Tag Archives: Islam

Policing Ramadan undermines its principles


First published in the Guardian – Comment is Free Belief Section.

Pakistan’s Ehtram-e-Ramzan (respecting Ramadan) law makes eating, drinking and smoking in public places during the fasting hours of the holy month illegal. The punishment for any infringement can be three months in prison and a possible fine. It is a legacy of the Islamificaton policy pursued during the dictatorship of Zia ul-Haq in the 1980s. His notorious regime was also responsible for the blasphemy laws.

In only the first week of Ramadan, 25 people were arrested and jailedfor eating in public in the city of Faisalabad alone. In another incident in Sargodha, two people were arrested for eating and three for serving food.

The law extends to all “public places” prohibiting business in restaurants, canteens, hotels and even cinemas during fasting hours. In fact, the definition of “public place” includes: “any hotel, restaurant, canteen, house, room, tent, enclosures, road lane, bridge or other place to which the public have access”. The fact that even a “house” or a “room” are defined as public places is absurd but it also makes conviction far easier, legitimising moral policing even inside the confined boundaries of one’s house.

The only exemptions – as mentioned in clause five of the ordinance – include a kitchen or canteen at a hospital serving food to patients; railway stations; and primary schools. Children under the age of 12, patients and travellers are exempted from fasting according to the Qur’an and the Sunnah.

Most supporters of the law believe the law is necessary to maintain the sanctity of the holy month and argue that the sight of people eating in public may hurt those who are observing fast. But if fasting is believed to be a practice to promote tolerance, humility, compassion and self-control, the law is seemingly unnecessary and against the very principle of Ramadan.

Dr Khalid Zaheer, religious scholar and dean of the faculty of arts and social sciences of the University of Central Punjab, believes that the ordinance is a bit harsh and could have been avoided. “There are no clear instructions for such laws in the Qur’an. There are only a few instances where a state has the authority to question believers over a certain obligation; payment of zakaat (tax paid by Muslims) or jizya (tax paid by non-Muslims living in a Muslim country) being a primary example. I am certain that if we dealt with such matters more reasonably, people would respect the sanctity of Islam – in fact most do so and were doing it before the law was carried out. But forcing people to do it or, worse, punishing them if they fail to oblige, is only going to discourage people from taking Islamic teachings more seriously.”

Even though the law states that it is only applicable to Muslims, in 2009two Christians were arrested under it. The very existence of the law leads to a presumption that a person indulging their appetite during fasting hours is purposely disrespecting the holy month and therefore should be punished.

“The idea behind the law was not to force people to fast, but to make them refrain from eating in public whether Muslim or non-Muslim. If that is the kind of logic the law derives, in the name of Islam, than what about Muslims living in non-Muslim countries or in places where they are a minority?” Zaheer said.

Vigilant moralism makes a society inherently oppressive, forced to believe in the notion of enforcing sanctimony rather than truly believing in it. But Islam lays great emphasis on intent – even the five obligationsare based on the intent of the believer – and laws of this kind make for effective moral policing but hold very little religious or spiritual significance.

A checklist for our sovereignty


I have a confession: I promised myself that I would not write any more on the OBL fiasco primarily because there have been some brilliant write-ups on the situation and secondly, overdosing on military jargon and conspiracy theories could be fatal. However, there is one thing that has stood out in this situation (and plenty others in the past), which deserves to be spoken about with clarity – the issue of our ‘sovereignty’. Keeping in mind the importance of this issue, I have compiled a quick checklist/questionnaire to help understand if one’s sovereignty is still intact.

Please feel free to suggest more changes to the list.

First things first: What is sovereignty?

According to Dictionary.com, supreme and independent power or authority in government as possessed or claimed by a state or community/ rightful status, independence, or prerogative.

Modifications of the above-mentioned definition include many acronyms, for instance: the US, CIA, Xe Services, RAW and sometimes even the ISPR

Now that the meaning is established, we must proceed to other more important factors in order of ‘priority’.

Was our sovereignty compromised by the US-led operation that killed b in Laden?

Yes. According to official records, the Pakistani authorities were not only clueless about the operation but were also unable to track the US helicopters during the 40-minute operation. Since the Pakistani military was not taken into confidence and permission was not sought for the operation, there is no doubt that our territorial sovereignty was compromised.

However, it is crucial to note that while the US copters and the US NAVY SEALs are guilty of robbing us off our sovereignty for at least 40 minutes on May 2, Osama bin Laden and his men have been violating it since the ‘90s, or at least for the past five years.

