This article was first Published on Friday, April 11, 2008 at – :
Article follows my comments:
Let me begin with the oft quoted statement “all it takes for the evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing”. I believe the majority of either a religion or a nation is good people. What is missing is action on the part of these good people. They do nothing until crises reaches to a point of destruction.
The only thing we need to do – is to stoke the good people to speak up against bigotry and take a stand against injustice. It is in every one’s interest in the long run.
Articles like the one by Ali Eteraz and the ones at World Muslim Congress aspire to evoke the goodness in us and get the majority to take action, not to control, but to serve justly and equitable to all. I cannot expect goodness and peace to surround me, when I am not; it has to start with me, the one who is reading.
I am sure there are flaws in the article, but unless we speak out and defend the rights of every neighbor and every human, we cannot look for peace. I hope more of the people speak out about the injustices to every human on every corner of the earth.
Let every Pakistani speak up and be a defender of other Pakistani, be it a Hindu, Ahmadiyya, Christian, Jew, Zoroastrian, Shia, Bohra, Ismaili or a Sunni. We need more voices to make this work. May God give us the passion to speak out and do the right thing. Amen!
Protecting Pakistan’s Hindus
The cultural and institutional marginalisation of Hindus in Pakistan is a travesty of human dignity and freedom Hindus in Pakistan have suffered grievously since the founding of the nation in 1947. Recently, in the southern province of Sindh, a Hindu man was accused of blasphemy and beaten to death by his co-workers. This comes at the heels of the abduction and dismemberment of a Hindu engineer.
A little while earlier, the military removed 70 Hindu families from lands where they had been living since the 19th century. To this day the temples that Pakistanis destroyed in 1992 in response to the destruction of the Babri mosque in India have not been restored.
Pakistan, according to many accounts, was founded as a way to protect the rights and existence of the minority Muslim population of Colonial India in the face of the larger Hindu majority. Pakistan’s founder, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, is reported to have said in 1947: “In due course of time Hindus will cease to be Hindus and Muslims will cease to be Muslims – not in a religious sense for that is the personal faith of an individual- but in a political sense as citizens of one state.” It is therefore a travesty of Pakistan’s own founding principles that its Hindus – and not to exclude Christians and Ahmadis – have suffered so grossly.
There are two levels of prejudice in Pakistan with respect to Hindus – the cultural and the legal.
While it is difficult to say which one is more pernicious, cultural prejudice is certainly more difficult to uproot because it is perpetuated by religious supremacism, nationalism, stories, myth, lies, families, media, schooling and bigotry.
Cultural prejudice has become part and parcel of language itself. Hindus are referred to as “na pak.” Na means “un” and pak means “pure.” So, Hindus are turned into the impure, or unclean. Given that the word “pak” is part of the word “Pakistan” – which means Land of the Pure – somebody’s impurity suggests that they are not really Pakistani.
To make matters even worse, Pakistani mullahs teach a very supremacist version of the Islamic creed, the kalima. Usually, the kalima reads simply: “There is no god but God and Muhammad is His final messenger.” The version that children are taught, however, reads as follows: “The first kalima is Tayyab; Tayyab means Pak (Pure); There is no god but God and Muhammad is His final Messenger.”
Do you see how the word “Pak” – which denotes both purity and connects to citizenship in Pakistan – is smuggled into the Islamic creed? Since in Urdu this little ditty rhymes very effectively, this is the version of religiosity that most children repeat their entire lives. As a result, while they grow up, they psychologically equate Hindus with impurity, with uncleanliness, as not Pakistani, and therefore less than, both Islamically and as citizens. The only two parties that can begin to bring some change in this arena are the state and the liberal clerics.
Last year Pakistan’s prime minister did greet Hindus during Diwali and a prominent Hindu nationalist leader – who had to quit his party because of his outreach – that was born in Karachi did come back and pay respects to his birth-city.
Cricket diplomacy, which began in 2004, helped a little (but not really, because the focus was on cricket and not on religion). Also, there are a few prominent Hindus here and there – one is a justice of the Supreme Court and one is the leading leg-spinner for the cricket team. Yet, as the Pakistani exile Tarek Fatah points out, Justice Bhagwandas had to take the oath on the Quran. Meanwhile, Kaneria is regularly excluded from the Pakistani cricket team’s congregational Islamic prayer.
As bad as the cultural prejudice is, legal prejudice is the one that must be more urgently dealt with, because it is what allows cultural prejudice to acquire institutional power. Two laws in particular have been very problematic for the Hindu community.
The first one was promulgated under the 1973 constitution which made Islam the state religion of Pakistan and established a separate electorate for Muslims and non-Muslims so that Hindus could only vote for Hindu candidates. Musharraf abolished this in 2002. I think Muslims who support the idea of Islamic states around the world really need to stop and think about this for a second. It took an American-backed dictator in the year 2002 for a Muslim state to abolish unequal voting? As a wise man once said: are you kidding me? This is a deplorable commentary on the state of equality in today’s Islam.
