This is not because I shun controversy or duck issues. It is merely because discussions on this issue tend to be prone to slogan-mongering from those holding extreme positions on all sides, they tend to drown out the more serious and more thoughtful deliberations that are so needed, and they quickly turn into mud-slinging matches which take up too much of our time in cleaning up the mess made by those who routinely ignore or are incapable of understanding and following our comment policy. Having said all that, let me also say that it is intellectually dishonest to simply ignore events and trends that are tearing apart the fabric of society.
With that rather long preamble, what has really prompted this post are two things I saw in today’s Dawn. The first is a set of two ads on behalf of ‘The Citizens of Karachi’ (clicking on the images will take you to larger and more readable versions). The first starts off with:
“Are You Ready? Do you want danda bardar and klashnikov shariat?
IF NOT THEN… come to attend the rally in lage number and show your solidarity against the danda bardar and klashnikov shariat.”
I found these ads to be yet more evidence of a polarized society. More than that, I wonder who put these ads? Any clues, readers? I also wonder how many – and who – will show up on the 15th at this rally (starting 2:00PM near the Mausoleum of Quaid-i-Azam)?
The second item appears on the back page of Dawn (and most other papers) and is much more disturbing. Here is the story in full:
Militants Beat up Dancers
LAKKI MARWAT, April 12: Clashes between militants and villagers in the Dhoda-Shah Hasankhel area on Thursday morning left two people injured. About a dozen people were taken hostage by the militants.
Sources said a group of Taliban militants had beaten up some transvestite dancers, shaved their heads and broken their musical instruments near Abdulkhel as they were going to the Dhoda village to perform at a wedding on Wednesday night.
Villagers decided to take revenge by raising a Lashkar against the Taliban, the sources said. Light and heavy weapons were used and the Taliban also fired rockets during the clash which lasted for several hours. The Taliban took 12 villagers hostage. Five of them were later freed while the others were in the custody of the Taliban till late evening, according to the administrator of a seminary, Hafiz Amanullah Khan.
A heavy contingent of police and Frontier Constabulary personnel reached the area. A ceasefire was brokered by some local ulema who held talks with village elders and the Taliban. The sources said the situation was tense and additional contingents of the FC had been summoned.
What is common between both stories is that the battle lines in a divided society are being drawn. The only possible good that could come out of this is for the mainstream of the country to recognize the difference between being ‘religious’ and ‘religious extremism.’ Maybe it will take such actions to remind people that we can be religious without being religious extremists; that faith should help flourish a culture of caring, not of violence.