Monday, December 7, 2015

On the child-victims of drone-wars


Maryam Sakeenah

Child of war!
If you could speak
From your midget-coffin...
If your sweet voice could carry through 
Your little mouth 
Cavernous and hollowed out by death,
Encrusted with old blood
Stopped in its tracks between pearly new teeth
That once shone when your rosy face blossomed into smiles;
Or enlivened with laughter
Over some little silliness, some little surprise-
Those little things, before scary big things took over-
Big feuds between little people over little things
Made to seem big.

If you could speak
From beneath the settling dust of oblivion
Falling, falling quietly over hearts-
You'd speak of
When the sky lit up with fires
Malevolent and blind; raining death
Leaving the trail of bloodied corpses
And shellshocked mourners,
And often, battered little bodies
Timorous and traumatized,
Confounded by unanswered questions.

You'd speak of 
The desperate, endless waiting
For a healing hand-
Perhaps mummy's finger to cling on to,
A warm breath to reassure
"It'll be all right"-
But the breath was cold, 
The hand lifeless and brittle.

You'd speak of 
The stinging, deep pain 
Of a disconsolate helplessness
And the terrifying abyss of cruel questions
Hulking all around you 
Pressing upon your battered self,
Confounding your infantile senses.

You'd speak of 
How death took so long to reach
As you writhed in your own blood.

If you could speak-
The layered silences 
Over the tiny mound of earth 
That shrouds you
Would be ripped through
By the still, small voice... 
Piercing, shattering, tearing, shuddering
To ask of us
An overwhelming question-

Monday, November 9, 2015

Liberation in the Age of the Selfie


Maryam Sakeenah

I like the word ‘selfie’- It is an honest word characterized by the ‘self’ ringing through it. The selfie is a phenomenon that defines our age.

As I browse through the abyss of self photographed profile pictures on social media, I am struck by the remarkable similarity of their plastic perfection. Yet beneath the painted pouts and smiles is a hollowness that consumes, a dearth of self-assurance and contentment with and within oneself, hence the obsessive need for self appraisal by presenting oneself thus and awaiting the ego-boosting ‘like’. The faces are also incredibly one dimensional in how they signify an inordinate preoccupation with the physical and outward- as if human beings were mere faces; as if a done up face defines who we really are.

The Age of the Selfie and the naïve enthusiasm with which we have embraced the selfie engenders a culture of narcissism in which one’s appearance is one’s defining trait overshadowing all human virtues. The ease of communication makes these images be shared for appraisal. Then come the flattering comments so indiscriminate in their appreciation of what is truly beautiful. The ego bloats up as the words of praise fall like a sedative that one cannot function without, the need for which keeps increasing.

To get that abundantly ‘liked’ selfie, we go to great lengths; we struggle to somehow fit into the terribly limiting mould of contemporary beauty. And often, if the look is not quite like the tabloids, we are oppressed by low self esteem, self-deprecation and unhappiness. All this is utterly avoidable if only we recognize that beauty is a relative concept and cannot be defined; and that we are more than what is on our skins.

The Greeks had known that self obsession with appearances was ruinous when they came up with the myth of Narcissus- the vain god who stared at his own image and met a disastrous end.

My prophet (PBUH), on standing before the mirror, prayed, ‘O Allah! Make my character beautiful just as you have made me beautiful.’ It reflects a contentment with how Allah created us, and more importantly, a vital realization that physical appearance is not our be-all and end-all. The Prophet (PBUH) asked Allah for a more meaningful and enduring beauty that springs from the spirit and manifests itself in our values, thoughts, actions, manners, choices.

The little prayer holds the key to resisting the maddening tide of the Selfie and its connotations: to be at peace with the way God created us, for we come from Him- one unique shade in the spectrum of His masterful creation. This understanding is immensely peace-giving and liberating in how it frees us from the endless tortuous mimicry of tabloid images of cosmetic beauty. The other aspect is the vital understanding that it is our values and our character that defines us, and that true beauty lies within, radiating from the soul that is at peace, while what is on the skin wears off and ought not to define who we are and how we perceive ourselves. True inner beauty and purity is from how capable one can be of altruism and selflessness, how much one can transcend above base selfish instincts and be liberated thereby. This is what endures about the human being: what touches other lives, makes all the difference and is remembered in the end. The 'epitaph' virtues are what endure- like a fragrance that effuses long after.

