If I thought living in Pakistan and trying to blend in the socially conscious sphere of people was difficult, I have to close my eyes and think again. Because if you went to a central Asian Muslim state in our North, compared to Pakistan living would be as oppressive as slavery. Only in different ways.
Let’s start off with the book our life’s supposed to revolve around – the Quran. The true, Arabic version of the Quran is unavailable and only official translation can be kept. One cannot teach one’s children the beautiful language of Arabic either.
A parent or a teacher is not allowed to instruct his/her child religiously, and this ban is strictly checked. Before the age of 18, one cannot ask one’s child, “Come pray in the mosque with me”; instead the child must make his own decision about praying publicly when he turns 18. Eid prayer, though, is observed.
No sort of religious literature is to be kept, imported or allowed through the airport terminals. If found, it will be confiscated and even the bearer may be arrested.
If someone wants to travel abroad, the visa must first be approved by the government and then by the country which is to be travelled to. The Government wants to keep everything under control.
Until the recent past, full – sleeved summer shirts for women were unavailable throughout, so women who wanted to cover themselves had to make do with their winter clothes even in the heat. For, if the government forbids something to be sold, you will definitely not find that thing again. Not until the government allows its production and sale again.
Once, a hotel manager was accused of having a prayer mat in his hotel. Though he constantly insisted that he did not own the item and it belonged to a paying guest, and that this item was already registered in lost & found list periodically submitted to government authorities, he was still arrested.
No sort of religious programs are broadcasted, and people have surprisingly grown used to living in this dishonest ignorance. They are not aware of their religious duties; their namaz is just an exercise, as something they have seen others do. They are void of the knowledge that they are expected to do greater things than work, play and eat, but somehow they are silent. In this virtual oppression, they live a black and white life.
I thank Allah that I live in a country where I have the freedom to choose to follow my religion. May He help our affected brothers and sisters, for surely this short account of mine can still never bring us to feel what emptiness they must dwell in.