Saturday, February 27, 2010


Irfan Husain on rolling back the Islamic extremism in Pakistan: Ban the ban on Basant

Basant (Sanskrit Vasant) is the season of spring, or the festival heralding its arrival. Wiki also tells us
In the pre-partitioned Western Punjab, especially Lahore--locals celebrated the Basant festival by flying kites. Muslims of Punjab celebrated the Basant although it was considered as a local (non Islamic folk) festival. It was mainly Muslims that participated in kite flying as an event.

In the modern dispensation in Pakistan, Basant has Hindu roots and so is unIslamic, kite flying has been deemed immoral. The Courts have upheld bans on the festival.

Irfan Husain writes:
Our clerics, more influenced by Afghanistan’s Taliban, have been doing their best to prevent people from having fun. Innocent pleasures are denounced from the pulpit, and people are forced into enjoying the simplest forms of pleasures behind closed doors.

Over the years, this ‘Deobandi-Wahabi-Salafi axis’, to borrow Pervez Hoodbhoy’s term, has been pushing us further and further away from normalcy. Intolerance and hypocrisy are now the norm, and extremist thugs have a tight grip on university campuses to make sure nobody has any fun.
When we ban the shared enjoyment of traditional festivals like Basant, we are only strengthening the extremists who have come to shape our national agenda. Each time they gain one concession, they immediately demand another. We had long ago ceded New Year celebrations to the extremist thugs who went around smashing up hotels and clubs on Dec 31 if there were any signs of festivities. Is Basant going to follow the same path?

I do not always see eye to eye with my old friend, Salman Taseer, the governor of Punjab, but when he declared he would go ahead and celebrate Basant, and forget the consequences, my spirits lifted at his defiance. Almost immediately, Senator Pervez Rashid of the PML-N threatened to have Salman dragged out of the Governor’s House in handcuffs if he defied the ban. This, alas, is the level of persons who fill our assemblies.

For far too long, we have accepted the edicts of our moral police without raising an outcry. One by one, simple pleasures have been legislated away.