The every day kind of fanatic

Published: August 12, 2011

On a cold December afternoon of 2009 my Uncle and 16-year-old cousin were martyred in a bomb blast in Rawalpindi.

Earlier that year, I had heard the term suicide bomber and figures of casualties on the TV innumerable times. But each time, there were a few moments of grief and then I would go back to finishing dinner or doing my homework. The reality of these words didn’t sink in until I lost my own dear ones to an act of religious fanaticism.

I will always remember the smell of gun powder, roses and blood in the air from that tragic day. The wails of my aunt who lost her son still ring in my ears. To think that this heart wrenching tragedy has struck and continues to strike thousands of households all over the country is a thought that makes me swoon with grief. And what grieves me ever more is the fact that apparently all this bloodshed is in the name of Almighty God. Oh, the irony.

This incident left a deep impact on me.

It did not drive me away from the religion in the name of which I lost my loved ones. Rather unconventionally, I became a more faithful Muslim. Prior to this incident, I had not been a very devout Muslim. I prayed once in a while and observed Ramazan as more of a cultural tradition rather than a religious obligation. But the recent turn of events have instilled in me a faith in Allah stronger than I could have ever imagined possible. And by that, I mean faith in the very soul of Islam; that which tells us to be just in every sphere of life, which commands that we practice selflessness, that preaches moderation and above all, expects us to exhibit tolerance and respect towards others and their beliefs.

To be concise, I chose to be a follower of the spiritual Islam rather than the physical.

My attire might not reflect my identity as a devout Muslim. I must confess that I wear jeans quite often and I don’t believe that I will be directed to the fiery pits of hell for that. I have come to realize that faith is primarily about the inside and not the exterior. If you pray five times a day yet continue to exhibit an intolerant conduct towards those who are different from you or of a less fortunate social class then you can forget all about hoors, I’m afraid.

The Taliban culture is the traditional kind of religious fanaticism whose threats are pretty evident. But when we speak about society in general fanaticism of another kind is prevalent which is considered rather harmless and entirely socially acceptable, even encouraged, and that is the tradition of “holier than thou.”

“He offers prayers regularly? What a pious young man!”
“She practices hijab? What a virtuous young girl.”
“Did you hear so-and-so supports Salman Taseer’s stance? Tsk, tsk. Some people just have no sense of morality.”

Wait… hold on!

Is this our standard of judging a person – by what they wear?

Can we honestly judge somebody’s character by what they appear to be like on the exterior?

Now, let me assure you all that I have absolutely nothing against women who cover their heads or people who are steadfast in prayers. To be honest, I am in awe of their dedication to Islam. But often at times, this particular “dedication” leads us astray. The cultural judgments that have been ingrained in us by birth start taking root more firmly than ever. Women wearing sleeveless shirts become all the more immoral. Fan of Lil’ Wayne’s music seems all the more sinful.

My utterly conservative aunt feared I was an apostate when I made the mistake of being somewhat gloomy over Facebook being banned in Pakistan over the sketches of Prophet Muhammad (SAW). I love my Prophet (SAW) as much as the next Muslim but seriously, people, in a world where millions of his followers are physically and publicly targeted, can Muhammad (SAW) possibly care about what happens on a social networking website? Is this the way to defend him? How about spreading peace and love instead? Or maybe that’s too radical for our religious fanatic brothers and sisters.

This kind of religious fanaticism is so deeply ingrained in our society’s psyche that anybody who dares to rebel against it is automatically termed an apostate. In my opinion, this psyche is far more harmful than the explosives terrorists use.

What nonsense. The Taliban are killing people! How does my innocuous judgment equate with that? you might argue back. Well, with all due respect, genocide can begin with bullying in a high school court yard. The moment you judge and then voice that judgement, your opinion has lost all objectivity and thus, you lose all sense of Good and Evil; Which is why it is better to leave the judgement part to the higher deity i.e. God.

As a result of the conservative mindset of our society as a whole, a generation is growing up with these fanatic ideas being shoved down their throats by media and society. Freedom of speech, opinion and faith might just become a myth.

For our society to grow, we must begin by preaching moderation. Admitted, it will not be too popular an idea. But we could always preach moderation in the name of God. That might just work.

