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The social cost of enjoying religion

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#1
Ahmad\

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If we keep on piling ammunition in every nook and corner of our house and one day a child ignites the whole dump with a single matchstick, who is to be blamed for the resulting mayhem? 

Recently, a story in the western media touched my heart. A five-year-old leukaemia patient contacted the Make-a-Wish Foundation and desired to save the world like Batman. Thousands, including San Francisco police, politicians, media and social media volunteered to help the five-year-old realise his dream of becoming a ‘Batkid’ for a day. 

In Pakistan, we all live permanently in an imagined world created by rhetorical speeches by religious preachers belonging to various creeds. While the above-mentioned ‘superkid’ saved people in distress, our heroes are in the habit of putting the whole country in distress. With Moharram we are told that the month of peace has commenced. What we actually observe is that all law enforcement agencies remain on extraordinary high alert. Even after sealing the whole country with containers and suspending mobile phone services we are still unable to prevent incidents in Rawalpindi, Multan and Kohat. 

A few days ago, I happened to listen to Maulana Ahmad Ludhianvi and felt devastated. Not that what he said was repugnant but rather surprisingly whatever he said, I felt he had stolen my ideas. He very eloquently stated that billions of rupees were lost on account of extraordinary security arrangements necessitated by a few rituals of a religious sect. This money could have been utilised for alleviating poverty in the country, he argued. Quite rational and sensible comments from someone who is considered an icon of sectarian hatred in the country. There is one problem though, which is not unique to Ludhianvi sahib alone.

From our experience of debates at the Rationalist Society of Pakistan (RSOP), we realise that all believers use rationality as a weapon of offence but will instantly turn the filter of rationality off when others question their faith as well. We have seen Ahmedi brothers rationalising religion and criticising traditional beliefs but when their own belief system is opened to scrutiny they also run for the shelter of beliefs. Similarly, even Christian members of our forum are found wanting when the spotlight of rationality is fixed on them. Mr Ludhianwi made a strong case for banning all rituals that resulted in massive economic waste but then we should be ready to consider the whole faith industry and ask what net contribution it makes to the GDP of the country. The reality is that the economy is bleeding profusely in order to continue supporting these non-productive clerics. 

As the days of Moharram drew nearer, the governments in all provinces nervously finalised security plans to thwart any terrorist attacks. But, on the 10th of Moharram, we learnt a very clear lesson: you can safeguard against a suicide bomber, you can prevent a terrorist act by bringing life to a standstill but what will you do with your own blood that is brimming with the poison of faith-led hatred? How can you guard every mosque, bazaar and imambargah? When thousands feel motivated by religious identities of all sorts, it is only a matter of time before acts of violence erupt at the slightest provocation. Yes, a few scapegoats can easily be found and, after hopeless reliance on religious leaders, we imagine that we have remedied the situation. We are in the habit of sleeping over grave issues.

Whodunnit? This term always plunges the national discourse into emotional outbursts of accusations and counter-accusations. We then customarily also hear a few ‘foreign hand’ conspiracy theories. Let us first dismiss these foreign hand theorists to the dustbin as they want to keep us blindfolded while our self-inflicted wounds become cancerous. Just browse the social media and you will notice that the demon of extremism is not confined to the boundaries of mosques and imambargahs. It has taken hold of our daily narrative. Despite the fact that heinous, inhuman crimes were perpetrated in Raja Bazaar, Rawalpindi, I do not feel that they were the actual perpetrators. If we keep on piling ammunition in every nook and corner of our house and one day a child ignites the whole dump with a single matchstick, who is to be blamed for the resulting mayhem? 

Every stakeholder has used religion to serve his or her vested interests. The military establishment used it to wage proxy wars in our neighbouring countries. The media has used it to sell its television programmes and politicians have used it to garner political support. One cannot treat the wayward driving of a drunk driver unless he stops heavy drinking. Europe also was once obsessed with questions of faith and religious groups were at each other’s throats. Gradually, they overcame that obsession and, after much turmoil, also experienced the hollowness of other belief systems like excessive nationalism and communism. Sectarianism is a by-product of overindulgence in religion at the social level. If we, as a society, become less obsessed with religion and treat it as a personal matter and not a question of life and death, we will see that the sectarian balloon will also get deflated. 

The superkid story had a happy ending except for the fact that the child himself is fighting his cancer, but he is doing so bravely. Our saga does not appear to be ending any time soon despite everybody seeing that the imagined world created by maulvis (clerics) and zakireen (preachers) only exists in their fantasies. Is it not time to ponder the price we are paying in terms of actual and opportunity costs for merely listening to their fantasies and then living in their imaginary world?

The writer teaches public policy in the UK and is the founding member of the Rationalist Society of Pakistan.

