Photo by Salmaan TaseerBy Fareeha Qayoom
n Jan 4, 2011, around 4:00 pm a colleague received a phone call advising him Governor Taseer was shot dead. Our reaction, we refused to believe him – I thought it was a hoax and said so. We looked it up immediately on the internet, the only medium available to us at the time.
GEO TV was carrying a one liner that Governor Taseer was shot dead in Kohsaar Market. I also Googled the name Salman Taseer and downloaded a Youtube footage of the ‘breaking news’ – it was official – we had to believe. I was puzzled. I didn’t understand why he was killed. My colleague told me it was because of the blasphemy law controversy. I just gave him a look – it was no longer a hot issue on the table! As far as most politicians were concerned, less said on it the better, besides, it was Sherry Rehman who was behind the amendment bill, not Salman Taseer, they had already moved on to more important issues since a month and a half ago!
Around 5:00 pm my brother Adnan called me to tell me there were riots on the Mall Road (as reported on TV) which might spill over to Gulberg – I should hurry and leave work as soon as possible – (I had called him around earlier, 3:00 pm to be exact, that I would be late in picking him up because I was waiting for a bid from a Faisalabad Knits’ vendor.) I told him, no can do. Around 6:00 pm, my mom also gave me a frantic call telling me to come home as soon as possible – it was mayhem on the roads – she was apparently trying to locate her kids and make sure they were all right. One of my colleagues offered to give me an escort till Gaddafi Stadium en-route to picking up Adnan. I declined. Another one offered me advice gratis – go home through Cantt to DHA. He also offered to give me an escort home as he lives in the same general neighborhood – I declined because I was going home from a different route – as you know, had to pick up Adnan on the way. I left for home around 6:45 pm. There was no frantic rush, or mad traffic. Everyone was hurrying home – the traffic police also was very efficient in moving the traffic along. By the time I reached Liberty Market, it felt like late night…there was no mad rush around the traffic circle – around 7:00 pm, it was virtually deserted and most shops were closed. I reached home in half an hour with all the traffic lights and everything! Usually, it takes me an hour from my workplace to Adnan’s and then home. After getting home, I spent hours glued to the TV screen trying to make sense of this senseless murder while the emotional TV anchors milked the situation for all its worth.
The whole of Pakistan or at least the more vocals ones (talking heads on cable TV, internet and print media) has dismissed the assassination of Governor Salman Taseer as a case of ‘a lack of religious tolerance for their fellow man by one of Pakistanis’, in this case, a symbol of an ‘English Medium, educated, rich, modern, liberal, progressive, not to mention one of the top ‘political and business elite,’ and a self-confessed ‘proud’ Muslim who reportedly carried the verses of the Quran around his neck on a chain by an ‘Urdu Medium, extremist, narrow-minded, brain-washed’ so-called ‘fanatic fundamentalist’ relatively ‘young’ slightly better trained and paid ‘security/body guard’ a member of elite force who cold-blooded bided his time to kill his targeted victim in a quiet moment long after the event which apparently triggered and provoked his so called ‘crime of passion’ – (apparently it was the Governor’s ‘unfortunate’ remarks a few weeks ago that ‘Pakistan’s blasphemy law was a black spot in our justice system’– the murderer’s act also further reinforcing the western media and political forces’ so called view and perception that Pak army and security forces are full of such fundo’s who secretly aid and abet the Taliban and sympathize with their cause, whatever that is – in other words, it’s a case of some more “my way or the highway” syndrome that apparently afflicts Pakistanis generally if you go by the local and western media. Fundamentalist Pakistanis are apparently funded by Saudi’s if you believe Wikileaks (reinforcing our indigenous ‘foreign hands theory’ to explain this ‘transplanted’ terrorism or fall-out of Afghan Jihad – Saudis apparently want to spread Wahabi Islam all over the world through Talibanization of Afghanistan and Pakistan and are apparently working on ‘pan-Islam’ or Khilafat movement in other words or at least that’s the ‘secret’ theory that’s been floated by USA’s foreign office which was unfortunately leaked by Wikileaks!) – Strangely enough, the guy who killed him is a Brailvi, not a Wahabi if you are to believe TV One Channel!
