Religion is the cemented block that binds its bricks together; it can be seen mostly as bringing people of certain beliefs together by arbitrating particular sets of rules for its followers to abide by. It is a strong institution that thrives on the injunctions of reward and punishment, without the exercise of which it loses its appeal as an organised dictum. However, along with the rudiments of religion, it is also receptive of the cultural ingenuity that is naturally inherited within any geographical boundary. Religious diffusions are a natural by-product that cannot be cast away from the people of a particular culture. To attempt to separate the people from their culture is not only artificial, it is hegemonic.
Pakistan belongs to the part of the world that tells a story of manifold religions and cultures, where there is a record of history proving how, in pre-colonial India, religions and cultures were harmoniously coexisting. However, given the political circumstances in present Pakistan, there is always an attempt to castigate the prevalent practices that hardliners consider to be against Islam; rather, they want their brand of Islam to be adhered to. The puritanical thought to weed out what has been inherited as culture is spreading fast, the seeds of which were sown the moment Pakistan adopted the policy of appeasing the orthodoxy for its own political advantages. Consequently, the rigidness of society started off in gradual instances, off and on with riots between sects and religions.
In Pakistan, the first religiously-motivated riot broke out in 1953 against the Ahmedi sect by Majlis-e-Ahrarul Islam, who condemned them to be non-Muslims, forcing the then Governor General Ghulam Muhammad, to hand over the city of Lahore to the army. This resulted in an important judicial inquiry, the Justice Munir Report, issued in 1954 with the conclusive statement that there is no one definition of Muslim in Pakistan. This rings the bell of skirmishes breeding on religious ground that can be detrimental to Pakistan’s internal existence. This has been proved by further religiously motivated violence, even among Muslims who belong to different sects. There is a constant warfare going on in ostracising the minorities further by mobs led by orthodox clerics in their fury to curb communities to establish their own puritanical might. In order to understand religious violence, it is important to understand how a religiously-motivated mob works and why it grips an entire group like a wildfire.
In Pakistan, we have witnessed many times the ferocity of attacks on the helpless victims who are not provided any legal or societal protection. The most feared weapon used against them is the charge of blasphemy that yields the punishment of lifetime imprisonment and even death. However, even though the victims are given the death penalty, we have seen several times how the accused are murdered in their prisons. The judges who have dismissed the cases are usually threatened.
We still remember how Rimsha Masih was falsely charged with blasphemy after it was revealed how a local imam himself put the desecrated papers of the holy Quran into the plastic bag that mentally handicapped Rimsha was carrying. Even though it was clear who the culprit was, not a single finger was raised at the imam. Instead, Rimsha Masih had to be airlifted to a safe place. The reason allegedly given by the imam was to vacate an entire Christian community from where he lived. This shows the level of hatred and bigotry held by the clerics against non-Muslims.
We have also seen how entire communities are forced to vacate their houses. The Gojra incident, Joseph Colony and, recently, the Gujranwala incident, expose how well coordinated and calculating the mobs are by prying on religious sentiments, resulting in claiming scores of lives in their rampant rage.
The intricacies of our complex and complicated views only reassert the many variations a human mind works with. It also screams to not have it controlled by the hegemonic, unanimous conventions that have been imposed to be followed strictly in the face of their repercussions. The fear of punishment itself is a strong determinant of human enslavement to the ideologies that foster the need to control a segment of society that should not be merged with the mainstream, but is forced to. The idea to channelise their thoughts in conformity with the majority only caters to the discouragement of having the idea of an individual mind.
I believe that an individual mind festering on the strong ideas of hate and love, with a third dimension of materialism attached with it, still does not yield as dangerous and harmful an impact as the people having a mob mindset of a singular perception.
The writer is a freelance columnist and may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org