VIEW: All kinds of news —Munir Attaullah
The trouble begins with our obsessive love for our religion that ends up distorting all our thinking. The fact is that it is not the followers of other religions that hate us, but we Muslims who hate the followers of other religions. And we do so because we hate them for their power and their success
A good newspaper is something I look forward to with the morning cuppa. There was a time — how awfully long ago that now seems — when I would anxiously devour the daily headlines in search of reassuring evidence that my fellow human beings are, by and large, a sane lot. Nowadays, having learnt the hard way that that is not the case, I focus on amusement value. Parenthetically, is it not remarkable how stupid and gullible one can be (and for how long), if blessed with a streak of stubborn but naïve optimism?
Though now I read far less than at any other period of my life, books were always a serious matter with me. A ‘good’ book, almost by definition, was one that would not only permanently enrich the capital stock of one’s productive ideas but would also entice you to return to it again and again, with the promise of a repeat and handsome mental dividend.
As such it had shelf life. But today’s newspaper is only tomorrow’s all-purpose wrapping paper. It may be carefully and lovingly produced every night, by intelligent, knowledgeable, and committed professionals, but tomorrow, alas, is always another day. Books are handkerchiefs, newspapers, Kleenex.
So I always start with the Infotainment page of Daily Times. Once reassured that the world really is one large open-air lunatic asylum, I can more easily swallow (if still not quite digest) those inane pronouncements of the high and mighty that are euphemistically classified as ‘political’ news. Such ‘news’, as we all know, usually consists of little more than self-serving statements of one kind or another. So reading or not reading such news does not make one whit of a difference, one way or another, to anyone except the professional political analyst. Now that poor fellow commands all the sympathy I can muster: after all, to write more meaningless nonsense about meaningless nonsense, is no easy task.
Then there is the type of news that is both news and yet not really news. How can this be? Easy. It all depends on your pre-conceived notions. Consider, for example, the following item from the newspaper of August 27: “According to a major study published today in the highly respected UK medical journal, The Lancet, the results of comparative clinical trials show homeopathy to have no more than a placebo effect.”
Now this is no ‘news’ as far as I am concerned. Dozens of controlled scientific studies, not to mention 150 years of unfavourable findings, have repeatedly exposed the pseudo-scientific principle on which homeopathic treatment is based, as no more than fancy hocus-pocus.
Will the report be ‘news’ to the believers in homeopathy? It should, but probably will not. Their life will go on as before, with nary a difference. The report will be dismissed, with much tut-tutting, as the work of simpletons of no vision who just do not understand, that essentially mysterious and delicate holistic processes are not always amenable to crude scientific analysis. Did I hear someone say a solid base is a pre-requisite for an unshakable and earthquake resistant superstructure? Then how do you explain all the sturdy, indestructible forts of belief, built on the most ephemeral of logical foundations?
But in another way the report was also ‘news’. How? Well, although I have always known that there is no shortage of gullible people in this world, it was with utter astonishment and disbelief that I read of the deep inroads this homeopathy mumbo-jumbo has made in so-called educated (and certainly far from ignorant) societies. In England, apparently, some 42 percent of General Practitioners will readily refer a patient to a homeopath, while in Scotland the figure is a staggering, mind boggling, 86 percent! Now that is news. O! Charles Simonyi, professor at Oxford for the public understanding of science, where are you when desperately needed?
Can opinion be ‘news’? Not my opinions. One way or another, I make quite sure of that. How about Mr Mushahid Hussain’s opinions (on enlightened moderation, clash of civilisations etc etc)? I personally doubt it, but I am sure fellow columnist Kamran Shafi will eagerly referee the matter, should that be necessary. However, when it is the president of the PMLQ that is expressing opinions on this ‘clash of civilisations’ business (as he did in a press release upon his return from a recent European tour) that is altogether another matter.
When an imposing pillar of an important segment of our establishment, persists in peddling a hackneyed and cock-eyed interpretation of what is happening to Muslims the world over — with little more than an air of injured innocence to support the self-serving nature of the analyses as to why this is our fate — that is news, albeit terribly depressing news.
To quote Chaudhry sahib: “... tour convinced him that the clash of civilisations is not a myth; our expatriates told me ‘they were hated by the followers of other religions’; a three way dialogue between Christians, Jews and Muslims is necessary to tackle the explosive situation arising from the mistrust of Muslims in the West; our General-President is the only leader in the Islamic world to pave the way for this interaction; we must talk to the Jews, who control over half of the International economy.”
It is abundantly clear from the above that Chaudhry sahib is not an ardent fan of my column. Nor, I suspect, did he bother reading Razi Azmi’s column a few weeks ago, exposing with brutal clarity why our expatriate brethren have such a tough time in western societies.
The trouble begins with our obsessive love for our religion that ends up distorting all our thinking. The fact is that it is not the followers of other religions that hate us, but we Muslims who hate the followers of other religions. And we do so because we hate them for their power and their success, which for centuries was our rightful bounty.
It is true that you will find those who preach intolerance, on all sides of every religious divide. The difference however is, that in western societies, where a person’s religious beliefs are no longer of any great consequence, such people are very much on the fringes. Our apocalyptic preachers on the other hand are very much mainstream. All you have to do is to listen to Dr Israr lecture. Has not Allah himself told us that the Jews and the Christians are the eternal enemies of the Muslims, and must never be trusted?
An intra-faith dialogue, because it is all too likely to end up being a dialogue of the deaf and dumb, is no solution. If the Muslims living in western societies want to gain the trust of the local population, then they need to demonstrate that they are good citizens of the country where they reside, and show some sensitivity to the social norms of their adopted country. What we actually do instead is to give ample proof that our loyalties lie elsewhere; and the insistence on flaunting in the adopted country our old repressive social religious and cultural norms, are naturally not going to win us any friends either.
But I find this type of ‘news’ a bit of a yawn. Frankly, I would much rather watch the good old Istakhara programme on Q-TV if amusement value is to be the guiding principle.
The writer is a businessman