Everyone is doing a bit of soul searching, blaming religious intolerance and extremism for this tragedy. I am not. What’s wrong with this picture? Well, as usual, as a nation we are too quick to jump to certain conclusions led by our thoughtless emotional anchors who will say anything for ratings. Am I the only one who sees wheels within the wheels here? I think it’s an advertising stunt – by whom is a question mark… You see a murder of a symbol of modern educated Islam by a bearded, slightly overweight young ‘primitive, barbaric’ chap who looks too calm and collected (based on the shots snapped by one eye witness shown on ATV) after ‘killing all of humanity,’ (as Quran puts it when it describes murder of a single human being in sufficiently heinous terms) creates a picture and a association in your mind – what gets embedded in your brain? Simple answer – Islam is a primitive, intolerant, extremist, terrorist religion and you don’t want to be part of it – Muslim or non-Muslim alike – its beside the point that active, practicing Muslims might not recognize this version of Islam as the Islam they love, practice and believe in! Bottom line, it just helps embed a further distorted image of Islam in most minds who might be exposed to this bit of news – so it’s a propaganda thing with a little bit of collateral damage thrown in for good measure. As a citizen of Pakistan you know Salman Taseer was not important enough politically to warrant a political motive for his murder so blaming Punjab or the Sharifs for the security lapse doesn’t make sense which was the main reaction displayed by the PPP government on TV. He was relatively a small cog in the PPP machine and was installed purely as a thorn on Sharifs’ side, removing him forcibly by death doesn’t help any local politician in furthering his cause whatever that might be. He was never in the running as a future prime minister!
Do you see what I see? I see a church attacked in Iraq by extremists just a couple of months ago; I see a ‘Coptic’ church attacked in Egypt by extremists only three or four days ago. I see a Christian woman (Aasia Bibi) in Pakistan wrongly accused of blasphemy a couple of months ago. I see people who try to establish truth, justice and fair-play in Pakistan for a Christian minority attacked and one of them killed. What triggers these extremist attacks? Apparently, a lot of Islam-bashing in the west – the latest was the threat to burn Quran in Florida that gets averted at the last minute only three or four months ago with banning of burqa and minarets in Europe just a few months ago to nasty cartoon competitions of the prophet and bash the prophet on Facebook page as some of the more recent incidents only last year.
Can you dismiss this latest dot as ‘Action and its equal and opposite reaction’ thing? No, I don’t think so – its not as simple as that. I think ‘its wag the dog’ syndrome in play on the world stage. Islam bashing is popular and in fashion and currently, picking on Muslims all over the world is a favorite game in the western media. All these incidents are not isolated but help form a very extreme and stereotypical picture of Islam justifying the invasion of some of their territories and showing them as the bad guys. So I am not willing to dismiss this tragic incident as just a case of Pakistanis intolerance for their fellow citizens with more liberal views. I think it’s more a case of ‘exploding mangos’ even though we have the so called murderer in custody with his proud confession.
Allow me to remind you when the prophet in his lifetime never had a problem with non-believers insulting him to his face – Abu Jehal being the most famous one – (even when he was in power, remember ‘Fatah-e-Makkah’?), what’s our problem that we are willing to kill in his name and consider it something to be proud of without establishing all the facts or ensuring justice is done? No I don’t agree with the gentleman on Capital Talk (Jan 4, 2011 episode) that even the educated Muslims would turn into a mob if someone insults their prophet to their face. It happens in the world all the time. I don’t see any mobs; only processions of tire burning incidents that try to register their protest against this so-called freedom of speech to bash Islam publicly. Two, Christians by definition consider our prophet a false prophet, that’s why they don’t believe in him so punishing them for their belief, is not acceptable; however, they have to keep their antipathy against the prophet and Islam (if they harbor it!) private in Pakistan since they are in minority here. Three, majority of Muslims in Pakistan have a full right to get their beliefs respected by the law of their land as they are in a majority here and if they can’t get respect for their beliefs in their own country, where else can they get it? They won’t obviously get it in Europe and North America where they are in the minority. This is the essence of ‘secular’ democracy – might is right, so in Pakistan, Muslims have the full right to have a such a law in place – however, misuse and abuse of such laws should not be allowed. So, Sherry Rehman is right – anyone who falsely accuses a member of minority under this law should get capital punishment too if that gets established by the court of law beyond a reasonable doubt.
Having said that, am I willing to apologize or hang my head in shame because some jackass has high jacked my religion to justify the doctrine of ‘clash of civilizations’ and aid and abet the western propaganda? No I am not.
I am not intolerant and I am the majority in Pakistan. So dear local media, back off!