Save Burma, let Pakistan burn

Social networks are crowded with pictures, pleas and appeals for the Burmese Muslims caught in the midst of a terrible conflict with the Buddhist majority in Burma. The tales and pictures (most of which are fake though) being used on social media are gut-wrenching and horrifying. Amnesty international has accused the security forces and ethnic majority of Rakhine Buddhists for the violence being perpetrated in the north. It should be well-known that this conflict is purely ethnic and has nothing at all to do with religion. Loss of life (in any way or form) is condemnable and all measures should be taken, to bring these horrific crimes against humanity to an end.

As with everything remotely related to Muslim persecution, my Pakistani (Muslim) friends are at the forefront of the campaign to ensure that the news reaches everyone. They consider this their ‘religious duty’ to make sure every Muslims is actively participating in spreading the news of such violence. Words being used to describe the acts of the Rakhine Buddhists are “shameful”, “heinous”, “criminal”, “in-humane” etc. Just yesterday I noticed a poster where it was claimed that Muslims aren’t allowed to say “Azaan” and that this was “cruel in-justice”. I cannot say it is true but it did sadden me, to think that an individual is being deprived of his most basic religious activity.

But then, it hit me, Burma’s situation is not that different from Pakistan. The majority Muslims in this country impose on (whatever) minority (is left) in this country. Christians, Hindus and other minority religions are being persecuted all the time. Even minority Muslim sects like the Shia sect is not safe from this persecution. They are killed upon identification, Christians and Hindus are forced to give up their religious belief and convert. Those who do and revert back are killed again. Ahmadis are barred from praying, their places of worship (which cannot be dubbed as mosques according to the constitution) are being demolished. They, and other minorities, even some Muslim sects are dubbed ‘wajib-ul-qatl’ (obligated to be killed) and yet the same Pakistani Muslims feel sorry when they find Muslims in the same situation?
hypocritical isn’t it?

In no way I am justifying the crimes against humanity in Burma. They have the rights of religious liberty and freedom of living and speech. But since when does a Pakistani Muslim care about it? Burma is not a Muslim state, if Pakistanis can legislate killing of people who believe in the freedom of speech, why are they outraged if another country uses something similar to it for Muslims? They celebrate when Mumtaz Qadri kills someone who have a different opinion on some issue, but they protest if the same thing happens in Burma. I hope they understand how it feels to be at the receiving end of this persecution which is deemed ‘HOLY’ by many. It isn’t that holy when it is brought upon them (or people from their clan).

The point of writing this is not to condemn the protests against these crimes being committed in Burma (they are to be condemned strongly), but to make my fellow Muslims understand that they are no different from these Burmese military men or the Buddhist majority, imposing their will on the helpless and exposed minority. I hope this might help them understand.

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Burnt alive: religion is served

While the 4th of July brought fireworks to the United States, a small town in Punjab Pakistan witnessed a totally different type of fireworks. An alleged blasphemer was burnt alive in front of hundreds of people, including those who are burdened with enforcing the law. The Police was found useless (as ever) in preventing mob justice. As always, none of the religious leader/(alleged) cleric failed to condemn the incident because it is a matter of ‘public emotions’. What is even worst is the fact that it was public knowledge that the man was mentally unstable. Even that never put any sympathy in the hearts of these (so-called) Muslims.

I am disgusted, both as a Pakistani and as a Muslim, I am ashamed to face questions which make their way towards me from non-Muslims outside of my country. How can I justify this barbarism to civilized people? How can I testify that Islam is a religion of peace and allows everyone the right to live freely? How can I tell people, that Pakistan is a nation of diversity, tolerance and compassion? A nation where Mumtaz Qadri, a convicted murderer gains fame by publicly killing someone whom he was asked to protect. A country where two innocent teenagers were beaten to death over an allegation of robbery.

These are just the highlights though, while other nations develop themselves day by day, Pakistan seems to be regressing into the dark ages.I am yet to see such incidents in Iran, Malaysia, Indonesia or even Saudi Arabia. Is Pakistan ‘more’ Islamic than these nations I quoted? I am sure the answer will be no. I wonder how many of these ‘Muslims’ present in the mob actually understand what are the teachings of the Quraan. I have given the famous example of the Ta’if incident, where Prophet (peace be upon him) was stoned by the ignorant people of Ta’if, rather condemn them, the Prophet (peace be upon him) prayed for them.

