Where’s the difference?

Intolerance is rising in society By Rabia Ahmed

The USA now has a new Federal holiday, the 19th of June, known as Juneteenth. It commemorates the day slaves– who were mostly Black African, were told in Texas that they were now free and no longer enslaved. Although slavery had been officially outlawed three years earlier by Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, the proclamation had been larger ignored in Texas and some other States.

In Pakistan people have scoffed at this new holiday, and have called it hypocritical, pointing at the many incidences of racism and violence still occurring in the USA even though its Constitution says that all people are equal.

By strutting around throwing words and objects at each other, are the esteemed members of our National Assembly likely to make any positive difference at all? Will their actions lead to any improvement in the Budget?

The fact is that much of what happens in the USA should ring a bell with us here; the maudlin leadership, the police brutality against Black Americans, the murders of George Floyd and Arbery, and the January 6th storming of the Capitol.

Pakistan started out as a secular country. Jinnah stated in the first meeting of the Constituent Assembly: “You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other places of worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed — that has nothing to do with the business of the State.”

Later in 1956 Islam was brought in as the official religion of the country, and Islam also proclaims very strictly that there is no difference between people whatever race they may belong to.

Yet all of these things have always been ignored. In Pakistan our minorities are still prosecuted, very much so. Hazaras, Shias, Ahmadis, Christians are all targeted, their colonies are destroyed, their women abducted and forced to convert after being forced into marriage. Asia Bibi has taken refuge in another country, and Malala Yusufzai is condemned by all and sundry in the country of her birth because as a woman she is not supposed to say the things she does. We claim to be devout followers of Islam, a religion that condemns racism, gender bias, discrimination and violence in no uncertain terms, and yet we call people names based on their gender, colour and caste, and in the Punjab marry according to caste as well.

Salman Taseer died ten years ago in January, murdered by his own security guard because he spoke against an unfair law, one that goes against the very religion it claims to stem from. He was murdered because he voiced sympathy for this law’s victims. His bravery was never commemorated, yet the man who murdered him lies buried in a shrine near Islamabad that is daily visited by thousands of admirers that include the son-in-law of a former Prime Minister.

Taseer’s death was a loss for the country, because with him we lost a man who had his heart in the right place. He was also a man who spoke out against a law that goes against the state religion of the country.-

And yet there is that shrine near Islamabad.

The people of Pakistan have a long way to go before they can understand the advantages of reason and non-discrimination over violence, peaceful co-existence over taunts and jeers. We do not as yet know what to do with State institutions where issues can be discussed and laws made in a reasonable fashion. We appear, sadly, to give credence only to angry protests and violence, to ‘discussions’ in which missiles fly and people die and yet what do such acts achieve, neither an understanding of the problems and facts nor any meaningful change? Protests and violence, raised voices, rude gestures, physical and verbal attacks, you know… the same as we’ve been seeing these days surrounding the budget in the National Assembly, is behaviour that defines the country in an extremely poor light.

By strutting around throwing words and objects at each other, are the esteemed members of our National Assembly likely to make any positive difference at all? Will their actions lead to any improvement in the Budget?

Any changes to the budget that such behaviour manages to engender will be based on appeasement rather than a wish to make a real difference. All who indulge in such shouting matches and violent gestures stand just as sharply defined as all those who visit Qadri’s shrine to lay garlands upon it.

source Where’s the difference? – Pakistan Today

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