The Selfie is emblematic of a culture of narcissism, self love and obsession with the material, temporal and physical. A liberation from it is possible by attaching worth to the spiritual which endures, in toning down our narrow, self destructive self-obsession and in refusing to find self-worth in how others perceive how we appear to be. 

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

How Standardized Education Kills Diversity of Skills


Maryam Sakeenah

It did not take me a long time as a school teacher to observe that the way we educate is fundamentally flawed. In my very first year as a teacher I was asked to take extra classes for a badly performing group of students. I was told that the objective was just to help them somehow secure a passing grade. The lessons left me drained out at the end of the day with a sense of frustration over the extremely slow progress, if at all, of the students. However, there was something else I figured out- each of these students classified as poor performers and persistent failures, had a gift of his own- one of them who had partial cerebral palsy was a brilliant calligrapher; others could draw extraordinary well, or do wonders in the sports field, while one other loved caring for animals. I realized the pointlessness of compelling these gifted children to do Math or English or History when academic pursuits were not their forte. But the tragedy was that the education system did not value what they possessed, and hence labeled them as failures for what they were not meant to do in the first place. I asked to meet the parents of these children, convincing each one of them that their children were gifted and talented in diverse skills which the parents must allow them to pursue. All of the parents scoffed at the notion, saying that whatever talent they had ‘will not get them anywhere in life’, and that they must, by any means, be forced to do well in the disciplines acknowledged by the education system.

Although I didn’t have much luck with helping these students recognize and explore their true talent owing to stiff resistance from school administrations and families, I learnt how the way we educate refuses to recognize natural human diversity and narrows down ability exclusively to academic disciplines. This is not only unjust and uninsightful, it is fundamentally perverse and limiting. It classifies human talents and abilities on a scale inconsistent with human nature,  that places academic intelligence, literacy and numeracy at the top. It is built on the fallacy that all human beings are meant to excel at reading, writing, calculating, memorizing and reproducing and those who do not, are of less ability and value.
Such a system oppresses those countless human beings that God has constructed more creatively- those who are more artistic or sporty or possess unconventional intelligence. The system discards them as worthless. There are so many real life horror stories of students giving up on themselves and developing low self esteem or other psychological problems because the school forced them to perform academically while what nature had intended for them was different. Their lack of academic interest and ability led to them being labeled as failures which in turn became a self-fulfilling prophecy as these individuals were consigned to the fringes of a system which mainstreams only a certain kind of intelligence. A simple analogy invoked in this context is quite striking… How would a fish feel about itself if it was judged for its ability to climb trees, when it was meant to swim? When we put the ability to climb trees as the only ability of worth, the birds that fly and the fish that swim and the plants that bear fruit are all trashed in one fell sweep. That is what we have been doing to millions of human beings for hundreds of years.

Not only does this stark reality we have lived with for so long need to be recognized, there needs to be a radical reformation of the way we educate. Human intelligence needs to be redefined to recognize innate diversity. It needs to accommodate and acknowledge and appreciate the many colours and shades that make up the spectrum of our humanity. Ken Robinson has done some great work to highlight the phenomenon of how schools kill creativity. In Europe and the United States, some work on revamping the system along these lines has begun, but in our part of the world we still have to recognize the problem. Our education should stop stifling human individuality and awarding success only to those who fulfill its narrow definition of ability. Education must recognize that academic ability is not the standard human trait we must pursue and develop in all human beings indiscriminately, and that success is attainable in ways other than academic achievement. The creative arts, physical education and manual labour all need to be given their due place and value not only as recognized fields of learning but also as well respected career paths. Vocational education must be given to those who are not academically oriented, and such an education should have as much prestige as a college education. We need to identify diverse talents in individuals and allow them to excel in those by not only providing opportunity but also recognition and value to non academic pursuits. Only this will help end the silent oppression that stifled natural human diversity since human beings invented standardized education.  

