The Phantom of vanity -by Suleman Akhtar

Narcissus, in Greek mythology, was the son of river god Cephissus and the nymph Liriope. He was distinguished for his beauty. His exceptional proud and vanity drew upon him the vengeance of gods. Nemesis (the goddess of Rhamnous) attracted Narcissus to a pool where he saw his own reflection in the waters and fell in love with it, not realizing it was merely an image. Unable to leave the beauty of his reflection, Narcissus died.

Vanity is the word -A psychological confusion that connotes the empty pride inspired by an overweening conceit of one’s personal attainments or decorations. One couldn’t find a better word in lexicon to bring forward the root cause of that horrible state Muslims in general and Pakistanis in particular have plunged into. A subjective issue that doesn’t hold much importance at individual level has drawn the Islamic civilization to the point, by having been developed as collective psyche,  where it is not only in perpetual confrontation with others but also has emerged as existential threat for it’s own affiliates.

The false pride that gives birth to the denial of each and every stark reality and leaves ourselves wandering in sovereignty enigma. The fictitious narrative that hinders us to admit the crystal clear actuality that terrorism / fundamentalism is at rife in Muslim societies. If some narrative, by and large, is not in compliance with society then it’s near to impossible for it to nourish in the very society. As for an instance, condition for minority rights and freedom of women are wretched in Muslim societies as both phenomena don’t have the acquiescence of populace. On the other hand the increasingly mounting fundamentalism tells the story that it somehow is correlated with the society at some expanse. This is the so-called vanity providing the fertile ground for cultivation of fundamentalist ideas.

Here an indispensable question arises if each and every practicing Muslim is fundamentalist. No sirs, this is not the implication. But the majority, if not all, are victim of that pride illusion that, somehow, provides space to intolerant ideas to evolve in the society. A grave illusion that gives rise to black-and-white dichotomy strictly dividing the outer world in friends and foes where Muslims are never foes of yours and non-Muslims are never friends. The narrative that never ever allows to admit that these were Muslims themselves who slaughtered the family of last Prophet (PBUH) just after 50 years of his death, that these were also Muslims who were on the other side of divide in Karbala, and that these are also Muslims who, in our age, are wreaking havoc and brutally slaughtering their fellow Muslims. The tyrants, Hussain Ibn Ali (A.S) had to mention about in his last speech before Yazid’s army: “Don’t you see that the truth is not put into action and the false is not prohibited? The believer should desire to meet his Lord while he is right. Thus I do not see death but as happiness, and living with tyrants but as sorrow.”

From religious seminaries to the syllabus of schools and colleges, from minbar of mosques to the screen of televisions, from congregation of clergy to the social gatherings, every word uttered and every sentence written is embedded with the reverence for Muslim civilization and her worldly triumphs whilst altogether overlooking the existence of any other creed on planet earth. If Shah Waliullah invites Ahmad Shah Abdali to invade India he is deemed righteous and if the Marhattas take the sword against him to safeguard their homeland they are labeled as treacherous. If Afghan dynasties rule the subcontinent for one thousand years, Muslims are happy to live with Hindus under kingship conveniently terming it as Muslim rule but then part their ways and choose land of pure for them under the fear of Hindu rule. In 1990, on US attack on Iraq there’s rarely a dissenting voice from Muslim world as the attack was aimed to liberate the more Muslim country Kuwait from less Muslim Iraqis, but in 2003 there’s much hue and cry over the infidel US attack. If Chechens, Uzbeks and Arabs are utilizing Pakistani soil to spread terror all over the world then all eyes are closed to them, but then again senseless hullabaloo over the US presence in the region. Regrettably, this is the popular narrative that is near to impossible to be called in question in public sphere.

Other civilizations living on the face of the earth, who have got the line to provide peace and basic necessities to the societies owing to the centuries long scientific research and getting hold of the reason, are now united against the illusionary ideology of Syyid Qutb and Abul Ala Maududi. The very ideology that ignoramus Mullah has been injecting in the veins of Muslim societies for centuries. To add in the misfortune of Muslims, the vanity narrative has found a new abettor [read: Pak-Army] over the last few decades who is heavily equipped with not only conventional arms but also has in possession the most deleterious weapon ever invented in human history which they term as Islamic Bomb. So-called sycophants of Muhammad Bin Qasim and Mahmud Ghaznawi, the generals have thrown the region in the abyss of militancy and radicalism in the blind pursuit of some strategic depth, somehow or other satisfying the illusional desire of setting-up an Islamic utopia.

Every defense line that may prove to be the antidote to the militancy is being destroyed one by one. The perpetrators of ideology are perceptive enough of the fact that an uninterrupted political process has all the power to counter their despicable narrative and they also are fully aware of the reality that they don’t have sway over the people when it comes to electoral process. Callous assassinations of Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto, Salman Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti are part of their endeavor to deprive people of their representatives and hence weaken the already tender institutions. Guess, on whose side these anti-Americans were when Z.A.Bhutto waved the documents in the crowd showing that Americans wanted to get rid of him? Guess, where did the PNA movement grab the Dollars from to oust Bhutto’s government? Yes sirs, this isn’t about anti-Americanism but a narrative that conveniently turns friends into foes and foes into friends when it comes to preserving the false pride.

Secondly, there’s that shrine culture that has been under unrelenting assault over the past few years. Sufism being the credo of tolerance, humanism and inter-faith harmony has all that colors in it that make it antithesis of the tenet of bloodshed. The tyrants know it exactly and hence doing their best to ruin this doctrine that asserts more in introspection in lieu of looking outside and creating imaginary demons. And then there’s last but not least the indigenous culture of this region that has been evolved by intermingling of diverse civilizations over thousands of years. The Indus valley civilization has proved more resilient despite increasing Arabization that is deliberately being done under the illusion of Muslim vanity and absurd notion of homogeneity of Islamic culture.

We have been counting the bodies soaked in blood and wrapped in vanity and strategic depth coffins for years and these are mounting with each passing day. If we still don’t realize that peril haunting us nowhere but within then we are destined to drown in our own blood. Gods are waiting for our decision and this time they are not concerned about Narcissus but the whole civilization of narcissists.



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