Peshawar Incident Shakes the Nation

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September 16, 2014: I tried to distract my mind for a while. As I looked out the ambulance window on my way to the hospital, with a sinking heart I saw how different and normal the life outside this vehicle was. It was hard to decide what hurt more: the burns on my body, the pain of kids burned in air strikes in Gaza, the burns of those torn and ripped apart in the drone attacks in Pakistan, or the fear of hospital staff at the burn center. This happened every time I was on my way to the hospital to get my skin drafted. But at least my pain was acknowledged, at least I was tended to by doctors. Those kids end up falling among a long list of ‘casualties.’ This made my pain feel smaller.

December 16th 2014: Two months after my accident, I feel like I was burned again with the Taliban attack on the Peshawar Army Public School. For two days, everything around me was going in circles. I relived that painful realization. Everyone was hurt. People changed their profile picture to black and organized candle light vigils and Qur’an Khuwanis. Our government resolved to take action against the ‘extremists’ and ‘terrorists,’ suddenly awakening to target and kill them. It has become normal to listen to news casters discussing the number of terrorists killed and arrested and the explosives that were recovered. I wonder how did it suddenly become so easy? An endless dread, hatred, and lament for ‘mullahs’ commenced, particularly on social media. People protested that these are the people responsible for spreading hatred and should be hanged. They are a cause of extremism and terrorism. Only a few of them were arrested.

Why did it hurt so much when kids dying such a brutal death is a norm today? It’s because this this time we had accounts. Those children were not just ordinary children. They came from families of the officials in defence. We saw them, we heard them.

For me, the lexicon was also disturbing. ‘Religious extremism,’ ‘jihadists killing innocents,’ etc. How does one make semantics out of it? These are oxymoronic!

Ignorance is one of the problems here. There are those who want to kill, kill, and kill. Perhaps it gives them a sense of achievement to give it a religious colour. They can justify it by quoting verses from scriptures. Whatever their interpretation may be, I learned only peace from where they claim to have learned heinous crimes from. Qur’an says:”Killing an innocent is as if you’ve killed the entire humanity.”

Second are those who want political interests to be met. Even if takes creating more and supporting these killers in every way possible. On the other hand, there are the ones who couldn’t find anything else as a profession so they became community’s religious leaders or imams. And here we are, too good at ‘fighting’ terrorism by abusing mullahs on our twitter and social media. The plant of terrorism, which has almost become a tree, feeds on our ignorance. Sectarian violence is a stem of the same tree. Until we study our scriptures and understand them, someone else will come and plant more trees of unrest and terror to be fed. They say “Knowledge is a sea, ignorance an ocean.”

I believe, in time to come, more trees will be planted upon our ignorance. So we better get to understand our religion and look at the ocean of ignorance in the eye. In the long term, no matter how many operations we launch, this will not end until the very ideas are unrooted.

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About Iqra Rehman

Iqra comes from Mianwali, where she founded the Mianwali Institute of Language and Learning. She teaches English language skills to girls from rural areas and counsels them to realize their abilities and to better utilize available resources. Iqra is currently based in Islamabad, pursuing her bachelors in English language and literature. Hailing from a tribal culture where she does not agree with all the customs and does not practice all of them, Iqra encountered criticism but expressed her disagreements through creative writing. She finds solace in writing poetry and published her English poetry collection “Reflections” in 2010, which was later assigned as required reading for graduate students at New York University. She plans to start her career as a professor and writer, in addition to expanding her social work and continuing to inspire young girls.
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