What do Pakistani atheists mean for Pakistan?

Published: October 23, 2011

Atheism framed as a (farcical) response to extremism in the country is a joke. But plurality, overall, is good.

“How does one begin to write a blog about atheism in Pakistan?”

This rather tricky question was posed to me by a web sub-editor  after the discovery that not only are there atheists and agnostics alive and well in Pakistan, they are in fact running their own website and using social media to stay in touch and multiply.

I call the above question tricky for a number of reasons. For anyone who is not aware, the most dangerous minority to be in Pakistan is not (contrary to popular belief) an Ahmadi, but an atheist, a disbeliever in any form of God(s); an apostate and therefore, directly wajibul qatl. While there may still be some room for debate about the discriminatory mention of Ahmadis in Pakistan’s constitution, so great is the taboo of atheism that it cannot even be whispered in close quarters with friends and family, let alone in parliament, the courts or the broader media sphere.

Simply put, there is no room for atheism in Pakistan, so how can anyone possibly talk about it?

Well, for starters, I believe a few big, bold disclaimers would be in order:

1.            I am not an atheist

2.            My intent is to study or analyse the subject, not to praise it

“Does that mean I can’t write a blog saying that I found the dialogue being led by these atheists on their website to be surprisingly clean of ad hominem attacks, cheap shots, and bad spelling as is common on our site?” my sub asks me.

“No” I tell her.

“You can’t write that because it is slipping into a grey area as yet unexplored in our country’s history. To be frank, it sounds too much like praise.”

You cannot praise an atheist in our land of the pure, as that is a tricky and dangerous minefield to tread. Even if the mullahs don’t get you, there is always the clear and present danger of marching out yet another awful journalistic cliché not unlike our fashion industry’s “brave” fashion shows to “defeat the Taliban mindset”. No, atheism framed as a (farcical) response to extremism in the country is also a joke, aside from the potential threat to life and limb.

So yes, it is definitely tricky to write on the subject of atheism in Pakistan. However, I do believe you can postulate a couple of insights from this phenomenon which fall in the “safe” zone.

First, despite what anyone says from across the political/social spectrum, our Pakistani nation is a pluralistic one, with depth, complexity and nuances similar to the rest of the world. The governance of such a society would therefore require an equally complex and nuanced approach, without which many citizens will (and do) face immeasurable discrimination and injustice. I say immeasurable because without a nuanced approach to governance, whole groups of people slip through the cracks of accountability due to flawed policies and laws, leaving their suffering unregistered, as if they are non-persons. This also creates the illusion of a uniform, simple society, which, as in the case of atheists in Pakistan (among many others), is clearly not the case.

Secondly, the most important insight one can derive from the sudden visibility of atheists in Pakistan is that the growth of technology, and the speed at which information can now be exchanged and processed across the globe and in Pakistan heralds the coming of far more awareness of the complexity of our society, and consequently, change, whether we like it or not. It heralds an era of social upheaval and changing perceptions of what it means to be a Pakistani, and perhaps more importantly, a member of the human race.

Let us hope the change is a good one, and let us pray that the growing pains of social upheaval do not tear us apart.

Jahanzaib Haque

Jahanzaib Haque

News buff and Web Editor, The Express Tribune. Jahanzaib tweets @Jhaque_ twitter.com/jhaque_

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

  • Shahid3

    Atheists are distrusted in many relatively religious societies:

    Polls from 1937 to 2011 by the Gallup Organization are of particular value because they have asked essentially the same question of American adults for over four decades. One series of questions is typically worded:

    “If your party nominated a generally well-qualified person for president who happened to be a ‘X’ would you vote for that person?”

    “X” is Atheist, Baptist, Black, Catholic, Homosexual, Jewish, Mormon, Woman, etc.

    In 2011, 67% were willing to vote for a gay President, but only 49% would vote for an atheist. Perhaps, the latter would do better to remain closeted when running for office ;)

    http://www.religioustolerance.org/amer_intol.htm

    Recommend

  • http://adesiinaction.blogspot.com/ Village_ Idiot

    Being a non associative or lazy follower of any faith, is only reasonable way for an atheist to live and survive in our land of pure. Mullahs got lot of powers in main stream society since 1973. So their policy is simple; crush every one who is possible opponent. So Atheists got no chance to stand even one round in this arena.

    Other possibility is to join and work with the leftist politics. Lazy atheist would be worse of than lazy believer in the land of very very pure ones and in the future chosen land of awaited Mahdi, who will launch a series of universe scale wars against infidels with his bunch of Zaid Hamdi followers; with their naked swords and having tight red caps on the small heads.Recommend

  • Mj

    I wonder why Muslims welcome converts with open arms (especially if you happen to be a westerner) but consider leaving Islam a ‘crime’ punishable by death. Does not this attitude essentially force a person who happened to be born in a Muslim family to lead a double life? Would Islam still boast 2nd largest following if its adherents are given the freedom of (dis)belief? I can say with certainty that an overwhelming majority of Muslims are only so because they were born to Muslim parent(s). This arrangement does, however, make for an almost perfect self-perpetuating system. The social cost has been made so high that no sane person vocally proclaims his conversion or loss of faith. This holds true for Muslim majority countries and increasingly in western countries with establish communities of Muslim immigrants.

