Time to Counter the Narrative!

History reveals that religion has been used to construct different narratives, of such narratives many have harmed humanity. Unfortunately, many of the countries have passed through these religious narrative constructions’ revolutions. If such revolution has taken place 50 years ago, when can we say that it was possible, but, if this has happened in last 30-35, then it’s a shame – where religion has been used for lobbying, self-interest, and exploiting humanity.

Let me take you to Pakistan – a country having over 193.2 million people, of them, approximately, 97 percent are Muslims. You won’t believe that this country is prouder of the religious Islamic identity rather than national. Eventhough Pakistan is an Islamic republic country, still it faces national identity crisis because of religious narrative – constructed by Saudi Arabia with the support of some others. This religious narrative where Islam was used to exploit the local people, has ruined Pakistan’s every walk of life.

Under this religious narrative, “Wahhabism” was promoted in Pakistan, mostly in the areas closer to Afghanistan – to play the central role in performing some awkward tasks that Pakistan itself or the countries who shaped the narrative were not able to. The tasks mainly included expelling Russia out of Afghanistan.

Islam means peace, purity, submission, and obedience. It is a peaceful religion – if followed in true spirits under the guidance of Quran. But, Wahhabism has been Saudi Arabia’s dominant faith. It insists on the literal interpretation of the holy Quran and believes on strictly following it. It is more of the violent face of Islam.

The way this religious narrative was used to expel Russia from Afghanistan was quite strange and has challenged many cultural and religious norms – a complete destruction. For spreading this narrative, local religious clerics were first fed in religious schools as well as public schools. This narrative was made available in the school’s textbooks, op-eds were published in newspapers and magazines, television programs were dedicated, and religious clerics gave sermons on considering Russia as the sole atheist country in the world and that Russian don’t believe in the existence of God. And the existence of Atheists in Afghanistan is a great risk to the local culture and Islam.

With this Wahhabism narrative, they were successful in expelling Russia from Afghanistan through Taliban (private armed forces) with less cost that could have incurred on using proper armed forces. It is always our (Pakistan’s) bad luck that religion has been used to exploit the spirits of the public (mostly the illiterate or those who lacked quality education).

When Russia was expelled, the same private armed forces claimed to be the sole fighters for spreading Shariah (Islamic system of government) in the world. They started from Afghanistan, Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA)of Pakistan, and then started the journey toward the settled areas of Pakistan. They were fully operating in Afghanistan and FATA, and strange thing was that they never needed donation but they got funds in different shapes through different sources including foreign, local, and national.

Though Pakistan started its effort to demolish this private armed force, they had to pay a great loss in almost every walk of life. You can kill someone in a day but you can’t change the mindset in a day. Changing mindset (especially religious one) take years and a conducive environment.

Due to all these, Pakistan has lost billions of dollars, economic development were halted, and thousands of peoples lost their lives in the militancy. Still, Pakistan has not learned the lesson. The country is encircled with debts, being defamed in the international arena, and finally worst political crisis.

We need to counter this Wahhabism narrative with true spirit, zeal, and enthusiasm. To counter this narrative, we should make quality education available to every citizen of the country, regulate the religious seminaries, promote rule of law, and focus on economic development. How this all be possible in a scenario when the country is faced with the worst political crisis? That is a critical question yet to be answered.