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I haven’t written anything since my last article that was not taken well by a modestly large number of bearded society members. Some of these have beards not to be seen by a naked eye and some have more than those hanging down their subtly bright faces. Excuse the typical visual profiling but these two go hand in hand as an indisputable evidence of modesty when it comes to our maulvi population. It is they who are being handpicked to be the savior of humankind and destined for the highest in the heaven; for being the most modest and pious. And their beards and rolling beads prove that.

Now don’t get me wrong, not all bearded ones are mullahs. However, most of these can be spotted from miles. When for examples they are fleeing from police hiding in a burqa – a cloak created by these mullahs for females to cover themselves from head to toe. Or the ones fleeing the county after making a blasphemy booboo and spotted taking Hajj selfies. Some were in the front lines when bouncing over Farkhandeh’s already broken ribs before she was burned alive. Meanwhile, some modern ones use the beard merely to enhance their facial beauty using woman as an insult for a neighboring film star. Well in that particular case it was an attempt to make world’s sexiest men list of course. But one must wonder, why a protector of religion and mighty soldier of God be so afraid, so ashamed or so sneaky?

There are all types of mullahs out there; religious mullahs, cultural mullahs or quasi mullahs. Some say that the word 'mullah' came from the Arabic word mawla meaning a master or guardian. In Pakistan or India the term is loosely used for any male who has claimed to be one. In that case, they can be found in every mosque or neighborhood. Traditionally they are supposed to be fully educated and trained in Islamic hadith and fiqh (law) but most often they have barely learned – not memorized – the Quran and are salaried government employees taking care of the mosque and running call to prayer. Neighborhood mosque’s mullah, or maulvi sahib, is shown respect by daily dinner tray for the family or occasional gathering to “learn” about Islam.

In the past decade or so, mullahs have taken the responsibility to bellow blasphemy on someone and summon the blasphemy mob to punish the poor soul to death. In other reports, they have sold a few edicts here and there – a mullah has shot an Afghani American woman to death in Kabul beginning of this week. ISIS mullahs have reportedly executed a few Pakistani soldiers on Christmas on Afghan border.  No wonder the police had become even more paralyzed than before – some for lack of work and other out of fear. Recently our famous Burqa Molvi Sahib’s feelings were hurt when finally he had to set foot in the courtroom. Enraged at this disrespect, he cried harassment against Jibran Nasir, who by the way wears his facial hair quite well as well as his noble deeds.

These types of mullahs are easy to spot; of course because of their activities, appearances and running of religious boarding schools called madrassas. But the majority of those around us are the ones that don’t fit the visual profile. You can be fooled until they open their mouths and say things like ‘Taliban are great’, ‘Let’s negotiate with them’, or ‘If my daughter goes out with a male friend I will burn her to death on my own farmhouse in front of my whole family’ (Defense lawyer in Jyoti Rape and murder case). Then there is ogling at other women but calling it haram for his sister to choose a husband for herself. Or stopping transgender Pakistanis from celebrating their own birthday, torturing them, cutting their hair off as punishment for being transgender. 

This is the class that has given the plague of Islamism or mullahism to our society. Mullahism is a state of mind turned into political movement that was started by certain religious thugs and seeped into the minds of fragile and ignorant religious comrades, manipulated in the name of religion. In the subcontinent it started with the first blasphemy murder by Ilm Din and in Pakistan, reincarnated by Bhutto when he declared Ahmadis as infidels to make mullahs happy. The madness continued with General Zia and his inclusion of Hudood and Sharia laws in the Penal Code. The hate speech delivered by Mullah Haq Nawaz in Jhang in 1981 during a Shia procession of Muharram, which was backed by Zia, was the beginning of sectarian violence in Pakistan that continues till date.

There is another kind of mullah that is completely different from the above. Those whose tales we used to read in our school days, such as Mullah Nasruddin. Some of his tales hold wisdom, which we never cared about at that time, but most of his tales are amusing such that they could potentially be offensive to a few mullahs mentioned above, such as The Religious Beard:

The town’s religious leader was preaching to the townspeople one day. “Religious men have beards! “He exclaimed. “A thick beard is the outward manifestation of holiness!”  “My goat has thicker beard than anyone in this town,” replied Nasruddin. “Do you mean to tell me that he is more religious than all of us?”

Why so much emphasis on beards you ask? Well, I have nothing against beards. It’s just a biological system where the beard develops during puberty and its growth is linked to stimulation of hair follicles in the area by dihydrotestosterone. Evolutionarily speaking, biologists characterize beards as a secondary sexual characteristic because they are unique to one sex; yet do not play a direct role in reproduction. Unless it’s a condition of hirsutism, a hormonal condition of excessive hairiness, that may develop a beard in women.

In ancient Egypt, beards were the symbol of sovereignty; they even used fake metal beards to get the message across. Greeks considered it a sign of virility. Some cultures treated it as part of the body that must not be altered and some considered it part of their vanity and pampered it with oil, henna and curls. It wasn’t until Alexander that the shaving was introduced to prevent the beard to serve as a handle for the enemy to grab on.

In religions such as Islam, it became a symbol of piety and morality and it’s declared the tradition of the Prophet to keep beard. However, there is no consensus among the sects about the length of beard. In sports, it is often considered bad luck to shave before the playoffs are won. Although it won’t be justified if I fail to mention that some people consider beards important in Islam as they protect your modesty by weighing on your face to keep your gaze lowered. True story!

Islam specifically put a lot of emphasis on beards. Dar ul-Uloom Deoband issued a fatwa last year that it is un-Islamic to trim or shave the beard. Why would someone put so much time and effort in discussing beards? Is God really that sensitive about beards? Why such obsession with male facial hair? Because there are some people out there who feed mullahism by asking such specific questions.  So you see, beards are not exclusive to mullahs, piety or modesty.

Beards aren’t the problem here; it’s mullahism that has turned the society into a big huge prison cell where people (inmates) always have to look over their shoulders, are scared to talk and dread the calling of their names. Mullahism can be triggered anytime, anywhere, by anyone and is not exclusive to religion. It is also a cultural state of mind; where your culture is the best one although you are culturally confused between being a Pakistani or a Saudi. To Pepsi or Bebsi; that is the question.

Basant, spring, flowers of fall and other colorful festivals like such, poetry, performing arts, drama and theater, visual arts, etc… they are all being replaced with religious bullying, killing Ahmadis, harassing Christians, protecting hate speech, dehumanizing gays and transgenders and a culture of denial over ISIS and Taliban being Muslims. Khuda Hafiz has been replaced with Allah Hafiz, earthquakes are caused by women wearing jeans and other conspiracy theories have become part of Pakistani culture and have paralyzed the country. Hijab is more important than punishing rapists, child molesters or saving child brides. Hating India, West and Malala is much more important than raising voice against blasphemy. Mullahism is spreading Islamism via terrorism, and it will keep surviving and thriving if people keep their heads buried in sand. Most of them only think what a mullah tells them to think.

Haruki Murakami in Norwegian Wood said “If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.” Similarly if you keep believing and thinking what mullahs tell you to, you will only be thinking what mullah is saying.