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Thursday, March 7, 2013

Freedom and Religious Bullying

One can't help but wonder and think whether the idea of others living in freedom is unbareable to some. Is it just the idea of freedom or a version of freedom that is different from that followed by some? We live in a world, where many are free, many are not, while some have freedoms which they are unaware and continue to live so somewhere in between. Freedom of thought, freedom of expression and freedom of religion are just some of the different types of freedoms people talk about. One will also find people who talk about Freedom from Freedom, I am guessing that refers to what I wrote about in the first sentence, some of us want others to be free from our type of freedom and give into their brand of freedom. If I am wrong in this interpretation, I have no idea what Freedom from Freedom means.

Anyways coming back to the main purpose of this blog now. I am trying to make a point here about religious freedom, which many try to exercise and some how this existence of religious freedom as exercised by some can not digested by some others. By some others, I refer to the lot on the religious right or very high on the religious sensitivity scale. Realistically a lot of us from the affluent educated urban middle classes of Pakistan, we do not like an era where religion is forced upon us by the gun or the sword, most of us wouldn't like a weapon inside our homes even though a crime ridden city like Karachi, maybe not the worst idea. However that does not mean, religion is being forced upon us and at times down our throats through other forms of force. To be specific, the use of soft force and bullying tactics which have become way too common across homes in urban Pakistan.

The kind of soft force tactics one comes across includes bullying, discrimination, verbal assault, harassment and second class treatment of those not religious or those not equally religious on par with those on the religious right. For example, I classify this as religious bullying when people claim that they get really offended if you decline an invitation to pray in congregation with them, I also consider this as bullying when those on the religious right try not just to preach but also try to induce fear inside of you of God and God's wrath as opposed to God's compassion towards His creations. Do not be surprised if you hear fictionalised tales of how young lives unfortunately came to an untimely end and that death was a painful experience for the individuals discussed because they were not religious, hence they created bad luck for themselves in life and did not even merit a painless departure from the world. Even bad luck is blamed by such people on our lack of religiousness through symbolic rituals and practices. Very recently a friend tried to convince me that stages of bad luck in my life happened because I was not religious and this was God's wrath coming my way, while another friend about a year ago when I was going through an agony due to dental infection also suggested that this pain and misery has come my way because I am not religous and God is unhappy with me. At the same these people will want to make you feel guilty about your life, and make you despise yourself and the choices you have made. Other signs of soft force and bullying includes being treated as a second class person because you might not be as rigid a practitioner of symbolic rituals and practices, in other words if you do not wear religion on your sleeve you could draw unwanted attention towards yourself.

As a child I had always seen religion as a personal affair from how elders around me were, only after I reached my teenage years and then early adulthood did I witness or experienced and witnessed a radical transformation of society. When I grew up, what I saw was that even informal gatherings in the extended family had become religious seminars off sorts, prayer which was confined to the privacy of a room for those wishing to pray, now has become a public spectacle in the main hall or the main garden. But what's worse is that this culture of open display of religious symbols has created hypocracy and given a lot of bargaining power to opportunists which wish to exploit religion for personal gain or hide their wrong doings.

In the Holy Quran, in Verse 256 of Surah Baqra, God Himself has declared that there is no compulsion in religion. For most Muslims, the interpretation of this is that you can not force some one to practise or be religious, while on the other hand for those way way on the right of the religious right spectrum, it means you can not by force convert any one to a Muslim. So if God Himself is saying there is no compulsion, then why are the mind of the religious right so thick in understanding this. At the same time, they quote this verse, yet also at the same time, they argue that if they kept their silence they would be questioned in the hear after for not bringing others around them to the right path. Somehow they are unable to understand that every individual is answerable for their own deeds, and somehow they can not come to terms with the fact that some people are just not religious. Bullying non practicing Muslims or even discriminating them based on how religious they are or are not is also end of the day use of force and an attempt to deprive others of freedom to practice religion, a personal affair on their own terms. 

1 comment:

  1. Looking down upon anyone, no matter how bad they are, is against the teachings of Islam. Umar ibn al Khattab R.A used to say, "If you see that one of you has slipped, correct him, pray for him and do not help shaytaan against him (by insulting him)"

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