View Full Version : Illusions and imagery - D Asghar - 19 March 2016

19th March 2016, 12:15 PM
A coldblooded, self-confessed
killer by the name of Malik Mumtaz Qadri finally met his fate and was executed according to the law of the land. No matter on which side of the argument you may stand but you cannot deny that there is no justification for anyone to take the law in their own hands and kill an unarmed person. The bodyguard of the former governor, Salmaan Taseer, killed him in rage. But why?

There was a malicious campaign against the governor portraying him as a blasphemer. Despite the fact that in this day and age of 24/7 television, there were many programmes, interviews and news-items refuting the baseless allegation. The man pleaded his case in plain and easy-to-understand rationale repeatedly, but the questions were deliberately asked and worded in such a way to elicit a response that led to some ambiguity for the ones seeking that on purpose. People who deliberately made him look like a ‘modern’, ‘liberal’ proponent of so-called ‘western values’ had their agendas and TRPs at the forefront.

If you examine the whole chain of events objectively, you can come to the conclusion that the so-called free and independent media played a malicious role in building the wrong and totally misconstrued image of the late governor. The entire controversy was built that as he was challenging the misuse of religion, and hence by doing so he became a ‘blasphemer’ by default. Anyone with an ounce of integrity and honesty would decipher that he was voicing his disgust towards the misuse of a law, which was used to wrongly accuse people to settle personal scores. Most of the accused were poor, downtrodden people of other faiths, helpless, and often made to face the wrath of the rotten system. Not to mention that people took the liberty in the name of the faith to dispense mob justice to demonstrate their zeal and love for the man who is remembered as the man of mercy for the entire mankind.

Some of the most noted and gifted writers have opined on the subject of the execution. As a distant observer, I would like to present a totally different argument. What if the late governor was not inspired by Faiz, or he did not use English language to engage with people, or he was not clean-shaven, or he did not appear so liberal and modern, would there be such a vigorous opposition against him? What if he still said and expressed similar views but in a different persona and a different guise, would he still be mis-labelled as a blasphemer? I humbly think that there would have been some opposition but not as fierce as it was. Perhaps he would have been heard and taken in a different light if he had a worn a skullcap, had a long beard, wore a traditional attire and sported a ‘pious’ persona, people would have formed a different image.

If you think that images do not matter, then please rethink. The so-called opinion makers sold his persona as this west-inspired, modern person, trying to advance a western liberal agenda. The forces to the extreme right took that as a major threat towards their existence and their space. The debate about what is truly a liberal and western agenda can be deferred for another day. Quite a vague idea and quite a broad subject that is. The tug-of-war between these two ideologies is what the real issue is. The extreme right takes strong exception to the advancement of the so-called liberal values.

If you look more closely, the late governor was not advocating any liberal values. What he was highlighting was the injustices being committed in the name of religion, which in essence defy the core message of the Holy Prophet (PBUH). His murderer, who defied all moral, ethical and basic human values by attacking an unarmed person, that too from the rear, was propped up as the real devotee of the Prophet (PBUH). The crowd at his funeral and the subsequent demonstrations and rallies by the religious right send a message of its strength that radicalism cannot be executed. There are many Qadris who are ready to give up their lives on any pretext whether it may be extremely flawed or vicious. People at the helm of the affairs of the state need to put their heads together to see and extract the message coming from the crowd.

The folks in Islamabad who think that by sending a murderer to gallows their job is done are mistaken. The core issue that led to the ill-fated slaying of the late governor is still in the limbo. People wrongly accused of blasphemy still languish in prisons, and mobs of people who will resort to violence in the name of religion are waiting in the wings for a signal. The sad reality of this entire episode is that imagery dominates facts and realities. In this day and age all that matters is perception. The one who can control and mould that perception with whatever means gets to have the final word.