Instances of lost sovereignty: (all instances listed are mutually inclusive)

The US-led operation on bin Laden
Presence of OBL and other terrorist organisations within our borders
Drone attacks
Suicide bombings across the country

Is asking questions regarding the competency of our intelligence agencies and military considered unpatriotic or worse, dishonouring an establishment?

No, not one bit. Patriotism is not blind or inclined to malice in the name of honour. In fact, patriotism should and must allow us to question everything and, we should have zero tolerance for negligence, especially in matters of national security and interest. Honour (more popularly known as Ghairat) should not be sought to avoid pertinent questions. When we raise questions with respect to competency; when we demand answers to some of the most pressing questions, it is out of concern for our country and its’ security, and definitely not intended to malign an institution.

It is ironic that the honour card is thrown in as soon as questions are raised – reflecting a weak relationship, riddled with insecurities and lack of faith. Is this healthy or showing our loyalty or even patriotic? I don’t think so.

Honour that is dependent on a fake sense of respect driven by absolving oneself of accountability is not honour, it is in fact, dictatorial proclamation of it. The sacrifices of both the army and the citizens cannot be undermined by a few incidents or criticism. No criticism can overshadow the loss of 30,000 men, women and children, and thousands others who were left homeless or disabled in the past decade. So, by all means demand accountability.

Instances of loss of patriotism:

Blame game between the state and the military
Absolving authorities from accountability and transparency
Refusal to take people into confidence in matters concerning foreign policy

The vicious cycle of lies that kowtow to the usual “We had no knowledge of this and consider it a violation of our sovereignty, and any such incident in the future will have grave consequences.” Rinse and repeat.

Assuming that Pakistanis, at large, are incapable of understanding the complexities of the global war on terror and that they are a lynch mob, which needs to be kept at bay.

Should we remain silent spectators while our sovereignty, honour and integrity is ripped apart?

Absolutely not; public discourse is needed now more than ever. There is a dire need to reconsider and understand the meaning and importance of sovereignity, honour and integrity. Right now, they mean different things to different people. For some, sovereignty is compromised by US interference in the country while others think it is the terrorists we need to worry about and not our allies. The debate is always about the drone attacks vs suicide bombings and Aafia Vs Aasia. Honour, on the other hand, is subject to change frequently ranging from what CNN said to whether the rape survivors be allowed to speak out. Integrity is sprinkled somewhere in between and Ghairat is more of an umbrella that covers all these aspects.

We should by all means stand up against injustices, mobilise and campaign but that would be more effective if we were not divided into carefully-crafted binaries. If we would just sit down listen to the other side of the argument without name-calling and labels, we may realise that no matter what our stance is, we are all in this together. It is possible to oppose drone strikes and condemn suicide bombings at the same time; both are responsible for civilian causalities, one more than the other. It is only fair to be outraged by the violation of the rights of minorities and the use of torture in detention centers inside and outside of Pakistan. What CNN said would not matter if we all started to focus on eliminating crimes and violence against women.

Instances of loss of honour:

Honour killings
Rape
Pedophilia
Killings in the name of religion
Corruption
Tax defaulters
Agencies involved in illegal detentions/abductions/killings

So, what exactly is the point?

Solidarity and patience. Some of us often joke about being called CIA, MOSSAD or RAW agents; these jokes are a norm amongst many of us. But they really are anti-jokes if you read in to it. A sad and unfortunate fact of our lives where faith within our people is so weak that any form of criticism reeks of infidelity. While we try so hard to retain the integrity and honour of our institutions, respect for individual choices have become secondary – diminishing almost. When we cannot respect another’s stance without doubting ones loyalties, how can we expect the world to have faith in us?

We are at war and the enemy is a familiar force from within. Insurgencies are not just fought by weapons and counter-terrorism strategies (never mind that we STILL don’t have one), it is fought in the hearts and minds of the people. We cannot win this war with doubts in our hearts and minds boggled with binaries. After all, sovereignty and honour are far diverse than just political ploys to be slipped in at regular and appropriate intervals to shape public opinion. Don’t be fooled, unite and break free.

Vigilante justice


You will only be able to attack Christians over our dead bodies,” Ghulam Muhammad Doger, head of the Gujranwala police, warned the rioters in Azizabad Colony. They had gathered to protest the release of two Christian brothers who were initially accused of blasphemy but were released after the charges were proven false.