    I do hope people in our country will strive to live together with mutual respect and harmony regardless of their belief or lack thereof. The country has enough problems as its is; no reason to add a dose of religiously inspired McCarthyism to it. Pakistan needs more rational thinkers whether they are theists, agnostics, or atheist. Belief in god(s) should not preclude a person from thinking and acting rationally. It just means that he/she has not deemed it necessary to critically examine his/her beliefs. Recommend

  • Gullible Nomore

    So do they mean another minority to worry about? Do they mean a progressive Pakistan? Do they mean end of the world? Do they mean Pakistan is getting technologically advance, therefore they’re more visible? Pardon my lack of understanding, but I don’t quite follow what the point here really is.
    In my humble opinion, Pakistani Atheists can only mean something for Pakistan if they start coming out of the closet. I know it’s a death wish, but bear with me here. If they make their presence felt they can work towards making Pakistan a secular state, get more rights for minority etc. But looking at our country’s present religiosity, this seems almost impossible, at least in our life times. Recommend

  • SAhmed

    Good job Jahanzaib, you’ve written about something that would normally not be covered and needs attention… we can only hope that Pakistan gets accepting of all and truly stands for what it was made for – life and liberty for all, freedom of religion (or the absence thereof). I always say to my atheist friend whenever she shows any concern: I accept you the way you are, you are far better than many of those who claim to be “highly religious” because you know the difference between right and wrong and feel for the less fortunate – yes, that is exactly what religion came for, and when she has such understanding of ethics, I do not feel she should be treated any different.Recommend

  • Mir

    Being atheists at these times in Pakistan is really dangerous, but simply that was not the case just 30 years ago, many people were loosely connected to religion so much so that they were almost atheist, living in this society and fully contributing to prosperity of country. You can easily find them in older generation who are now in their 60s. Recommend

  • Anthony Permal

    There are two kinds of people I have met in Pakistan who have chosen to become atheists:
    1. Those who like the trend and popularity associated worldwide at the moment with being atheist and;
    2. Genuine atheists, who have an intellectual bent, who want rational thought and logic based in reason to guide their belief (or non-belief) in anything, not just a god or gods.

    I won’t bother commenting on the former for there is point. On the latter, however, one simply cannot in any way lay blame on a person in Pakistan becoming an atheist. One MUST in all humility accept that if such a person chose such a path, it was because no one could convince him otherwise, rationally.

    Defeatest and self-righteous yet well-meaning comments based in faith such as ‘read the Quran/Bible/Torah my brother and you will find your answer’ do NOT help. It must be a deeper and more meaningful conversation based in logic and reason, else you will simply come across as patronizing. To then say that ‘you are not understanding because you have closed your mind’ is the resulting reply, which again doesn’t help. By saying so, you’re not helping, you’re insulting. Open-minded atheists have NO problem discussing faith, as long as a) they are being asked to judge the faith by its merit and b) they are not being forced to accept and state that ‘yes, you are right, God almighty I have been blind all along’ just so you can feel better about yourself that you ‘saved a soul for the cause’.

    I urge all of you who come across an atheist willing to rationally discuss faith or religion to engage with them only if you have the intellectual and knowledgable capacity to do so, for else you’ll simply be proving THEIR points and will walk away angry and frustrated, blaming the atheist instead of your own lack of knowledge of your faith.

    For militant and ‘I am right and you are wrong and that’s that” atheists, however, I don’t believe any conversation is required at all.Recommend

  • Mir

    Being atheist in Pakistan 30 years back was almost normal, majority of people had pluralistic vision of world and educated population at that time were very loosely connected to religion, so much so that many of them were almost atheist.Recommend

  • http://lonepkliberal.wordpress.com Loneliberal PK

    If Pakistanis pay half as much attention to containing religious violence as they do to hunting down Atheists, we’d be living in a much nicer country.

    Call Atheists dangerous and immoral if you want, but unless they start bombing your marketplaces in the name of science, they’re a relatively safer bunch. Using blogs and social networks to explain your world view to others is hardly “extremism”.Recommend

  • Noble Tufail

    you said it all and said it well Jahanzeb. this free thinking should not be a surprise. In a complex society, everyone can and should exist. rule of the tumb however is mutual respect and keeping calm. i have seen many seculars going crazy.Recommend

  • abdul rehman

    it is not a crime to have a functioning brain.The persecution of atheists should end.Recommend

  • Pak Atheist

    abbey humein marwana hai kya? :PRecommend

  • Nero

    Good to spread atheism. If religious people spread religion, why should not atheists try to spread their disbelief?Recommend

  • Agenda

    Well if i know someone is an atheist then i think first of all he should make it clear to the masses so that everyone knows and secondly atheists should not be allowed to talk about islam and Pakistan’s culture or its future. Because

    Pakistan ka matlab kaya
    La ilaha Ila Allah
    Recommend

  • fz

    Er, I felt like you.. deviated?.. from the topic.Recommend

  • http://www.salmanzq.com Salman Qureshi

    Well written with many good points. Now get ready for the verbal attacks from the ostriches of our society.Recommend

  • Pakistani in US

    I have atheist friends and I have always found them to be most accepting of race/religion/ethnicity/personal space because of lack of any prejudices in their system hammering their ability to think clearly.Recommend

  • http://lonepkliberal.wordpress.com Loneliberal PK

    Jahanzeb: “My intent is to study or analyse the subject, not to praise it”

    Yeah, heaven forbid somebody puts in a word of praise for atheists in this country. It is only the Muslims, or more precisely, the sunni Muslim community that gets any respect around here. The rest should sew their lips shut and accept their fates as second class citizens.Recommend

  • Aurangzeb

    give democracy a chance and let the people choose their lawmakers, who should make laws based on peoples wishes. After all democracy is the best governance system. The atheists should come forward with their new religion(a modern Godless religion), present themselves as a minority and request new laws for themselves.You cant be part of the majority & claim your yourself as minority.

    BTW who told you disbelievers in GOD are Wajib-ul-Qatal.i think that was an enthusiastic statement, but please don’t spread wrong statements.Recommend

  • Ali Kazmi

    I am a Pakistani atheist and I have come to the ineluctable conclusion that Pakistan has a very dismal future. Pakistan has not given me an education, food and shelter; my parents worked hard to provide me those so I owe Pakistan nothing and there’d be no honour in staying here and working to change things because things can’t change in Pakistan. This country is doomed and anyone who disagrees is either deluded or naive.Recommend

  • Mrs Archaeopteryx

    This was a very fair and thought provoking article, but even more importantly, the reasonable comments from the readers give reason for hope. Personally, I had almost lost hope as I meet Pakistani students studying overseas and they generally have very closed minds and they have not (and will not) read books other than the Quran and their course textbooks. Why do they fear exposure to alternative ways of seeing the world? Recommend

  • Aurangzeb

    @Ali Kazmi

    you remarks are very interesting and amusing :) Recommend

  • Sanity

    I want to thank ET for publishing such open-minded blogs and allow everyone to speak their heart and mind. Lets agree to disagreeRecommend

  • Qamar Khan

    I dont understand why religious people get irked if someone turned atheist, or dont have any religion…they are not causing any harm to anyone, if muslim want to be respected why cant muslim show respect to other people? No atheist or liberal/secularis are demanding to change ur thinking or change ur lifestyle, so why are muslim forcing atheist to believe in God or forcing liberals/secularist to change their lifestyle?! And then we wonder why the whole world think muslims are intolerance people?!

