December 22, 2010


They came first for the Ahmedis,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't an Ahmedi.

Then they came for the Christians,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Christian.

Then they came for the Ismailis,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't an Ismali.

Then they came for me
and by that time no one was left to speak up.

---

I come from a small gujarati community which is - in its own way - as removed from the frame of larger sunni Islam as is any other sect. I don't want to go into the fairly tedious debate of whether our beliefs are righter (or wronger) than Islam generic. Frankly, I figure when I'm looking down at all you other cartoons from my little pedestal in heaven this debate will be superfluous. Until then, let's please refrain from discussing religious truisms and - instead - lets just talk about this strange tendency over the past year of the godforsaken blasphemy law to pop up every couple of months targeted at yet another random person from a small community.

For the longest time, the blasphemy law has targeted the Ahmedis. So much so that when each of us goes to make (or renew) a passport, we have to pledge that all Ahmedis are non-Muslim. Because the average person on the street (such as I) is perfectly qualified to decide on the veracity of other's religion. But there you go. In this strange little world of the motherland we grab power where we can get it and we rejoice in denouncing other people's faiths. If the Ahmedi's got the short end of the stick, we sympathize with them but we're just very glad it wasn't-me. Which is fine, because let's face it: we're all human. And nobody likes being victimized, denounced, degraded, being cheated out of property and position on religious pretext or brutally murdered (but only every now and then). But frankly this is an Ahmedi issue. And Ahmedis should deal with it. Sorry, for all the trouble, but really its nor 'our' cross to bear. Thank God.

A few months ago we hear all this hoo-haa about Aasia bibi. A Christian woman languishing in jail for over a year and a half suddenly gets the death penalty and the country is an uproar. Half the media denouncing the punishment of an 'innocent' woman, the other half denouncing the denouncers determined to uphold the glory of Islam. Because the glory of Islam is completely dependent on what a Christian woman says to her neighbors in a fit of anger in some obscure village in Pakistani backwaters. Naturally. While the average person on the street sympathizes (we really do) with women-who-get-the-death-penalty, we wonder why amongst all the million things Pakistanis have to worry about, Aasia gets top priority on national television for so many days. And we wonder what our stance should be on the whole issue. No, we don't approve of Christians being killed. That would hardly be humane. But then we strongly disapprove of Prophets being maligned. As we should. And at the end of the day, there is this poor Christian woman in a jail somewhere wondering when she is going to be killed (talk about sword hanging on head situation), however we happily convince ourselves that whatever happens its not about the individual anyway. Its about the principle of the thing. And besides, non-Muslims should watch it when they bitch about the majority. Haina?

This morning, there's another interesting piece of news at our disposal. Some Ismaili doctor in Sindh somewhere has had a case registered against him under the blasphemy law. Apparently he threw his business card in the dustbin. Are you scratching your head wondering why this is blasphemy? Don't trouble yourself, I'll tell you. His name is Muhammad Faizan. Still confused? Just goes to show how stupid you are. Did you not immediately connect the dots and understand that he threw the Prophet's name in the dustbin? Would 'you' do that? Would 'I' do that? Would any of us - with any sense and healthy fear of religious evangelists haunting our doorstep - do that? No we would not. But 'he' did. And to think he comes from a respectable Muslim sect. I mean I know they're Shia and all, but Ismailis are not beyond the fold. Yet, at any rate. But what do we care, last I checked I was not related to Dr. Faizan and while I sympathize with his mistaken desire to court the wrath of local religious fanatics, why should I be concerned if his life may be at stake post blasphemy? I should wish him well from the safety of my house, and check the contents of my dustbin once again (because we have just seen how mistakes may prove to be lethal in this country). Why, I wonder, should I speak up to defend this Ismaili doctor?

Except I should. I should care because a law exists in my country which is being used again, and again to victimize minorities. I should care because there seems to be no check or balance on how the clauses associated with 'protecting the glory of Islam' play themselves out in practice. I should care because people are being given death sentences for maligning the name of a man who graciously forgave a woman who threw rubbish on him every single day. I should care because even though I am a Muslim, there are moments when I know that I am part of a small sect that would - if the t's were crossed and i's were dotted - be known as a minority within the diverse fold of Islam. I should care because other people seem to have made 'mistakes' that are all too common, and all too forgivable, but they were prosecuted for them in the harshest possible way. I should care because this evangelical, unreasonable, illogical religious monster may even now be heading towards those I love, those I know and those I care about to swallow them up under trumped up charges of blasphemy.

If we don't speak up now, if we don't speak up soon, I'm very afraid there will be a time when we cannot speak up at all.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

how very well put, Z.

weird how we've never met considering how many plp we know in common

Xeb said...

Thankyou.

And I'd be able to answer the latter statement if I knew who you were :P

Awais Aftab said...

I'm very glad to see this post. We should all speak up against this cruel nonsense that is being orchestrated in this country. And if we get afraid and remain silent, then we are simply the passive partners-in-crime to these heinous acts.

How do we know said...

u know Xeb, just today, i was thinking of this quote - exactly this quote - that there was no one left to speak for me. Agricultural products in our country are at an all time high (the farmers are getting no part of these high prices) and i said to someone - The farmers died, we did not speak. The Girls died, we did not speak. When its our turn, there won't be anyone to speak for us. If we are buying onions at 80 rs a kilo today, it is our fault. WE let this government stay when it was killing farmers, when agricultural land was being "acquired" for industry and being made to appear as "barren" land. WE remained mute because it was not happening to us. And today, it IS happening to us.

Your post rings very, very true .. in more ways than one.

Anonymous said...

You are so right Xeb, more power to you! It's kind of a universal statement, unfortunately. Btw by writing this blog, you have achieved kinds of power you might not have expected. This is anon #2.

Anonymous said...

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/princess/reflect/harvard.html

Xeb said...

A: I could not agree more.

H: *sigh*

Anon2: What kind of power?

Anon(3?): Interesting link. Thank you for sharing :)

xyzandme said...

Us humans can abide one of these three rules..

1. The rule of GOD..(aka scriptures)

2. The rule of Nature...

3. Our legal system.

If one tries to mix and match .. it leads to disaster.

But indeed superpositions of 2 and 3 are keeping the world going on.. while the interjections of the 1st brings the it down.