The story of Mashal Khan is already a thing of the past. We move forward. That’s what we do, as a nation. On the way, we get only worse. We allow the parasite, the tumor to grow. To consume us. We become diseases themselves. And then, we disease even more people; generations. The story continues.

The brutal killing of Mashal yesterday has induced violent fantods in me. There is this deep sense of sadness. The grief is physically- literally- burdensome. And then there’s guilt. The guilt of… nay, the shame of being rooted to a society that can stoop to such lows. The regret of sharing lineage with murderers.

Yesterday in Tampere in Finland, hundreds gather around the city hall for a protest to pressurise the city administration to provide a larger venue for cultural activities. They did so by playing music and dancing in front of the building and celebrating cultural harmony. The same time, across the geography, hundreds walked in Mardan to a hostel building, pulled out a boy from a room he had hid in, beat him, shot him, let him bleed to death, dragged his body outside, denuded the carcass, spat on it, kicked it, pelted it with belts, threw ceramic pots at the lifeless head, and then almost burned it. All because, he had a different opinion. I don’t think I can ever comprehend this difference in the same species.

There is a problem with the reactions at this truly horrific event. More than a few people emphasised that they themselves held (moral) responsibility for the murder of Mashal Khan. But they didn’t go deeper. Others insisted that what happened was barbaric and came about due to an illiterate mullah who’d given a ludicrous fatwa. Other still insisted that the only way forward was for Ulemas to gather and offer a unanimous statement on the incident, condemning it. Some channels interviewed Muftis who reiterated that the accused must die but the hand holding the knife should not be amongst the crowd. The statement got many shares with people condemning anarchy, none though procrastinated on their acceptance for murder.

There is a problem with these reactions. The truth is that Mashal was not killed by bearded brigades or skull-capped madressah children. Mashal’s body was mercilessly tormented by students part of an educational institution; one that imparts some form of higher education. No, these students were not under the influence of a fiery fatwa like Qadri was. They were not hapless bodies possessed by the devil. They were mature, conscious men who were rationalistically determined at what they were doing. We can call them animals but they were humans who thought, made up their mind and acted. There were no hands in the gloves, no puppeteers pulling strings. These were men who grew up in a society and simply played by its rules.

The mindset of yesterday does not stem out of nothing. In fact, it nurtures itself within the norms we set. Take the case of Junaid Hafeez for example. 3 years ago, university students at BZU wanted the same fate as Mashal for their Fulbright professor. The accused rots in jail ever since. Rashid Rehman tried to enforce some form of sanity in the case but he was killed. Society never reacted. The social fabric got tainted, only to embrace the stains… to become conducive to what Mashal faced yesterday.

Go back even further and open the opinion pages of the leading Urdu dailies of the last months of 2010. Read the columns, written by some popular celebrity-analysts of today. Try to act unsurprised with the blatant hate being spewed in those words. Try to hide your shock when these writers explicitly (not even remotely implicitly) urge the readers to cut off the neck of the blasphemer, be it Salman Taseer or Asia Bibi. Read the many articles after Taseer’s murder and see how he is blamed for his death, for speaking his mind on issues that were ‘very sensitive’. Read the articles after Qadri’s hanging and see them lionize a murderer.

Anusha Rehman probably believes that she did good with her stance on Youtube. Too bad she doesn’t realise her role in the spread of bigotry in the society. Chaudhry Nisar insists that every blasphemer will be brought to justice while failing to see how he is mainstreaming brutality, myopic mindset and suffocation within the society. The many who insist that a unified Ulema statement is required since yesterday, insist that ulemas have the authority to shape our social morality. These too fail to see how they’re responsible for the perennial decay of the nation.

Zarrar Khuhro in his program yesterday stopped himself from reading out a couplet, afraid that it crossed a ‘red line’. Yesterday, my father refused to talk to me on his official phone about my university thesis, afraid that my topic was a controversial issue. The many elitist friends I have failed to scratch away the tarp of bigotry and self-chosen obliviousness to condemn the society for showcasing its darkest sins yesterday. We are all the white witches and wizards Mashal spoke about a few days ago. We are all cowards, each one of us. We are all sinners, each one of us. We are all murderers, each one of us.