It’s the stupidity, stupid
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Zafar Khalid Farooq
Whilst it is common to hear, or read, the unenlightened ramblings of various ‘experts’ in the media these days, it’s strange to find examples of anti-intellectualism in a bookshop. One would hope that these establishments would attract people interested in expanding their minds and developing critical thinking. But, not so in Pakistan.
I was in Liberty Books when I spied a comment card nestling inside the Perspex comment box. The angry opinion read as follows: “‘Mother of God’ by Miri Rubin. I don’t think that this book should be sold or displayed in a prestigious store like yours. You have a social responsibility.”
Yes, they do have a social (and financial) responsibility to sell books. What could be so odious about this book that it could produce such an angry tirade, I wondered? So I did what any normal person would do, I immediately asked for a copy of the book. Sadly, it had sold out. However, a quick Google search showed that this book was a history of the perceptions of Mary, mother of Jesus, in European societies from the Middle Ages to the 21st century, and how these perceptions varied from country to country. Different countries used the role of Mary in differing ways to make sense of a range of human experience — virginity, motherhood, family life, poverty and humility. What aspects these societies focused on in their representation of Mary, in turn, reflected the broader concerns of that society.
It sounded like a serious and interesting work. So what could have caused someone to question the book store’s social responsibility for carrying it? In fact, wasn’t it being socially responsible by offering this book for public consumption? Then it struck me. It was the title: Mother of God. That had been the objection. They had simply disliked the association of mother with God. Now you and I may not believe that Mary was the mother of God, and probably the Jewish sounding author, Miri Rubin, doesn’t believe she is either, but that’s not the point. This was a serious historical study of the continuing evolution of Mary in those Christian societies where they consider her the mother of God.
Would it be fair for a western bookshop to ban a biography on the Prophet (PBUH) called The Last Prophet? Of course not. Muslims would be rightly angry. So too would many non-Muslims be upset, for they would be interested in a scholarly work on the Prophet (PBUH). So why do we Muslims demand tolerance and plurality of beliefs when it comes to the west, but become intolerant when it comes to our societies?
Perhaps it shouldn’t be a surprise to see this reaction in a bookshop. After all, we are a nation that kowtows to the ignorant and plain stupid. Yes, let’s revel in our ignorance. We are a nation where our city centres are inundated with jewelry and clothes shops, but lack a single decent Urdu bookshop. We are a nation whose middle class, although in possession of a disposable income, will only have one book in their house — and that too on a very high shelf, and often unread. Bigotry prospers over intellectual rigour, innuendo over fact, and conspiracy theory over credible reporting.
After all we have become a nation where a national newspaper can endanger the life of a Wall Street Journal journalist, Matthew Rosenberg, by claiming that he is an Israeli agent, an American agent, and a contractor for Blackwater. Either he is a busy man, or this is bunkum. The report in the newspaper provided no credible sources.
We are a nation that unquestionably swallows the unsubstantiated rants of Zaid Hamid, Ahmed Quraishi and their ilk. Zaid Hamid sees the world through a Zionist prism, while I advise you to check out ahmedquraishi.com to check out the quality of his ‘photo journalism’.
We are a nation where pop stars like Ali Azmat believe that “we know for a fact that all this turbulation (not a world, Ali) in Pakistan it’s not us, but outside hand” and who says that the Taliban is not responsible for blowing up 200 girls schools, but it’s the work of an unidentified foreign hand. Show me the evidence, Ali? Where are the ‘facts’ you talk about?
Ironically, it is these very people who hark back the loudest, and bemoan the most, the loss of the Islamic world’s glory days — when Muslims were pioneers at the forefront of scientific, architectural, astronomical, and mathematical advances in the world. But you only can be pioneers when using knowledge, reason, logic and a factually supporting argument. The Taj Mahal was not built on a conspiracy theory or by obtaining a forged website doctoral degree. Yet, we listen to and follow the stupid?
Please note, I am not talking about education here. The stupid are often so called ‘educated’ people. Nor am I attacking right-wing commentators, per se. There are some who use the supporting evidence to reach a conclusion that could be described as right wing, which is perfectly acceptable. No, I am attacking those who make accusations using the flimsiest evidence, that’s if they provide evidence at all, to back their claims. A mere cursory look at the ‘proof’ and it quickly disintegrates upon inspection. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing, indeed.
How’s this for a conspiracy theory: Perhaps, the Jews, Americans and Indians are funding all these cranks, right-wing conspiracy theorists, hyper nationalist and loonies that populate the airwaves in Pakistan. By listening to their claptrap and proportioning blame to hidden hands, the Pakistani people remain in perpetual denial about the encroaching problems in their country, therefore causing further erosion of the state. Maybe, THIS IS the evil Zionist, Capitalist, Hindu plot to destroy Pakistan. They are keeping us dumb and stupid. Pappu yaar, have you thought about that?
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