Don’t reveal my secret, please! – by Dr. Nakvisson
“Hey guys! I am going to reveal a secret about our new class fellow’’ said one of our class fellows pointing towards me. My fantasy started running wild. What could it be? I haven’t stolen anything, have I? Or is it the different colours of my socks? This was 1989, somewhere in southern Punjab, Pakistan. My family had just moved from a small town in suburbs of Islamabad to this medium-sized city. I remember the whole setting very well. It was the break hour and I was surrounded by a number of mischievous class fellows, all native of that city. My heart started to pound and I started to sweat. I was around 11 years old and in grade 7 at that time. While my brain was busy trying to figure out what sort of “innocent” secret my class fellow was going to reveal, he uttered it out loud. “He is Shia.” Ohhhh, sighed all the rest, giving me rather strange looks.”Are you sure?”asked one of them.”Yes, because our class teacher’s son has told me. She said that our new class fellow has a Shia family name.” My secret was revealed!
The Schema (thought pattern) of belonging to “the others”
One of the first memories of my primary school years include a nerdy class fellow aged 7 or so, quite frequently asking me in the local Hindco dialect <Oh tusan loki pitday kyon ho> which literally translates to ”Oh why do you guys (Shia Muslims) lament”. At other times I was told that the Shia kidnap Sunni kids, slaughter them and use their blood and flesh to prepare Niaz (the food served at religious gatherings, some sort of equivalent to Holy Communion or Prasad). I grew up in the suburbs of Islamabad in 1980s, a decade overshadowed by the policies and guidelines set by the self-proclaimed ”Amir-ul-Momineen” Zia-ul-Haq. But the policies set by him, even 25 years after his death, seem to be not only prevailing but also flourishing. I remember filling out application form for the Pakistan Air Force. After having filled all the basic personal details, I came across an obnoxious box asking for my ”Sect”. Fortunately or unfortunately, I turned out to be colour-blind and hence not eligible to become a fighter pilot. But I still wonder what if I weren’t colour-blind? Shall I then reach the cockpit? I reckon the most probable answer is: Yes, if I were an exception to the rule or my secret remained unrevealed to the authorities.My father always taught me ”a mosque is a mosque - house of god. It has no sect, neither Shia nor Sunni”. Numerous times I said prayers beside my father in roadside mosques in different areas of the country. Unfortunately, we always made the heads to turn when offering prayers in a mosque controlled by the people belonging to some school of thought other than ours. With a bunch of onlookers keenly observing me while saying my prayers that how different I am from them; one Rak’at (a set of rituals and prayers to be repeated several times) felt like equal to hundred. I would always finish my prayers in a haste followed by a sigh of relief. Then I would anxiously wait for my father to finish his prayers, who seemed to be quite at ease and busy performing all the recommended acts.From primary school to high school and then college to engineering university, there are countless number of occasions when I was suspected, interrogated, accused and discriminated by ordinary individuals just on the basis of my apparent belonging to the Shia Muslim school of thought – something that always gave me the feeling that there was something wrong with my family name and religious beliefs. All this resulted in giving me, and I have no doubts that also to many other Shia Muslims in Pakistan, a Schema (thought pattern) that we are the ”others” to the Pakistani majority society.
The alienation of Shia Muslims in Pakistan
This ”othering” of Shia Muslims is not a new strategy, and has been used throughout the Islamic history. But in Pakistan, it was revitalised and implemented in an organised fashion during the era of Zia-ul-Haq, with the long-term goal of complete alienation of a major useful portion (25-30%) of the society. Unfortunately, twenty-five years after his death, this othering has reached to a level where Shia Muslims are openly declared Kafir (heretic or infidel). There are loads of websites, printed material, Youtube videos and audio/video CDs circulating in Pakistan declaring the Shia Muslims being Kafir and that they deserve to be killed. To date there is a long list of engineers, doctors, economists, social scientists, community workers, clergymen and ordinary believers belonging to the Shia Muslim community murdered in ”sectarian violence”. In a previous blog I have analysed the use of this term and stated that the use of this term is deliberate with the aim to make the Shia Muslims to take retaliatory actions against the innocent Sunni Muslims thereby starting a civil war in Pakistan.This is a fact that the majority of Sunni Muslims of Pakistan hold no grudges against their fellow Shia Muslims. On the contrary, they enjoy living side by side with their fellow Shia Muslims in perfect harmony and brotherhood. Shia Muslims also do not have any hostility towards the Sunni Muslims. Many Shia Muslims have close family ties and friendships with Sunni Muslims in Pakistan. It is the minority Salafi ideology that has been brought to existence and bred by the funding from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and their accomplices in Pakistan who serve no purpose other than safeguarding the interests of the global colonial powers with imperialistic agenda in the region. But I am not going to analyse that further in this blog, as I intend to touch upon the issue from more of a socio-psychological angle.
Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s secret
One key accusation of the Pakistani Shia Muslims that has been introduced recently by the Salafi groups is that the Shia Muslims were not part of the Pakistan freedom movement. I have
Jinnah’s funeral – notice the clearly visible flag of Abbas that symbolises the flag of
Imam Hussain and is a key ritualistic symbol for modern day Shia Muslims.
personally heard a recently released terrorist addressing his followers and stating the following: ”We made Pakistan to get rid of Hindus but then we had to bear the Shia”. By implying this, the Salafis want to alienate Shia Muslims completely from the society. Recently, there have been so-called historians and scholars trying to prove that Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan was Deobandi (conservative Sunni Muslim school of thought). This is a historical fact that Muhammad Ali Jinnah was a Shia Muslim and was even declared Kafir on the basis of his beliefs by some of the narrow-minded so-called Sunni scholars. Jinnah did however, just like most Shia Muslims, believe in a Muslim nation and curbed any form of sectarian division. But sadly, Jinnah’s religious belief as Shia Muslim has been kept concealed from the Pakistanis since the independence. I am afraid that in the future, the same so-called scholars will prove that Jinnah was inspired with the Saudi/Salafi ideology and hence believed that Shia are Kafir. Until then, Jinnah is acceptable as Quaid-e-Azam (the great leader) as long as his secret is kept concealed.
Having overcome the ”secret to be kept unrevealed” Schema long ago, I now live in a society where no one is intrigued to find out about my ”secret”. But I sometimes still struggle with completely getting rid of the demons from the past. Each time I visit the Pakistan Embassy, the thought is lurking around my mind ”your secret will be revealed”. I feel sad and frustrated and turn to Jinnah’s picture to console myself. But guess what? Jinnah looks to me and whispers ”don’t reveal my secret, please!”[Dr. Nakvisson is an energy expert and a freelance multimedia journalist from Norway.]