Salman Haider cares more about Pakistan than any of his critics do!
Pakistan is in the international spotlight and once again for all the wrong reasons. Three weeks have passed and yet there has been no news of the whereabouts of the abducted liberal bloggers. What’s been making the news instead, is the vicious campaign against those bloggers and those supporting it.
These bloggers have so far not been brought to court despite the fact that there are laws governing the ‘crimes’ they have supposedly committed.
Those who are defending the abductions have two major points. Firstly, they claim that the abducted bloggers were indulging in blasphemy as well as anti-Pakistan behaviour and therefore ‘deserved’ what they have gotten.
Secondly, they are also blaming liberals for selective outrage. Their contention is that the liberals ‘endorsed’ the abduction of Islamists and yet, they are crying foul since the bloggers have been abducted.
With respect to the first claim, I would like to make several arguments. First, so far no evidence has been provided that the bloggers were indulging in blasphemy. In the public imagination, they have nevertheless been declared criminals through a malicious campaign on electronic, as well as social media. It is therefore essential that these individuals be produced before a court and given the rights to a fair trial so they can defend themselves. In their absence everyone has simply assumed they are ‘guilty’.
Of those five people, I only knew Salman Haider and to the extent that I know him, I can vouch that it is inconceivable for me to believe that he could have indulged in any kind of blasphemy. He was a practicing Muslim but also someone who preached religious tolerance. In this hateful campaign, without any sort of evidence, he has been declared as a blasphemer. His major ‘crimes’ were to raise the issues of the missing persons along with a criticism of the state. Many people on social media, with absolutely no knowledge about his background are asking for his blood, which is shameful and sickening.
— YAseen یاسین (@Yabro1Abro) January 20, 2017
— FKFP-FIR (@fkfp_fir) January 12, 2017
Secondly and more importantly, those who are demanding that the bloggers should be killed are forgetting that the real disrespect to Islam is brought by their desire for blood. The more we act violently or endorse violence in the name of ‘respect’ for Islam, the more we feed into the already existing global negative perception about it and the Muslims. In this episode, even the so-called ‘educated’ are openly asking for violence against the bloggers.
All the hateful social media commentary (particularly on Twitter) and violence inciting TV programs are merely reinforcing the global stereotypical image of Muslims as fanatics. We need to understand that endorsing killing in the name of religion and yet expecting the world to consider Islam as a religion of peace and Muslims as tolerant is not going to happen.
If particular content is hurtful, we have the right to protest but actually committing or endorsing violence is not going to help us at a time when the global opinion about us is already low.
Thirdly, another allegation against the bloggers was that they were anti-national. This perception is wrong because people like Salman Haider were merely critical of the state. Being critical of one’s state does not equate to treason. However, I am not surprised as to why many so-called ‘patriots’ are getting all riled up.
One of the most dangerous developments is the rise of a rabid kind of nationalism in the Indian subcontinent. This form of nationalism is sustained through cultivating a narrative, which is based on selective history and often imagined glories of the past. This kind of nationalism, mostly espoused by the urban-middle classes, also strongly adheres to state positions with respect to territorial disputes.
Anyone who dares to disagree, is immediately branded as a ‘traitor’. In India, people like Arundhati Roy and Barkha Dutt are repeatedly called anti-Indian for having a different point of view about Kashmir and in Pakistan, the campaign against these bloggers and for that matter, liberals in general, can also be understood in this context.
The worst problem emanating from this kind of nationalism is that it is irrational and is flourishing in the age of social media, where literally anyone can comment instantly. Many don’t even bother to read and reflect and are ready to post vitriolic and hate-filled nonsense.
If anything, the state can only be made responsible for its actions through criticism. By calling critics anti-state or ‘traitors’, we are merely undermining our own freedom and rights as citizens.
As mentioned above, the hardliners are also accusing liberals of selective outrage. While ideally, a proper judicial process should be followed for even violent extremists, equating missing bloggers with them is simply wrong. You cannot equate murderers with mere ‘offenders’. In the case of terrorists, at times an extrajudicial route is taken because the normal judicial infrastructure is not equipped and powerful enough to punish them. Judges are often fearful of their lives. This is not the case with respect to these bloggers as they do not pose any threat to the judicial system and can be tried within it if they have committed a crime.
But have they committed a crime? I don’t know about the others but I am convinced that Salman Haider has not committed any crime or blasphemy. He is an asset to this country and it will be a national shame if any harm comes to him. As a society we need to grow-up mentally and stop assuming that those who are critical of some state actions are anti-Pakistan. If anything, they may care for it more than those phony patriots who are driving this hateful campaign.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.