A Lesser Pakistani

Have you wondered what it’s like being a non-Islamic person living in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan?

There’s no street in this country you can walk in without having Islam rubbed into your face. Muslims barely notice that any more, but non-Muslims do. Ironically, many Pakistani Islamists would still argue that the problem with this country is too little adherence to Islamic values.

In the news, you read about all kinds of madness, like people getting arrested for eating publicly during the month of Ramadan. You hear about governors and ministers getting shot for the crime of standing up for our rights…for their dauntless efforts to protect us from the sword that is the blasphemy law, constantly hanging above our necks. And what’s more disheartening is the sight of our fellow Pakistanis pouring out into the streets in support of these murderers.

We’ve endured the dismissive attitude of the majority, yes majority, of our countrymen towards minority rights. We ask for an end to the discrimination of state subjects on the basis of their religious beliefs, only to be slapped in our faces with the fiery riposte, “Majority is authority!”

Muslims, of all people, should know better than to say that. In our struggle for independence, did Jinnah ever cease fighting for the rights of the Muslims in a Hindu-majority subcontinent saying, “Majority is authority! Let the Hindus do whatever they want”. Or did Jinnah, in his great wisdom, actually recognize the line between democracy and brute majoritarianism?

All around us are unsubtle reminders that we are, and always will be, the second-class subjects of Pakistan. We’re the accidental citizens of a country that was made for the Muslims, by the Muslims.

Several months ago I took a trip to the Wahgah border. Like every other Pakistani there, I was pumped up and ready to cheer for my beloved homeland. To my chagrin, I noticed that we were chanting less “Pakistan zindabad” and more “Allah-o-Akbar”, as well as all other kinds of Islamic slogans. Above the entrance of the mini-stadium, hung the portrait of the great father of our nation with the words, “Pakistan ka matlab kia” (What is the meaning of Pakistan?) on its right, and the kalma (“There is no God but Allah) on the left.

On top of each pillar flanking the border gate, rested a large metal sculpture with the word “Allah” carved into them, in contrast to the pillars on the Indian side that had a small three-headed lion on each.

Is it unreasonable for non-Muslim Pakistanis like myself to request that the slogans and symbols of our state be representative of all its citizens, and not just the Muslim community? As the shouting of Islamic naras continued throughout the ceremony, I began to wonder if I were sitting on the wrong side of the border. Because what I was seeing and hearing all around me did not represent me at all!

If the meaning of Pakistan is Islam and Islam alone, then what does that make me? I happen to be an Atheist, so what precisely is my nationality?

    • Dodo
    • August 31st, 2011

    Dude you’re an anomaly, you have no nationality. Muslims are the bestest nation in the whole entire universe. Even the aliens envy them for they ruled Spain for 700 years 500 years ago. Pakistan is an Islamic fortress (albeit crumbling and depleted). Only people who can live off of past glory can be called it’s citizens. People like you have no place here, it is because of you that we see Allah ka azaab in our beloved country: Zalzala, toofan, sailab, zulfikar mirza all because of you!

  1. ^ What Dodo said. Incidentally, they were the first word’s out of my friend’s mouth when I told him I wasn’t much of a believer: “why don’t you change your name then? Why don’t you just leave Pakistan?”

    *sigh* my countrymen. So appreciative of diversity, so accepting of different ideologies.

    • Sallu
    • September 13th, 2011

    Your idea of being a minority is strange. Its like saying since I am not a PPP supporter but a PPP government makes me a minority. I do not like the flags,banners,ads,promotions by the party and it hurts my feelings.

    A Pakistan or any country totally inline with the demands and ideas of ethnic,religious,political or ideological minortiy is nowhere possible.Even US official motto says “In God We trust”. Having said that, security and rights must be ensured by the state without categorizing anyone as 2nd grade citizens.Moreover the religious or anti-religious individual beliefs must be also be safeguarded of all citizens equally. You still insist on seeing the country according to your personal whims and desires then convince people on your ideas.

      • loneliberalpk
      • September 13th, 2011

      State religion cannot be decided on the basis of a “majority is authority” rule. As I said in the article, that is “majoritarianism”, not democracy. As a Muslim in the pre-independence era, would you have favoured the idea of a Hindu Republic of India just because Hindus were in majority?

