Personal Space

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” Are you fasting?” eavesdropped the fellow Fellow sitting on my right side at the Melikian Center.

“No,” I replied.

“Why not?” he inquired in what appeared as the inception of a “moral policing” session.

” I am not a ‘believer’,” I added.

” So you don’t believe in God?” he went on.

“No,” I remarked.

“98.99%  of the world believes in God,” he insisted as if my “conversion” was the greatest need of the hour.

“But I don’t,” I quipped.

Silence. Silence. Silence.

I smiled as I remembered what Akram Elias of the Meridian Center had to say in a presentation I attended in Washington DC earlier in February this year.

” America is a place where people from all over the world come to start a new life,” he said, ” many people want to bury their past and start the hunt for a new and different life.”

I woefully realized that I had not been so lucky. The religious ‘big brothers’ keep chasing me everywhere I go to. With thousands of people having been killed so far in my country in the battle between “good Muslims” and “bad Muslims”, I truly wanted people  around me during the Humphrey year to judge me, as Dr. Martin Luther King Junior said, by the contents of my character rather than the religious belief.

I am not opposed to religions or religious practices. What I resent is a forceful imposition of one’s religious views on the others.

I am  ecstatic  that we pondered over the issue of personal space and privacy in today’s class. We need to realize that religion is a purely personal and private matter, a territory that no one else should be permitted to enter.

While America (not all of it, of course), as aruged by Peter Beinart in the Daily Beast, has disgraced itself over the Ground Zero mosque vendetta, I wonder what is going to happen to the rights of those who do not believe in any religion at all! Do people necessarily or unnecessarily have to be (religious) ‘believers’ to have some rights in a state?

If that is the case, I’d prefer to retain my right to ‘freedom of belief and experssion’ over any other basic human rights.

About sahmed19

Malik Siraj Akbar is the editor of the Baloch Hal (, the first online English newspaper of Balochistan province in Pakistan. He also is the chief reporter for the Daily Balochistan Express and a former bureau chief of the Daily Times in Pakistan. His articles have been published on the op-ed pages of leading English-language Asian newspapers, such as the Times of India. Malik blogs on

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7 Comments on “Personal Space”

  1. I may be wrong here, but I think MLK Jr’s quote was that he be judged by the contents of his character, and “not the colour of his skin”. I’m not sure he said anything abour religion. Again, I could be wrong.

  2. No, Che. You are absolutely right about Dr. King’s quote. He had nothing about the religion. I had to borrow the first part of it ( ” contents of character “). It is this reason I did not opt inverted commas. What he said was, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”
    Thanks for passing by.

  3. Malik, religion is that kind of space where everyone wants to break some rules. I consider religion for very private matter, but in the reality is different. I want to take good things from religion: trust, faith, tolerance, respect. However, the world book history pages speak on many religion driven wars.

    1. @Alex: See you can be trust worthy, faithful and tolerant even without becoming a part of any religion. You simply have to be a good human being to have all these qualities.
      @SBAUGE: As I had argued, religion is a private matter, I would, likewise, see no reason why atheists have to be identified as a “community”. Asserting one’s religion overtly with a bit of chauvinism and violence is has dangerous as condescending other people’s faith on the basis of your own religious or not-so-religious beliefs.
      What I am pleading for is some private space to everyone to believe whatever pleases them. We are not, as we must not, get into a race to who is “intolerant” of who or who is “completely untrustworthy” or, funny enough, who views who as a “distrusted minority”. I don’t know from where you draw your conclusions about “distrusted minority”. You seem to be assuming too many things in your comment.
      Statistics aside, would you not agree that Americans are more church-goers than the Europeans? I find America more religious. Mind you, I have no grudge against religion or its worshipers.

  4. Americans in general are very intolerant of atheism. Sorry, that must be difficult for you. A 2006 University of Minnesota study actually found that atheists are the most distrusted minority in America. It seems that this country puts a lot of stake in theism, whatever the religion.

    However, about 16 percent of the world is considered non-religious ( Adding even more to the discrepancy, only about 42 percent of all Americans regularly attend church (Gallup 2008). This forms a good example of the hypocrisy in America. We rarely attend church, have a growing percentage of individuals identifying themselves as non-religious, yet we find atheists to be completely untrustworthy. It doesn’t make much sense.

  5. I have been thinking about this discussion for several days now, most of all because it is a crucial issue and cause for many unnecessary conflicts in this world.
    So I would add some personal thinking, hoping that it will not rise any rages as discussions about religion paradoxally usually do.
    I know a person that I greatly appreciate and who once said: „I don’t believe in God, but if I did I think I wouldn’t need a messenger between me and him.“
    It gave me a strong swing to see clearer that neither every religious person is necessarily good nor every atheist is evil „per se“.
    What really irritates me is when anybody is arrogant enough to be judgmental with anybody who has a different attitude towards religion. It is clear that there has always been too much controversy around religions and it makes me cautious in the matter. Or to refer to the words quoted above, it looks to me that there are always too many messengers between Man and God and too many people have been killed in history in the name of God. So, please be kind to Malik even if he doesn’t fast, you all know that he is a good guy.

    1. Thank you so much Daria. I deeply admire your comments. While we repeatedly recall the occurrence of multiple wars on the names of religion, we tend to forget that they were in fact the culmination of distorted divine message by some clergymen and their followers. The clergy has predominantly discouraged establishment of links between the man and his creator. If you are believer, as you have rightly pointed out, you would not require ‘messengers’ to, what you call in your broadcast language, up-link you with your creator.

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