Friday, 7 January 2011

A brave Pakistani writer and physicist speaks out - Respect!

I recently wrote a scathing review of the novel, The Reluctant Fundamentalist, which struck me as a vile, dangerous, immoral work, whose main purpose appeared to be to defend Islamic terrorism. And I’ve recently been featuring the horrifying treatment of Christians in several Muslim countries in the “News” section on the front page of this blog.

This has made me feel a bit guilty, because I know quite a few Muslims, and - perhaps I’m being naive - but I don’t believe any of them would for an instant support what’s being done in the name of their religion.

Mehdi Hasan, the New Statesman’s Senior Editor (Politics) has written aninteresting blog about the need for Muslims everywhere to condemn vigorously the recent murder of the Muslim governor of Punjab Province by one of his own bodyguards. In the piece, there are extensive quotation from a Washington DC talk to fellow-Pakistanis (excerpted in The Express Tribune) by the writer and nuclear physicist, Dr Professor Pervez Hoodbhoy, who teaches at Quaid-e-Azam University in islamabad (the setting, coincidentally for The Reluctant Fundamentalist). 

Now, I don’t agree with everything the Professor says - the idea that George W. Bush is a religious zealot strikes me as both inflammatory  and plain wrong - but,  given that Hoodbhoy lives in a country gripped by genuine, murderous religious zealotry but is nevertheless willing to speak out in favour of America’s treatment of its Muslim population, I’m more than happy to cut him some slack:

“If Pakistani Americans wish to feel welcome in the country they have chosen to live in, then, they must judge the west and Pakistan using exactly the same criteria, and expose three popular falsehoods.

First, it is a lie that American Muslims are victims of extreme religious prejudice. Certainly, no country is free of religious discrimination. But, the secular west is infinitely less discriminatory than any Muslim country. How many churches are there in Saudi Arabia? Yet Muslims have built hundreds of new mosques in America – with Saudi money – and many after 9/11. New churches or temples are impossible in Pakistan; even old ones are burned down by rampaging mobs.

In America, Muslims successfully use the legal system to seek damages if there is discrimination in matters of employment, housing, or access to public facilities. But in Pakistan, if you are a Christian, Hindu or Ahmadi, you simply accept your fate.

Second, it is a lie that US Muslims are physically endangered. In fact, Muslims are far safer in the US than in Pakistan. Does one see Kalashnikov-toting guards during Friday prayers outside a mosque in the west? Yet if you are a Barelvi or a Shia in Pakistan, your life may end at your place of worship. Scattered body limbs and pools of blood at Data Darbar, Abdullah Shah Ghazi and the Pakpattan shrines testify that the cruellest of Islam's enemies come from within.

While Pakistan's terrified religious minorities live in fear of an intolerant majority, American Muslims get protection both from its people and the state. A personal example: the day after 9/11, I was appalled by the wild joy among my students. Worried about my former students, now studying in various US universities, I emailed them. Their return emails were reassuring. White American students had formed defence committees; no Muslim student was ever harmed on any campus. So even though George W Bush – a religious zealot – was preparing to invade Iraq, ordinary Americans were largely decent.

Third, the nauseating hypocrisy of Pakistan's radicalising west-hating, west-baiting leaders needs to be exposed. For example, Imran Khan – who speaks of the west as the fountainhead of evil – prefers to keep his family in London and New York, owes his fame to a game invented by British colonialists, and employs real doctors rather than hakeems for his cancer hospital.”

I know very little about life or politics in Pakistan - but that must have taken real guts. 

1 comment:

  1. The Spectator
    15 January 2011

    Grace under fire
    ... Christian minorities, who have lived peacefully in Muslim countries for generations, are finding themselves subject to increasingly violent persecution. Churches are being attacked in Egypt ...

    Of all the Christian leaders worldwide, the Pope has been the most outspoken about the suffering of Christian minorities — little wonder, as the Vatican is constantly fed reports from his dioceses worldwide. His Christmas homily may have seemed inappropriately macabre ...

    But his words proved all too apt when a suicide bomb killed 21 Coptic Christians in Egypt days later ...

    The 7th of January is Christmas day for the Coptic church and, given the violence of the preceding month, many were braced for another tragedy. What happened next is an extraordinary event which went unreported in the British press. As Egypt’s Christians made their way to mass, they found they had protection: hundreds of Egyptian Muslims who, in protest at the jihadis’ agenda, had come to offer themselves as human shields by gathering outside the church. The front pew of a church in the Cairo district of Omraneya was filled with Muslims taking a stand against terror ...

    The pictures from that night are extraordinary. Muslim men and women risked their lives so that their Christian neighbours could worship ...
    Wednesday, January 26, 2011 - 05:47 PM