Do these people not read the Quraan? Can they not see that Quraan speaks of mercy more than punishment? Did they not learn the value of human life from the life events of the Prophet (peace be upon him)? When will Pakistanis stop being the care takers of Islam and understand that they are doing more damage to my religion than they are serving it.

The distribution of hate

Social MediaSocial media, over the years have become (somewhat) integral in our lives. Hence, it was a matter of time before our emotions became digital too. Social media provides means of mass information sharing, here a message can reach millions in mere seconds, it is playing a vital role in shaping point of views of people who are linked with social media.

Of all the social media portals, facebook have been in focus for spreading hatred and religious bias, while it is also responsible (some say) for bringing the uprising in the Arab countries. Last year, facebook was under heavy criticism from the Muslims for an event that called for the people to depict the Prophet (pbuh). Many people left facebook, some deactivated their accounts and it was banned in certain countries (for a certain time). Many users protested over facebook, and shared an ‘anti-depiction event’ on their facebook walls and with friends. The same thing (with a twist) is going on again, some ignorant has made a page which is defaming the holy places of Muslims and Muslims are spreading the ‘anti cause’ everywhere on facebook, demanding the page to be removed.

While I do not judge the intensity of anyone’s faith and love for their religion, I think these ‘religious e-warriors’ fail to understand that they are the prime bearer of the message the ‘anti-Islamic entity’ wants to send out. Many of the Muslim users were unaware of this ‘anti-Islamic page’  until one of their deeply Muslim friend shared the message of protest and invitation to join the cause with them (same was the case with the previous anti-Islamic facebook event). If the few Muslims who saw this earlier would have had succeeded in ignoring it, they would have stopped this menace from spreading in the first place.

I am yet to see any of my non-Muslim friends spreading that anti-Islamic agenda for which our Muslim friends are protesting and asking other Muslims to join in. These people who are spreading this protest fail to understand that by spreading this protest, they are actually bringing more attention to an otherwise stupid, baseless, lame and an ignorant facebook stunt, directed towards enraging Muslims and mess with their emotions. By sharing the ‘Islamic cause’ is more of a damage rather than service to Islam.

The problem with Muslims (specially those who are familiar with the use of internet), in my opinion, is that they fail to ignore things which are insignificant and successfully ignore something thing which can help them stand united against these menaces which pop up every once in a while. The only way one can fight such menace is by ignoring its existence. It is not hurting Islam in any way, nor it will hurt us if we ignore it. But if Muslims keep spreading the word about it, then it is we who are helping this otherwise insignificant menace, to spread across the medium.

P.S: The purpose of writing this post is not to spread this menace (since it has already spread on facebook), rather ask my fellow Muslims to stop falling for this scam again and again.

Religion and Homosexuality

Homosexuals around the world face bias and discrimination from the mainstream, they are labelled outcasts and sinners. However, it is not a place of a human being to dub anyone as a ‘sinner’ or an ‘infidel’ just on the basis of his/her orientation and choices. Everyone is entitled to their own choice and way of living. Having said that, this post I am about to make is going to address the very basic question (or may I say allegation) that rises from the ranks of those who claim to be homosexuals. I am not a religious scholar, nor I am a psychiatrist but I would like to take on this claim and try to explain my point of view on this sensitive issue. I would like to emphasize that I am not judging anyone on the basis of their lifestyle and that this post must be read only as an argument towards a claim, I would appreciate if anyone can counter this.

The claim is that homosexuality is not a choice, rather God intended to create (the homosexuals) that way. I for once completely disagree with this statement, it is not because I am straight, it is not because I am religious, but because the claim does not make any sense. Let me explain.

I would like to believe there are many religious individuals among the ranks of homosexuals, I therefore understand these individuals with religious values must believe in God (of whatever religion). Here, I will be using references from the Abrahamic religions (mainly Islam). The mainstream (who hold religious values) use the stories of Sodom and Gomorrah to scare off the homosexuals, for those who are unaware, Sodom and Gomorrah (mainly referred to as the people of Lot) were two towns where people practiced homosexuality openly. However, these people met a tragic end since they failed to repent despite the constant warning of Prophet Lot. The incident has been reported both in the Holy Qura’an and Bible with very harsh wordings (used for the town dwellers).

In the Holy Qura’an, God reiterates the purpose for creating human kind (while mentioning this incident), so that they will multiply and we need no rocket science to conclude that same-sex relationships cannot reproduce. Therefore, the claim that homosexuality is not a choice is baseless. Those who think my conclusion is far-fetched, should consider the fact that the same claim can be made by a pedophile, or certain others who claim to be attracted towards animals.

