I am ashamed ….

By: Raza Habib Raja

One of the most important days of my life occurred in 1994. At times a tragic event changes you as a person. They say and I agree that tragedy more than anything else has the potential to bring about change. Perhaps tragedy evokes negative emotions like hurt, fear, embarrassment and revulsion. Emotions which do not reinforce your existing state of mind but force you to look into the status quo with a critical eye.

That day changed my life forever. I had woken up and was reading the newspaper when a two column headline caught my eye. According to that news story, a crowd of several thousand had burnt a man alive as a punishment for desecrating Quran in the city of Gujranwala. The man’s name was Hafiz Sajjad Tariq and he had accidently dropped Quran on a burning stove. Being a religious person, he panicked and merely uttered words “ Oh God, I have sinned and burnt Quran”, words that were unfortunately heard by a neighbor who had just entered the house. The neighbor went out and started screaming hat Hafiz had burnt Quran.

What followed next was horrifying but perhaps not unusual. Soon there were announcements from the loud speakers (I hate that device) that Hafiz had burnt the Quran. The mullahs were urging Muslims to show their “love” for Islam and the Muslims in that city obliged. Hafiz was dragged out of his home and beaten up. At that point police came and took Hafiz into protective custody. But charged up Muslims wanted “justice” and so a mob of thousands gathered outside the police station and demanded that Hafiz should be handed over to them. The police buckled under pressure and handed Hafiz to the crowd. Crowd stoned him to death and then burnt his body. Afterwards the burnt corpse was dragged in the streets.

I felt a nauseated revulsion and just put the newspaper down. That fateful day changed my life forever. That incident demonstrated the flip side of “reverence” of religion. It showed that one could easily vent out his/her (by the way some of our Muslim sisters also actively participated) gutter instincts under the excuse of “reverence”.

I found out through tragedy and the revulsion which followed suit enabled me to understand that unquestionable reverence allows humans to be evil without any restrains. No one who was near could raise any voice knowing that if he did then he would also meet the same fate. The incidence was the prime example of unquestionable reverence, which by the way, is considered to be a noble emotion, causing inhuman suffering.

But what happened after the incidence was even more shocking. There was hardly any debate and no party tried to raise the debate on this gruesome act. Some of NGOs and politicians did try to stir up debate but to no effect. No party tried to make that gruesome incidence a political topic.

Eighteen years have passed and I have travelled a journey which has taken me from an orthodox Muslim to a skeptical and questioning Muslim.

In these eighteen years, I have witnessed so many similar incidences. I have been shocked and yet in a strange twisted way hoped that my fellow countrymen would feel the same kind of awakening. In these eighteen years I have read news about little children being killed by suicide blasts, have witnessed suicide blasts killing scores of my countrymen, have sulked over Gojra incidence where several Christians were burnt alive on the accusation of burning of Quran, have lived through Ahmedi Massacre and targeted Shia killings. And yet have naively believed that my countrymen will wake up the way I had woken up..

And now another incidence has happened which is eerily similar to Hafiz Tariq episode…

I felt revulsion again and in fact I cried……

A mob in Bahawalpur district has killed a mentally ill person for burning Quran…

The gruesome details can be read here http://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2012/07/05/news/national/man-burnt-for-burning-quran-in-bahawalpur/

Once again I see the repeat of everything…

Will we wake up?

I want to hope though there is no reason to hope…

They say that times have changed but I don’t think so…

There was no heated debate when Hafiz Tariq was killed and there is no debate when this guy has been killed..

I was born as a Muslim and hence Islam is my identity…

I will identify myself at least communally as a Muslim…

But I am ashamed because of my fellow Muslim “brothers”….

Shame on you………

And more so on this “educated” middleclass of Pakistan….

Go and cry about drone attacks while keeping hypocritical silence on far more graver issues..

Damn you ….

Courtesy: PaK Tea House


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