Friday, September 18, 2015

The Marketization of Education in Pakistan


Maryam Sakeenah

The sleek car that zoomed past sported a sticker telling passers-by that the owner was a ‘proud parent’ of a child at a certain institution. The pride of course was for the fact that this institution was exclusive to the privileged elite on account of its appallingly high tuition fee. My initial reaction was openmouthed disbelief. Eventually it sank in… the reason for the parent’s pride was not the child’s achievement or act of merit, but the fact that they could pay that outrageously high fee for a select, exclusive education. The distasteful sticker was issued, of course, by the school itself. The particular school happens to be top-notch within a system that metes out education according to buying power. It consists of schools varying in standards of education and resources according to the tuition fee rates. Such a system helps to perpetuate a rigid social stratification based on class, utterly ruining any semblance of meritocracy within which an education system truly delivers, making social mobility possible.

This is marketized education at its worst; education reduced to a commodity. It defies the idea that education is a universal birthright to better the lives of all human beings, and is an affront to egalitarian social ideals. And yet this marketization of education in urban Pakistan has been subtly under way since years, and no one batted an eyelid. Its consequences which are only beginning to show up, are nightmarish, privileging the financial elite by education, enabling them to be at the helm of positions of power and influence in the bureaucracy and industry, media and education. Those denied the privilege for their financial inability are forever condemned to menial working class positions demanding clerical servility to perpetuate the system made by and for the financial elite.

This has largely been made possible through the rise of the business executive as educator and policymaker. Graduates in business, marketing and management run administrations of educational institutions, equipped with all the clever arts of moneymaking, profiteering, competing and selling. They have never stood on the giving end of a classroom, are completely ignorant of human psychology and educational philosophy, unaware of the nuances of the complex process of learning. Trained in the art of selling for profit, they lack the vision to educate for the sake of education. They educate for business, and so function as indispensable, core elements of the commercialized private schooling system.

The great irony is when this system places the average business graduate as educational administrator over the academic, making and dictating educational policy. Such policy then is driven primarily by the profit motive. In this commercialized milieu, the educator, teacher and giver of knowledge is a worker in the system serving a clientele that generates the money. Hence the client is cosseted to perfect satisfaction for his money, and the educator slavedriven to provide that to impossible perfection. Teachers in Pakistan’s private schools continue to be heavily overworked and perpetually underpaid.    

The subjugation of the academic to the professional businessman is at the core of the marketization of education. Business graduates trained to keep up the utilitarian-capitalist economy administer the system, making policy that utterly lacks any understanding of the functions and nature of education as well as any genuine concern for social uplift, human empowerment and liberation through education. In my experience as a teacher, I have come across among most urban English-medium private schools a systematic and deliberate trend discouraging value education and traditional disciplines like oriental languages or religious studies because they have little material worth in a cutthroat economy. Students graduate with the ruinous notion that a spattering of accented English gives them the right to social superiority and is enough to sweep anyone off their feet; or that a skill at gadgetry is of highest value in landing oneself a high paying job. Their years of education often fail to humanize, enlighten and enrich them with wisdom, compassion or humility even as they sport all the paraphernalia of wealth and good taste. They are perfectly finished products of the system- cogs in the machine, and yet unable to truly live the enervating yet edifying epic struggles of human life.

In the private education system, the business graduate not only takes the fattest cheque home, he helps to keep in place the system that created him and put him over the educator, visionary and academic. The human products of marketized education are a tawdry triumph of this system that privileges a particular social class over the rest.   

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

On the Legalization of Homosexual Marriage in the United States


Maryam Sakeenah

An interesting clash ensued in the wake of the US Supreme Court’s ruling legalizing homosexual marriage. While the supporters of the cause celebrated having finally broken free from the bondage to regressive conservatism, there was on the other end of the spectrum, anger and bitterness over the mainstreaming of what is seen as a violation of God’s law and the ‘natural’ order of things.

