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As if on a cue, the demons of extremism are stalking the fatherland yet again. These monsters come clothed as messiahs yet bear gifts steeped in poison. Nurtured on a diet of hate, these are now out of control. And while these demons vow to take our nation on a guided tour of hell, the good men wallow in a deafening silence of the lambs.
Full statistics are not available but more than 80,000 deaths were registered nation-wide in the past 15 years. If to this is added the number of those maimed, one gets a frightening picture of these atrocities. What have we come to fellow countrymen? Is there enough Islam in us to hurl us into this frenzy of hate but not enough to love fellow human beings?
The indifference of the good men created this evil in the first place. While the wicked ones were openly converting the seats of learning into nurseries of hate, the good men chose to remain silent, seeing nothing and doing nothing. Hatred is evil in itself. Their indifference was what allowed the evil to be strong, what gave it power. It is the silence that they maintained that is now loudly destroying the society. This lull, this indifference of the good people, the bystanders, in face of rampant atrocities committed against fellow citizens is what has brought about a more devastating damage to the fabric of our society than any other single factor.
The irony is that this appalling dispassion of the good people is alive and festering in all corners of our society even as these lines are being written. In our mosques, schools, businesses, organizations and in all our communities, we are encountering widespread and alarming unconcern. Why so many people have abandoned their God by not expressing loudly and stridently their disgust of the propagation of this vicious and raw hate?
One had hoped that the silent majority would understand that the present times are crying out for their willful intervention.
Extremist forces are being allowed to run the show in our society once again. The hush, impotence and disappearance of moderate forces from across the national scene has contributed massively to this malaise. The past two decades have witnessed Pakistan steering a course strewn with blood, bones, and bodies of innocent victims – all of which can be attributed solely to religious bigotry. Religion borne killings are the most blasphemous and evil of actions where a man or woman is condemned to death simply because of their religious identity. For too many tragic years such attitudes have been simmering in our communities right under the gloomy shadows of the silence of the good men.
One must confess that over the years the huge mass of silent Pakistanis has been greatly disappointing. One is tempted to reach the regrettable conclusion that the stumbling block in the struggle towards national enlightenment, harmony and prosperity is the so called moderate himself who, spurred on by vested interests, is more devoted to a silence of indifference than to the effort of the journey. One is now fed up with the fence sitters who constantly say “We agree with you in the goal you seek, but we cannot be seen to be a part of your effort.” Tepid acceptance is much more demoralizing than a blunt rejection.
One had hoped that the silent majority would understand that the present times are crying out for their willful intervention. That they would help in bringing to the surface the hidden, and not so hidden, festering wounds in our society the gangrene in which is alive and spreading fast. That like boils that can never be cured as long as these are covered up, these now must be opened with all their puss-flowing ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light. That the silent majority will finally help expose the full evil of those whose beliefs have plunged our societies into a realm of malevolence where reason is fast being subdued by the ranting of the mad men.
That the state systems too are not delivering is endlessly articulated in this mindlessness that frequently results in social unrest, breakdown of law and order, cultural conflicts and religious polarization. To blame it any further would be a repetition ad nauseam. The condition has fast approached a trap-like situation. A trap is nothing but a manifestation of the character of those trapped. The whole nation is slowly caging itself into an obscenity of horror, pushed by the hands of decent men who remain quiet when they should speak.
The idea that a people could somehow be ordained by heaven to commit unspeakable acts in the name of God is insane beyond belief.
Ignorance cannot be blamed. But the good people, the religious people, the academics, the parents, the pillars of our society, the thinking ones, are not ignorant. Yet they are all silent and that too with their eyes shut wide open. Surely they pray for better sense to prevail but as long as they take no action those delirious atrocities will go on and on and ultimately spiral out of control. The frenzy will pitch up to a fever and the carnage will taint every soul. No one will remain untouched.
