Before turning Muslim at the airport of Heathrow, I had left behind Ahmadiat at Allama Iqbal International Airport. From one airport to another, I was two people both perceptually so radicalized in their subjective makeup without my harnessing, and at once polar to each other, it made me split in half. I have a person attached to me, but the crack isn’t filling. There are times when that person is me, but other times, in fact most of the times, it is just the crack that is me.
George Orwell defines freedom as the ability to say two plus two makes four. If that much, he says, is granted, things should follow. I counted my two halves as one, but the crack makes quantifying my existence as a whole impossible. Then the cold month of December walks in: Syrians are refused life because they are Muslims. Ahmadis are refused life because they are ‘Kafirs’.
Recently, a Sunni Muslim geologist living in our neighborhood had a grandson, whom the family gave an English name. They wanted to protect the child from all the hate Muslims are being exposed to in North America. It is a discursive tactic, and wouldn’t protect the child at all. It will only shield his parents from the fear that they didn’t do enough. That is the thought behind all the mobility that has taken place around the world in the last many decades on the heels of neo-liberalism, imperialism and radicalism spreading roots: people sink in seas than die at the hands of guns thinking they will protect their children. That they tried is emblematic of the evolutionary instinct that we must protect our children.
Arundhati Roy, in her latest article on her visit with Snowden, wonders if the invasion of Iraq could be called a genocide after the exponential damage to human life, not to mention the collapse of the land we once knew belonged to people who contributed tremendously to the scientific world, as it stands today. I shook my head at the notion. When Shias of Pakistan try to claim the word "genocide” in attention to their own plight, they are subjected to the issue of quantitative accuracy of the word in relation to how it has been used historically. They are denied the usage, because the number of Shias killed is apparently ‘not enough’. We are making sure that the children fallen in the soil of Pakistan meet the exacting numbers for it to be called genocide.
Speaking further of numbers, there were 40 Ahmadi families who hid in the gritty nalas (read: gutters) of Jhelum at 3 am to escape the men Pakistani newspapers labelled as arsonists. That too is a matter of concern. Those who kill minorities in Pakistan are arsonists: people with maligned interests, but no exacting purpose. At such intersections, one begins to wonder about language, and the limits it imposes on us to pitch our agency. While we engage to find common denominators amongst all that we must consider in order to make a logical claim, just so that we are able to count and make sure that two plus two is indeed four in Orwellian fashion, boats sink, trees fall, children halt breathing.
Earlier this year while Pakistanis were celebrating or denouncing the news (depending on who you were) of legalization of gay marriage in America, another important and local news lost the fortune of making as many headlines as it deserved. A gay couple was arrested in Jaffarabad district of Baluchistan after reports of their marriage spread. You heard it- a marriage between same-sex partners in accordance with Islamic tradition.
According to an article on tribune, "a medical report suggested the couple had sex”. It is intriguing to note that it is unclear whether the "carnal act” of which they are accused of, and arrested thereafter, even happened. Nevertheless, it resulted in the invocation of the section 377/34 of Pakistani Penal Code- which it was said is the first time ever that the archaic, colonial law has been put into effect. A third man, who read their Nikkah, was also arrested. In Pakistan, a marriage between same-sex partners is as common as the sighting of humans on Mars. As a result, it created the deepening of a fear for the community of sexual minorities: further exclusion and stigmatization. So when the news from the USA surfaced, it brought home some reassurance- that somewhere in the world, the struggle to gain equality in the legal sphere has met with success. Well, until Hamza Ali Abbasi stole the peace. But despite severe criticism from different quarters of society, as the hashtag of universal love went viral, the resilient gays in Pakistan were saying, "it is normal to feel carnal love for people from same-sex”.
I wrote this note in reflection of the recent tributaries of violence that have erupted from Turkey to Syria to the US, generating news on my feed, as if all there is to this life is a subjective fluidity, I consider my own crack as a continuation of the wounds we collectively endure as our human rights activists are murdered in broad daylight from Pakistan to Turkey. I am not a narcissist and by no means do I hurt more than others, but when I become cognizant of my crack, I remember Rashid Rehman– Junaid Hafeez’s first lawyer- who took his case amidst death threats, and died defending not a man accused of blasphemy, but the idea that nurtures that all human life is precious. So, I think to myself: What A WONDERFUL WORLD!