There was a time in this world when people referred to each other in random slang without anyone getting offended, where jokes about religion, race and creed were common and were not only tolerated but were so synonymous with daily lives and working environments that no one batted an eye!
This was when the term “Musla” did not automatically cause a death fatwa in India or the term “Paki” did not cause an issue with anyone. Basically it was a time of ‘feel goodness’ and joy for all.

Then it happened, one fine day two planes – God those awful planes – flown by those ridiculous men, crashed into two symbols of Western decadence and brought down not only the buildings but a proverbial hell of political correctness on the rest of the world. First came the hate crimes as people vented their fury at a religion and community they hardly understood. As a result the community in question, or us Muslims, instead of dispersing into societies we had settled in or made homes in chose to alienate ourselves even more. Abroad we made neighbuorhoods with only Muslim homes, and boroughs of angry religious sentiment. At home in Pakistan we adopted what I have come to describe as OMS or “Offended Muslim Syndrome” exactly like PMS but with an extra dash of Jihad and cynicism thrown in for good measure.

kapadia2Thus for the last few years OMS is everywhere in sight – in our land and abroad. It can be found In the angry stares of men looking at women without pardah, or the visible flinching when in close proximity to any cartoons or graffiti lest it reveal its true purpose. Or in the way we walk, talk and go around our offended little lives.

OMS has three very broad categories, each one a mission statement culminating in a slap or a harsh word or at worst a loud explosion, sometimes though it also causes frowns and droopy lips as well as sulking and conspiracy-creating personas…aspects of ourselves we can do seriously without:

1. We are the victims

This had pretty much been our mantra ever since the world has started to blame us for anything that goes wrong in it, as self-defense thus we have ingrained in all our collective heads that 9/11 was a Jewish conspiracy because all the workers in the trade center drank pepsi (a pure Zionist machine) and decided not to show up that day for work as they…psst, they all knew man! It’s not our fault I tell you, it’s them Jews man.

2. We can’t take a dig

We just can’t take a joke, in any way, shape or form against our religion or culture or anything related to us at all. This is duly exhibited by some of my friends who when I say joke about the colour of a maulana’s Pajero whip out a dollar bill and paste it in my face saying: “Look do you see the eye, it is the Dajal do you see it?” No I do not and neither does the world as we keep on getting ticked off at every damn comic, cartoon and wisecrack out there. We might as well call ourselves the ‘International community of losers and worrywarts’ and be done with it. That’s how we seem to the rest of the world anyway.

3. Spouting Fatwa’s and random threats

The grand answer we have to all the real and imaginary threats to our religion floating around in our collective conscience. Thus we are engaged in a daily ritual of sms’s banning Danish products or governments and religious bodies issuing Fatwa’s against yoga because it is so haraam – or as witnessed up North recently banning women from schools, banning shopping (how cruel can we get) banning music in buses etc etc. The list is never-ending as we threat and mope our way through our lives and then wonder why people get shifty-eyed when they see a person with a beard.

Why can’t we just sit back and laugh some of these jibes off? Have we forgotten that the easiest way not to feel insecure is the ability to be a sport? The sense to laugh at one’s own peculiarities before anyone else does? What can we achieve from castrating teenage royals if they utter the word “Paki” or shutting down our cities every time some idiot in Denmark makes fun of our Prophet (PBUH)? If we want to protest I would like the cities of Pakistan shut down and the savings in electricity and salaries given to form a reconciliation body.

We need to explain to the world that we are not all scimitar-wielding, kebab-chewing barbarians from the Middle Ages but a culture and religion which can act maturely to any threat posed to it. I would like a protest march where the words “behead”, “kill”, and “destroy” are not used. To me we are all circling the drain of mental illness as it is with the daily pressures of our lives, why add to it?

Turning the other cheek is the Islamic way, ignoring threats and praying for our enemies to get more sense is the right thing to do and this is not just me advocating a lost cause here. Our Prophet (PBUH) was stoned as he left Mecca for Medina until his shoes were filled with blood, but he still turned the other cheek. He moved on and in time the people who threw those stones came kneeling at his feet to accept Islam. They didn’t do it because he turned around shouted a fatwa and went kaboom! They did it because they were impressed with his resolve, his patience and his manner. This is the example we are supposed to follow and preach.

So the next time we circulate an email or a hoax or get all cross-eyed at a racist or stomp our feet in immigration cues at airports, I would like each one of us to take a deep breath and let go of the hate. Let the world see the lighter side of us because really the crusades aren’t going on, there is no global policy to annihilate us one by one and the end of times is not here yet.
At least I hope not as I personally still have some sins to wash off and would like whatever is left of this life to be enjoyed by me. Not that I am not keeping a black book for the hereafter to take out all my complaints on that “day”…but you get the picture.

I think it really is about time that we did without the whole OMS bunkum once and for all.

As published in TGK’s 6th Issue