Sunday, December 29, 2013
December 27, 2013
By Saeed Qureshi
Last week there was an interesting and animating discussion on the CNN whether Jesus was white or not. That gave me an impetus that if the Jesus’ followers who believe in him as the Son of God and promised Messiah can discuss this delicate subject, let me too offer my point of view.
To claim or believe that Jesus of Nazareth had a white pigment is factually and fundamentally untrue. Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of King Herod. According to Saint Luke, one of the gospel writers, Joseph the future adoptive father of Jesus went up from Galilee out of the city Nazareth into Judea. Joseph was engaged with the mother of Jesus Mary and would visit here from time to time.
But to believe that Jesus was a white person born in a frigid or cold climate or region is totally devoid of truth. The land of Palestine including Jerusalem, the Galilee, the Judea, the Bethlehem have Mediterranean climate which is warm or moderate than being cold most of the year. So the portrayal of Jesus born in snow clad climate is factually incorrect. The birth date of Jesus being December 25 is as controversial and obscure as several other events related to his life. Some writers projected his birth in the month of June which is hot and humid. He was also a Jew and at the same time ethnically an Arab for having been born in the Middle East.
The people living in the Middle East and even in the upper reaches of the Arabian Peninsula touching peripheral towns along the Mediterranean coast have fair to brown skin. As such for the Christian believers it is sheer passion or fantasy that they try to paint the life of Jesus as if he was born in the winter and in extremely cold part of the year which could be only in Europe or North America.
The display of sleighs descending from the heaven with Santa and the with flakes of heavy snow falling around carries the depiction of regions closer to the North pole or at best of these areas that are covered with snow during the winter. Then the roaming of the deer and antelopes in woods with pine trees in a sort of blissful aura all around, is entirely romantic and far from reality. It demonstrates a kind of propensity to show Jesus as the dweller of the cold region and that his birth took place in the snowy and freezing part of the year.
At the age of 30 Jesus was baptized by his cousin John in the river Jordan to be formally proclaimed as a Jew. His preaching or ministry lasted for three years from his age of 30 CE to 33CE. In 33 CE he was sentenced to death by a Roman governor Pontius Pilate, against trumped charges of blasphemy, calling him the Son of God and not paying taxes, leveled against him by Jewish priests and Pharisees.
Jesus is a redeemer, Messiah and anointed son of God for Christians, He is a promised Messiah also for Muslims and a prophet but not son of God. Muslims venerate him specially for being the prophet with a book (bible) with three other prophets namely Moses, David, and Muhammad. However for Jews he was an apostate, a blasphemer to the Jewish religion and not the real promised Messiah.
All the dates from the birth of Jesus Christ to his hanging at the stake on the order of the Roman governor Pilate, his entombment for three days and his ascension and reappearance all lack credibility and factuality. The reason for fallacious dates and not credible chronology is understandable as there were no foolproof methods during those primitive times for recording events in with authenticity. Especially the gospels or four accounts of New Testament or Greek bible were written by their respective authors many years after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
The journeying of his mother and his perceived father Joseph to Bethlehem was out of fear due to severe penalty from the fanatic Jews, Pharisees or rabbis who would take the birth of a child from a virgin mother, only betrothed to a man but still not married as sin. According to the New Testament, Mary was found to be pregnant, although she had not lived with Joseph, to whom she was engaged and that he did not have marital relations with her before the child was born. According to the Jewish tradition of those times, the girls were betrothed around the age of twelve or twelve and a half.
During the betrothal period, which would last about a year, the marriage was not finalized and the bride remained in her parent's house. Perhaps it was during this period that the pregnancy took place which we learn from gospels that it was due to the divine design through the Holy Spirit. But this contention is subject to contest as pointed out by Stephen L Harris, who proposed that the accounts of Matthew and Luke were written to answer Jewish slanders about Jesus' illegitimate birth. St Paul a prominent protagonist of Jesus and successor of Paul was also silent on the virginity as implying that he knew of no account of the virgin birth of Jesus.
It can be argued that a young woman who was still not properly married and was not religiously authorized to have sexual relations with her betrothed husband could have no other reason except to interpret the birth of Jesus as miraculous and through the Holy Spirit. It could be the only plausible way to deflect the fierce and unforgiving reaction and corresponding punishment from the Jewish religious authorities. In those rigid religious Jewish codes, the only explanation that could be offered was that the child was conceived in the womb of the mother by God through the Holy Spirit.
That answer or explanation might have pacified the Jewish priests and they kept silent almost for 30 years. But the people around Jesus and his parents must be having apprehensions and rather the family might have remained under a stigma attached with the premarital birth of Jesus. Yet for all these 30 years we do not read any account or story that pertains to the shame or ignominy associated with such grave social digression till Jesus started his ministry and publicly declared him as the Son of God.
It was only after Jesus began challenging the Jewish social misconduct, religious traditions and deviation from Torah that the Jewish religious zealots turned against him. It was at a much later stage that the question of Jesus being born Son of God was trumped up. But the history is silent on this highly sensitive issue as the Jewish rabbis took a stand against Jesus not for being an illegitimate child but for other two reasons. One was that he called himself a king and refused to pay taxes. The second charge was that he was calling himself the son of God.
