Monday, 14 March 2016

Fifty shades of extremism

Allow me to pose a simple question; who should decide what is good for the people of this country? Simple and logical answer would be, the legislature. Then why people take Fatwa more seriously than the law? For example, if strict blasphemy laws existed then why people rushed to imam masjid of Ittan Wali for disposal of Asia Bibi after she allegedly passed the blasphemous remarks? Reason is simple. there is a serious disconnect between law and tradition. Here, the word 'tradition' is used purposefully to illustrate that our religious inclinations and social settings combine together to form tradition. So basically it is mix of culture and belief. For obvious reasons, the word Maulvi has become a derogatory term for anyone who keeps a beard or talks religion yet the nuisance value of Maulvi is a reality of our society. Not only they exist, they matter. See how they have been able to mobilise the people on Mumtaz Qadri's hanging and Women Protection Bill. However, Religious Right (religious political parties, Tableeghis, hard core sectarians, taliblans and Pirs) is not the  favourite of this country as election after election, people elect lesser political evils (mainstream political parties particularly PML (N) & PPPP).  This scenario suggests that there is a great silent majority who believes that Religious Right should stay away from power. Yet, when it comes to 'significant issues', they seek 'guidance' of Ulema. It is a funny old cocktail. The political parties, owing to jinx of mediocrity and incompetence could never rise above short term gains and corruption. Hence, people are mis-represented and confusion galore. But the worst part is that they are misrepresented by choice. So how do we cope up with this situation? After all, religion cannot be divorced from politics and vice versa. Ottoman Empire was probably the best model of politico-religious co-existence but it was a monarchy which withered with time.
Today we are surrounded by fifty shades of extremism. Extremism has caused irreparable damage to Pakistan; may it be religious, sectarian or liberal extremism. You must have read and heard volumes on religious extremism but today we shall expose liberal extremism which has been equally damaging. 
For thousands of years, strength of our society rested in conventional wisdom and strongly embedded family values, holding entire society together. However, the decaying process started with introduction of western education. Acquisition of Western education was essential to progress but it had to be tailored in line with our socio-religious makeup. Works of Allama Iqbal revolve around the same theme. Other civilizations e.g Chinese are also progressing through western education but without losing sight of Confucianism. Unfortunately, right at the outset, small yet influential elite of our society lost track of its core values during process of cultural naturalization. But a mango tree will never yield oranges. So, like a science experiment that produces undesired results, we ended up with cult of liberal extremists in our society.  Luckily, they are not the intellectual elite of this society. But still, liberal extremist exist in numbers and they are as bad as religious extremists. 
Social media has been buzzing with unrelenting liberal extremism in the wake of recent issues which have no substance or significance whatsoever. Some people are even offended by the very mention of Sharmeen Obaid Chinnoi. Well, she is a commercial artist who conceived a brilliant business plan twice and twice her efforts were recognized by The Academy (a biased and controversial institution) . But that is about it. We should not feed on fallacy that it meant any good to the women of this country. Likewise, Malala Yousafzai is developing in to a well rounded young lady. She is doing well in life and which is 'good for her'. Similarly, legislator Uzma Bukhari is trying her best to add another feather in her cap by promoting women’s protection bill. Notwithstanding the fact that  promulgation of this bill will further compound the issue for women. Divorce rate of last two decade will give you a hint.
Liberal extremism has taken such deep roots that some of you have already judged the scribe being an ortho-religious extremist. However, truth of the matter is that all Muslim Pakistanis are trying to find their way through fifty shades of extremism. For example, all of us have a sect; something our parents chose for us at the time of birth. For the rest of our lives, whether we know its basics or not, we bravely defend our sect mostly through undermining other sects. To an extent that we may give benefit of doubt to non-Muslims but we have no tolerance for other sects because 'Aqeedah has overtaken the Iman'. Such is the state of affairs. If anyone still thinks ‘all is well’ then see where we stand today and you will find the answer.
