Pakistani Christians may be Chief Justices, magistrates, sessions judges, police bosses, generals, surgeons, college principals or street sweepers, but they are all verbally persecuted by being referred to as Chuhra — the C-word. Legislation will not repair the damage since it cannot change hearts and, name-changing of persecuted communities across the world has also failed to redress their conditions. Something else is needed, but before that an explanation of the background of the C-word and how it stuck itself to the proud sons and daughters of the Punjabi soil — a tale of lost heritage, conversions and death by the kindness of bumblers.
Being indiscriminately associated with the C-word (below) has played such havoc with the psyche, identity, self-image and well-being of Pakistani Christians that being called Isai or Masihi is no longer relevant.
Chuhra Dalits are the lowest among the untouchables within South Asia’s shameful caste system. History reduced them to being scavengers and handling carrion. Actually, only the least fortunate among the approximately forty Chuhra clans are scavengers. Each clan has a designated vocation, such as executioners, assassins, basket-weavers, makers of winnowing sieves, bird-trappers, trackers, tanners, canine and equine groomers, machchi bakers and midwives, mirasi minstrels, doom singers, farm laborers and so on. The clans have names, traditions, genealogies, priests to perform their rituals and recount their kursinama genealogies at weddings.
They are also identified as the Balmiki faith community. Balmiki was the author of the Ramyana and is also known as Bala Shah and Lalbeg.
Converted to Islam, they are called mussalies. When they prosper, they may attach the prefix Sheikh to their name, as practiced by some of the higher caste converts. In South Asia, Islam was able to disassociate mussalies and Sheikhs from their erstwhile stigma of scavengers. Sikhism can claim even more credit for disentangling Mazhabis and Rangretas from their past — Maharajah Ranjit Singh’s elite Nihang units bristled with Mazhabis and Ranghretas as did many of the Sikh crack Light Infantry regiments of the British Indian army. The result is that a Sikh, irrespective of his caste or clan is addressed as Sirdar-jee. And they’re all levelled out with the Singh suffix.
Name-changing by Sikh and Muslim untouchable converts was helpful.
In the case of Christian converts it was tearfully comical.
The Christian ruling class didn’t mind them borrowing their names but that’s where the buck stopped. The Brits only socialized with the higher caste Christians, Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs —from a safe distance.
Socio-politically, Christian missionaries in South Asia failed to launder their converts’ past into a respected entity. It was asking too much from their British rulers to accept these converts within their ethnic and social hierarchy. And the missionaries also believed that a ‘Christian’ name was an English name. Converts with feeble antecedents were encouraged to attach the suffix Masih in the hope of instilling pride through a name-change. The approach failed but was continued since the collection of brilliant seminarians were unable to come up with a viable alternative actually staring them in the face.
Many caste names, especially those of the higher castes and in particular of the quarter million Jatt and Rajput converts to Christianity, were replaced by English first names. This quarter million potential buffer against the slur of the ‘C’ word disappeared into thin air, except for a few stubborn families who clung to their heritage.
Even among the forty untouchable clans only a small number were scavengers. It is a pity that proud clan names such as Luté, Jahé, Dhae, Sahi, Tengré, Goriyé, Kandara, Kotana, Kurtana, Pathan, Rawat, Machchi, Doom and others have been locked in cold storage.
Their founding myth is tragically illustrious.
In the time of the Mahabharta wars between the Kauravas and the Pandavas there were four sons of Kanwar Brahma, a Brahminnoble — Bharata, Sadhara, Paratna and Purba. When their cow died they made Purba, the youngest, drag away the carcass, first promising to help him in his task, but eventually casting him out, disinheriting him and, dividing his inheritance among themselves. Purba found shelter with the scavengers and carrion-handlers who already existed as outcasts from other clans due to differing reasons. The descendants of Purba, the fallen Brahmin, are the Chuhras, themselves a collection of over forty clans.
Five consequences of the abortive Anglicization of Christian converts still challenge them.
They found themselves alienated from the macro-culture, they were bereft of a micro-culture, they became dependent on mission jobs and they are considered a residue of colonialism by Pakistani Muslims.
They are also an embarrassing residue of colonialism for the former colonizers who have smugly converted from Christianity to rationalism.
The consequences of God being considered an Englishman came home to roost after the creation of Pakistan.
The Muslim menial workers suddenly filled the gap of the departing Hindus and Sikhs in other vocations and new land-owners fired the Christian laborers on the former Hindu and Sikh farms. This happened on a scale yet to be measured and there was an influx of Christians in the cities seeking work. They were channeled into sanitary workers’ jobs eagerly vacated by Muslims who were retrieved by their newly empowered coreligionists for ‘cleaner’ jobs.
One has only to read Shauna Singh Baldwin, especially What the Body Remembers, to appreciate that before 1947, a regular household sweeper in Rawalpindi was a Muslim addressed as Sheikh.