In a rare display of courage by the police, in blasphemy-related incidents, Dogar refused to succumb to intense pressure by the religious and political parties and provided protection to the wrongfully accused brothers and other members of the Christian community. The incident is a particularly pertinent example of ensuing havoc after blasphemy related events, even after the charges are proven false. Often, these incidents bear striking similarities, provocateurs gather to raise hue and cry over an incident of blasphemy and the enraged crowd then becomes the judge, jury and executioner. The role of religious clerics and mosque loudspeakers in such incidents should be noted. Innumerable incidents in the past have ended up in the extra-judicial killing of those accused, raising concerns about the exploitation of religious sentiments to settle personal vendettas.

Continue reading Vigilante justice

I am a Blasphemer


For those unaware of the context, recent debate on the reformation on the Blasphemy law has triggered a spate of violence. With high profile targets like Governor Salmaan Taseer & Minority Minister Shahbaz Bhatti being the recent targets. Those who targeted them have justified it under the name of ‘blasphemy‘. Being a muslim, nothing hurts me more than cold-blooded murder being justified in the name of Islam. The term blasphemer or blasphemy is no longer used in it’s true context, instead everyone can be killed and dubbed as a blasphemer. A dangerous precedent that needs to be dealt with.


I am a blasphemer

I am a blasphemer because my heart cries every time a human is slaughtered in the name of religion

I am in shambles whenever the ‘up holders’ of religion use it to justify murder.

I am a blasphemer because my tears do not recognize the difference between an Ahmedi, Shia, Wahabbi, Barelvi, Christian,Hindu, Muslim or an Atheist

It pains to witness the mosques being used as the barracks of demagogues instead of as a place to unite believers in remembrance and prayer.

I am a blasphemer because my faith in God is stronger than any offensive word, or action committed. I refuse to be offended by people who disagree with me.

I am appalled when sermons, meant to deliver messages of faith, call out for blood.

I am a blasphemer because inciting violence in the name of Islam offends me more than caricatures.

I disown every single sermon, fatwa, and cleric that uses my religion, my scripture, and my hadiths to validate their thirst for authority.

Continue reading I am a Blasphemer

Mankind: Ashraful Makhlooqat is it?


The fascinating part about life is its philosophy and the things we are told to believe as we grow. Being a child we learn how we are blessed in the light of religion and science. The concept of God is accentuated with highest levels of glory. The concept of good and bad is made quite simple. It becomes hard to comprehend over the time how bad things can happen to good people and vice-versa. The world painted is a replica of a fairy tale world or an epic which is quite contrary to the real life. Over the time life seems to deceive all the beliefs we once quite proudly embraced. The battling with life’s philosophies either makes one believe in them more or annul them completely.For me the annulment is not an option owing to my habitual submissiveness to the usual dot and dash of philosophy. I might not have my own being the ordinary person that I am. Everyone however through inspirations has their share of light to throw at the concept of mankind and the life we live.

There is in fact one thing over time that I completely fail to comprehend. The pain and suffering humans can cause other humans and still be preferred ‘above other creations’ Is devastating. An animal’s life revolves around the concept of race between the prey and predator. Unfortunately the concepts of brutality are well adapted by the so-called ‘preferred creations’. Survival of the fittest is perhaps the most well renowned

iran-iraq-war1
Iran-Iraq war

ideology adapted by the mankind for ages. The concept of humanity comes shattering down as we look

Guantanamo Bay Prison
Guantanamo Bay Prison

around us. The irony caused among men is created by none other than men themselves.  Vietnam,burma,bosnia,Serbia,Iraq,Iran,Afganistan, Hiroshima the list of barbaric regimes is endless. The blame is given to politics, religion and philosophy but the real culprit remains mystified under mere words and terminologies. The images of abu ghuraib jail,Guantanamo bay and the victims of chemical war fare shouts out the extremities under which human beings fall today. The concept of brutality is well adapted and deemed fair under banners of religion and politics. Are the victims not humans first? why have we opted for physical abuse while we have been blessed with brains?.

Through out the world millions of dollars and the highest percentage of the country’s budget is proudly invested in generating arms. Woes of bravery for the warriors triggers battles of whose the villain and whose the martyr.

vnchemical31
Victim of chemical warfare

One man’s irony is other’s victory this is the concept of humanity we follow today. The essence of bravery is associate with the number of killings under one’s belt. The struggle of a normal man against his ironies however has no value among the forced virtues we have adapted. Today the biggest fear and threat to mankind comes from among them. No threat no fear is bigger than the terror engraved in our minds about men driven violence. As we continue to justify the wave of violence with preferred reasoning’s , the concept of humanity, religion and politics keeps distorting. Our own set of believes are used against us that too at our own will. No matter what the reasoning are the death of a man anywhere in the world belonging to any religion,cast,creed and race is the death of humanity. The essence of anything that defies with the basic concepts of humanity is unfounded.

