On tolerance, diversity and respect (1) – the sad decline of Pakistan.
Nationalism is not born but made. Religious intolerance is not born but made. Racism is not born but made. As a nationalist in my youth I know that this is not innate and neither inherently good or bad, just as religious affiliation and extremism of any kind are not a natural part of character, conscience or being. Those who pedal fanaticism and creed or ideology based on hatred must answer to history for debasing the virtues of a rational human being.
It is sad to see the apparent decline of the great nation of Pakistan with fanatics intent on killing or intimidating anyone who does not agree with their view of the World. What kind of God can only stand by killing those who disagree with him? What kind of religion cannot succeed by faith or by persuasion but by killing? Hardly a very powerful God. No God or religion is served that way – only the greed for power of men, the greed for control. What religion permits killing the innocent – none, no religion does that only the men who seek a queer kind of power in the name of religion. Religious extremists and fanatics have always hated those who do stand for tolerance, love and peace between different faiths, colours and creeds. That is why the Baha'i are persecuted in Iran (as Liberals are), and why the secular Communist state in China persecute supporters of the Dalai Lama and the peaceful Falun Gong cult. In Pakistan it is why this great country is being destroyed in the name of narrow religious extremism mixed with small minded nationalism. It is no religion – it is no follower of Muhammed who kills people indiscriminately and kills people simply for freely practising a different religion.
The murder of Shahbaz Bhatti, the Minister for Minorities, in March is a further tear in the heart of a plural Pakistan and part of a shameful process from the last century of destroying tolerant diverse communities in the Muslim world (in the Middle East, North Africa and the Indian sub-continent). This mentality is the same as the evil of the Nazis and Communism that slaughtered people like cattle and forever destroyed the great diversity that had survived in Eastern and Central Europe (and most of the rest) for hundreds of years. It is the same intolerance, cruelty and slaughter practised in the name of Christianity for over a millennium and a half (for the Catholic denomination, or near 500 years for the Protestant).
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, is right to say "A truly Islamic state would protect Christians". I agree that "A truly Islamic state would protect Christians" as it would protect other minorities, whether Jews, Hindus, Sikhs, Bahai's or any other group.
http://www.archbishopofcanterbury.org/articles.php/539/a-truly-islamic-state-would-protect-christians-times-article The Times, 7 March 2011, p. 24. (The Archbishop of Canterbury is head of the Anglican branch of Christianity).
The murder of Bhatti followed the treacherous killing of Salman Taseer. A man it appears murdered for speaking out for tolerance, by a man who could not even hear a different opinion of his religion. This Guardian article is an excellent analysis of the murder of Salman Taseer, the Governor of Punjab province (below). I'd like to ask the coward who killed Taseer what motivated him? What great vision was this? What great ambition did he set out to achieve? Why was his God so pathetic that the God could only murder a man who spoke against persecution. The murderer, Malik Mumtaz Hussein Qadri, were he to live a hundred years as a good man would never be able to undo the evil of a minute's act. In that respect he is the same as the coward that murdered the genuine hero and brave leader, Yitzhak Rabin. Rabin's murderer could never do as much as Rabin, but is still alive to live with his crime. Delusional nutters of a different sect have set up a tribute website to the coward, Yigal Amir. How ironic that 'Jewish' and 'Muslim' extremists are so similar – they debase the good done by people of those faiths.
www.guardian.co.uk 6 January 2011.
Many in Pakistan felt that the governor's critique of blasphemy laws made his death, if not justifiable, understandable – and others went even further. (The article brought to my attention by my friend Peter Shiels).
The murders of Shahbaz Bhatti and Salman Taseer have been followed by the killing of journalist Saleem Shahzad. This writer has little time for the tabloid journalists of Britain and yet it is impossible to have a free society without a free press, even those you don't like. It is impossible to have the rule of law where journalists can be murdered with impunity – the same in Russia or former Soviet Republics, as in China and Cuba or Pakistan. Brave journalists have protested the murder of Mr. Bhatti, the BBC reports ('Media rounds on Pakistan's spies', M Ilyas Khan 22 June 2011).
It is very sad to see the decline of Pakistan as modern society. Tariq Ali has persuasively written that Britain helped undermine the secular nationalist independence movement there. British (and American) wrongs over the last sixty years should not hold back the countries of the Indian sub-continent and Southern Asia from achieving a great destiny in the 21st Century. They can achieve that from outward looking ambition based on economic and entrepreneurial dynamism grounded in culture and religion and tolerance. Religious extremism and nationalism will only hold countries back, just as it blinkered so many so-called Christians in the West for centuries. Fortunately some brave people in Pakistan stand against this ignorance – they do not live their lives in fear.
ADDITION 28 March 2012. I wrote this very negative article on Pakistan, 24 June 2011.
I was very pleased to read a positive story about Pakistan, this on the partnership between the University of Health Sciences (UHS) in Lahore, Pakistan and the University of Liverpool. 'Unique Pakistan partnership agreed', 23 December 2011. https://news.liv.ac.uk/2011/12/23/unique-pakistan-partnership-agreed/ It is optimistic reading of the many students training as doctors and other health professionals. Hopefully they will chose to do good, at the very least it is evidence of people living their lives and the country having a vibrant professional training culture despite all the problems – natural and those made by men – that beset it. In the field of medical training it is also a useful reminder that many Pakistani doctors have helped keep the health service going in Britain. I also had a fascinating and informative conversation with a Pakistani born Muslim man, Hussain, who now lives in Blackburn, where he is a medical professional. This was due to my sitting next to Hussain on a flight from Bergamo in early March 2012. The conversation demonstrated, as I find so often, that a lot of stereotypes can be completely wrong and learning more is always beneficial. It reminded me that I should think more of the positive examples from my friends and former students and other Pakistani and British / – Pakistani background people that I know.