The Christians of Pakistan need to rehabilitate and reinstate their rightful clan names, whether they be low or high-caste. I always considered it a tragedy that the Director of the Lahore YMCA, Sham Sunder Singh Sandhu, a land-owning, over six-foot tall Jatt had to become S.S.S. Albert at the Independence of Pakistan for fear of being taken for a Sikh and killed or harassed as being potentially seditious.
Pakistan has come a long way since then and the blunders of duffers can be tackled.
It is time for the Dalit Christians of Pakistan to stand up to the higher castes of their own community, get them to act on their behalf to change their situation through education and affirmative action and proudly claim their ancestral heritage of fallen Brahmins.
Further Reading. “Dalits Were Uppercasts”: BJP’s national spokesperson Bizay Sonkar Shastri, in “The Hindu”, October 29, 2015.
Leonardo Da Vinci held reason-based beliefs, was gifted with unrivaled intelligence and followed many of his peers’ habits, such as using models. The real code hidden in Leonardo Da Vinci’s celebrated and critically polemical painting, The Last Supper, points to his own descendants, just as the three purported tombs of Mary across the world are those of three ladies with the same popular name.
Ladies ready to model for artists were chosen for their willingness from a limited supply. Many of the models used to depict saints and the Virgin Mary were ladies of easy virtue, often artists’ mistresses.
It is in character for a rationalist to impertinently infiltrate his mistress disguised as one of the apostles in the Last Supper to ensure that he could laugh from his grave until the end of time at those of inferior intelligence who sought to fit his irreverence into puny theories to fulfil personal agenda.
The purported Mary Magdalene is a female model impersonating a man just as men in Da Vinci’s Italy impersonated women in the opera.
Burying hints in paintings or in writing was not only an artist’s prerogative but also a practice followed by monks. Prior to the invention of the Gutenberg Press, monks hand-copied Bibles. When they got bored or just felt like tweaking discipline, they inserted deviant images and marginal comments, the best known of which is “Now I’ve written the whole thing: for Christ’s sake give me a drink.”
Da Vinci, too, had his private tongue-in-cheek jokes, one of which, embedded as a challenge in The Last Supper, took five hundred years to incubate before it got the world’s knickers in a twist.
He also had an artist’s imagination, which, on its own, is never a scientific fact. When an artist paints a blond, brown, black or East Asian Jesus, the outstanding fact only ascertains the strength of the artist’s own cultural perception. Nativity crèches in the French Foreign Legion often show baby Jesus with a white képi on his head and here are Légionnaires disguised as the Magi or the other way round!
Personal inclination or a vivid imagination could conclude that the Magi in French Foreign Legion uniforms are a clue indicating that the Magi who came to find Jesus were Roman Legion officers seeking to make contact with the family of the greatest revolutionary in human history to make sure he was their revolutionary. An embedded clue for neophytes.
So, a female as one of the Apostles in da Vinci’s The Last Supper could equally well be dismissed as an artist’s imagination, or a last minute, desperate attempt to substitute a model for the inebriated male who’d been stabbed in a tavern the night before.
Anyway, let us not forget that a well-argued construct without factual basis is the argument a lawyer wins just before losing the case. It is also a common occurrence to find women being part of a religious or philosophical group without a sexual or romantic affiliation.
After all, not along ago, Mahatma Gandhi slept with young girls without having doubts cast on his vow of celibacy.
Accordingly, after Jesus’ resurrection, Mary Magdalene married Simon, one of his brothers. He was a wealthy fisherman who owned several boats. After the resurrection of Jesus, his family found itself under pressure from the Romans and the Jews. With Mary Magdalene — Maryam Magdaleenee — expecting a child, Simon felt it would be expeditious to leave.
They sailed for the coast of Gaul, present-day France. On the way, Simon was swept overboard in a storm and Mary Magdalene landed in Marseille, a wealthy widow accompanied by three handmaidens. They were called Maryam’s Rebecca, Maryam’s Esther and Maryam’s Sarah.
Once Mary of Magdalene withdrew into the cave in St Baume, not far from Marseille, her handmaidens were freed of their duties.
Maryam’s Esther became an ambient missionary, ending up in the mountains overlooking Islamabad in present-day Pakistan. Since in her identification Maryam preceded Esther, when she died her tomb was called Maryam’s tomb. After some time, due to a confusion of names, she was thought to be Mary the Mother of Jesus. A settlement grew around it, called Mari or Murree, which became the summer headquarters of the British Indian Army’s Northern Command and is still a popular summer resort.
Maryam’s Sarah married a Greek who traded along the Mediterranean ports. He was older, wealthy and due to retire. They settled in a beautiful house in Ephesus, Turkey. Her tomb, too, is remembered as that of Maryam.
Maryam’s Rebecca reached the court of Gondophares, one of the Magi and the prince of a northern Punjab state in India. He converted to Christianity, they married and had children. Later, her descendants migrated to Europe but retained the name Mary as their maternal ancestor and jumped to the conclusion that they must be descendants of Mary of Magdalene whose husband had to have been Jesus.
