Forgive us Asia Bibi, for we have failed you. You asked for a cup of water: we took away nine years of your life.
Not that we expect your forgiveness, we certainly don’t deserve it. For far too long we stood impassive as minorities were dehumanized, ostracized and murdered in our name. We were unmoved by your afflictions because we were insulated from them. We neglected your suffering because we were far too busy convincing ourselves that our faith, being perfect, could never be a tool for villainy.
The truth is, Islam has become the cornerstone of the vicious arc of malevolence blighting Pakistan’s humanity. We murder our Shia and Ahmadi brethren in its name. We claim to be defending Islam when we hide our brightest lights in the darkness of prison or snuff them out with lynch mobs. In God’s name we recruit our disposable youth to fight both sides of the border; to fight wars in which there are no victors and no heroes-only the dead and their killers.
We evoke faith to justify misogyny, to perpetuate homophobia and to silence those that threaten our sacred status quo. This is not because present circumstances bring us any joy or comfort. It seems we are like the battered children of a tyrant who fear only one thing more than the abuse:change. Change threatens us because our oppressors have succeeded beyond their wildest imagination in catechizing us in the canned Madressah they have turned Pakistan into.
Faith, instead of being an instrument of virtue and a reflection of divine mercy has become an idol. Bereft of the dynamism that evolves societies towards truth seeking and justice, it has been turned into a leaden totem that we have chained to our legs and dropped anchor with. We have cultivated a malignantly narcissistic faith; entitled, grandiose, exploitative and demanding special treatment. A faith that perceives equal treatment as a slight and only accepts the station of supremacy.
Faith without empathy, without compassion, without humility is not faith. It is egocentric dogma masquerading as faith. It is forced conformity wearing the mask of unity. The inevitable conclusion of such a paradigm is moral death. What is moral death you ask? When two schizophrenics are doused with gasoline and burnt alive for blaspheming within the span of a few months. When open incitement of violence against Ahmadi Muslims continues even after repeated massacres. When governments succumb to killers and traitors on the pretext of religious sensitivities. Such is moral demise, where no one is left to defend innocents.
Forgive us Asia Bibi; you were born into the wrong faith in the wrong country. Being the only Christian family in your village perhaps you should have consigned yourself to the fate prepared for you by our hollow piety. Perhaps you should have borne the insults in silence. Why kick and squeal to the chopping block of abasement? You knew well that you were expected to lay your head on the chopping block and with the dying breath of your dignity sing hymns of exaltation to the butchers. But alas, you had to be brave and fought back.
We hang our heads in shame before you Asia Noreen. The only solace we can offer is this: we will no longer be silent. Who constitutes this “we” you ask?
“We” are the believers. Muslims who cling fiercely to our faith and disavow the actions of terrorists and tyrants who claim religious guidance. But who have failed to fight the unholy alliance of dogma and hypernationalism erected in our name by state apparatchiks.
Our protestations will no longer suffice; if we want the world to believe in our vision of Islam our actions will need to match our words. Not only do we need to embody our faith, we have to ensure that the law no longer promotes and protects religious fascism.
With prayers for your safe passage, goodbye Asia Bibi. For the only way you can be safe is to leave these shores. Know that today you are the saint, we the blasphemers.