Reality Check: Left is the new right
It all started after 9/11 and Bush’s historic declaration that “Either you are with us or or against us” – as in with terrorists – without defining who a terrorist was.
There was a wide implication that started taking shape in the Muslim world, especially Pakistanis. As is often the case, the elite started following Musharraf’s slogan of enlightened moderation, which trickled down to the masses and the middle class creating a new left of self proclaimed liberal Muslims.
Initially this was good. People were thinking and asking questions. But then began the self-bashing. It seemed Islamic morals were not fit for the modern age and to be ridiculed and laughed at. Everything from Pakistan was wrong. Critical appraisal were not important anymore.
Almost nine long years later and the effects still haven’t receded. When a controversial piece is written a disclaimer appears stating it was based on the interviews and hence perceptions of ‘hostile’ Afghan officials and Nato commanders. Not surprisingly the piece will be picked up by the international media to prove Pakistan guil – to suggest the Pakistan Army and intelligence are somehow behind scenes of mayhem in the country. This is like telling Indians that their establishment carried out the Mumbai attacks. Just imagine what the response would be then. Still, interestingly, the perspective has found vocal support amongst some segments of self-depreciating Pakistanis.
Let me share one particular incident from just last year. In London there was a news story in the media that a Muslim man raped a Christian girl and then killed her. It resulted in extreme Islam and Pakistan bashing for almost a week untill the police declared that the guy was actually a mentally disturbed person of Christian faith. Guess what? Let alone an apology not even a single media outlet bothered to run a clarification.
Another interesting incident took place in East London in the so called “Muslim ghetto.” A Masjid was being planned in the area, in line with all the applicable laws and regulations. It wasn’t of any particular sect or involved with any political party and the project had been in the pipeline for several months. Funding was to be by the “Tabligi Jamat” (Preachers’ Group).
Come time to gain the final planning permission and suddenly there was a huge outcry. Initially it was started by white-supremists but later on guess who joined in ? None other than the infamous self-bashing “liberal” Muslims specially those of Pakistani descent. They not only started leading the campaign but some signed petitions that they have ‘serious concerns that this Masjid would result in their children being radicalized.
The fate was of the masjid was sealed. The project was to be shelved, at least for the time being.
This was what a prominent Pakistani British, ex-councillor had to tell me:
“Ok, so a masjid will radicalize your children.”
“ I don’t know but I don’t want our perception to be “badly affected” by having a masjid in our area.”
“ Well, your son was arrested just last week for a drunken brawl after an all night party, doesn’t that give you a bad image?”
“I don’t need to give explanations to people. It wasn’t his fault.”
What? Give me a break. So the actual issue is that you are concerned people will hate you for being a practicing Muslim but being an anti-social element doesn’t even create an issue for you.
Let’s now move to North London, home to the biggest Jewish community in the UK. Shamon (not his real name) is walking in the garden, wearing the traditional skull-cap, a beard and the long black Jewish dress with his little daughter. He works in a leading bank. This is our conversation:
“Don’t you have issues at work due to your appearance?”
“ No, why should I? I’m competent at what I do.”
” Ok. but don’t you worry what others will think of you? You look so .. err… traditional.”
“ (Laughs) You mean fundamentalist. Well, this is my faith and no one has the right to judge me. Do I laugh at them? Than why should they have a problem with my way of life.”
“ But what about your daughter? You wouldn’t want her to be influenced by extreme ideas? “
“As I said, this is my faith. And my daughter would be better in the hands of God than the hands of people.”
This is their assurance and confidence, despite the worst persecution of the Jewish faith for centuries, for whatever reasons. I wonder if a Muslim specially a Pakistani Muslim would have the same confidence and faith to stand tall amid criticism.
One should try to clarify misconceptions rather than give in. We owe it to our forefathers, our future generations and ourselves. It is something the new “left” should learn from the Jewish community. Left has been the term to refer to the liberals and right for the “religious fundamentalists”. However with the new times the left is effectively becoming the new right, void of confidence and logic, self-pitying and trying to appease others in the fear of being declared an outcast. I remember being told once that fear kills the abilities of a person by taking away the faith and confidence. I can say confidently that I’ve seen plenty of examples.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.