God is perfect and He has created the perfect beings and these beings are capable of thinking and making choices of their own, adapting to lifestyles and choosing their own paths of life. God has laid down a set of rules (in the form of holy scriptures), in order to guide his creation, educate them on what’s right and wrong and it is up to the human kind, whether or not to take this guidance.

Now that we have established the fact that God in no possible way intends to create homosexuals, the question is why do people choose to be in homosexual relationships. Again, I do not claim to be a psychiatrist but the answer to this question lie in the past of the individual in question. It is conceivable that the individual have had a traumatic experience in which the villain is someone who is a close relative and of the opposite sex. Another possibility is the lack of trust in the opposite gender due to rumors or sexist statements, for example many men claim that women are dumb and the women claim the same about women. It is possible that people who turn to their own gender for comfort may take these statements as facts and develop a certain hatred or fear of being with the opposite sex (in a long-term relationship).

There may be many cases which may lead to an individual to ‘come out of the closet’, one thing is clear, that God is perfect and so is everything that He has created. We humans though, we are misguided, we make mistakes but it is not because God intends us to, but because we do not understand God’s intention.

Blasphemy Law: Coming a full circle

via Dawn.com: Blasphemy Law: Coming a full circle.

It was bound to happen. When you have a vaguely worded law with so many loopholes, and a clergy hell bent on defining religion in asphyxiating, rigid boundaries, its supporters and enablers were bound to get scorched themselves. The law was eventually going to come and bite them in the back and that is exactly what happened two weeks ago.

According to the news story, a student of a religious seminary in Chakwal, Junaid Ahmad was arrested for being blasphemous. He was apparently seen burning pages of Quran a week ago, was beaten by a crowd and handed over to the police. Ironically, however, a shaken and frightened Junaid claimed that he was in reality disposing off Quran’s loose pages to save them from desecration.

The story behind Junaid’s action was simple enough. His teacher, who belongs to Tehrik Khuddam Ahl-i-Sunnat, had told him that burning Quranic pages was a legitimate way of disposing them along with putting them in flowing water (stream etc) and burying them. As he was unable to find the other two options, Junaid resorted to the third one. It was just his luck that the man who saw him as he set the pages on fire had heard from another cleric that burning the Quran amounted to desecrating it. What followed is an ominous reminder of sharply converging, and rigid, interpretations among various schools of religious thought.

Diversity, whether religious or cultural, is always a good thing. But here, this diversity of belief within sects and sub-sects is stamped with unflinching righteousness, intolerance, and violent knee-jerk reactions. Leaving the organised sectarianism between Shias and Sunnis aside, these widely varying interpretations in such an environment result in friction and veiled hatred towards other sects within one’s circle. In such a situation, incidents like the one in Chakwal are in reality a mere prelude to what can follow. One of the most obvious possibilities, while remaining within the ambit of law, is the misuse of the blasphemy law against those who are fanatically in favour of it.

This misuse has already started albeit it is infrequent at the moment. In January this year, an imam and his son from Dera Ghazi Khan were convicted for life for committing blasphemy. They were accused of ripping posters from outside their grocery shop which advertised an event to observe Eid Milad un Nabi (the birth and death anniversary of Prophet Muhammad). There was strong speculation that the issue was not of blasphemy but difference of belief. The Deobandi philosophy, to which the imam and his son prescribed, do not believe in commemorating such days. So where the incident might have simply been that of removing a poster from their personal property, it was forcefully catapulted in the sphere of intentional blasphemy.

The problem, boiled down to its essence, is this: In all this ritualistic madness, this manic obsession with the act rather than the intention behind it, these “men of faith” have lost the plot. And that is an under-statement. Here school girls are ostracised for misplacing a dot in a word. Doctors are locked up for throwing away a person’s visiting card who shared the prophet’s name. People are persecuted for greeting others in Arabic language. Supporters of blasphemy laws obsessively defend its need to deter people from taking the law in their own hands; but when a man defies this very logic and kills a sitting governor whom he had taken an oath to protect, they cheer and holler themselves hoarse in his support.

So far, most of the victims of these laws are minorities and those belonging to lower and lower-middle income groups. But it won’t remain the same forever. With ferocious intolerance being allowed to breed unchecked in our country, it was only a matter of time before the factions started using this law to target religious rivals at will.

Right now a broad spectrum of religious right is united in its defence of murderer Mumtaz Qadri. Their slogans, demonstrative of their tunnel-minded support for his actions, should be deafening alarm bells for the rest of us.

