By Fareeha Qayoom
It’s strange but true – The Mughals didn’t leave much of an impression on our psyche in spite of the fact that we share a religion and a culture with them, they are supposed to be part of our recent past, and even though, evolution of Pakistani culture was supposed to be the next big link in the overall evolution of global and universal Islamic culture and heritage and the Muslims of sub-continent were supposed to lead this new wave – it’s the British Raj Bahadur that left a lasting impression on us instead. We are not capable of leading any new wave – we are not even capable of taking care of the old one – our dying legacy – the Mughal monuments dotting our countryside!
We may not be aware of it much. We think we have gained independence, we are free to practice our religion our way, free from outside influences, the way we interpret it, evolving our culture based on our Islamic heritage and taking western (European/American) or regional (Indian/Afghan/Persian/Turkish/Arab) influences only where they don’t clash with our traditions and synthesizing them to create something purely Pakistani – well, you are wrong if you think that. We may no longer be a British colony– but we have not evolved beyond a certain point. The Victorian values are very much alive and kicking in the back of our minds and still play a key role in shaping our lives and thoughts – you can see those influences in our cities, our planning and infrastructure, our homes and offices and even in our governments and bureaucracy, our laws, the way we think and discuss our issues on national TV (e.g. BBC vs. Dawn TV) or the way we play, (Gymkhana, Punjab Club, Garrison Golf Club and Royal Palm Country and Golf Club)– or the games we play – Golf, Cricket and Polo, we are still stuck in a time warp. Our so-called elite are more British than the British, more American than the Americans and more Indian than the Indians. The young of Pakistan are confused. Who do they idolize? Do we have evolved role models for Pakistani youth to follow? Unfortunately, our leaders and intellectuals are confused themselves. Sigh.
No, I am not talking about clothes or lifestyle – that’s fine, you can identify with any culture you like – Pakistani culture can’t be pure anyway because it’s territory was invaded too many times in Pre-Pakistan days by the Mongols, Afghans and Arabs, Turks, Sikhs and the British, not to pose any influence on our culture and lifestyle, besides, there is no such thing as a native culture anymore, the world is a global village now and there are some universal norms that are common to all cultures, I am talking about our art and design sensibilities – we need to snap out of the rut we are stuck in.
To put things in context, when my ‘crack’ team and I started doing our stories on residential spaces and homes this issue, we were not aware how much influence the British past has on our present. Our homes are still planned with the Drawing Rooms – our residential spaces are still planned around the basic designs chalked out by the British Engineers and city planners when they created their cantonments, their garden cities, their bungalows and their parks and town centers. This is not necessarily bad. My point is- when do we move beyond this point to create something new which is purely Pakistani and purely brilliant in our own right? It’s been 61 years already! When are we planning to throw away the followers mind set, learning by rote the achievements of past generations and taking our own lead and initiative by developing something entirely new from the ashes of old to simply innovate and create something new?
For that, you need to FREE YOUR MIND! How can you do that? By overhauling your current education system, allowing your kids to ask questions and find answers, by allowing them to weigh both sides of the questions by encouraging them to read and not limiting their educational boundaries,– and coming up with the objective conclusions! I know we don’t have enough resources to provide good education to all, but the education we do provide should be good enough to create some leaders (in all walks of life), not only followers! Let’s get in touch with our own religious traditions – 1400 years ago, it was okay to rebel against traditions, ask questions, try to improve things and make it better for the whole community; that’s what Islam stands for, not sheep like behavior! Let’s not keep apologizing for our religion, religious bigotry is supposed to be so dead in the brave new world anyway. Anyone who brings up the question of our religion in any political, economic or social discussion is a bigot. That’s not the issue anyway; we shouldn’t have to keep reiterating that we are not terrorists. We are the victims of terrorists. We have nothing to apologize for in that context. However, as a nation we do have to apologize for clone-like mediocre sheep-like behavior to our youth! Let’s snap out of it right now!
Is anyone listening? Hello! I am talking to you!
This article was originally published in the print edition of Valuemag, September 2008, issue 5, under the section ‘from the editor’s desk-September 2008’