When eating in Ramazan means asking for a beating

Published: July 17, 2013
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A screen shot of the man who was beaten to pulp in Karachi for eating during the Holy month of Ramazan.

With the holy month comes an all encompassing wave of piety – dairy companies’ fuss over how their milk will make Iftar a more spiritual experience and television actors don designer shalwar kameez to host Ramazan transmissions. Yes, Ramazan is very festive in our part of the world.

Amidst these merry happenings, a video went viral, recently. A man was beaten to pulp in Karachi for eating during this sacred month. The video showed him bleeding profusely as a few fretted around him and a camera man struggled to get the best shot of his blood smeared face. It was a circus. No one cared to provide him with any help and his attackers could not see that he was evidently hurt.

Yet, in that state, the poor man narrated his tragedy to anyone who was willing to hear. However, everyone heard but no one budged to help.

The thrashing was a boost of faith for some but for the millions of peace loving Pakistanis it came with a tinge of shame; we had yet again let the Frankenstein take over. Much like the umpteen instances of ‘cosmetic Islam’ that we drumbeat, this would, in all possibility only serve to disenfranchise him from the religion of peace.

But the event does a lot more than that, it presents an archetypal example of the attitude of so many in this country – if a man does not follow your religion make him do so by force, if he dissents from your opinion declare him an infidel, if he wishes to understand religion via a means you do not deem ‘correct’, shun him.

This mindset may not be that of the majority but it is of the loudest and the powerful.

In the rat race of ‘who is more pious,’ the most salient message has begun to slip. This message is one of harmony, peace, justice and tolerance preached by all the religions of the world. However, in the context of modern day Pakistan, religion is a monopoly of a clique of self righteous and all powerful extremists who play the Islam card to reap political benefits whilst the silent majority does little to reclaim this religion or this country.

Has this bigotry not steered us miles away from Jinnah’s vision? Was this not the very bigotry on which Pakistan was created? How have we become so blind, so deaf and so immune? Is it because we choose to ignore an atrocity assuming that if it doesn’t affect us, it doesn’t exist?

In the commotion of this debate we forget one basic idea of human psyche- conformity can be commanded by force but not respect. Respect is a state of mind that comes from within. No legislation, law or use of violence can accomplish this.

Maybe that man will no longer eat where people can see him; maybe he will eat hidden behind the four walls of his house, but then again, he will eat and he will eat during this month.

Do you propose we depute a few ‘pious believers’ in his bedroom to uphold the respect of this month?

Injustice gnaws at our social fabric. Bombings and sectarian violence have made a lasting place in our worldview. Minorities and the underprivileged stand at the precipice. The solution lies not in a dictatorial emphasis on the state religion but embracing Pakistanis in their differences, tolerating conflicting view points and putting humanity before all else.  We do not have another 66 years to do this.

It has to start before more Hazaras are killed, before there are more Rimsha Masihs, before we lose something more valuable than Ziarat.

Before we lose Pakistan.

Follow Zara on Twitter @ZaraShahid_

Zara Shahid

Zara Shahid

A Youth Activist and a student of Politics at LUMS. She tweets @twitter.com/ZaraShahid_

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