      In true democracies, the equal status of all citizens regardless of their caste, creed, religion or gender is ensured. Only then can democracy actually function.

      As for the “In God We Trust” slogan, it is also being contested by American secularists. It is in clear violation of the “wall separating church and state” that was envisioned by the architects of America. In any case, I do not see United States as a perfect secular model for all of us to take heed from, though it it is much better than the model Pakistan follows.

    • Dodo
    • September 13th, 2011

    Sallu, the argument/analogy is flawed. Politics is different from religion. A person can and many do change their political allegiances easily. Whereas, they don’t usually change their religious views regularly or that easily, at least in Pakistan or a muslim majority country. You’re not born supporting a political party but you are (unfortunately in our society) born into a religion and there isn’t much you can do about it. Now if you happen to be born in another religion in this great land of ours, then your SOL. This is what is irking the author and irks every secular Pakistani. “In God We Trust” is not an official motto of the US. Its just a statement on the dollar bills introduced during the cold war by the then president (forgot his name) to distance itself from the “godless” Soviet Communists. Besides, as loneliberal mentioned, its being strongly contested.

    • BM
    • September 15th, 2011

    You my friend, are as much a Pakistani as any of the rest of the denizens of this unfortunate country. It is your (for a lack of a better word:)) god given right to live, breath and think freely in the place of your birth. This country will not thrive in perpetual chaos, and eventually, like in other parts of the world, sanity will prevail. I just hope that happens in my lifetime.

  2. great post

    • Prometheus
    • September 25th, 2011

    I have actually been wondering how anyone can read the religious texts and still not be amazed at the number of contradictions therein. Like you I’m an atheist, a Pakistani atheist I’d say but I fear for my life if I tell my family. Let us hope that our countrymen can learn to be tolerant for their own sake. But if they do not as the signs say they shall not than I cannot in good conscience call my myself a Pakistani even though I love the land; I cannot say the same about the state.

      • loneliberalpk
      • September 26th, 2011

      I feel the same way..

      • umar
      • September 26th, 2011

      if you can point out a single contradiction in the Quran, i would love to look forward to atheism.

        • loneliberalpk
        • September 26th, 2011

        Just Google “Quran, contradictions” and you’ll find plenty of numerical, scientific and ethical problems in the text. You don’t have to take my word for it, just do some research on your own. And please make sure you do that without being prejudiced.

    • umar
    • September 25th, 2011

    I can challenge you that you being an atheist have never dared to actually read any of the religious scripture with the intention of actually
    understanding them other than your science book of course.

    If you do get to read Islam, you would observe that a muslim state recognizes the rights of minority and it is state,s responsibility to provide them security from internal and external threats.

    Furthermore, they are not allowed the right to run Administration, simply because a muslim state is a place acquired by the muslims to practice the law of Allah Almighty, which you would not agree to.
    If you actually study Islam, you will observe that Islam is not only a book containing rituals, it infact is a complete code of conduct, a complete lifestyle, so if any muslim wants to practice Islam in its true form, he will have to be in an Islamic state in order to have the right militar, socio, economic order.( though i do not believe Pakistan is an Islamic counrty as of now but i believe we are heading there InshaAllah). Infact i do not even want to get into the argument if Jinnah was secular or not, even if you do believe Jinnah was secular, (i dont admit that), it is irrelevant as of now because a vast majority of muslims do not want to be ruled under a secular constitution.

    In case you are not comfortable with this you could definitely move to
    some other place, just lyk we did in 1947.
    You might want to pool up all atheists and form a country and play by your rules.

    “State religion cannot be decided on the fact that majority is authority”
    well you seem to live in a wonderland, could you point at one single state on this earth which allows what you call secularism. Take India for example, since you felt like you should have been on the other side of the border, 80% hindus and about 17% muslims, now you tell me will democracy ever work. Muslims are never going to win and will always be treated as a minority, which is why just like i advised you, i would advise every Indian muslim to move to some place where he could be a first class citizen i-e an Islamic State.

      • loneliberalpk
      • September 26th, 2011

      I’m an ex-Muslim, so yes, I’ve read the Quran. It’s quite ignorant for Muslims to assume that the only reason non-Muslims exist is because they’ve never read the Quran in detail. It never occurs to many of them that some people might choose to be non-Muslims in spite of having read the Islamic scripture.

