Letting go of the irrelevant

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Letting go of the irrelevant

Ayaz Amir

Every now and then there is some silly statement about our unlamented ex-strongman, Gen Pervez Musharraf…that he should be put on trial, etc. Why don’t we let him go? He is history. He played his part on the national stage and now he is gone and no longer matters. He formed a party and was convinced he could make a splash with it. Today that party is little better than a joke.

Old newspapers are good for wrapping fish and pakoras in (much better than the plastic shopping bag). But fresh newsprint has its uses and you can do brave things with it. Why waste it on the wages of irrelevance?

Our friend Hussain Haqqani is another item from the past. We all look out for ourselves and Haqqani is no exception. He’s done well for himself, clutching at every coattail that could take him forward. Indeed, it’s a tribute to his cleverness that he’s been everyone’s man, from Gen Zia to Nawaz Sharif to Benazir Bhutto to Asif Ali Zardari. He was also some sort of adviser to Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi when he was caretaker prime minister. A lesser man could not have pulled off these stunts.

He tried hard to get some sort of job under Musharraf. He didn’t succeed there but Zardari made him ambassador to Washington. Unable to contain his cleverness he put together the Memogate caper. That’s when he shot his bolt with the army. This history makes him a relic of bygone days. But instead of treating him like that you hear all sorts of voices asking for an investigation into what he’s said about facilitating the passage of those American officials into Pakistan who later helped uncover Osama bin Laden’s trail.

Osama bin Laden is another has-been, another relic from the past. Why don’t we let him be? His killing didn’t cover Pakistan with glory. It raised uncomfortable questions about his presence in Pakistan. Did we know or didn’t we? Neither possibility is flattering for it makes us look complicit or incompetent. As per usual routine a commission was set up to investigate this affair and like all such commissions its report gathers dust somewhere.

Justice Shahid Siddiqui of the Islamabad High Court has passed an order about blasphemous content on the internet, asking that such stuff be blocked. This is a laudable step and enthusiastic souls have praised his lordship for taking it. But one thing I don’t seem to understand.

It’s an entire world up there in cyberspace, full of good things and bad. There is pornography, including child pornography which is a truly hateful thing, websites catering to all kinds of sexual stuff, and sure there are hateful, objectionable things said about religion, not just Islam but relating to all faiths and religions. And then there are good things—books and poetry, art and literature, and more music than anyone can listen to in a lifetime. With all these riches at hand why should anyone go looking for blasphemous material?

The web doesn’t force you to look at anything. There are ads with which you can be bombarded but there is nothing like being forced to listen to or watch ugly things said about prophet-hood or religion. When you visit such sites you are choosing to go there. You are looking for things and you are digging for them. What I don’t understand is why anyone in his right mind should choose to visit a site with objectionable content in it?

For all my sinful ways I have never felt the slightest urge to visit a site dealing in pornography or carrying hate material against this or that religion. Speeches of Hitler I have watched. Stalin’s speech in Red Square when the German army was at the gates of Moscow I have watched more than once. But sites selling hatred of any kind leave me cold…just not to my taste. So I really wonder why anyone, who is otherwise of sound mind, should be bent over his computer visiting questionable sites. I just don’t understand.

When I visit a chatting or dating site the intent is pretty clear. I want to get connected. I want to hook up with likeminded people. But why would I visit a site full of hate content against this or that religion? Why would I be wasting my time doing that?

Granted, such stuff should not be on the net. It should not be available for anyone’s viewing. But then there is so much that shouldn’t be there. As I said, there is a whole world up there, a veritable universe, a tribute to humankind’s intelligence and ingenuity. I can understand sex and titillation. I don’t understand blasphemy. Why should anyone go looking for it?

So to my mind the first question his lordship should have asked of the plaintiff in this case is what drove him to explore and dig up those sites dealing in hate and vulgarity? This question was worth asking.

We can recall the time when riots broke out in several Muslim countries because of a third-rate film made somewhere in a private studio in California dishonouring the Holy Prophet, upon whom be peace. It was the kind of film which in the normal course of events would not have attracted any attention, no one taking any notice of it. But the world of Islam in its righteous anger gave it the publicity all of Hollywood put together could not have achieved.

There was rioting in Islamabad too, prompting the government headed by Raja Pervaiz Ashraf to slap a ban on YouTube which stayed in place for several years. The Nawaz Sharif government quietly removed the ban, to the great relief of the millions of people who for pleasure, entertainment or education are given to watching YouTube.

Does squalor move us? Are we provoked into anger by poverty, hunger and disease which are all too prevalent in our midst? Cleanliness we are told is half of faith—nisaf emaan hai. We have mosques in every corner of Islamabad which is a good thing but why in all these years have we failed to set up a system for the removal and disposal of solid waste? So it is with our other cities. If Islam is about anything it is about justice and social justice. Who is the brave soul who can say that this is a just society?

We chase after shadows and the appearance of things. Why do we fail to grasp their substance, their true essence? Listen to our rhetoric, the speeches we make about Islam…our adherence to ritual. But where is the spirit of the faith? Islam is not a form of escape. Unlike many other belief systems it is, first and foremost, about salvation and freedom in this world and only then about salvation in the Hereafter. Establishing the just society on earth comes first…the Kingdom of Heaven afterwards.

Unlike other faiths there is no divide between the spiritual and the temporal in Islam. It is all one, which is to say that the spiritual is a means of mediating with the worldly….of softening the worldly and infusing the worldly with the spirit of the divine. We do the greatest disservice to Islam when we reduce it to form and ritual.

Courtesy : Dunyanews.tv

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