I am a firm believer of privacy within the realms of one’s faith – I do not owe it to anyone to lay bare beliefs that I hold as close to me as the throbbing pulse within my jugular vein. This conviction was more staunchly embedded within each crevice of my developing mind as I entered the forays of the red-bricked campus we find ourselves meandering within. This was because I hailed from an extremely cocooned lifestyle, a lot of which was spent either travelling or living abroad – which meant that I was not aware of the deeply stratified society we exist within until I entered LUMS and brushed shoulders with people from all walks of life within the Pakistani society. But that cocoon did not confer immunity within my conscience with respect to the Pakistani community itself, especially given my background which meant frequent drawing-room incursions with various heavyweights of our society. So, inklings towards the murky realities of my society were embedded yet did not resurface till this aforementioned cocoon slowly started to unravel as my time spent in LUMS grew. But today I’ve mustered the strength to gather my courage and pen an article – my only true voice – regarding my personal beliefs, pertaining to the society we live in.
Socialization is the process whereby almost all of our most deeply rooted beliefs, shared values and cultural norms stem from. For most of us living within Pakistan, the majority of our socialization takes place within the confines of our home and from what our parents inculcate within us. We may strive to assert our individuality and break commonly held norms yet little do we realize that it is now considered mainstream to do just that – so that even when we’re busy carving niches for ourselves, so is everybody else in the same manner – by trying to be distinct, we’re all acting the same. I talk about socialization not to give a lecture pertaining to sociology but to make us aware that most of our religiosity, beliefs and values are not our own but those of our inner circle’s – our parents, relatives and the microcosmic bubble we dwell within. To be able to break free from the shackles of our socialization and figure out what it is that we ourselves believe in is something one can spend their whole lives embarking on. And that is exactly what my goal here at LUMS is – a goal I have yet to achieve.
Born into a family that, to this day, does not believe in hardcore sectarianism or divisions, I was brought up completely unaware of the Shia-Sunni conflict rampant within our society. What was I? A Muslim – a right even my grandfather fought to have written on his official documents, when asked which sect he belonged to. But adhering to this belief has become next to impossible given the society my generation finds itself in – in this year alone, approximately 300 of my Shia brothers and sisters have been killed, mostly by the Sunni Muslim extremist group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), Lashkar-e-Taiba and the Pakistani Taliban . I lay emphasis to the words “brothers and sisters” because, according to me, the Pakistani society all around me forgets that they too are connected to us by the vein of Islam that throbs within us all. Why do we forget that they are part of the same constitution of being as all of us and that their blood spilt is our blood spilt? This is not to forget all those Sunni Muslims who also have been killed either in retaliation or alongside the Shias – but it is pertinent to remember that given the current status quo, the scale is tilted towards one side and the weight continues to get heavier, more than what this society can sustain.
We as Pakistanis live in a society that is infected with the gravest injustices that can be done against humans, which infringe upon the very basic fundamentals tenets of what it constitutes to be a human being. This brings with it a certain level of immunity to the pain and sufferings of others – an immunity that breeds like a virus and spreads within the very fibers of our consciousness till we are more concerned with the new opening of the Mango store then we are at the atrocities committed against our fellow Muslim, Pakistani brethren on a daily basis. Empathy is what this society needs – a lesson that even Tolstoy realized shortly before reaching the perimeters of his deathbed. A more attuned compassion towards both sects that thrive in our country and constitute the very essence of this society would do wonders – for we truly are the next movers and shakers of this machine.
I hope to one day raise my children with the freedom to adhere to the teachings of both sects just like my own parents did. But that seems increasingly impossible given the society that is breeding all around us – where one of the first questions I’m mostly asked from strangers, covertly or blatantly, is which particular sect I hail from. However, hope breeds hope and that is perhaps the only rope I, and my generation, have left to hold onto. Hope that empathy, compassion and understanding will build between both sects, that the barriers which pave way for mistrust and violence will be broken down and that the society of tomorrow will be a harmonious one. Let us become compassionate Muslims who can comprehend the basic fact that no matter which sect you belong to, you are at the end of the day tributaries of the same river that flows with similar currents.
United we shall stand, and divided we shall fall.
Contributed by: Shanza Faiq- Sophomore at LUMS. A liberal and progressive writer.