My greatest fear is that Pakistan is becoming a democracy of tyrannous, where majority uses ballet box to repress minorities and anyone who dares to stand in their way is murdered.

This was the last day. Aasia was sitting in a cell, waiting for this crazy saga to end with her life. She was being punished for the most heinous crime, for being born as a Christian woman in an Islamic Republic. She was being punished for blasphemy. She had blocked her mind to any thought of pain, which she would endure in those last few seconds of her life. She will be hanged to death by tying a rope around her neck. This is what the Courts have ordered for her. She hoped that Jesus would be kind to her and her death would arrive faster and painlessly. Jesus was very kind to her when she met him the last time before he was murdered again.

 

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That day, two years ago, everyone in her family and friends were petrified on the news of a Muslim mob setting ablaze sixty houses of Christian folks in Korian Village. Unlike others, she did not feel that fear. She felt outraged and frustrated. She wanted to live an honourable life, free of fear and discrimination. Aasia was a rebellion, different from rest of folks in her Christian community. She would not accept her status as a second class citizen, like others around her have. She would fight and so she did. She drank water from the cup of a Muslim boy in the neighbourhood.

Aasia Noreen was born in a small village in District Sheikhupura. She was aware of the discrimination that member of her minority community face in Pakistan, due to wide spread Islamic chauvinism in the country. She knew that no one in her community would complain or challenge this bitter reality, as it would bring more discrimination and horrors to them. From her childhood, she knew that Muslims don’t feast with Christians; they do not let Christian enter their kitchens or touch the crockery which they use. Her mother could not find a job as domestic servant, since all the affluent folks in her village were Muslims and they would not hire a Christian woman for their kitchens. Most of the community members would settle for odd jobs in nearby factories or become sewerage workers, for it was the stigma that is attached with the Christian folks in Pakistan.

 

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She remembers the day when Jesus visited her in the jail cell. It was few days after the Court handed her death sentence. Jesus told her that she would be pardoned, that she could live a free life and would have her honour restored. If it was not for the love and kindness of this man, she could not have recognized him. He did not look like the images painted in her Church for Jesus. He was a clean shaven Asian man, in his sixties, gracefully dressed in a white shalwar Kameez and dark blue coat. He was accompanied by many men with cameras and lights. They asked him sharp questions as he sat next to her. He was calm and kind in responding to every question.

Few days later, she was told that Jesus was killed again, as thousands of years ago, crucified in Jerusalem by religious bigot. A bodyguard shot him twenty five times in a broad day light, in the city of Islamabad. As a child, she was told that Jesus had to be sacrificed by being crucified by wicked men. So it was foretold. When he still lived, he knew that he had fulfilled his sacrifice in mortality. His physical injuries were severe to brutally end the life of any person. When blood came from every pore, it was clear evidence that his heart had broken under the pressure of unbelievable emotional suffering. But Jesus would not die until he was done, when the remains of the cup was drunk, when there was no more pain to suffer for mankind.

Aasia would die today. She will spend last few seconds of her life hanging to gallow. She know that Jesus will come back again.

Pakistan has 97% Muslim population and yet people here feel insecure of their Muslim identity. Punjab government has constituted a committee to see if Hindu Mythology cartoons can be banned in Pakistan. Their stated reason was: “cartoons which glorified mythology characters such as Hanuman had a bad impact on the minds of the young children”. It is ironical since a larger number of Muslim children live in India than in Pakistan. Muslims in India see Hindu cartoons and celebrate Hindu festivals and yet are never intimidated by them.

Some supporters will argue that Pakistan is different as we are a Muslim country, an Islamic Republic and hence things should be different here than elsewhere. They would say that Pakistan was made in the name of Islam and hence showing Hindu Cartoons are against the spirit of Pakistan’s Islamic identity. This is probably the reason why buildings, parks, streets and cities in Pakistan were renamed to sound Islamic from their original Christian and Hindu names. As if buildings have faith and that they were converted to Islam by renaming.

Any discussions on having a secular Pakistan has always received an opposition. The word ‘secular’ is somehow translated as anti-Islamic here. Recently, Chief Justice of Pakistan remarked, “if parliament amended the constitution and declared Pakistan a secular state, should the court remain silent and not take notice of this unlimited power of parliament?” In other words Chief Justice has given concept of having an Islamic State precedence over democracy, disregarding the fact that it was the parliament that gave Pakistan its current Islamic identity in 1971 constitution and not other way around.

