March 31, 2014
By Yasser Latif Hamdani
Enemies of reason who tried desperately to extinguish Rumi’s flame should be mindful of the fact that his ideas are bigger than just his mortal self. What Raza stands for is increasingly the voice of Pakistan’s youth, youth who will not be silenced by your threats of violence anymore
The attack on Raza Rumi, resulting in the loss of his driver Mustafa’s life, is reprehensible to say the least. They tried to murder hope but they failed. Raza was targeted for one reason and one reason alone: he spoke for a progressive and liberal Pakistan free of violence and bigotry. Those of us who know him know how passionate he is about Pakistan and how that burning passion has driven him throughout his years. He is also a Sufi in the finest traditions of Sufism, choosing the name Rumi as his nom de plume at an early age to reflect the deep well of mysticism he has sought to drink from: Maulana Rumi.
Raza Rumi started the blogzine PakTeaHouse in 2007. This website soon became the alternative voice we so desperately needed — a secular liberal space for people of all points of view to come and exchange views. Not many fully appreciate the impact PakTeaHouse had on the blogosphere, but Raza Rumi’s little project changed the course of debate in Pakistan. Then there were detractors. Foremost amongst them, the so-called ‘Critical PPP’ or ‘Let us build Pakistan’, which used the choicest abuses against Rumi for reasons best known to them. It did not deter Rumi. He kept writing, speaking out and blogging. Pakistan is lucky to have found a voice so strong, so passionate and so eloquent standing up for just causes and, for once, good fortune has ensured that the voice was not extinguished. We have lost too many fine people, people like Salmaan Taseer, the founder of this newspaper. When the history of this country is written by future generations, they will marvel at the sheer adversity and odds those standing up for sanity and reason in Pakistan have had to face. Enemies of reason, who tried desperately to extinguish Rumi’s flame, should be mindful of the fact that his ideas are bigger than just his mortal self.
What Raza stands for is increasingly the voice of Pakistan’s youth, youth who will not be silenced by your threats of violence anymore. Granted, you may prevail in the short run by shedding our blood. You may kill some of us or drive some of us out for the time being or silence us temporarily but, ultimately, finally, all said and done, we will win and, when we do, we will make horrible examples out of you. No one can stop the march of humanity — the march for a progressive and tolerant Pakistan, least of all those cowards who wield guns because they are inherently weak in their arguments. What is it that we — the Rumis of Pakistan — want? We want the chance to live with dignity and pride as Pakistanis. We want a Pakistan that treats all its citizens equally, regardless of what their religion or ethnicity or gender might be. We want a Pakistan that does not discriminate against people who believe differently from the mainstream. Is that so terrible and so unacceptable to the enemies of reason and progress? Is the idea of a Pakistan that is at peace with itself an international conspiracy? If so, I am proud to be part of a conspiracy that seeks to make Pakistan a better place for its citizens.
The Rumis of Pakistan are swimming against a tide of ignorance. Those who want to see darkness at high noon — the sickness of Zia’s children — should read the tweets by numerous Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf activists who were ruing the fact that Raza Rumi made it unscathed through the attack but then that is to be expected. A very senior PTI youthia once lamented the fact that a plan to blow up the last parliament was foiled by the government. There are some irreducible minimums that have been established in Pakistan, which cannot be overturned. We have decided to run our affairs constitutionally through a parliament and by the general will of the people. It is this general will of the people that must be safeguarded jealously. There cannot be — and this bears repeating — any dialogue with those who want to overturn our democracy and our constitution at the point of the barrel of a gun. There can never be any compromise with those who live in caves and act like cavemen. Pakistan is a modern state and it must be run in accordance with the principles that are germane to the 21st century. We are not wedded — we have never been wedded — to the orthodoxy that wants to take us back to the Stone Age. Let us find then the moral courage to say no to dialogue and no to the tyranny that the purveyors of morality and contractors of faith want to impose on us. The time has come for all sane and reasonable people in this country, whatever your political views or ideas may be, to come together and stand by this fundamental principle: we will not be frightened by the enemies of reason, sanity and humanity any more. Do your worst and then we shall do our best.