 

http://www.dailytime...3-11-2013_pg3_3


"But the thing about Ronaldo... Ronaldo could play for Millwall, QPR, Doncaster Rovers or anyone and he'd score a hat-trick. I'm not sure Messi could do it." - Sir Alex Ferguson


#2
Pastafarian

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Amazing article.



#3
Electric

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Interesting points. I like the approach towrds the issue, its not stinking with biased views and actually gives an honest opinion. However, it is just sad that its only in Pakistan that we come across religious extremities. From what I have seen and observed so far, either people are tooo religious or people are toooo liberal in their views. There is no moderation to be found. Which is why we have issues. It is also sad to see that people hve made Islam a cultural icon in Pakistan. You only see lighting and dupattas on females when it is 12th Rabi ul awwal or Muharram or Ramadan. Religion should not be limited to its festivities but to the whole gist of it.

In TV shows, people pick up controversial issues and pick up random scholars to address it. Which creates further confusion and more resentment towards religion. While it is easy to say that religion is a personal issue and not a matter of life and death, it would still not solve matters. Rasulallah SAW came with Islam to a tribe that was in all forms corrupted and practiced the evil casually the way we see today not only in Pakistan but world world. Its not the principals of Islam that are strict but its the people who have left their source of knowledge to people who are ignorant, illiterate and just fool around with religion.People need to be educated in their religion so that they know what are they believing in. 
Point is, Pakistan population is intolerant in accepting views that differ from what they practice ( even if it is wrong). They are emotional and thus react out of pure emotion than logic . They are biased and prefer being that way because for them sectarian violence is OKAY as long as its not their sect that is being targeted. 

 


Say (O Muhammad SAW): "Verily, my Salat (prayer), my sacrifice, my living, and my dying are for Allah, the Lord of the 'Alamin (mankind, jinns and all that exists). [6:162]


#4
Electric

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BTW i think this thread is best suited in the religion section :) dont you think?


Say (O Muhammad SAW): "Verily, my Salat (prayer), my sacrifice, my living, and my dying are for Allah, the Lord of the 'Alamin (mankind, jinns and all that exists). [6:162]


#5
Ahmad\

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BTW i think this thread is best suited in the religion section :) dont you think?

 

yeah I know.

 

I was like in between…'here or there'. I can move it, if you think it better suits there. 


"But the thing about Ronaldo... Ronaldo could play for Millwall, QPR, Doncaster Rovers or anyone and he'd score a hat-trick. I'm not sure Messi could do it." - Sir Alex Ferguson


#6
mmmusa8888

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I have to say only one thing:
"MONEY IS NOT THE ANSWER TO STOP ALL THIS NON-SENSE IN PAKISTAN"

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#7
maverick86

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When people say 'too liberal' in a religious context? what does that exactly mean? i mean when people are 'too religious'....they end up controlling how people live and walking all over their personal freedoms.  guess france's bans on hijabs and other religious clothing would be an example of 'too liberal' but that is more fascist than liberal ...



#8
Electric

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When people say 'too liberal' in a religious context? what does that exactly mean? i mean when people are 'too religious'....they end up controlling how people live and walking all over their personal freedoms.  guess france's bans on hijabs and other religious clothing would be an example of 'too liberal' but that is more fascist than liberal ...

You can say bit of both. I mean people are too liberal in Pakistan now  where they are okay with compromising basic Islamic values. Now Im not going for a debate here if we have  a difference in opinion because of religious differences but im talking on a general level. There are major ethical and religious dilemmas going on.. so that's my whole point.


Say (O Muhammad SAW): "Verily, my Salat (prayer), my sacrifice, my living, and my dying are for Allah, the Lord of the 'Alamin (mankind, jinns and all that exists). [6:162]


#9
Electric

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yeah I know.

 

I was like in between…'here or there'. I can move it, if you think it better suits there. 

Whatever is easier.


Say (O Muhammad SAW): "Verily, my Salat (prayer), my sacrifice, my living, and my dying are for Allah, the Lord of the 'Alamin (mankind, jinns and all that exists). [6:162]


#10
lahoriii

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Interesting points. I like the approach towrds the issue, its not stinking with biased views and actually gives an honest opinion. However, it is just sad that its only in Pakistan that we come across religious extremities. From what I have seen and observed so far, either people are tooo religious or people are toooo liberal in their views. There is no moderation to be found. Which is why we have issues. It is also sad to see that people hve made Islam a cultural icon in Pakistan. You only see lighting and dupattas on females when it is 12th Rabi ul awwal or Muharram or Ramadan. Religion should not be limited to its festivities but to the whole gist of it.

