The tragedy, the confusion, the lies, the deceit, the unanswered questions ..... so much has been said everywhere about the Lal Masjid saga that it seems pointless to add anything. Except that there's this alternating mind-pounding and numbing that makes me want to blog about it.
Sorry, folks. This is just cathartic. So skip it.
Even in its wake, the major discussions - be they from the Rulers trying desperately to not let this mar their image any further, or the Opposition trying equally hard to make political capital out of what is a far bigger matter than their rumblings dare touch upon - detract from the fact that all this was merely a symptom of the much greater malaise we are suffering.
When the dust settles (if anyone will let it, for, after all, it does provide a 'smoke-screen'), the REAL questions will need to be asked: Has the majority tacitly chosen this path but is too ashamed to admit it, openly? Or does it really oppose this path but is merely afraid to say so? After all, for the (wise or otherwise) course to be set for the ship of this state we need to ascertain the destination. But, unteven before the dust settles, will not fresh waves of Lal Masjid supporters - and the various groups that preach hatred and violence for everyone they disagree with - not sprout all over the country with renewed vigour, spouting greater cries of revenge?
There is, I notice, a strange co-existence and accomodation of both views - the liberal/secular and the fundamentalist - in many more minds than is openly admitted. And it shows itself in the ridiculous embracing of an odd neutrality that ails the bulk of the small educated society. Enlightened Moderation, too, is just a classy name for it. The bizarre demand for a peculiar kind of tolerance - to tolerate the intolerant - is yet another manifestation of the same thing. No on dares, anymore, to call a Spade a Spade. 'Political correctness', another US import we could do without, is one more nail in the coffin of decency: Let's face it, you are hardly worthy of respect if the 'correctness' you are indulging in is spurred by 'policy'.
The electronic media covered the event 24/7 ... Given the lack of training (or preparation for such an eventuality) and the mushrooming of channels that has made announcers and analysers of everyone and his sister-in-law, they did more than a fairly ok job. But, there too, Neutrality was the word of the day. Barring the performance of one specific channel on May 12 that gave the media some courage for a while, "Let's not annoy anyone, lest the side that turns out to be the eventual winner screws us over" is what seemed to be going through the media's minds (and the minds of the 'experts' and 'analysts') during this episode.
One example - but it typifies much that I witnessed.
Maulana As'ad, who represents the organization which looks after the various madaaris (Aside: Given the way some of these people behave, I often wonder if this word is the plural of madressah or of madaari), sounded schizophrenic on a Talk Show when he stated that "Rashid Ghazi Shaheed" acted wrongly by taking the law into his own hands, that Malana As'ad's organization and many other ulema were opposing Ghazi's stand because, although his demands for enforcement of Shariah were justified, such unilateral actions were not Islamic.
Wow!!! So why the eff, in the same breath, was Ghazi being referred to as Shaheeed by him, then? Surely one cannot be a martyr by dying while trying to kill others in a Jihad that is not a Jihad.
At one point in the show, I called in (a
first for me, but I could not take it much longer!)
after 4 panelists and
the compere began sounding perplexed about whether the buildings really
had 75 rooms and basements, whether there really
were hundreds of women trapped (dead?) in there. The host asked Maulan As'ad, who said that since it was a female institution, he had never inspected the premises and had no knowledge. Fair enuff.
"Ask Ummé Hassan," I advised them on the phone. "She's out - 'saved by the army'
, as the newsbytes proclaimed - and could certainly give us the exact
number of rooms and the approximate
number of students trapped until she was there." ..... Not too difficult to do, IMHO, I thought --- unless we are not supposed
to know! - (Anyone for launching an Access to Information Movement here?)
- The host repeated my question to the panel. No one answered in the microsecond before the host moved on, mumbling something inane like "She's in police custody, so we cannot ask her." Oops
. Only minutes earlier, the same channel had announced that madam had been 'released on parole' and was on her way to take part in her illustrious brother-in-law's funeral.
In a culture where I have witnessed arguments over whether a wife can see the body of her deceased husband: "They are no longer mahram"
, a recently-bearded uncle had shouted at a relative's funeral. "Marriage is a contract that ends
with death," he had said in support, adding "and wives are not even allowed to accompany their husband's bodies to the graveyard." But, of course, this
particular lady - indirectly, at the very least
, responsible for many of the deaths in this sad saga - had to be flown, at state expense
, to attend the funeral of a renegade in-law. Yes, the vote-bank has to remain intact.
I wondered, as I heard the news of her paroled trip, if all people in custody are allowed the facility of attending funerals of anyone they wish to. Or even the funerals of immediate family members. Hmmm...
A few words to our young electronic media and its talk-show guests:
"The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in times of great moral crises maintain their neutrality." So said Dante Alighieri ... but I guess he was not in your Media & Journalism courses.
So, c'mon guys/gals. Speak your mind. We don't want mere reportage from you in the media, except during the news hour. On talk shows and other analytical programs we want your opinions. Radical. Right. Left. Anarchic. Religious. And, if you tread really carefully, even sacrilegous! We need to hear a variety of views and then make our own informed judgements.
There was other confusion, too.
While, traditionally, Shahaadat
has been held in high esteem among Muslims, surely it wasn't always the only
thing worth striving for, as it now seems. While the maulanas and their followers were proclaiming wilingness to die for their noble (though often contradictory) causes, the army, the ministers, the media and others were busy extolling the shahaadats
personnel and personal favourites. Mothers recounted happily about how their child, now sadly gone, was always - from age 7(!) - wanting nothing else but to be a Ghazi
or a Shaheed
. What had she been mixing in his
cereal, I wondered. A child wept at his uncle's sad death, citing - in an innocent way - the continued bleeding of the dead man's wound during the burial ceremony as proof of the fact that Shaheeds
are alive and do not die. While there was obviously no occasion for correcting this misconception at that time - it could
have been edited out by the channel. Instead, it went out to hundreds of thousands, strengthening their belief via a wrong childish assumption. The word, Shaheed -
(a word that, btw, does not appear in the context of Martyrdom in the Qurãn) - seems to have become a mockery, now, with everyone killed in accidents, epidemics, natural disasters, genocides, language riots, plus collateral damage victims and
those in the rather confusing situation of "dying before their time" (whatever one is to make of that!) swelling their ranks.
The conclusions I reached about our society, our nation, our community that day were/are scary. Escapism seemed the right thing to do ... at least for a while. For me, that means Music (generally Alfred Brendel's rendition of the Moonlight Sonata or
Zia Mohiuddin Dagar's Yaman
, played in the Dhrupad ang
on the Rudra Veena). Or, sometimes
, Urdu Poetry. If the latter, it needs to be the art-for-arts-sake kind: lilting old-time ghazals, with delightful plays on words, a romantic lyricism. You know ... the kind that good old ustaads
, like Qamar Jalaalvi, used to thrill mushaerah
audiences with. So, I slipped in the hour-long CD of Qamar (available at T2F as part of a double-volume, with Iram Lakhnavi on the other disc)
, hit the random-play button and closed my eyes ... only to open them with a start as I heard shayrs
that seemed, suddenly, too apt.
Aap bhee suniyay...