Pakistan’s vibrant social media also reflected these divergent trends with a furious melee between those sporting rainbow coloured profiles and those invoking the wrath of God over the supporters of the new law.

The anger on both sides is quite misplaced and irrational. The clash between secular liberalism and conservative religion is inevitable and there to stay. The verdict coming from secular USA which prides itself in its liberal values is not surprising or outrageous. It is also understandable that those who subscribe to traditional religious faith would have a different opinion. It is all a matter of what one believes and how one looks at society and the wider world.

The problem, however, is with the attitude of moral superiority by the secular liberals. The twitter hashtag ‘#Lovewins’ for the sexual equality movement reeks of it, among other things. As if those who hold a different opinion do so out of hate; as if believing in traditional values and holding on to religious convictions is anti-love and against all that is humane and compassionate and egalitarian.

This presumption of moral superiority by the secular liberals at home and abroad is based on the idea that the conservative dissenters merely hold on with blind and ignorant stubbornness to outmoded and archaic religious convictions that pull humanity back from its path to progress laid out by the liberal reformist programme. This presumption is based on the widespread inability (even among Muslims) to understand the rationality of religious sexual ethics.

Parallels with the animal kingdom in which sporadic homosexual behaviour can be observed is often invoked to prove that homosexuality occurs in nature hence the religious idea that it is a violation of God’s order is incorrect. This comparison with the animal kingdom fails to understand the fundamental premise of religion: that human existence has a Divinely ordained purpose and goal, and that human civilization is to be ordered on values and principles to facilitate the individual and collective pursuit of the purpose of human life. A number of patterns exist in the animal kingdom which, if mainstreamed in human society on the pretext that they are ‘natural’ in the jungle, can lead to chaos and perhaps extermination of human civilization.

According to the religious understanding, man has been endowed with the sexual instinct for several purposes- the most obvious is of course procreation and the continuation of the human race. However, it is also the sexual instinct that forms the most basic of human relationships which is the foundation of the human family. The family unit is the fundamental building block of human society, the oldest and most universal pattern of the human community; it is a means to engender and socialize individuals, a support system and a natural means to provide a number of vital social functions. Daniel Haqiqatjou writes, “Before modernity, family organization was the primary communal structure upon which people relied. Everything went through the extended family, e.g., business and one’s livelihood, education, health care, dispute mediation, and much more. Today, all these areas of life fall under the purview of the nation state and its corporate extensions, so we lose this sense of the importance of family cohesion and, correspondingly, how dangerous and disruptive a violation of it really is and was for past societies.” 

The human family is sustained on the concept of masculine and feminine complementarity. This means that the individual characteristics, roles and responsibilities of the male and the female gel together the marital bond and become the basis for the family to flourish. As parents, both men and women have clearly defined roles and responsibilities and the children they give birth to, benefit from both in specific ways.

Homosexuality and adulterous heterosexuality do not fulfil any of these purposes why Allah has created the sexual impulse in human beings. This leaves only a single purpose behind such sexual behaviours: sexual expression, indulgence and adventurism. Islam does not recognize this as an unconditional human right to be freely carried out in society, because human beings are capable of functioning on a level higher than a mere pursuit of the carnal drives. Even heterosexuals cannot express their sexual instinct except in a relationship of marriage with all the responsibilities it entails. Islam envisions an ordered society in which moral behaviour is regulated for the well being of all. Homosexuality and all other sexual behaviour which does not fulfill the purpose why Allah has put the sexual instinct in us is therefore discouraged.

The problem with legalizing homosexual relationships is that such recognition and acceptance of this sexual practice facilitates and encourages it. The soaring rates of homosexuality in some societies are largely because social acceptance of this incites many to experiment with it and indulge in it.