In TV shows, people pick up controversial issues and pick up random scholars to address it. Which creates further confusion and more resentment towards religion. While it is easy to say that religion is a personal issue and not a matter of life and death, it would still not solve matters. Rasulallah SAW came with Islam to a tribe that was in all forms corrupted and practiced the evil casually the way we see today not only in Pakistan but world world. Its not the principals of Islam that are strict but its the people who have left their source of knowledge to people who are ignorant, illiterate and just fool around with religion.People need to be educated in their religion so that they know what are they believing in. 
Point is, Pakistan population is intolerant in accepting views that differ from what they practice ( even if it is wrong). They are emotional and thus react out of pure emotion than logic . They are biased and prefer being that way because for them sectarian violence is OKAY as long as its not their sect that is being targeted. 

 

 

 

 

Agree with a lot of what you said but can't really blame anything in Pakistan on people being "too liberal". I don't think that damages society, really. Liberalism is a good ideology because all it demands is equality and freedom. I think pakistan actually needs more of this ideology. 



#11
Electric

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Agree with a lot of what you said but can't really blame anything in Pakistan on people being "too liberal". I don't think that damages society, really. Liberalism is a good ideology because all it demands is equality and freedom. I think pakistan actually needs more of this ideology. 

Im not saying liberalism is bad. Too much of a good thing IS bad. If you call youngsters enjoining drugs, drinking, teenage pregnancies etc to be liberal that is in my perception extreme liberalism. Sad thing is, it does go on in Pakistan and it does damage society in ways we may think are not big of a deal =)


Say (O Muhammad SAW): "Verily, my Salat (prayer), my sacrifice, my living, and my dying are for Allah, the Lord of the 'Alamin (mankind, jinns and all that exists). [6:162]


#12
Ahmad\

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Interesting points. I like the approach towrds the issue, its not stinking with biased views and actually gives an honest opinion. However, it is just sad that its only in Pakistan that we come across religious extremities. From what I have seen and observed so far, either people are tooo religious or people are toooo liberal in their views. There is no moderation to be found. Which is why we have issues. It is also sad to see that people hve made Islam a cultural icon in Pakistan. You only see lighting and dupattas on females when it is 12th Rabi ul awwal or Muharram or Ramadan. Religion should not be limited to its festivities but to the whole gist of it.

In TV shows, people pick up controversial issues and pick up random scholars to address it. Which creates further confusion and more resentment towards religion. While it is easy to say that religion is a personal issue and not a matter of life and death, it would still not solve matters. Rasulallah SAW came with Islam to a tribe that was in all forms corrupted and practiced the evil casually the way we see today not only in Pakistan but world world. Its not the principals of Islam that are strict but its the people who have left their source of knowledge to people who are ignorant, illiterate and just fool around with religion.People need to be educated in their religion so that they know what are they believing in. 
Point is, Pakistan population is intolerant in accepting views that differ from what they practice ( even if it is wrong). They are emotional and thus react out of pure emotion than logic . They are biased and prefer being that way because for them sectarian violence is OKAY as long as its not their sect that is being targeted. 

 

 

I agree with most of what you said. Moderation is not just finishing in terms of religion, it is diminishing from every scale you wanna measure Pakistani society in. See the difference between rich vs poor, starved vs fed, educated vs uneducated, healthy vs sick,….you don't see any moderation at all. There is a privilege class who is receptive of everything good from education to food to clothing, and then there is the deprived majority which survives on the lowest of all standards. It's a systematic failure of humanity, it's a defeat of conscious of what's happening there. 


"But the thing about Ronaldo... Ronaldo could play for Millwall, QPR, Doncaster Rovers or anyone and he'd score a hat-trick. I'm not sure Messi could do it." - Sir Alex Ferguson


#13
Sarmad

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Religiosity was never the problem in Pakistan--all of these issues are not more than 5-10 years old. The failure of the political order in Pakistan has created a vacuum where corruption and criminal elements have permeated into every domain--religion, economy, sports, business, even the food industry. If having public display of religion was the culprit, then why has it gone on for centuries before this decade without a problem? The real cause of sectarianism stems from a lack of knowledge about religion at the personal level--and the fact that most prominent personalities who call themselves religious authorities are nothing more than political stooges who mislead people for their own personal gain. 



#14
lahoriii

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Im not saying liberalism is bad. Too much of a good thing IS bad. If you call youngsters enjoining drugs, drinking, teenage pregnancies etc to be liberal that is in my perception extreme liberalism. Sad thing is, it does go on in Pakistan and it does damage society in ways we may think are not big of a deal =)

 

I agree too much of a good thing can sometimes be bad, but what exactly is moderation? Every ex-pat on this forum lives in largely liberal societies! Why can't we construct the same sort of society in Pakistan? I find this a double standard. 



#15
maverick86

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You can say bit of both. I mean people are too liberal in Pakistan now  where they are okay with compromising basic Islamic values. Now Im not going for a debate here if we have  a difference in opinion because of religious differences but im talking on a general level. There are major ethical and religious dilemmas going on.. so that's my whole point.