By the time their oral family history blossomed to this conclusion, France had become a mainly Christian country and so they formed a secret society to pass on this presumption from generation to generation.
So here’s all the much-ado over the Da Vinci Code.
Da Vinci did not marry.
His legitimate descent has been traced through his siblings and one of his descendants is the acclaimed film director Franco Zeffirelli http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-36053229. However, Da Vinci has left a startling clue.
The answer to the apostle everybody is fighting to proclaim as a pregnant Mary Magdalene is the clue left by Da Vinci to inform us that his line continued through the lady in the picture and a study of concomitant accounts including rivals’ letters confirms this.
It doesn’t take much to figure out the Jesus Connection in Kashmir.
In Srinagar, Kashmir, the Roza Bal shrine is the tomb of a man called Issa, presumed to be that of Jesus Christ since Jesus is usually called Issa in Arabic, which means he who resuscitates the dead. In Swahili and Arabic it also means salvation and protection. It is often superfluous as the Arabic translation of Jesus, since in Arabic, Jesus is Yasue.
The Gospels reveal that Jesus’ birth name was Yeshua and that the word Jesus is its derivative.
Except for one, the Gospels were written in Greek. The word for Jesus is Iησοῦς pronounced as “eeaysoos.” When “eeaysoos” was transliterated into the English long ago, it became Jesus — the word used in English today (https://carm.org/jesus-name-really-yeshua).
Matthew 13:55-56 discloses that James, Joses, Simon and Judas, were Jesus the son of Mary’s brothers. The sisters are not named.
Mark 3:31, Mathew 12:49 and Mathew 12:46-50 further confirm the existence of Jesus’ brothers.
So even when the Bible does not specifically refer to Jesus’ cousins, nieces or nephews, their existence cannot be denied. And since names do tend to run in families, cousins may carry the same name. One of Jesus’s brothers was Joses, only a short Greek form of Joseph. So Joses was named after his father, a cross-cultural practice right up to the present. Every contemporaneous son of Joseph does not necessarily refer to Jesus or one of his brothers.
From all this information, then, Issa, as an Arabic attribute of the act of raising the dead cannot be considered Jesus’ name. And since there is no evidence in the Bible that Jesus flaunted his gift of raising the dead, he would not have referred to himself with such an attribute and even less so in Arabic which was neither his mother tongue in Israel nor spoken in Kashmir at that time.
By all the known, consensual evidence, Jesus and his disciples stayed within a linguistic environment of Aramaic, Greek and perhaps some Latin but not Arabic or Swahili.
The attribute Issa as he who raises the dead could not have been given until at least the first raising of the dead and that happened only after the thirtieth year of Jesus’s life. We are dealing with an act and not a proper noun. The attribute of raiser of the dead in Arabic was given only after news of the miracle reached the Arabic speaking world.
As stated earlier, Jesus never brandished his miracles. Even if he had gone to Kashmir, he would never have introduced himself as Issa. Furthermore, there is neither any evidence of the dead being raised in Kashmir two thousand years ago by a certain Issa, nor any trace of the Arabic language or Arabic speakers to justify the attribution Issa to a person. Starting from the 13th century, Muslim preachers brought Arabic into Kashmir in trickles, since the Qura’an is written in and Muslim prayers are formalized in Arabic.
The burial site of Issa is located in the Roza Bal shrine, in the Khanyaar neighbourhood of central Srinagar, the capital of the mountainous Indian state. The site used to be a center of Buddhism, Hinduism, and Shaivism for a thousand years before Islam.
The Issa buried here was Jesus’ nephew who had the gift of faith healing which many Christians and non-Christians have had since the beginning of time without being messiahs.
The name given to the person who is buried in Roza Bal is Yuz Asaf meaning “Son of Joseph and also implies “Leader of the Healed.”
Since Joseph and Joses are the same name, this son of Joseph / Joses was Jesus’ nephew.
Phonetically, the sound of Yuz Asaf can, with mild tweaking, be pronounced as Jesus — a practice so fraught with errors that no scholar would attempt it for fear of the derision and rejection of peers. That is because homophonic sounds are more often coincidental than incidental, except as an amusing after-dinner parlor game.
The common cognate meaning of two words is the decisive factor confirming a common origin. That is absent between Yuz Asaf and Jesus and Issa. The cognate of Yuz Asaf is compounded from the Hebrew he will add and leader of the healed. But Yuz Asaf also means Son of Joseph, and one of Jesus’s brothers was Joseph / Joses (Matthew 13:55-56).
If Jesus did appropriate the tenets of peace and neighborliness, and nothing is known of his life between the age of 12 & 30, he could as easily have retrieved them from Australian Aborigines or Siberians and not necessarily Buddhists as some believe. These universal concepts are not exclusive to Buddhism. Synchronicity — Jung defined it and Sting sang it.
Why an Aramaic speaking Jew in 78CE, the date of the supposed Jesus in Kashmir, would use an Arabic attribute to declare his most singular power in a language that was to take a thousand years to reach Kashmir is devoid of sense.
