Friday, July 6, 2012

Nihilistic Fundamentalism in Pakistan

The incident of lynching an alleged blasphemer in Pakistan, sent a shrike deep down my spine. I said  impromptu, "Nihilistic Fundamentalism is greatest threat to Pakistan".

Fundamentalism originated as a counter culture in the modern world. It urged people to show their back to the modern materialistic world. At a very basic level, fundamentalists interpret religious scriptures in a literal fashion, transforming the allegorical aspects of the holy scriptures into concrete modern days ideologies. They are on a mission for trying to bring back religion back at the centre stage in a world where liberalism control all aspects of human life.

This was how Fundamentalism used to be. But in today's world, Fundamentalism has taken an horrendous path which has the tendency to destroy humanity. Karen Armstrong in her seminal work, The Battle for God, calls this tendency the nihilistic aspect of fundamentalism. Such fundamentalist reject all general human trait. They desecrate life, freedom of speech, education, and they even battle against the foundational tenets of religion. These nihilists don't just desecrate their life in the name of religion; rather, they desecrate any thought which opposes them.

We can observe the consequences of Nihilistic Fundamentalism everyday in Pakistan. From the murder of Shabaz Bhutti to the assassination of Salman Taseer, from the ousting of Ahmadi children from schools to the killing of Hazara Shias. From forced marriages to forced conversions. From burning innocents alive to extraditing intellectuals. The buzzwords that iterate in all these horrendous acts are nihilism and fundamentalism. The perpetrators consider themselves as the last saviours of the religion with the duty of annihilating all symbolism which they believe to be profane. They believe that killing people will sent him to heaven and attacking worship places will bring them rewards. They think that ossifying alien ideologies is the only way to keep their ideology alive.

Nihilistic Fundamentalism is a force to reckon with. Such fundamentalists are by definition anachronistic. Their inward journey to find meaning in the modern world distorts their grab of reality. They aren't on a mystical journey to understand reality; rather they totally are disconnected from the ethos of the civilized world. Nihilistic Fundamentalism is an antithesis of the culture of love preached by the sufis and mystics in South-Asia. The 18th century Punjabi sufi poet, Bulla Shah, once said:
Tear down the mosque and temple too, break all that divides
But do not break the human heart as it is there that God resides.

Copping with Nihilistic Fundamentalist 

Nevertheless, we shouldn't give them an easy win. Firstly, we should appreciate how nihilistic fundamentalists think. Are they programmed to be anachronistic? Why do they live on hate? What force them to annihilate? I think, there is a serious dearth of research on this topic from the view point of the fundamentalist. 

More importantly, an ideological war can only be fought with an alternate ideology. There is a need of a serious discourse to topple all the utopian ideas preached by fundamentalists in Pakistan. The vibrant electronic media in Pakistan should help in building up the public narrative against terrorism.

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