 

Fair enough, although morality can be attained without being religious and compromised while being religious as well. What I stand for is this....people need to be free to live their lives and express their views as long as they are not damaging property (public or private) and life. by this token, religious people are free to do what they want to do but then if someone wants to g out enjoy themselves (drink smoke etc ) then they should be free to do that as well.....



#16
Ahmad\

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Religiosity was never the problem in Pakistan--all of these issues are not more than 5-10 years old. The failure of the political order in Pakistan has created a vacuum where corruption and criminal elements have permeated into every domain--religion, economy, sports, business, even the food industry. If having public display of religion was the culprit, then why has it gone on for centuries before this decade without a problem? The real cause of sectarianism stems from a lack of knowledge about religion at the personal level--and the fact that most prominent personalities who call themselves religious authorities are nothing more than political stooges who mislead people for their own personal gain. 

 

I don't think I necessarily agree with that assertion. It's not 5-10 years old. 1954 riots and persecution against Ahmediya community. Shia Sunni riots were happening at that time too.  Too good extent, from 80s when Saudia actively entered in internal affairs of Pakistan, funding outfits like SSP….sectarianism resurfaced, whose ugly form we're seeing today thanks to the later part that you mentioned; the misguidance spread by politico-religious figures. The legal system in Pakistan has often failed to bring the culprits to justice, whenever it's about religion fearing backlash.

 

I do agree that root cause of sectarianism is the lack of knowledge and tolerance, and spread of hatred. There is nothing Islamic about such behavior. 

 

Public display of religion will more likely cause problems if it's not kept under check. It wasn't a problem back in days because it wasn't thought of or preached as a problem. When it is preached as a problem, it will always create two sides. One for, one against; and hence it will resurface as a problem. Stop preaching hatred against others, the problem will not resurface. 


"But the thing about Ronaldo... Ronaldo could play for Millwall, QPR, Doncaster Rovers or anyone and he'd score a hat-trick. I'm not sure Messi could do it." - Sir Alex Ferguson


#17
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Yes, there were some incidents in the past--a few that you mentioned. However, there was not at all an atmosphere of tension the way we have it now. The real problems started with Iranian and Saudi meddling, each propping up their favorite brand of extremist thought backed by the barrel of a gun. Shortly after the 1979 revolution, Iran propped up a Tehreek-e-Nifaz-e-Fiqh-Jafariya that sought to make a Shia state in pursuit of Khomeini-esque ideals. (The group later morphed into a political party, but they still have a militant wing based out of Lahore.) And then, of course, Zia and the Saudis helped push the Wahabi response with Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Sipah-e-Sahaba, etc...Sick stuff.



#18
Ahmad\

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Yes, there were some incidents in the past--a few that you mentioned. However, there was not at all an atmosphere of tension the way we have it now. The real problems started with Iranian and Saudi meddling, each propping up their favorite brand of extremist thought backed by the barrel of a gun. Shortly after the 1979 revolution, Iran propped up a Tehreek-e-Nifaz-e-Fiqh-Jafariya that sought to make a Shia state in pursuit of Khomeini-esque ideals. (The group later morphed into a political party, but they still have a militant wing based out of Lahore.) And then, of course, Zia and the Saudis helped push the Wahabi response with Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Sipah-e-Sahaba, etc...Sick stuff.

 

I still feel that if our courts have punished individuals like Jhangvi, Azam Tariq and now Malik Ishaq, things wouldn't have gotten to this level. If you visit cities like Jhang and Raheem Yar Khan then you'll get the real idea what hell hole these outfits have established over there. Same goes for Shiites terror squads as well. They know they can have their way with courts by spreading propaganda in the name of 'Islam at danger' etc


"But the thing about Ronaldo... Ronaldo could play for Millwall, QPR, Doncaster Rovers or anyone and he'd score a hat-trick. I'm not sure Messi could do it." - Sir Alex Ferguson


#19
mmmusa8888

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I still feel that if our courts have punished individuals like Jhangvi, Azam Tariq and now Malik Ishaq, things wouldn't have gotten to this level. If you visit cities like Jhang and Raheem Yar Khan then you'll get the real idea what hell hole these outfits have established over there. Same goes for Shiites terror squads as well. They know they can have their way with courts by spreading propaganda in the name of 'Islam at danger' etc

dude shiites never did disgusting things like jhangvi, shaba etc did.


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#20
Electric

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I agree too much of a good thing can sometimes be bad, but what exactly is moderation? Every ex-pat on this forum lives in largely liberal societies! Why can't we construct the same sort of society in Pakistan? I find this a double standard. 

My moderation might differ from what you perceive as moderation so I really don't know what to say :P hehehe but i didnt get the last part what did you mean by double standards?


Say (O Muhammad SAW): "Verily, my Salat (prayer), my sacrifice, my living, and my dying are for Allah, the Lord of the 'Alamin (mankind, jinns and all that exists). [6:162]





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