Pinpointing The Jesus Connection in Kashmir is Rocket Science 101.
In the UK, Asian refers to the 4.9% of the population that is of South Asian origin. Football evokes the rest of Britain. Much to the consternation of DJ Nihal of BBC Asian Network, football and Asians don’t mix. Even in areas where the Asians form 20% of the population, there are only 1% of them in the fan clubs. Apparently, even when they are welcome, Asians prefer to support rather than play football. Although Nihal might consider it a lack of “education”, it is due to ingrained prejudice against the sport received from first generation immigrants.
Here’s the story.
During the British, Raj, Indians disdained football as a sport of ‘cooks, butlers and grooms’! They enthusiastically adopted and played cricket, tennis, hockey and badminton, lauded as gentlemen’s sports. It would be an intellectual cop-out, though, to process this cultural transference as emulation, projection and self-loathing.
This is easily challenged by inverting the situation.
Raj-Brits did not play kabbadi, gulli danda or fly fighting kites in Gandhijee-type dhotis. These commoners played polo and went hunting on elephant-back, both of which were princely pastimes. In fact, polo was appropriated so thoroughly that between Prince Charles and Ralph Lauren it has lost all hope of being instinctively associated with South Asia. The Raj Brits played Mahararjars until it was time to go back home to extol the virtues of vacuum cleaner housework over live flunkeys.
The Indian and British cultural cherry-picking is actually very much in order.
In an encounter of two cultures, each retrieves and attempts to appropriate selective accoutrements of the other’s upper classes, rejecting components of the lower classes.
Social acceptance is subject to an equally disproportionate mechanism.
An English working or middle class individual will happily accept an upper class foreigner as an equal. Yet, within the framework of social class, surely the upper class foreigner is not an equal, but a superior!
South Asians will process a visiting foreigner in the same way.
Racial profiling thrives under this disproportional perception of The Other that feeds and re-designs the perceiver’s self-image.
The stiff upper lipped British colonials are a stereotype and not a ground reality. Only a minority of them were graduates of Sandhurst or Haileybury College. The rest were box-wala merchants of indifferent upbringing and the rank and file of their army who enlisted, according to Philip Mason in A Matter of Honour, for “a shilling and a warm coat”.
They were uncouth, chewed tobacco, smoked, drank, kept common law native wives, were under debt to Pashtun usurers, and were unmitigated racists who played bingo, volleyball and football.
The only Indians they were able to coopt or coerce into their games were their social equals they considered to be their racial inferiors trying to move up the social ladder — from the scullery to the football pitch.
‘Nice’ Indian children were thus warned to stay away from this sport, study hard, play tennis, cricket and badminton and excel.
This attitude accompanied the Post Second World War immigrants from South Asia. In the UK they populated working class neighborhoods and the life-style of their neighbors only vindicated their inborn attitude. So they resurrected the role model of the successful middle class individual ‘back home’ who played cricket and wore bespoke western clothes with a flair. It also helped that the same Asian role model was actually available in the UK in a doctor’s surgery or a pharmacy. So football had no place in this mindset, and even less so when the sport’s associated hooligans started appearing on the front pages.
Perhaps Asians are the United Kingdom’s most prosperous community because they stuck to South Asian middle class goals and values which, with a spot of tennis or cricket, led them from corner shops to pharmacies, hospitals and universities, rather than football pitches.
Time, though, will ensure that worries about the Asian community’s degree of cultural integration are laid to rest. After all, they already have their street gangs.
The current generation or the next one will, sooner or later, end up bending it like Beckham. They might even start mortgaging their pharmacies to fill charter seats for binge drinking holidays in Majorca! And it may be hoped that the Brits will then stop moaning about the insufficient integration of its most prosperous wealth-creators.
The Kohinoor diamond has once again been dragged into pathetic squabbling by South Asians hoping to wrest some honor after having lost their birthright for over a century to beef-eating fishermen turned pirate under the thin garb of corsairs. The current semantically enabled bunch with overdeveloped vocal cords should be force-fed a session of Satyajit Ray’s pointed Shatranj ké Khilardhi — The Chess Players. Our ancestors, busy playing chess chanting hymns, or admiring themselves, successfully lost everything to waves of looters who came through the Khyber Pass and eventually, the sea.
Their princes, bereft of their ability to pursue their dharma of war, emasculated themselves into parodies of western playboys in a game of one-upmanship with their rulers that fooled nobody and amused many.
Now, just as the so called ‘world’ has started accepting that India is a prominent player among the comity of nations and that the new-look Pakistan might join it one day, the Kohinoor hullabaloo is a stentorian reminder that we were either cringing water-carriers in loincloths or debauched, impotent pseudo nobles who lost the heritage of people for whom they were mai-baap — mother-father.
Netaji Subhash Chandra Bhose believed that without an armed revolution to wrest freedom, Indians/Pakistanis would never retrieve their honor. The current edition of give-me-back-my-stone only proves him right. An attempt to recover war booty by the losers without going to war to complete the circle reduces the effort to pathos.
