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Opinion

May 23, 2015

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The well-educated criminal

The well-educated criminal

Around four individuals have been captured and accused of multiple terrorist incidents in Karachi. As the list of allegations against them grows longer, a ‘shocking’ revelation has been made by Chief Minister Sindh: the captured men are well educated.
Their profiles do not fit the usual image of terrorists people carry in their minds. Whether the allegations against them end up being proved or not, why their educational background should have anything to do with their ideological leanings or the lives they led post graduation is a mystery.
It is simply a matter of class difference playing up again. We believe that terrorism is something only poor uneducated people get involved in. A way for many to distance themselves from such ideologies and to stay safe in the knowledge that we and our kids being ‘well educated’ and from ‘khati peeti’ families are immune from the lure of violent ideologies.
Even though terrorist profiles have confirmed several times in the past that this is not the case and the people spearheading such organisations are educated, highly intelligent, media savvy, good planners and well connected, the image of bone-headed thugs with long beards is the more comforting one. It plays to our insecurity and absolves us of responsibility for looking into and correcting the extremist mindset growing in the midst of our society unfettered by class or economic distinctions.
The educational credentials and personal histories of these men have been played up in an incredulous manner, as if they are something to wonder at. Never mind that the legions from all over the world scrambling to join Isis, a terrorist group that even other terrorist groups find too violent, consist not only of madressah bred, unemployed poor people but of individuals of both genders who defy the stereotype.
The long war Pakistan has been fighting against terrorism has been focused mainly on capturing, punishing or better yet killing the perpetrators. Occasionally there is talk of banning the violent messages being disseminated by hard-line clerics or enforcing stricter controls on madressah education. No doubt this will contribute to reducing the number of individuals who are influenced into joining up with terror groups but little is being done to reduce the overall extremist mindset that grips this whole country.
We as a nation are intolerant of diversity in every form. Minorities are not just targeted by terrorists but by ordinary individuals who delight in heaping indignities on those belonging to other sects or religions. The inferior role of women is preached not just by hardliners. We reduce people to caricatures defined only by their most superficial characteristics. Is it a wonder then that someone growing up in a society like this could easily be drawn into an ideology that dehumanises all those who do not adhere to it?
Education from expensive schools and universities goes only so far. In households both rich and poor a conservative, close-minded approach is preferred and reflected in behaviour. Most people who claim to be liberal only believe in those values to the extent that they apply to their own lives. When it comes to discrimination, no social class in this country can claim to be any better than some other. Just the very fact that we still have the image of a dumb thug terrorist in minds goes to show the walls we have set up to distinguish ourselves from others.
If Pakistanis truly want to rid themselves of the demon of violence and terrorism, we should first take a long, hard look at ourselves and assess how we too by our discriminatory attitudes contribute towards the continued hold of violent ideologies in our country.
The writer is a business studies graduate from southern Punjab. Email: asna.ali90@ gmail.com

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