The Deafening Silence


The Deafening Silence

By Mona Hassan

January 12, 2015


Human kind is experiencing a very deadly decade. Only in past few years I have heard more deadly news in the name of religion than anyone would like to admit. Ibb, Charlie Hebdo, heartbreaking and enraging public flogging of Raif Badawi, Boko Haram massacre, Peshawar and Rawalpindi terrorist attacks are just a few covering the headlines and news strips these days. Like our Dil dil Pakistan heart-throb turned misogynist mullah JJ, we haven’t forgotten about another pseudo religious scholar Amir Liaqat’s affirmative agreement with a very clear and deadly “religious” order disguised in a message that resulted in the death of at least one young (Ahmadi) Pakistani. Another 52 year old man accused of Blasphemy was gunned down after being released from jail for being mentally ill. Even a modestly small peaceful vigil of about 100 people remembering Salman Taseer on his death anniversary in Lahore was trashed by an angry religious mob.

It seems that every nook and corner of the world fighting a war internally that is being initiated by the religious goons sitting elsewhere through their minions. Heaven forbid if you dare to question those acts, their motives or the religion, have a discussion over controversial religious aspects and laws such as Rape and Blasphemy. Our society and especially these “upholders of religion” would chant religion of peace while drawing blood in the streets or burn people alive. See the irony?  The term “peaceful religion” has quickly become a misnomer now and for rightful reasons. There comes a point where you have to make a clear determination and acknowledge that either the religion we proudly associate with is anything but peaceful or as a nation and society we have become savages who feast on human flesh and blood and present human sacrifice to please our god or prophet. Sure I have heard it like broken record a million times, all Muslims aren’t the same and I agree to not put every Muslim under one category. But the way and speed we are “progressing” in this department, pretty soon we all either will be terrorists or dead.

Silence 1There is a group of our (human) kind that feels emotionally detached from the society minding their “own” business no matter what. They listen, they see, they feel bad, offended, may be disturbed as well but they rather not say or do anything about it. Then there is a mindset that thinks societal problems are not their business unless, it is a cricket match with India, Israeli attack on Gaza, someone draws a cartoon or says something that emotionally hurts their religious sentiments. We all watched Salman Taseer’s vigil thrashers’ video and can vouch for their language and behavior that was shown against a very peaceful gathering and then there was Charlie Hebdo. Same reason, same reaction, different intensity. Lahore got lucky this time around with some bruises, Paris not so much.

During that controversial show by Amir Liaqat, there were five other clerics present with full house of audience who either affirmed the message given or remained silent. If there is any significant protest we saw against it was from our own hero Muhammad Jibran Nasir and a small group of civil society stood with him. His active protests have been going on since the Pehsawar attack and even after setting a fearless example, people are still reluctant to make an effort or even raise their voice against the acts of terror. These are the people who don’t say anything and they are all “Passive supporters[1]” of terrorism. Passive terrorism, as I mentioned in my previous article in detail, is much more dangerously potent than some religious thugs thrashing Taseer’s vigil, or burning a house full of people in Gujranwala with children and a pregnant mother inside. As my friend Saif Rahman says, “Passive Terrorism can be done with words and silence, and the sound of silence is deafening.”

In a small group discussion following the Charlie Hebdo incident, about free speech, criticism and voicing opinions, I and my friends realize that the Cultural or Moderate Muslims although in a greater number but a lesser voice than they should be. They are the silent majority; the group of people who do not want to be identified with the terrorists’ or more vocal critics’ version of Islam, the “killer ideology.” JibranThese are the people who have fallen into the pit of indifference equally towards terrorism and criticism. They don’t want to be part of any debate that is either bashing or defending Islam. They simply do not consider it their war. Going through twitter news-feed over Charlie Hebdo I spotted one by Anderson Cooper quoting a Charlie Hebdo fellow cartoonist ….they’ll continue because his massacred colleagues “would be murdered twice if we remained silent.” If we remained silent our kids in Peshawar will be murdered twice, Salman Taseer will be killed again, Ahmedis and Shias will be re-slaughtered and Dr. Abdus Salam’s grave will be desecrated over and over again. Like Jibran Nasir said in his latest poem “We will keep fighting the fear,” dedicated to Shehbaz Taseer “You will stay standing quiet like this; and we will keep dying in this silence” (Translated)