Mehwish Zuberi

Mehwish Zuberi

A recent high school graduate who will be majoring in social sciences from LUMS this fall. She is a YES alumna, youth activist and blogger.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • http://bakedsunshine.wordpress.com/ Shumaila

    Your post is reflective of a sort of innocence, though your observations are sound – nonetheless I hope you don’t get too badly thrashed in the comments :)

    There is a growing opinion, even if not expressed, that the kind of Islam promoted by fanatics is actually the Islam we should follow, if only we had the guts/vigour/spiritual blessing. The harsher the better, sort of thing. And worse, it is “moderates” putting these people on a sort of moral pedestal, and making excuses for their highly violent and intolerant behaviour.

    Instead of dealing with intolerance the way we should, that is, intolerantly, when I talk to moderate muslims I always get this feeling of sneaky respect for extremism and what they view as spiritual ascendancy. Its a pity.

    I have a feeling, also, that while I agree with the rest of your post, preaching moderation is not going to help, because as you’ve noticed, moderates are even more to blame because they allow fanatics to exist. Nopey nope nope. We need a crackdown. But I don’t see it coming. Recommend

  • lubna

    Shumaila; I don’t think the people you’re mentioning are in fact moderate at all – they are really tradionalists who follow their ‘leaders’ or those making most noise blindly without thinking. We are actually badly in need of real moderates, who have the courage to speak up and reach out to the masses and remind them what Islam really is about.Recommend

  • http://sparta siddiqui

    conservative thinking is the root of all evils in our society…
    the conservative minded moderates are taking us to our dooms… Recommend

  • Saad

    Ummm… you are right….. mostly…. but do have to say i dont quite agree with the attire part…. i am not a fanatic….. you can wear whatever you want to wear… but… there is a dress code prescribed by Allah…. you cant say it isnt there ……. then again its up to you to follow it or not…. not up to some fanatic….. Recommend

  • Awais Khan

    I agree radicalism is basically when one starts to stereotype and draw judgments on others. Islam clearly prohibits this type of approach.Recommend

  • Kinzah

    Well Said…I couldn’t agree with you more on this matter…and what you’ve highlighted is sad but quite true…too often we succumb to these undue and unfair societal pressures and verdicts. Its about time we gained some sort of stability in our lives. Simply fashioning yourselves in a culturally acceptable way is not going to get anyone through to the “hoors”….But its what’s on the inside that matters. “actions are judged by intentions”..a good Muslim will always be a good human being first.
    Sadly enough though it doesn’t matter what your on the inside as long as you look like that…I bet almost all of us know how the notorious Burqa-clad aunties literally shove you off in malls like gulf and ashyana or the ogling bearded men lingering everywhere…it doesnt matter what you wear you will be stared at if your anything but a man.Recommend

  • ed

    Unfortunately, “the harsher, the better” mentality has permeated in our society, whereas, the fact is that to smile is a Sunnah and a cause for sawab. Having fun in a dignified manner is not at all a sin, infact spreading the good vibes amongst people results in sawab too.
    …as for facebook. I would not advocate a ban on facebook, in the name of freedom of speech. However, as a Muslim, I believe that facebook is biased,… ever tried creating a “denial of holocaust” page on it?
    …In my personal capacity, I will boycott facebook and express this view to others. Advocating for a ban… amounts to limiting freedom of expression… thats a no – no.Recommend

  • Maria

    We need to instill only one thing in our society; ‘tolerance’.Recommend

  • http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2080/2334305961_c295ee077a_o.jpg Antebellum

    *I chose to be a follower of the **spiritual** Islam rather than the **physical**.*

    Reading your article first I was like cool. But then LAME!

    Lady, you live in a physical world. You have to accept and obey both the PHYSICAL as well as the SPIRITUAL aspects of your faith. You can’t pick and choose what’s easy and convenient for you. Allah send down his Commandments and his Will in a written word and never gave the option to choose.Recommend

  • Zshan

    @Shumaila,

    I think I need to reply to your comment because you are a phenomena rising among people who are eager to view themselves as the beacon of truth. I apologized for calling you that and judging you that way but as a Muslim, I should be allowed to judge you and the followers of your ideology who proudly trashed Islam and Muslims as fanatics, backward, prone to violence etc. Some even have this wishful thinking that without Islam, Pakistan would have been a peaceful land. Some even worship a fanatic like Dawkins who considered Islam as “one of the great evils in the world”.

