A tale of two cities
Courage can take different forms. In New York City, where a majority of residents opposed the construction of an Islamic centre, including a mosque, close to Ground Zero, Mayor Michael Bloomberg showed great political courage in speaking out forcefully in favour of what has misleadingly come to be called the “Ground Zero Mosque.” Politicians in Karachi require far greater courage. Here, taking a brave stand means facing the wrath of those who vote, not at the polling booth, but with their finger on the trigger.
Still, there is a lesson the rulers of this city can take from Mayor Bloomberg. As Bloomberg, who is both Jewish and Republican, and so, according to the stereotype, should be anti-Muslim, gave a heartfelt speech on freedom of religion, in Karachi one political party attempted to scapegoat the other for violence in the city. Bloomberg drew on Jewish history, and how adherents were prevented from building a synagogue in New York City in the seventeenth century. He then analogised that to the situation Muslims in the US would face today if their right to build a mosque is denied.
Meanwhile, the MQM Rabta Committee’s Deputy Convener Anees Qaimkhani was calling for an operation against ‘Talibanisaton’ in the city. We all know that in MQM parlance ‘Taliban’ equals ‘Pakhtun’. The call for an operation was made all the worse given MQM’s experiences with police operations, faked encounters and all, back in the 1990s.
Bloomberg said, “We would betray our values and play into our enemies’ hands if we were to treat Muslims differently than anyone else. In fact, to cave to popular sentiment would be to hand a victory to the terrorists, and we should not stand for that.” A police operation in Karachi conducted the way the MQM wants it to would treat Pakhtuns as a target and in doing so hand a victory to that tiny minority of Pakhtuns who are actually behind the killing of MQM workers.
The MQM would have done well to study Bloomberg’s speech. As part of a once-oppressed minority, he drew upon his people’s struggles to empathise with those being discriminated against today. Instead, the oppressed have now become the oppressors.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 10th, 2010.
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