The idea that a people could somehow be ordained by heaven to commit unspeakable acts in the name of God is insane beyond belief. Yet, our recent past is full of heartless acts by religious leaders, and their followers, in the name of their creed and their holy wars. These attitudes are the end results of activities going on for a long time, unchecked and uncondemned, all around us. We, it seems, have become a nation of the mute.
We should be challenging and criticizing these extremist forces at every turn. Where are the good people’s voices hiding? Are they hiding behind the disastrous misconception that somehow time itself will cure these sores of our society? Has their indifference made them silent towards God and all of God’s creations in this country? This widespread appalling silence of the so-called good people leads one to believe that they have rather turned their backs on God, our country and our fellow citizens.
If each of us followed our courage and humanity, the bigots could be brought to a screeching halt in their sick campaigns. We are endowed with a mouth to speak, a heart to feel, and a mind to think, but we rarely use them to challenge the fanatics. We are just too self-absorbed with ourselves even though we know that hate is being spread in our communities as surely as we breathe.
Thousands have paid for our apathy with their lives and thousands more will if we do not speak.
We merely pray to God to end our miseries and feel satisfied that we are doing our bit. We know fully well that God made the world in such a way that each man must find his own path to peace within himself and within his community. Do we think that prayers alone will change our condition? Why would God root out our prejudices through prayers alone when He has already given us eyes with which to see the good in all men, if we would only use them rightly? Why would God end our despair by prayers alone, when He has already given us the power to stem the roots of despair and to give hope, if we would only use our power justly? The only prayer of practical men should be for strength, determination and will power, to do what we can, to do what we must, to do instead of just to pray, to become instead of merely to wish.
Thousands have paid for our apathy with their lives and thousands more will if we do not speak. Let us not vacillate any more. If we have souls that don’t vanish like fleeting curls of smoke in the face of evil, then let us re-consecrate what has been desecrated. Rather than having to reap a harvest of hate season after season, let us use the memories of the innocent victims as rich and blessed ground in which to plant new seeds for a better future. Let us wake up.
Let us begin with each of us as individuals. Let us take ourselves into the world as examples for others to follow. Not as leaders, not as preachers, not as demagogues…. but as our everyday selves as examples for others to see. Let us never doubt that a small group of thoughtful citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.
Let us avail the option of reclaiming our minds, our lives and our sanity from the brutal clutches of the hate mongers.
Let us confront the intolerant that we have permitted to grow larger than life. And then only will we see the enormity of the smallness of the enemy whom we have allowed to destroy our society. We are sure to find that what we thought to be an invincible giant riding high on his divine decrees is a rat only too eager to scurry for cover at the first sound of the footsteps of rational humans. Let us rediscover that love is not served by violence nor life fed by loathing. Let us squarely face the extremists who sell their dark dogmas as superior to enlightened reason. The time has come for us to see through the naked, twisted, mindless logic of the bigot.
Let us avail the option of reclaiming our minds, our lives and our sanity from the brutal clutches of the hate mongers. The alternative is sure to see the wolves of evil, abhorrence, anger, arrogance, intolerance, and bigotry devouring the lambs that are good, peaceful, loving, tolerant, humble and kind but silent. The prescient Martin Luther King was on the dot when he said, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
Any further indifference will push us ever more into the neutrality of the dead and the attendant silence of a graveyard. Let us not remain silent any more. Let us speak up.
About the Author:
Anwaar Hussain is an ex F-16 fighter pilot from Pakistan Air Force. A Masters in Defense and Strategic Studies from Quaid-e-Azam University of Islamabad. He now resides in Canada. He started writing as a hobby some years back and has, since then, published a series of articles in The Pakistan Tribune, The Baltimore Chronicle, Defense Journal and a host of other prestigious publications and web portals. Other than international affairs, Anwaar Hussain has written extensively on religious and political issues that plague Pakistan.The reason for taking up the pen, in his own words, is, “For years I had been watching lies being peddled as truths in the name of God, king or country. I always felt that truth needed no crutches for it has neither a religion nor a nationality. It owes its loyalty only to its own unadulterated self. May the truth be our companion.” He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org