Disclaimer: This article is in no way an attack on religious sentiments of any person or any group. It is simply questioning the language used when talking about religion. Religious conservatives and liberals are integral in a society. The variation in mindset is precisely what allows us to progress as a nation, as well as globally. However, recently there has been a huge influx of cases where religious disputes have caused violence and unjust humiliation of people. Predominantly these have targeted Islamic liberals.
The name ‘Islamic Republic of Pakistan’ already gives an indication of the religious majority that exists in the country. With this overwhelming religious majority of Muslims in Pakistan, there are often religious disputes and disagreements. Religion is quite possibly the most debated and sentimental topic for many in this country. A debate that has often resulted in violence, wrongful deaths, misunderstandings, and misrepresentations. People who go against the norm of conservatism in Pakistan are often branded anti-Muslim and unpatriotic. Consequently, these crimes get immense media attention and play into the hands of the attention seeking mindset.
The biggest example of this is the unfortunate hate that was spewed against Mahira Khan on social media after she was photographed with Ranbir Kapoor. The photo went viral and sent the Twitter world into a frenzy. People called her a disgrace to Pakistan, commenting on her values and ethics. More vexingly, who are we to label people Muslim or non-Muslim. It’s very easy to comment on a person’s appearance but we don’t see the amount of good work they do. Stuff like do they practice empathy. Do they rally for a more egalitarian society? Or do they help project a positive image through their work, generally? No, we never consider any of this. Our favorite pastime is finding ‘kafirs’ on social media because that is truly what is going to ‘save Islam’.
So What Is The Importance of Using Proper Language in Sensitive Matters of Religion?
In light of the above incident and others, I often fail to understand our use of language when dealing with such a sensitive matter in media and public. We use derogatory language to describe what we think is ‘un-Islamic’. Labeling anyone a kafir comes as easy to us as ordering a bowl of ice cream. Do we not realize how great a sin it is in Islam to label someone a ‘kafir’ so conveniently. Especially for those who genuinely believe God is the judge of everyone’s faith Himself?
The problem here is the binary mode of thinking. Why do we associate conservatism with Islamic beliefs and liberalism as anti-religious? Interesting, we simultaneously try to convince the rest of the world that Islam is a very forward-thinking and liberal religion. A simple and most common example is when someone decides to change their clothing to a more conservative style. As a society, we often laud that effort as Islamic. Whereas we all know that Islam is a much more complex religion than changing attire.
Why do we not term that as a person’s personality change towards conservatism rather than an inclination towards Islam? Are we then conforming to the mindset that anyone who doesn’t completely cover their skin or doesn’t engage in conservative acts is un-Islamic? And, if we are agreeing to that then can we stop for one moment and realize that we are doing exactly what conservative extremists want us to do. They want us to agree to the fact that Islam is only for the conservatives and anyone with a non-conservative mindset is un-Islamic.
Appreciation of Individuality
Individuality is so important in a society. Variations in personalities, mindsets, beliefs, and actions are what drive us to success. One of the shining lights in Pakistan’s road to being more mentally diverse was Salman Taseer. A liberal, controversial politician who was sadly assassinated on January 4th, 2011. The alleged reason behind his assassination was the fact that he questioned Pakistan’s infamous blasphemy law. The law that has caused controversy for years and also given a license to the religious hardliners to take the law into their own hands and target minorities. Taseer’s own guard murdered him because he opposed killing in the name of blasphemy. He was killed because he had an opinion. Taseer was shot because he did what he believed was right. He was silenced because he was different.
And that is the true problem. People like Mumtaz Qadri and the thousands that support his actions cannot bear to see someone being different.
No one in the world has the exact same personality as someone else. We pride ourselves on individuality. Precisely why there are so many different professions in the world. Because we are all good at very different things. We all think differently and process information in our own way. Then how can we expect that ~1.6 billion Muslims in the world will either fall in the categories of a conservative or a liberal? We simply cannot all think the same way. That is why conveying and understanding the following message is important: