In the name of God
In this profoundly personal post, Pakistan’s Mehwish Zuberi affirms the value of peace.
It was a Friday afternoon. As usual, Ami had forbidden us from turning the TV on until everyone was done with their Friday prayers. As I was about to begin reciting a chapter of the Holy Quran, the phone rang. Ami picked it up.
I don’t think I will ever forget the look of utter horror on her face.
“Turn the TV on!”
I did as I was told.
And there it was all over the news. Another bomb blast in my city. A terrorist attack in a mosque. And not just any mosque, the Parade Lane mosque. The mosque that was across the street from my Uncle’s house.
“Abdullah and your baray Phupa* were in the mosque!” Ami shrieked incoherently.
Abdullah, my 16 year old cousin and his grandfather, my Phupa, had been inside the mosque for Friday prayers when the Taliban attacked it.
“They’ve taken your baray Phupa to the hospital, but Abdullah can’t be found anywhere!” Ami continued, her features distorted with panic.
I was having difficulty breathing. This can’t be happening. Not Abdullah! Not baray Phupa! This can’t be happening!
An agonizing half hour later, my Phupa was pronounced dead and Abdullah’s lifeless body was discovered at the hospital.
Later that night, we arrived at Parade Lane which was the military residential area where my Uncle lived. Wailing could be heard from every house in the colony. Because most of the roads were blocked, we had to walk through the street in front of the mosque that had now been reduced to ruins. I remembered how happy my Uncle used to be at having a mosque so near their home. “We go out and a minute later we are in the mosque,” he would tell us proudly. Bullet piercings marked the few remaining walls that still stood. Splatters of blood and gore everywhere. The shoes of the worshipers were scattered. I had to tiptoe so I wouldn’t step on anything that was once human or belonged to one. The overpowering stench in the air was a mixture of blood, gunpowder and roses. It is customary to put roses on the deceased’s grave. The scene inside my Uncle’s home was even more distressing, if such a possibility could exist. If there is a hell on Earth, it is for a parent who has lost a child.
The incident took place around 1 in the afternoon on December 4th, 2009. The muazzan had just recited the call for prayer. As usual, Abdullah and my Phupa had gone early to get a spot near the muazzan. This simple act of wanting to please God had cost them their lives. Abdullah’s father and two younger brothers had just stepped out of the door when the first blast was heard.
The attack that involved grenade throwing, firing from guns and deadly explosions martyred at least 40 people, 16 of which were kids. Every house in the area was in mourning. Families lost fathers, sons, brothers, husbands.
This was just one of the hundred and hundreds of terrorist attacks that have pulverized my beloved country in the past 3 years, leaving more than 8,000 dead, 20,000 wounded and countless lives afflicted. The country that was carved on the world map as a valley of peace and religious freedom is now on the US Department of State’s list of most unsafe places in the world.
It is a new low for the Taliban, for these cowards who fight “in the name of Allah” are in fact nothing but traitors of Islam and the message of peace that it brings. It is because of them that the word Muslim is being treated with disdain, that a Pakistani is treated with a doubtful glance on international airports for carrying that green passport, it is because of them that I can’t leave my doorstep without my mother anxiously fretting until I get back. But I am no longer afraid. No longer do I fear for my life. Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “There is nothing to fear but fear itself.” It is not bombs or grenades or guns that terrorists use as weapon. It is fear. They can only be successful in their vile scheme if they are able to manipulate people’s fears. The nations of the world need to unite and look these terrorists in the eye and tell them that we are not afraid. We will attain peace at any cost, for no cost will be too high.
It is platforms such as Nkabom that seek to unite the world against threats that affect us all, to listen and to share. I am honored to be representing my country at Nkabom and join forces with such an incredible crew of youth ambassadors. I sincerely wish that the least that comes out of this program for me is a better understanding of what I as an individual am capable of. For I am Tomorrow.