Sunday, August 22, 2010

We are all Harami

On August 15th 2010, two brothers Moiz Butt and Monib Butt were publicly tortured and beaten to death by a mob in a village near Sialkot. Not the Taliban or any extremist organization, but by the public. And not just murdered, but brutally tortured for two hours for "allegations" of robbery (even if the allegations were true, it is still not acceptable). As Haroon Riaz points out, there was no proof, no trial. Nothing, but public justice. According to reports, the Punjab Emergency Service 122 arrived at the scene, but were prevented from intervening by the local Police and security organizations.

To top it all off the whole incident was recorded for posterity.  Apart from being extremely violent and highly distrubing the videos also highlight the indifference, the lack of response by the public. No one, I repeat, no one looks perturbed by what is happening in front of them. They are indifferent, enjoying this brutal spectacle, this "tamasha" and at times egg the attackers on. The crowd is dotted with the grey caps of Police officers, but no one steps in to stop this mass lynching. At one point, a young child steps in and participates.

Image Credit: Cartoon Stock

So much for Pakistan's "image deficit". From where I'm standing, it seems pretty well deserved.

Remember, when the Ahmadi mosques were attacked in Lahore earlier this year and everyone; the media, the politicians and the civil society blamed the Taliban and extremists.

Image Credit: Pak Defense Forum

Well, it was all a lie. To be more specific, we were lying to ourselves.

Image Credit: Sodahead

You see by pushing the responsibility of the murder of 90 Ahamdis on the extremists, we absolved ourselves from any sins in this matter. Forget about the ostracism of Ahmadis on a national scale.

Image Credit: The Persecution

Forget about the calls for the removal of Ahamdis from public office.

Image Credit: Ahmadiyya Times

It wasn't us.

Image Credit: Martin Kronicle
But as this gruesome lynching shows, we do not need any extremist ideology to precipitate extreme acts of violence. We just need ourselves.

Image Credit: Parental Gleanings

This is not to say that the prevalence of extremist ideology is not a problem, but that this ideology is not simply something thrust upon us by evil Saudi petrodollars. The prevalence of extremism in our society is a product of our gradual descent towards intolerance.

Image Credit: Txt2Pic

As a society we do not tolerate dissent of thought and action from the accepted social norms. Anyone who engages in any behaviour deemed to be outside of these norms is ostracized and put down, often through violence. The blasphemy laws, the discrimination of special provisions  for Ahamdis in the Pakistani constitutions, the mal treatment of religious minorities, the imposition of Urdu as the national language are all a product of this social mindset. These political developments nurture an intolerant national narrative. This creates a negative feedback loop heightening social intolerance which leads to the Lal Masjid incident, the burning of more than 70 christian houses in Gojra, Punjab and the increasing attacks on Ahamdis, Shiites and Hindus, the almost daily suicide bombings in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the attack on the Data darbar shrine.

The general reaction to this public lynching has been extremely predictable at least within the blogosphere. Many of my fellow bloggers are wondering how people could have stood by and watched, even participated in the murder of two human beings. In my opinion this outrage is entirely superfluous. After all in a society where dissent is not tolerated, where difference of opinion is not respected, where a group of flood victims were denied aid and governmental assistance  because they were Ahamdis, would you expect anything else?

In several conversations, I have heard people refer to the individuals involved in this violence as harami. However, to paraphrase Thomas Moore if we are the ones who create these individuals/haramis in the first place and then we punish them, what does this say about us? Aren't we equally, if not more Harami?

Sidenote 1: Harami is a Urdu/Hindi profanity which can be interpreted as being equivalent to bastard X10.

Sidenote 2: One of the pioneers to develop the concept of Pakistanis as Haramis was my fellow blogger Karachi Khatmal, whom I hold in the highest regard.