    The Islam of the “fanatic” and the atheism of the “fanatic” exist because both “religions” have multiple voices. It might be hard to accept “rational, god-rejecting, science-loving” people as fanatics but these fanatics do exist and they have existed throughout history. They imposed violence and persecuted humanity to reject God. The reason why people like you might refuse to call them as fanatics is the same reason why certain Muslims might not believe their faith and religion could produce evil people: they never viewed their belief system as a source of evil.

    While it is fashionable to place the burden of every murder in Pakistan on Islam; it is, ironically, unthinkable, to blame democracy for the divisions and mayhem it created on Karachi. Democracy is not seen as “the source of evil” but instead the fault was placed on those who “abused democracy” to commit mass murders. Those who rejected the idea that democracy should be held accountable for mayhem in Karachi were not seen as “moderates”. Nuances and thinking are demanded when democracy was accused for fanning mayhem.

    I don’t care whatever belief system you want to follow but please have some humility and moderation and be less narrow minded because I am afraid, you are turning into the very fanatic you are too eager to condemn. This applies to some Pakistani atheists out there, as well.Recommend

  • Kinzah

    @Saad:
    I don’t think your attire makes much of a difference as long as your decently and appropriately dressed…and for the record…there is no “prescribed dress code in Islam or Quran”….let us not forget that the Holy Prophet and his followers used to the wear the same outfit that was very much part of the culture in the area. His enemies also wore the same outfits…So yes…outfits are not of key significance if your intentions are not right. The Quran asks us to maintain a decent appearance worthy of HIS believers.. The whole point is not get unwanted attention to yourself from your dressing to your attitude. Forgive me for saying but in Pakistan you have to anything but a man to be stared at.Recommend

  • Pravin

    What a mature post from the young lady. The sad tragedy has opened the gates of inward journey.

    Spirituality is for every one when they become ready to look inside. Otherwise, any practice is just a ritual. What difference will it bring if there is no inner transformation?

    If there is no inner transformation, the basic need of creating importance over others does not diminish. Such outwardly rituals become a powerful tool to seek power over others. The power is in the form of self righteousness.

    Some people blatantly use it to obtain and maintain political power. Some people subtly raise their importance over their group of influence. Both these categories of people raise fear and guilt in others.

    Religions or rituals become mere tools to rule the minds. Unfortunately, people who are using them as tools, do not understand that they are in turn defeating the basic purpose of them.

    Hence, as a society, it is important to keep religious/spiritual practices private. Only those who have been transformed should guide the people for their respective inward journey.

    -PravinRecommend

  • maestro

    Religion is a PERSONAL matter – I agree completely agree that one should not be judged by one’s exterior but their actions as a human being. Whats worse in Islam? Wearing jeans and t-shirt or killing because someone is wearing jeans and t-shirt? THINK! At the end of the day, we all answer only to God not to ANY human being and definitely not to an illiterate “mullah”! If the conservatives and extremists don’t like it, MOVE TO SAUDI! Pakistan ZINDABAD!Recommend

  • Dr. Amyn Malik

    A good read. I agree with you on this issue.Recommend

  • Abhi

    Antebellum
    “Allah send down his Commandments and his Will in a written word ”

    Can you tell me where to find this original will?Recommend

  • parvez

    Very nicely articulated. I liked your thinking process and logic except for your ending solution which seemed like wishful musing then anything else.
    I would think it is the failure of the state to give an enlightened direction on this discourse that has brought us to this state of affairs.Recommend

  • waqqas iftikhar

    probably one of the best pieces of writing i have come across here.Recommend

  • Milestogo

    You can not teach jihad and tolerance at the same time.Recommend

  • SK

    “Well, with all due respect, genocide can begin with bullying in a high school court yard.”

    This is so one of the best pieces of writing. We need to learn the basics of our religion from the very scratch.Recommend

  • Ahmed S.

