In Harper Lee’s much celebrated novel ‘To Kill A Mocking Bird’ , my favorite character is not that of the children but of their father, Atticus. Atticus Finch, the brutally honest, highly moral, an extremely opinionated tireless crusader for good causes (even hopeless ones).
Today I can say that at least a fragment, if not whole, of my fictional hero Atticus Finch, came to life in the form of Salman Taseer, the late Governor of Punjab, who lost his life defending a forlorn Christian woman, Aasiya Bibi, accused of blasphemy after an argument broke out between her and the Muslim women she had offered water to and who had refused, their excuse being that she is a Christian.
What was the reaction of society at large? While a certain number of sane people dreaded the death of a Liberal hero, majority of the people celebrated the death of a blasphemer who had dared to call the spade a spade. What had he said after all? Nothing new, I believe.Something that human rights activist and liberal class of lawyers have been saying for long now : change the language of section 295(C ), blasphemy law, as it is ambiguous and can be easily misinterpreted to settle personal grounds.
The besmirching words of the Pakistani people depress me. It shows how much emotions plays part in our lives and the mentality is clear indicator of how far the neck of one of the most modern Muslim nations has been grappled by the grip of extremism and fundamentalist mindset. First I heard the excuse that Taseer spoke out totally against the blasphemy law. Utter Nonsense. He had clarified it in an interview with Meher Bukhari that he had not intended the repeal but the refining of the language of law so that it could not be misused against non-Muslim minorities. When people run out of this pretext to save the name of Malik Mumtaz Qadri, the security guard who shot him 27 bullets ,as the true lover of the Holy Prophet, another one comes as Salman Taseer was protecting Aasiay Bibi, a blasphemer. Protector of blasphemer deserved such a death. And since when was it that Aasiya was found guilty? She is still awaiting her hearing. In majority of cases higher courts acquit the accused, although the ‘true Muslims’ in the outside would surely get them to hell. What to make of that? Lets bring down the higher court buildings now?
And what kind of message are we, as a nation, sending out to the rest of the world by sending pro-Qadri text messages and creating FaceBook fan pages of a murderer? We have given anti-Islam forces yet another reason to label Islam as a backward and anti-modernist religion all thanks to the immaturity of its followers. And then we blame the Mullahs for the misrepresentation of our society? Who are we to loathe Taliban if our own children are taught to look at Qadri as Ghazi Ilm-Ud-Din of today and a hero?
Finding faults in the personal life of Salman Taseer would not sway me to other side of the line for if that be the case then we have no heroes left as they are supposed to be human and thus imperfect. Never have I heard a rape charge against him nor was he on trial for murder, so what he did in his personal life is not our concern. This for all those who take subterfuge in proving Taseer’s personal life repugnant because he did not have a beard and was Liberal minded.
Pakistan has once again shown that it deserves more Qadris and Mullah Omars and not Salman Taseers. But for those of us who are still sane and humane in Pakistan, we do need heroes like him and Atticus Finch.