Quite some time after the birth of Jesus, Joseph along with his wife Mary and son (later Jesus) flees to Egypt where he stays till the death of Herod. Thereafter, he returns to Nazareth where the family settles down. It was perhaps their absence from Nazareth and Jerusalem for a long time that we don’t find any detailed mention about the family.
The Greek scripture or the New Testament that is the story of the Jesus Christ and formation of Christianity was not written during the life time of Jesus but in later periods by many writers including the four early apostles, namely Matthew, Luke, John and Mark. But these gospels differ in many ways in contents and chronology from each other. The time difference between Mark the first writer and John the last of the four main writers, is between 50 to 70 years. The later writers copied heavily from Mark by adding some more details of the subsequent times.
Saturday, December 14, 2013
December 14, 2013
By Saeed Qureshi
Pakistan could be devoured by the merciless, ignorant and intolerant religious networks, if their proliferation is not checked well in time on war footing level. Pakistan indeed was created as an Islamic state and for the social, political and economic independence of the Muslims of the Sub-continent. The founders of Pakistan ought not to be blamed or berated for creating an independent homeland for the Muslims of India. Their vision to project Muslims as a separate nation and Pakistan as a nation state was supported by the vast majority of the Muslims of India.
But what went wrong was the hijacking of this newly founded country by rulers, politicians and bureaucrats who did not possess the same level of commitment, integrity and passion as the founders and vanguards of independence were blessed with. Over a period of several decades Pakistan that was destined to be democratic, liberal, economically vibrant, socially modern and civilly advanced, has been turned into a heap of garbage, trampled with abject poverty, territorially truncated and politically a scarecrow.
It has remained dominated by the military adventurers owing to rampant and incessant political anarchy let loose by the incompetent, self serving, abject and characterless leaders. Even during those stints when the political leadership was at the helm, the country suffered, in matters of good governance, nurturing of democratic culture, establishment and consolidation of the nation building institutions, crafting of a civil society, bringing about cohesion among the ethnically divided regions and building it up as a stable country.
Yet the most devastating blow to Pakistan was the compromise of the political parties with the religious zealots to win their support for holding on to power. With the time passage, the religious outfits both in politics and out kept gaining clout, influence and authority. They became imperious and overbearing to such an extent that they succeeded in injecting such amendments in the constitution of Pakistan that pushed the country towards a theocratic state.
A county that was envisioned by the freedom fighters to be enlightened, democratic and a blend of both Islam and secularism drifted towards a course of medievalism, obscurantism and fundamentalism. The divergent religious sects aided by their cohorts in the political arena embarked upon a sectarian war of vendetta on each other as has been rife in the Middle East for ages. It continues unabated gaining more and more ferocity and rapidity as the time passes.
The latest version of religious extremism laced with militancy is the cult of Taliban. This conglomeration is neither part nor parcel of a political culture, nor bound by any territorial limitations, nor amenable to any law nor answerable to any government. They were given birth by the inept and shortsighted politicians and are now poised to swallow Pakistan like Frankenstein.
We have seen their transcript of Islam and the fiendish manner they are determined to splash its sway across Afghanistan and Pakistan. Their model of Islam is drastically at variance with the format of Islam that is believed and has been practiced by the Muslims around the world all these centuries, notwithstanding the sectarian discords between the dominant sects.
These ignorant Muslim fanatics impose their model through brutalization and violent machinations. Killing someone even for not growing the beard to a prescribed size or not wearing turban or watching television, videos and movies is an unpardonable sin to be punished with death or rigorous incarceration. They are not afraid of death for the sake of advancing their weird creed and creepy pattern of Islam that was never in vogue even in the worst of times and during the rigid theocratic eras.
A few years back, they were close to capturing Islamabad. Later they were successful in proclaiming their religious regime in Swat valley and adjoining areas of Malakand and Mardan where the people mostly are conservative. Their incursions were joined by other religious groups and militants and even political parties that wanted to convert Pakistan into a theocratic land. The lifestyle and political set up they want to enforce would isolate Pakistan with the rest of world as an island of religious bigotry, ignorance, hair-raising punishments, persecutions and rigorously regimented codes.
Their religious fiat would make robots of humans totally riveted to mosques and busy in performing rituals. Their edicts and injunctions would run counter to the established obligations, beliefs and teachings of Islam as enshrined in the holy book Quran and on which the Muslim scholars of all denominations have consensus. Even the enlightened and educated Muslims counseling moderation and middle way would not be spared by this freakish lot bereft of pristine Islam.
This is the most daunting challenge, stupendous menace and impending tragedy to the survival of Pakistan as a liberal, democratic, enlightened and civil state. This would also be a travesty and perfidious distortion in the inviolable Islamic theology that is essentially rational, divine, tolerant, moderate, and without coercion or compulsion.
If these hard core Islamic freaks do not spare a teen age girl for advocating education for the girls how come they would tolerate more serious issues of our daily life: the way we eat, dress up, read and peruse legitimate venues of happiness. Just in case they take-over Pakistan, they would close all the female educational institutions, segregate males and females and put veils on the faces of women.
