Identity, Equality, Unity
In January 1953, Zehra Nigah, then a high school student in Karachi, wrote the following lines in response to police firing that killed several students and passers-by, during the students’ peaceful protests for their rights
Poem in Zehra Nigah’s handwriting posted at the Dr Sarwar blog – http://drsarwar.wordpress.com/
Aaj unn toofaN badoshoN ka kinara kaun hai
Jin ke piyare mar chukey unn ka piyara kaun hai
Jin pe raateiN chaa gaiyeeN unn ka sitara kaun hai
Jin ki dunya luT gayi unn ka sahara kaun hai
DhoonDneiN ko apni manzil iss khash-o-khashak meiN
Kitne Ghunche mil gaye haiN gulistaN ki Khak meiN
(Where lies the shore today for those storm riders/ Who will now be the love of those who lost their loved ones / Where are the stars for those on whom night has descended/ Who will support those whose world has been looted/ They left to find their goal in this chaos /How many flowers lie trampled in the garden’s dust)
Zehra Nigah’s ode to pain and the loss of life and love can be applied with even more pathos in today’s Pakistan where bullets take not random lives but are aimed to kill those who don’t conform to a particular way of thinking or belief system. How do you counter the thinking that has been propagated through the pulpit of mosques, scrawled as graffiti on walls, embedded in school textbooks and proclaimed through the mouths of ‘national heroes’ with clay feet, criminal backgrounds and twisted minds on popular television channels? We can each do what we can.
My friend Shayan was successful in changing the mind of one of her domestic helpers who had casually mentioned one day that ‘Shias are kafir’.
“In that case,” she said, “you think Farrukh Sahib (her husband) is a kafir?”
“No, bibi, how could I say that,” Sher Khan answered. “He is a good Muslim.”
“Well, he is Shia,” she replied. “And you think our daughters are kafir?”
“No, of course not! They are good, sweet girls.”
“But you just said Shias are kafir. And my husband and children are Shia,” she said gently. “So now tell me, why do you think Shias are kafir?”
“The maulvi at my masjid says so.”
“Would you leave that maulvi alone with your young daughter?” she asked. “Or son?”
The conversation continued in a non-confrontational way for a while. Gradually, Sher Khan realised that he had been misled. He even began challenging the maulvi at the masjid for making such statements, and many at the masjid supported him. This is no substitute for a sustained re-education programme at the government and media level, but it shows how one person can make a difference, how that difference touches others. Let’s all pledge never to remain silent when faced with injustice and lies. Let these voices become a flood that sweeps away the debris of hatred and bigotry. Allah is Rab-ul-alameen, for all mankind, not just Rab-ul-muslimeen, for Muslims only.
Thinking of the passengers pulled off buses and killed in Gilgit recently, words are inadequate…
Those poor souls
Heading home for Eid
Hauled off buses
Everyone ‘else’ is kafir
They were born
In the ‘wrong’ faith
Echoes of screams
Target-killings in Balochistan
Is this Talibanistan?
Was not meant
To be like this