      The shariah law discriminates against non-Muslims and women in innumerable ways, and it’s implementation in Pakistan is a constant pain for the minority groups (“The God of Many Trumps the God of Few“). That is beyond speculation.

      Removing Islamic laws from the state constitution does not mean that you wont be able to practice your religion any more. You just need to learn to practice your religion without imposing them on me. Obviously, the followers of all other religions would do the same.

      Nobody should be discriminated against or granted special privileges on the basis of his/her religion.

      And why should I move out? This country is mine as much as it is yours, and I deserve to live in my country according to MY ideals, not yours. It is those who are intolerant to the beliefs and cultures of others who should move out.

        • umar
        • September 26th, 2011

        that was not really a good reply, most of the questions are still unanswered, instead of responding to my debate youve started another of your own. See the point here is not “winning” the debate and arguing without reason. I suppose we are here to have a healthy discussion which must bear fruit.

        Now replying to this argument of yours, id say that im not imposing Islam on you not only because i dont want to but also because my religion doesnt allow me to.

        Islam is also generally confused with theocracy which is the “Mullahs” religion, which was what i meant when i said you havent read the Quran the way it should be. Dont confuse into that , i myself believe in freethinking and i can say that im a muslim not because my parents were.

        Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.

        My religion consists of a humble admiration of the illimitable superior spirit who reveals himself in the slight details we are able to perceive with our frail and feeble mind.

        Again, just saying it out in flat air that shariah doesnt allow this or that is illogical. If you think that Shariah abandons or doesnt treat the women equally then you better give me a proof of that from a pure Islamic source, which would be the Quran.

        for the answer of your next argument,(removing state Iaws from….) read my previous comment again….”If you actually study Islam, you will observe that Islam is not only a book containing rituals, it infact is a complete code of conduct, a complete lifestyle, so if any muslim wants to practice Islam in its true form, he will have to be in an Islamic state in order to have the right military, socio, economic order.”

        and the Iast thing, no body is asking you to Ieave Pakistan or stop practicing your reIigion, you are definitIy aIIowed to worship whoever you want, even in an isIamic state. the advise was that in a pIace Iike an isIamic state you wouId not be aIIowed to choose your views such as secuIarism over the views of the majority of the masses.
        Infact, as per the ruIes of secuIar democracy itseIf, masses are aIIowed the right to Iive the way they want, and if a peopIe want a reIigious theocracy what is wrong with that?
        you might not beIieve in it, but the majority does, so isnt the advise of moving out to a pIace where you are in majority and Iive the way you want IogicaI, rather than asking over 95% of musIims in this country to foIIow secuIarism….
        waiting for a repIy, a soIid one this time…;)

      • Dodo
      • September 26th, 2011

      Great post! I am deeply impressed by your irrational arguments and shrouded world view. Keep it up!
      I guess lone liberal has replied to your cacophony already so I won’t delve in that. Cheers!

        • umar
        • September 26th, 2011

        nice use of the thesaurus, but i would just ignore you for the time being…xoxo

    • loneliberalpk
    • September 26th, 2011

    Umar: “I’d say that im not imposing Islam on you not only because i dont want to but also because my religion doesnt allow me to.”

    Congratulations. You just defined secularism.

    If your religion doesn’t allow you to impose your religion on me, then what are your religious laws doing in the constitution that I, as a non-Muslim, have to follow?

    Secularism is not some Western conspiracy designed to subvert religion. It’s an assurance that the government does not treat a Hindu and a Muslim differently simply because of their religious beliefs.

      • umar
      • October 3rd, 2011

      “i know im replying late cuz my uni is on after the “dengue” break, nd wer having makeup classes which means im not even free on weekends. i might thus not reply that frequently, but that doesnt mean im never going to reply, lyk one of ur freinds think”

      This was what i came up with when searching for your “religion”

      Source; http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/secularism
      secular spirit or tendency, especially a system of political or social philosophy that rejects all forms of religious faith and worship.
      the view that public education and other matters of civil policy should be conducted without the introduction of a religious element.

