Except Ghulam didn’t watch much cable. He heard the news on his local channel and read some in the papers. He thought he’d cry too but the Imam of his mosque told him to have courage. It was sad indeed but it was only a reaction. Those soldiers had killed babies of those fathers who’d burst in the school building. Remember the raid on the Lal Mosque years ago? So much bloodshed! And the drones and the airstrikes and the army operations in Waziristan? Innocent people are dying there, by the thousands, and nobody is helping them! So why should Ghulam waste his tears for a hundred children. They’ve only paid the price of their parents’ sins plus most of those ‘children’ were adults; had crossed puberty and were westernized beyond repair. They wore pants!
Ghulam understood. Those children weren’t as innocent as the media said – well the media that was fueled by western agenda anyway. His local channel was also one of them now, it seemed. He decided he will not pay attention and go about his work. Imam knows best. Imam was knowledgeable. It were the blessings of his knowledge, the ‘faiz’ because of which the neighborhood’s small, modest mosque had turned into a wonder of shiny marble and high rising towers. It had more space too for more people. The Imam and his mosque were funded by international groups – because he was so knowledgeable.
This was just before ISIS came.
There was a protest that night as well. A group claiming to be a civil society was chanting slogans outside the Lal Mosque, demanding the esteemed Maulvi to apologize for his words against the army, for not condemning the attack at Peshawar. Why should he? Did the army apologize for what they’d done in Waziristan? If the army wasn’t condemned then why should the attackers of the school be reprimanded? Everyone has a right to fight injustice against them. Besides, that Malik – he who was now leading the protest – wasn’t he the one who was leading a protest in favor of the Maulvi when Lal Mosque was attacked by that dictator? Looks like he got new western money. Everyone wants to go abroad these days. Like that Malala. It’s all her fault really that people misunderstood Taliban. She wasn’t shot. Look at her face. No bullet marks there!
Ghulam decided he wouldn’t pay attention to the protest and go about his work. If the Maulvi was really that bad then why didn’t the government catch him? Why was he so esteemed and constantly on TV? Why wasn’t there an anti-Maulvi day? Because he wasn’t such a bad guy; just misunderstood by a few who will shut up soon.
This was before ISIS came.
The government seemed to have caved in some to the western pressure it seemed. They hung six Taliban fighters. May they rest in peace. They were only fighting for a cause and if only we could talk to them and stop the aggression against them, they would’ve come back to us, happy and laughing and smiling. We were all Pakistanis; brothers. We shared the same religion and values and everything. It was sad that the Prime Minister would sway in favor of the western powers because he wants their money. Such shame!
Ghulam decided he would never be part of the western conspiracy. He was a self-sufficient man who had a job and he was a practicing Muslim who wanted his children to walk the right path. He would do what the Imam said – pray harder for all lost souls and for himself and for his country. It will be okay soon.
This was just before ISIS came.
There was another attack after that. At the girls college this time. Some 140 students died. Women – they should stay home! Besides, that college never taught anything valuable. It was all love stories and ungodly science. Studying all that, those women would’ve become infidels in no time anyway. It was sad they had to die this way but – they should’ve listened. They should’ve stayed home.
Ghulam wasn’t sure if Imam was right about that thought, though. Islam didn’t want women to not learn or not educate themselves. But then, maybe the kind of education in that college was wrong…? But his neighbor’s daughter went there too. Luckily she survived because she hadn’t gone to school that day but her friends weren’t so lucky. That house was in mourning nonetheless. And his other neighbor, Habib, was very angry with the Imam too for his preaching. But then Habib had always been the one to disagree with the Imam’s interpretations, saying that the Quran didn’t say this and the Hadith didn’t say that. Saying the Imam was twisting words. Ghulam recalled the time when the Imam had confided in him and a few others that Habib was not a good Muslim. In fact, he wasn’t a Muslim at all. He worshipped the shrines. He was a mushrik! He sympathized with non-Muslims. He was a munafiq! That scared Ghulam. He wasn’t as knowledgeable as the Imam. He didn’t have the time to read all those heavy books by himself and he didn’t have to either when he had an Imam. He came to the mosque to learn from the Imam. Imam knew everything.
But today Habib had really lost it. He cursed the Imam! Saying it was hate-mongers like him who had defiled his religion, made the world hate his religion; people like him who would be the death of his country. The Prophet wasn’t like you! The Sufis weren’t like you! Pakistan wasn’t like this! Habib was shouting. Poor Habib. He was so consumed by the tragedy. He wasn’t thinking straight, Ghulam was sure. Besides, isn’t that what the Imam had been trying to tell us? This is what we had done to Taliban – killed their children. Of course they were angry just like Habib. Poor Habib. If only he could see!
Ghulam decided he would teach his children to be compassionate and see the other person’s point of view. Everyone is good except those who aren’t. The west isn’t good. He would never want his children to turn to that part of the world. It was nice to know that the majority of his neighborhood still felt the same way.
This was just before ISIS came.
The city had turned into a slaughterhouse. Hordes of people were killed, bazaars blasted, gunfire in the air. Mobs were burning down everything in their path while law enforcement agencies were trying to control them. Ghulam saw the Imam leading a mob that was looting, breaking private and public property, killing the cops too. Ghulam couldn’t believe it. He always thought the Imam was a peaceful man who believed in talks. Yes, he did say violent actions were justified in some cases but to hit an officer in uniform? That’s against the law! Imam was breaking the law?
Scraps of conversation came to his mind – we don’t believe in the constitution of Pakistan…we pledge allegiance to the Islamic State…
ISIS were wrong and ruthless, that much Ghulam knew. They were just bloodthirsty and killed everyone and abducted women and took away sons. He looked at his daughter and told her to go to her room. He was glad his son was home, too. Then, he secretly chided himself for being afraid. They would never come here! Pakistan had an army and everything. It was funny he was even thinking this. He shook his head and shut and locked the door of his house real tight. He wouldn’t go out today and neither would any of his family members. It will be okay. The government will handle this. It will be over soon.
This was the day ISIS came.
This article was published in The Nation