    Like LoneLiberalPk said: Call Atheists dangerous and immoral if you want, but unless they start bombing your marketplaces in the name of science, they’re a relatively safer bunch.

    An humble request to Pakistani atheist/liberals/secularist/non-muslims, leave Pakistan as soon as u can, even the youth are not gonna spare u, this country has nothing to give u, I left Pakistan coz i dont belong to muslim community, and i found more happiness outside Pakistan and the most important thing: I AM SAFE! Recommend

  • sundar

    In south India there is a party/movement which promotes atheism openly. It conducts public meetings periodically with procession, banners etc. In fact it goes to the extreme of hurting believers sentiments ridiculing Hindu Gods. But for them minorities are sacred cows they don’t touch them. In any civilized tolerant society atheism has a right to exist. Recommend

  • Naveed Salman

    The answer to the question of how much dangerous it is to be an atheist in Pakistan depends on the fact that whether one is an open atheist or a closeted atheist.
    As a closeted Pakistani Atheist myself, I feel the writer is correct that declaring atheism openly is very difficult and dangerous while living in Pakistan. I want an environment in Pakistan where I can declare my atheism openly to everyone without any fear of being discriminated and target of hate, and not only on online forums.
    The problem of declaring openly is difficult partly because your own relatives and family will ostracize you for following a different faith. But the bigger problem is the Islamic law that orders to kill all apostates. (Bukhari 09:83:017, Bukhari 04:52:260)
    So if someone who was a Muslim by birth and becomes an atheist, then he or she automatically becomes Wajib-ul-Qatl according to this Islamic commandment. Although Pakistani constitution has not yet defined any punishment for apostasy, but there always remain a threat to be killed any religious zealot who believes that apostates must be killed.

    Pakistani Muslims must develop acceptance for Pakistani atheists, so that they can live as open atheists and not as closeted atheists and call themselves a Muslim. Recommend

  • Mj
  • Cynical

    Quite a few interesting posts but almost all are from the same side of the divide.

    A little surprised by the absence of the ‘Faith brigade’
    They provide a lot of entertainment.Recommend

  • MAZE

    @Naveed Salman

    You are absolutely correct in your assertion that the punishment for apostasy is death in Islam. There actually was an attempt to include the punishment of apostasy as part of Pakistani law. In 2006 the MMA government tabled an apostasy bill which was fortunately shot down and never turned into a law.

    It is certainly hard to live as an atheist in Pakistan with the current highly rigid atmosphere which does not allow any form of dissent. I can only talk about myself. Coming from a relatively educated family my folks never had any problem with me being an agnostic. However it is not something that can be practiced in the outside world. There can never be any question or debate on religion. This I think is really sad because you can’t grow unless you doubt. Skepticism is the key to growth. That is something which is missing from all Muslim countries. It is why the Muslim world has failed to produce even a single intellectual of any caliber in the last 800 years. Recommend

  • Rationalist

    I may be wrong on this: ‘Mr. Jinnah (Kayade Azam) was an Atheist’.
    How come for a nation called Pakistan whose founder, an Atheist, be so intolerant for non-belief in Allah. Very Strange. Looks like history has been manipulated or deliberately kept secret.
    Questioning should be foundation of every society. People must understand that Religion is a human construct.
    ‘In the Matter of Conscience, there is no place for Law of Majority’. Recommend

  • Talat Haque

    Life is not easy for Atheists anywhere ………… living life is dangerous in Pakistan anyway ………..you’re done for every which way!Recommend

  • Sanity

    @Mir:
    Also there were many people who followed Sufism. In interior Sindh, most people still follow Sufism and possess secular and liberal mindset; however, feudalism is the curse. Recommend

  • http://lonepkliberal.wordpress.com Loneliberal PK

    I’m pleasantly surprised by the calm, level-headed comments that this article has received.

    Either our society’s growing more tolerant, or the religious extremists are very slow readers.Recommend

  • Ali Tanoli,

    My goats are athiest. Recommend

  • Mj

    @Ali Tanoli,:
    Is that why you will ritually sacrifice them :) ?

    And as Cynical said above, I’m eagerly waiting for the defenders of faith to make the debate more lively. Recommend

  • Ahmed

    Pakistan’s most famous atheist, Tariq Ali, is not an apostate. He was raised as an atheist by his parents and I think almost everyone is aware of this plus of his reputation as a prominent figure in Leftist revolutionary politics of the mid 20th century.

    Atheists like that, who genuinely try (whether or not they succeed) to be open-minded and rational, I don’t have a problem with. And I’m a very conservative/religious person.

    Then there’s the other type of atheist who did not turn to atheism because of some particular philosophical education but who only do so out of some cultural allegiance to the new modernist atheist culture sweeping the West and slowly the rest of the world. This requires little thought and is more a hedonistic pursuit than anything rational. These types are dangerous to a society like Pakistan going by what the conservative/religious bloc in the country would think.Recommend

  • Fatima Adeel

    Everyone has a right to live whatever way they please,as long as they are not a threat to society or self.However,in Pakistan,where people are killed just for saying their prayers in a different manner ,adeclaring oneself an atheist is a death wish.
    Also,i am a practising Muslim,and would like to put it out there that there is no “Islamic law” that atheists are wajab up qatal.What the Qur’an really says,and what a group or so called Muslims do in this regard, are 2 absolutely different things.For the gentleman who quoted bukhari..seriously?Recommend

  • Shahid3

    It is why the Muslim world has failed to produce even a single intellectual of any caliber in the last 800 years.