Interestingly, religious and liberal extremism are not the opposite poles but the shades of extremism. Wearing different masks they all sell the same merchandise i.e. hatred and intolerance. Greater majority of Pakistanis exists in this fog of extremism but they continue to remain silent. They have already delegated the responsibility of deciding their fate to extremist mullah or extremist liberals through media channels. Past few weeks, we have seen debate over Women's Protection Bill in the mainstream media. Every evening we see a tiptop lady and a well fed Mullah wrangling over opposite perspectives on the the same issue. Both try to prove their ascendancy over each other by telling us what is good for us. It is not their fault, it the fault of that silent majority between these extremes which is affected by this nonsense but does not speak up. Neither the women of ruling elite nor the love life of Mullahs will be affected by these laws; rather the women of our families will have to take the brunt. Contrary to traditional respectful ways, which neither involved Mullah nor the law; women are being made to believe that Punjab Police and the greatest administrator of human race (Chotay Mian sb) will afford them protection. Please do not jump the gun by concluding that the scribe condones violence against women. It is deplorable. But a country which stands 127th in poverty index; which barely educates half of its population and still insists on building matros instead of schools and universities can face such issues. There is greater emergency in education sector than any other. However, men habitual of violence and those who do not take responsibility of their offspring must be taken to task through consensual legislation involving all stakeholders.
Now let us see the how religious and liberal extremism continue to ravage this country in the light of recent developments. Liberal element is ascendant due to promulgation of Women’s Protection Bill and hanging of Mumtaz Qadri. On the other hand, antagonized Religious Right element sees it as an opportunity to re-assert itself because it was rapidly losing ground due to ongoing Operation Zarb-e-Azb. Before operation, they were making hay while the sun of religious extremism was shinning bright. But now the tables have been turned.  For the first time, public opinion was unified against extremism (which otherwise took nearly four decades and almost hundred thousand lives to sink in). Those in supply chain of extremism were facing bad business. Their unchecked supplies of weapons, manpower and other logistics both inland and across were hampered. Similarly, the middleman who had his fingers in ghee and head in karahi was becoming redundant. In the past, people like Maulana Sahab retained Govt Ministries as well as upper hand in brokering deals between govt and the terrorists whichever felt the need for negotiations.  But it all came to halt with determined stroke of Azb.
Lately, liberal extremists through their disdainful posturing, continued to rub salt in to already bruised Religious Right. Liberal extremists are not paying heed to the fact that their high octane rhetoric may cast aspersions on ongoing operations
and will also afford a ripe opportunity to Religious Right to exploit the situation. We have already witnessed a spate of violence across the country after Qadri’s Hanging which has the capacity to gather mass like a snowball. Likewise, provocative statements emanating from govt offices are also adding fuel to the fire. Growing resentment over the said events has the propensity to undermine the gains of Operation Zarb-e-Azb.
Despite all shades of extremism we remain Pakistanis. Religious Right is hurting because it is losing business and nuisance, but it is unfathomable why liberal extremists can’t stay away from undue confrontation. They just have to let go for a while. Is moral victory not enough that controversial law has been passed? Is it not enough that Mumtaz Qadri is hanged? Whichever, education system one may have attended and whichever sect we proudly belong; we should have the stomach for disagreement without a squabble. Disagreement is the hallmark of vibrant societies but not at the cost of good manner. But most of liberal extremist simply want to open up firing squad on Mullahs which is equally extremist as Taliban view liberals. Difference is in method of execution whereas both shades of extremism have already done enough damage which must stop now. Instead of initiating a crusade against Mullahcracy, we need to tackle this mindset with due amount of respect and tactfulness because they do hold a position of strength in society. 
Finally, Pakistan cannot afford another row over less important issues like protection bill and hanging of a murderer. We must consider that when we spit venom against each other, it further polarizes the society. There are no winners in this game. Rather, it goes to show complete disregard to the brave sons of the soil who are giving their lives in ongoing operations as we speak. We can chip in with our share by just controlling that little shade of extremism inside each one of us.
Only Allah knows the whole Truth.