That would be the starting point towards turning Pakistan into a place where only beards and ignorance would grow: not knowledge, learning, education, research and innovation. In such a society liberty to use modern gadgets or even wearing western apparel would be banned. This is a sketchy portrait. The reality would be much worse and bleak. In that stifling situation there would be a civil war if the society and army reacts. It is better to nip this monstrosity in the bud and stem this diabolic tide presently before it is too late.
This onslaught by Taliban and other conservative forces cannot be dismantled by NATO or the armed forces of Pakistan alone. This grave threat can be effectively deflated and countered by a civil society. “Let a hundred flowers bloom”. The people have to be pulled out of the quagmires of illiteracy and ignorance and their livelihood and safely ensured. The courts, the police stations, the hospitals, the airlines, the railways, the local governments and all state departments inter-alia should operate to give dignity of life to the people.
The public awareness has to be elevated through education and enlightened media. Life, liberty and pursuit of happiness (American Declaration of Independence) must be guaranteed. The People should be liberated from the superstition, from the bondage of the abominable and parasitic institutions such as feudalism; shamanism false mystics, shrine runners (pirs), narrow religious cults and exploitative sects. A common code of Islamic faith or religious freedom should be evolved. It is imperative to separate church from state affairs.
This litany is not exhaustive. However it gives a rudimentary idea how should the landscape of Pakistan look like. The religious education should be imparted as part of the normal curricula in state run or recognized institutions or in mosques and not in privately run seminaries. The people with a hope in future, laced with the knowledge and feelings of being honorable and equal citizens, would resist and cast away reactionary forces.
As such they would act as a formidable bulwark against any retrogressive movement or mission that convert Pakistan into a closed theocracy or subjects the people to turn into religious robots as the Taliban or the other fanatic religious militant entities aim at.
Friday, December 6, 2013
December 5, 2013
By Saeed Qureshi
Evidently somehow the ongoing anti-terrorism blitz launched post haste by the incumbent PMLN regime in tandem with the Sindh government is falling apart. There is a renewed surge in target killings, street crimes and extortion calls carrying death warnings for un-obliging parties or individuals.
This latest turn of events is extremely ominous and a testimony to the sway and tenacity of killer gangs and rampaging mafias in the largest city of Pakistan which is not only a leading industrial and business metropolis but also a port.
It also seems that barring a brief interregnum, the outlaws and bloodletting thugs have realigned themselves with a renewed vigor to defy the state writ. During the month of November alone reportedly around 200 citizens, have lost their lives. The situation is appalling and egregiously fearsome and proves how well entrenched the enemies of public peace are.
What new strategy the government and law-enforcement agencies are going to unfurl is yet to be seen but this rampant evil of gangsterism and bulging terrorism has to be stamped out, no matter how high the cost is. The resurgence of the murderers and abductors for ransom is a daunting challenge to the honor, credibility and competence of the incumbent regimes both at the center and in Sindh province.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has taken a serious note of the latest reemergence of the criminal gangs and ruffians. Hopefully the flaws that exist in the ongoing anti-crime efforts in Karachi would be straightened to make the drive foolproof and decidedly result-oriented. But it surmises that the judicial paradigm of dispensing justice to the law breakers is not only slow, time consuming but also ineffective.
According to the press reports, some ten thousands criminals of all hues have been captured and out of that huge number, only a few dozen have been produced before the courts. If that is the pace of dealing with monsters then there is no hope for the law to prevail in the foreseeable future.
The law in Pakistan is subservient to the whims of the roguish elements and cutthroat powerful individuals. It can be easily subverted and manipulated and thus the innocents are punished and the convicts and culprits are released.
It is therefore, indispensable that the special or summary anti-terrorism courts should be established to deal with a turmoil that is assuming horrendous proportions and that has robbed the people and more specifically the business community of their peace of mind. Karachi is in flames of lawlessness where heinous gangsters stalk, shoot, rape, loot and kidnap the people at will.
These courts should be established through a special presidential order or by the approval of the parliament whichever modes meet the urgency of the deteriorating situation. The rangers and the regular police are doing their utmost to clear Karachi of the callous criminals, religious rivals, bounty hunters sectarian bloodhounds, the money grabbers.
But apparently it is like a wild goose chase circus that is confined to catching the outlaws and then confine them to the precincts of jails. These beasts deserve to be placed in front of firing squads and dispatched to hell. The courts should consist of the legal professional from Rangers, the military personnel and civilian law experts.
The proceeding should take place within the prisons or away on an island near the coast of Karachi so that there is no obstruction or intrusion from the counterparts of these wicked people who can be freed as has happened quite a few times.
Or else Karachi should be handed over to army with a mandate. The army is in a much assured position to eliminate the mafias and gangs that have turned Karachi into one of the most perilous and unsafe cities.
The criminal gangs and individuals who are aligned to any political party must be dealt with unforgiving yardstick and their mentors at the higher level should be also reprimanded and awarded condign sentences.
The writer is a senior journalist, former editor of Diplomatic Times and a former diplomat. His blog is www.uprightopinion.com