A liberal, to put it very roughly, is the one who supports equality and freedom. Well, at least in theory, right? But for Pakistanis, stereotypes attached to liberals override the thoughts they stand and fight for. This pigeonholing is like identifying every liberal as red while wearing red glasses. You should be prepared to hear the following if you have ever identified as a ‘liberal’ in Pakistan. Even if you haven’t and you are mildly secular in your views, who cares, you are still a ‘desi liberal’ in the eyes of our conservatives. Here are a few things that will earn you the charge of being a desi liberal:
If you talk about freedom, the first thing you’ll hear will be the charge of being an angrez. The demand for liberty in Pakistan apparently is considered to be just this: wearing western attire, speaking English, going out with opposite gender friends, or freely moving around in a market in Lahore.
To live and let others live apparently translates into rebelling cultural norms and spreading fahashi. There is no way you can convince them with an answer. They will still continue to ask: “kese kapre pehne hain? ye balon ko kya kia hai? Kis k sath bahir jati ho? And if by any chance you bluntly respond, then a whole new level of who wants to be a millionaire starts: “iss zuban ke sath kon kray ga iss se shadi?”
And, if you admire the western culture, their achievements and policies of honesty for flourishing as an example for Muslims, then you are most likely to be a part of yahoodi sazish. Chances are you will most likely be called a kafir as well with a proper pamphlet to label you a Kharij-e-Islam as well.
You are most likely to be called a desi liberal if you choose to give your gaali’s in English. Use the f-word a lot? Yep, you are more likely a Pakistani under the evil spell of the west. Hence, you are… you guessed it, a desi liberal. Who cares if the other person is using all the swear words that demean the innocent maa’s and behen’s of this country? As long as it’s Punjabi or Urdu, all good right?
All desi liberals belong to elite-class even if you are a self-identified plebian. The liberal hunting brigade doesn’t care behind their screens what your true economic status is. Your views mean you are expected to eat burger and pizza even if you crave for phajjay day paaye or nihari. Why? Because you are MADERN, ofcourse!
Girls supporting liberalism means they are automatically an ‘easy catch’. Wearing jeans and talking about freedom in our society symbolizes the invitation for : “hellooo dear! Wanna frandship?” And, for boys, it implies “girlfriends to kafi hongi.” Why? because every one of us have that mohallay ki shakki aunty wali qualities when it comes to identifying and stereotyping desi liberals.
When you talk about equal rights all they can perceive are GAY rights. Even if you advocate human rights everything will transpire on gay rights and who knows where your advocacy can take you to a point where you yourself is a lesbian or gay. A desi liberal gay, that is.
Well, you be living a satisfied happy life on earth, but your afterlife may be decided by the janattis who have predestined that you will burnt in hell or die a kuttay ki mout. Why? Because all the good deeds have been done by them and you are left for none.
Sometimes your opinions and activism in public can cost your death. And even after death, your struggles will be recalled in derogatory terms. No matter what you addressed in your life, it will always be overshadowed by how you address it. Death of Mashal Khan should have taught us a lesson to respect everyone’s opinions but we prefer to pre-judge and make assumptions.
We need to understand that liberalism does not mean modernism or having anti-religious views. Instead, it is a doctrine endorsing the stance of freedom, equality, and justice, which if it helps are also postulated by Islam. A liberal person can be modern yet, preach Islam or can be elite, yet strive for equal rights of underprivileged and minorities. All we need to do is comprehend the dogma presented not dissect who is presenting it.
*Illustration Credits: Syed Umair SirNawaz*