Blaming the 'other'

Keeping with the tradition in Pakistan, whereby each time after a terrorist attack or any tragic event, fingers are pointed against someone else, this time again the blame was laid squarely at the door of others.

The hero was Amir Liaquat who invited on his show a panel of bigots, at least two of whom openly blamed people from the Ahmadiyya community for the Peshawar attack. Mr Liaquat also blamed India, which is of course our favourite pastime, second only to ensuring that Pakistan remains overpopulated.

As Jibran Nasir initiated a movement to call out Mullah Aziz for not condemning the taliban, Orya Maqbool Jan and the esteemed people of Lal Masjid, started a campaign to bully him into shutting up, by calling him an Ahmadi or a Hindu.

It should not have come as a surprise that some so called ulema blamed the Ahmadis. It was not even surprising that Amir Liaquat did not stop them. After all he has become famous due to precisely this kind of bigotry.

I was however surprised to see the audience who nodded sagely and applauded enthusiastically, at words that could not be termed anything other than hate speech. I was also surprised that calling someone an Ahmadi is considered worse than being a terrorist.

I shouldn't have been though. This is our general mindset: Muslims could never do such horrible acts. And the kuffar, who do not have the morality do them left right and center. This is what the majority of Pakistani populace believes, whether they are conservative Muslims, Islamists or even moderates. And some people have made careers out of it.

I should not have been surprised because I know that this mindset is inculcated from a very young age in Pakistan. The madrassa is the main site of such ignorance, but they are not alone. Our whole education system also promotes this. We even have to sign an affidavit saying that Ahmadis are non-muslims when renewing our passports. I have felt extreme guilt every time I have had to do that. And we all know how freely we use the charges of blasphemy.

Why should it matter who they are? Why is it the governments or anyone else's prerogative to call someone non-Muslim. And even if they are, why is it necessary to blame them for everything?  It's because we must! The 'other' is always to blame.

We must maintain that our moral code is better than everyone else's otherwise how can we show our superiority? And we do this by collectively calling someone kafir; thus giving ourselves the right to persecute or even kill them. We do this by protesting for a while when someone spouts hate speech and then moving on.

The time has come to get rid of this collective ignorance that Pakistanis wear as a badge of honour. And that will need to be done from two ends. While I cheer all those who are calling for such hatemongers to be held accountable, I also insist that we need to get to the root of the problem, which is taught in our madrassas and our schools and that which is spoken of in our media.

It is all very well to say that anyone who spouts such hate speech should be stopped, but why not also say that such expressions should be eliminated from our national psyche? And to do that we must start at the source of the problem.

It is such ideas and beliefs, which we teach our children that lead to inhumane actions. When we plant the ideology of 'us and them', it will lead to someone deciding that 'they' must be punished for some crime or the other. We must accept this truth because if we do not, we will not see an end to such mindless persecution. And if we continue to blame the "other" we will have lost the last vestiges of our humanity.

Saima Baig is a Karachi-based environmental economist, climate change consultant and a freelance writer. Follow her on Twitter

Saima Baig

Saima Baig is a Karachi-based environmental economist, climate change consultant and a freelance writer. Follow her on Twitter

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