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Gods Must Be Crazy

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By Farooq Sulehria

The political mullahs rub salt into wounds of earthquake victims every time they shoot their mouths off blaming ‘sinful’ people for earning ‘wrath of God’ in the form of recent earthquake. Without a shred of respect for a generation of innocent school children lost to earthquake, MMA President Qazi Hussain Ahmed attributing the earthquake to ‘sinful’ nation, declares the earthquake a ‘warning by God’ and sermons on the urgency of modifying life-styles. His parliamentarian daughter, Rahila Qazi, indicates ‘barrage of obscenity unleashed on media under government sponsorship’ as the cause for ‘wrath of God’.

This ‘wrath-of-God’ nonsense invoked in the wake of natural catastrophes is not Pakistan-specific. Despite ‘clash of civilisations’, theology sans humanity cut across ‘civilisational’ divisions. Recently, evangelists in the USA blamed lesbian/gay and pro-choice people for Hurricane Katrina while a contributor on the Christian Broadcasting Network website wrote: ‘Whenever this country encourages Israel to give up any part of their rightful God-given land we have suffered the consequences.’ No Christian fanatic in the USA, however, attributed the disaster to child abuse in Catholic church!!

Earlier, when tsunami hit Buddhist Sri Lanka, Hindu India, Muslim Indonesia alike, clerical justifications cut across all religious divisions: Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Christianity.

In Sri Lanka, Buddhists recalled the story of a tsunami which hit the island circa 200 BC when a king killed a Buddhist monk in a fit of anger. They wondered which of their political leaders angered the sea gods this time

Hindu fundamentalists blamed their government for earning the wrath of Almighty by arresting, in November 2004, their spiritual leader Kanchi Shankracharya.

Certain Christian groups thought Tsunami as a just punishment for the countries treating their Christian population bad (one wonders why Pakistan was spared ).

In Israel, Sephardic chief rabbi Shlomo Amar said that the tragedy was ‘an expression of God's wrath with the world. The world is being punished for wrongdoing -- be it people's needless hatred of each other, lack of charity, moral turpitude’.

No doubt, some natural disasters are natural in their causation but are aggravated or mitigated by arrangements, or lack of them, provided by the states and societies. Last-year’s tsunami, hurricane Katrina and earthquake in Kashmir show that the natural catastrophic effects of natural disasters are determined by the policies followed by the governments. In godless Cuba, government efficiently evacuates million-and-a half people before hurricane while in God-fearing USA Katrina leaves 1200 dead. The enormity of misery befallen the people of Kashmir is in no way a product of God’s wrath. A lot has to do with the policies Islamabad has perused vis-à-vis Kashmir. Since occupation of Jammu Kashmir, misnamed Azad Kashmir has been a victim of neglect. A deliberate and criminal neglect. Islamabad never built any infrastructure in Kashmir.

Even when people in Pakistan and rest of the world, are generously donating to relief efforts, it is not certain if relief will reach in time owing to bad infrastructure. Access to 500 villages wiped from the face of earth is not possible without helicopters since roads were never built to link villages. Relief from abroad could reach in time had there been airport. Kashmir has no airport despite a million Kashmiris, out of its 3.5 million population, live abroad. This utter lack of infrastructure has enhanced the enormity of the catastrophe that shook Kashmir on the morning of October 8.

True, the government of Pakistan could not evacuate the people of Kashmir since earthquakes hit, unlike hurricanes, without prior knowledge. But certain similarities between Kashmir and New Orleans are striking. While black population of New Orleans was given damn for decades on racial basis, quake victims in Kashmir have been victims of Islamabad’s high handed policies. Respect of human rights should also be judged by the level of development. Grave contempt for human rights in Kashmir, particularly in Gilgat Baltistan, a region cleverly detached from Kashmir by Islamabad in case Kashmir goes independent, is evident by the total lack of infrastructure in Kashmir.

Also, natural disasters pick on the poor and the weak, rather than the privileged. None of the political mullahs lost family members or was rendered homeless. Not because they are the chosen ones. But because all mainstream political mullahs enjoy life in concretely built luxury villas. Despite abundant natural wealth, majority of Kashmir population has been held in poverty. Thus, if earthquake was a natural disaster, it was aggravated by poverty and decades of neglect in Kashmir.

Also, we can not attribute ‘Mountain tsunami’ as a warning to General Musharraf, despite his disastrous regime. Neither we can blame the ‘obscene’ media as some mullahs and right wing columnists are trying to do. If divine wisdom is to punish innocent citizens for the deeds of an unelected military ruler, than Hasba-billed, MMA-ruled NWFP should have been spared God’s wrath. If media obscenity and ‘unIslamic’ rulers of Pakistan are to be blamed than divine wisdom should be questioned because Iran was hit twice by earthquakes in last six years despite its pure media and puritan Islamic government. Similarly Afghanistan experienced two earthquakes (1999 and Feb 2001) while Taliban were running Kabul and Radio Shariat would not broadcast anything but the word of God.

Above all, earthquakes would occur even before ‘sinful’ descendants of Adam and Eve inhabited the mother earth. Who was, in those good old days, God angry at?

Meantime, BBC reports that God asked Bush to invade Afghanistan and Iraq. Gods must be crazy!

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