Pakistan was not an Islamic Republic at the time of partition. It was few years after the death of its founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah that it was first named as Islamic Republic. Jinnah wanted a secular Pakistan, as it was indicated in his August 11, 1947 speech, where he favoured  separation of state and religion. Jinnah said: “in course of time Hindus would cease to be Hindus and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense, because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the State”. It was only under General Zia ul Haq dictatorship when many of our existing draconian laws were introduce in the name of Islam. From the get go, Islamic scholars had disagreements on interpretation of Islamic laws endorsed by Zia.

The civil society by large has opposed the implantation of religious laws and have advocated for the separation of religion and state. Those who support secular law for Pakistan argues that it is impossible to run a modern state in the 21st century on 1400 years old rules. These rules are inadequate for the challenges that a modern state face. The situation here in Pakistan today is far different and much complexed from what it was in Prophet’s Arabia. They argue that  religious laws are fixed and dogmatic, while secular laws are easily evolved to cater societal changes.

Moreover, they also bank their case on the fact that Islam does not have a uniform interpretation. The discrepancies in interpretation of Islamic laws among various sects are highlighted to demonstrate that adoption of religious law will only isolate the sects and the followers of minority religions. Those favouring secular law argue that introduction of Islamic laws has only polarized the society resulting in the high sectoral violence in the country.

News reports from Pakistan brought to my attention some self appointed moral policemen who walk to women in Karachi and tell them to cover up their heads. According to the widely held belief among Muslims, women are required to cover themselves from head to toe.

‘Of course and why not? ‘, I thought. ‘They are doing the rightful task assigned to them by Allah in divine text. I decided to support and contribute in this holy task by making my mum, sister and wife cover up themselves using Burkas (body veil). I thought of doing some research as I will need help to convince them.

While googling over the internet for some support for my cause, I discovered this individual called Queen Rania of Jordan. She claimed herself as a devout Muslim, offers prayers five times in a day and yet wear sleeveless shirts and knee high skirts. That is a contradiction, I thought. Shouldn’t she at least wear a Hijab to cover up her head, if not a complete Burka, in order to call herself a devout Muslim? How can she be a devout Muslim, while she is violating Quran on its prescribed dress code for women? I was outraged by her hypocrisy. I decided to contradict Rania by putting direct quotes from the Quran on her website and expose this hypocrite to the world.

Using indexes, I could only find one such verse in Quran that state dressing requirements for Muslim women:

24.31 “Enjoin believing women to turn their eyes away from temptation and to preserve their chastity; not to display their adornments; to draw their veils over their bosoms and not to display their finery except to their husbands, their fathers, their husbands’ father, their sons, their step-sons, their slave-girls; male attendants lacking in natural vigour, and children who have no carnal knowledge of women. And let them not stamp feet when walking so as to reveal their hidden trinkets”

For my better understanding, I broke Surah into smaller, manageable portions and used an English dictionary for my aid. The results were not that helpful and instead pointed in the opposite direction:

Enjoin believing women to turn their eyes away from temptation and to preserve their chastity.”

Turning eyes away from temptation and preserve chastity (chastity means purity or virginity). Common knowledge tells that wearing skirts and short sleeves does not result in loss of virginity. If I can think of this then so can my wife, mum and sister, so no help here.

not to display their adornments; to draw their veils over their bosoms and not to display their finery”

Adornments mean ornaments, jewellery or other accessories, drawing veils over bosoms means covering their breasts (not the head, not arms, not legs, not the shoulders or abdomen but only breasts) and not to display their finery, meaning fine or fancy clothing. Damn! No help here.

except to their husbands, their fathers, their husbands’ father, their sons, their step-sons, their slave-girls; male attendants lacking in natural vigour, and children who have no carnal knowledge of women.”

I thought, ‘hmm! Interesting, if applied smartly, it can help me save on some of the shopping expenses. ‘ But nothing to build a case for my argument on Burka.

And let them not stamp feet when walking so as to reveal their hidden trinkets”

To stamp feet when walking so as to reveal their hidden trinket (trinkets meaning small ornaments or small pieces of jewellery).

So all help I could get from the Quran was that they must not wear jewellery and fancy clothings while leaving home. They don’t have to cover head, use a Burka or to stay indoors. Even worse, they now have complete legitimacy to wear clothings showing off arms, legs and even abdomen. Grrrr….!

Outraged by my discovery, I turn my anger towards the so called Muslim Ulmaz (clerics) instead, who have somehow managed to deceive me and many others like me into the absurd concept of forcing women into head to toe Burka and locking them indoors.

I do not understand how was this straight forward Surah translated as such that it would make common folks lock-up women indoors, cover them up head to toe and bar women from talking to men? Even if for a while we assume that women are violating prescribed dress code, where does the Quran ask men to self-appoint ourselves as moral police over women folks and ask them to cover up?