prospects in the after life, ever thought about that? Seriously not a big deal if some people are not religious get used to it.

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