AS PUBLISHED ON THE DAWN BLOG
Nationalism is best understood in contrast to patriotism. Patriotism is simply love for one’s country, whereas nationalism is the sense that one’s nation is the best, often because it is more sacred than other nations. For the past few months, ‘Wake Up Pakistan’ – a campaign targeting this country’s youth – has been making waves both in the mainstream and social media.
The campaign aims to bring about an ideological revolution in Pakistan:
Pakistan today is in the eyes of the world, what we do and what we don’t will decide the future of Pakistan and the generations to come. We face internal and external threats which are shaking the very foundations of our motherland. Never before were we in such a dilemma, never before did our soil need us more and never before were we called upon to unite. We are not afraid but we are in danger. We have to WAKE UP!
The youth-oriented campaign promises to revive the ideology of the Quaid-e-Azam and Allama Iqbal. Spearheaded by Zaid Hamid, and supported by fashion designer Maria B and popular rock-star Ali Azmat, the country-wide campaign has comprised lectures at various educational institutes and has gathered quite a fan following.
Hamid’s official fan page left me stunned, and not only because he has a striking 24,682 fans online. What’s really shocking is Hamid’s irresponsibility in the face of his popularity and broad-based access to Pakistani youth.
The latest update on the page reads: ”Inshallah one day you will hear this………’This is radio pakistan from New delhi’.” Even more startling is the fact that Hamid’s fantasies of invading a neighbouring country were received with messages from young Pakistanis such as “Inshallah” and “we are eagerly waiting for that time!” Such statements contradict Hamid’s claims of reviving the ideology of Jinnah and Iqbal. Indeed, his anti-India stance makes the Wake Up Pakistan campaign delusional, provocative, and downright demagogical.
Let me clarify that this post isn’t about bashing Hamid and his ideologies. It’s an effort to question and decipher his ‘promised prophecies.’ After all, this campaign targets the youth and so I reserve the right to question its goals. I understand that the campaign is about “creating awareness and exposing conspiracies.” But I fail to understand how derogatory remarks about a neighbouring country will help ‘revive’ the youth. I am afraid fantasising about invasions will not solve our problems, and will instead shift focus from our internal conflicts. More dangerously, preaching such ideologies is bound to promote intolerance, which is anathema to a free, functioning, and democratic society.
No doubt, Hamid is capable of remarkable oratory, and is almost hypnotising if you prefer an ego massage to a reality check. For example, a friend’s Facebook status recently read :
You’re the best people; you’re the chosen land; you’re destined to play very special part in God’s plans says Zaid Hamid. Rings a bell? Actually it does ring a bell for its striking resemblance to the beliefs of the ever-so notorious Hitler.
Now, I am not suggesting that Hamid has similar plans. But I do believe that his rhetoric and the Wake Up Pakistan campaign are imparting the same sense of ‘race purity’ to this country’s youth. In fact, such discourse provides a breeding ground for far-right views and commonplace racism.
A precise look at our history will tell us how the religion and race card have been used singularly and in collaboration to distort mindsets and rationalise injustice. Whether it’s justifying dictatorship in the name of religion or promoting conspiracy theories to justify our shortcomings, we have seen it all. The new phenomenon of invoking ‘race purity’ to inspire hope is as dangerous as the trends that have come before. Resulting nationalistic pride, meanwhile, overlooks the deficiencies of our country and its people, while stirring contempt for the virtues of other countries.
For that reason, I am gravely concerned about the majority choice to seek ‘national pride’ in the idea of waging war. In reality, Hamid is doing nothing more than saying what most of us want to believe: our problems are the world’s fault. We are not responsible; they are. This strategy, of course, amounts to nothing more than scapegoating. The right to defend ourselves must never accompany denial of responsibility of our actions.
I fear that the Wake Up Pakistan campaign will promote intolerance and divert attention from our real issues. It is fair to expose foreign involvements in the country’s internal affairs. But at the same time we must understand the nature of such involvements. Tall claims about ‘foreign hands’ rarely include the acknowledgment that interference occurs because it is opportune.
Opportunities arise as a result of our neglect and failure to come to terms with ground realities. They can only be eliminated if we focus on solving some of our most common problems. If we are so capable that we can dream of taking over and governing a billion more people, why don’t we begin at home to improve the literacy rate, provide healthcare, resolve our economic, and socio-political issues? Without answering this simple question, Hamid risks raising an army of youth who are rabid, intolerant, and belaboured by delusions of grandeur, and yet unwilling to tackle Pakistan’s most pressing but absolutely solvable problems.
To be able to foresee our future, we first need to determine our role in the present. If there is a need for an ideological revolution, let it be about realising and rehabilitating the mistakes of our past. Pakistan should wake up, but not to a new dawn of racism and bigotry.