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Saturday, April 22, 2006

We done it!

Yes. All of us! By sitting on the fence; by not paying attention; by not protesting against the bullshit fed us by those caricatures of humanity that pass off as religious leaders and scholars. I refer to our collective guilt, even complicity, in the horrendous act that shocked (really? why?) Karachi and the country a few days ago.

Individual violence, as an act of sudden anger, is a form of temporary insanity. Not condonable, but understandable. On the other hand, pre-meditated acts such as this, where the victims are not even personal enemies or even known to the perpetrators of the crime, are not results of immediate individual reactions. Nor can they take place merely by an interested group hiring a mercenary, at random, and asking him to die, blowing up a crowd, for a cause that he does not intensely identify with. Both, the intense identification and the association of violence with a positive contribution to 'the cause', take time. Such ideas and prejudices have to be nurtured. As the lyrics of the 'South Pacific' song so rightly state: You've got to be carefully taught!

And, let's face it, we are all taught this. In our schools. In our homes. In our communities. In our places of worship. In our media. Many have managed to not be affected strongly enough to commit acts of such extreme violence (although, I suspect that self-preservation instincts, too, have held more back from doing so than we'd like to admit ... but the 'potential' exists). But if one were to broaden the scope of the word, Violence, to rightfully include other aggressive or hateful behaviour, harms done through abuse of power, through acts of bigotry, even through inaction when confronted with such an act being committed - Bertrand Russell held, "There is no such thing as an innocent bystander" - not many of us could be pronounced 'Not Guilty'.

Although such hortatory material, as inflammatory speeches or texts, have been widely available in pamphlets and on audio-cassettes, the comparatively recent addition of videos (whereby direct or subliminal manipulation is possible in numerous and much more powerful ways) has added to the explosive situation. And TV channels multiply this danger several-fold with their increased immediacy, the presence of authoritarian figures twisting edicts to suit themselves, and sleazy comperes pandering to them. To be fair, a couple of channels are beginning to host religious programs that feature the 'moderately enlightened'. But don't rejoice; this is not reflective of a trend. These programs exist only because they are necessary to get advertisements that cannot possibly be run during the Beardo vs. Weirdo shows.

In varying forms, one naive question - considered, I guess, in our unquestioning society as 'daring' - that is frequently put to these extremely well-fed (and, on one occasion, burping) guests, both by the compere and callers, is why they, the religious leaders, do not use their positions to forge unity among the sects instead of stressing upon and exploiting the differences. Can any question be more stupid? Would there be sects if there were no religious leaders, with their own agenda?

In addition to TV channels, the vernacular press has mushroomed and numerous irresponsible rags, featuring columnists who range from the fanatical to the absurd (usually the same), are finding their way into the hands of those who can read but can't think or analyse, as a direct result of our education-cum-indoctrination style of formal and informal teaching. These hate-mongering papers and their contributors take full advantage of the ignorance - particularly inter-communal ignorance - of their readership, sowing further seeds of hatred.

This last fact has been dawning slowly upon me over the past few weeks as I am fed tid-bits of information that a member of my domestic staff has read in one of the newspapers with Islamic sounding names. The tactic followed in the columns or editorials is to invent falsehoods against other communities, safe in the knowledge that the reader is unlikely to investigate things further, or even consider that the 'writer-aalim' could be guilty of duping him for baser reasons.

After the Hindus and the Jews - and no distinction is made here between Jews, Israelis, and Zionists - the Shias are a regular, though subtle, target in these Sunni-run papers. I am sure the reverse is true of the Shia papers. But Shias are a sizable minority and not as shrouded in mystery as the smaller sects and subsects. It is far easier to demonize 'the other', if you know nothing about them.

One target of such dastardly propaganda has lately been the Aga Khan community, with made-up stuff about their beliefs & origins and, in particular, about their 'common agenda with the USA and Israel to introduce a new syllabus here that would be secular, even anti-Islamic'. (Bohris are perhaps considered too harmless, and Bahais too few to be on the radar. Yet.)

However, for really grand-scale madness these purveyors of pandemonia are always ready to play the Ahmadi card. After all, who in his right mind would even risk saying a word in their defense? With their books banned and their views unavailable for scrutiny or counter-arguments - and they, themselves, hardly in a position to raise a voice - just about anything goes! Short of accusing them of cannibalism, as the Shias and Sunnis did, in my childhood, warning each other's children to not loiter among the Muharram J├╝loos crowd, lest they were kidnapped and used in the traditional Haleem by the others!!!

So, it came as no surprise when my 'help' - a warm, wonderful, and amazingly efficient man, and one whom I'd really not wish to lose - told me that he had, on good authority, discovered that the recent blast could be the work of Ahmadis, "just like the anti-Prophet cartoons that were actually instigated and propagated by them through their Headquarters in Denmark." Huh? Hello?

"That's not true at all" I said. "The Ahmadis have a different view of the finality of prophethood," I told him, "but do revere the Prophet of Islam as a Prophet; after all they believe in the Qur'an." "Oh no, they don't!" I was informed. "Do you know that during their wedding ceremonies the bride has to trample over the Qur'an with her feet at the time of being handed over to the groom?" .... A choking sound is all I could muster.

Of course, it is hardly possible to hold a logical discussion or debate with someone who has been fed this kind of 'scholarly' writing. But it is possible to weep. And be really scared. And to wonder what it would take to reverse the path we are going down.

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Blogger Zakintosh said...


If you get an opportunity, do hear You've Got To Be Carefully Taught sung by Sammy Davis Jr., who brings genuine feeling into it. After all, who could understand Prejudice better than he?

Once asked at a Golf Club what his 'handicap' was, he retorted, "That's a helluva question to ask a one-eyed black Jew!"

22 April, 2006 20:14

Blogger the olive ream said...

ZAK, absolutely brilliant! You present a reality of our society that most of us are unwilling to admit to. We might engage in political and social discourse around the coffee table at home but it never makes us angry enough to voice our opinions in public.

You are right, we done it! We are responsible for propagating these fanatical and extreme views by remaining silent and indifferent to intolerance.

22 April, 2006 22:39

Blogger Lemony Royal said...

absolutely loved it MJ, and yes, weep we will, after all the nonsense that goes on cos of sectarian prejudice and pride!! And what hilarious info u've got on cannibalism and that trampling bit over the Quran.....who are these people??!! People of the same lord, i'm sad!
And as for "bierdo v/s wierdo".....eheheh....
what when the bierdos are wierdos too....?

23 April, 2006 19:42

Anonymous Anonymous said...

MJ? who's MJ? People of the same lord? You sounded serious there for a bit.

23 April, 2006 21:08

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08 November, 2009 02:01


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