Instead of letting liberals like Bill Maher fighting their war against extremists its time Cultural/Moderate Muslims take the lead and stand against terrorism themselves. Because let’s face it, all over the world, wherever terrorism emerges, its terrorism in the name of Islam. There is a time when apologetic explanations and guilt to defend your religion via offence doesn’t work and it has already stopped working. It’s the time when picking a side between extremist views isn’t a solution. It’s the time to identify and stand with the different view, the moderate and cultural view, the view our silent majority holds. It is neither the terrorists’ version of religion that Muslims feel obligated to defend just because it’s the same religion they share nor the other extreme that Muslims feel obligated to reject because it has no religion. A small number of Moderate Pakistanis are seen and making news these days. They are trying very hard to identify the real terrorists putting all the fear behind them and stand with the country no matter what language they speak or what religion they follow.  They have organized and given call for worldwide protest against terrorism on the 16th of January. Be part of it, stand united against terrorism and make each of your voices count.
#SayNotoFear #SayNotoMilitancy #SayNotoTerrorism #ReclaimPakistan

Mona Hassan is HCMA (Humanist & Cultural Muslim Association) Communications Manager and Human Rights Activist; Author “Barely Legal”; @monaahassan



Passive Terrorism; Guilty as charged

Passive Terrorism; Guilty as charged

By: Mona Hassan

December 28, 2014

Pakistan seems to have taken the center stage  for all the wrong reasons; from murder resulting from hate speech by a pseudo religious scholar on national television to the murder in cold blood of over 130 children in  Peshawar, International attention retains ever present focus on its Blasphemy laws, Hudood laws and Honor killings in broad daylight. It doesn’t just end there, the manner of those murders are as horrific as it can ever be for the generations to come and haunt all those who have witnessed and read about it. The culture of extra judicial  public killings, mob violence, burning humans alive,hear_no_evil__speak_no_evil__see_no_evil_by_sarroora-d5vsxrp beating people to death are all those crimes and murders that have been conducted in broad day light where people and police was present. What’s more disturbing,  in some cases people were comfortable filming  the incidents on their mobile phone, taking pictures and later posting it on  social media but not once any of those or the silent viewers have come forward to help the victims; in other cases, the sheer denial of the cause of problem or presenting apologetic explanations.  The commonly observed actions and inactions in all those incidents that is  worse than the killing itself is the silence of masses. These are all classic signs of terrorism including human rights’ violations, massacre of minorities, children in a School in Peshawar. We all shake our heads quietly, post sad memes, offer prayers for the victims but its time more was done about it.

Tolerating intolerant behavior, staying quiet watching atrocities and justifying actions for religious, cultural or any other reasons… terrorism seems to have deeply infiltrated and homesteaded right into the social structure of Pakistan in the form of active and passive  terrorism. The country has been struggling with it for years now  and it seem to have kept growing over the years. Majority of everyday news is covered with reporting some form of terrorism in more than one part of the country.

Wherever terrorism spreads, and again, I am including human rights violation in terrorism, the government and civil society get together and find a root cause of the problem before looking for the solution. In Pakistan’s case the root cause is very obvious yet ignored or in most cases denied which in itself is a form of Passive Terrorism.

Passive terrorism is a newly emerged term and hasn’t been widely discussed enough to be a part of the dictionary however I define it as  an “inert or quiescent behavior towards terrorism; an inaction, non-reaction, non-participation, non-involvement in countering terrorism. Passive terrorism describes a behavior of general public or government which silently allows the spread or promotion of terrorism by turning a blind eye or tolerating terrorism. Passive terrorism prevails when there is no deliberate effort or decision to either counter it or to raise voice against it.”  In an analysis of active or passive terrorism prevalence, it won’t be incorrect to assert that both have the same cause.  It could be religious pride or ego, fear of retaliation by formidable religious mafia,  frustration due to law and order situation, social-economic problems or just an indifferent behavior towards what happens around everyone. Whatever the reason but  it has resulted in the condition Pakistan is in right now and we are all guilty of it.

