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Dear countrymen,

 I would like to draw your attention to the fact that our journalists are hardly fulfilling their obligation to their noble profession. Recently a newspaper published scathing criticism of our iconoclastic initiative to destroy Buddha’s statues up in the north. Contrary to what the newspaper would have the people believe, we did it as a mark of respect for Buddha, as we believe that this is what Budhha would have wanted. Besides, there was a historical fallacy that needed to be rectified. We all know from our history books that while Buddha sat under a Bodhi tree, meditating on the causes of suffering, he always wore a loincloth, whereas in some of the statues Buddha was depicted wearing robes: a corrupting western influence on the Gandharan artist. Now, would Budhha have liked his image to be tainted by ‘anthropomorphism’ or ‘syncretism’? Obviously not, and therefore, we corrected the mistake with the help of dynamite to preserve Buddha’s true legacy. In addition, we have issued a polite warning to the newspaper to ‘improve its journalism’

We have thus established an extraordinary tradition of breaking icons and perpetuating our traditions to the extent that the traditions become icons instead to be revered and followed with unthinking, mindless devotion.

Karen Armstrong would certainly oppose the idea of our iconoclastic venture. In one of her books she has suggested that blind devotion to traditions that become superfluous or ineffective over the years is actually tantamount to idol worship (not permitted in Islam) and must therefore be discouraged. But thankfully she is outside the pale of our belief system and therefore has no authority to say who is or is not an iconoclast. In a recent television interview, when asked what the opposite of God is, she said, ‘the opposite of God is annihilation, a feeling that you are alone; it is Auschwitz, 9/11, Guantanamo Bay (note the oblique and sinister attack on the sacred Tuesday).

Another unfair criticism often unleashed at us targets our pro-woman campaign to ensure that all women wear burqas for their own salvation. Former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto writes, ‘Islam requires women to dress modestly but does not ask that we dress in any specific manner’. She argues that religious gender equality envisioned by Islam in the context of seventh century Arabia took centuries to reach other parts of the world and it is sad that the emancipation of women advocated by Islam is not enjoyed by many women in the Muslim countries today. Describing her feelings when she was asked to wear a burqa by her mother in her adolescence she wrote, ‘Suddenly, the world looked grey. I felt hot and uncomfortable under the cloth’. This is an unveiled attack not only on burqas but on our innocent desire to help advance the cause of women’s protection.

Another respected analyst, Athar, writes this, ‘the government…. has to be just, it can only be that if it is neutral and not religious, it serves people not ideologies.  A religious polity will lead to factionalism and fascism….the religion that is worthwhile is the one that wells up from the heart and connects people to God, not what is imposed by the governments with the help of blasphemy laws’. A rather ‘extraordinary rendition’ on matters of faith and ideology! (I don’t see why Athar is respected).
In a recent interview (broadcast live on the radio), Musharraf has requested Imran to start seeing the glass as half full. Instead of incessantly complaining that 60% of the judges have been sent home, it would serve the interests of the nation better to focus on the 40% who are still with us, Musharraf suggested quite rationally. Furthermore, we think that if are to reconcile our national interest with freedom of expression, Iimran, Armstrong and Athar must be kept where they belong- in their homes under house arrest.
President of NGO for Preservation of Freedom of Expression, Wana



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