    It’s interesting you should mention that, as a recent paper has cast aspersions on the claim to scientific greatness of Dr. Salam. Although a rather “bitchy” and possibly Orientalist take (idiotic attempt to divine a powerful insight into workings of the “Moslem” mind on the basis of fairly culturally typical remarks by Salam on the “miracle” of his ending up in UK—to be followed shortly thereafter by hundreds of thousands of others from the same part of the world notwithstanding), he does raise some points that require serious scientific—and possibly even forensic—analysis to be cleared up:

    Salam was perpetually sorry that his idea in a draft paper in 1956 suggesting that parity might be violated had not been published after criticism from senior colleagues. His approach to physics afterwards changed from rigorous to scattergun: he wrote (usually with collaborators) about a paper every month…Salam gave a graduate course at Imperial College most years and in autumn 1967 the course focused on the theory of electromagnetic and weak interactions and the possible application of the Higgs mechanism to the theory. No written record of the course exists although at least one student at the time remembers it. Salam did not submit an article on the application of the Higgs mechanism to electroweak theory for publication in a peer-reviewed journal…So the prize was awarded on the basis of a non-peer-reviewed publication which quotes an unpublished lecture.

    I thought it was tragic and sobering that a scientist of world-class stature should be writing blurbs for hare-brained screeds that were barefaced apologia and hagiographies of religious figures. It would have been so much more refreshing had he risen above partisan and tribal filiation and given those Pakistanis not won over to the wholesomeness of his religious outlook grounds for building something lasting from his legacy. On the other hand, having witnessed first-hand the storm-troopers of the religious right venting their hateful fury against Ahmedis in Lahore of 1953 could have left lasting scars and resulted in this kind of reflexive defensiveness.Recommend

  • pani ki tanki

    a pluralistic society is an ideal society!well you might have a different mindset and im accepting it but please atheists shouldnt come on national tv coming out of the closet!!or theyll have a illietrate qadri waiting for thmRecommend

  • rehmat

    @sundar:
    To add to what you are saying – not only is atheism openly preached in Indiam being an theist does not hurt your political career either.
    India’s home minister P Chidambaram is also a declared atheist. While most ministers are sworn in based on their respective religious book i.e The Bhagwat Gita, Quran, Bible, GranthSahib etc., Chidambaram takes the oath on the constitution.Recommend

  • Noumaan Shamsi

    Religion is, and should be, a deeply personal matter. I am not an atheist, but I feel no need to preach to my atheist/agnostic/not as observant friends. However, I do get put off by atheists who have ironically turned atheism into their religion and call people of faith brainless. I get equally put off by muslims who tell me I’m going to hell because I eat with my Hindu friends.
    To each their own.
    @Rationalist Jinnah wasnt an atheist. He was, however, fairly secular and non-observant. Two different things. Recommend

  • acha bacha

    No comments otherwise religious people will sue me… :PRecommend

  • zalim singh

    more blood?Recommend

  • Anoop

    The loopholes are aplenty.

    “First, despite what anyone says from across the political/social spectrum, our Pakistani nation is a pluralistic one, with depth, complexity and nuances similar to the rest of the world. ”

    Umm.. Well, you say even whispering to someone you know that you are an Atheist will put you in mortal danger, yet you say what I have quoted above.

    You are so afraid of consequences, I am assuming, that you even strictly mention you are NOT an Atheist. Yet, you believe Pakistan is a plural society. Dont you see the glaring contradiction?

    I have discussed about Atheism openly in India, and heck, a political party DMK professes to be Atheist in ideology in Tamil Nadu. It had even enjoyed power for the last 5 years in TN in India.

    I’ll tell you an interesting fact. DMK chief Karunanidhi is openly Atheist. He has publicly said on numerous occasions that he believes Ram to be fictional character and Ramayana to be fictional story. Now, he says this in a State 90% HIndu.

    Now, THAT is called pluralism, that is called tolerance.

    What you think is pluralism is clearly not that. I can write a whole column about Atheism in any leading Indian newspaper, with my name, address published and not fear for my life.

    You have the courage to talk about an important topic, yet not enough to not clarify that you are not an Atheist. Recommend

  • Woman

    I am not an atheist but I do not believe in religion. I wish it was easy for people to speak up about all kinds of religious beliefs so that people knew how many Pakistanis are atheists/agnostics/non-religious and we could have open, stimulating religious discussions. I have suffered the repercussions of telling someone outside my family about my lack of religious belief. I do not wish to repeat the experience. I think life would be a lot more easier if people like me could safely stand up and be counted but I don’t quite know how that will ever be possible without some kind of tragedy in this country. It is a pity.

    I am sorry you had to make it clear you were not an atheist in the article but I understand the reasons why. Every time I take a stand on religious minority rights or gay rights, I feel a similar pressure to explain how that does not mean I am one of “them”. I wish people understood that they do not have to protect only their own identities and life choices but the identities and life choices of all people. That is the true meaning of a country where every person is free and where everyone can live without fear. Recommend

  • Rationalist

    @Anthony Permal:

    Good post. I agree with most, but this:

    “One MUST in all humility accept that if such a person chose such a path, it was because no one could convince him otherwise, rationally.”

    The reason most atheist choose their path is not because no one was able to convince them. It is because, of their own rational research and contemplation they come to the conclusion that religions are man-made, mostly illogical and often irrational.Recommend

  • Rationalist

    @Noumaan Shamsi:

    “I do get put off by atheists who have ironically turned atheism into their religion and call people of faith brainless.”

    But, don’t you agree that a vast majority of religious “believers” are “believers” for no reason other than being born into a religion and accepted that religion without much deep, rational and deep enquiry and contemplation? That is, their faith is often blind or “brainless”.Recommend

  • fatima

    @Agenda:

    ummm just out of curiosity… how and why should an atheist go about telling the ‘masses’ about his/her religious beliefs? :) and this ban on having an opinion about Islam and the culture and future of Pakistan should extend to all non muslims or just atheists?Recommend

  • http://lonepkliberal.wordpress.com Loneliberal PK

    There’s a wise saying that goes, “You can never truly believe until you have the freedom to disbelieve.”

