Left-wing zealots

Published: June 26, 2010

We will stop at nothing to become self-proclaimed gatekeepers of Islam

Of all the ancient adages, I have often considered the one by Descartes “I think, therefore I am” to be one of the most powerful definitions of human potential — but I am not so sure it applies in Pakistan.

Most Pakistanis consider ‘critical thinking’ to be an unnecessary appendage to their existence. I have lost count of how many times I have heard so-called ‘educated’ people express pedantic opinions by completely disregarding the need to add any counterweight to their claims.

Take Pakistan’s relationship with the US, many would not pause for a second before blaming the latter for all our problems without sparing a passing thought to the fact that our country constantly covets American hand-me downs, both culturally and economically. We will stop at nothing to act the self-proclaimed gatekeepers of Islam, without realizing that other religions require similar respect.

Just yesterday, an acquaintance mentioned how the UK had exposed its claims to ‘free speech’ as hollow by banning proselytizer extraordinaire Dr Zakir Naik entry. I mentioned that the UK had every right to choose whom they would let enter into their territory but she responded with “They are terrified of our culture, which is why they are banning the burqa in France and marginalizing Muslims everywhere”.

“Do you consider preaching violence to be ‘free speech’ because Naik was banned for preaching violence. As for the burqa, European countries function on the premise of Enlightenment principles, if British people consider the burqa to go against their society’s premise, they have the right to outlaw it. Those who feel slighted by this reserve the right to immigrate to countries where Islamic expression is appreciated, like Saudi Arabia. Would we allow Europeans living in Pakistan to wear a bikini?”I asked.

Our greatest tragedy is the fact that Pakistani society has been polarized to the point where anyone advocating on the side of reason, is labelled a left-wing zealot, a westernized drone and ironically, an extremist.  Those of us that still ‘think,’ are programmed not to profess their opinions unless these are concealed well enough to not incur the wrath of the rabble.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 22nd, 2010.


Maria Amir

The writer has a Masters degree in Women's Studies from Oxford University and writes on identity, culture and current affairs

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

  • S.A.R.A

    .. and we say Muslims are being marginalized.Recommend

  • fahad faruqi

    i agree fully with the writer.Anyone in pakistan who does rational thinking & doesn’t close his mind when it comes to religion is labelled instantly as secular,liberal,athiest.We are an intolerant,closedminded,bigoted,misogynistic society where critical thinking is loathed and condemned as a sin to be rooted out.Recommend

  • Chulaka

    “Most Pakistanis consider ‘critical thinking’ to be an unnecessary appendage to their existence.”

    Nice, well said. It seems to me that most people who base all their “thinking” to a book written thousands of years ago would find it hard to do any critical analysis.Recommend

  • Pulsar

    This is gross generalization of Pakistanis. None the less being educated in Pakistan means holding degrees, not in the true sense. Now a country which spends less then 2% of its total GDP on education can not be expected to have higher understanding of what education entails.
    The author is another who believes in the hypocrisy of “Superior Western Values”. May be you do not understand the complete meaning of “Basic Freedoms” .Recommend

  • cucu

    Maria Amir, well a good analysis of polarization but WHY this polarization. Can u put an answer to this ?
    And can u define Enlightenment that Europe is selling ? Can you define Freedom of speech ,specially in the context of Western Media ?
    And from where you got this degree of enlightenment and critical thinking ? All in sudden you dumped 17/2 million people considering them ignorant.Recommend

  • munafiqcanadiancongress

    Zakir Naik preaches violence? Do you have any evidence for that? No I don’t mean some random 2 minute youtube clip taken out of an hour plus lecture of Dr. Naik.

    You possess the same quality you accuse these “Pakistanis” of. Really sad.Recommend

  • malang

    @cucu: I dont really think that Europe is ‘selling’ anything in terms of Enlightenment values, however that particular part of the world has emerged extremely secular when it comes to their state policies, having experienced both the Dark Ages and in the case of Britain a monarchy that see-sawed between the protestant and catholic faiths for centuries.

