Allama of the 21st Century – Ibtisam Ilahi Zaheer – by Usmann Rana

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(This article first appeared at Let us Build Pakistan and can alternatively be found here

The Allama used the platform of a Friday sermon to incite hatred against Marvi Sirmed and Mohsin Sayeed

Capitalizing on the US embassy holding pride event and the ensuing fiasco, Aaj television tabled a debate on LGBT people with a panel consisting of Islamabad based journalist Marvi Sirmed and fashion journalist Mohsin Sayeed along with the media’s current favorite, Islamist “scholar” Ibtisam Elahi Zaheer. For those unable to recall who he is, Ibtisam is the same man on tv shows famous for bullying his way through debates and speaking at a speed which makes it hard to comprehend his words. The speech can be heard by clicking on this link.

Not satisfied with his performance on air, on 8th July 2011 he then decided to preach a Friday khutba (religious lecture) at his mosque. While not naming them he clearly pointed towards Marvi and Mohsin when he denounced Marvi as a gandi aurat ( filthy woman) and Mohsin as ganda mard (filthy man). But they were not alone in his blacklist. He made it a point to humiliate President Zardariand and Supreme court with derogatory remarks. But this is not the first time he used a mosque to spew hatred. It is amazing how Ibtisam Ilahi Zaheer’s impersonated and spiteful religious khutbas promoting religious bigotry not only are not condemned by the moderates but that he is invited to spew hatred on air by the “free” media.

Ibtisam not only refused to acknowledge homosexuals but also labeled them as worst than dogs. But why, one is tempted to ask? Because some drag queens make these heterosexual men insecure about their own masculinity? Why does it bother them so much that two women can happily enjoy their bodies without the need of a phallus? He encourages capital punishment against homosexuals. If we were to behead or kill people committing homosexuality and adultery in Pakistan more than half of the Pakistani men would be in skies above by now. And that would include many of the homosexuality condemning pedophile Mullahs. For those who, like Ibtisam, believe that Homosexuality is a western import and an effort to demoralize our society, let me recommend a really good article by Hashim Bin Rashid enumerating homoerotic relations in the Muslim history. These people cite religious orthodoxy but refuse to and are unable to talk from a scientific and rationalist perspective.

Whereas Pakistani society, including the Ulema, have largely looked at third gender community with sympathy, and pity, believing their plight to be ordained by Allah, Ibtisam in his Friday khutba, reproached the Supreme Court’s recent measures to have a third box on the NIC cards for eunuchs. According to him then even those naturally born in the condition of being third gendered ought not to be seen as humans. This would come as a surprise to even the bearded class.

Let me give you a cursory look over the views, verified via his facebook page he personally responds to, held and propagated by Ibtisam. He states that in order to overcome moral/sexual corruption we must promote polygamy, marriage in early years (which to me sounds encouraging child marriage), segregation of sexes in schools and functions, and avoiding music/dance. Why is it assumed by morally self righteous beards that a woman and man just wouldn’t be able to control their lust if they were to sit together alone and unsupervised? Music and dance can be used for constructive purposes as well. Music has proven its scientific benefits. Dance traditions such as Kathakali are expressive and an art form of storytelling. In a second we are advised to leave our ingenuous cultural values of centuries for those of another land and time. To 21st century’s problems our esteemed Ulema still have solutions of 7thcentury.

“Allama” Ibtisam also informs us that certain people are out to do propaganda against Ulema (religious scholars). Are you telling us that like six year old Talha, raped by his Quran teacher and found bloody in the corridors of the mosque in 2004, various victims of pedophilia at the hands of their Quran teachers are doing propaganda? The hate filled speeches are for everyone to see on youtube. What “propaganda” do these people talk of then?

In his Friday lecture Ibtisam reproached Nawaz Sharif and President Zardari for keeping silence over the killing of, in his words, “Shaykh” Osama Bin Laden. Why so much fuss over how West misunderstands majority of Muslims being terrorists when we have Ibtisam and others who not only use praiseworthy words for the very man responsible for the havoc created against Muslims but also cry crocodile tears  while performing his funeral rites while purporting to represent Muslim Ummah?

In their dream to Arabize Pakistan, the caliphate dreamers are now waging a war not only on liberal values but the local and more tolerant brand of Islam, seeking homogeneity in Islamic thought and practice. Let me be very clear, Wahabbism is not our ideology. Sufism is. And it is a liberal and inclusive tradition of Islam. Instead of telling us to get visas of European countries, it is those feeding off petro-dollars who are anything but representatives of what Pakistan used to be, a modern Muslim state.

If people like “Allama” Ibtisam Elahi Zaheer are to represent the 21st century Muslims, why is Muslim world clamoring about all the hatred against Muslims and Islam? Why do people living in Muslim part of the world assume that hate speech would and should be greeted with more lenient immigration policies and donations for flood victims? Where arethe so called liberal and “moderate” Muslims? One should be allowed to criticize state institutions like courts, but if people are going to hurl foul words at Supreme court what respect is left of the judiciary Pakistan’s Lawyers’ Movement fought for? There must be free speech. But Pakistani society seriously needs to demarcate between free speech and hate speech and latter ought to not only be condemned by also worked against.

Providing space for rival opinions is good enough but there ought to be no space for hate speech. Pakistani media more than ever needs to demarcate between free speech and hate speech, for its conduct clearly shows its lack of knowledge of fine line between the two.

In order to break the backbone of  hate mongers like Ibtisam and others one of the major step would to be to confront big daddies in Saudi Arabia who are funding  madrassahs. If Pakistan is to be saved, it must be saved, not from LGBT peoples or Liberals but the corrupt politicians, unchecked military and paramilitary and of course the Salafi/Jihadi ideology.

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