Evoking moral reasons passed into law by the erstwhile conquerors further drags down pathos into bathos.
To establish ownership other than by right to conquest, there is a conflict of Place and Person for the origin of the Kohinoor. Chronological claim should have it back in its place of origin in the hand of the original owners, like the relationship between descendants of Jews and Swiss bank accounts and objets d’art.
In that case, being a three thousand year old stone claimed by Hindus, that’s who it belongs to unless their descendants are now living in Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, the UK or the frozen wastes of Antarctica.
As claimed by Muslims of Pakistan and Bangladesh, the Kohinoor was mined in the 13th century under Muslim rule. Which only makes it property appropriated for personal aggrandizement by a monarch and not at all a national treasure.
Which is why the Supreme Court of India has wisely ruled that the Kohinoor may continue to dazzle in Queen Elizabeth’s crown. (That should make the British PM smile).
The Kohinoor was then looted by Nadir Shah in the 18th century and in the next century, circuitously ended up in the Punjab, displayed on the arm of Maharajah Ranjit Singh Jee who valued it as worth “two shoes” i.e. finder’s keepers and the principle of possession being nine points of the law.
And if the Kohinoor was gifted to the British by a subjugated monarch, it’s still a gift – and you don’t give a gift and ask for it back, especially when you are neither the donor nor a direct descendant — if the latter, play possum!
Loud voices are accusing the British of stealing, which is acquiring somebody’s property by stealth. In this case, it happened in broad daylight with the connivance of the possessors at that time, tripping over themselves to curry favor with the new rulers.
In all this noise there is no mention of the Peacock Throne and the Darya-e-Noor in the possession of the Iranians — why are they being let off the hook? Their Nadir Shah, touted as the Iranian Napoleon or Alexander, snapped up the Peacock Throne, the Kohinoor embedded in it and added the Darya-e-Noor diamond.
The Iranians and the British both should contribute a sum worth the value of the Kohinoor, the Peacock Throne and the Darya-e-Noor to Nalanda University in Bihar, India, resurrected by the efforts of the Nobel laureate in Economics, Professor Amartya Roy.
In the 13the century, Bakhtyar Khilji ransacked and destroyed this seat of learning. The size of the library alone can be gauged by the forty days it took to burn. In the 700 years from Bakhtyar Khilji to Bahadur Shah Zafar, no Indian Emperor ensconced on the Delhi Throne built a single university. This period only testifies to astounding architecture displayed through places of worship, tombs of the dead and palaces. Nothing for the people. It is time to use the Kohinoor issue to raise the Darya-e-Noor and Peacock issues and imbibe Nalanda with funds that restore it as a seat of world learning.
If proven, child sex abuse by United Nations peacekeepers is a heinous and unpardonable offence for which the perpetrators’ junior and senior commanders are equally responsible.
France’s ambassador to the UN, Francois Delattre, described the reports of UN Peacekeepers’ behavior in the Central African Republic as “sickening and odious”. He should have also proposed the time-honored French Foreign Legion solution of Bordel Militaire de Campagne (BMC) — the French Army’s erstwhile military brothels that ensured local girls against molestation or ham-handed pickups by Legionnaires.
George Orwell is supposed to have said that “People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf”.
These ‘rough men’ are ill-suited to refined work. Yet, they are forced into it by pot-bellied decision makers seeking virtue by proxy while appeasing the bean counters breathing down their necks.
Instead of raising a dedicated peace-keeping force of educated and politically correct peace-makers, they deploy trained Rottweilers with the expectation that they will suddenly convert to Labradors out of a sense of decency and obedience to orders.
Contradictory training commands destabilize attack dogs, borne out by dog trainers the world over.
The “institutional failure” is the inability of decision makers to recognize the oxymoron implicit in lumping soldiering with peace keeping. It is compounded by their incapacity to distinguish between the opposing imperatives of national defense and peace-keeping. The former is bare-knuckled while the latter requires velvet gloves and sensitive souls.
And soldiers are neither recruited for their sensitivity nor trained in the use of velvet gloves. When their own countries are threatened, they are let loose to kill pitilessly without a thought for their own lives.
There is no other role in which a soldier can be or is adequately trained without compromising the taxpayer’s trust. It is unreasonable to expect virtuous behavior from professional soldiers in the field deployed to uphold righteous, world-order ideals.
Yet, one may hold their leadership to be accountable for lax discipline under their command. It is then up to this leadership to demand, through proper channels, for the establishment of military brothels for their troops. After all, the desk jockeys spouting behavioral slogans aren’t denied female company but impose a sexual quarantine on young men in their prime.
Since no full-time, dedicated, international peace-keeping force can be envisaged in the medium term, the potentially rampant sexuality of young male animals should be provided with an outlet. The French experience in managing ‘rough men’ is worth emulating.
The remaining few French Foreign Legion bordellos are overseen by a Warrant Officer.