    Such a great piece. We seriously need to stop judging people by their physical appearance.Recommend

  • HAMMAD ALI HASSAN

    we give more preference to our traditional values than religion, and as far as religion is concerned we always adopt whatever we told, we never try to search the truth……we follow more the mullahs of our glamorous t.v shows, rather than searching it by ourselves… we should be dedicated to that whatever we practice….. Recommend

  • hassan

    If you read the whole of Qu’ran and all the hadiths, you will not find a single thought that is even remotely connected to the inner being of a person. Not a single line about developing the inner consciousness or inner godliness.

    The entire book deals with the physical factors of this life and in after life. The book talks only about the physical pleasures in paradise. How much wine you will get, how much grapes you can eat, how many houris you can touch and feel…the book talks only about the pleasures of the senses.

    There is no such thing called Spiritual Islam. Don’t delude yourself and others.Recommend

  • http://bakedsunshine.wordpress.com/ Shumaila

    @ Zshan – well said. I commend your capacity to accept that there are fanatics in every philosophy. I disagree with your judgement of myself as one, however :pRecommend

  • Azhar

    @hassan:
    Lol ur comment only makes me laugh lolRecommend

  • Cynical

    @Hassan
    Brilliantly articulated an obvious truth.
    You are almost unreal, seems to be from another planet.Too good to be true.
    Hope it opens up a few closed doors (of mind and senses, I mean). Recommend

  • dilshan

    @hassan:

    Please don’t be prejudice! Seek to Understand and then to be Understood. Not vice versa. You probably need more understanding of this before you make such a comment. Maybe it is that you only focus on these topics but that does not mean that is it and all. so man before you make such comments ask yourself how much understanding of the subject you have. Got it. Recommend

  • Nafisa

    Faith is personal.Recommend

  • KolachiMom

    I’m proud to see this nation’s youth starting to speak out, in such a rational manner. Very well written. Please don’t let it stop at one blog post.
    @Shumaila – Agreed
    @hassan: I’m not a Muslim, but even I had to laugh at your comment. It’s quite absurd.Recommend

  • http://www.cisforcookie.com Hala

    i’ve always thought that the purpose of religion is to make you a better person
    if you follow a religion because it makes sense and you understand why you do certain things than that’s great
    the way that the author looks at her religion makes her look at things more deeply and understand and respect life, even though i’m not religious at all, i find people like that admirable
    but if you take an idea and put it above human life how does that make any sense?
    if someone’s religious ideas are not the same as your’s, does that justify killing them even if they have never hurt you in anyway
    no one has a right to judge or condemn anyone else, unless they start hurting the people around them, that is condemnable
    but wearing what you like and thinking what you like, that’s every single person’s rightRecommend

  • Ibrahim Seleighvakoevic

    Actually, she is very wrong… First of all, the Taliban didn’t targeted us… we decided to fight against them… and they retaliated… and they are incredibly brilliant warriors… dedicated and precise… I feel sorry for her relatives killed in suicide bombing… I also feel sorry for a million Iraqis killed and thousands killed in drone attacks…

    And Islam is like this… Just READING first 2 surahs of the Quran will tell u how much war is stressed…

    we decided to be the dogs of USA… and now we can’t handle the heat give to us by the Taliban… what a bunch of losers we r…. don’t mess with the force of AllahRecommend

  • Ibrahim Seleighvakoevic

    @Azhar:
    the find a verse man… find a verse… IRecommend

  • hassan

    @KolachiMom:

    You have not contradicted any of my points, but still you say I am being absurd. Obviously you have not read the books I’m mentioning.

    I am all for Spiritual Islam. I wish someone will quote some spiritual passages and will convince me about it.

    Please do quote the relevant hadiths so I can feel good about it.Recommend

  • Mr X

    @Milestogo:The word ‘Jihad’ means ‘struggle’.You cold say American soldiers in Afghanistan are on a Jihad in Afghanistan.Its just a word,you need to read more. Recommend

  • Mastishhk

    Men are supposed to get 72 hoors in paradise for being pious..Wat do women get ?????Recommend

  • My Name is Khan

    Great post.

