Rewarding hate – by Nadeem F. Paracha

The more mischievous among us even prayed to the Almighty to let the Saudis fall in love with this eminent ‘Islamic scholar’ and fund his outlandish theories, leaving television viewers ever so grateful for keeping him there.

But, alas, he is set to make a comeback. This time he would be seen on a different channel. Of course, just like his record as a religious talk-show host didn’t seem to bother his old employers, one shouldn’t expect any miracles in this respect from his new bosses either.

Apart from being accused of having a questionable degree, he was also accused by his old party, the MQM, and a number of columnists of instigating violence against the Ahmadi community through his show. Many also castigated him for holding some truly audacious views about Islam, society and politics.

Though he was summarily dismissed by the MQM, he gloatingly hung on to his celebrity status at the TV channel which saw nothing wrong in a host who discussed on air the merits of proclaiming members of a minority sect as wajibul qatal (punishable by death).

He passionately blamed the defeats faced by Pakistan’s cricket team on the green-coloured soles of their shoes! “Green is the colour of Islam”, said the wise man. “How can they have it underneath their shoes?’

As is apparent by the ways of some leading news channels — from their audacious pro-militants coverage of the Lal Masjid episode to the amoral and insensitive way they covered the recent Air Blue crash — people like Mr Hussain have proved to be great attractions not only for the channels but many multinationals as well, which advertise their brands during the most foolhardy of shows. Thus, one can understand the channels’ unflinching obsession with such characters.

Pakistani society is going through a gradual breakdown. A number of us are lashing out, hoping to find all kinds of enemies to attack for our misfortunes. India, Israel, the US, the UK, Ahamdis, Hindus, Christians, Barelvi, Shias… President Zardari, anyone or everyone but our own individual acts and morals.

It is an act of selective nihilism in which most Pakistanis refuse to trust or listen to state institutions and the government; but then let this hard mixture of cynicism and defiance melt away when engaged by clever, media-savvy chameleons.

The latter make a name and a game out of giving vent to all the repressed strains of religious bigotry, political hatred and delusions of grandeur now brewing in the collective psyche of middle-class Pakistan. It reminds one of the damaged and hurt Germany on the eve of Hitler’s take-over.

A country ravaged by economic downturns, violence and low self-esteem, and looking for ‘enemies’ (Jews, communists, gypsies, blacks) to pin the blame on. This attitude became fascist Germany’s rallying cry for regeneration, but ended up in its own destruction.

We already have the army fighting a battle with armed fanatics. But what about a lot of those working in offices and studying in schools and colleges? These are ‘educated’ folks who may not be armed or look like the Taliban, but many have views close to what the fanatics advocate.

These are the people who would exhibit more disgust at the sight of a politician than they would at the sight of blown up bodies of innocent men, women and children; people who would scream vengeance at the plight of Dr Afia Siddiqui but look the other way when a woman is gang raped in their own Islamic republic; people who would bribe a cop to avoid a traffic violation ticket and yet find themselves above corruption.

The ‘educated’ today require an education based on facts and truth instead of what they were taught at school as ‘history’ and ‘ethics.’

An education that highlights the importance of tolerance, plurality and democracy instead of the kind of education most of us continue to be given at schools and by the media, which is based on arrogance and paranoia against imagined enemies.