View from US: Yeah, I am a believer!
Yes I saw (its) face, now I’m a believer Not a trace of doubt in my mind Said I’m a believer, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Nicknamed ‘God particle,’ it has finally been spotted. It was the missing link in the scientific understanding of Creation. To discover it consumed two years, 7000 scientists, and $10 billion. The experiment was conducted underground on the Switzerland-French border.
Finally scientists were able to reach into the “fabric of the Universe at a level” they had never done before — finding proof of an invisible energy that fills the vacuum of space.
Who creates this energy? The divine ‘God particle.’ Actually the particle is called Higgs Boson. It is named after two physicists — Peter Higgs of the Edinburgh University and Satyendra Nath Bose, an Indian mathematician. The two began looking for the unidentifiable particle way back in 1964. Wait. Where’s Abdus Salam? Forgotten, of course.
“The pioneering work of Abdus Salam, Pakistan’s only Nobel laureate, helped lead to the apparent discovery of the subatomic ‘God particle,’” reports Sebastian Abbot of Associated Press. “But the late physicist is no hero at home, where his name has been stricken from school textbooks.” Pervaiz Hoodbhoy of Quaid-e-Azam University in Islamabad told AP “The way he (Salam) has been treated is such a tragedy… someone who could not set foot in Pakistan. If he came, he would be insulted and could be hurt or even killed.”
Forget the past; celebrate the present. Stop press. This is the moment to remind the world that the man who pointed his finger to ‘God particle’ and won the Nobel Prize for doing so 33 years ago was a Pakistani. Zardari and Raja Ashraf should have gone on national media to claim credit and made a bang, big enough for the world to sit up and take note.
Instead, the two politician VVIPs, perhaps ignorant of world affairs, science and technology and the latest discovery announced in Geneva, are more interested in acquiring penthouses in Europe and America; fattening their foreign asserts and saving the Swiss accounts. Cashing in on Salam’s pioneering work to build a better image for Pakistan is their least priority. They may not even know who Abdus Salam is.
They cannot be faulted because thanks to the religious obscurantists, Salam’s name has been struck off. He does not exist for the Pakistanis.
It’s the holy month. Millions in Pakistan fast. In America too. Let us then turn to the magnificence and meaning of the ‘God particle.’ Life derives energy from a divine source. To waste it, squander it or misspend it in activities that are mindless is a sin. The Divine Design incorporates compassion, generosity, honesty and humanness. It shuns hypocrites who are shallow but show the world they outdo the rest in piety because they fast, say their prayers and recite the Holy Quran. Rarely are we able to fathom the real meaning of God’s commands and why He insists we follow them in letter and spirit. The term ‘letter and spirit’ is a jaded cliché that we use without really understanding what it defines. The definition I would like to push is: implement according to the rule/law/regulation, but also attempt to follow the intent behind the law. Most of our religious clerics overlook the ‘intent’ part while emphasising the law. A pastor at a church in Houston, Texas, draws weekly seven million viewers wanting to hear him preach. His message is simple. Rather than quote the Scriptures and breathe fire and damnation on the sinners, Joel Osteen focuses on good deeds, good news, and good life. His goal is the same: to convince people that God does not like sinners, but his style is one that is gentle, kind and easy to understand.
A visitor from Pakistan who hears Osteen at his Lakewood Church in Houston is rapt in wonder. “I was astounded to see the well-heeled and wealthy Americans, actually take time out to go to church and pray,” she tells me. “They are not poor, nor sick, nor in need of any kind… yet there is an innate need in them to seek God.”
So why do people want to hear Osteen? Because says the Pakistani visitor, “Osteen encourages us to think and ask simple questions like ‘Are you content in this life? Are you content in all circumstances?’ “There’s a huge difference between being content and being complacent, according to Osteen. When you are content, you are satisfied; you’re full,” says the Pakistani visitor. She quotes the pastor who says one of the best ways to find contentment in your circumstances is to reach out and help someone else who is in need. When you turn your focus toward helping others, your own challenges seem more manageable, and sometimes, they simply disappear. That’s because whatever you make happen for other people, God will make happen for you. Is this not a similar message for Muslims during Ramazan? You fast because you realise what it is to go hungry. Instead of stuffing your stomachs at iftar, give food to someone who is needy. This example best fits the ‘letter and spirit’ definition mentioned above. “Some in Pakistan are push button ignorants who can recite the Holy Quran by rote but know little about translating the words into our daily living,” my interviewee tells me. “We treat people and animals badly but pray five times a day. We call these people good even if they throw stones at dogs, misbehave with their wives and children and stare at the neighbour’s women!”
I ask the Houston lady if we need preachers like Osteen. “Why, of course yes!” She shoots back. “I love the way he does not talk about hell, damnation and God’s fury. Rather he emphasises faith. Values hold a high worth in his gospel, like akhlaqi qadren (good behaviour); accepting people for who they are, showing honour to people, striving for better, having faith in the Power above.”
Not everyone believes Osteen. Just as Pakistan has its share of religious hardliners, so does America. The Christian fundamentalists criticise Osteen as the “pastor of prosperity.”
Here’s the last word: “I wonder if it is in line with our belief to demand more from God for abundance or should we do sabar and shukar and die in poverty?” says the Texas-returned Karachiite. “I heard Osteen’s lectures. He says ‘Don’t settle for a C in life. Go for an A. And do stop carrying a chip on your shoulder.’”