      1. philosophy a doctrine that rejects religion, esp in ethics
      2. the attitude that religion should have no place in civil affairs
      3. the state of being secular

      So how can a muslim practice his religion in a form of government where he is not allowed to follow his ethics, education, political or social philosophy?
      In response to your question…
      “If your religion doesn’t allow you to impose your religion on me, then what are your religious laws doing in the constitution that I, as a non-Muslim, have to follow?”

      My religion does not impose its laws on anybody who is not a muslim. Unfortunately, you are mistaken to think that Pakistan is an Islamic state which enforces shariah. Pakistan might have been made to serve as an Islamic State but it is not one. Islam DOESNOT endorse the type of judicial system that we have currently in Pakistan. So get it right, Pakistan is not Islam.

      An Islamic State, allows the freedom to non-muslims living in its territory to worship any religion.Islam does not compel non-Muslims citizens living in Muslim lands to be ruled by Islamic Laws. They are exempt from paying the zakah. Under Islamic Law, a Muslim who does not pay the zakah and refuses its obligation becomes an unbeliever. Also, Islamic Law requires military duty from able Muslims, but non-Muslims are exempt from it, even though it is of benefit to Muslims and non-Muslims alike. In return for these two exemptions, non-Muslim citizens pay a nominal tax known as jizya.

      Islam also permitted non-Muslims to observe their civil law in matters such as marriage and divorce. Regarding criminal justice, Muslim jurists would pass sentences on non-Muslims in issues considered sinful in their religion such as theft, but exempted them from issues they held to be permissible such as drinking wine and eating pork.This is based clearly of the practice of the Prophet himself when he first came to Medina and established a ‘constitution’. He allowed for individual tribes who were not Muslims to refer to their own religious scriptures and their learned men in regards to their own personal affairs.They could though, if they opted, ask the Prophet to judge between them in their matters.

      The People of the Covenant had their own courts to settle their disputes, but if they wished, they could resort to Islamic courts. Allah commanded His Prophet:
      “So if they come to you, (O Muhammad), judge between them or turn away from them (decline to interfere). And if you turn away from them never will they harm you at all. And if you judge, judge between them with justice. Indeed, Allah loves those who act justly.” (Quran 5:42).

        • loneliberalpk
        • October 4th, 2011

        You can follow your religion in your home or in a mosque, not in the government. That’s not a tremendous sacrifice to demand. As I said, a nation is a collection of people of different beliefs and in all fairness, we cannot prioritize the religious beliefs of any one group.

        You don’t think shariah imposes itself on non-Muslims? Do you know that in a sharia-system a non-Muslim, no matter how capable he is, cannot be the head of state? Or that a woman’s testimony (that includes non-Muslim women) in court is considered to be worth half that of a man? Or that a Muslim cannot leave Islam without being labelled an apostate and killed? And the blasphemy law pretty much just speaks for itself.

        What sort of shariah law did you have in mind which does not discriminate against non-Muslims?

        You need to have your stance straightened out. If you don’t want to impose your ideals on us, then remove religion from state constitution. Practice Islam whatever way you like, but know that your religious freedom ends where my nose begins. Naturally, I would have to respect the same boundaries and keep my beliefs from interfering with your freedom.

    • Dodo
    • September 26th, 2011

    Umar: “If you think that Shariah abandons or doesnt treat the women equally then you better give me a proof of that from a pure Islamic source, which would be the Quran.”

    Is Shariah based solely on Quran? If yes, then you’re question is valid otherwise its absurd to say the least.
    But in any case, why are men entitled to inherit a portion equal to that of two women (Quran 4:11)? While women only get half? Or that men are “in charge” of women because men are to excel women; they can whip, admonish and banish them (Quran 4:34). If your explanation to this is that men are bread earners? Then i’m sorry its not valid in today’s world since I personally know families where the sole earner is the woman of the house while the man is jobless.

    Umer: “If you actually study Islam, you will observe that Islam is not only a book containing rituals, it infact is a complete code of conduct, a complete lifestyle, so if any muslim wants to practice Islam in its true form, he will have to be in an Islamic state in order to have the right military, socio, economic order.”

