The admired Scots-Pakistani novelist Suhayl Saadi and his wife, Alina Mirza, who runs a Pakistani film festival in Glasgow, are dear friends. They got married at the Marriot in Islamabad, just bombed by Islamicist murderers who sent in a delivery of lethal explosives in a lorry, during Ramadan. Nice work, guys. Allah will surely reward you aplenty for the slaughter of the blameless, sent off with less ceremony than goats and chickens who, at least, are prayed for as their throats are cut. Ah but they only razed a temple of Western decadence, and many Muslims who worked or went there weren’t “real” Muslims, only Shias and disobedient women, reprobates and sinners for sure.
The couple are devastated, rendered hopeless – for the first time that I can remember. For years, in spite of Pakistan’s many failures, they have kept up a fierce optimism, as if heartfelt belief would, one day, drive away the evil forces that circulate and in parts overrun their ancestral homeland.
There are many more like them, Pakistani-Britons who are proud of the culture of Pakistan, its creative movers and shakers, and millions of extraordinary, generous people. But their pride and idealism are fast draining away.
My father came from Karachi. He fled the place in the 1920s and went back only once, a fortnight before he died in 1970. He never recovered from the experience. It was as if his heart gave up. The country was in the grip of the military again and savagery ruled. It still does. I have never felt the desire to go look for cousins, aunts and uncles.
The newly elected President, Asif Zardari, husband of Benazir Bhutto, new best friend of the United States, is one of that nation’s dodgiest characters. He replaced a military dictator, who replaced another allegedly corrupt politician, Nawaz Sharif, now a big player in the latest political configuration.
Armageddon is on its way as Pakistan dissolves at its north-western borders into that lawless territory that is Afghanistan. American interventions, demands and military incontinence in the region bolster Islamic reactionaries and guerrillas.
India meanwhile, with many similar endemic problems and ruthless governance in Kashmir, nevertheless flowers economically and still holds on to democracy and fundamental freedoms. Sadly Pakistan “proves” what the rest of the world believes, and not without reason, that Muslims are incapable of decent leadership or progressive politics and move instinctively to political and personal tyranny.
Look around and the evidence punches you in both eyes. Saudi Arabia, Iran and various nations in the Middle East and most “Islamic” states elsewhere are failing entities where the people are either afraid or oppressing others. I, a Muslim who fights daily against the unjust treatment of Muslims in the West, have to face the blinding truth that although we have serious external enemies, more Muslims are hurt, wounded, killed and denied by other Muslims who feel themselves to be virtuous.
Lest our detractors rub their hands with satisfaction, I tell them loud and clear, this is not exoneration of Guantanamo Bay, the destruction of Iraq, Belmarsh, Israel’s criminal treatment of Palestinians in Gaza, the fascists in Cologne who tried this week to run an anti-Islam rally, the viciously anti-Muslim BNP and the many ways Europe humiliates us Muslims.
But I am saying that Muslims enthusiastically participate in “rendition”, torture co-religionists in prisons, bomb fellow-worshippers from Iraq to Pakistan and beyond, subjugate their women, cut off hands and necks, keep their young cowering or brainwash them to the point when they are unfit to inhabit this century. If we respect and care for our own so little why should the rest of the world give a damn?