We have instigated religion into biting back.


COMMENT: Blood sport —Reem Wasay

We have instigated religion into biting back. We have set in stone indictments and harsh retributions that have no business in a humane habitat. We have cordoned off our God into becoming a deity of blood and punishment

In a land groped by dogma and deeply penetrated by the vile prejudice of self-endorsed righteousness, we are a people devoid of compassion because we are a folk stripped of our spirituality. Breaking down divine philosophies that are magnanimously vague in their definition of the cosmos and luminous in their absolute limitlessness, into step-by-step codes and how-to inductions, we have placed huge obstacles to accelerating kindness and empathy and encouraging Manichean breakaways towards a progressively, continuously evolving human goodness. Anxious to subsidise on our collective humanity, Pakistan has become the proverbial angry mob.

The infamous Sialkot incident has raised the concerns and eyebrows of the nation’s verbose lot of armchair intellectuals but it has failed to inch forward the need to reassess our national psyche and the animus of our assembled intent. While public lynching is nothing to be dismissed quite as quickly and easily as it takes to bash two minors’ heads in, the Sialkot degeneration ought to be used as a cohesive instrument to bind the rather fractured remnants of whatever remaining morsel of benevolence we have left, and if that means an all out war against the self of the Pakistani mindset, then let’s see some heads roll.

Since the episode occurred, we have been called scum, degenerates, vermin, savages, brutes, and even human cockroaches, to cite a few colourful examples of the shadowy discontent that looms over the occurrence. My two cents worth betrays another animated identifier: Pakistani society is a tamaashbeen (spectator) society. We are truly alive when we look gleefully on as our compatriots ravage, beat, abuse and destroy people and their worth. Every day roads are crammed full with people who happily stop and stare when the misfortune of an accident has occurred on the streets of our lacklustre lives. No one will actually stop to pitch in or lend a hand to help when there is some good old road rage unravelling in all its violent dispensation in front of a gathered crowd of gawking and smiling onlookers. When Pakistanis get a free show, everything else can just wait its turn. Similar to the crowds sweeping the Colosseum whenever gladiators were to fight to the gruesome death, we have become like the savage and enthusiastic spectators of ancient Rome. With sprays of gore and splatter of guts embellishing the walls of the amphitheatre and the defenders of honour nodding their approval, the people roared and bellowed their primal approval. Sialkot was no different; the police condoned the barbarity and the people postmarked their civility for another day.

Couple that with the rampant deterioration of the bastions of benevolence and what we have is a cyanide concoction of spectators and their sorry sport. Where intolerance has swept the faithful into its iron gloved grip and rigid codes of authority have outsmarted our independence to challenge and inquire, we are left with pitiful little to evolve our cerebral quotient. Is this not the same country that was entangled in the folds of outrage when a young girl in Swat was shown pinned down to the ground by bearded local rednecks and lashed into subservience for being suspected of possessing a rather carnal character? If I remember the video correctly, onlookers thronged to enjoy the tamaasha (spectacle) of a woman being punished for her sex. No one made much of a hue and cry about the horizontal vigil then; why should we do so now? Two boys may have died and their bruised and bloodied carcasses hung up to dry, but it is well known about the human condition that soon enough desensitisation sets in when certain images and visuals are allowed to drip like the victim’s blood through the blurred boundaries of acceptability. Once smeared with the butchery of our brutality, it is not long before the entire nation stands up and inspects the lifeless body of our discontent.

We have instigated religion into biting back. We have set in stone indictments and harsh retributions that have no business in a humane habitat. We have cordoned off our God into becoming a deity of blood and punishment where it is perfectly alright — laudable even — to castigate and chastise by virtue of religious irreproachability. That preludes public executions, gouging out an eye for an eye in a sea of blinding darkness and rabid infestations of vigilante justice of the type witnessed in Sialkot. We have left our people lacking the comfort of a tender totem of divinity where it is not alright to murder and maim because our religious duty has sectioned off acceptable reasons to do, where it is an abomination to alter the aesthetics of a kinder persuasion and where it is mandatory to indulge in some livid soul searching in the quest for a warmer piety.

Instead, we make no apology for our actions. It has been sanctified from the pulpit that infidels be killed, women have their noses and ears lopped off for betrayals of honour, and anyone caught backtracking on the good Lord’s word be dealt a hard blow. It has been sermonised that we watch and gloat at this gathered offensive against the very meaning of possessing a soul, no matter how feeble. This mass exodus from humanity is slowly gaining ground and is quietly becoming more violent and more smug.

There are no words to describe the depths of bestial brutality to which we Pakistanis have sunk. We get a kick out of a dehumanising show because our ministers of morality have promised us a better world and a fuming God we need to satiate. We have been motioned into a subservience so dilapidated and faulty that there are no footholds in the civilised realm for us to latch onto anymore. It is now part of our social and human characteristic. We will always love a good tamaasha because our variant of the Lord, his minions and the state have brought the Colosseum to us.

The writer is an Assistant Editor at Daily Times and participant of the Salzburg Trilogue and an essayist and lecturer on interfaith discourse and social analysis. She can be reached at reemk80@gmail.com

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