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