If a human being is put in a trial by Allah through an abnormal sexual orientation or through absence of opportunity to establish a legitimate sexual relationship, they are required to be patient through finding strength in faith. Self restraint and self control of our animal drives is something Islam requires from all Muslims. Some people are tested harder with this, and homosexuals fall in that category. A believer who is faced with this must direct his focus to other aspects of human life and develop himself spiritually and otherwise to live a fulfilling, productive life. In order to make this easy for them, psychological counselling, rehabilitation and support should be provided in Islamic societies. However, those who refuse to restrain themselves and pursue their carnal instincts (hetero or homo sexual) go against the spirit and teachings of Islam. If such behaviour is indulged in openly and shamelessly without restraint, then it is punishable by Islamic law as well.

The ethics of sexuality in Islam prescribe limits even for heterosexual relationships within marriage. Not only do these conform to Islamic standards of hygiene, health, safety and physical well being, but also uphold human dignity and a minimal standard of modesty. As homosexuality is not the typical sexual behaviour for which the human body is designed, it often involves methods and means which fall short of Islamic sexual ethics and regulations. It is scientifically proven that homosexuality (just as promiscuity) is a primary cause of the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.

Homosexuality being a natural urge to someone is no justification in Islam for permitting it. Sadism can be natural to some people; so can serial killing or kleptomania, and these urges can only be recognized as a basic human right to the detriment of human society.

True freedom entails mutual respect of divergent views, which is quite ironically, absent in the sneering condescension with which secular liberals view the religious position on homosexuality. Believers in religion in this day and age are challenged with holding on to their convictions in a secular milieu which betrays its own ideals of liberty and tolerance of difference. The challenge is to refuse to be part of the melee, accept that the difference exists and is there to stay and yet being firmly poised in a profound conviction in the ‘hikmah’ of the Divine scheme of things. 

Sunday, April 5, 2015

On Vogue's #MyChoice Video


Maryam Sakeenah

The debate around Vogue’s controversial ‘My Choice’ video goes deeper than those on either side of it would think. While I do not make much of critique from those who take anything feministic with a pinch of salt, I understand that for many who sympathise with the feminist cause like myself, the message of the video is disturbing for other reasons. The problem with some of the most controversial statements in the video is not that they are offensive to conventional patriarchal attitudes, but the problem is with regard to a deeper question of personal faith and values.

The question really is of individual choices and individual freedoms to make those choices. The idea of choice in the video is overweeningly individualistic- a choice of one’s own that refuses to take into consideration any factor outside of the self and its interest; a self-centred choice; a selfish choice. This message is disconcerting for reasons beyond the gender debate which the video is about.

In confining choice to the self and its narrow interests, it refuses to consider that choices are made in a broader milieu, and that our choices are inadvertently and inextricably interconnected to a host of other factors and elements outside of the self. This perspective on human choice clashes head-on with the faith-inspired sensibility.

In the Islamic understanding, a requisite to accepting faith is a voluntary stepping back from the self’s desires, obsessions ad impulses for a deeper personal liberation. Faith is an act of submission to another higher, more perfect, sublime being beyond the self. It sets one free from the crippling bondage to the base, carnal and selfish; the material and the merely temporal. This liberation, for the believer, lifts the spirit onto a higher plane of consciousness where one becomes capable of acting impersonally, and altruistic choices become gratifying and heartening; one becomes capable of living larger than life. This is why throughout human existence, some of the most extraordinary acts of selflessness and heroism have been inspired by some form of faith. At this level of consciousness, one becomes mindful of one’s relationship with one’s context, those we share the planet and our lives with, the realm of existence and the Giver of all life.

In Islam this individual consciousness attainable through faith has a communal dimension. It is the most basic element of a social order that aims at justice, equity and the sanctity of individual rights and freedoms intrinsic to all creation. To achieve this is the collective goal of the community and requires regulation of personal conduct and laying down of rights, duties and responsibilities towards oneself, the community and the Creator for a larger purpose that brings the greater good for all and in turn impacts individual well being. In this scheme of things, the exclusive pursuit of absolute and unrestrained individual liberty above all simply does not fit in.