    Believing in Islam without having the freedom to stop believing in it, makes the religion an obligatory burden instead of a personal choice. Killing people for ceasing to believe what you believe is cruel, and by common sense, debars your religion from the category of those that are peaceful.Recommend

  • Ali Tanoli,

    Did some one ever see rock by the water (Aik dafa pisla to pislatha he chala gaya) this
    is perfect example for u guys.Recommend

  • http://fruitforbidden.wordpress.com/ Forbidden Fruit

    For some reason, atheists sound a lot like religious zealots. They both believe that criticizing/ridiculing others make them look superior. It’s even more funny coming from atheists since this is what they wail about all the time themselves. Recommend

  • AtikafromToronto

    I love how so many people on this comment board will openly support a person’s decision to be an atheist but will not support a person’s decision to be religious. Everyone has a right to live life the way they want to. If a person chooses to be an atheist then that’s his decision. Similarly, if a person chooses to be religious that’s their decision as well. Too often I have found atheists guilty of the same crime they accuse the “religious” people of – i.e. being judgemental and unaccepting. First step to being accepted is to yourself being accepting of others. Too many in Pakistan equate lack of religion with being hip and being religious with being conservative and uncool. Stop putting labels on people because of what they believe or how they look.

    I am a female who proudly wears a hijab and struggles like most people to pray 5 times a day. I’m working on climbing the corporate ladder and shattering the glass ceiling. I’ve been known to show up at environmental and political rallies, headbang at concerts and speak my mind. How are you going to label me? Am I religious? you tell me. Am I a person of faith? I think so.

    Most people are in favour of a secular society but I find most people aren’t accepting of religious people within that secular society. People need to come up with a set of values, and learn to stick to them. The same principles and values that they apply to themselves should apply to others as well. If everyone stood for their values and didn’t dilly dally and waiver based on what’s “cool”, Pakistan would definitely be a better place to live and well on the way to being a more successful society.Recommend

  • Gullible Nomore

    @Forbidden Fruit:
    Right! How many atheists have you personally met? I being an atheist myself, do like to criticize but am open to criticism as well. Criticism is a two way track my friend, unless you’re religious, then you can only criticize/ridicule other religions and when it comes to your own, you throw in the blasphemy law and get the “perpetrators” hanged or killed.
    You can criticize, ridicule, marginalize us as much as you want, rest assured, we won’t move the court to have you hanged or strap a bomb around our waists and kill you and countless innocent bystanders. Thanks!Recommend

  • Raja Islam

    Unfortunately in most places of the world people who are religious despise atheists. This may also apply to agnostics. Personally, I believe that the safer route is to be an agnostic than an atheist.

    As far as Pakistan is concerned, due to lack of education and tolerance the bias towards atheists is much stronger than in most parts of the world and an atheist runs the risk of being ostracized or worse yet being killed.

    The fact of the matter is that I have not seen nor heard of atheists going out and killing believers, but cases of believers going and killing non-believers/atheists are plentiful.Recommend

  • KolachiMom

    I think I like the comments section more than the blog post today. ;)Recommend

  • Qamar Khan

    @AtikafromToronto

    Its not about supporting religious people, the fact is and remain so, religious people are really intolerant towards non-religious people, especially muslims are so intolerant, coz your religion tells u so, and there is a law according to the islam, when someone leaves Islam he should be punished by a death penalty, so offcourse there is no suprise, intolerance people (religious) will not be supported..Recommend

  • Mj

    @AtikafromToronto:
    “I love how so many people on this comment board will openly support a person’s decision to be an atheist but will not support a person’s decision to be religious. Everyone has a right to live life the way they want to.”

    I doubt many agnostics/atheists have a problem with a religious people. Its when religion gets injected into the public sphere and starts affecting everyone that it becomes a major issue.

    “If a person chooses to be an atheist then that’s his decision. Similarly, if a person chooses to be religious that’s their decision as well.”

    Tell that to the 70% plus majorities in muslim countries who’d rather see atheists dead.
    View on death penalty for apostates – Pew Global Survey

    “Too often I have found atheists guilty of the same crime they accuse the “religious” people of – i.e. being judgemental and unaccepting. First step to being accepted is to yourself being accepting of others. “

    In light of above statistics, can you blame them for being a bit bitter, seeing as how their very lives are at stake? What would you think if let’s say 80% of your countrymen wanted you dead for being a woman, or due to the color of your skin?

    “I am a female who proudly wears a hijab”
    Good for you. But can you tell me why there is a huge disparity in the number of women who choose to wear hijab in majority muslim countries and in countries where they are free to make their own choice? The more religious the muslim country is the less freedom women have and you cannot, you cannot dispute that fact. I am willing to provide you with hundreds of laws, customs, religious doctrines, news reports if you want me to.

    “Most people are in favour of a secular society but I find most people aren’t accepting of religious people within that secular society.”

    You are living in a secular society. Have you faced physical abuse, violence, or death threats in that society? Are you not free to practice your religion without persecution? Then how can you say that religious people are not accepted in a secular society? On the other hand in a religious society…

    ” Too many in Pakistan equate lack of religion with being hip and being religious with being conservative and uncool.”

    This is the pièce de résistance of your comment. Your assertion that people choose you shed their religion to appear cool is, quite frankly, very insulting. No sane person wants to be a potential target of excommunication from family, friends and society, automatic divorce with spouse, deprivation of inheritance, very real threat of violence, possibility of jail, torture, or worse. Can you tell me of another position which brings with it so many repercussions? Recommend

  • Raja

    I was enquiring with my middle school going son if he would like to join me in a prayer while he was watching a cricket match on tv. He clearly wasn’t keen but he did join me because he “didn’t want to be punished”. While I was pleased that he could tear himself away from the tv, I wasn’t too happy with his reasons and engaged him in a conversation on religion. To cut it short, we described a 2X2 matrix- believer, non-believer and the over simplistic “good” man, “bad” man axes and I asked him to pick the worst quadrant. Even to a small kid, the believer-bad man one was the worst of the four, even above the non believer -bad man one.

