September 4, 2015 MEMRI Daily Brief No. 55

Pakistani Blogger Saif Samejo: 'Is It Compulsory To Hate India, America, And Israel In Order To Love Pakistan?'

September 4, 2015
MEMRI Daily Brief No. 55

In a recent blog post, Saif Samejo, lead vocalist for the Pakistani Sufi band "The Sketches," raised a number of questions about current events in Pakistani society: the recent exposure of a child sex abuse scandal, the honor killing of women, and freedom of speech. He offered a vision of hope for a pluralistic Pakistan, in which members of all religious communities, including Shi'ites, Ahmadi Muslims, Hindus, and Christians, could live together.

Saif Samejo is the founder of "Lahooti Live Sessions" - a platform for local Sindhi musicians to come together.

Saif Samejo

Following are excerpts from his blog post:[1]

"[God] Has Created Many Species, But We Have Further Divided Ourselves Based On Religion And Caste"

"A few days ago, I was sitting by the Indus River in [the town of] Jamshoro, singing a patriotic song. Moments later, I noticed a fisherman who burst into laughter observing me. When I asked him why he was laughing, he said,

"'Saeen [Sir], where is this Pakistan this song speaks of? Here, I don't have the money to send my children to school or even shop for Eid. That aside, women are continuously killed in the name of honor, children are raped and such brutalities are recorded, then sold. People are murdered because they belong to different sects or religions, be it Shi'ites, Ahmadis, Christians, etcetera. There's no tolerance in this society. Hindus can't even build their temples on this land, plus their girls are kidnapped and forcefully converted to Islam.

"Then there's our culture, which is constantly threatened by religious fanatics. When human beings are treated this way, then to no surprise, there is no such thing as animal rights either. Animals are killed, be it for pleasure or business, even I kill fish for survival. So the song you're playing isn't practical, it's very far from reality. Perhaps Pakistan looks good only on Pakistani TV.'

"His words were impactful, and honestly, I wasn't shocked, as I too was aware of this harsh reality. The weather was pleasant and birds were singing over the gushing Sindhu [Indus] River. I deliberately closed my eyes to get a good sense of my surroundings.

"But the fisherman's words echoed relentlessly in my mind. It's true, I thought to myself. Our soul is sacred in Pakistan, but one's body is not. God is sacred in this nation, but not God's creation. He has created many species, but we have further divided ourselves based on religion and caste. And as a dreamer I can't digest such predetermined facts for myself."

"Giving Verdicts Against Religions Other Than Islam Is Believed To Be Freedom Of Speech - Yet When [This Practice Is] Reversed, We Kill; Don't We Realize That This Only Spreads Hate?"

"How can another define correct and incorrect for me? Isn't this slavery? The majority finds no fault in this, but is this normal? I'm aware that my individual freedom cannot be fully utilized, but I should at least hold the right to think, feel and imagine a world of my own. I love Pakistan, but why isn't that enough? Is it compulsory to hate India, America and Israel, in order to love Pakistan?

"There's no logic in hating one thing to love another. But sanity escapes us. It proves that I'm not even free to love. Giving verdicts against religions other than Islam is believed to be freedom of speech, yet when [this practice is] reversed, we kill. Don't we realize that this only spreads hate?

"They call Pakistan a fort of Islam, but I wonder what happened to [founder M.A.] Jinnah's Pakistan, where everyone was free to worship their God, regardless of which religion or sect they belonged to. I wonder what Islam we practice, because religious discrimination isn't taught in the Islam I believe in."

"I Dreamt Of A Pakistan Where The Temples And Churches Were Respected Just As Much As Mosques... Where The Bhagavad Gita And Vedas Are Perceived To Be As Sacred As The Holy Koran"

"With these thoughts still swirling in my mind, I started dreaming. I dreamt of a colorful Pakistan that celebrated Holi. One that decorated the streets with mud oil lamps and fireworks on Diwali. One that celebrated Christmas and shared sweets with its neighbors. One that greeted everyone on Eid, no matter which faith they belonged to.

"I dreamt of a Pakistan where the temples and churches were respected just as much as mosques; where the Bhagavad Gita and Vedhas are perceived to be as sacred as the Holy Koran. A country that nurtured all, regardless of one's caste or creed. I wake up now craving a nation that doesn't dig out the corpse of [2013 road accident victim] Bhoro Bheel and dishonors it on the streets just because he was Hindu.

"I am awake now, full of desire. I desire a nation that allows the Pope, Dalai Lama, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Sadhguru and others religious figures to visit and preach on our land, just like our own scholars do. I want to be a citizen of Pakistan, one who respects other countries of the world and in return receives the same treatment. We once lived in a Pakistan where everyone was welcome to feel at home, no matter which country they belonged to. Where did that Pakistan go?

"I was told that an Ahmadi-Pakistani scientist named Abdul Salam was the first Pakistani Nobel Prize winner. He was celebrated all over the world. But he was not welcome in Pakistan. Perhaps we had forgotten that the first foreign minister of Pakistan was Zafarullah Khan, an Ahmadi. Three governor generals were Christians and the first law minister of Pakistan was Jogandar Nath Mandal, a Hindu. Ironically, the second Nobel Prize winner Malala Yousafzai, who survived an assassination attempt by the Taliban, cannot return to Pakistan either. Apparently we believe she is a foreign agent. Do we know the meaning of honor?"

"If We Believe In God And Believe That Everything Belongs To Him, How Can We Label The Soil As Hindu Or Muslim? Do Trees Follow A Religion?"

"Yes, we do. We kill in the name of honor. Yet we never honor our heroes. But I don't understand why we practice this hypocrisy?

"These heroes were raised on our soil and brought a change to our society that no one else could, yet we do not honor them. Instead we remain impressed by invaders and colonizers who once occupied our land and tarnished our culture. Such individuals are listed as heroes in our syllabus.

"So, there is a question I wish to ask you all, a question that has bothered me since I woke up. Like birds, should we also not be free to practice whatever religion we believe in? Should we not be free to call ourselves Pakistani without the fear of being ridiculed, or worse, killed? Should we not be free to hold our heads up high in pride? Should we not be free?

"If we believe in God and believe that everything belongs to Him, how can we label the soil as Hindu or Muslim? Do trees follow a religion? Can we divide birds into sects, in terms of Shia and Sunni? And like birds, should we not be free to build our own nests with the confidence that we will not be hunted down by official or unofficial militants? I eagerly await your response."


[1] (Pakistan), August 30, 2015. The original English has been lightly edited for clarity and standardization.

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