    Sure, doesn’t mean its the right or true one, is it? There have been other sources of “code of conduct” but you don’t believe in them because what YOU think is right and others are wrong. Bible for most of orthodox christians, Torah for most of the Jews is also a complete code of conduct. What does that prove? Nothing. All those books (quran included) has stone age morals and dealings. It may have been relevant then but in today’s day and age, not so much.

      • loneliberalpk
      • September 26th, 2011

      Don’t forget 2:282, stating that a woman’s testimony is worth only half that of a man’s. It is currently being implemented in Pakistan through the Law of Evidence act (Qanun-e-Shahadat).

      How could anyone possibly look at this law and not see it as a little bit sexist?

    • Dodo
    • September 29th, 2011

    No response? Thought so!

    • let there be peace
    • October 2nd, 2011

    I think what you saw on Indian side (three lions) is not Trimurti but India’s official emblem with lion capital of Ashok. Trimurti would be Hindu religious symbol.
    India’s emblem has It four lions not three (fourth not visible from front).
    Below each lion is a chakra – same one as on flag, which is actually Buddhist dhamma chakra (although I don’t think it was supposed to indicate anything religious when adopted on flag, there were very few Buddhists in India in 1947)

      • loneliberalpk
      • October 3rd, 2011

      Thank you for clearing that up. I had my doubts about the term as well.
      I’ve made the correction.

        • gypsy king
        • October 11th, 2011

        pakistan was created for the muslim population of india. while india was created for all indians. “pakistani” is a invention. a term for the muslims of india who fled to this “safe heaven” and the muslim inhabitants. you can be indian and same time atheist, muslim, sikh, hindu, christian. but pakistani is a muslim. so logicaly you are just indian. like your pre-islamic ancestors.

    • loneliberalpk
    • October 11th, 2011

    Are you Indian, gypsy king?

  3. If there’s one thing Pakistani muslims should do to save Islam from disgrace is to remove the esteemed prefix of “Islamic republic of..” from before Pakistan’s name. And that’s ’cause of the bad name they’ve earned for Pakistan. Sirf naam se kaam nahi chalta.

    • Ali Raza Baloch
    • February 3rd, 2012

    in Pakistan rather i would say in islam yess minorities enjoys equal rightss !!!! butt your demands are i mean illogical at wahga border yes there are alot off voicess “allah o akbar” ..whts wrong in that at the same time i m sure that “pakistan zindabad” will definately be there !!! how can you stop muslims from that ?????you trying to0o impose yor thoughts on the whole majoriy !!! in pakistan green color represents muslims and white represents minorites …..!! yopu dnt have to0o go0o anywhere you are an integral part off us our brothers Pakistan belongs to0o uu as much as it belongs to0o0 !!!! Pakistan was created in the name off islam which gurrantees rights to0o minorities !!!country which dont give rights to0o nonmuslims is not at all islamic !!!!! about in ramdan wat you say n0o0t clear to0o mee……many of restaurants are open..even i personaly eat and drink openly …!!! non muslims are even allowd to0o have alcohal butt not openly !! its all about give respect and take respect !!!!! bleshfamy law iss just about givin respect to0o other rellegion !!!! you are not ready to0o respect the relegion who guarratees you evry right….in islam if any govt dnt do0o that he z culprit and will be punished …for sure

    • Thank you for the comment.

      I’m afraid minorities are not treated equally in Pakistan, contrary to what they’ll have you believe here. Concerning the blasphemy law, it is cruel because you cannot force people to respect your religion by threatening them with death. While it is, of course, indecent to poke too much fun at a religion that people hold so dearly, it is even more indecent to kill these people for speaking their mind.

      The incident at Wahgah border was disturbing, because a government cannot ethically sponsor one religion and not the others. It’s like your mother always praising your brother in front of people, but never praising you – it will naturally make you feel like you’re less important. That’s the basic idea behind secularism.

      The government discriminates against non-Muslims at many levels. Here’s a link to one of my older articles regarding this matter.

  4. Finally, I have come to the blog that I was looking for. Loneliberal, from your rational arguments to the stamina with which you speak, everything is commendable. I too happen to be a Pakistani athiest, who was born first as a religious minority, and then having passed my share of ‘cognitive dissonance’ eventually became an athiest.

    You give support to many through your writing. Thank you. 🙂

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