    I did not tell him that the ‘ atheist-good man’ is, to my mind, superior to the ‘ believer- good man’ (which he chose as the best) as the former did not need the props of a religion to be a good man. My son is too small to engage in such a conversation.Recommend

  • Rationalist

    @Ahmed:

    “Then there’s the other type of atheist who did not turn to atheism because of some particular philosophical education but who only do so out of some cultural allegiance to the new modernist atheist culture sweeping the West and slowly the rest of the world. This requires little thought and is more a hedonistic pursuit than anything rational.”

    Well, do you think, as a whole, people of faith did a rational analysis before they became “believers”? How about you? Did you become a Muslim by choice after rational research and contemplation?

    “These types are dangerous to a society like Pakistan going by what the conservative/religious bloc in the country would think.”

    Aren’t people who claim to be followers of your faith have now become a danger to the Pakistani society and the global society in general?Recommend

  • http://tradersutra.com Hariharmani

    @Mj: Simply ,simple,and brilliant.Couldn’t articulate better.If you are rationalist,who has logic and reason has his/her final arbitor,can not live in Islamic country,even if he hides it well,life of falsehood and fear is not worth anything.This is one reason,Islamic nations find themself in this untenable situation among other things.I often think about it,I have several friends whose belief is pretty much in line with me,but they can not decl. like me,as muslims(it is tabbo in islamic society),me as a born hindu does not have this mile stone around my neck.In USA too,where most athist live and are safe,muslims do not have this luxuriry.To me this is very sad,to be born this way,even in free wheeling USA.HM.NJUSARecommend

  • http://tradersutra.com Hariharmani

    @Ali Kazmi: Sir, you sound well educated and your writing is lucid and well constructed and pretty flawless,far better than guy who have found way to live in USA. Keep progressing on the path of self enlightenment,you need little assistance.good luck.Recommend

  • http://tradersutra.com Hariharmani

    @Mrs Archaeopteryx:
    you have answered your own questionRecommend

  • http://tradersutra.com Hariharmani

    @Aurangzeb:
    It is profound and very deep,with name like what you have adopted will be hard for you to fatham.Just do not try.Recommend

  • http://tradersutra.com Hariharmani

    @Qamar Khan:
    Every word of yours is driping with pain,life is mostly pain and suffering in between there is moment of joy,we live for those fleeting moment,do not give in to hopelessness and dispair,for every cruel people there are others who will lend you compassionate ,helping hand.Lean on sholders of kind and strong,someday,there will be peace love and tolerance and kindness.This world of ours has unlimited capacity for healing,so do not fold like a cheap umbrella in a windy day,please.Recommend

  • http://tradersutra.com Hariharmani

    @sundar:
    Yes,there is party,but dear Sunder,In tamilnad,any perversion is possible,I know of all kind of atheist organisation,Atheist are most tolerant and enlightened folks in the world,all they want is to be left alone.The party of Ramaswamy Knaiker is a fringe people,total retarded,their atheism is just a pretext to be violent towards non violent people and harrass them.They have full support of party in power always,nothing to be proud off,you should hang your head in shame in a civilized society God or no God.Recommend

  • http://tradersutra.com Hariharmani

    @Naveed Salman:
    Why does any one have to decl,”BEliever or once disbelief,America is free country,atheist have no fear or persecuted,but I see no reason for them to walk around provoking believers or otherwise,we have to understand,every one freedom stops at the tip of others nose.Just live and let live.Does not mean live a life in closet,there is fine line.Recommend

  • http://tradersutra.com Hariharmani

    @Rationalist:
    For nation to progress or society to be progressive,it neither need to beIt is n atheist or a “Believer’,all it must do is to seperate religion from affairs of state.Dissent,free questioning every thing under the sun and healthy reasoning for all point of view without fear of reprisal for dissent,that’s all.It is not rocket science.Recommend

  • http://tradersutra.com Hariharmani

    @Ali Tanoli,:
    This is your defender eagarly waiting for you ,working overtime?Join the debate,we all missed you.You make life fun,otherwise it is mundane and boring.Live it up!Recommend

  • http://tradersutra.com Hariharmani

    @Mj:
    You spoke toooooo soooooon,he is back! Recommend

  • http://tradersutra.com Hariharmani

    @Rationalist:
    These are two school of thought(1)FAITH (2)Reason.They are mutually exclusive,they are two parallel lines which never meet.So once you take the path of reason,logic and rationality,ultimately,it will dissolve your faith and the converse is also true of Faith.You can not be both.If you try to be, you are lying to yourself.After being born in a Brahmin ,orthodox sect,in India,my entire Faith was shaken by foundation,once I started on the path of reason and logic,lost lot of friends,became a pariaih,almost lost my wife,only saved by my son,who himself on the road less traveled, and saved me,beside I live in good old USa,a citidal of liberal thinking,how lucky I’m.?Rather be lucky than Believer.Recommend

  • http://tradersutra.com Hariharmani

    @Loneliberal PK:
    I have been wrecking my brain for many years,I love my Muslim friends,I was brought up in Hyderabad(daccan),I know Urdu,reading and writing being a Brahmin,safely gone and traveled through Arab world,know how to do Namaz,can recite Kalma,pray in Kabristan,called myself Anwar Ali,never ever any one doubt me.I often wondered why these smart wonderful people have never advanced since 1100 A.D.,you know what,you have provided the answer, in your short write up ,why?Let who are smart enough,figure it out,it is no rocket science.When you build a eddifise,and are afraid to repair it,once the foundation shows crack,but afraid to make repair,in fear of collepsing the whole structure,it remain standing,but not much useful.Recommend

  • Asma

    If asked personally i dont agree with athiests but i dun have an issue if they exist becoz its not upto me to decide weather one is wajibulqatal or not just on the basis of belief and bdw the statement that every bodyu is referring to has an explaination behind it which i dont want to discuss over here. because there will be no point in it. if u dont like apples why wud u like an apple pie!
    but this is my ques to all athiests and am asking it just for knowledge and no offence intended… what do u believe in? i mean we all humans are equal and none of us r powerful enuf to create matter (not uptil now) then how wud u explain the existence and functioning of this universe? if im alive then who created e and when i die where wud i go? Recommend

