The responsibilities that go with it

  • Instead of being more tolerant and caring, we are the opposite

One angle to events such as the horrific tragedy, the massacre in Sri Lanka is that the people apparently responsible for the murders call themselves ‘Muslim’ or ‘Islamic’, the same as you and I do, and we should resent that. We feel murderers should not be allowed to use that label for themselves. On the other hand, given their understanding of the subject, they probably wouldn’t want us to call ourselves Muslim.
Who’s to judge?
We all have our own definitions of things and are as convinced that we are right and the other wrong as the ‘other side’ is of the reverse. The matter, therefore, should be out of our jurisdiction, which means that we may hold an opinion on a given case but should not be able to enforce it legally. For those of us who believe in a divine authority, such matters are for Him to judge alone. We know where this is headed, and we also know that declaring Ahmadis non-Muslim was a political move, meant to satisfy extremist views. We know too, that it has achieved nothing beyond grief and violence.

The responsibilities that go with calling this country the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, or simply with considering ourselves Muslim, do not appear to have sunk in

Isn’t it time, when the brain has become the most prolific organ of all, when human scientific achievements are so mindboggling, when implants are turning thought to speech, when we have actually seen a black hole for the first time, when a severe immune-deficiency disorder can be cured by means of gene therapy… for us to use our brains to reason out some of the conundrums supposedly stemming from religion? Such as the strange question to be found on the Pakistani passport form, probably the only country other than India to demand an applicant’s religious affiliation. There is probably a similar question on the Saudi passport, I wouldn’t know. After all, the male citizens in that country can even deny their family members the right to travel if the family member happens to be female.
Here is an extract from an application for a Pakistani passport. This declaration may be found at the end of the form:
(sic) DECLARATION IN CASE OF MUSLIM. I, s/d/w/of — aged adult Muslim, resident of — hereby solemnly declare that: a) I am a Muslim and believe in the absolute and unqualified finality of the Prophethood of Muhammad (peace be upon him) the last of the prophets b) I do not recognise any person who claims to the prophet in any sense of the word or of any description whatsoever after Muhammad (peace be upon him) or recognise such a claimant as prophet or a religious reformer as a Muslim c) I consider Mirza Ghulam Ahmad Qadiani to be an impostor nabi and also consider his followers whether belonging to the Lahori or Qadiani group, to be NON-MUSLIM.
No segment of society should be tagged in such a way, but that is a different matter. The question here is to identify what these questions achieve on the form. If someone holds a different set of beliefs, specifically those who believe Mirza Ghulam Ahmad to be a nabi, are they to be treated differently in some way? Denied education? Denied loans? Healthcare?
What if the person signing this document believes quite differently to what he/she declares, how is it to be proved?
Can we deny our citizens the right to travel based on their religious affiliation? If not, what is the point of that question on the passport for? If it is for the purpose of statistical record, this question should be in the census form instead, since only a small segment of the population of Pakistan possesses a passport.
Once again, who’s to judge who is Muslim and who is not? Are extremists and people who murder innocent civilians Muslim? Yet these are the people being sheltered in this country, it has been admitted. These people are allowed to stage protests and shut down roads, whereas others, peaceful nationals who happen to hold different views about some religious matters, are hounded. If this is Islam, it is unrecognisable as such.
The responsibilities that go with calling this country the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, or simply with considering ourselves Muslim, do not appear to have sunk in. This name makes… or should make us more inclusive, more humane, much more averse to violence, and very much more rational. That it is the reverse is the result of a lack of education, and a lack of humane instinct.