Tolerance for our inner terrorist

Published: July 5, 2010

'Data Sahib' was a place which represented religious harmony

I might get my share of hate mail if this piece finds it way online and people read it. Actually, I wanted to claim responsibility for the attacks. I want to share some burden. I want to say that what happened at the Data Darbar was our own doing, we the people of Pakistan brought it upon us.  

Living in a society which openly engages in discourse where those who have different religious beliefs will always be vulnerable to a death wish… where they would always be ‘waajib-ul-qatal’… what else could we possibly expect? I mean it is OK as long as the people who are victimized in the name of religion are Christians or Ahmadis for that matter. No? How many of these maulanas demanding mass resignations from the government in the aftermath of the attacks of Data Darbar actually condemned the May 28 attacks? Not even one representative of these jamaats… not even for the sake of appearances, they simply did not care, they never gave two hoots as to when those who represent the other are affected. And the only incident of violence towards Christians condemned by the maulanas was the Gojra Riots. However, the reason why Christians were attacked in the first place was never addressed by them.

So, I would say they encouraged the terrorist. They allowed him to think that he can get away with attacking others for their beliefs, even attacking the Data Sahib as we call it here in Lahore, the only place which represents the harmony of Aunnis, Deobandis, Shias, Wahabis (yes even Wahabis, I know some who go there for a prayer or two) Ahmadis, Christians and Hindus in this country.

For how long have we been persecuting people in the name of religion in this country? Decades.  And known terrorist attacks are not the only incidents. Every other month in some remote or not-so-remote town of Punjab there is a 60 yr old Christian woman, a 19-year-old Christian man, a 14-year-old Ahmadi kid who is taken into police custody and tortured for alleged blasphemy.  

We are a country that thrives on religious intolerance, we are insecure and indifferent to others pain. And to top it all we have discriminatory laws which are  practiced religiously. I know bashing 295 C is an old tradition of the English press which has apparently never made a difference. I know so many English speaking, reading, writing people who also thought that Ahmadis ‘asked for it’ on May 28. So many among our educated class condemned the riots in Gojra but never questioned the absurdity of reason for provocation behind the instigation of the attacks i.e. alleged blasphemy by elders and children of a Christian family. That part just got lost in translating the condemnation by the governments and the so-called religious jamaats.     

Now, I feel like questioning  every person who, after the May 28 attacks on Ahmadis said ‘Well, now these Ahmadis will find a new to get ‘funding’ from their ‘foreign sources’ or that ‘They were involved in the campaig for lifting the facebook ban”and then those who thought they simply deserved to die… yes, hate speech but all true … or take a soundbyte from those who devotedly support the blasphemy law and say that Gojra was a foreign conspiracy or initiated by a new wave of post-9/11 terrorism.  Who amongst us is innocent of the bigotry we have always directed towards the religious minorities .

I understand the popular argument that the ‘Salafi’ school has an anti-Sufism agenda. But this does not mean that the Salafi school has managed to oppress the Sufi and remaining schools of thoughts of Pakistan and forced its own supporters to measure their love for Islam by how many non-Muslims do they count as ‘wajib-ul-qatal.”        

While prejudice is ingrained in most of us, the Punjab police and government appear to be very tolerant. They know all about the existence of seminaries where ‘what the Pakistani media calls terrorism and is actually jihad” is taught openly but do not conduct crackdowns. It must be tolerance, right? Last month when two low intensity bombs exploded right outside the shrine of Baba Noori Bori Waali Sarkaar in a Lahore suburbs, the SHO continued to deny the explosions and told the media that it was just a mild gas leakage. Of course, he did not think it was a big deal.

Rabia Mehmood

Rabia Mehmood

A reporter at the Lahore Bureau of Express 24/7 and a IWMF Elizabeth Neuffer Fellow at the Center for International Studies, MIT.

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