The Liberal Dilemma

It can be reasonably assumed that the ideology of ‘liberalism’ is on a downward trend globally. In most parts of the world, more and more ‘conservative’ or ‘right wing’ candidates have seen success as opposed to their ‘liberal’ counterparts. The ‘Left’ is losing the battle against the ‘Right’. Let’s focus on why that is so, why is it that ‘liberals’ have started to become demonized in many societies? They are ‘anti-national’, they represent ‘foreign agendas’ and work against the overall national supremacy of their home country under the guise of human rights is what is now being associated with ‘liberals’. I am mostly referring to social liberalism rather than economic liberalism here, although economic liberalism is too on the downfall but that’s another discussion for another day.

Lets take Pakistan for example. Usually, ‘liberals’ are seen as Kaafirs(Infidels), people under the payroll of the evil west whose sole agenda is to derail the religious values of society. Terms such as ‘libtards’ or ‘liberal fascists’ are used quite often to describe social activists campaigning for secular values, criticizing the military, calling out religious extremism rigidly and perhaps even at times calling for improved relations and greater art exchange with our alleged enemies from across the border. In highlighting all the problems that exist within the country, speaking on sensitive religious issues, the ‘liberals’ are often charged with defaming the country globally, speaking the tongue of our enemies. Critiquing the military, which has a cult like following is also viewed as an anti-national activity. So because of all of these reasons within a generally conservative society, the word ‘liberal’ has become something of a slur. It is true that often people on one side of the spectrum don’t really give due consideration or respect to opinions on the other side of the spectrum and eventually fuel tension. This perhaps can also be seen the United States, when the ‘liberals’ were charged with demonizing Trump and his ‘deplorables'(followers) too much, not willing to hear out their concerns or what circumstances they come from.

I think we all need to consider and look at what being a ‘liberal’ generally means and whether or not the generalizations and/or demonization of this term is justified or not. Even here in Pakistan, the general liberal would be a supporter of a secular government, would want a tough crackdown against sectarian terror groups and the freedom to practice your religion without prejudice. Most people would probably agree in principle with all of these ideas, just like most people would agree that sexism and racism are unacceptable acts. The problem comes about in actually going into these subjects in detail: ‘Does the state have the right to declare someone an infidel?’, ‘Should women have the freedom to dress however they want in public?’, ‘Should a non-muslim be eligible to becoming the head of the state?’. Most people would have strong unfavourable opinions towards these questions and most people would get offended when someone tries to debate these issues, as most of these ideas are grounded within the religious belief of that person and anything that even comes close to questioning that offends them deeply. This offense is then translated into anger towards the debate generator, which is in most cases a self described or publically accepted form of a ‘liberal’. It is because of this offense and anger that people have moved away from the principle of liberalism and have started to view liberalism as something that is generally against their religious beliefs and against their national identity as well. When that is all liberalism is limited to, it automatically becomes a slur, because in the mind of the ‘non-liberal’, it doesn’t represent anything more than that. In a society that has generally been suspicious of the west, does not do so well with ‘liberalism’ especially when it is viewed as the brainchild of the west.

I think, for liberalism to be successful as a movement there needs to be a change in approach. There needs to be less ridiculing of other ideas to prove their ideas correct and more of trying to understand the opposing ideas and gradually try to alter them. Most Facebook pages campaigning for liberal values often end up becoming echo chambers after they successfully offend and push away most of the opposite spectrum. Radicalism and misplaced nationalism is allowed to grow and consolidate power when ‘liberalism’ alienates most people. In the American elections, most people took to ridiculing the opposite spectrum so much so with the holier than thou attitude, it actually brought about results that no one anticipated. The idea of liberalism means a generally free society, a society where everyone is equal and no one is the sacred cow. That doesn’t sound all that bad, we need to make sure that this is what it is in the minds of the people to bring about a progressive change. When activist Jibran Nasir’s posts ranging from the environment to radicalism are all met with only ‘anti liberal’ slurs, we must acknowledge that the term ‘liberal’ isn’t really a positive one in the minds of the people and we must help change it to mean what it actually is.

