Poison in the air

March 22,2019

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The murder of Khalid Hameed, a professor at a college in Bahawalpur, at the hands of one of his students, is a grim reminder of the bigotry that threatens our nation. The harrowing incident took place because the killer believed that organising a welcome party was un-Islamic because both girls and boys would be present. The student has now been arrested and, needless to say, should be tried and forced to pay for his crime. What is most alarming is the spread of right-wing bigotry which apparently encourages young people to act without fear of the law or any remorse over their acts. The student who killed his teacher has said with conviction that he believed he acted rightfully and in defence of Islam.

This is not the first time bias and a warped view of belief has led to death on a college campus. In 2017, Mashal Khan was murdered by his own classmates after an accusation of blasphemy. There have been other cases as well. Some months ago, a school student killed his principal for failing to give him leave to attend a rally being staged by the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan. In Multan, another lecturer has languished in jail for years after being accused of blasphemy by a student. His lawyer was killed and hearings of the case have since slowed down. It is quite apparent that our society is becoming an increasingly dangerous place for many of its members as the onslaught from those holding extremist views grows into a dangerous tide.

Many laugh off the threat of the morality police but this case should underline that we cannot afford to ignore the very real danger they propose. One needs only look at the reaction to the recent Aurat March to realise how this vile mentality is becoming ascendant. In a video that has gone viral, a prayer leader at a mosque in Karachi has said that women seeking rights over their own body are effectively asking for rape. This odious man and his equally odious mentality advocate real violence against women. The thought of women taking to the streets and demanding they be treated fairly and equally with tongue-in-cheek placards set off politicians and, regrettably, all too many journalists. The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly, seemingly having nothing better to do, has even passed a resolution condemning the Aurat March, dutifully signed off on by all mainstream parties, including those who term themselves liberal. Clearly, our lives have been taken over by an illogical perception of reality which has its roots in ill-informed orthodoxy and a failure to hold more open debate on matters related to ideology, belief and the rights of various groups that form a part of society.

In this climate, it is no wonder that minority groups and others live in fear. For too long, we have allowed the right-wing to dictate its morality to the rest of the country. Too many of us have been shamefully quiet in response to their violent provocations. Everyone from a political class that either supports such elements or tolerates them to a media – columnists, editors, senior journalists – that amplifies the voices of bigots to a judiciary that does not take strict action even in cases like that of Mashal Khan is complicit in this evil. This is a dangerous situation to become trapped in. It is our duty to no longer remain silent in the face of such threats. Too much is already decayed. We need regeneration and new growth.


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