Songs of Dissonance: Junaid Jamshed on the Earthquake

Published on Chowk.com and The Friday Times on November 25th 2005

Out of all the tragedies this earthquake has brought, the loss of an educated and inspiring Junaid Jamshed is very dehumanizing.

Losing a national hero to a world of cynicismWe’re a society in scarcity of worthy popular role models. As an ignorant people, in times of crisis we turn to the most enthusiastic and superstitious explanations to satisfy the curiosity within us. What else do we expect from people who were caught unaware daydreaming about Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi type soaps from across the border, when the horrendous earthquake crippled our nation on October 8th?

This week on HUM TV (early November), Junaid Jamshed was articulating his views on why the earthquake in Pakistan happened. “Imagine how much a mother loves her child,” He said, “now Allah loves his people 60 more times, so one can only imagine how much of his anger we sourced for him to bring such a huge earthquake on Pakistan.”

Not only is this a simplistic notion coming from an educated man, it is extremely detrimental for our country to feed on the diet of angry God stories. These ideas diminish a nation’s confidence and ability to freely express its will, by creating psychological burdens that are false and fabled. It is disconcerting that, once upon a time, this very man raised the spirits of the country’s youth by singing Dil Dil Pakistan and Maula.

Superstition and conspiracies arise from an ignorance of the past and the fear of the unknown. It would have done Junaid Jamshed well to know that 75,000 years ago comets and asteroids hit the earth and many volcanoes erupted so violently that the earth remained in darkness for months. So forceful were these natural calamities that 90% of its living organisms had died off, including the dinosaurs, but this cultivated favorable conditions for isolated human species to evolve. Not all catastrophes are punishments for human beings; some actually favor continuity of human life

Also in his lectures was a prevailing theme of increasing world calamities as a sign of the Day of Judgment. Misinformed on the frequencies of natural disasters, Mr. Jamshed’s conclusions seem to be inspired by the best seller evangelical Left-Behind novels. Death and destruction, contrary to what it seems, is reducing with each passing decade. We only feel that disasters are on the rise because we have more sophisticated technologies to help us bring all bad news to our prime time news hour, in the living room. Many natural disasters in the past have been hardly globalized, and those that have, are grossly underestimated. For example, the communist regime of China in July 27, 1976 officially declared 255,000 people killed in a 7.5 Richter scale earthquake in Tangshan, however, actual death toll was as high as 655,000.

Tsunamis are part of the earth’s history since 1650 BC and 1600 BC, when 150m high waves drowned the north coast of Crete. Previously, far more disasters and far more destruction evidenced itself, but there was no CNN back then to provide fodder to the commoner’s philosophies.

Earthquakes of greater than 9.0 magnitudes have occurred in the 1800’s in Peru, Columbia and Venezuela, but because no measurement mechanism was available at the time, the damage remains uncalculated.

On December 26, 2004 the Tsunami generated by the earthquake killed approximately 275,000 people in Sumatra and the Andaman Islands, making it one of the deadliest disasters in modern history. The India Plate is part of the great Indo-Australian Plate, which underlies the Indian Ocean and Bay of Bengal, and is drifting northeast at 2 inches per year. The same movement of Indian plate under the Eurasian plate caused the recent Pakistani earthquake in North Pakistan.

When tragedies take place, the self-aggrandizement of the religious devout has no end. This is their window of opportunity to sell their brand. Like the seasonal rain jackets and life insurance for the old. However, let us learn from History and be weary of what happens at times when human intellect is in its most compromising position.

After the 1755 Lisbon earthquake killed 60,000, priests ravaged though the rubble and hung people at random to punish those most likely to attract God’s anger and hate. The In Krakatoa, Indonesia in 1883 the volcanic eruption is said to have fueled the growth of an extremist strain of Islam, by focusing on creating a society with no “impurities displeasing to God.” In San Francisco, 1906 the earthquake led to the rise of the Christian fanatic Pentecostal movement, still alive in Los Angeles.

We must turn to similar frightening trends in North Pakistan, according to a report by BBC correspondent Owen Bennet Jones, monomaniac mullahs are forbidding malnourished earthquake victims to eat during this Ramadan fasting period, threatening to burn and break down the tents and belongings of anyone who distributes or cooks food for relief before sunset. Such theories of God’s anger call for a forced observance of rituals.

Inaccurate concepts cause a lapse in judgment on what constitute common sense. We are making Islam a primitive religion where gods are pleased and sacrifices presented at alters. Islam however lays much emphasis on the “hamd of Allah” which requires knowledge of the world to better harness the forces of nature. While no votary of Islam talks of how we should obey the first verse of the Quran and make our people more knowledgeable so they can read about natural disasters and be well prepared, it is absolutely necessary that we Pakistanis praise Allah for all the benevolent bounties this kind earth has given humanity.

Out of all the tragedies this earthquake has brought, the loss of an educated and inspiring Junaid Jamshed is very dehumanizing.

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