How difficult it is to bring down an Atheist in Pakistan ?

The intention to write this article is to show to some of the friends that how easy and natural it is for a simple person to bring down an atheist in Pakistani society. The need raised, when an open Pakistani atheist named Dr. Shaukat Amanullah Arslan( had applied for asylum in UK, he is an open atheist and written and spoken against Islam, which could easily be categorized as blasphemy by any devout Muslim.

Religion has a very prominent role in Pakistani society, though some cities are more religious than others, but there are mosques all around the country, and there are dozens of different movements intended to make people more religious, the most prominent of them is Tableghee-Jamaat (Preachers-Movement) started with religious spirit in mind. On one of there annual gatherings around 2.5 million people come from around the country, it became difficult for them to manage whole city of people so they divided it, into two events separated a week or so.

A common man usually says prayer, not very regularly but if someone is not saying prayer still he feels guilty about it at some level. Friday prayer is special one, on Friday almost everybody prays, including those people who are not religious. And before the Friday prayer, the Imam-e-masjid (leader of the prayer) delivers speech for 30 or more minutes, these speeches could be about anything concerning religious sentiment, there are mosques where content is a bit controlled by the Govt, but they are very rare, so the leader of the prayer, had open hand to control people whatever way he likes. And on Friday he has all the people of community around him.

The Imam-e-Masjid (Leader of the Prayer) is mostly someone who had studied in Madrassas (religious schools) for around 8 years, so this guy is a real fundamentalist, who thinks everything in terms of religion, he only sees religion around him and nothing more. Community people often have great respect for this guy, because he leads them in prayer, In Islam it is considered to be giving respect to allow someone to lead you in prayer. So this leader has a respect of the people they listen to him and accept his words, criticizing or even thinking critically over what he says is very rare. Most of the religious scholars come from very poor families, so they have a harsh taste of life, yet another example of the correlation of poverty and religiosity. Though in recent times there is a trend in good schools of pakistan to blend religion with other knowledge but, students of such schools do not produce Imam-e-Masjid, they may though produce Doctors and Engineers who are extremely religious. One other important fact about religious scholars is that they are very well connected. Everybody knows almost everybody else.

Now if a common man reads, one of the articles written by Arslan (, it's very natural for him to get extremely angry and it's natural that he could discuss it with other guys around him or his Imam-e-masjid (leader of the prayer) the relevant person in this matter. Now what this leader can do, he can talk about it with his other fellows, who are usually are leaders in some other mosques or running some religious schools, he can also talk about it in one of his Friday prayer, urging people not to send their kids to western countries, because over their, there minds get polluted. He can openly express desire of death for the blasphemy committed, which is totally imaginable and legitimate in Islam. Now once such a topic is discussed in a single Friday prayer, it will be become viral and everybody will join in.. There are extremely religious organizations who really hate even secular people, now when they have a picture and address at their hand, they will just jump over it..

In recent years Pakistani media had gone vibrant as well, and it's always looking for news but mostly it reflects on the same sentiments that masses have, so it's very probable that some channels will pick this up and make it more big..

From there on i don't see what he can do to save himself.. Law can save him by locking him up, if it gets the opportunity. But then he will face trial, and there are laws leading up death penalty for such a crime.

There are other possible ways by which the same thing could happen, but at minimum it really needs one single Muslim, who can understand English to bring down an atheist in Pakistan. The rest of the machinery is already placed in to follow..

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Comment by mateen majid on April 20, 2010 at 9:58pm
This has to do majorly with education system, All kind of study had been mixed with religion, even sciences. Secondly the kind of mythical history that had been taught in Pakistani schools and colleges, which glorifies the Muslim history and the creation of Pakistan.

Now keeping these opinions and believing in reality of today's world is difficult, so there comes the role of conspiracy theorists they make them feel at home, with there dearly held opinions in general.

Blaming America and India for terrorism inside Pakistan, seems to be part of broader plan. If people start criticizing terrorism in general and start blaming the extreme religiosity, it won't be long that, when they start criticizing religion openly, since there are explosions happening regularly, the brutality is quite obvious. The religious organizations are realizing this and doing their counter propaganda and i believe that they have support in media and establishment, because they believe that, this is a threat to Pakistani identity. In recent years the popularity of conspiracy theorists like Zaid Hamid, Ahmed Quraishi proves my point. Even Imran Khan assumed the same role, while looking at the success of Zaid Hamid.
Comment by Murtad Fitri on April 20, 2010 at 6:24pm
What puzzles me about many Pakistanis (not you of course) is that they are overly cynical when it comes to politics. Conspiracy theories are very popular in Pakistan. After the 9/11 attacks they probably said the Jews were behind it. Even terror attacks in Pakistan were probably blamed on India's intelligence service. (Although that may have changed in the recent years.) Yet they continue to support Al-Qaeda who support terror attacks both on America and within Pakistan. This kind of cognitive dissonance is typical of conspiracy theorists everywhere, even Holocaust deniers tend to be anti-semitic.
Comment by mateen majid on April 19, 2010 at 5:53pm
Thank you guys for reading. Murtad, i don't see any hope in near future, actually the education system is very biased, And the Pakistani identity is so closely intermingled with a radical concept of religion that, even with so much violence and killings there are political parties who dare to openly support extremists, and yet media and others are projecting them, because they feel criticizing religion is like criticizing Pakistan..

@The-Nerd: Actually visiting communities like this, is a breath of fresh air for me. One can't be sure about the safety, but still i have to speak at some level..
Comment by Murtad Fitri on April 19, 2010 at 2:04pm
Many thanks for the insight into life in Pakistan. This site is full of intelligent people from all over the world who are very curious about what life is like in different parts of the world, and who would really like to make the world a better place in whatever way possible.
I don't really know what can be done about Pakistan. It has been going downhill in the last few years with all the Taliban fighting etc. Maybe the people will get fed up with all the violence and corruption and one day subconsciously blame religion, although that looks like a vain hope at the moment.



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