Victim of religiosity – 29 Apr 2023

There are many factors at play here

A Chinese engineer has been booked on blasphemy charges under the pressure of a mob at Dassu Dam in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Mr Tian, identified in the FIR as merely a heavy transport supervisor, invited the ire of the labour when he reprimanded them for coming late from the payers. According to the FIR, some workers and their interpreters alleged that the Chinese national uttered “sacrilegious remarks” when they sought a break to offer prayers. Since the incident happened in the month of Ramazan when the pace of everyday activities usually gets slow, chances are that the workers would have taken more than usual time to return to work after offering prayers. Mr Tian was taken into police custody apparently to save him from meeting the fate of the Sri Lankan factory manager who was burned to death by a frenzied mob that had accused him of committing blasphemy.

There are many factors at play here. One is religiosity. Second is the absence of the writ of the government. Third is the unproductive labour force. Fourth is the incorrect interpretation of blasphemy. Fifth is the wrong implementation of the blasphemy law.

The basic obligatory tenants of Islam, such as Prayer, Fasting, Hajj, Zakat and Jihad demand different types of efforts and exertions from the practitioners. Of all these obligations, only Namaz is offered daily and five times a day. Metaphorically speaking, the purpose of Namaz is to build the quality of humility and submission in Muslims. However, nowhere Namaz or any other obligation is meant to traumatise its practitioners or others. Therefore, every individual is expected to offer 17 units (rakaat) in a day. No unit takes more than 15 minutes, even if offered with complete concentration. The morning prayers are expected to be extended because that is the time when people are fresh and have no chores on their hands. For other prayers, the length of the prayer is left to the individuals depending on their situation and the time on hand. During the journey, Namaz is halved to facilitate the travellers.

Pakistan is not the only Muslim country where people offer prayers or follow religious obligations. However, it is the only Muslim country, perhaps, where religion is left to the whims of the people. No regulations monitor mosques. No regulations scrutinise the prayer leaders or the clerics teaching in mosques or appointed as Quran teachers at home. In many Muslim countries, clerics are licensed. Mosques follow SOPs for using loudspeakers and conducting seminars. The Friday sermons, one of the most important sermons followed by prayers, are vetted by religious authorities. In Indonesia, mosques are closed after Friday prayers and worshipers are asked to return to their work — as is stipulated in the Quran. The Quran has explicitly laid the responsibility on the state to enforce/administer the system of Namaz. With this obligation, a state is expected to establish regulations and laws to govern the congregations.

Pakistanis for some weird reasons have been wired as the guardians of Islam. This is the result of the fallacies attached to the creation of Pakistan such as: Pakistan was made in the name of Islam; it was a gift from Allah, the proof of which is that it was given to us on the 27th of Ramazan; the Quaid-e-Azam wanted to carve a nation for the Muslims of India so that they could practise their religion without any hurdles; Pakistan is the fortress of Islam — any assault, anywhere on its, finds defenders in Pakistan.

Until 1946 Jinnah was against the partition. He wanted to implement the Cabinet Mission Plan, which offered a federalist system whereby every province would have an independent administrative structure. This three-tier administrative framework would have made the Muslim-majority areas autonomous in their affairs. However, when the Indian National Congress refused to accept the results of the 1946 elections in which Muslim-majority areas had won most of the seats, Jinnah decided to go for partition.

The purpose of building false stories around the creation of Pakistan, along with the deliberate attempt to keep the public education system deprived of sufficient budget and trained human resources while bolstering madrassa education, has been to create a directionless nation subservient to the rule of the power elite. The matter was made worse with the so-called Afghan jihad — a territorial war turned into a jihad, just like the territorial war of Kashmir was. Both wars raised a generation fed on the notion that Hindus, Jews and the Communists were/are the enemies of Islam and, by extension, Pakistan.

The entire history of the misuse of Pakistan’s blasphemy law originates from stripping Ahmadis of their Muslim badge. Without getting into the debate of the authenticity of this step, the argument that bears discussion is: why did the lawmakers leave the blasphemy issue loose-ended? Why could they not see its possible future misuse for gaining political mileage? Why was questioning blasphemy made an act of blasphemy — closing the doors of debate on the issue?

What an irony that the police officers detaining Tian had to show a copy of the FIR against him to a 400 or so mob to assuage their anger. If the Chinese national has committed blasphemy, it is for the relevant authorities to deal with him rather than the mob.

This entire context — where education is thrown downhill, where religion has turned universities into battlegrounds, and where the state has lost the vigour or lack the spirit to combat the tendency to use religion as an instrument to square revenge — has built a nation, which according to the reports of the State Bank of Pakistan, is one of the least productive and most inefficient human resources in Asia. As a result, we have become a country of beggars — from top to bottom.

Hard work, persistence and efficiency have no place in the lives of Pakistanis — shortcuts and theft is our way of life. One of my friends has closed his plastic manufacturing factory in Punjab because he cannot compete with the prices of a Gujranwala-based plastic manufacturer who runs his units on stolen electricity.

Tian has shown us a mirror— that is where the culprit is.

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