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The ‘Moral Police’ syndrome

Pakistan is the most tremendous country in the world for me. In the past three months, I have travelled to 15 different cities all over the US. And I must admit, I have missed Karachi immensely. The sound of the morning cuckoo, the playfulness on the streets, the chai dhaabas, the insane traffic (yes that too!), the people of my city; I have missed each and everything with the soul of my heart. I have missed it because it is and will always be my home.  Sitting from miles apart, I have realized how beautiful the rawness of this city is. It may not be embellished with huge buildings and towers but there is so much simplistic innocence hidden within every nook and cranny that you feel like absorbing it all.

For me as I come back, there is one thing which has always bothered me and will continue to do so as a black spot on this magnificent lovely city. My freedom of faith, religion, culture and above all, life. I feel like here I cannot stroll down the roads with the same amount of confidence that I would abroad.  If I am slightly different from the crowd, I may be called a non-Muslim, an outcast and million other names. I feel like here I cannot be myself. I have to wear a mask to fulfill the norms of the society. If I decide to explore my own path I no longer fit here.

By this point many readers may have declared me a non-Muslim too, saying that I am supporting non-religious things. But let’s take this into perspective. I may internally have an issue with our film actresses going to Bollywood, baring their skin and doing bold scenes. But I am ashamed of the kind of derogatory comments that are passed on their pictures regarding their religion, regarding their chastity, regarding their character.  It is heinous, it brings me to tears, and it disgusts me. And I only ask myself this one question. Isn’t this a worse sin than the one we are so openly reprimanding? Who has given us the right to be the moral police for these people? Am I answerable for them in this world or hereafter?

Unfortunately this has become more than a norm for all of us. If a person is not praying, is eating in public during the month of Ramadan, is wearing jeans, is celebrating Valentine’s Day, is practising a faith that we don’t believe in, we do not have the tolerance to accept them. We do not have the patience to sensibly show them why what we are saying might be better. Why are we all of a sudden in this cage of righteousness which declares everyone outside as impure? Why do we not look at our own house before burning somebody else’s?

And why was bringing this to light important? Because this is the initial seed that is sown which sprouts into hatred, into sectarian and inter-faith killings and into many of the glaring problems that we are facing today. If today we tell our children not to stare or laugh at a person who is different, we can preserve future generations from much violence. If today we give them the sense of  the right and wrong, and the insight to accept and explore some things which may not fall in these bounds, we can eliminate extreme judgmentalism from society.If today instead of ranting, we do not watch those Bollywood movies we so strongly differ with, we can set an honest example for our children to follow.

Rest assured we do have a right to agree and disagree with things, we do have a right to bring about the change we want to see in this society, but we need to create a path which does not do more harm than good. We need to accept that the society cannot grow without differences. That being similar would create monotony and stagnancy. And then only we can experience true freedom.

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