The Nation, Lahore

024 Muharram, 1419 - Thursday, May 21 , 1998, Lahore Pakistan 


Guardian but not a follower of Islam

Dr Rana Jawad Asghar


The other day, I opened my local newspaper, "Seattle Post Intelligence" and I noticed a big picture of Pakistani looking crowd on the second page. Naturally, I went for the complete story. It was the picture of mourners of a Pakistani Bishop who killed himself in protest to a death sentence to a local Christian. If a local newspaper in the USA is giving such coverage to an event in Pakistan, think about the international coverage this event has got. Check any international news site on the web, and this news is there. From BBC to Reuters to CNN. It does not matter if we declare everyone printing this story as a pawn of a Jewish conspiracy; the damages has been done to Pakistan's name. Day by day, Pakistan is being grouped with countries like Somalia, Sudan, and Afghanistan. And contrary to big claims by our extremist religious groups and some politicians, any student of international politics knows very well that this is not a good sign. No matter, how brave the words of our politicians are, they know very clearly, it is very difficult to live in seclusion. Iran has learnt this lesson after many years of wasted opportunities and now is trying very hard to mend its relations with other countries.

I agree completely with some government officials' response that this law is basically safeguarding the people who are accused in these cases, otherwise, angry mobs can take the law and order in their own hands. True, at the point of charged emotions and intolerance our society has reached, the purpose of this law was to provide a cooling off period. But job of our leaders does not finish by just stating the facts but they need to educate the public about not abusing this law to sort their personal matters with their neighbours.

In all those so many newspapers from Pakistan, which I have read following this story, only the editorial note of The Nation was a quick and sensible response. The editorial asked for some conditions to meet before initiating these cases. And two most important were that the inquiry should be done by an officer not lower than SP and the false accuser should also be punished severely and quickly.

It is very important that this law should be used judicially and selectively to preserve its effectiveness. Religious scholars who use these opportunities to enhance their political stature, must be reminded of Hazrat Muhammad's( PBUH) life of tolerance and forgiveness. He (PBUH) was always merciful even for his worst enemies. He won peoples hearts not by stoning them, or killing them, or with a big army -- he changed hearts of the very corrupt Arabs of those times by his (PBUH) kindness and love for mankind. His (PBUH) love for people was so miraculous that the same people who were once his worst enemies became his most loyal soldiers. The problem with us is that we have become guardians of Islam instead of followers of Islam. We don't think that it is necessary for us to offer prayer five times a day or to read Quran with understanding of it or even learn about the life of the best person on this earth -- (Hazrat Muhammad PBUH) but we think it is our duty to get rid of anyone who is practising Islam even a little different than us.

When some Pakistanis here in the USA expressed their concern about the minorities in Pakistan, one replied that we even don't tolerate other Muslim brothers from other sects, how could you expect us to tolerate minorities. We think, it is OK to not to follow any Islamic principle, like pray to Allah, not to lie to others, not to kill the innocent, be honest, not to do corruption, not to steal, not to accuse someone falsely, etc. And we think that we could compensate all this by getting rid of anyone who may be accused even wrongly of this crime. In the end, I would again request the present government and the policy-makers to read The Nation's editorial, because it makes sense and especially when nowadays, very few things make sense. We cannot safeguard Islam from attacks, if our own behavior is totally unIslamic. Islam cannot be defended by unIslamic means. Be a follower of Islam first, only then you could claim to be defender of it and not otherwise.

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