The war of elephants

By Zubeida Mustafa

THE Raymond Davis episode has proved, if nothing else, how impossible it is to fit people into neat categories. Although we love to brand people as leftist and rightist, liberal and conservative, Islamist and secular, radical and traditional, we now know how off the mark we are when we do that. Those who used Davis as a flogging horse to vent their anti-American sentiments were a disparate lot. There were people from both ends of the spectrum and only Davis was their meeting point.

Dr Farhat Moazzam, head of the Centre for Biomedical Ethics and Culture at SIUT, was absolutely right when she made a plea to the audience at the seminar on “Muslim women” to stop labeling people. Of course she was speaking in another context but whatever the occasion this practice polarises society.

As a result of this war of ideas the middle ground is shrinking and we are talking “at” each other and not “with” each other. At the CBEC seminar, Asma Jahangir, the president of the Supreme Court Bar Association, emphasised the importance of people being given the right to speak. What should also be emphasised is that the right to speak implies the corresponding duty to listen.

Click here to read the article on Dawn.

5 thoughts on “The war of elephants

  1. —-” Poverty denies people their dignity that must be restored. Without dignity and self-esteem a person cannot really exercise his right to speech and expression. When citizens are unequal — be it gender inequality or economic inequality that places them at different levels — they will be unable to make themselves heard. Thus the more powerful ones who have access to the media and other structures of power will pose as their spokesmen. ”

    And in societies where equality does exist, and poverty has been dealt with, where all are ” educated and well-off “, does the media and other vested interests not control

    the thinking and behaviour of the masses ?


  2. Don’t you think the very genesis of our thinking in black or white is rooted in our religion? We are taught from infancy to divide the line between good, which is absolute, and bad, which, again, is evil in totality. There is no middle ground or other options – which you name grey area.

    Since we are also conditioned to see all worldly aspects through the lens of religious beliefs, we are somehow brought up to view the entire world from two extremes.

    With due respect to all religious beliefs and faiths, I hope I do not sound too "free thinking" when I express my skepticism.

  3. yes, it’s time we started focussing on countering inequality, instead of just ‘poverty-alleviation’…

    …maybe we should demand that all future leaders should get their children educated at state-run schools & get their families treated at state-run hospitals….(overnight these services will improve)… it too idealistic to expect this to happen?….

    1. @Shifa Naeem. Excellent idea. One of the armed forces bases had the lower ranking officers' children studying in the school at the base and the top officers' children being carted to an elitist school in the city. When the security condition deteriorated and the school bus became an easy target, it was deemed wiser to upgrade the school on the base and send all children there. ZM

  4. I agree that putting into different categories is not helpful as it represents a cacaphony of prejudices. Prejudice operates by putting people into boxes (steretypying) and declaring ‘we know you and what we say is the truth’. There is thus no room for dialogue.
    I also think all those demanding/declaring how Raymond Davis is to be treated reflected a tribal way of thinking when caught in a conflict. Tribal mind claims to have the truth, and the assumption that they cannot be wrong. There is no respect for any overarching norms. Thus we did not see any respect for Pakistani or International laws to prevail. There were just unilateral prescriptions. This is not democracy.

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