Waris Husain Editorial: The Pollution of Our Hearts and Minds

Shaykh Kabbani, a modern Sufi writer philosopher, stated in a speech that human beings are not acting responsibly to care for the planet they inhabit. He explained that the pollution produced by our factories is nothing in comparison to the pollution of our minds and hearts through the negative energy exerted by certain groups. The political embodiment of this pollution is the divisive rhetoric adopted by conservative parties both in the U.S. and Pakistan that fosters hate and chaos to spread in the society. Conservatives in the U.S. have attacked the immigrant population, namely Latinos, in order to regain support lost amongst the public during the Bush presidency and the financial collapse. Pakistani conservatives have launched a similarly polluting assault on Pakistan’s religious minorities to recapture the popularity they lost due to the violent actions of the Taliban. Both groups are contributing to the climate change of our minds and hearts, which carries severe outcomes including the brutal treatment of minorities, whether racial or religious.

Climate change can be explained as follows: human beings are creating an extreme amount of carbon dioxide as they strive to achieve their industrial goals. As the carbon dioxide accumulates in our atmosphere, it begins to trap the sunlight rather than allowing the sunlight to leave the Earth, which causes the sun’s rays to slowly but surely warm the planet. The outcomes of this warming have been severe if one understands that the increasing frequency of natural mega-disasters are attributable, in part, to the warming of the Earth, the melting of icecaps, etc.
            The increasing rate of man-made disasters in the U.S. can similarly be attributed to conservative politicians and their “industrial goals” to maintain America’s plutocracy or rule-by-the rich. In order to achieve these goals, the conservative party has produced the “political carbon dioxide” of allowing corporations free reign to engage in risky behavior that threatens the livelihoods and mortgages of average citizens. The accumulation of this pollution triggered a massive melt-down of our financial sector, just as the sun’s rays are melting the Earth’s icecaps. Thus, the Bush Era left conservatives in the country without support, which led to the next pollution the conservative party would engage in, namely racism.

Republicans and Tea-Party’ers have sought to create an environment inhospitable to the increasing amount of South and Central Americans looking for a new life in the U.S. Conservatives have done this in hopes to gain the support of people who are fearful and hateful of the increasing numbers of Latino immigrants. There are severe consequences to polluting the social landscape with such racially hateful rhetoric, in that it produces disasters that challenge the foundations of the American system.

For example, there are currently calls to change the 14th amendment to revoke citizenship by birth in order to exclude children of illegal immigrants.  Naturalization by birth is one of the hallmarks of the U.S. system, but clearly could be wiped away by the tide of xenophobia. The climate change of our hearts and minds is no more apparent than through the apartheid-type laws passed by Arizona recently that requires anyone who looks Latino to prove that they are legal citizens. Such ideas are so visceral and violating of the American way that they can only be described as products of socio-political pollution that contribute to the “warming up” of our society.

            Climate change has been a long continual process by which we have destroyed our environment and continue to do so. The same can be said for Pakistan’s religious conservative parties, like the Jamaat-Islami, who have polluted the minds and hearts of average Pakistanis. These parties have worked hard to import Wahabiism from Saudi Arabia, which preaches a narrow-minded militant view of the world and calls for physical jihad. The conservative parties gained the blessing from the Army, and have since influenced every socio-political conversation in order to indoctrinate the public. By creating madrassas and taking top positions in colleges and amongst education ministries, groups like the Jamaat-Islami have had great access to pollute the public sphere with chauvinistic militant ideals.

            This created the perfect foundation for groups like the Taliban to come into Pakistan and gain massive support from the misdirected public at times. While it is not true that every Jamaat-Islami activist supports the Taliban, the two groups share a similar us-versus-them mentality that they attempt to push on the public.  However, the public may now be beginning to understand the close relationship between the rhetoric of parties like the Jamaat- Islami and the actions of groups like Tahreek-e-Taliban as they experience the horrors of suicide bombings and kidnappings.

Thus, in order to rebound from the loss of public trust, conservative parties have now engaged in inciting religious hatred as a means to regain support. Much like the U.S. conservatives who found that they could unite people to support them in a united distaste for Latinos, the Jamaat-Islami is attempting to create support by demonizing Pakistan’s religious minorities. This has manifested in large protests lodged by conservative religious parties in support of Pakistan’s arcane blasphemy laws, and calls for the execution of Christian Asia Bibi under that law. Such hateful ideas surely are polluting our hearts and minds from seeing the outright brutality of executing a mother of three children merely for being Christian.

The impediments to attacking the pollution of our society are the same as the obstacles for stopping climate change; namely that conservatives deny the existence of the problem itself. The U.S. conservative party fostered the pollution of unregulated corporate greed, which led to the melt-down of our economic sector. They next moved to gain support amongst a fearful public by creating anti-Latino fervor, which has divided our society at a time when we need unity. Pakistan’s conservative parties have been polluting the society with violent conceptions of jihad, setting the plate for the Taliban to ravenously eat away at the people. The current outbreak of anti-Christian rhetoric is part-in-parcel to the conservatives’ attempt to unite their supporters through a narrow-minded hate.

Shakyh Kabbani’s illustration could lead one to become hopeless as they realize that the socially destructive events occurring in our society, like the growing hate for religious and racial minorities, are attributable to our long-term pollution. However, there is solace in understanding that there are steps that can and must be taken to clear our hearts and minds of a hateful pollution, whether it is directed toward a Pakistani Christian or a Latino-American. The key is to remember the love of our fellow-man that remains at the core of our identities as human beings despite the pollution that attempts heat up our environment so we can no longer understand this common love.

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