Military policemen’s unhesitating billy clubs guarantee gentlemanly conduct, clients and sex workers are subject to medical scrutiny and advance booking further ensures smooth management.
Needless to say, molestation and harassment are so well contained that the local girls complain of the absence of Légionnaires at parties.
If found guilty of the charges, the animals and their seniors deserve the harshest punishment.
However, a program of military brothels would be a self-supporting preventive measure which deserves serious consideration.
Azam Mairaj’s three finely penned English articles and Urdu book Dharti Jaey Kyun Paraey (links below) are a timeless gift that position him as a selfless historian of Pakistan’s Christian community. Without provoking or whinging, Azam Mairaj brings into focus the input of Christian warriors to the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. He does this at a time when Christian minorities within Muslim lands are undergoing discrimination and persecution as a misconstrued extension of the West.
There are mindsets that presume a Christian counterpart to the transnational political Ummah, supposed to be a faith community, which has now assumed political dimensions that put Muslim minorities in a conflict of interest. The absence of a Christian Ummah and a fundamental belief in the separation of church and state, ensures the integrity of the national loyalties of Christian minorities.
Azam Mairaj’s writings on Christian contributions to the defense of Pakistan performs this unparalleled service of bridging a credibility gap between his community and the rest of the nation without making any but the most positive of waves. In the light to his creativeness and consequent experience, it is now time for him to start a foundation to finance a collective of writers to continue the remaining stages of his initiative.
The artist Zulfikar Bhutto might want to set aside his apparently Marxist-Leninist analyses of society, appreciate that communities in Pakistan are identified by their belief systems and come on board such a project. He and other mainstream intellectuals have this opportunity to go down in history as Ralph McGill, Virginia Foster Durr or Joel Elias Spingarn did for the American civil Rights Movement.
There are enough well-filled Pakistani pocket books to compete with the patronage extended by the White majority of the United States to its minority communities. The moral high ground on which Pakistan stands should be at the same altitude as that of the United States of America to freely brandish anti-American rhetoric!
Mahatama Gandhi said: “Freedom is not worth having if it does not include the freedom to make mistakes.” Accordingly, before quantitatively expanding the subject of minority participation in Pakistan’s defense and development, two dust devils need to be vacuumed.
The first one is about the inversely disproportionate number of Christian officers to Christian Other Ranks (OR s), Non Commissioned Officers (NCOs) and Junior Commissioned Officers (JCOs). The second dust devil is the swearing-in of Christian officers whereas Muslim officers only ‘solemnly affirm’.
Unless things have changed in the last three decades, the Pakistan Army had no provision for Christian applicants as combatant ORs. Their state of scholastic, medical and physical fitness notwithstanding, they were only employed as sanitary workers. Most of them were strapping lads from Christian villages representing martial castes deridingly amalgamated within the C-word reserved for the Christians of Pakistan. So, every regiment had its contingent of ‘Masihs’ as they were known and, occasionally, the odd Christian officer. But no combatant ORs, NCOs or JCOs, which is perhaps why only two of them are mentioned by Mr. Mairaj. And it is telling that the author has not been able to unearth any information about Lance Naik Yaqoob Masih from 21 Punjab. This is a subject of study worth a research grant.
Now to the second dust devil.
The stirring ritual of the Pakistan Military Academy Kakul’s Passing-Out Parade, commissioning officers of the Pakistan Army, is solemnized within the framework of military precision and pomp. Muslim Gentlemen Cadets (GCs) ‘… solemnly affirm …” their loyalty to their profession and nation to become commissioned officers.
Then the Adjutant raises his sword and orders Christian GCs to take one step forward, triggering a moving display of Silent Drill.
The GCs step out.
A splendid looking Havildar Major in full regalia including a curling moustache and crimson sash marches across the parade ground carrying a silver bound Holy Bible on a solid silver tray.
The exact second that he slams to attention in front of the GCs, their palms go over their Holy book and they start reciting the lines of the oath pronounced by the Adjutant, ‘I … swear by Almighty God …’.
The ceremony leaves no spectator or participant unmoved.
Yet, the Muslim GC only needs to affirm his fealty but the Christian has to swear by Almighty God.
The consequences of this difference were brutally brought to my attention by the Head Clerk of my Punjab Regiment battalion.
Prime Minister Bhutto had instituted a new oath in which we all had to promise not to take part in politics. So, I once again had to swear by Almighty God. Then I had to affirm my men, as Company commander and Adjutant. The men were lined up and waiting when a deeply embarrassed Head Clerk, who is also the unit’s legal advisor, hurried up. With great embarrassment and, unable to look me in the eye or actually say anything, he handed me the open section of the Manual of Pakistan Military Law (MPML) to read. It unequivocally stated that only an affirmed officer (and not a sworn officer) could administer the affirmation to junior ranks.
I was stunned.
I could lead my men to hell and back but not affirm them?
Another officer had to replace me.
The men looked sulky.
I was a popular and respected officer. The embarrassment of my troops’ and most of my brother officers took a while to settle down.
This, too, is a subject of study worthy of academic scrutiny.
The unifying consequences of Azam Mairaj’s initiative on inter-communal harmony cannot be underestimated in this time of communal alienation and strife.
Mahatama Gandhi’s contemporary, John Dewey, philosopher, psychologist, and educational reformer offers food for thought: “Failure is instructive. The person who really thinks learns quite as much from his failures as from his successes.”
Interfaith dialogue has rarely, if ever, brightened up a neighborhood — it causes confusion instead of forging the requisite affiliations for conflict resolution. The representatives of each religion believe that their faith has a copyright on truth. To reinterpret and syncretize being heresy, interfaith dialogues flounder on this reef of exclusivity, surviving on toothless announcements of mutual admiration.
So these dialogues are neither about faith and nor among equals. One faith being temporally stronger than the others, it’s about concessions and handouts which means condescension and consequent resentment. Religious leaders play politicians pretending to resolve conflict while bargaining concessions and preparing tidy little press statements.
Since interfaith dialogues have done little to resolve inter-communal clashes, then maybe the existence of different faiths is not, in itself, a cause of conflict. Somewhere down the line pragmatic religious leaders hope that inter-faith dialogues grant them inter-communal leadership.
The logical alternative to pre-determined failure is an inter-communal dialogue. That too, is fraught with danger, especially in countries like Pakistan where communities are identified by their faith and not by their geographical location or ethnicity.
So communal identity needs to be tackled and faith left to its own dynamics. As such, leaders of different faith communities should just meet and commune regularly over gourmet meals of which all clergies are known to be connoisseurs. At these communions, religious discussions should be taboo, engendering secular relations which may then blossom into inter-communal friendships.
And since Pakistanis are no longer Mughal or British subjects, but citizens in their own right, they should not wait for the state to organize and finance the mughlai dishes, halvas and venues of such meetings. Local businesses, business associations, associations and foundations should organize a national competition of the best inter-communal meals and the best discussion results judged through public-access to the menus and minutes on the Internet.
In times of communal tension, it is these Maulanas, Padres, and Hindu, Parsee and Sikh priests who will be orchestrating peace on their mobile phones instead of gasping, overworked police officers.
Chief Justice Alvin Robert Cornelius was a stellar example of the attitude to inter-communal relations.
Cornelius Sahib was so beloved of devoted jurists that they would affectionately refer to his initials as Allah Rakha since he stood up to President Ayub Khan! His oft-quoted statement “I am a constitutional Muslim” was neither a declaration of faith, nor a desire to convert to Islam. As one of the world’s renowned constitutionalists, he had appreciated that Muslims, claiming Islam to be a culture in itself, had engineered the creation of Pakistan. As such, all Pakistani citizens, regardless of their faith, were constitutional Muslims. One may add that all citizens of Pakistan are also cultural Muslims.
On July 25, 2014, decades after ‘Allah Rakha’ Cornelius’ statement, Goa’s Deputy Chief Minister Francis D’Souza declared that “India is a Hindu country. It is Hindustan. All Indians in Hindustan are Hindus, including I — I am a Christian Hindu”, sparking a merry controversy that let him have his day on the front pages.
It is such acceptance by minority faith communities that allow their goodwill to be reciprocated by their neighbors. Eastern Christians suffer from the reputation of their western co-religionists. Western Christianity still bears the scars of the Crusades, the Inquisition and colonization in which Eastern Christians played no part.
Yet, the residual tarnish has hardened the lives of Christian minorities in the East.
At the end of the day, Christianity is an Eastern religion, the Gospels of which encourage fellowship parallel with internal, spiritual development. Temporally declaring oneself to be a cultural / constitutional Muslim or Hindu is not a cop-out — it only enhances faith.
Thus it is that by and large, across Pakistan, Christians and Muslims cohabit in peace without the assistance of inter-faith cowboys, happily communing at Eid and Christmas. The occasional tension erupts from jealousy and land disputes, although the recent massacres and church bombings are singularly distinct.
Justice A. R. Cornelius and Sri D’Souza’s exemplary attitudes accepting socio-political reality have not been duplicated by Indian or Pakistani communities in the West. They still expect largesse to be doted out by the state, a ryot mentality of subjects. To go and get it while standing tall is the prerogative of integrated citizens.
Mirriam Webster defines a citizen as “one entitled to the rights and privileges of a freeman.”
Freemen do not wait for the state to organize regular dinners for the leaders of faith communities to build relationships to preempt or resolve conflict.
As minorities, they do not wait for state patronization, but incite the state to extend it.
And they savour their neighbours’ reciprocal love through hugs, eidee, cakes, sheer khurmas, biryani, jhalfarezis, and namkeen goshts, adding lustre to their precincts and mohallas.
Ritually celebrating each other’s eids, Christmases, diwalis and baisakhis is a win-win situation.
