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Mind your language . . . 30 April 2006

Posted by TwentyTwoYards in Land of the pure...and the not so pure.

This blog entry consists almost entirely of edited excerpts from some comments recently on knicq bhai's excellent blog – so apologies if you have already been to knicq's blog and read all this there. In any case, he was here first so only fitting that he leads the way – one is merely following in his exalted footsteps, after all…


The issue is language…and its impact on culture. Many of us lament that the "mawdern" Pakistani young seem to have no affinity for Urdu and thus for "Eastern" culture and "morals" (whatever all that may mean) and there is an all-pervasive trend of aping the 'Gora-saab', of importing and implementing the worst excesses of Western society – now all that may, or may not, be true – let's leave that for another day, shall we? Today, let's talk about something more fundamental – what does being a Pakistani actually entail anyway? Is it to be obsessed with bhaands, maraasis, naach gaana and the taoos-o-rubab offered by Hindustan? Is it to ape every aspect of Hinduism in the name of cultural crossovers? If that is what Pakistan is all about, then why bother with this country? In fact, why go to the trouble, and the not inconsiderable sacrifice, to create and protect this land, when it is merely Hindustan-lite?

These are weighty questions indeed, and ones with which our country must grapple, so it can come to terms with itself and its place in the world. Let's take the specific issue of language – is it really that important for a Pakistani to be au fait with Urdu? What if someone is like me, i.e. somewhat badzouq and not exactly Allah’s gift to Urdu adab aur shaistagee? Why is this such an important part of being a Pakistani – surely, what is far more important, is to be loyal to, and be a passionate believer in, the ideology of Pakistan? And that ideology surely is not dependent upon this language? Surely, it is no mere aberration that the Founder of this country could barely speak any Urdu? Surely, it is not a trivial fact that at Partition, the overwhelming majority of the people of this land could not speak or understand a word of Urdu, and were wonderful Muslims and Pakistanis nonetheless – in fact, it was when the ideology of Pakistan was subverted by self-seeking politicians and generals, and when the true meaning of this land was forgotten, nay denied, that we actually lost that non-Urdu speaking majority. So the crucial fact is perhaps not language, but ideology – in my view, the latter should drive the society and one’s world view, and not be shaped by events.

One could argue that the preference for language (not language per se) is merely a part of the wider overarching culture of the society, and all rational choices at the societal level which shape its culture should be derived from the ideology of that society. If so, language ceases to be a be-all and end-all of ethnic identification, and becomes a by-product of one’s world-view.

As such, if the ideology of Pakistan is to be a homeland for Muslims, to provide a place where Islam can be established and practiced in its entirety, then surely it is not out of the realms of reasonableness to suggest that the language of Pakistan should be the one that is most likely to achieve that aim – and then there is only a short deductive leap from that point to believing that this language is Arabic, not Urdu, Pushto, Punjabi, English, Balochi, Brahui, Sindhi, Farsee or Seraiki. Without going into the practical obstacles or the logistical nightmares, can one suggest, merely as a workable hypothesis, that such a move would have had a wonderfully positive impact on our society the past 50 years? Ignorance remains the scourge of our nation, and surely there is no better antidote for that than Qur’an and thus the language of the Qur’an? Would shirk be as rampant today? Would heresies be so widely practiced, even encouraged and celebrated? Would Pakistan still be as obsessed with the Hindustani bhaands and maraasis, and would these pathetic misfits still be the moral reference point for our youth? Perhaps, but it is worth a thought,  at least in our ivory tower :-)

I do not mean to denigrate the efforts of luminaries such as Molvi Abdul Haq (or others who may be more worthy), who did so much to popularise Urdu, but was there another way, perhaps another option that would have served, and strengthened the ideology of Pakistan, stemmed the linguistic resentments of the majority province and fostered a true bond of unity and fraternity? After all, if Mustafa Kemal could forcefully and coercively change the language and the script of the Turks in a generation or so, and thus ask the Turks to sever all ties with their wonderful history and their Muslim heritage, why could we not have made a move in the opposite direction, and reaffirm our Muslim heritage, a move that would have needed little coercion, merely encouragement and organisation?

I defer to no one in my admiration and affection for Urdu; to read it, write it and converse in it is a joy for all whom Allah has blessed with it, but that does not mean one cannot explore alternative scenarios, does it? Or is that too unpatriotic?  



1. knicq - 3 May 2006

I really could not have said it any better – ever!

So, without your permission, I am posting this as a comment on my post!

2. knicq - 6 January 2009

I come back to this post after two years and it resonates with me just as much today as it did then.

Brilliantly conceived and beautifully articulated.

You really must get started with the writing business again.

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