I’m really not sure what I want to say right now. Many excellent blog posts and op-eds have been written in the wake of Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer’s assassination, and I don’t know what I can add to that. What I mainly feel alternates between anger and an odd feeling of suffocation.
Benazir Bhutto’s assassination, at least for me, was terribly upsetting. At the same time, she herself and her assassination were larger than life. She was killed because some believed her to be part of a great American conspiracy or it was the result of some grand establishment conspiracy. Either way, these are things that I doubt I’m going to be the recipient of in my life.
Salmaan Taseer’s assassination, on the other hand, hits a lot closer to home. He wasn’t said to be a part of some international conspiracy, and from the surface of it there is no establishment involvement in his murder. The Governor was killed because he voiced his opinion. That’s it. Until now I’d taken it as a given. We’re part of a fairly free country, where we at least have the right to say what we want to say. I’m afraid that no longer holds true; and that’s probably where the suffocation comes from.
Hours can be spent dissecting what led to the Governor’s murder. Religious parties exploiting the religious sentiment of people, the media giving outsize coverage to religious parties and organizations, the political abandonment of the Governor, and large sections of the media out and out supporting the stance of the religious parties, have all contributed to the murder.
Not only did these sections disagree with the Governor’s stance on a need for amending the blasphemy laws, they went so far as to lie about what he had said. Misconstrue, misinterpret, mislabel, these are weasel words that do not accurately state what actually happened. These people LIED. They said that the Governor said things he never did, they said he himself had committed blasphemy, and the media allowed for this to be aired all over.
In the aftermath of the assassination, great jubilation has been seen across the country. As though the Governor was on a one man mission to destroy the Islamic fabric of the nation. Much is being said of the illiteracy that pervades our society and allows for people to be radicalized. This is absolute rot. Another great lie. Look at the Facebook warriors that have set up pages in support of the murderer Mumtaz Hussain Qadri. These people are doctors, lawyers, engineers, businessmen, students. A group of 200 lawyers of the Islamabad bar have offered their services free of cost to the assassin and showered him with flowers when he arrived for his arraignment.
All these people would have been considered moderate in the great myth of the ‘silent moderate majority’ that we have perpetuated for so long.
I’m afraid these people still are moderate. When society veers so far rightwards, those that only support murder in the name of religion without committing it themselves surely are moderate.
Since the assassination, the media has been at pains to try and appear ‘objective’ regarding this sordid episode. In doing so, they have trotted out one of the oldest, and most pernicious lies that pervades our society. That there are two extremes in Pakistan, the religious extremist and the liberal extremist. That these two powers at odds with one another are causing such deep polarization that our society may not be able to survive. This, too, is rubbish. How do you define a liberal extremist? A person with placards and candles arguing for the individual liberty? THIS is the liberal extremist? THESE are the people you’re comparing murderers and inciters of violence to? Bullshit.
On top of this fallacious dichotomy being trotted out by the media and politicians, many are going to lengths to somehow prove that the Governor brought his death upon himself.
“These issues are sensitive!”
“They should be discussed behind closed doors!”
“We have been saying this for ages!”
“If you say it out loud, people will get angry!”
This is merely another method through which they wish to stifle any alternative discourse in Pakistan. The only thing that can be discussed in public is that which fits within their narrow ideological agenda. Everything else should be done behind closed doors. Once it’s brought out in the open, then they can bring out their hordes to protest and shut the country down.
These hordes include the Facebook warriors and celebrators that are unknowingly signing their own death warrants. Today, it’s the blasphemy laws that can’t be discussed in the open. As liberals continue to maintain their silence, for fear of death, the notion of what is liberal will continue to change. Tomorrow, not covering your hair in public and arguing over the Islamic injunction behind this will be reason enough to kill. “How dare you incite our religious sentiment?” Sometime later, being seen in public at the time of prayer and not praying will be considered a great liberal viewpoint. Arguing for your personal choice will be hurting their religious sentiment. I hope the Facebook warriors and all other celebrators of the murder are ready to lose their beloved musicians, films, television shows, or whatever else they hold dear. Because they will come for them too.
Too much space has been ceded. Too much PUBLIC space has been ceded. This debate cannot go underground. It must not be behind closed doors. We don’t have guns, and we don’t have bombs, and we don’t even want to kill anyone. We just want to talk it out.
Unfortunately, that’s enough for them to want to kill us.
Well. FUCK. THAT. SHIT.