Religion, reality and red wine

Published: November 16, 2011
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Can the government not afford to keep Christian blood and the rubble of Hindu temples off our streets?

First three Hindu men are murdered in cold blood and then, a week later, a Sikh woman is raped in Sikhism’s holy city. In both cases, the government of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan remained faithful to its contemptible conduct. It yawned while condemning the incidents, rubbed its eyes as it promised speedy justice and then promptly went to back to bed.

As for the killing and rape, these are not just two isolated incidents.

They are evidence of our subconscious hatred for anything dissimilar: one small controversy and it comes of age; sometimes leaving us with debris of fallen temples, at other with bloodied Christian streets. Is it too costly to keep Christian blood and the rubble of Hindu temples off our roads?

Governments don’t always follow the masses, sometimes they also lead them. Left to their instincts and appetites, people could bring even a pyramid down. The “government for the people” part of Abraham Lincoln’s definition of a democratic government means that to some degree the state is also responsible for the insensitivity and intolerance of a people. Illiteracy is not something that can’t be countered with powerful propaganda. When people can be taught against common sense that they are better without subsidies and that dynastic politics is essentially democratic in nature, they can be taught anything.

What a tragic spectacle it is: as its people fight among themselves over petty issues, the government sits as a frumpy old man, raising a finger now or then but for the most part remaining asleep.

Propaganda doesn’t need to be sincere to be effective. For instance, the government could exact some kind of token tax as Jizya from the minorities and then use it as a reason to keep people like the butchers of Gojra at bay. That would shut up all the clerics who have learned a sick trick to connect every issue concerned with non-Muslims to Islam.

Unity is always distasteful, but as Pakistanis, our romance with unity is unending. We want everything to look similar, even when it isn’t. A couple of months ago a Christian bishop was invited to a popular local talk show and was asked about alcohol. The obsequious creature shamelessly told the hectoring host that wine had no place in Christianity. Either he really believed that it was Christ’s blood that he drank on Holy Communion and not the red wine or he was just appeasing the bullying host.

Is there any need to hide the obvious?

Has not the time come to tell Pakistanis that they are not alone on this planet, that Islam is not the only religion, Pakistan not the only state, Jinnah not the only statesman and Iqbal not the only poet? There are others as well, some of whom may drink red wine, and to them everything that’s sacred to us is profane. To learn to live with this fact, we must first realize that everything is not the same.

Many might say that religion need not be dragged into every matter. That the above-mentioned rape and murder were only a case of inefficient local authorities and some misunderstanding and that it is a non-issue; what is more important is the case for clean streets and sensitive Hijabis who get hurt when someone doesn’t respect their dress sense.

Well, my case is for streets clean of ‘infidel’ blood and sentient beings who get hurt when someone doesn’t respect their flesh and bones.

Even the puritanical Omar-al-Khattab would find our non-Muslims the best of his subjects. The deed of surrender signed 1400 years before our Lord Mumtaz Qadri is still respected in this part of the world. Who could tell it was the 7th century Syrian Christians and not the 21st century Pakistani Muslims, who wrote (rephrased):

“We should not build new churches, hinder Believers from lodging in our Churches, practice idolatry or seduce people to it, dissuade our kins from converting to Islam, wear turbans, carry weapons with us, put a cross on our churches, sell wine, sells our books in Muslim Bazaars, toll our church bells too loud, raise our voice high in service and strike believers…”

Not one condition, have I ever witnessed Christians here violate except that they put a cross on their churches. Still, the state sleeps, ignoring its duties and refusing to honour the word of the second Caliph.

Men here can’t be stirred into action by a godly Buddha or a godless Schopenhauer; they need local heroes to instruct them in Humanity 101. If it was religion that sanctioned their crimes and robbed them of their reasoning power, perhaps only religion can bring them salvation and common sense.

Orr Ali

Orr Ali

The author is an undergraduate student at LUMS, pursuing a degree in Bsc. Electrical Engineering.

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