Because of that We ordained for the Children of Israel that if anyone killed a person not in retaliation of murder, or (and) to spread mischief in the land – it would be as if he killed all mankind, and if anyone saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of all mankind

The Quran: Chapter:5 Verse: 32

 

Habib Jalib: Khatre main Islam nahin


Khatra hai zar daron ko
Girti hui diwaron ko
Sadiyon ke bimaron ko
Khatre mein Islam nahin
Sari zamin ko ghere hue hain aakhir chand gharane kyon
Naam nabi ka lene wale ulfat se begane kyon

Endangered are the idle rich, bursting with cash
Crumbling walls about to crash
All the centuries’ mish-mash
Islam is not in danger
Why do a few clans all the land rights enjoy
And those, who revere the Prophet, are bereft of joy

Khatra hai khun khwaron ko
Rang birangi karon ko
Amrika ke pyaron ko
Khatre mein Islam nahin
Aaj hamare naaron se larza hai bapa aiwanon mein

Endangered are the beasts of prey
Multicoloured cars which in the streets sashay
And for whom the American hearts sway
Islam is not in danger
Due to our slogans the palaces shake and tremble
The towering ornate shops cannot our hopes quell

Bik na sakenge hasrat-o arman unchi saji dukanon mein
Khatra hai bat maron ko
Maghrib ke bazaron ko
Choron ko makkaron ko
Khatre mein Islam nahin
Amn ka parcham le kar utho har insane se piyar karo
Aprna to manshoor hai Jalib, sare jahan se pyar karo

Endangered are the robbers of the highway
Western traders who make hay
Thieves and tricksters who waylay
Islam is not in danger
Holding aloft the banner of peace, loving all humans, we are on the go
Loving all the world, O Jalib, is our proud credo

Khatra hai darbaron ko
Shahon ke ghamkhwaron ko
Nawabon, ghaddaron ko
Khatre mein Islam nahin

Endangered are the palatial predators
The kings and their abettors
Nawabs and other such traitors
Islam is not in danger.

Samarra: Symbolizing Sectarian Unity in Iraq


FEBUARY 22,2006 Nearly three years after the US led attack on Iraq , the shrines of imams Ali Al Hadi and Hassan Al Askari  in Samarra City were severely bombed. Samarra being the most important ‘political’ city in Baghdad was targeted to trigger political and mainly sectarian clashes.

A fair trick to start a ‘civil war’ allowing the ‘true’ insurgence to work more tactfully. The horrifying incident was successful in flaming sectarian clashes to the rest of Iraq. The rampage took  1,157 Iraqi lives, increasing the already rising death toll. The blame game continued along with the vain killings concluding nothing but severe loss of life and unity. 

The theory however is amazingly simple:

“The city of Samarra, 120km from Baghdad, is the most important Iraqi city, politically. What happens in Samarra may well determine the fate of the other parts of Iraq – Baghdad, Basra, Najaf, Anbar and Arbil”

The al-Askari Mosque, also called the Golden Mosque, was built in 944 and is one of Iraq’s four holiest shrines for Shias.The dome of the sanctuary was completed in 1905 and had been covered by 72,000 golden pieces. The mosque is one of the four largest shia mosques in the country. However it is situated in a ‘sunni’ majority  area the city of ‘Sammara’. After years of hosting shia pilgrims it is sad how the bombings still triggered rivalries between shia-sunni. Nothing but a well framed agenda to initiate a civil war hence weakening the resistance the US army continues to face.

Today the government woes to utilize up to $60 billion for reconstruction. As the construction work continues wounds are healed and differences mend.

In a remarkable gesture, Sunni women are often seen carrying food for the security personnel guarding the shrines, and for the workers who continue to toil day and night.”

“We always felt the government blamed the Sunnis for the bombing, but it wasn’t us: it was Al Qaeda,

I was devastated when it happened. I wanted to find whoever did it and cut his head off. Now we want it to be repaired.”said Wasmi Hamed, who leads a Sunni neighborhood patrol that has helped drive Al Qaeda militants out of the city.”

 

While my heart is content upon hearing the news my mind continues to wander:

Why ? Why are we Muslims so gullible ? So easily turned against each other? How many more killings are we willing to afford ? How many years more are we going to overlook the fact that whether Shia or Sunni we all belong to each other. It is my heart-felt desire that we do because only that day will we truly be able to stand in front of our lord as nothing else but ‘Muslims’ without bias and grudges.