A Faith In Shared Humanity


New Member
Mar 31, 2010
Sherry Rehman, Jul 3, 2010, 12.00am IST

The nexus between state identity and religion is always a dangerous link. When citizens are massacred and abused on the status of their religious identity, then the slide into bestiality is no longer a heartbeat away. It is firmly among us. At this point only unmitigated public outrage and a matching state response put us back in the league of the civilised and, therefore, human.

Massacre of Ahmadis in Lahore is not the first event to have exposed faultlines in the crafting of a national identity in Pakistan. The Christian pogrom at Gojra in 2009 where the police provided impunity to the attackers, instead of protection to the victims, did just the same. Equally disturbing is the level and scale of ambiguity from several political parties on the action that governments need to take to protect their citizens.

Of course, many voices were raised at the brutal attack on May 28, but a religious party actually had the audacity to exhort minorities to live within their implicitly secondary status in Pakistan. The parliament rallied eventually to voice condemnation but, even among the heartland of non-denominational parties from Punjab, the reluctance exposed the rot at the heart of the promise. One public official from Punjab actually said that he could not even remove the banners inciting hate against the Ahmadis. We cannot handle the repercussions of that, he openly confessed.

This admission of state inability to punish minority-haters is no small event. It reinforces the belief that, like the murderers at Gojra, the Ahmadi-killers too will remain unpunished. It tears the mask from the conceit that in Pakistan, despite its contested identity, the government will at least strive to adhere to some of the fundamental rights of equal citizenship enshrined in the Constitution to all minorities.

Of course, these notional equalities too were brought into challenge by the 18th constitutional amendment which, despite its welcome thrust at restoring many entitlements including the right for minorities to worship "freely" reversed some critical ones, by creating an obligation to be Muslim to be president or prime minister. This clearly states that, according to the Constitution now, the right to represent Pakistan in its top elected offices can only go to Muslims. Will we one day only allow a particular sect of Muslims to represent Pakistan? Because if we continue on these lines, that is the next logical step on a slippery slope of concessions. No one should be surprised that Shia doctors are the target of another grisly round of planned exterminations in Karachi.

Violence gains velocity in an atmosphere of impunity. Quite simply, in the absence of state action, there is little opposition to the narrative that always shifts the debate off-centre from the rights of Pakistani citizens. On all the television channels, religious leaders pop up to cite the primacy of religious law, undeterred by the fact that there is no one single codified Islamic law, to subvert the polar axis of the discourse to a privatised view of justice.

The rights of citizens as guaranteed under the Constitution get left far behind, while the counter-narrative from civil society and isolated political voices based on recourse in the Constitution remains unbuttressed by support from the state.

Inertia at a time when moral and political choices have to be made amounts to complicity with turpitude. The government has a unique opportunity to begin reversals of this embrace of insanity. The Constitution protects minorities very explicitly. While it can certainly do more, even a token adherence to a slew of clauses particularly Article 20 which allows "each citizen to have the right to profess, practise and propagate his religion" can go a long way in shutting down vitriol against citizens who peacefully worship according to their faith.

The courts too can and should use these provisions to take suo motu notice of such outrages in the name of religiosity. So far the superior courts have remained silent on the flagrant violation of the Constitution.

Pakistan's government can start by following up on the review of the 'blasphemy laws' promised last year. We wilfully embrace insanity if we provide impunity for persecution of our minorities, if we pamper militancy on the one hand, and denounce it on the other. If the provincial budget of the Punjab government grants money to banned terrorist outfits, even if it is to their charitable wings, then we are truly embracing insanity. Because this is no political leader using extremist votes to buy power. This is institutionalised support to the same outfits we have banned.

Such actions empower the very forces the Pakistan government and army is engaged in fighting at a very heavy cost. It is a negation of the tremendous sacrifice we as a nation are making, of 3,000 people killed by terrorists since last year, of the children still living in refugee camps, of the fear that stalks our streets after thousands of bombs detonate in reprisals to state operations against militants. It is a negation of the democratic, humane part of Pakistan.

Our post-colonial state identity may be ambiguous, but it is precisely this space that can be used as an opportunity to steer our fragile nationhood in another direction.

The writer is a member of Pakistan's parliament, and former federal minister for information.



The Chairman
Apr 17, 2009
Civilised response in an atmosphere of religious fanaticism is as incongruous as chasing the will o' the wisp. Ideal but unattainable!

Religion is basically aimed to civilise barbarians with codes of conduct and goodness. In actuality, it divides since the 'overlords' who interpret religion i.e. the priestly class have historically used religion basically to ensure their power over the masses. In other words, temporal superseded the spiritual. The reality is that without the priestly class, the rituals do not acquire the 'aura' that religion envelops a person so as to realise the Soham even if momentarily, and yet with them (the priestly class) around problems manifests itself since they interpret religion to their own convictions, especially when they are in their temporal mode.

It is of interest to note that even the social 'leaders' wizard in religion, customs and traditions to ensure their temporal hold over the society or part of society as witnessed by the barbaric customs enforced by the Khaps. Therefore, religion per se, is not the only manner in which barbarism surfaces in the name of humanity and goodness.

In a democracy, especially when the masses are illiterate, semi literate and full of superstition and who cannot fathom the 'inner meaning' of religious imagery enshrined in the scriptures, the chemistry becomes very volatile, wherein politicians to save their bacon, feel insecure to intervene, notwithstanding the pressing need to do so.

Hence, the vicious cycle continues.

Sanity cannot overtake insanity in such circumstances.

One can only lament.


Regular Member
May 10, 2010
as my signature says:"BY the study of different RELIGIONS we find that in essence they are one" but the thing is that one should understand it fully


Regular Member
Sep 9, 2009
as my signature says:"BY the study of different RELIGIONS we find that in essence they are one" but the thing is that one should understand it fully
reallyy??? then why have so many different religions at all. may be you paid heed to your own advice and read about different religions to get more perspective than churn out gibberish


Senior Member
Jan 17, 2010
Religious distress is at the same time the expression of real distress and the protest against real distress. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of a spiritless situation. It is the opium of the people. The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is required for their real happiness. The demand to give up the illusion about its condition is the demand to give up a condition which needs illusions.

Karl Marx, Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right

Latest Replies

Global Defence