On November 13, terrorists struck again in the world’s City of Lights. On December 2, it was San Barnardino, in California, USA. Then Yemen. Then London, the Lufthansa flight and where next?
While nations mourn, a well-rehearsed machinery emits enlightened warnings against an uncontrolled backlash, padded by reminders that the situation, being the pre-meditated creation of US-led imperialism, implicitly mitigates terrorist acts. President Obama has made a measured speech against any backlash against American Muslims, unusually broadcast from the Oval Office.
Yet, pictures of the victims with captions such as “While the world media is focused on Paris attack, atrocities continue in Palestine” gloat with impunity to imply that the victims of terrorism have received their just deserts.
And the semantic battle over the use of the signifier Islamic as an attribute renews its vigor.
To grasp the polemics enshrouding the signifier Islamic requires an understanding of the overlapping concepts of Sha’b and Ummah.
Sha’b refers to a nation with a common ancestry or geography, making Chinese, Pakistani or Saudi Muslims distinct entities subject to the constraints, privileges and obligations of their nation-states. No single state can share in the accomplishment or failings of another.
Ummah is a synonym for ummat al-Islamiyah, which means Islamic state as opposed to the nation state, or the transnational collectivity of Islamic peoples. Triumph, failure and tragedy are equally shared by individual and collective components. In practice, the concept of Ummah, enshrines the civilizational accomplishments of Muslim peoples and subordinates that of Sha’b, transiting from Muslim to Islamic.
Islamic being what pertains to Islam, Mirriam-Webster defines it as “the religious faith of Muslims including belief in Allah as the sole deity and in Muhammad as his prophet; the civilization erected upon Islamic faith.”
Thus, if it is commonly accepted that a great civilization inspired by the Islamic religion may be called ‘Islamic’, when it goes into decline, it does not become un-Islamic.
Islam is a noun for a belief system, and its followers are identified by the noun Muslim. When a person is referred to as a Muslim, the degree to which he is one, is irrelevant as it cannot be judged off-hand. The status of Muslim is immeasurable for non-Muslims and if a person declares he is Muslim, can only be challenged by competent Muslim authority. The signifier Islamic lends itself to measurement due to its liberal use by Muslims with reference to their past.
A person is only referred to as Islamic by the ignorant, unless it is “Islamic peoples”.
Islamic usually qualifies an event, situation, object or act. The acts may be flattering or prejudicial to Islam itself. Thus, there are Islamic conferences, Islamic prosperity, Islamic education, Islamic art or Islamic charity.
Among acts, the achievement of one Muslim nation is claimed by all.
Therefore Muslims and non-Muslims have conjointly referred to the Islamic conquest of Spain, as a continuum of Islamic for science, medicine, education, art and charity.
Thus, the Umayyads, who acquired Spanish real estate, hailed from Mecca were ethnic South Arabians and on the jus sanguinis principle, Saudis even though Saudi Arabia did not exist at that time. Going by jus soli, their seat of government being in Syria, it would be more appropriate to call it a Syrian conquest.
Although the term would exclude Muslims from Kabul to Kashgar, it would also secure them against charges of invasion and colonization in a democratic era of apologies. Whatever the case, Muslims themselves, especially during the decline of the power of Muslim states overtaken by the Enlightenment, have been compensating for their sunset by deflecting focus on bygone Islamic art, architecture, literature and medicine.
Muslims have been able to achieve this semantic and soft-power victory in tolerant western democracies evidenced in the Islamic art shows, galleries, centers etc., and volumes of cut and paste jobs by keen academics!
While mainstream, enlightened Muslims struggle to compensate for the failure of the Ottomans to provide Muslims with a renaissance, misguided Muslims, hoping to revive a Caliphate to reverse decline, have been able to recruit enough dispossessed souls living in misery to initiate acts of terrorism financed by decadent petrodollars seeking to trim western sails without dirtying their hands.
Since mindsets had been prepared to accept architecture as being Islamic because it was designed by a motley scattering of Muslims, terrorism by a few Muslims also acquired the signifier “Islamic” to qualify it. Calling it Islamist only makes a difference to the choir, since the root word remains unchanged.
The impressive resources deployed by Muslims in fighting this term and bickering over blame-shifting is an impressive resource waiting to be deployed against terrorism itself. Terrorism is neither the birth child of an Islamophobic conspiracy, nor a mere blowback of inept American policy, although the existence of both are a convenient umbrella for terrorists and their unwitting sympathizers. The term is a child of terrorist acts committed by lethally irresponsible fringe Muslims.
Proclaiming that the victims of terrorism were a direct result of their nation-states’ foreign policies insinuates that they deserved their fate and renders the narratives of comfort and sympathy meaningless. We’re talking here of neighbours and compatriots in mourning, who need comfort and not reminders of their nations’ foreign policy shortcomings.
This pass-the-parcel received wisdom should wait until the mandatory chaleeswan forty-day mourning respected by Muslims is over. Jumping the gun on this issue is poor taste at the best, exulting at the worst, either or both of which may come to drench the gloaters with shame.