My earliest memory of PTV is that of the Serial Jinnah Se Quaid-e-Azam. I was only 6 when I became enthralled by it, though I could not tell back then what exactly made me watch it. Perhaps it was Jinnahs stately form and the decisive speeches he made and how everyone seemed to be in awe of him.
These memories come back to me now at a time when I need them most. I never thought of identity as something that can be questioned, yet, all around me that is what I observe daily. As Pakistanis, we are now questioning our religious and social identities more often than ever before. We are constantly asking what kind of Pakistan Jinnah wanted. Islamic or Secular? There are arguments to favour both sides.
We may never agree on what he really wanted in this regard but what we can be certain of is that he would not have wanted this confused amalgam of identities and this continuous struggle between liberals , moderates, secularists and fundamentalists that is only dividing up our nation further.
Almost 40 years ago, the British psychologist Tajfel published his famous study on Intergroup Discrimination in which he argued that it is categorization of people into different social groups that leads to discrimination. The phenomena is not different from what is occurring in our country.
Sadly, this is more common among the educated faction of our society and definitely more common among Pakistani Muslims. Why is the latter significant? Because it is a reflection of the disillusionment of their identity that is leading them into seeking other ideologies. Why call ourselves liberal when we are Muslims? Islam, by its very nature, is liberal in the truest sense of the word. Its emphasis on human rights, especially for the minorities, is crystal clear. Why go to extremes when our religion has laid very clear guidelines about how it should be followed? Where does it condone forsaking a girls education, denying rights to women and imposing religion through violence? And for those who will bring up the issue about minority rights, how can we ever fulfill the rights of the minority, when as the majority we continue to discriminate against each other? When we utter the phrase religious tolerance without meaning?
Perhaps the most hilarious notion I have ever come across is how we relate these categories to peoples clothing and outward appearance: A man with a beard or a woman with a Hijab or Burka is automatically labeled as an Islamist while someone wearing Western style clothing is dubbed to be liberal. Now theres a dilemma. What do you call someone wearing, say, both jeans and Hijab? Psuedo-liberal? Psuedo-Islamist? Liberal Fundamentalist? What other category can we possibly create out of the plethora of existing ones to divide people further?
When we label someone as being a part of either of these categories, we speak the language of separation; and a very ludicrous one too. For we can never have clear-cut meanings of the word liberal or Islamists etc. What is liberal for one may be extreme to another.
I am neither Liberal nor a Fundamentalist/Islamist/Extremist. I am a Muslim. Perhaps the greatest thing Islam has taught me is not to be judgmental because we can never know the state of peoples hearts. It teaches me never to label someone or to look down upon them. It teaches me tolerance even in a place where the word seems to have no meaning. The fact that I err in following it is no ones fault but my own weakness. This is not an identity I will shy away from just because others are disillusioned by and perhaps even ashamed of only because they dont understand it.
In 1930 when addressing the Muslim League, Allama Iqbal stated that homogeneity (unity) was something, that Islam has given you (Muslims) as a free gift. It is in the context of re-defining our identity that we can really understand the profundity of this statement if we want to. 17 years later, it was Iqbals dream that Jinnah managed to turn into a reality. Clearly, Jinnah who once stated that His (Iqbals) views were substantially in consonance with my own understood that it was only this unity that led us to being one nation. But he seems to have presumed too much; we are perhaps more divided now than we ever were and our minorities are persecuted every day in the name of religion, the same religion that condemns such acts.
Perhaps now is the time to go back and decide what unites us, for it is the only thing holding us together.
The author is a medical student with interest in history, religion and current affairs. She blogs at and tweets @ButoolHisam
Disclaimer : The views expressed by the author and the comments that follow do not necessarily reflect the views of Very Bad Apple