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A Hero within our ranks

It has been for so long that Pakistan faces this menace of extremism, slowly and slowly, this poison eats away our country bit by bit and we continue to watch it from afar because either we have managed to avoid it in our lives or we are in fact the champions of our own extremist ideology. So many innocent lives have been taken by this poison, whats worse then that blood is the fact that there are still people out there who actually wear that crown of spiritual satisfaction and support those who have killed our people because of their alleged beliefs. Its not uncommon that people belonging to minority religious beliefs are persecuted, it is not uncommon that places of religious worship are burnt to ashes and the slaughtering of entire families is also not uncommon. Despite all that, there are very few who speak out against it, there are very few stand to protect the minorities because of the fact that they are human and Pakistani. Heroes like Salman  Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti are labelled as blasphemers and killers, murderers like Mumtaz are crowned as saviors of Islam. The Religious clerics make it their duty to label people as infidels (kaafirs) as they feel that it is they who are to decide the correctness of someone’s beliefs and not the Almighty, they have used their influence to instigate violence against minorities, they teach their students in their Madarssahs to be intolerant, they teach them to go out there and kill, the use religion as a tool for their evil motives, instead of spreading the word of Allah in mosques they indulge in hate speech, they encourage their pupils to go ahead and join terrorist factions and work against the integrity of Pakistan and its people. Yet very few have the courage to speak out against them because, one accusation can change the entire dynamics of ones life or even an entire community. We’ve seen entire colonies burnt down, men, women and children killed, 1 unborn baby, 2 girls, 1 woman were burned alive in Gujranwala because of the fact that they were labelled as ‘Kaafirs’, most recently a Christian couple was also thrown into a brick kiln. There are thousands of such other incidents similar to these equally barbaric and inhumane. We as Muslims and Pakistan as a state has taken a pledge to protect the minorities of this country, it is our responsibility, what are we if we cant even uphold a pledge that we have taken? Where is cleric’s religion when he violates that pledge that he has taken? Why does a person’s faith matter when it comes to him being a good or bad person?

“Beware!  Whoever is cruel and hard on a non-Muslim minority, or curtails their rights, or burdens them with more than they can bear, or takes anything from them against their free will; I (Prophet Muhammad) will complain against the person on the Day of Judgment.” (Abu Dawud)

Although there are so many who are silent, we occasionally see a hero rise within our ranks, a hero who is fearless and wants to eradicate this poison. One such hero is Mohammad Jibran Nasir, it is difficult to do his work justice with just words but I will try my best. He has since the very start spoken out against all those using religion as a tool to further their agenda of hate, he has been of the most vocal supporters of minority rights in Pakistan. He recently launched a protest outside the Lal Masjid to demand the arrest of Abdul Aziz, a man who has openly supported the Taliban, a man who has at every point in his life worked against the interests of Pakistan and is responsible for too much of innocent blood through his hate instigating teachings, he was the man who taught his pupils at the Lal Masjid to sympathize with the Taliban, the killers or our people and to fight for them and he left even them to die when he escaped in a burka from the masjid because to him nothing is more important than his life. Mohammad Jibran’s campaign has not only been to have him arrested but it is to make people realize that there are hundreds of others doing exactly what Abdul Aziz has done and is doing, we must speak out against them we must protect our people, we must not let them be judge of others faiths and beliefs. Jibran in this campaign has received death threats from various terrorist factions, those militant outfits that have killed hundreds of thousands of men, women and children of Pakistan that are now trying to protect Abdul Aziz. Mohammad Jibran has openly spoken out against them despite the threats, he has pointed each and every one of them out, at a point where even the state of Pakistan seems a bit back handed, Jibran has looked directly in the eyes of the enemies of Pakistan and stood his ground, he was called an infidel(Kaafir) yet he was not shaken, his faith was questioned but that did not bring him down. He is right now fighting a battle for the future of this country, he right now is rooting out this poison that spreads in Pakistan, I salute him for his bravery, he is the hero Pakistan needs but we have not done much to deserve him.