Thursday, April 30, 2009

Extremism and Religion - Part I

I know too many people who think religion is bad for humanity. I can understand their view, but I also think they are looking at religion from only one angle, which may be a distorted view and not fair enough to make one jump to such a conclusion. I’m sure they have their own reasons for being anti-religion, but I find it utterly ignorant to go around with slogans that violently scream: "DEATH TO RELIGION! DEATH TO GOD!"

Most such people believe this way only because of what they see extremist religious people doing around the world. But do these people think they are being any less extremist when they go from one extremism to another? Perhaps the only difference between the Taliban and/or other extremists MAY be that these extremist atheists/agnostics don’t kill others. But, oh, they DO with their beliefs, their ignorance, their blindness, if I may say so openly. They believe that beliefs are supposed to be personal (I believe this, too), yet they go around bashing anyone who believes in God and labels him/her barbaric. I guess they think that makes sense . . .

So here’s my views on religion in regards to humanity - as in, whether it's good or bad for humanity overall.

If we look at religion from only ONE side and consider ONLY the harms of it, then of course it's a bad thing. Let’s take Islam, for instance. No, wait, this applies to ALL religions. If they are interpreted from a male’s perspective, then it’s deadly for humanity – okay, for women at least. But if we could interpret their teachings from a different outlook, a different gender, a more JUST mind, while living in our own time, then perhaps we could have more peace worldwide.

When people argue that religion overall is bad, my response is ... they may be wrong, they may be right. Since religious teachings (of ANY religion, not just Islam) are always subject to the interpretation of the stronger and usually selfish and biased mind, it can have extremely negative impact on society. And that's proven to us already. We have the Taliban currently controlling Pashtun regions in Pakistan; there are Muslims in the east, particularly in the Arab cultures, who consider women too weak to even breathe for themselves; and there’s classical and modern records of wars fought on the basis of religion, only because each religion wants to dominate all others.

BUT if it's interpreted properly, in the present time in which the religion is being practiced, then religion may have a healthier impact. Religion can make you either a very good person or it can make you really evil. One Pashtun leader, named Abdul Ghaffar Khan (because we appreciate what all he did for us Pashtuns, we refer to him out of love and respect as "Bacha Khan") interpreted religion (Islam) in such a way that led him to fight for the freedom of Pashtuns. He interpreted it to mean peace, success, happiness, stability -- ONLY if it's followed properly. He fought for the education of women, the liberation of women from the oppressions, the freedom for humans to be able to speak against injustices and fight FOR justice. There are some others like him who have used religion in a very peaceful manner, though such people are NOT common, unfortunately.

And my point? Simply this: it's ALL a matter of understanding a religion’s teachings and applying them to the time and culture in which you are living. You hear something about it, don't just stick with the first impression it makes in your mind but consider seeing it from different angles. Perhaps your first impression that hits you from whichever angle is not the right one, not the just one. I have personally witnessed (not just read or heard of) the harms that religion (interpretations of it) can do, and my people (the Pashtuns) are currently suffering from it, too. But does that mean I should call for NO RELIGION, NO RELIGION, NO RELIGION -- or carry slogans that scream "DEATH TO RELIGION!"? No, that'd be very dumb and ignorant of me, or of anyone who does that. We must first analyze the situation, analyze the argument, tackle it from different viewpoints, and see where it leads us.

I must admit, though, that people who have suffered a lot due to religion have every reason to leave that particular religion or religion in general (or just stop believing in God, if they choose). They've seen what we haven't seen, they've felt what we haven't felt, and religion doesn't work for THEM the way it may work for us. I have friends who have left religion (3 so far: Islam, Christianity, and Hinduism) only because of what they have been through throughout their life. I respect their decision, and I think anyone who looks down upon them is cursed with a blind heart, blind mind, AND a blind eye.

Then I also have friends who have accepted religion only because of what they have been through in life. For most people who stay in religion, that's their only hope. They *believe* that they'll go to a better place after death, and whether they're right or wrong is JUST a matter of faith; perhaps they're living a false dream by believing that, but who are we to decide that they're wrong?

