By Fawad Hasan
The religious extreme of Pakistan doesn’t fail or leave any chance to shock, disappoint and instill fear in masses. With every passing day, living in the beleaguered country, it seems we are taking long steps backward. The apparent mission of so-called authority on religion: to take society 1,400 years back.
In the latest show of such stunts, a few ‘religious contractors’ have succeeded in stealing a cultural and entertainment site from the public to abuse it for furthering their extremist agendas.
The Supreme Court this month gave orders to change the only cinema in Karachi’s Federal B Area to its supposedly original form – a centre for Islam. This came after Jamaat-e-Islami Karachi chapter filed a petition in the court about how the establishment named Markaz-i-Ilm-o-Saqafat is being used for immoral and non-Islamic activities.
As if cases of poverty, violence, sexual abuse, and women oppression had ended, the court took a suo moto notice on the matter and gave its verdict to transform the site to a religious centre.
The petitioners or the ‘televangelists’ claim that the vast area which legally comes under and managed by Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) had been dedicated for spreading religion – which form of it we never know – and should remain as so now. To deconstruct this claim, let’s get back to past from where it began.
This land area near metropolis’s famous Aisha Manzil roundabout is owned by KMC and under the mayorship of JI Naimatullah Khan was used to build an Islamic centre with hostels, library and research site purely for religious adventures. The religious party succeeded in building it but later on when Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), a secular party of Karachi, took over the administration of the city, it changed it into a Markaz-e-Ilm-o-Saqafat – a hub of culture sans religion which is no doubt a personal matter and should stay at mosques.
MQM decision showed how democracy works and using the power they had been entrusted with by the masses, they used it for the purely scientific, materialistic benefits of the populace. This piece of land was and is a public property and there was no harm in transforming it into a hive of cultural activities open for all. But that’s not how things work in Pakistan.
Every slogan, every word, place, gathering or site has to accommodate religion here. No wonder, we are producing women-beating clean-shaven young lads, graduates who are passionate enough to kill anyone they deem infidel, and a people who are afraid of questions, criticism, art and culture.
Now let us try to deconstruct the idea geographically. This site which was used – or rather abused – for spreading Islam has a very strategic location and worth. There is no cultural site nearby; no cinema, no theatre house, no art gallery, no café, no nothing which could influence the hidden creative side of humans who live in the 4KM radius of the centre.
But certain people – obviously holding power and support of general indifferent public – managed to create yet another religious site here. Their passion to turn every single man into a pious, sharia-law abiding citizen never gets quenched.
Not far from the ‘Islamic Centre’, on its left, there is Madini Masjid, a mosque sprawling over a kilometer of land where Tablighi Jamat organizes their religious events every week. Half kilometer towards the right direction of the centre, and it leads you to Taqwa Masjid, a seminary with four floors being used for hostels. Around 400 metre more in the same direction, and there lies Gulshan-e-Umar, a vast piece of land where a mosque and well-furnished seminary is in use for thousands of budding religious scholars. Mentioning the number of mosques in the area is an uphill task since it is not possible to count the ubiquitous worship places.
Was not the area already awash with religious sites because of which the masses must have felt an urge for a place where they could just have fun, think deeply, contemplate on art, perhaps have a romantic time or drink purposelessly? Sorry, people don’t get to decide that. Religion does in Pakistan.
The recent decision for regression manifests how from a common man on the street in this country to the top court, every single person is obsessed with religion, ignoring other aspects of life which also need our thought, time and efforts.
This also manifests and proves the dictatorship of religion in the country and proves that extremist rules are strongly set in motion here. When will we cease to think as clergymen, televangelists and be open towards secular and creative ideas? These times make me think never.