The truth of the matter is, Pakistan as a nation has been desensitized to these crimes.  We hear, we see, we express our sadness and we move on considering it as an everyday routine or, we see mFaultobs gather and start smashing and burning things, houses or people. If something happens that is bigger than a double murder,  we find someone to blame. It’s always either  India, America and if that doesn’t work then we have our centuries’ old friends, Jews to the rescue.  It’s a double edged-sword. We don’t just blame others, we also deny that the problem exists within or we get upset if terrorists claim to belong to the religion we share and come up with the excuses to satisfy ourselves that they are not following the “correct” form of the religion but we never take time to raise our voice against the violence committed against other Pakistanis. Our grief is also sectarian and sexist.

The recent incident of Peshawar massacre have brought a strong wave of  rage to the mourning nation, some even demanded public executions of the terrorists. Military came into action promptly and Government seems to be very active as well. All the sit-downs and political protests have been called off in the interest of nation and a small number of civil society members are working very hard to raise awareness and trying to get things straight. Could we all hope that this will eventually turn into something revolutionary? Well of course we can, that’s all we have been doing since past 6 decades but it hasn’t changed.

Why? Because we celebrate 3 days of mourning and on fourth day, we move on  and don’t look back. Things get brushed under the rug.

Pakistan has all the classic signs of (Active and) Passive terrorism. Professor Daniel L. Byman, in his article “Passive Sponsorship of Terrorism” (Survival 2005)[1], explains the phenomenon as

“It is not when the regime makes a deliberate decision to provide assistance, though it includes situations where individuals are assisting terrorists without their government’s permission. A regime is guilty of passive sponsorship if it knowingly allows a terrorist group to raise money, enjoy a sanctuary, recruit, or otherwise flourish but does not directly aid the group itself. Passive support has the following characteristics:

The regime in question itself does not provide assistance but knowingly allows other actors in the country to aid a terrorist group;

The regime has the capacity to stop this assistance or has chosen not to develop this capacity, and

Often passive support is given by political parties, wealthy merchants, or other actors in society that have no formal affiliation with the government.”

The definition applies as much to the political regime as it does to the social one. Being part of the social system each and every one is responsible for passively supporting terrorism by either the outsiders or inside elements. As we see in our society as well, very few openly support “terrorism” and find some insane justification for it. There is only a fraction of people who would openly condemn it or do speak about it. Even the very vocal religious and political leaders either only condemn the act itself or express grief over the loss but no one openly condemns the Taliban or Mob killers such as our popular face these days Molvi Abdul Aziz of Lal Masjid, Islamabad.

This passive support can be even more lethal than active support. Pakistani government has been the topic of international discussion for harboring many high profile militant leaders such as Osama Bin Laden. There are justifications issued in favor of terrorist activities, tolerance exhibited towards controversial Islamic laws – such as famous “killer law”; the blasphemy law and its effects on minorities. We turn a blind eye towards the massacre of Shiites of Hazara and mob violence against Christian community or an Ahmadi household.

10686595_331756660352547_1673144805028511862_nHow do we fix it? Well, it only takes one person to raise the first voice the rest is just to follow and keep moving. Growing up in school we were taught a story Unity is strength. Lucky for us its available online.[2] It’s about an old man on his death bed and his sons who always fight and bicker with each other. The old man taught them a lesson by giving them a bunch of sticks and ask them to break the bundle. None of the sons could and that’s how old man explained that together you are an unbreakable bundle of sticks and scattered just waiting to be broken with little pressure. Pakistan now is like that old man on his death bed and Pakistanis are his kids. Perhaps it’s time we all go back and visit our childhood story and learn how to get together and work together as Pakistanis not Muslims, Sunnis, Shias, Christians, Ahmedies, Hindus or ExMuslims. Call it a wishful thinking but it’s the need of the hour to work together, give each other respect, and stand for every Pakistanis life, liberty and humanity and tackle the problems one by one.
Mona Hassan is HCMA (Humanist & Cultural Muslim Association) Communications Manager and Human Rights Activist.