There exist people in this world who do good only in order to seek some reward from God after they die (or even in this world; for some people, this is good) and avoid doing bad deeds (be it lying or cheating or cursing or abusing others or whatever else they may consider "sinful") only in order to avoid being punished by God. Yes, one can argue that these people are just selfish, but so what? If it helps them lead a good and healthy life, what business does anyone else have regarding them? It's always great to learn about different beliefs, but the reason for that should only and only be so that our minds can open more widely and accept different beliefs, not so we can mock others for their beliefs just because they are different than ours. There's absolutely nothing wrong with not believing in God, believing in more than one God, or being completely against religion and not having any, but something goes oppressively wrong when we deafen and blinden ourselves to the *fact* that we are not always right in our beliefs; there's nothing wrong unless and until we go around insulting others who believe differently than we do.

So whether religion is good or bad for humanity is a highly personal belief/opinion. It can go both ways, and I agree that it can have harmful effects -- but it can also give fruitful results if we let it. We decide which one we want it to be and have NO right to tell others how they should believe, how stupid their beliefs are, and which beliefs they should get rid of it. If we sincerely care about humanity, we'll only educate others in a proper manner and then let the people decide for themselves what's best for them. Only when their beliefs are affecting us negatively should we fight back and stand up for our own, which are not supposed to harm anyone.

P.S. I'm not done here :O I'll post the next part to this in a couple of days. I have a LOT to say on this matter, bahaha.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Exposing the Flogging-Video: Bad Idea?

So I have come across quite a few people who, believing that Samar Minallah was the one who recorded and internationally exposed the video of the flogging of the 17-year-old girl from Swat, condemn Samar's actions.
Shouldn't we question the accusation that Samar Minallah made this video in the first place? I highly doubt she was the one who recorded it or was a personal witness to it all, even. Many sources indicate that Samar merely circulated the video. And she shouldn’t be punished for having done so, because a LOT of people did that, too! Including me! And if it wasn't to be circulated, the event should never have taken place in the first place -- if those who carried out the action are so ashamed of it now or are cowards enough to say, "This was only for those who were present at the moment! No one was supposed to even get a glimpse of it!"

Samar has been interviewed, and her comments have appeared in various sources, but that doesn't necessarily mean that she was behind the making of the clip. All the stuff she's said to these sources, I would've said them myself, too, had I been the one being interrogated.

Now, the reason some people disagree with the publication of this video is that ... well, one reason is that they think it’s fake. Well! Let it be fake! It’s REALITY for Pashtuns, nonetheless! The public flogging is still nothing compared to the beheading and butchering my people have witnessed! And it still symbolizes our pain and mistreatment; it still illustrates our fate if the Taliban continue ruling us.

There are other people, though, who are angered by the video because they believe it has put the girl's reputation at stake now. But what kind of a society and humans living in that society would prefer a girl's "reputation" or honor to publicizing the injustices done to them? This girl represents the people of Swat and other regions where we are being ruled by Taliban. What's been done to her will no doubt be the fate of every girl who does something that the Taliban don't personally like! Did they have evidence for her "crime"? No, they didn't. Just like that, they can catch any girl and claim she did something that Islam doesn't allow and then punish her in such a humiliating manner.

Besides, right now is not the time for us to worry about our personal family honor/reputation. How dare we think of such a selfish thing when our whole RACE is being dishonored and mistreated by the Taliabn (and/or Pakistan army/govt)? And what about the reputation of Pukhtuns as a whole, as we are degraded on our own soil?
If this were my own sister, I, too, would be up for demanding justice for the hell she suffered. Or would I be expected to remain silent about it just because exposing her injustice would stain my family reputation?

