Time to pull plug on moon-sighting madness


ISLAMABAD: Another Eid, another confusion, another controversy. Some things never change!
As if propagating religious intolerance and promoting sectarian strife were too insignificant a qualities – our clerics have mastered another distinct skill— the art of sighting a crescent within no time. In this era of scientific advancement, the very thought of climbing the rooftops to sight the moon may barely make any sense to many, but that’s what our clergy is good at. It is gifted with an inborn and intrinsic capability to track moon – from anywhere and everywhere – the high skies – the dark clouds – the Equator –ozone layer and even from the North Pole – provided you trust the maulanas enough to entrust them a chance with!
For sure, the detectives of the world’s most advanced investigation agencies have got it all wrong – they make take days, weeks and months to track down the wanted accused or culprits following the professional procedures of painstaking probes. An announcement for those in the detective business: they need to set their course straight following the footsteps of our maulanas who, of course, are in a position to get hold of anything within no time. Can we ever doubt the remarkable capabilities of the people who can spot a heavenly object thousands and thousands of miles away with a naked eye? 
In the presence of such gifted and blessed creatures, no need to bear with the scientific bodies like SUPARCO and IST. We just need to disband these entities and focus on some more divinity professed by the clergy. Who knows, after all, a study may prove in the time to come that the excessive intake of meet, beef and halwa, for that matter, improves your eyesight and the sense of smell to unimaginable extent. From gosht, halwa, naswar, jaleebis to anything else ‘foody,’ you can spot or smell anything even afar, provided you strictly follow the clergy’s diet menu!
The custodians of Peshawar’s Qasim Khan mosque truly lived up to their reputation. It was Sunday night and some keen religious segments in Peshawar were all focused on the mosque’s clerics in expectation that the maulanas would spell some magic again! The spectators were not disappointed. The miracle had happened and only with the naked eye! This time quite late though. Half past the night, the chubby looking Mufti Shahabuddin Popalzai appeared before the media to announce the good news – it’s Eid in Peshawar on Monday, and as a result of hectic “midnight efforts”, the moon was spotted eventually, courtesy some five dozen witnesses of moon sighting – all from the north-western areas like Bannu and Dera Ismail Khan.
Odd and inane it may sound but it was bound to happen. Not to forget that the maulanas draw encouragement to pull out such audacities from the collective response of the entire nation that can’t help bring these creatures to limelight out of nowhere. After every Ramazan 29, the centre of attention of 180 million Pakistanis becomes a few handful of clerics who decide when to celebrate Eid in total disregard to scientific predictions, weather forecast, public convenience and relevant factors.
There’s another aspect to the moon sighting melodrama. The one-time attention opportunity the molvis get once a year. The kind of undivided attention and publicly the clerics get on Ramazan 29 is something they yearn the entire year and they make ‘best of it’ when get the chance. Yes, unlike the rest of the year when even a brief look at the pot bellied maulanas repulses you, the moon-sighting occasion is different. A glimpse of these creatures at the rooftops catches you in curiosity with ‘what next’ type of questions stuffed to boggle in your mind. You jump to cloud nine out of joy when maulanas confirm moon sighting, without dragging the matter too long, to announce it’s Eid the next day. Or, else, the option of cribbing and cursing is always open!
The rest of the year, however, the clergy becomes not-to-look-at entity. Imagine, you leave home and are walking to the nearby market to get fixed this messy smart phone of yours that gets stuck every once in a while when you encounter a bunch of preachers from the Tableeghi Jamaat keenly inching towards you. Clad in pure white loose kameez shalwar and wearing lengthy beards and tall turbans, these purified souls are to enlighten your otherwise ‘nasty’ inner self with some soul-searching and bestow onto you the unlocked secrets of hereafter that would surely land you in heaven upon your departure from this materialistically short-sighted world. 
But you are not in the mood, not up for a preaching session, at least. You don’t want to become the prisoner of conscience. You have no plans to go on a sehrooza either. So you decide an ‘early escape.’ You start to look around. Desperately trying to find some place to sneak into. A street, an alley, a pavement or anything that would help you get vanished. Sensing that the heavenly creatures get close enough that you can see their smiling faces, you are even ready to climb up to your neighbour’s wall, but wondering if he has ever seen you in this kind of compromise state, you drop the idea. 
For often-too-sober image is what he carries of you. Helplessly, with many thoughts running on your mind, you retreat back to your place and wait for the preachers to get past before you step out again with a stealthy look around to make sure the caravan of divinity is onto someone else! Sunday was not the first time a cleric came up with a late night undue announcement to or not to celebrate Eid the next morning. It has happened many a times before and it will keep happening till public and media stop giving importance to such elements. They will die their natural deaths if they go unnoticed and not responded to. For attention-craving creatures, dejection and rejection stand nothing short of a worst nightmare. It’s high time we pull the plug on everyone who rides the tides of spotlight at our expense.

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