  • D.k

    I am a shia muslim. My mother is a sunni muslim..my father a shia muslim . My grandfather and half the maternal side are wahabi muslims.. I have few qadyani relatives.. My brother is on his way to atheism and i respect his point of views because he raise very logical questions. I have no problem whatsoever what a person’s faith is.But what I can’t tolerate is somebody being disrespectful to Allah and His Prophets and ehl e bait e Rasool SAWW, which lots of atheist love to do. because they are just wanna bees.. They want to blv that they are intellectuals… but actually they just want freedom from the islamic boundries. they want to be guilt free and do whatever they want.Recommend

  • http://fruitforbidden.wordpress.com/ Forbidden Fruit

    @Gullible NoMore:
    Way to miss the point.Recommend

  • http://lonepkliberal.wordpress.com Loneliberal PK

    AtikafromToronto,

    What kind of non-religious folk have you been talking to?
    I’m atheist and I have absolutely no problem with people being religious. Freedom of belief is among the most basic of human rights. I do, however, protest if their religious beliefs begin to impinge upon my personal freedom.
    .
    Forbidden Fruit,

    Every group has its own fair shair of zealots, and I won’t attempt to defend the nuts on my side. But as I said earlier, you cannot possibly compare religious fanatics to the non-religious ones. Your zealots blow up marketplaces, shoot innocent people, burn abortion clinics and fly jets into our skyscrapers. The worst non-religious zealots do is say rude things or draw offensive cartoons.

    NOT the same thing. Don’t try to establish symmetry just for the sake of it.Recommend

  • Sanity

    I sometimes ask myself this question: What will happen when large number of people will start adopting atheism blindly, as people follow religions, without really troubling to use their brains. Recommend

  • Asma

    @Sanity:
    well the same wud be happening the other way round. like nowadays the “Muslims” are against Athiests, in that case the “Athiests” wud turn against the muslims. But in the end we all r gonna end up in the soil weather we lke it or not. weather we accept it or not, but there is that one creator who is there on the other end of this tunnel so weather u slide ur way thru, walk or run… we will end up at His feet.Recommend

  • http://tradersutra.com Hariharmani

    @Asma:
    I don’t assume you have not studied basic physics,chemestary and Darwins research on Natural selection and ofcourse,Sir Isec Newton,Enstein E=Mc(Squere.)Everything in universe is matter and it can not be destroyed ,it always existed and it will exist for ever,it can only be transferable into energy and wise-versa.A body in motion,will stay in motion,untill a force equal and opposite act on it to stop it,so the earth will go around the sun in 365 days 6 hrs and 22sec,give a sec plus or minus.You can not jump from matter to next step some one sitting somewhere and moving and creating everything,that is where “FAITH” and REASON and LOGIC comes.Go where your natural Instint take you,just do not take sword with you or a gun or daggar,KAPISH!Recommend

  • Jazib

    It could have been a very good article but you killed it. I find no point, analysis or commentary in this article whatsoever Recommend

  • Ali

    I am a Pakistani and I am an atheist. Three years ago when I finally gathered enough guts to share my views with the closest of my closest friends, they listened, but they warned me to keep my lips sewed or else I’d be giving death an open invitation. So to play it safe, I decided to keep my mouth shut. But lately, I’ve been vocal about my views. The thing that cheeses me off the most is when (and that’s almost always) religious people claim the moral highground. It’s then that I feel I need to speak up. And I always make it a point to stay calm even in the face of the utter belligerence I have to deal with (I’m sure my fellow atheists encounter this all the time as well).
    It is extremely refreshing to come across such articles in the Pakistani media. Keep at it, and to my fellow atheists…keep calm and keep the voice of reason alive :) Recommend

  • AK

    Although i haven’t read all the comments here but my post goes out to the ones talking about fleeing from Pakistan because there is no hope for it.

    I am a single female living out of Pakistan earning my own livelihood. I feel proud when i tell non-Pakistanis that i am a Pakistani because they are always surprised at a single PAKISTANI female living all alone. I portray Pakistan in a way the world’s media doesn’t.

    There were quite a few social reasons why i left Pakistan. I dont ever plan to return (as of today) and i felt sad when i decided this and left the country where i had spent the first 25 years of my life. I miss the place where i grew up even when i dont have much to list down when somebody asks me what my country has done for me. My decision of staying away from Pakistan may change at some point in life when (and if) i ever realise that the society has changed. Reading the blog posts and comments on ET and elsewhere online i do see that some sort of change will take place. How long it will take, that i cannot say. I haven’t lost hope though… All of you Pakistani nationals living abroad and being happy away from your homeland, please don’t lose hope. Hope is what keeps us going.

    Although i’m straight and a Muslim (not a practising one, though), my best wishes are with all those who are at the other end of the extreme of our society… all of you non-beleivers / atheists / homosexuals and everybody who is an exception to the norm.

    P.S. I like the website given in the blog, quite interesting stuff there :)Recommend

  • Raja Islam

    @Asma:
    Who created the creator?Recommend

  • Ali Tanoli,

    @ Hari harmani,
    I dont understand one thing all those peoples who makes these comments they ever try
    to read the Holy book just saying with out knowing how its gonna be correct and bunch
    atheists in the world are smarter than those billions of faithfull?? and those so called newton and Eibstien and Darwins were jews by faith like wise carl marx also and they
    were strict on there reliegen and died and buried as jews way why??? wait for answer from
    genios atheist of fews.Recommend

  • Safir

    @Raja Islam,
    When u died u will know who created the creator before that its a short time just enjoy itRecommend

  • Ahmed

    The Indian subcontinent (yes, that means us too) has a long history of atheism. In fact, atheism was long a dominant force till organized religion (I.e., Islam, Christianity) came to the sub continent.

    Buddhism is atheistic.

    Jainism is atheistic.

