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Us and Them

Isn’t it easy to classify the world into different segments? Some good, some bad, and some right in the middle. It is almost always a little too tempting for us, to label specific attributes to specific identities. The current ideological premise for a vast number of people equates goodness to religiosity, not spirituality or acts of kindness but a strict adherence to a specific religious worldview, a worldview that distinguishes an adherent from a non-adherent.

How is this different from distinguishing man by the color of his skin? Or by differentiating man due to social status? Or economic strength? Certainly, we would all agree that a white man has no superiority over a black man and rich man has no superiority over a poor man. If an American has no inherent superiority over a Pakistani, how can Pakistanis have superiority over people possessing other nationalities?

If only the situation stopped at distinguishing man by the color of his passport but this is only the start. For many, being Pakistani is equivalent to being a Muslim and the Pakistanis who aren’t Muslims aren’t treated as equal citizens. But it is not as simple as it may seem. In fact, the question of who is a Muslim and who is not will find multiple, often conflicting answers. One could refer to the Justice Munir report, which sought answers from various leading Ulema who all had different and conflicting definitions of the world ‘Muslim’.

It cannot be denied that sectarianism is ripe in Pakistan. The rift is not only between Shias and Sunnis but both of these groups can be further divided into various sub groups. The sub groups are not particularly fond of other sub groups with in the same sectarian spectrum and accusations of heresy coupled with genuine feelings of disdain and disgust for the opposite sect are not uncommon. The Barelvis and the Deobandis make up the majority of the Sunni population, yet the power holders of each group are not interested in reconciliation in the least bit.

The greater divide between Shias and Sunnis has been a source of global animosities between Muslims who in reality are not much different from each other. The Iran-Iraq War is a primary example to show that even sectarian rifts are causes enough to go to war. This is not a pleasant sign for the peace loving citizens of the world.

We should not be surprised that today; terrorist organizations such as ISIS, Al Qaeda and the Taliban are misusing the name of Islam in order to achieve their greater political goals. How are the Taliban different from the sectarian leaders who preach hatred against specific sects? Is it because the sectarian leaders only consider a particular strand of Pakistanis as ‘enemies’ and the Taliban considers the entire Pakistani Population as an ‘enemy’ and a justified target. Where can we draw the distinction?

The Taliban believes that they are the only ones on the right path and everyone who is not allied to them are a non-Muslim and an enemy of Islam.  Our fundamental difference with this particular worldview is that how can we give authority to the Taliban to label everyone as non-Muslims? If this is indeed what we believe and this is indeed the bone of contention between the Pakistani people and the Taliban, we should also consider whether we, as a nation have the same right the Taliban is trying to exercise?

Extremists of every kind try to alienate their enemies in the eyes of their followers by constant use of propaganda and falsehood in order to establish a particular worldview. Imagine the information a Taliban commander gives to a would be suicide bomber. He will tell him that Pakistanis are evil, enemies of Islam, dwellers of hell fire while he will be a martyr, will enter heaven because the act he will commit is fundamentally good. The problem lies with equating goodness or morality with a particular version of faith, which ultimately results in abhorrent atrocities like suicide bombings.

The whole situation boils down to one point. The morality of us and them is what has created and justified massive conflict especially in the last century. The world wars are a primary example of entire nations following this version of morality. It resulted in Germans massacring the Jews and other minorities, it resulted in millions of innocent deaths but it also resulted in a nuclear strike, showing us that the art of war has reached a new era, an era of complete annihilation.

After America nuked Japan, one would expect the American nation to sympathize with the Japanese civilians, as they had nothing to do with the conflict. But this was not so, the morality of us and them had alienated Americans from the Japanese and thus it was not intellectually possible for the Americans to sympathize with their enemies since they had been too used to hating the Japanese. Propaganda was perhaps the most effective tool in convincing all the nations in all the world wars that it was somehow beneficial for their nation to go to war.

It is easier for us to objectively analyze the Americans or the British or the Germans but it is much harder to objectively analyze our own shortcomings since we too have been engrained with a specific worldview and are placed with significant constraints on what we can or cannot say, on what we can think and not think.

Any ideology, whether it is political, economic, religious or social should not distinguish one man from another on any political, religious, economic or social basis. The Pakistani nation has perhaps suffered the most due to a radical and intolerant worldview, which espouses the fundamentals of terrorism. Over 60,000 Pakistanis have shed their blood in this conflict. Try to imagine all the corpses of all the victims in one graveyard. That graveyard is Pakistan and the bodies are still piling up.

It is of paramount importance that the decision makers of Pakistan espouse principles of tolerance, freedom and liberty so that our population is not engrained in hatred, bloodshed or division and are able to end the madness of us and them.

All humans are equal, we are not better or worse from anyone. To imply otherwise is to propagate a biased worldview, which almost always results in the massacre of innocents.

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