This is not a ‘real’ article | Pakistan Today

This is not a ‘real’ article

  • But this is your ‘real’ religion, right?

The first thing we hear from believers when an atrocity is committed in religion’s name, is that this isn’t ‘real’ Islam. That may well be true.

The article that you’re reading right now, which I fear may not to win the next Pulitzer prize, is not a ‘real’ article. The real article, as it exists in my mind, is a literary masterpiece. The real article, the way I imagine, is so insightful and visionary that it would solve most of this country’s problems, and help me knock Allama Iqbal off his pedestal as our national poet.

Regrettably, you – the reader – may not be able to experience the sheer bliss and blessed ingenuity of this literary piece that I believe in. You may only read actual words that manifest before you, and judge the content that is presented.

Liberal Muslims take pride in the fact that ‘real’ Islam is as progressive and modern as they see themselves. The Islam, in which we believe, has no tolerance for violence and injustice. It’s a religion that allows women, non-Muslims, and other minorities all the rights they need. All of that may well be true.

When Shahzad and Shama were beaten, killed, and burnt in a brick kiln for allegedly committing blasphemy, it did not matter to them what ‘real’ Islam theoretically is or isn’t. They were two Christians in an Islamic Republic, left to fend off for themselves against a theocratic system the way it exists in real life.

Shahzad and Shama did not care much for how you – a moderate, peaceful Muslim – practice Islam in your 10-marla bungalow in DHA. What came upon them in November 2014, was the Islamic force as a geopolitical reality; not a religious theory.

Those who have been wronged under the existing theocracy, and the rise of Mullahism, don’t need you – a moderate Muslim ally – to argue with their experience

When a non-Muslim speaks of his or her struggles in an Islamic country, the implied criticism is almost never directed at Islam as a religion, but Islam as a political institution. It is vital to differentiate between the two. Islam, to you, is a link to something larger than life. It is a source of spiritual solace; a comforting way of life; the fountainhead of a glorious culture that binds you to a billion and a half other people on the planet.

In the forgotten parts of a society, ‘Islam’ is that which tells a non-Muslim that he is not allowed to have lunch, at the risk of being arrested and imprisoned for three months. Religion is a governing institution that tells a non-practicing Muslim traveler with diabetes, that he cannot have his mid-day snack at a local restaurant, which must remain closed. If he must eat, he has to go to a posh 5-star hotel whose restaurants are seemingly exempt from the Islamic laws which the rest of us are obligated to abide.

Non-Muslims who report feeling alienated, ostracised, otherised, invisibilised, and abused; are told by the Muslim majority that their experiences are a mere hallucination. ‘Real’ Islam doesn’t alienate or abuse non-Muslim minorities, and ensures that they receive all the rights and respect that they require.

The minorities cannot comment on the greatness of ‘real Islam’ that exists in the sulci of our moderate brains. They can only comment on what’s been done to them in real life, in the name of Islam. All they can do is remark on the laws imposed upon them by an Islamic theocracy. All they can do, is discuss the provisions of the Council of Islamic Ideology; laws that criminalise even the mildest critique of religious bodies as ‘blasphemy’; the restrictions enforced on them by Ehtaram-e-Ramzan (pardon me, “Ramadan”) ordinance; and discrimination against them in the field of politics, with a law that outright bars non-Muslims for being considered for Presidency.

At the same time, women and transgender people throughout the country may never know the geniality and softness of ‘real Islam’. All that they’ll ever know, is the experience of being told by a bearded man that their freedom is ‘against Islam’, and therefore unacceptable. The moderate Muslim’s job, in this case, is to tell the victims that their frustration is at best ‘misguided’, if not blasphemous.

Those who have been wronged under the existing theocracy, and the rise of Mullahism, don’t need you – a moderate Muslim ally – to argue with their experience. They’d like you to listen. Your belief that ‘real Islam’ is perfect and just, is not being challenged. What is being challenged, is a political power that marginalises and silences countless of our fellow citizens. What’s being resisted, is the weaponization of a faith system that isn’t meant to be weaponised against minorities and political dissidents.

If you find my argument unconvincing, remember that this is not a ‘real’ article anyway. This is merely an imperfect manifestation of a flawless, secular vision. You may evaluate this piece not for what it actually is; but what it is intended to be.

Faraz Talat

Faraz Talat is a medical doctor from Rawalpindi and an ardent traveller who writes frequently about science, social politics and international relations.