If there was ever any doubt as to who the hate and death mongers were who brought this country to the precipice of self implosion amidst a war of ideologies, there should not be any more. Pakistan is today fighting for its existence, fighting to survive as a nation with common, peaceful, democratic values. But those who have introduced and nurtured the poison of religion based hegemony remain untouched.

At a cultural event in Karachi last week, the Information, broadcasting and law Minister Pervez Rasheed lamented the state of education in Pakistan, particularly criticizing madrassas as ‘universities of ignorance’, and called this particular institution a deliberate attempt at keeping the people ignorant of proper education. For this he has been flayed by religious ‘muftis’ who have declared him a non-Muslim and demanded the government to remove him from his post and to institute legal proceedings against him.

Let me state at the outset, that every word Rasheed uttered was true and correct. The madrassas are indeed institutions that spawn ignorance and obscurantism. I state this fearlessly and in support of the Information Minister. What is it that the madrassas teach except learning by rote, prejudice and takfiri ideologies? Have they produced mathematicians, physicists, novelists, scientists? Has any one of their students ever contributed in any manner to the culture, economy or body of knowledge? The only thing they have contributed to is increasing ignorance, prejudice, hate and the jihadi factories that have brought this country to its knees.

The onslaught on the Minister was started by Mufti Naeem of Jamia Binoria. It is appalling that this ‘mufti’ said what he said, on national television, and the government did not proceed against him per its newly formulated National Action Plan, that clearly outlines such hate speech as a cause of terrorism to be countered and punished. It is instructive to know exactly how he went about declaring the Minister no longer a Muslim, and carried on from there. First he declared that the Quran only refers to learning the Quran and Hadith when referring to education – a preposterous claim to begin with. I am assuming the respected Mufti did not hear of the Hadith of his own religion where the Prophet (pbuh) said go to China if you have to to gain knowledge and education. Or if he has heard it, I am sure he thinks there were madaaris and muftis sitting in China of the 7th century to impart lessons in Quran and Hadith.

Next he builds on this bizarre claim to deduce that therefore Pervaz Rashid has called the learning of Quran and Hadees ignorance (naoozobillah!). His outrageous leap of ‘logic’ then progresses to expelling Rasheed for criticizing what goes on at the madrassas. Naeem further declares that anyone who considered Rasheed a Muslim henceforth is not a Muslim anymore. Where he came up with all this nonsense is beyond comprehension. Is he not disrespecting and disobeying his Prophet of Islam, who declared that anyone who considered themselves a Muslim was to be considered a Muslim by all others – that ultimately it was Allah’s prerogative to decide these matters? Is Mufti Naeem contradicting Hazrat Mohammed (pbuh) and devising his own rules of the game? This gentleman’s ignorant, vile and dishonest statement aside, he had the gall to call for the removal from office of a Minister elected by the people of this country! Mind, Naeem did not leave it at this. He threatened the government with action that would be taken by madaaris, ulema, and all the people who had the tiniest of respect for Quran and Sunnah, should not the government not act against Rasheed.

Shockingly, neither the government nor the parliament took offence or action against this gentleman. It felt like a throwback to 2010 when a PPP governor of Punjab was under attack by the religious right for allegedly having committed blasphemy. Soon after, in early 2011 he was killed by a religious fanatic. Neither did the government of the time come in to bat for him while he was alive, nor after he was dead. I clearly remember, at least the Interior Minister of the time, and few other prominent people, declaring they would kill a blasphemer themselves.

Yet, that palpable fear and strategy of appeasement of the right did not obtain any positive results. Indeed, it only resulted in expanding the space for the fanatics, and shrinking it for liberals and humanists.

The sitting government and the parliament did not learn from history and exhibited the same fear and shell shocked silence. The dispiriting result was that another ‘mufti’ thought it fit to spew hate in the same vein. The Chief of the Ittehad Tanzimat Madaaris (ITM) Mufti Munibur Rehman echoed the same demands, threatening to hold country wide demonstrations and refused to accept the regret expressed by Pervez Rasheed.

Here it is interesting to note another interesting fact. A few months ago, when one of their own ilk, the born again Muslim and misogynist Junaid Jamshed committed ‘blasphemy’ when he spoke derisively of Hazrat Ayesha (RA), this community of hypocrites came together to exonerate him after his apology, declaring that it is up to Allah to decide.

It is very clear that these muftis, allamas and aalims are upto mischief and their power play is thinly veneered. They are inciting violence on a daily basis. Taking heart from their audacity, a PTI office holder repeated a similar accusation in a talk show hosted by Dr. Danish on the ARY channel. It was reported that the content of that program also implied that Rasheed belonged to the Ahmadi sect. It is a matter of fact that he does not. And even if he did, it is irrelevant. But clearly, it was intended to add fuel to fire.

It is obvious that silence and appeasement not only does not work, but backfires. I would urge the government and parliament to go on the offensive in this matter and bring to account all these elements who want to control this country through fear and want to silence anyone who dissents with their ignorance and obscurantist vision.