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March 21, 2015
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Mobs and terror

Opinion

March 21, 2015

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Pakistanis are usually thought to be a lethargic bunch, able to absorb blow after blow without much desire to rise up and protest anything. In recent years, however, public protests on various issues have become more common and unfortunately have turned increasingly violent.
When it comes to religion, especially, we rise up in force to protest everything from blasphemous cartoons to blaspheming individuals. The results are frequently disastrous.
Properties have been destroyed and lives have been lost due to mob violence. In the wake of such events, condemnation follows. There might even be FIRs booked against the persons responsible but as the perpetrators belong to the majority and the victims to minority groups, the ruckus, dies down quite quickly. No one decides to compare the violent mob that tramples all over the law and the sanctity of all human lives with terrorists who do the same but at a larger scale and in a more organised fashion.
Not so this time when the mob was composed of the minority and the victims belonged to the majority. The lynching of two men following terrorist attacks on churches in Lahore is condemnable and has rightly been called a reprehensible act. So was the destruction of public property that occurred afterwards.
But this mob was not given the leeway granted to others like it that spring up here from time to time. It was compared immediately to terrorists and lost in the comparison. The actions of terrorists are horrible, and that is to be expected. But the barbarism of ordinary people is not expected and is therefore worse. That, at least, is the logic.
Except the fact that the barbarism of ordinary Pakistanis is not unexpected at all. They have in the past beaten and burnt innocent people to death, torched homes, damaged public property and gone on rampages based on nothing more than rumour and propaganda. The only unexpected part of this episode of mob violence is that it was perpetrated by Christians and not

Muslims.
It has been discussed what drives people to form mobs and go from peaceful law abiding citizens to raging lunatics. It has also been discussed that the mob in Lahore was not formed by a group turned rabid over some petty issue. The minorities of Pakistan have more than enough reason to be angry. They have been marginalised, discriminated against, humiliated and denied justice for decades. On top of that their claims of systematic and entrenched discrimination are brushed away. So the people who took to the streets that day knew that things would not change for them after the bombings.
Mob violence is wrong. It is as wrong for a Muslim mob to burn alive a Christian couple as it is for a Christian mob to burn two Muslim men. If the minority’s mob is worse than the terrorists then so is the majority’s. If hurt religious sentiments are enough reason for Muslims to go on violent rampages then they are enough reason for others too.
Even in pain, death and condemnation, we discriminate. We offer platitudes and little else when minorities are targeted due to their religion. The condemnation offered to Muslims for killing people on blasphemy charges is couched in different terms completely.
That sort of mob violence is acceptable apparently – about as acceptable as terrorism. It happens, you are sad, you move on. But to the minorities we say, don’t form mobs. It will erode what little sympathy is garnered when something bad happens to you. We will forget whatever else has happened to you and compare you to terrorists. And then call you worse.
The writer is a business studies graduate from southern Punjab. Email: [email protected] gmail.com

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