    Several types of Hinduism border on atheistic. For instance, the predominant school of Vedanta that is non dual and monistic that states that there is no god except our own selves.

    One of the 9 major philosophies of the subcontinent is lokayata or carvaka. It vehemently opposes any conception of god.

    Many verses of the Veda are atheistic or agnostic.

    So, atheists in the subcontinent are in very good company, historically speaking.
    So, atheists fitRecommend

  • Gullible Nomore

    @Safir:
    How do you know you or Raja Islam will definitely, one hundred percent, will find out after they die? What reliable evidence do you have to suggest that we will have all the answers after we die, or better yet, we’ll actually go somewhere once we die? You can’t find any evidence outside of scriptures. Recommend

  • sundar

    @Hariharmani:
    Read my post before jumping all over me. I said atheist have a right but cannot hurt believer’s sentiment. If you misunderstood that I condone whatever DK is doing, its too bad. Recommend

  • Observer

    @Ahmed:

    Ahmed, your observations are quite correct. Yes, according to Hindu non-dual vedanda philosophy at the ultimate stage of self-enlightenment, one must transcend even the very concept of god. Buddhism is based on this ultimate level of transcendence.

    Just one correction on your statement: “Vedanta that is non dual and monistic that states that there is no god except our own selves.” That not exactly what the vedanta says. It says that at the ultimate level of self-enlightenment the Self or consciousness is indistinguishable from the universal energy, a force/power that cannot be defined in human terms. Scientifically, this could be interpreted to mean the “singularity” point/force of all creation.Recommend

  • Syed Rizvi

    From an Islamic viewpoint, atheism should be considered less of an evil in relation to any other religion that believes in an entity that is not God, and calling any such entity as God amounts to “Shirk” that is an unforgivable sin. Atheists may not believe in God, but they are not committing Shirk.

    Should then we Muslims be more angry with someone who does not believe in God at all, and be less disturbed by those from other religions who also do not believe in God (Allah) but believe in some other god –just because they do believe in the idea of god.Recommend

  • Sanity

    @Observer:
    I would like to add further. Vedanta has six different philosophies, the one you have and Ahmed have been talking about is Advaita Vedanta (Non-dualism). If we observe closely, the philosophy of Sufism is exactly the same as Advaita Vedanta.

    He is playing the game of love by Himself
    He Himself is the sight
    He Himself is the seer
    He Himself is the seen

    He Himself is Love
    He Himself is the lover
    He Himself is the beloved

    if you lift the veil
    (you will see) that in reality, there is only One
    Duality is only owing to your squint eyes (Sultan Bahu)Recommend

  • INFIDEL

    Atheists and non-atheists have the same agenda; GODRecommend

  • Naveed Salman

    @Asma
    You asked, “but this is my ques to all athiests and am asking it just for knowledge and no offence intended… what do u believe in? i mean we all humans are equal and none of us r powerful enuf to create matter (not uptil now) then how wud u explain the existence and functioning of this universe? if im alive then who created e and when i die where wud i go?”
    My Response
    Unlike Theists, Atheists don’t follow a particular doctrine of religion, so there are wide varieties of atheists and they have different reasons for their atheism. The only agree that there is no God or intelligent designer who created us. I will tell my point of view on atheism, other atheists might have a slightly different point of view.
    Like everyone we do have these basic questions that intrigue us like “Why does the Universe bother to exist??”, “What is the origin of life??” What is freewill??” etc.
    The fact that we don’t know answers of several question like these, doesn’t imply we should create an imaginary deity who is all powerful and all knowing and who wants us to worship and praise him.
    The belief in such a deity doesn’t explain any of the above questions.
    Some people believe in the first cause argument, the prime cause that caused everything but has no preceding cause, and call that first cause God.
    This first cause argument itself has several flaws like why this first cause is special that unlike other causes it has no preceding cause. But even if the first cause argument is accepted it doesn’t prove the existence of religion, although it may serve as a proof of God. People who believe in God but don’t believe in any religion are called Deists, and sometimes Deists and Pantheists are treated as atheists, as they don’t believe in any religion.
    First cause argument can justify the existence of God, but it would be very hard to justify the existence of religion and a God with human like characteristics. Characteristics like the god who wants humans to praise and worship him, and who will throw all those men who didn’t believe in him in Hell for eternity.
    Atheists have created a satirical religion known as “Pastafarianism” and the God of this religion is “Flying Spaghetti Monster”, to show that imagining the creator as a “Flying Spaghetti Monster” and it is as illogical as believing in a human like God.
    Is it necessary that we should go somewhere after death?? May I ask you what happens when a machine breakdowns and animal die?? Just like them humans are nothing but complex machines who have evolved cautiousness, and after death they will decompose into their basic constituents like other animals and plants. No matter how unappealing it may seem, but that is the fact that we know so far.
    Science is gradually answering some of the questions about the origin of Universe, and will answer some more in future. Recommend

  • Sanity

    Personally I do not have any problem with the way Atheistic or Agnostic people approach life, however I have noted one tendency in them (based on my experience, I may be wrong) that they tend to be egoistic. My only request to such people is to kindly drop their ego and be a bit humble. Recommend

  • u_too

    Technically speaking better be an aetheist then belong to another faith. at least they fulfill one part of the kalmah “there is no God “. Recommend

  • Imran

    @Ahmed: Your wrong Ahmed. If you bother to read Tariq Ali’s history his parents had a Hafiz mentor for him to teach him religous instruction, but hard as anyone tried he would or could not accept what was being taught to him because of how ridiculous it all seemed to him. So in effect his parents tried to bring him up as a Muslim.Recommend

  • Malik

    “The idea of demonstrating that this unknown something [God] exists, could scarcely suggest itself to Reason. For if God does not exist it would of course be impossible to prove it, and if he does exist it would be folly to attempt it.”
    .
    “Where am I? Who am I? How did I come to be here?
    What is this thing called the world?
    How did I come into the world?
    Why was I not consulted?
    And If I am compelled to take part in it,
    Where is the director? I want to see him.”

    Soren Kierkegaard
    Recommend