    Free speech, is merely what it states. The media’s propagation of it is indeed backed by the agenda of people controlling the media. However notions of free speech as stipulated under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights or the early writings of Thomas Paine, pertain to the right to freely express thought, even if it clashes with that of others. Offensive and disrespectful speech should not be outlawed but ‘weeded’ out by social behaviour.

    I have no degree in critical thinking nor does one need such qualifications, i merely believe that in order to hold any opinion on any subject one should consider the opposite view as well, which yes… very few of the 171 million people you speak of do.

    Regarding Naik preaching violence, it has nothing to do with 2 minute you tube clips, but the man openly stating in a recent conference that an apostate should be killed, in former speeches that if women do not wear Islamic clothing they ‘invite’ rape, and a host of other such ludicrous assertions. In my view, that is preaching violence. His recent spiels on ‘terrorism’ being an acceptable form of religious fervor is merely icing on the cake.Recommend

  • Nadir

    Those of us that still ‘think,’ just because people do not think in the way you do, does not mean that they do not think, think about it!
    Most Pakistanis consider ‘critical thinking’ to be an unnecessary appendage to their existence.Recommend

  • Jasim

    @malang: Zakir Naik preaches Islam i am afraid, he does not teach the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
    Firstly he did not say that very apostate be killed, he just spelled out the ruling in the religion regarding such people.
    ‘Other ludicrous assertions’ are not to quench his narcissistic ego, but merely his interpretation of the religion.
    And again the recent spiels on terrorism have been taken out of context. He highlights specific conditions and delineates very cumbersome methodology under which it could be applicable. US terrorism all around, Israeli terrorism in gulf does not provide you with any icing or cake does it.
    Besides, even in secular ideology religion is a private matter and if people do not want to show their face as a PERSONAL choice, why cant it be respected.Recommend

  • Shams

    Rational Thinking is must in order to develop our society and to have a dialogue. I appreciate your article and I hope to see you include senses, imagination and emotion to the mix as well because these are also the sources of knowledge and part of any discourse. Good article. Congratulations!Recommend

  • tanveer

    Well as the author said Dr Zakir’s free speech, she should consider the limits of “FREE SPEECH”.Caricatures on our prophet were made on this basis. Is this the free speech? When anyone speaks against Jews in a senate, he gets fired. And by the way Dr said all that what was alleged in another context. Please refer to the original speech (I heard it on his own channel).Recommend

  • Think therefore

    Ms.Amir… you are right when you say “Most Pakistanis consider ‘critical thinking’ to be an unnecessary appendage to their existence.”

    I cannot help but whole heartedly agree with you when you point out to the fact that we expect hand outs from the US while condemning it… but “we” does not include a lot of our educated minds and critical thinkers… our “rulers” (because thats what they are… certainly not leaders) our the ones who constantly turn to the US for protection…
    That we mimic them culturally is also right… but I know for a fact that there will come a time when enough would be enough… when a new culture will be born in Pakistan…and indeed the east and that change however muted at the moment is still felt on the horizon by a lot of critical thinkers….

    Your article paints the west in blinding white…

    It is free speech when they draw a bomb as a turban placed on the head of a caricature of the Prophet of Islam but its not when someone here says something… Is Naik that potent a proselytizer…

    This is the way the west has reacted to Islam throughout history… during the period just before, during the Spanish Inquisition jews and muslims were coerced to abandon their faiths and either become Catholic or atleast show “respect” for catholic norms by hanging pork hams outside their doors… they would have banned the veil and hijab too but unfortunately their own nuns wore the hijab and upper class women the veil…

    We should not attempt to be gate keepers of Islam or its spokespersons untill and unless we learn enough arabic to independantly read the Quran and think critically based on our privileged educational backgrounds…Recommend