So this is how I understand it. Up until two months ago, Pakistan was neutral in terms of the Sunni-Shia conflict – at least politically. As the days go on, we see more and more Arab influence in Pakistan as the state tries to, erm, readjust its position on Islam.
We started out as a secular country under Jinnah with a white portion of the flag dedicated to non-Muslims. Back then, saying you were ‘Muslim’ was more than enough for people and the government to know you were on the green side of the flag, and it was fine if you weren’t.
Then came Zia and he just changed the course of this nation by taking us from ‘Pakistan’ to the ‘Islamic Republic of Pakistan’ some time around 1971. From his point of view, this was necessary as he needed the support of the masses (as if the minorities wanted their tyranny) to send militants to Afghanistan, which was a Muslim country fighting against Russia – a land of infidels.
So we took the funding from Saudi Arabia, and later the US too, to fund religious institutions aka ‘madrassas‘ in Pakistan where they pushed young boys to memorize the Quran without understanding a word of it, and also taught them to fight and die in the name of Islam, before being recruited by a militant outfit that was most likely being run by army personnel to ensure proper training.
Religion has a tendency to polarize society and today, Muslim society around the world is divided between Shia and Sunni lines. Today, we see how Pakistan is taking the Sunni side in Syria, by accepting Saudi Arabia’s funding once again and sending militants there, along with arms and surface-to-air missiles.
These will most likely be used to knock down Assad’s planes, who is supported by Iran and Hezbollah. And they’re not just up against Saudi Arabia – almost all Sunni Muslim countries are aligning with them. What we have at our hands in Syria is an international Islamic sectarian war. Only time will tell who’s God is right. (Ahmedis’ Allah was wrong, according to all of them though.)
Meanwhile, the West has pulled out all its support (after giving the rebels some in the beginning only) and is, perhaps, silently watching the Islamic world crumble over itself.
Here in Lahore, Pakistan, where I live, I notice more and more signs of Arab influence everyday. The Al-Bakistan car number plates, seeing ‘Ramadan’ in print almost as much as ‘Ramzan’, more people saying ‘Wudu’ instead of ‘Wuzu’ and a lot more. You see, they want to emulate the Prophet’s ‘sunnah’ (not ‘sunnat’) or practices in every possible way, and that includes arabizing Urdu words that have already been derived from the Arabic language. Funny.
A culture resides in its language, or languages, but Pakistanis have a lost identity. The fact that the culture of Muslims in Pakistan is similar to that of Hindus in India upsets many if not most Pakistani Muslims, and when they get exposed to Arab culture and identify the language of their religion, they don’t look any further. They simply adopt.
The rise of blasphemy cases in Pakistan and abroad by Pakistan (such as the ban on YouTube and filtered Tweets), only goes to show that Pakistan is unable to comprehend what modernity, equality, pluralism mean to a nation state. We are incompatible with the modern world in this state.
The identity crisis of Pakistani citizens is carried forward from its rulers, who are probably just as confused, seeing as they almost always settle their families abroad as soon as they can.
What Pakistanis need is a return to their South-Asian identity, where the bearded mullah and his shuttlecocked wife and children don’t feel any guilt whatsoever as they strut off to the cinema every week just to watch Katrina dance his takhnay-say-ooper shalwar off.
Otherwise, I worry we will push Pakistani Shias off to the white portion of the flag and perhaps move on to alienate sub-sects within Sunni Islam too, one by one, all in good time.