It is a matter of time before these stout believers, momentarily united in their hate against
“liberal fascists”, turn on each other. With such varied interpretations of religion, how will the courts interpret criteria of blasphemy? Will they take the easiest way out and just continue sentencing people in the hope the High Courts will correct the injustice? Will these cowardly actions really serve as a long-term pre-emptive solution or will the religious factions soon interlock horns?

If there is a legal or public showdown between people of different beliefs, the result will be more bloody, brutal and long drawn out than we can imagine. With all sides equally sure of their virtue and willing to die or kill for it, there might not be anyone standing at the end.

On a sardonic note, that will work out just right for the rest of the country.

Everyone’s a cleric

On the 9th of October 2011, satellite town in Rawalpindi was engulfed in fear when 60 masked men decided to impose Shariah on school girls. This group of ‘religious vigilantes’ demanded the girls dress modestly. After wreaking havoc for a good amount of time (in broad daylight) the group dispersed and no one has been arrested till now. I am shocked and baffled how 60 armed men with masks went unnoticed in broad day light in what should be a cantonment city of Pakistan. One is bound to ask how and why did this happen?

After reading about the incident, I had flashbacks of news stories about how the Taliban of Afghanistan used to impose their own set of rules for women dressing up. I for once, am not ready to believe that Pakistan has gone down that far into the ditch of ignorance, but I cannot ignore the facts either, I am still wondering why anyone failed to act? Is it only the start? This incident will surely open a Pandora’s box for the self-proclaimed (and now self-made) clerics to start ‘forcing’ their Islam over the (already illiterate) masses.

As a Muslim, I have to condemn this shameful act. There is no room for ‘imposition’ in Islam as I have proven previously with multiple Qura’anic verses. Their ‘service to the community’ is will do nothing but collect disgrace for my religion of Peace, Islam respects privacy of each and every individual. On the issue of women, they must know that Islam is the only religion which has exalted the status of women. What these ignorant ‘clerics’ don’t understand is the fact that their acts resemble to those of the 5th century ignorant Arabs. The only difference between then and now is that in those days, only a few were known as the holder of knowledge while today, everyone is a cleric.

Blunt hypocrisy

Ban on FB by LHCThe Lahore High Court, on the 19th ordered the ministry of information technology to block access to all websites spreading religious hatred. It seems like a flashback from not so long ago, when the same institution banned Facebook and Google along with various other websites, claiming it was spreading religious intolerance. The infamous competition of drawing pictures of the Prophet (peace be upon him) is provided as an argument for the ban.

One might understand the judgement since it was directed towards protecting the feelings and emotions of the majority in Pakistan. But the simple facts are these:
The majority of Pakistan is illiterate, out of the minority that is literate, majority don’t have (or can’t afford) computers, out of those who have personal computers, majority don’t even care about
the stupid competition.

Besides, since when did Pakistan became the world leader in religious tolerance? Just a few days earlier, Pakistan was counted among the top 10 countries / regimes, which failed to protect religious freedom. Go further back this month, innocent people were killed and injured in the name of ‘protecting religious emotions’. In a country, where there are many laws, tailored purely to discriminate and suppress minorities that belong to other religions, Justice Azmat Saeed of the Lahore High Court deemed some websites on the internet (which aren’t made for this purpose) harmful and intolerant.

Not so long ago, in the same province, flyers were distributed calling upon an average Muslim to kill two Christian brothers, then banners put up which suggested it is ‘must’ to kill someone belonging to Ahmadiyya sect, even flyers were distributed citing names of those people in Faisalabad, along with the message ‘liable to be killed’. I wonder how any of these incident went unnoticed by the Lahore High Court or even the Supreme Court of Pakistan. How is banning a few websites, which were used by some mischief creators for their own purposes, an honest decision, when all of the above mentioned ‘crap’ is being done every day under the nose of the court?

Let us for a minute look away from this hypocrisy, Pakistan and India have been the hub of software engineering for over a decade now, the majority of software engineers around the world is desi (from Pakistan and India). Since the arrival of social media portals, innovations have cropped up in this field and many now depend on platforms like Facebook, Google, Orkut etc. for their living. Banning these websites will not provide good results for these people. In-fact, many of these projects have been recalled already.

The sensible thing to do here is to reconsider this matter on a broader scale, not just religiously but also considering the economic effect of these actions. Though in my view, this decision will never be an honest one, considering what has been going on in Pakistan (in terms of religious tolerance) for over five decades.

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