Eid was always a happy time, particularly Eid-ul-Fitr. It was the reward for a month spent fasting, praying, trying to set the tone for the rest of the Islamic year in terms of being better Muslims and better people. Eid was a reminder of the beautiful things Ramzan is meant to teach us—tolerance in the face of adversity (in this instance hunger and thirst), rising above your own discomfort and personal pettiness, the sense of unity that fasting as a collective brings. This year, I don’t think we deserve Eid at all. A lot of wiseguys will no doubt comment on this article, and ask why I’m so peeved, but I am astonished at the surprise. Our miserable nation is so apathetic that we’ve forgotten how to be angry for the right reasons, hiding instead behind supercilious holier-than-thou attitudes of cynicism or a strange brand of critique. It’s the same tone of disdain employed by people when they deride online activism whilst probably never having set foot on a street with a placard in their hands. It’s an unbelievable kind of smugness that comes from being safe and secure in one’s own little life, and I cannot fathom how any of us can maintain that cosy little bubble any more.

This Eid comes on the heels of a Ramzan spent mourning the hundreds of Palestinian men, women and children being brutally, relentlessly attacked by Israel every single day. It has wrenched the guts and hearts of people globally, and we have taken part in our protest against the horror and zulm of it all. A little less prominent has been our focus on ISIS—the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria—and the incredible kind of cruelty it has been inflicting on Christians in Iraq and Syria. Christian households are being marked with a Noon, the common letter for ‘N’ in Arabic and Urdu, which represents the word Nasari, or Nazarene—Christian. Like the Jewish Star of David German Jews were forced to wear, this painted Noon is picking households out for punishment. Christians have been crucified in public for refusing to adhere to the strictures of the Islamic state and most recently a Christian has had his lips burnt for eating in public during Ramzan. Christian communities that have lived in Iraq and Syria for generations, who are just as much Iraqis or Syrians as the Palestinians are Palestinians, are being given an ultimatum by ISIS: leave, or face the consequences. The consequences range from paying jizya to being strung up on a wooden cross and murdered.

Before we touch our earlobes in shock, we mustn’t forget the mob that has just burned down Ahmadi houses in Gujranwala. Some of those houses had children inside who were burned alive. The mob has been captured on television, dancing. The mob is dancing because they have just lynched families and murdered children during the last days of Ramzan, those holiest of holy nights where one of them could be Laila-tul-Qadr, the night of Wonder, the Night of Destiny, a night that could change your entire life if you pray with a good and pure heart. I weep to think of what our destiny may be now. I am so ashamed because I am so helpless, and I can post whatever I like on social media and write my columns and go to protests but at the end of the day children are dead in my own country, and I am buying bangles to match my daughters’ Eid outfits. Families in Palestine are devastated, yes, but families in Gujranwala are devastated too. And like the Israelis sitting on their hilltop cheering the missiles bombing Gaza, Pakistanis in Gujranwala are dancing and cheering for the murder of innocents. For Israelis, Palestinians are scum; a thorn in their side that interferes with their land-grabbing religio-nationalist agenda. For Pakistanis, Ahmadis and Christians and anyone else who isn’t their idea of Real Muslim are the same kind of scum. I never thought I would see the day when I could compare the state of Israel to my own beloved Pakistan, but there you have it. We cannot escape it any more.

We can, and will, strenuously try to separate ourselves from ‘those’ people, but not enough. Because at the end of the day, they are nobody. They are a bunch of infidels who have no business being in our country, living in our neighbourhoods, competing with us for everything from a telephone line to mosque supremacy. Israeli rhetoric about Palestinans isn’t much different. Each passing day brings us deeper and deeper into another level of Hell; every time we think it couldn’t get any worse, it does. Pakistan’s inferno seems to extend beyond Dante’s seven levels, and this particular level burns with a particular kind of terror. We have fallen so low that now we can break our fasts and then go out and set fire to neighbourhoods, and then maybe come back home and pray a few taraveehs and wake up for sehri. The dancing mob probably did just that. You and I are not ‘those’ people physically, but every time we are silent, every time we don’t protect the helpless we inch closer and closer to becoming them, mentally and emotionally.

One of Ramzan’s most beautiful lessons is unity—when you fast alongside hundreds of other people around you, you are all one in your desire to please Allah, all united in your mutual hunger and thirst. Ramzan teaches us to be kind, to rise above our personal privations, to be tolerant. It is said that the devil and all his temptations are locked up during Ramzan, so that being good is easier. An entire month spent in devotion, all ruined. What does it matter if a community was Christian or Ahmadi or Palestinian? Is our humanity only reserved for the people we feel deserve it? Is this the face we will show not only to the world, but to our conscience and to our God? That in the holiest month of them all, murder was committed on a massive scale and we just stood by and watched, and then went on to celebrate Eid? We vehemently wish for Allah’s azaab to fall upon the zaalim, the oppressors of the innocent, when we read about four little boys being killed on the beach during a football game. The children in the Ahmadi houses were probably watching cartoons after dinner. We should be careful what we wish for.

 The writer is a feminist based in Lahore.

m.malikhussain@gmail.com