The second law is the infamous blasphemy law passed under Islamist dictator Zia ul Haq in the 1980s. Designed specifically to punish the Ahmadi minority, the blasphemy law now provides convenient protection to anyone who ever wants to kill, murder, maim, beat up, mug, abduct, or punish any religious minority. All you really have to do is carry out your brutality and then point at the victim and say that he was blasphemous.
This law needs to be repealed immediately: no reform, no fixing, no tweaking, but total abolishment. Efforts to repeal it under Musharraf failed in the Senate. The secular parliament in session now is probably not going to touch it unless it is told to do so by international groups (who frankly aren’t really interested). The UN, EU, US, and International Council of Jurists must make some noise about repealing Pakistan’s heinous blasphemy law.
There are little more than three million Hindus in Pakistan (a nation of 160 million). They are still part of Pakistani life and need to be treated with respect and dignity. According to some sources, at the founding of Pakistan, Hindus comprised nearly 15% of the country’s population and now number barely 2%. Many have left, many have been killed, and many have converted to other religions to protect themselves. All in all, a travesty for a state that was created with the intended purpose of protecting minorities.
A FEW COMMENTS:
Here Here, Ali – well said, Bhai.
I too am a Muslim of South Asian extraction, and what I find most depressing is the way in which communities that once lived side-by-side for many 100s of years, suddenly began to loathe each other.
How the frig did this happen??
All us who feel abhored by interpretations of Islam that sanction the abuse of others, now have to take a stand. But it must be stated that religiously inspired hatred of others in South Asia, is mutual. Here’s a verbatim Q from an elementary maths exam, in India:
If one ‘kar sevak’, (a kar sevak being a Hindu religious worker), can destroy 4 mosques. How many kar sevaks will be required to destroy 20 mosques?
That doesn’t absolve us though, from sorting out our own house. We have to challenge any Muslim who believes he can kill/abuse/mistreat/insult anyone, just cause they’re non-Muslim.
Following communal riots in Karachi during Partition, Jinnah went to the site and declared himself the protector of Pakistani Hindus. Someone else now needs to take his place.
Thank you for that.
Refreshing to see a Muslim Blogger outside the box. Inny wrote another piece different from the usual topics that most are sick of.
It is wise to see the shit in ones own house before complaining about it in an-others.
In the game of purity, Indians are the masters. Indians are obsessed with it for all the wrong reasons.
When the Dalit chief Justice of the UP court was replaced by a high caste judge, elaborate purification ceremonies were enacted to purge the impurities from chambers.
Some schools in Rajasthan, have 2 dispensers of drinking water, one for low castes, so they don’t pollute the purer Indians higher up the caste ladder.
Sounds absurd, but people may die over such identifications, which is also absurd. Prejudices, simply make people feel superior, and caste is wonderful in achieving this.
Even those who converted to Christianity centuries ago, kept their caste, and every Sunday in Church in Goa, the rigid caste system allows Brahmins their seats in the front pews, and Christian untouchables stand at the back.
I disagree with you about the causes of the prejudice against Hindus in Pakistan. Certainly any prejudice against that minority (as against any other) should be condemned, but its a stretch to say that “mullahs” teach a “very supremacist version of the Islamic creed” to characterize Hindus as evil. Seems a bit histrionic.
The prejudice comes not from some mass conspiratorial brainwashing of children by the Big Bad Bearded Men but from a contentious history, where the generation that had lost family and property during the Partition is still alive. That bitterness gets taught to children through the prejudices of parents. It is not about religion.
I do think that things are getting better as we get further from ’47 and the other two wars between India and Pakistan. Cricket diplomacy is good precisely BECAUSE its premise is not religion, and increased collaboration in movies and other artistic endeavors will hopefully further bring the peoples together.
A major issue ofcourse is seeing the Pakistani Hindus as truly Pakistani and not agents of a hostile India. Better relations with India would mean less harassment for the Hindus of Pakistan, even if they are still seen as “Indians” because of their religion.
There is no doubt in my mind that just like Ordinance XX, the blasphemy laws were specifically passed to persecute the Ahmadiyya community. Christians and Hindus in this case are just innocent bystanders. If you read the rhetoric of extremist religious groups as reported by the vernacular newspapers in Pakistan, you will see the words blasphemy and Qadiani (derogatory term of Ahmadi) used in the same context. Governements are warned not to touch these laws or the whole country will go up in flames. These are not empty threats.. Events of 1953 and 1974 are a proof of the potency of street power Mullah posesses in Pakistan. The main victims of the blasphemy laws in Pakistan are Ahmadis. If an Ahmadi recites the Kalima, according to the straight forward interpretation of the law, he is guilty of blasphemy.
Ali….Thank you for such important exposure and thank for being so precise in categorising human’s prejudice in Pakistan and other so-called Muslims’ countries. This delusion of been superior to other religions is a plague struck Islam by the most ignorant people “the mullahs” who continually brainwashing the general public to feel superior; you find that happening in Egypt, somalia, Saudi Arabia…etc where those mullahs teaching young children that Koran mentions how the Jews are related to pigs and apes and black non-mulsims are inferior to Muslims.