A bit of sanity in Pakistan. He said it: if I had, it would be “Islamophobia” — but Farooq Sulehria tells Muslims to stop blaming others for all their troubles, and to take responsibility themselves for the sorry state of the Islamic world.
“Blaming others,” by Farooq Sulehria in Pakistan’s The News International, June 17 (thanks to James):
The Amnesty International report on human rights for the year 2007 is out. The Muslim world constitutes, as usual, bleakest chapter. Every single country across the Muslim world has been pointed out by the Amnesty International either for executions and torture or discrimination against women and ethnic and religious minorities. Punishments never handed down even during the Stone Age, have been awarded in 21st century Muslim world. In one case, two Saudi nationals were awarded 7,000 lashes. Yes, 7,000. And executions? Well, 335 in Iran, 158 in Saudi Arabia and 135 in Pakistan. Violation of human rights, it seems, is the only thing that unites the otherwise divided Muslim world.
This is because these punishments are sanctioned by Sharia, of course. So the tendency in the Islamic world in general is moving in favor of them, not against them.
The report is no exception. The Muslim world cuts a sorry figure every time a global watchdog releases its findings. Freedom of expression here remains curtailed, Reporters Sans Frontieres annually reports. Regarding freedom of expression, there is a joke often told in Arab world. At a meeting, a US journalist says: “We have complete freedom of expression in the US. We can criticise the US president as much as we like.” The Arab journalist replies. “We also have complete freedom of expression in Arab world. We can also criticise the US president as much as we like.”
That’s an old joke about the Soviet Union that Ronald Reagan told, but never mind. It is good to see a Pakistani writer speaking up in favor of freedom of expression, just when the West, having forgotten its importance, is about to give it up.
Similarly, it is either Bangladesh or Pakistan or Nigeria which is on top of Transparency International’s corruption indexes. However, when Nobel laureates gather in Stockholm every December, Muslim scientists and writers are conspicuous by their absence. In case, as Naguib Mahfouz is crowned, he is stabbed and rendered paralysed. The irony, or tragedy, is that his attacker had not even read his excellent books. Or we disown Dr Abdul Salam just because he belonged to the Ahmadiya community. Salam’s case deserves special mention since it underlines the absurdity that characterises this part of the world.
Both Mahfouz and Salam were targeted for deviations from Islamic orthodoxy. That is the source of this “absurdity.”
When all else fails, “Jews” and “Christian” West are there to lay the blame for all our ills. Conspiracy theories instead of scientific, rational thought holds sway across much of the Muslim world.
And every time a rights abuse is highlighted in Iran, Saudi Arabia or Pakistan, a typical Muslim answer is: Look at Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine and Chechnya. True, imperialism and Zionism have a hand in our predicament. However, there are many wounds one can only describe as self-inflicted.
Yes, self-inflicted wounds abound — including seeing “imperialism and Zionism” as having a hand in your predicament. Anyway, Sulehria goes on to list some of the self-inflicted wounds of the Islamic world, and then concludes by skewering the finger-pointing and arrogance we have seen from Islamic spokesmen so many times here:
The list is long. Indeed, unending. However, the solution to all our problems is always simple: return to an imagined past which, mercifully for the people of the seventh century, never existed. Every time, a scientist in the West is ready with an invention, our readymade answer is: we knew about it 1,400 years ago what the West has found only now. We kill Theo van Gogh when confronted with a film. We burn down our own cities in response to a blasphemous and racist caricature.
Still, we refuse to understand that our answer to every “provocation” is either a fatwa or mindless violence — perhaps because creativity is anathema to us. Not because we lack fertile minds, but because we lack liberation and freedom — liberation from self-imposed mental, moral, and cultural censors. And freedom to think and express. Time to heed the great Syrian poet Nizar Qabbani, who said:
Five thousand years
In our caves.
Our currency is unknown,
Our eyes are a haven for flies.
Smash the doors,
Wash your brains,
Wash your clothes.
Read a book,
Write a book,
Grow words, pomegranates and grapes,
Sail to the country of fog and snow.
Nobody knows you exist in caves.
People take you for a breed of mongrels.