Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Pakistan's Bhensa problem: criticising Islam and its prophet

Pakistan has been vexed with bitter fights over criticism of Islam, the alleged insults to the religion and its prophet, not to mention a violence prone 'Takfiri' culture that has 'Muslims' accusing each other of being 'Kafir'.

One of the latest controversies has been the outrage expressed over Facebook pages called Bhensa (buffalo), Mochi (cobbler), and Roshni (light), which seemed to have acted as forums for blunt and audacious criticism and discussion of Islam, mullahs/Islamists, and the government and military establishment of Pakistan.

Police cases have been registered against people thought to have been behind these "blasphemous" forums.

An Islamabad High Court judge, Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui, cried bitterly while observing that he expected the interior minister to “take some steps in his own supervision to eliminate the evil, even at the cost of blocking the entirety of social media”.

These Facebook pages have since been blocked or taken over by authorities.

However, a site with URL continues to be functional, carrying what appears to be some of the content originally published on Facebook page Bhensa.

I have taken two Urdu pieces from this site, translated them into English, and posted them below.

Neither of the two pieces carries the name of the writer, but both bear the date of posting.

The two pieces are without headlines. So I have given my own headlines in brackets.

I have also given the Web-link to each of the two Urdu pieces on the as well as the dates of their publication.

The first piece is an account of how the writer began to see the world without the "blinkers of faith" after the Peshawar terror attack that killed 132 school children.

The second is a very short piece, more typical of a casual social media post, in which the writer suggests that Muslims tell legends about their prophet so as to build a false image of him.

Here are the two pieces.

(How my view of Islam changed)

(Posted on December 1, 2015 by Bhensa)

Until about a year ago I used to detest the Mulhid people (those who have left Islam). I wouldn't even think of going anywhere near their (social media) page.

Once I got my hands on ‘Tasavvur e Khuda’ (‘The concept of God’), the book written by Arshad Mehmood (first published in 1997), but couldn’t summon up the courage to read it lest it should lead me astray.

So how did I come round to a different point of view?

The Peshawar attack (on a school on 16 Dec. 2014, in which Tehrik-e-Taliban militants killed 141 people, including 132 children) had a severe effect on my mind. I have small children of my own.

When Taliban cited Hadith (reports of words and deeds of Prophet of Islam) to defend its act, I found myself studying Islam in order to be able to verify that Hadith.

The more I delved into my study, the more I realized that the whole of Islamic history was replete with such acts.

As I grew in understanding without the blinkers of faith, I realized that Islam is a religion that could be used by anyone for any purpose.

Zia (Zia ul Haq, the military dictator who ruled Pakistan from 1978 until his death in 1988) had said he wanted to put Islam into action.

There are still people in Pakistan who admire and remember Zia.

The same can be said about Taliban who also want to put Islam and Shariat into effect.

I am hundred per cent confident that this process is not going to end; Pakistan has every chance of once again becoming a strictly Islamic country.

Islam continues to hold a lot of appeal for people.

I then began to regret the blinkers of faith that made me overlook what Islam was all about.

Earlier, an anti-Islam website would make my blood boil.

No longer.

I remember some years ago becoming very angry at the sight of a Belgian website making fun of the young age of Aisha (when she was made to marry the Prophet of Islam) by publishing a cartoon of hers with Muhammad.

I wanted to break the hands of that cartoonist.

Now I learnt that Aisha was indeed nine years old (when she had already been married to Muhammad).

I got a rude shock when I learnt about Muhammad’s multiple wives; the Islamic Studies books meant for children only mention Khadija and Aisha.         

And then I learnt that he had 11 wives.

When the ‘Innocence of Muslims’ (an anti-Islam short film uploaded to YouTube in 2012) was made, I couldn’t bring myself to watch that film.

I would wonder as to how anyone could cast such an insult upon the glory of the Prophet.

I couldn’t fathom why access to YouTube had been barred, wondering who on earth would want to watch that movie.

I had also heard about ‘Rangila Rasul’ (a book published in Lahore in the 1920s about the marriages and sex lives of Muhammad that resulted in the murder of the publisher), but did not have the nerve to read it.

Now I learnt that all those cartoons, films and books were based on Hadith.

On a visit to the United Kingdom, I got the opportunity to read Salman Rushdie’s ‘The Satanic Verses’ (first published in 1988 and inspired in part by the life of Muhammad).

Muslims have this strange habit of expressing deep anguish whenever anyone points out the controversial and insulting material that fills the pages of their own Hadith and other books.

Being a Muslim means that your mind functions very differently from what can be called the Western logical thinking. You can have two entirely different and mutually inconsistent thoughts in your mind at the same time – and yet it’s quite normal for you to have that state of mind.

So I watched thousands of YouTube videos, read books, and visited various websites.

One of my teachers used to advise us against believing any of the stuff on Islam available on the Internet lest that should weaken our faith.

Now I understood why he would say that; the more something is hidden from you the more you grow curious about it.

When things about Islam are sought to be covered up, one gets the feeling that something is wrong somewhere.

Now I feel a lot lighter! I feel as if I have fallen in love with life.

I no longer feel like hating people of other religions.

Go by your faith in order to find contentment, they say. I say you have contentment if you haven’t encroached upon what is someone’s due and stayed away from hurting anyone.

I continue to look for truth, but one thing can be said definitively: once a doubt sprouts in your mind, it’s very difficult to go back to where you once were.

(End of matter)


(Stories about Prophet of Islam)

(March 7, 2016; from Bhensa)

Muslims ascribe a false story to the Prophet.

According to that story, an old Jewish woman would regularly throw garbage on the Prophet whenever he walked past her home.

The Prophet would never take offence, nor say anything to the old woman.

Then one day when the Prophet walked once again past her home, nobody threw rubbish on him.

So the Prophet went to her home to enquire the reason behind the break in that routine.

He learnt that the old woman had fallen ill and so couldn’t throw garbage on him that day, and so on so forth…

On the other hand, there is a true story found in two books of Sira (biography of the Prophet), one authored by Ibn Ishaq and another by Ibn Sa’d, which Muslims try to hide.

(The story goes that) the Prophet asked someone to kill Asma bint Marwan only because she wrote poems against him.

She was ruthlessly killed in the darkness of night when she was sleeping with her five children.

One should learn to live with an understanding of the difference between falsehood and truth!

(End of matter)

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