This is what we want, don’t we?
What really is freedom?
Freedom from abuse,
Freedom from being lonely,
Freedom from boredom,
Freedom from criminals,
Freedom from filth,
Freedom from harassment,
Freedom from hunger,
Freedom from hurt,
Freedom from ignorance,
Freedom from overcrowding,
Freedom from police,
Freedom from violence,
Freedom from want,
Freedom from war,
Freedom of belief,
Freedom of choice,
Freedom of knowledge,
Freedom of speech,
Freedom of thought,
Freedom to be alone,
Freedom to be different,
Freedom to differ,
Freedom to explore,
Freedom to learn,
Freedom to listen,
Freedom to privacy,
Freedom to see the world,
Freedom to shelter and care when needed,
Freedom to sleep in,
Freedom to sleep out,
Freedom to talk,
Freedom to walk,
Are these freedoms absolute? Or are there some limits on these freedoms?
Who then is free?
· The kid whose parents are out at or looking for work, and who roams the streets all day
Or is that one free – who has to get up at four in the morning so as not to miss the first bus that takes him to within two kilometers of school. At least three kilometers of walk every morning, then a wait of an hour and half before the others arrive at school, and then after the school is over, the walk back to the bus-stop in the scorching mid-day sun. Sometimes walking on and on in the desert for at least 4 kilometers before space can be found on a bus.
Then, arriving home at four in the evening – hungry, thirsty, tired and sleepy.
Is that child free, or is that one whose parents cannot afford to send him to school?
· Discovering the world through books, reading what others have written, enjoying their way of expression, learning tools of analysis, knowing and analysing and expressing and communicating. Is that freedom to know of literature, geography, geology, chemistry, physics, the biological systems, the planets, the galaxies, the stars and what is happening in them, and how this knowledge has come about, and of civilisations past?
Is that freedom?
Or is it freedom to be able to while away the time without any care in the world?
· When receiving the High School graduation (Matriculation) certificate, did you know that you had now become a prisoner, that from now on, you were bound by what was written in that certificate.
Going on to College, to University, topping the lists, earning scholarships for even higher studies, were you becoming freer, or were the prison walls getting thicker?
· When going abroad, you need a passport and a visa. That defines and binds you even more. That puts you on registers, many of them. There is a trail, a track of where you have entered, where you have been, what you have done. That is another bit of record about you.
Are you free?
· When you start work, you are answerable to your boss and/or your client. There are times you think he is stupid, and is making unreasonable demands, but you have to put up with him, for the economy is never so buoyant that you will find another job quickly.
You are now a prisoner of the bills you have to pay. Are you free?
· As a middle class person, whose existence the government knows about and has traced you to your employer, you have to pay taxes. That is another prison wall. From now on, you have to file returns, you have to keep track of your earnings and spending, and savings, and you have to answer the taxman, who is in it for what he can get you to pay up or bribe him, for he keeps issuing notices.
Are you free, or is that person free who works in the informal, underground economy, whose existence the government knows of in a general way but who hasn’t been identified and tagged as you have been. What benefits do you get as a taxpayer, or one who is in the records of the government?
· You marry, and does it bring freedom? From now on, your time is not your own. You have to cater to not just the needs, but also to the preferences of your spouse.
Are you free, or is that boy who did not earn enough to be considered for marriage?
· The babies arrive. Now you cannot sleep, for they sense when you are tired, and they will raise a wail to wake up the neighbours. You cannot take them to social functions, so your outings are curtailed.
Are you free, or is that childless couple down the street?
· The children grow to be school-going age. Now you have to hunt for schools that give quality education, within your means.
And you don’t find them. There is so much trouble in schools, none is right. You want the children to develop critical thinking, and the schools want them to ape the West, or to memorise what the teacher says. The children are caught in between
No wonder they dream of escaping you and the school; they dream of being free.
· As the children’s education progresses, the bills grow, and your salary does not grow as much as the bills.
Are you free?
· Somehow the children manage a University education, too. Now they have to find jobs, and in a stagnant or declining economy, it is your business to find them a job, otherwise your spouse will accuse you of failing in your duty as a parent. Soon it will be their turn to get married. And you have to find the ones suitable for them. All around you, the marriage market is flooded with moneyed people. It looks like business deals, and you are left out.
Are you free, or is that one who raised his children authoritatively, found them an apprenticeship, and married them off to the first person with a proposal.
· Your spouse keeps at you to have a shelter of your own. You borrow money right and left, as land and construction are very, very expensive. You buy or build a house, and now you are in even more trouble. Your creditors want their money back soon, and you have to cut down on your standard of living to start paying it back. The taxman wants to know how come you have bought it. The colleagues envy you, the subordinates want a little cash because you have now joined the prosperous, and they want bakhshish from you. As most of them come from feudal/rural backgrounds, this is what they expect. The civic authorities now want their own pound of flesh, every six months, in the form of property tax. They have put you in their records, too. This is yet another ring of prison walls around you.
Are you free, or that person who has built a mud house on common land?
· You have grown old. You need money now, and your pension is pitiably small, won’t even pay for utilities. Your sight and hearing are failing. You cannot drive anymore. You cannot walk straight.
Are you free, or is that one who lived without scruples and has tons of money to buy the care he needs.
· Your parents and their parents and grandparents made sacrifices to throw off the yoke of British Imperialism, and they gave you a free country.
Are you sure it is a free country?
· Here the helicopters and planes of the US, based in Afghanistan, can bomb your country at will, killing innocent civilians, and the pretext is that they had intelligence that their wanted men were having a party.
Are you free?
· You want to see the world. You should have enough money, for it is not acceptable that you earn and pay as you travel. You should have a valid passport for which your biometric data is measured and recorded. Do you know where that data ends up?
In the US! Are you free?
· You also need a valid visa to where you want to go, and the travel and stay arrangements all made out. You cannot leave it to be what you decide at a later stage. When you do get the visa, and pass the immigration controls of your country, your face is scanned again, your passport details are noted, and where does the information about you go?
To the US!
Do you still feel free?
· NADRA is issuing you ID cards. Guess where the information will go?
Are you free?
· You go on the net. What emails you send, are scanned; what webpages you visit, are recorded. If there is something of interest to the powers that be, you can be hauled in, or come in for closer scrutiny. The records are kept here for at least three months.
Are you free?
· The phones you use, particularly mobiles, are monitored. Your words can trigger more active interference. Your voice is analysed, and checked against databases.
Is that freedom?
· Above you in the sky are satellites with cameras that can read the number plates of the car parked in you drive, or your street.
Are you free?
Where is freedom?
When we hear the adhaan, the muadhdhin says: “There is no god but Allah”, and he says: “Allah is (the) Great(est)”. Then it comes back to us that one day the misdeeds of these intruders will be read out to them, and all wrongs they have done will be avenged. They don’t frighten us.
When we stand for Salah, we focus on Allah (swt), who has created and owns and controls everything, and we know nothing happens without His knowledge; that all in this world is a test; that all will be held accountable.
Freedom, at last!