I was born in a relatively conservative middle class home in Karachi. Having had the opportunity to interact with people globally (thanks, internet) has made me less religious and more humanitarian in general. Nonetheless, whenever there is any attack anywhere, I turn all selfish. I call my family and friends to check on their safety. Once I am through this self-absorbed exercise, I mourn those who have died, and those related to them, who are left to live rest of their lives in misery. I am a busy individual though, so this act of solidarity is more or less a tweet, or a post in which I make a point about blaming them (insert brand of your own choice) for ruining the country for us. Barring the last couple of years, I spent my life in Pakistan, a very busy nation also. The need for collective mourning in form of solidarity marches or vigils is not set upon us. May be we fear that if we go for such events, they will also be attacked; such is the weakness of our state. But hey my family and friends are still alive, so it’s alright.

Hitherto, I was terrified that one day a bomb, a bullet or a knife will take away a loved one from me or take me away from them. I believed that we may be the victim of terrorism, never the aggressor. You never think of your own as being so brutal, so vicious. But things have changed, and I now feel that this sense of assurance is a self fulfilling prophecy really. The modus operandi of terrorists has altered since their new brand has come along Daesh or ISIS. No longer, do you need to be groomed, brain washed and trained for years and months. Your physical presence isn’t required either. Take confused mind infect it with violent ideological message (whichever) over the internet and add a weapon, stir and wait for the explosion.

Let us look at the monsters involved in Orlando Massacre, or the Safoora incident. How different are these creatures than any conservative Muslim?  In my mind, the difference is of action and not ideology. In what words do our families paint being Gay? Or how do Sunni Muslims look at Shia or Ahmadis? Will the majority not consider blasphemy of Prophet or God or conversion punishable by death? These ideas are instilled by State and at home as well. So, if somebody believes that converts should be killed, but doesn’t actually do it, is it okay? In the current climate, with plethora of material available online, how long does it take for any individual to get motivated by an ideology which just is an extension of what he or she already believes in? If you firmly believe that God’s will is being crushed by these groups, any hate monger can push you into action. With growing access to internet, do we need to look past nudity filters and introduce new ones which look out for hate speech? Talk to the family of these terrorist and they tell the world that they are shocked with their family member’s actions. How can I be sure, that my younger brother’s online secret is no longer porn but getting indoctrinated from a terrorist organization?

Every time there is a terror attract, as painful as it may sound, it is not about the victims. It becomes a battle field between Islamophobic element in the West, who see Islam as the sole evil in the world, and the ‘defenders’ who want to denounce any involvement of religion. The reality probably is somewhere in the middle. A friend commented on Orlando incident by stating “Thank God, there are 50 less of them”. I read, similar stories regarding Christian religious lot in the US. I remember, a friend wishing that there is a war between Pakistan and India, only then we will find out that Taliban are our real friends and not foes, he doesn’t care if he or his family die to make his point. Imagine what he could do if he believes God told him to kill a few of them naysayers. I face a constant battle, of arguing in favour of choice, in the face of growing (at times angry) concerns that I am going away from my religion. I have seen them make the journey from Ramzan to Ramadan, what else is in store?

The Protestants movement changed the role of religion in the Christian World, there needs to be similar reforms in Islam. I am no Islamic scholar but clearly the Saudi imported Salafist Islam needs a rest, the spiritual Islam of the East which is supposed to be inclusive needs to be reignited. There is no point trying to undo progress made in 1400 years and try and live that life. If this doesn’t happen in the next few decades, the likes of Donald Trump will rule the roost and the space for Muslims will shrink further. Meanwhile, I can just pray that the challenges of life, the lure of God’s reward (as presented by a hate monger) and the ease of acquiring weapons, does not tempt my family or friends. Radical Islam does have something to do with it; us Muslims need to move with the progressive world or we shall suffer for generations.