“Live and Let Live: Stop violence in the name of Religion”
Citizens for Democracy (CFD) organized a public activity at Arts Council, Karachi on Jun 9, 2012. The venue was filled with banners in English and Urdu saying “Live and Let Live: Stop violence in the name of Religion” and “Stop using Religion and Violence as a political tool”. A brief report…
The activity included:
- Play and Dance Performances by Tehrik-e-Niswan
- Panel Discussion on Religious Extremism
- Recital of poetry by Arshad Mahmud
- Recital of poetry by Students of NAPA (singing)
- Recital of poetry by Sania Saeed
- Recital of poetry by Ahfaz-ur-Rehman
- Poster Exhibition
- Signature Campaign
Play and Dance Performances by Tehrik-e-Niswan:
If someone wanted to know what does stealing a show means, she / he should have watched the theatre performance by Tehrik Niswan / Sheema Kermani.
Sheema Kermani’s personal interest and dedication made the play really awesome. Titled “Hum Rokaen gay” (We will stop), the play explored how religion is misused to settle personal scores. It covered topics like the forced conversion of non-Muslim girls, false accusations of blasphemy and murder on the basis of personal enmities under the cover of blasphemy laws, the attitude of few extremists of garlanding and supporting maniacs who kill people in the name of religion, sectarian violence, using religion to force women for sexual favours etc.
The play made it very clear that the space of progressive and liberal forces in Pakistan is not shrinking; it’s just that people are not trying to claim it for fear of the unknown.
The play had different segments, including the story of a village where the farmer families working there for years are ruthlessly exploited by the landlord. The landlord brings a Moulvi (cleric) to pray for more fertility and growth at his land and takes him on a visit of the area. The Moulvi unabashedly approaches and leers at women in the field. When a woman who needs some financial help asks the landlord for a loan he asks for sexual favours. This infuriates the families, who stand up together against him and rally other villagers.
The landlord consults the Moulvi who gives a fake fatwas that can turn the situation, saing that these farmers are Christians, have insulted the religion Islam and hence are liable to death. This charged the mob and results in the murder of all the farmers, men and women.
In another story a father goes to his friend to inform him about his daughter’s marriage and to demand the money back which he has lent. His friend refuses, tries to play tricks to get rid of him and when he sees the card that has “Bismillah” written on the top, he finds his opportunity. The father is an Ahmedi, so the indebted man starts shouting at him saying you are non-Muslim and how have you written Bismillah on your card. He accuses him of blasphemy, calls in a mob that attacks the father, leaving him dead. Terrified of being hanged for committing a murder the accuser’s cronies advise him to call the father a blasphemer, thus avoiding punishment and living like a hero.
Another story revolves around converting a Hindu girl to Islam, where a group of hooligans start teasing a girl. They severely beat a man who comes to her rescue. When police come, the hooligans say that the boy who was beaten and the girl being teased were involved in illicit and immoral activities in public. Police arrest the beaten man, and along with the hooligans take the girl away to “convert her to Islam”
The last item was a fire dance performance that included the famous Leva dance.
The play and dance performances carried a very strong message. Both focused on highlighting issues caused by violence against women and misuse of religion. They depicted what is happening in our society and where we are heading. The performance ended with a pledge from the performers to not stand by as viewers but to use all their energies to stand up against such vices, and an appeal to the people to join in.
Panel Discussion on Religious Extremism:
The panel discussion included Asma Jahangir (via video call), Karamat Ali and Amar Sindhu. The talk revolved around religious extremism and how it is affecting our society plus the factors that are contributing towards fueling the fire.
Recital of poetry by Arshad Mahmud:
When you have the well known composer Arshad Mahmud around, you cannot let go the opportunity of hearing his voice and listening some good poetry in his own great style.
He knows how to first understand the audience and then how to almost hypnotize them with poetry recited in a his unique way, drawing rapt attention from all age groups – children, youth, and older people.
Recital of poetry by Students of NAPA (singing):
Now it was time for the National Academy of Performing Arts (NAPA) students to prove the efforts of their guru (Arshad Mahmud) by showing how their skills are polished.
A group of students sang poetry of Faiz Ahmed Faiz, keeping the crowd completely attentive.
Recital of poetry by Sania Saeed:
Well known actor Sania Saeed with her sweet smile appeared on the stage, and immediately drew in the crowd with her recitation of Zehra Nigah’s poetry.
Recital of poetry by Ahfaz-ur-Rehman
Renowned Journalist Ahfaz-ur-Rehman also recited poetry.
Khuda Bux Abro facilitated a poster exhibition on Democracy. The posters were made by various artists and art students, much appreciated by visitors.
CFD continued its signature campaign started on April 14, 2012 in Karachi. The text of the letter can be seen at at the CFD blog at this link.
Details of the signature campaign can be viewed at this link.
Report by Noman Quadri initially posted on CFD’s Facebook Page