Here’s what this Paki editor calls “devotion”:
Badami Bagh tragedy has Â shown the devotion of the ordinary Muslim to the Holy Prophet (pbuh).
There areÂ elements of imperialism, or rather neo-imperialism in the episode, for though the community whose colony was burnt belonged to an oppressed section of society, they are co-religionists of the US majority, who are Christians.
My head hurts. So much crap from an editor of Pakistan’s major paper. These people are nucking futz.
While the Badami Bagh tragedy has highlighted the plight of a community more usually ignored, it has also shown the devotion of the ordinary Muslim to the Holy Prophet (pbuh). While there have been allegations of the involvement of real estate interests, it is worth noting that no party stands accused. Even the mafia is supposed to have used the sentiment of ordinary Muslims for the Holy Prophet (pbuh) to allow the arson.
Once again, the titanic sentiments provoked by allegations of blasphemy were on display. It was also worth noting that the normal groups named as culprits, including sectarian parties, were not accused by anyone. In Islam, blasphemy is not an extremist crime. At the same time, it had to be acknowledged that the reaction, even though the alleged blasphemer had been arrested for the crime, showed that the state machinery was not trusted by the populace.
There are elements of imperialism, or rather neo-imperialism in the episode, for though the community whose colony was burnt belonged to an oppressed section of society, they are co-religionists of the US majority, who are Christians. It should not be forgotten that the conversion of the sweepers, who had Dalit status in their original Hindu religion, converted to Christianity in the Raj.
It should be noted that the British did not encourage conversions, and the Dalits who became Christian found themselves labelled ‘native Christians’ and left to take a lowly place on the new caste ladder that the British took over from the Mughals who preceded them, and who themselves had taken over a social system already well entrenched when they arrived.
It is interesting that two religions that created communities of believers, who were all converts in origin, had to accommodate the Hindu caste system in the subcontinent. It may well be an oversimplification, but successive empires, had rulers following Islam and Christianity, but neither succeeded in breaking down caste bonds, which continue to this day.
That caste was a problem was recognised by the founders of Sikhism, even though they too fell victim to its scourge. Hinduism itself recognised that it was a problem. There was the Arya Samaj Movement in the Punjab and the Brahmo Samaj Movement in Bengal, both of which were 19th century reform movements centred about ending the bonds of caste.
For some Dalits, Christianity was not the solution, so they converted to Buddhism. Dr Ambedkar, the Dalit leader at the time of partition, who played a major role in the framing of its constitution, was one.
Though this was not the aim of the Raj, occupational mobility was provided to the new converts, mainly through the newly set up church institutions,Â in education and health, and then in the clergy. But the majority continued in the profession that Sanwal Masih, the accused in the Badami Bagh case, practiced: sanitary worker.
Because of this, blasphemy charges have been directed against Christians not because they have committed blasphemy, but because there is resentment against social progress or individual prosperity by individual Christians.
An important part of minorities living in Pakistan was the treatment minorities had always received under Islam, which was favourable. There were two things not taken into account.
First, there had to be an Islamic state, which was ruled by Islam in its entirety. If allowed to take bits and pieces as it wishes what is to stop it rejecting the lesson of tolerance? That is the defect of the Indian solution, which is to propagate secularism.
That secularism depends on the majority in the legislature. What if, as happened in India in 1996, Hindu extremists are elected to power? While Hindus may shrug their shoulders, while abandoning their so-called secularism, a Muslim cannot abandon non-Muslims because there are specific commands on their treatment.
The second element is that there is supposed to have been an accord concluded, in which a Muslim conqueror grants the non-Muslims a zimma (accord) that is why non-Muslims are known as zimmis or ahluzzima (the people of the zimma). The Christians of Pakistan would be governed by the terms of whatever zimma was granted at the time of the entry of the Muslims into the subcontinent.
That zimma cannot include the right to blaspheme. Nor can it include any Muslim right to allow arson. It cannot include anything in contradiction of the Quran and Sunnah. There is a general consensus, including among Christians, that both the alleged blasphemer and the arsonists must be tried and punished. Blasphemy of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) is not allowed. However, the prevention is to be achieved by a state, not individuals.
It cannot be ignored that the incident occurred at the time that elections are upon the nation. While the incident itself throws the spotlight upon the Punjab government, it is noticeable that it makes the PML-N government in Punjab look as bad as all three other governments, which have had a senior Minister killed (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa), and blasts killing Hazara Shias (Balochistan) and other Shias (Sindh).
With the whole country apparently in the grip of lawlessness, it is, perhaps, not the best of times for the federal government to engage with the Election Commission of Pakistan over the nomination forms, as well as the opposition over the name of the caretaker Prime Minister. It is, perhaps, positive that this incident is not being seen as an effort to delay the elections. It is almost as if the long march by Dr Tahirul Qadri was a last-ditch effort. However, the Badami Bagh incident throws a garish light on the killings of Shias in Quetta and Karachi: have we become a society intolerant of difference.
One symptom is the lumping of Shias with other minorities, even though they are Muslims. Then there are the massacres. True the latest incident, according to the Supreme Court’s suo motu hearing, appears to be about land grabbing, even though the real estate market has bottomed out, but there is a strong element of intolerance. But it must not be forgotten that the tolerance Muslims showed was from a position of superiority, based on the fear of the Almighty, not of foreign-funded NGOs.
Though the incident occurred at the tail-end of the tenure of the elected government, when attention was more on elections than the actual functions of government, and though the initial handling will be by an elected government about to go to the polls, and the follow-up by the caretaker government, the only real solution will be if the culprits are brought to justice.
The government has got 54 ready for trial, and the court will be asked to carry out a day-to-day hearing, so that this crime can be put behind everyone as fast as possible. Unlike in some cases, it is not possible to see any party benefiting from legal delays, except perhaps the guilty.
However, even with the guilty getting the punishment prescribed for them by law, the problems faced by the community, of discrimination, will remain. And they will stay so long as Hindu values prevail among peoples whose ancestors long converted to Islam or Christianity.
The writer is a veteran journalist and founding member as well as executive editor of TheNation.