Foreign Policy Blogs

‘Til Kingdom Come

'Til Kingdom Come

Satan likes Shezan, so do I!

It’s never a dull moment in Pakistan, but various moments filled with dull people. A rally was held on January 28, in the city of Rawalpindi, against the establishment of a place of worship by the Ahmeddia community. The Ahmedi’s are a minority community who consider themselves a sect within Islam, but were declared non-Muslims in 1974 by the government. A place where Ahmedi’s had been praying for the past 17 years (it is illegal for them to call their place of worship a “mosque”) became a central point of contention when, in the words of the official press release of the Ahmeddia Community, “miscreants” wanted to deprive them of the right to pray there.

Just some two weeks after this rally, the Lahore Bar Association banned the sale of products produced by Shezan, a company owned by Ahmedi’s, in the cafeterias of the subordinate courts. Of course, drinking fruit juice that came out of the factory premises of someone you consider an infidel must be a crime. I can just see the next campaign: “Satan loves Shezan”. Speaking with a local paper, the Lahore Bar Association Vice President Rana Javed Bashir Khan said cafeteria managers at subordinate courts would be directed to stop buying or selling Shezan products. He said strict action would be taken against those who did not heed the ban.

Then there’s Difa-e-Pakistan (literally: Defense of Pakistan), an emerging political or social force – it is still unclear which – that neatly amalgamates the extreme right and some supposed progressives into one little group, sealed with an intolerant chant. On February 12th, Difa-e-Pakistan held a rally that had attendee’s carrying portraits of Mumtaz Qadri, the assassin of former Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer over a blasphemy controversy. They were chanting slogans against Ahmedis and their ‘uncalled for’ activities in Rawalpindi. Praying is uncalled for, apparently.

All the while it is estimated that some 150 people have died in terrorism-related violence in the month of February so far. The bigger issues: the feeding of this rage and this anger that is translating into terrorism, terrorizing Ahmedi‘s and non-Shezan-drinkers alike, go unnoticed. The fact that Difa-e-Pakistan was allowed to host such a large gathering of people, propagate an agenda that is clearly exhorting violence and get all the media coverage they want, should leave us in a panicky-dismay. Instead, we defend them with the right to free speech – not realizing the difference between speaking your mind and inciting terrorism. We brush that off and sit around and debate the rights and benefits of selling fruit juice.

Followers of any faith will tell you that ‘Til Kingdom Come, there can be no judgment and no condemnation. That’s God’s job. The Qur’an talks about how the Jews and the Christians before the Muslims thought they too were God’s chosen people and would be awarded Heaven for their lineage alone. The Qur’an also says that they are mistaken. Where do we as Muslims get off thinking we’d be given the benefit of a different yardstick? Where do we get the right to brand the other a non-believer, liable to burn for time immemorial?

Come Judgment Day, will we be able to substantiate our claim of a moral high ground? If not, should we not be more concerned about the rampant support of groups such as Difa-e-Pakistan instead of making the life of another, equally entitled, completely unbearable and void of spiritual rights?

I suggest we all discuss this over a carton of Shezan juice.



Sahar Said

Sahar, who grew up in Lahore, Pakistan, has obtained her Master of Laws degree from The George Washington University Law School, and worked with a non-profit in New York. She currently writes from Germany.

Sahar can be followed on Twitter @sahar_said.