This is why the message that the choice of sexual orientation and sexual behaviour within, outside, prior to or without marriage is offensive to the sensibility that is rooted in the ethic of faith-based submission. It refuses to consider that human choices operate in a context that is not isolated from other lives and that we are part of ordered communities based on and seeking to achieve universally accepted moral ideals- justice, public welfare, equity, rights and liberties, peace, prosperity, harmony. The message of complete and uncompromising personal autonomy in disregard to all other factors and considerations is actually a call to irresponsible action, moral chaos and anarchy.

On the other hand is the issue of the video’s message attempting to pit women against men- a crass and peevish brand of feminism which again flies in the face of the beautiful balance and the Islamic concept of the genders being complementary rather than competing. According to the Quran, Allah has created everything in pairs. Muslim blogger on women’s issues- Sameen Sadaf explains, ‘Pairs symbolize sharing, unity, togetherness, complementarity and completion. The nature of this universe thrives on the complementarity of pairs. It celebrates the interdependent nature of both genders that beautify each other and by working together can they complete the task assigned to them by their Creator. Men and women together weave the intricate web of society in which women are the binding force who strengthen the exquisite fabric of human relationships.’

For all that women suffer, the panacea is not asserting a mutinous, defiant individualism, but in living to the full our multifarious roles as women within our respective contexts in pursuit of common goals for the greater good and as active agents to promote values that subvert oppressive patriarchal structures and attitudes that keep the suffering of women going. The commercial media industry is one such oppressive structure that objectifies the woman’s body for commercial ends. It is ironical that the video has been sponsored by and features prominent members and components of the commercial media.

If the message of the video was against the unfair judgement on women, it has been recklessly presented with a dangerous ambiguity that makes it easy for the core message to be eclipsed. Perhaps this too was for creating a sensationalism stoking controversy that could sell- yet another mark of the commercial media that produced it.

The debate around the video borders on deeper fundamental questions on our choices and liberties and our deepest convictions. The makers and promoters of this sensationalist piece of work should stop pretending that it is a voice or choice of all or even most women, or that it ought to be. To take that message or reject it is also a matter of choice that comes out of deeply embedded personal convictions.    

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Attacks on Churches and Mob Violence in Lahore


Maryam Sakeenah

My parents chose to send me to a Christian missionary school- a decision I have always been grateful to them for. The Convent’s ‘Character Building’ programme instilled in me values which, owing to the essential kinship of the Abrahamic faiths, facilitated my appreciation and practice of my own faith as a Muslim later in life.

Incidentally, all serving staff in my household happen to be Christians. In Ramazan they prepare the Iftar, and at Christmas and Easter we give them an extra something to partake of the family festivity. Through all my extensive and longstanding interaction with Christian friends, colleagues, subordinates, there is no unpleasant or uncomfortable memory I have. And I know I am no exception.

In fact, when I condoled with my Christian domestic help about the unfortunate recent events targeting churches in Lahore, I sensed in their comments the same sentiment I have gleaned from my experience as a Pakistani Muslim. ‘We have been brothers and sisters living together for decades- there was never a problem. And now some unknown enemies wanting this country’s destruction want to create hate. We have nothing against each other- Muslims too are under attack from the same people. We need to be together’, said my illiterate Christian kitchen helper- (translation my own).     

There was an understanding even within these unlettered members of a less privileged minority community that something had gone wrong in recent years; that violent religious hate was not the ethos of this land; and that there was a common enemy out there whose triumph was in sowing discord and hate between the two communities.

And yet ironically I find a complete absence of this simple understanding in the opinions of vociferous social media commentators both from the secular-liberal and conservative perspectives. In fact, the polarity in their views is striking whenever I browse through my newsfeed. While sadness over the attack on the churches was palpable among all shades of opinion, there was a callous lack of sympathy for the innocent Muslim victims of the post-bombing mob-lynching by Christians, and a brazen attempt to paint the ensuing violence by Christian mobsters as ‘but natural.’ This selective sympathy shows our own deeply rooted prejudices. On the other extreme there are outrageous calls for indiscriminate reprisal against the Christian community of Youhannabad where the lynchings happened.

