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This may be a “rant” post, and it may not be a “Motley” post perse, but I admit the way it is presented is both HILARIOUS and haunting. I felt the need to share this photo the minute I saw it shared on Facebook. I am sad and ashamed to say that I saw it posted from two relatives of mine. Either way, I apologize if this may be more of a serious “Motley Monday”.

The photo was posted on Facebook on a group’s page. The name of the group is “My Ideology is Islam and My Identity is Pakistan” (whatever the heck that means).

The line is written in Urdu as:

“Yeh Orat Pakistani awam ke hukook ki baat karti hai, aur khud mudi ke charan choo rahi hai. Khud ko Muslim kehti hai, aur mandir jaa rahi hai. Aisi aurat jo khud muklis nahin Pakistan ke saath wo kisi ke hukook ki kya baat karegi?”

Here is my attempt at translation, and please correct me if I have missed something:

“This woman talks about Pakistani’s rights, yet she is touching a sacred Hindu object (called Mudi ke churaan). She calls herself a Muslim, yet she is going to a Mandir (Hindu Temple). This type of woman who is not aligned with Pakistan – how can she talk about rights?”

Wow.

So, let’s start with the first sentence, where Asma is touching a Hindu idol and going to a Mandir. Oh no, just by being respectful to the Hindu religion she MUST be against Pakistan. Never mind that a sizeable Hindu population still lives there. Never mind that showing ones respect to a religion that is not Islam is an act of humanity (the root of Islam’s spiritual beauty and hence, not against Islam). Never mind that the idea of Pakistan does not have to be fully based upon a narrow, hateful, and exclusivist interpretation of Islam that presupposes this ridiculous need for “religious one-upping”, as I would like to call it. I suppose the temples I have visited in India and the prasads and teekas I have allowed to be given to me and put on me out of respect turn me into an infidel and non-Muslim. Nice.

Then there’s obviously an injunction that her “kaafir” (infidel) behavior of “mixing with the Hindus” does not give her the right to fight for people’s rights. In one second, this type of (excuse me for using this word) CRAP negates someone’s ability to fight for people? How does one’s personal choices about choosing to respect other religions dictate their ability to help others? I completely understand if people have criticisms of the way Asma Jahangir conducts her activism, but how about a healthy debate versus a picture collage that takes Ms. Jahangir’s personal ideas about religious freedom out of context?

Out of all of the images presented in this collage, what makes people most angry in this photo is Ms. Jahangir’s meeting with Shiv Sena Leader, Bal Thackery (displayed in the left upper hand corner of the above collage). While I by no means hold much respect for Mr. Thackery for his ridiculous views, meeting with someone (even someone as detestable as Thackery), does not immediately make someone a criminal – or a traitor to their country.

I personally admit that this meeting may not have been the best strategic move on her part as an activist, but nevertheless, negating her work or calling her a traitor or prostitute is not warranted just because she met with Thackery. Also, much of the commentary associated with the picture of Ms. Jahangir with Thackery is devoid of the actual fact that the purpose of the meeting was to engage in intellectual debate on key issues with Thackery in regards to Hindu-Muslim communal riots in Mumbai and his attachment to Hindutva ideology (and later on with Narendra Modhi). Aside from the purpose of the meeting, I wonder what was actually said by both sides in the debate, irrespective of the horrible things attributed to both Modhi and Thackery. I was not able to find much about that, except for the not so surprising statements that Thackery used to justify the riots (as well as Modhi’s famous “for every action there is a reaction” statement). That’s a post for another day.

Most of all though, as usual, with these types of controversies, what shocked me the most were the comments made with the picture. Here are some (I have not put full names):

Mr. Khan: Prostitue of America (translation: self-explanatory)

Mr. Malik: shiv sena ki randi.. (translation: Shiv Sena’s street whore)

Mr. Ghani: qadiani agent harami ki bachi (translation: An agent of the Qadianis – also known as Ahmadiyyas – infidel’s daughter) – I guess they could not spare the Ahmadis as well

and perhaps the worst and most hateful comment I saw:

Mr Y. Bal: in jaison ka ilaaj sirf MOUT hai (Translation: The diagnosis for these kind of people is DEATH)

I do not want to continue to put any more on here because you can read them for yourself on the group page: http://www.facebook.com/Ideology.Identity

The crazy thing is that these comments invoking Ms. Jahangir as a prostitute were mostly made by men. No surprise there. After all, these men suddenly become “better” Muslims because they curse Ms. Jahangir and call her derogatory names referring to her sexuality (please note that sarcasm is fully intended here).

My basic point is that it is fine that people do not agree with Ms. Jahangir’s methods or ideologies, but to attack her for her personal ideas about religious acceptance and then call her an enemy of Pakistan as a result of it is pure nonsense. I in no way am asking people to call her a hero or put her on a pedestal. That view will naturally vary from person to person. Moreover, to shame her with such derogatory, slut-shaming language when she clearly has made landmark successes in fighting for women that the actual nation-state of Pakistan did not care at all about is unnecessary. Remember Mukhtar Mai? Last I checked the Pakistani nation-state tried to give her hush money after a brutal gang rape. Oh wait, never mind, Ms. Mai was unnecessarily making a fuss, and therefore, her case was a “western” conspiracy and an attempt of Pakistani liberals to put a scar on Pakistan’s reputation (like that was not already happening). There can be no other explanation for it (I am sensing my sarcasm is becoming too easy to detect now).

In the end, it is disturbing to know how much animosity is spread through a tool like Facebook against individuals all in the name of some narrow view of religious identity. This moralistic attack on Ms. Jahangir yet another example of it.

Anyway, hope everyone has a great Monday and has had some of their religious freedom and activism blood pumping for this week!

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