The last rational thing

The enemy is within and is far more dangerous than the perceived threat because he looks exactly like you and me

It’s really hard to find things that make you laugh anymore. Death, misery, outrage and deceit lurk around every street corner, the company of friends is clouded by political and ideological divisions, the roads are full of speed bumps and potholes and this abominable weather has left half the population of our country with runny noses and scratched throats and the ephedrine scandal has effectively ensured that cough and cold medicine will not be available for the foreseeable future. Looking for comedy in the Muslim world, then, is an exercise in futility.

Fortunately for us, we live in the land of the pure, which is a far cry from the rest of the Muslim world. Where some Muslims would choose to express their outrage against the release of an obscenely inciteful and trashy film by murdering US diplomats, we in Pakistan could only lob a few Molotov cocktails at the most secure installation in all of Karachi. Even the traditional devils from Jamaatud Dawa, Difa-e-Pakistan and other assorted acronyms could not muster the numbers usually seen at rallies for far lesser causes.

For most of Pakistan, it has been business as usual. Life has not ground to a halt; streets and thoroughfares are not clogged with uncouth, full-throated youths chanting “Death to America” and there has most certainly not been any considerably loss of life over this unfortunate business of the anti-Islam film. This is heartening not because it proves that Pakistanis have more sense than bollocks, but because it proves just how tired we are. Tired, fatigued, pooped and poofed. The entire nation, I should think, needs a break.

The media is a wonderful thing. One must give the devil its due and say that rather than indulging in more fire mongering, our fat cats in their glass houses did a fairly decent job of failing to incite the people. While Sunday’s events in Karachi and elsewhere were definitely not kosher, they were a far cry from the violent and senseless outpouring of outrage that I witnessed one fine Valentine’s Day some years ago on The Mall in Lahore. Granted, that my experience of that day was marred more by the fact that I did not have a date, but burning down historic buildings and bashing people upside the head with sticks, stones and plumbing tools is not the way to register protest.

However, in cyberspace, we are most active. Armchair activism is at its peak, mostly because this spell of pleasant weather has meant more electricity for some of us. With longer hours of uninterrupted power trips, the unemployed social media gurus of Pakistan have been busy. Their logic is faultless: why destroy our own property to vent anger against a foreign threat? And it’s not even a threat. Certainly, the Prophet (peace be upon him) of Islam does not feel threatened when a sociopathic kleptomaniac from a most misunderstood and misguided part of the world manufactures a bad B movie that does not have a clue?

Of course, there will always be the likes of Ansar Abbasi, who do not shy away from incitement in their op-eds. But this is to be expected, since Urdu is the language “Jo qalb ko garma dey aur rooh ko tarpa dey”. In the view of the intellectual elite of our country, with less than a few million readers, the English press can harp on and on about complex, abstract concepts such as sanity, tolerance and non-violence, but no one really cares. By contrast, even single-column stories in the Urdu press can lead to outbreaks of violence in remote parts of the country. But that’s not entirely accurate.

It’s all about loot and plunder now. Violence and its various manifestations are becoming necessarily retributive in their nature. The pent up frustration and anger in our peoples need an outlet and what better way to express themselves than rioting in the name of religion. Especially if it’s a cause everyone can get behind. Even those who are usually called ‘kaafirs’ by the more extreme practitioners of our faith. Many are flummoxed by the role of the ISO in the anti-film demonstrations in Karachi and even Islamabad. But an interesting question, which almost no one is asking, is where these hordes of die-hard faithful warriors were when their own brothers were getting slaughtered in different parts of the country. Why is that we can only get behind a cause if the perceived threat comes from the outside?

This new war is not actually very new. The enemy is within and is far more dangerous than the perceived threat because he looks exactly like you and me. He is the one that screams loudest at anti-America rallies and stays put when the Taliban decapitate soldiers and innocent Shias. Think about it. It may be the last rational thing you do.

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Syed Hassan Belal Zaidi

The writer is a journalist currently working in the development sector. Tweets at: @mightyobvious_