    @ KolachiMom – you aren’t Muslim? Then why do you make negative comments on ET about non-Muslims? You generally defend terrorists and show no care for minorities. I think you are delusional. Kolachis/Kulachis are Sindhi Muslims so I’m not sure what you’re smoking: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kulachi_%28tribe%29Recommend

  • lexferanda

    What is the meaning of the word “SAW” that the author inserts in parenthesis after ‘prophet mohammed’? Is this a Pakistani thing?Recommend

  • KM

    Hmmm, a very naive post. I am usually not annoyed by naivety but when displayed so uncharmingly it becomes depressing.

    I think the point was to say that its the inner being that matters and we shouldnt judge people by their outwardly appearance.

    the thing is, my friend, religion is a step-wise process; you cant proclaim to be spiritual if you dont udnerstand the true meaning of spirituality. Islam IS a spiritual religion
    But what about the step afetr the spiritual dsicovery?
    Everyone has he right to choose their own religion but don’t come to a public forum and pronounce a superficial verison of spirituality.

    If there is true change within you, it will truely reflect in your externalized actions as well….if you become selfless and kind and start appreciating others and their sacrifices and realizing that there are people living in much less privileged circumstances than you then eventually you’d realize that(im assumign you do believe that God is the Supreme Provider) that there is a Someone up there that you need to thank for the lifestyle you have, He says if thank you must willingly, do it through five daily prayers, and that dont just be grateful about the lifestyle ive provided you but moderate yourself ian manner that enables you to help others less privileged.

    Nothing wrong in wearing jeans. But every sensible person would avoid unneccessary dispakly of skin or wear some material(altho its ridiculous what impact denim has on our countrymen) that can offend anyoen else’s sensibilities….its not tjhe dresscode that Islam preaches…it preaches inner sense of modesty, decorum, and a keen effort to control our impulses……the next step would probabaly see us conducting ourself with propriety.

    Dont make invalid statements like “spiritual islam”……spiritual islam is not all about internal purity…spirituality(check dictionary) is a way of thinking and reasonign that eventually reflects in ones actions and opinions.

    People have taken on a mighty contorted version of spirituality by assuming its all within. So basically outside you can be smashing glass onto people’s heads but a slogn as you maintian on the inside that harming people is not cool, its all fine.

    Im sorry if this soudns preachy, i m not a very devout Muslim myself and have millions of miles to go but statements like “spiritual islam” and “jeans wont end me up in hell” and “hoors”…they are just downright degrading.Recommend

  • http://- Abid Khan

    @hassan:
    Very astute observation. Why do the religiously learned have such a hedonistic outlook, specially as if afterlife would be an eternal orgy. We seem to be heavily drunk on this potion. Silencing others is the obvious corollary. A rather sophisticated society of the sixties has been forced to take such an overdose of religion? How long does one have to suffer the litany of the least educated who have captured the pulpit?

    Deserves a well-researched scholarly article in ET furnished with apt references.Recommend

  • http://usamahamayun@blogspot.com Usama Hamayun

    I strongly disagree with your stance on Facebook banning. what happened on Facebook was a major violation and misuse of freedom of expression. And in sight of the tremendous respect and devotion Muslims have for our Prophet(SAW),the blasphemous act of those fanatics was in major disrespect to faiths and feelings of millions of us and Facebook administration’s refusal to remove it was very stubborn and unmindful of the damage it was going to do to our feelings. Religious blasphemy is considered a major violation of human rights in every part of the world. I think the uproar the whole event caused and subsequent calls for first removal of those pics and then banning of Facebook was absolutely justifiable and fair. Recommend

  • miraal

    w.o.w brilliant article! well doneRecommend

  • Sceptical Shagird

    @Mastishhk:
    A woman gets one man to share with 71 others.
    Yup! Heaven (in this case), is a very Mormon like,
    polygamist’s paradise.
    Ooh! La! La! Recommend

  • Lamss

    @hassan: I’m shocked how you’ve expressed your point & that it was recommended so many times. Please don’t put your filth in our religion by making up things like “how many houris you can touch and feel”. Seriously people, wake up.Recommend

  • hassan

    @Lamss:

    According to you, I am making this up. Sorry, I am not. It’s there in the Book, in black and white. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=icJ6oOBRcW4

    If you want to refute me, you should refute it strongly by quoting verses that contradict what I say. Quote verses that promote spirituality. Quote verses that talk about the inner divinity of a person.

    Otherwise, your comment ‘people wake up’ will only ring hollow.Recommend