“Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement.” – Tolkein, through his character Gandalf, in The Fellowship of the Rings
I love writing, I write alot, whether it is a few lines on Twitter, a paragraph on Facebook, a blog post, an email. As long as I get to give words on paper to my thoughts.
This week, however, I’m at a loss. It’s not writers’ block, nor is it a lack of creativity or muses. I just don’t know how to put the myriad thoughts raging through my head and heart down. How do you give voice to something you wish never crossed your mind?
But it must be done. I don’t represent every minority in Pakistan, nor do I speak for every Christian there either. I’m not an ‘activist’ to whom one can turn trustfully, nor am I employed by an NGO that can be trusted to have a certain desired impact.
I’m just the average, middle-class, non-Muslim Pakistani whose family, friends and acquaintances have died in various attacks throughout the country. I’m one of the rest. Nothing special. Just there.
I represent only myself, a Pakistani citizen with constitutional rights enshrined and with the ever desperate hope that one day, one day things will get better. I represent those who cry every day in the country for one moment of peace, one moment in the 365 days of the year where we won’t hear of blood being shed, of religion being used to single out a group or an individual for persecution, where one day the colour of our skin or the existence of foreskin in adults won’t matter at all.
You see, I’m writing because I’ve lost hope. I’m done.
What else can I feel when, even while people were being lifted to the hospitals in ambulances after the bomb attacks on the Lahore churches, people were far more interested in a cricket match? What else matters if the most prominent news story of the day on all platforms was how amazing Wahab’s spell was, rather than the fact that the peaceful Bohra community was so brutally targeted?
People mourn in different ways, they deal with tragedy in various ways. Some prefer to block it out by watching sports, TV, movies, listening to music.
This wasn’t that. This was selective apathy. Yes, there were the odd condemnations, the ‘ye hum naheen’ and the ‘zomg wtf is wrong with us’ mentions. Sure, there were the really meaningful few with real depth and who were hurting with us.
But 72 hours later, take a look around you in person and online: everyone’s moved on.
That’s the first side of it. The second was when news broke that a mob had lynched 2 allegedly innocent bystanders. People instantly – across the country, across all levels of society and language barriers – went into overdrive to condemn the ‘brutality of the Christian taliban’. The overarching storyline everyone had tied into was that the mob had caught two innocent Muslim bystanders outside church and believed them to be part of the terrorist pack and burnt them to death after beating them up. There were even cries of how they were only killed because they had a beard.
Never mind that the Bishop of Pakistan has a beard.
Never mind that three separate, unrelated eye-witness reports testify that the two bystanders who were killed had guns and were firing into the church.
Never mind that no such anger, rage and hatred was shown for the mobs that lynched the Kot RadhaKishen Christian couple.
Never mind that excuses were made for the mob that lynched the Ahmadi adult and child a few years ago.
Never mind that Christians are one of the most peaceful citizens of the country, and despite there being no solid evidence that the mob had Christians among them, we were suddenly being called Christian terrorists.
In my 35 years of existence, I had not heard the word ‘choora’ and ‘bhangi’ used more times than in the last 72 hours. And the vile racist filth emanating from my compatriots’ mouths was enough to make me want to call down God’s wrath on their families. Thank god I didn’t.
Would you like to know what makes all of this worse? This:
What you are seeing is a xenophobic, mass-media influencing post by a prominent news channel in Pakistan, stereotyping Christian Pakistanis. This is one of the most disgusting, vile pieces of filth I’ve seen coming out of a professional organisation, globally. Not only were Pakistani Christians subjected to being bombed and insulted, we were now being subjected to be called Bollywood villains, a reference to Indian cinema’s 80s penchant for portraying Goan Christians as eve-teasers, womanizers, drunkards or villains.
Now tell me, what message did the thousands of people following this channel get?
Chaudhry Nisar called the lynching of the two the ‘worst kind of terrorism’. What does he know of terrorism? Did his entire village in Joseph Colony and Gojra get burned down simply because he happened to be Christian? Did his son and daughter-in-law get burned in a brick kiln because of being suspected of something because they were Christian? Did his daughter happen to be charged with blasphemy even though she had Down Syndrome?
No, Nisar sahib, in fact the worst form of terrorism is when someone bombs an entire school full of children and massacres 143 of them and then boasts about it. That is terrorism.
The government now wants to try the mob members in a military court, with swift justice. I wonder, why the government has been silent on putting such a process in place for those identified in the Gojra massacre? Why has no one in the Joseph Colony massacre been ‘fast tracked’ this way?
Why, only when a Muslim was killed, has the most strict, disciplined court process been called into action?
I’ll tell you why: Christians, Hindus and Ahmadis do not belong in Pakistan.
If that offends you as a Pakistani, it should because it is true. Unfortunately, if you believe it is false, I feel sorry for your lack of a high IQ.
If you feel this is disrespecting those who work tirelessly for the betterment of the country and work hard for minorities, then know that this is meant NOT for them. I salute them on their work. I personally only feel that work is wasted. You can take a horse to water but you can’t make it drink.
For a decade, every single time Christians were attacked, people would say ‘don’t call them minorities or Christians, call them Pakistanis they are one of us!’. Yet, the day the mob lynched the two, that changed. Suddenly, we weren’t Pakistanis. We were ‘those Christians’ or ‘the Christian Taliban’ or even worse: ‘choora talibans’.
None of this even begins to speak about the things that DON’T get reported. The street conversations, the chai-shop debates among like-minded bigots that form the backbone and core populace, the daily slurs and implied bigotry that is thought to be unnoticed but which all of us notice. The moments where utensils are kept separate, when glasses of water are reserved for certain folk, when certain jobs which in any other part of the world are treated with great respect are handed down here with a sense of ‘yeh kaam sirf in logon ko dena chahiye’ (such work should only be given to such people) e.g. sweepers, janitors, sewer cleaners etc.
If you don’t believe this, ask yourself: when you see the local ‘jamaadaar’ come by, is your first inkling to assume his name is Shankar or ‘something Masih’ or a Muhammad or Ali?
If you’re with my ramblings so far, I think you probably understand why I had to write this.
I’m going to stop here, perhaps continue in another blog piece if I need to let out more that’s bothering me. But I want to end with this:
I never wanted to give up on Pakistan. Even after leaving the country to earn for my family back home, I always supported it, raised my voice for it, got beaten up and almost imprisoned for it, lost friends because of my incessant support, etc. Even when my friend Irfan Khudi Ali died fighting sectarian bigotry, I kept going on in his name so that his dream would come true: a united Pakistan.
But when thousands upon thousands overnight suddenly called us chooras and bhangis over and over for three straight days, it hit me: there’s no point anymore.