The problem with the narrative that emerges from these polarized, clashing perspectives is that it sees the recent events through the blood-stained lens of ‘Us versus Them’; as a ‘Christian versus Muslim’ issue which is both inaccurate as well as dangerous. In fact, the terrible mob violence that occurred in the wake of the church bombing was also a tragic result of dangerously viewing the attack on the church as ‘Muslim’ violence against ‘Christian’ victims. More accurately, it was violence by an extremist militant minority group for whom all who do not share their violent ideology are potential targets.  This is why the anger was directed at Muslims who had been engaged in routine business in the Christian locality. The two innocents picked for the barbaric lynching were lighter skinned (a characteristic of the Pashtuns) and at least one of them bearded. The mob violence was hence fired by ethno-religious stereotyping and the blind hate born of such prejudices.

In response to the ensuing violence by the Youhannabad locals there is brewing anger amidst neighbouring Muslim communities which sets the stage for potential clashes waiting in the wing. In the climate of fear and anger many families in Youhannabad are planning to relocate or have done so already. This is the triumph of the real enemy as it fulfils the malevolent agenda perfectly. The victory of the enemy is when its victim turns into a savage perpetrator like itself, continuing the cycle of violence.

Violent incidents targeting the Christian community in Pakistan in the recent past certainly fuel the anger by creating genuine and understandable grievances. However, it has to be understood that such targeting of the Christian community has always been resented and rejected by the overwhelming majority of the Muslim population of this country; and that the extremists involved in terror attacks on Christians are a fringe element rejected by the mainstream public opinion. Terrorist outfits are all out to exact vengeance that spares none- mosque, imambargah, church- Muslim, Christian, Shiite- all are fellow sufferers in this great calamity that has gripped us as the terrible cost of owning the US’s Great War on Terror.

The Christian community of Pakistan never has been, is not and should never be an oppressed minority hated and targeted by Pakistan’s Muslim majority. Those trying to reinforce this idea- whether extreme rightwingers, conservatives or the secular liberals- are utterly wrong. This is a false picture that will fuel more rage and blind hate.

What is required in the wake of this frenzied violence is a communal introspection by both communities. The Christian community needs to examine why its young members descended into such rank savagery, and must take responsibility to curtail simmering violence that utterly betrays the Christian spirit of forbearance and compassion. The Muslim community must also engage in a serious endeavour to root out the ire and vengeful streak building up in its ranks in this charged atmosphere.       
The pulpit and the minbar both must take up their vital roles to defeat this false ‘Us versus Them’ narrative. Both religions contain voluminous and powerful content on tolerance and compassion which needs to resonate to drown this madness in the name of faith. Faith must be the healing, the mending and the force inspiring peacemaking. The Quran questions the validity of a faith that justifies and inspires evil. "Say: "Worst indeed is that which your faith enjoins on you- if you indeed are believers." (2:93) It reminds us with a vital message that has never been as relevant as it is today. Let not the enmity and hatred of others make you avoid justice. Be just: that is nearer to piety... Verily, Allah is Well-Acquainted with what you do.”  (5:8)
In the midst of this senseless melee of wrathful hate, the words of Islam’s blessed Prophet (PBUH) for his Christian citizenry from Najran become a beautiful encore played to a deaf audience.

"This is a message from [Prophet] Muhammad ibn Abdullah, as a covenant to those who adopt Christianity, near and far, we are with them.
Verily I, the servants, the helpers, and my followers defend them, because Christians are my citizens; and by Allah! I hold out against anything that displeases them.
No compulsion [in religion] is to be on them.
Neither are their judges to be removed from their jobs nor their monks from their monasteries.
No one is to destroy a house of their religion, to damage it, or to carry anything from it to the Muslims' houses.
Should anyone take any of these, he would spoil God's covenant and disobey His Prophet. Verily, they are my allies and have my secure charter against all that they hate...
...Their Churches are to be respected. They are neither to be prevented from repairing them nor the sacredness of their covenants.
No one of the nation (of Muslims) is to disobey this covenant till the Last Day (end of the world)."
(Text of the Charter of Privileges, Treaty of Najran)