How many more Bhattis?

By Usman Ahmed

Blasphemy is a difficult subject to broach these days. It is a notion no one dare challenge or discuss out of fear of inciters of sectarian violence. Dissenting voices have been subdued, and yet others have chosen the supine comforts of wilful ignorance, in case they are next on the assassins’ list.

One month on from the murder of Shahbaz Bhatti, who was gunned to death under the darkest clouds in Islamabad, like ostriches, our heads are still firmly rooted in the sand. Mr Bhatti was not butchered for defaming the Holy Prophet (pbuh) or suggesting that the Holy Quran was a man-made scripture. Instead, his only apparent crime was to be an outspoken critic of the misuse of these pernicious laws. Tragically, he paid for this gross affront with his life.

While the country has reconciled itself to another religiously motivated murder, the question that confronts us all is, will anyone now have the courage to stand against the untrammelled hatred that threatens to destroy the nation?

Fundamentalists, terrorists, the Taliban, al Qaeda, call them what you will, are not the only standard-bearers of Islam. The truth is that our own reticence and neglect has only served the interests of the religious right and allowed them to infiltrate the moderate mainstream. We are left with a rather depressing state of affairs in which acts of murder and violence have become a part of daily life.

Enough is enough. The time has come to recoil from the mullah’s convoluted brand of religion. Pakistanis and Muslims of all stripes need to categorically reject the militant ideology of the fundamentalists and project a humane and tolerant version of Islam that is worthy of the name. Rather than allowing the mullahs to force their extremist ideology on us, why do we not impose our beliefs on them? The more we withdraw into our shells, the more damage we inflict upon ourselves and our society. No longer can hardliners be allowed to maintain the pretence that intolerance and barbarity are synonymous with Islam.

The perpetrators of crimes as heinous as the murder of Bhatti and Salmaan Taseer, need to be vociferously condemned and a strong message must be sent to religious hardliners that the majority of Pakistanis want to live in a free and open society. The government, too, needs to stop abdicating control to the rule of the mob. If they don’t, then the dispensers of vigilante justice will continue to thrive in the atmosphere of impunity created by the failure of the state to act against those who perpetrate violence in the name of religion. Let us become a nation united by our plurality, shared values and common goals.

 

Express Tribune

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~ by admin on April 3, 2011.

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