The reason I am glad about the worldwide exposure of this video is
that, you see, no one heard our screams as we silently shouted for help through our desperate sighs -- for the world to see us suffering in the hands of the Taliban throughout these last couple of dreadful years. We suffered seeing at least four headless bodies hanging on poles (in Green Chauk, Mingora – now referred to as “Khooni Chauk”!), and people worldwide thought it too trivial a matter to be discussed or looked into; we suffered watching hundreds of our schools being burned to ashes, and the world didn't think it was important enough to be mourned over or to help those who were going to be affected by it; we suffered the butchering of our fathers and brothers and sons – our sole breadwinners – and no one deemed it necessary to offer us food and clothing; we suffered the destruction of our safe homes, and the billions of citizens of the world remain focused on themselves (I forgive those who are suffering themselves); we suffered reluctantly fleeing our own land in hopes of a better place, and witnesses just watched us leave. And the list goes on.
Clearly, no one was hearing our cries or sharing our pain with us. The world merely served as a useless spectator.

Now ... now, FINALLY, our voice is being heard! Our pain is FINALLY appealing to the world! That only through this emotional, heartbreaking video of a girl's being flogged in public by REAL sinners (the Taliban and the girl’s OWN brother), and our voice is being heard universally. People at my school know of Pashtuns and our genocide now! (It doesn't matter that they may not be able to help us; awareness is still important.) Still, we condemn the publication and universal exposure of this video? People don't seem to have talked against the TALIBAN as openly, as widely as they are doing about Samar. How disheartening.

Anyways ... so I don't think it was a bad idea at all. If we had hidden this from the world, too, then NONE of our injustices would've been revealed; at least one has been revealed this way :)

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Farhat Taj: Letter from the Frontier

Farhat Taj
Friday, April 3, 2009

I am from the North West Frontier Province in Pakistan and am studying at the University of Oslo. All my family and friends live in the frontier areas, and I have gone to my area at least once every year since I came to Norway.

I am writing because I am so very fed up with “experts” in both Pakistan and the West constantly distorting the realities of our people and area. Most of them do not even bother to come and see what is happening. I am asking in the name of objective journalism for some space so I may speak as a daughter of the land for our people.

The people living in northwestern Pakistan under Taliban rule are being held hostage. The Taliban terrorists have unleashed a reign of terror on the people, who are not willing to give up their Pashtun culture. They are overpowered by the armed militants. Their lives, livelihood and culture are attacked by the Taliban in league with al Qaeda.

Every day, people must bury friends and neighbors who have been tortured to death and beheaded. The Taliban hang up dead bodies of local people in public places to deter those who might think of standing up to them. The Taliban have destroyed educational institutions, for both girls and boys, and health centers. They have banned music and dance, which are some of the most cherished Pashtun traditions. The Taliban Shariah courts harass people every day.

The al Qaeda terrorists are alien Arabs, Uzbeks, Tajiks, Chechens, Afghans and even Africans. The Taliban also consist of many criminal gangs from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas. The Taliban have replaced the Pashtun culture with the Wahhabi way of life - the violent and intolerant interpretation of Islam sponsored by Arab sources in the Middle East.

In several towns, the people took up arms against al Qaeda and the Taliban. In most cases, the tribal armies were massacred by the Taliban and al Qaeda. The Pakistani army did not help, and the leaders of the local people's armies were targeted for death by the militants, one by one or in groups through suicide bombing. In several places, the local people are still resisting the Taliban and al Qaeda, but the militants have much better weapons and tools of communication than the local people.

Despite the massacre of so many young men of the area, local resistance against the Taliban and al Qaeda is going on from tribe to tribe and village to village. There could be much more robust tribal resistance to the Taliban and al Qaeda if the tribes were assured that Pakistan's army stands firmly with them and will show up in case help is needed. More important, they need to be confident that the intelligence agencies of Pakistan will not tacitly facilitate terrorist killings of tribal leaders and massacres of their armies.

People in Pakistan's frontier areas live under a brutal occupation of the Islamist militants. Yet most “expert analysts” on the area, both in Pakistan and in the West, do not appreciate the situation. Most do not even bother to come to the area to see what is happening to the people. Some of the so-called experts literally spread lies about the people.

This situation is very painful for me as a person who belongs to the area. I would ask that American readers be very critical of the “expert” views and try to find out about the reality on the ground.

Farhat Taj, a university student in Norway, is a woman from the frontier region of Pakistan, which is under Taliban rule.

SOURCE: Washington Times

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