A stone’s throw away from my house, there stands a mosque. It is small and white, yet magnificent in manner and thronged regularly following the muezzin’s call. Across the road from it, bold and presumptuous, is SAFMA’s high-walled edifice- the home for Lahore’s own Film and Literary Club. On the face of it, there’s not much to see. Nothing out of the ordinary, but two buildings sharing their common periphery. It’s only when you delve below the surface, as I did a few days ago, that you realise there’s something to be learned here. A lesson not without application.
The conflict isn’t so much physical, as you would assume, but abstract. Suffice to say, Film, Literature and other such ostensibly ‘liberal’ pursuits have never gone hand-in-hand with religion. Expressions of heresy and errant opinion have always seemed to find their footing in the Arts and Science- fields, which people believe, religion intends to suppress; a notion that holds certain conviction when applied to within our own borders.
Unfortunately, because of extremist pressures- among other things- freedom of speech, thought and action related to socio-religious issues have not flourished in real-world Pakistan, being limited to the confines of theory and cyberspace. Anti-loadshedding demonstrations and needless tyre-burning do not count. When have you ever seen a group of people brandishing picket fences in hand, protesting against substandard education, the dominance of the Taliban or something of the sort? It’s such issues that are left unaddressed, from which intolerance towards opinion brews.
An accrual of such has led to Pakistan becoming what it is today: a country where not only women, but men too are told what they can and cannot wear, what they can and cannot do, what they can and cannot think. It is a country where everything seems to have been subjugated because of a lack of education, both temporal and religious. In the midst of all this, though, there is still hope for the future- if you have the vision to see it.
Returning to the example of the Masjid and Media Center: most would not see it as an example for something, let alone consider it worthy of any special notice. However, it within itself is an example of an ideal country; a paragon of how both religion and the humanities are capable of conflation, given the proper catalyst. Both share the same area without any disquiet of the other and effuse reverence that is due and expected. An anomaly, I concede, but if such an example can exist within even a fraction of this country, why is it wrong to think that it cannot be imbibed throughout?