Monday, June 13, 2016


Some people spend their time spouting religion but there is very little that is civilised about them. As Mushtaq Ahmad Yousufi puts it, these are the people who head to a mosque even to obtain a pair of shoes. Hafiz Hamdullah, a member of the JUI (F), now better known because of his violent outburst against a woman, a fellow panelist on television, is obviously one of them. Here is a man who passed over the male panelist to come down violently on the woman, although both had just disagreed with him, the man more directly.
Yesterday when news of this outburst on public television hit the waves I messaged Hafiz sahib, expressing my disgust at his behavior, and received the following response:
“We want to rule of Islamic law bcoz Pakistan is Islamic republic state” (sic).
It would be hard to find a more confused nation than this one which allows minorities to be persecuted, and imprisons them under sentence of death for no reason; which lets young girls be murdered for no crime, allows murderers to go free, permits jirgas and other such parodies of justice to function, which gives people like Hamdullah – a man who treats women like something stuck under his shoe – legitimacy as a senator …yet calls itself an Islamic republic or state.
Which Islam is this?
Islam does not permit women to be spoken to the way Hafiz sahib spoke to his fellow panelist, or treated the way the CII thinks they should be treated. I repudiate the version of a religion that allows such behaviour, because I consider myself a Muslim, am proud and honoured to be one. That is not Islam. The religion most of our mullahs follow is not Islam. Their version of Islam must be rejected regardless of the position held by the person who pushes it, which in Hamdullah’s case is believe it or not Chairperson of the Senate Committee of Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony. How do you express a snort on paper?
If it is to such persons in the Senate that legislation such as the ridiculously ill-drafted, draconian Cyber Crime Bill is to be referred before it passes into law, then Pakistan is sunk indeed.
Pakistan has to get its basic priorities right. So let’s check out the other end of the scale and probably the most respected man the country has ever produced, a man who represents what Pakistan should be.
It feels almost disrespectful to speak of Abdul Sattar Edhi on the same page but here is a man who believes in humanitarianism as the underlying belief of religion, one who practices what he believes. Edhi, or Nana as he is called by the people around him is unwell these days yet he still comes to work. Long may he remain in our midst. Surely there is no person in this country who does not pray for his wellbeing.
I saw Edhi sahib many years ago at one of the orphanages he runs in Karachi; wearing one of the two crumpled kurta pyjamas he possesses and a pair of old chappals. He was standing in an open courtyard completely surrounded by a chattering group of young children. It is impossible to forget the image. This home provided by the Edhi Foundation was the only home these children possessed. He is a man who believes in protecting the weak, men, children, and women alike. The homes and shelter the Edhi Foundation provides are for everyone, regardless of gender or religion.
But Edhi needs no introduction. His work has been there for all to see almost as long as Pakistan has. My point in speaking of him is simply to ask readers this question: which of these two men mentioned here stand for peace and harmony, for compassion, decency and strength?
If Pakistan is to get its basic priorities right it must weigh different values on the scale and see which has created the war, dissension, fear and loss we see all around us today, and which alleviates the problems of humanity and brings peace both within us and all around? Okay, Islamic law… although whatever that is still has to be defined…but based on what? Extremism or humanitarianism…which is it to be? Unless that is settled, I vote secular.

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