(Originally published in The News on June 9, 2015)
I received an advertisement recently on WhatsApp that read something like this: â€śSaying no to the beverages produced by Ahmedis is the least one can do to honour Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).â€ť A few years ago, I happened to stumble upon a similar advertisement exclusively printed on a poster to be put up in the Lahore High Court (LHC).
Some newspapers ran stories on it but the topic died down for lack of audience. Of course, the electronic media was as mute as it has always been on issues requiring intellectual curiosity and valour to face the music. I remember showing that poster to a leading lawyer who has limited the sphere of his legal life on fighting issues directly concerning human rights. At once, he refused to acknowledge that the poster had any link to the LHC or that it was ever put up inside the court. When I showed him the newspaper, silence ensued.
When I asked him if he would take any action against the discriminatory attitude of the lawyersâ€™ community against the Ahmedis, silence ensued again. He snatched the paper from my hand and said that he would look into the matter. It has now been four years and the matter has been shrouded in silence. I do not know if the lawyerâ€™s inaction was out of some sort of respect for the Prophet (PBUH) or because of fear of those who have developed a febrile eagerness to kill anyone they find dishonouring the Prophet (PBUH) according to their own definition of honour and respect.
I certainly believe the Prophetâ€™s (PBUH) honour is least dependent on things as trivial as refusing to use beverages produced by Ahmedis or, alternatively, on things as grand as laying down oneâ€™s life in the name of jihad, especially in the event where the majority of Muslims are lost to the message of the Prophet (PBUH) and the teachings he was sent with to this earth.
This self-styled honour has left us diseased, where nothing except hating others is considered the right course towards the higher pedestal of gaining Allahâ€™s pleasure. This honour syndrome refuses to come into play when the Rohingyas are persecuted in Myanmar for being Muslims and, as migrants, when on the seas. It took social media not only to awaken the Muslim governments of their responsibilities but the so-called Islamic organisations otherwise working full-time to protect Pakistan from perceived enemies such as India and the Jews.
Islamic State (IS) is conspicuous by its absence to protect the members of the Caliphate it dreams to establish by annihilating all those who refuse to bow down to its narrow, extremist and sabre-rattling version of Islam. Not even a single statement has been issued by the group on the plight of the Rohingya Muslims or on the cripplingly slow response of Muslim states towards Burmese apathy. Strangely enough, IS did not condemn the west for not taking to task the Myanmar government on this mass human rights violation in its country.
Muslims have generally considered themselves the target of western conspiracies that seek to eliminate them. In Pakistan, we add to this list the Indians and the Jews.
There could be truth to this apprehension. Since the recorded history of the worldâ€™s civilisations, more blood has been spilt in invading, capturing or securing geographical territories than on any other issues, issues such as religion. Nations have had the penchant to override the others but nations have also been known to become overmatched in turning the tide against their enemies. For the time being, Muslims are killing Muslims. They are more of a threat to themselves than any western country could be to them. Now if we smell a rat here, the fault lies again with the Muslims and not with the Jews, the Christians or with the west combined.
Interestingly, it is here that the honour mechanism has been required: to preserve unity and to consolidate the roots, genre and fabric of the Muslim community in any circumstance. If an outsider has been able to tatter this fabric, why not look at the quality of the fabric and later at the hands that made it? When disunity creeps in, greed overrides, morality becomes subjective, outsiders only have to show how to pull the trigger and insiders do the rest. This is exactly what has happened.
The honour of Islam and Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is misplaced when it kills Ahmedis, Shias or the Kalash people because of their faith. This honour is misrepresented when silence prevails over the killing of Palestinians and the Rohingya Muslims. This honour is misused when US-made weapons are used against the Muslims in Yemen by the Saudis to consolidate their power in the region. And honour is trampled upon when Islam is used in the name of blasphemy to extort profit or settle personal scores.