The reactionary republic – by Nadeem Paracha

Source: Dawn, 06 Jun, 2010

Here’s a question: How come whenever there’s a drone attack (in which most of those killed generally are extremists), or a case of perceived obscenity or blasphemy surfaces, street corners are at once filled with burqa-clad women and bearded men chanting slogans like ‘Death to infidels’? But none of these fine, sensitive Muslims can be seen protesting when there’s an attack on innocent civilians —Ahmadis or others — by the extremists?

Where do they vanish? Isn’t the gruesome and inhuman exhibition of violence and coercion so gleefully demonstrated by monsters like the Taliban and their twisted sectarian allies akin to a moral sin and misdeed far graver than what my loud burqa-clad sisters and bearded brothers are always agitating against? Of course it is.

But it seems in these protesters’ book of social, political and moral ills, the word terrorism cannot be ascribed to savages who in the name of Allah and Islam slaughter men, women and children, as if trying to construct a bloody ladder to the promised paradise from all the bodies and limbs that their attacks leave behind. Religious parties in Pakistan that claim to uphold Muslim aspirations and interests, along with the many cranks that we have to suffer on our TV screens, have hardly shied away from the irresponsible act of condoning barbarism. They do so by at once ascribing a terrorist attack on innocent civilians to the diabolic conspiracies being hatched against the holy republic of ours by ‘foreign hands’ and ‘anti-Islam forces’.

With their instant apologies for the extremists these parties and men have allowed their moral state of being to plunge and hit the same dark ideological abyss where lie boiling the extremists’ mind-set and delusions. But are religious parties the only ones indulging in such shameless demagoguery?

Many Pakistanis routinely continue to deny the fact that the monsters behind all ‘faithful’ barbarism cutting this country into bits are the mutant products of what our own state and society have been up to in the past 30 years or so. For years a convoluted narrative has been circulated by the state, the clerics, schools and now the electronic media: Pakistan was made in the name of Islam (read, a theocratic state).

Thus, only Muslims (mainly orthodox Sunnis, shall we say?) have the right to rule, run and benefit from this country. ‘Minority’ religions and ‘heretical’ sects living as Pakistani citizens are not to be trusted. They need to be constitutionally, socially and culturally isolated. Parliamentary democracy can’t be trusted either. It unleashes ethnic forces, ‘corruption’ and undermines the role of the military and that of Islam in the state’s make-up. It threatens the ‘unity’ of the country — a unity based on an unrealistically homogeneous understanding of Islam (mainly concocted by the state and its right-wing allies). Most of our political, economic and social ills are due to the diabolical conspiracies hatched by our many enemies (especially India, Israel and the West).

The bad news is that such beliefs are symptomatic of a society that has started to respond enthusiastically to the major symptoms of fascist thought. Symptoms such as a xenophobic exhibition of nationalism; disdain for recognition of human rights; identification of enemies/scapegoats as a unifying cause; supremacy of the military (might); obsession with national security; intertwining of religion and government; disdain for intellectual thought and the arts, and an obsession with crime and punishment.

Have not many Pakistanis willingly allowed themselves to be captured in all the macho and paranoid trappings of the mentioned symptoms? Does this not point at a country ripening and readying itself for an all-round fascist scenario?

Unfortunately, this is the scenario that some among us talk about as they speak of imposing the system of the righteous caliphs or the sharia, or whatever profound buzzwords adopted to explain Pakistan’s march towards a wonderful society of equality and justice. Such thoughts mean little. They only amount to a fantasised system either based on ancient musings of tribal societies or on glorified myths of bravado.

Not for a moment are we ready to stand back and look at what we have made of ourselves. We call ourselves ‘moderate Muslims’, and yet applaud or quietly tolerate the hate-spewing claptrap that pours out from our mosques and TV screens. We cheer about the fact that Pakistan is one of the very few democratic Muslim countries with a constitution, and yet we will not speak a word about clauses and sections in the same constitution that have triggered violence and repression against women and sanctioned a religious apartheid that only allows an orthodox, pious Muslim democratic rights to rule the country or run in an election.

For how long will we keep hiding behind a fragile mask of religiosity and patriotism, a mask that covers our faces every time we confront a situation where our views and actions (especially regarding faith) are questioned? We do not debate. We react and then huddle up behind our flimsy and lopsided historical and national narratives about what being a Pakistani and Muslim is all about, cursing the world for our ills, looking out for infidels and heretics among us, or for scapegoats in the shape of media-constructed punching bags.

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