As a friend put it, “Mr. Orya is literally against everything and everyone who dares to differ from his bland conventional piety and literal interpretation of all things holy.” But in cases where he is hounding individuals he is ruining careers, destroying reputations and endangering lives with impunity. This specific video was posted by this dangerous man and according to him he got it through his sources. One is horrified to learn that students who are not supposed to carry their cell phones to class-rooms can now make videos and use them against the teachers that they don’t like. And which teacher in the world can claim that he is universally liked by 100 percent of his students? Teaching is not about merely being popular. Teaching cannot be democratic. Although with the rise of electronic and social media many people tend to confuse teaching with performing arts but in the end teaching is about training young people in the arts and sciences and opening up their minds. Dislike, displeasure and a reluctance to learn new ways of thinking and new methods of inquiry are occupation hazards of this profession. Even in an ultra-conservative society where teachers only transmit given scraps of knowledge, teachers can and do face unwillingness on the part of students to learn anything that they don’t know before. In a nutshell, teaching is not a specie of performing arts. A good teacher’s work is a tightrope walk even in the best of times.

Anyhow, a student stealthily makes a video of his teacher in the class only God knows with what intentions and motives, and somehow Mr. Orya gets his hands on this video. He posts it on his official website with highly hostile and incendiary remarks. And then all hell breaks loose.

Now let’s see what the professor does or say in this video which Orya and his followers find so objectionable. The professor in his rather frank style calls milk, honey and Houris symbolic. Now there is nothing new about it. Countless Muslim theologians have interpreted these things in their own way. If you would go for the literal interpretation you would come up with something like Maulana Tariq Jameel’s lascivious description. Now, it is perhaps alright for Tariq Jameel to describe the anatomy of a Houri in front of his adult followers but how confident would you feel if you had to describe and explain a text about Houris and other stuff in paradise in front of lower middle class Pakistani teenagers. Making everything associated with paradise holy is one thing but creating new sensitivities about such common places items such as milk and honey borders on absurdity. Who can teach about women and their multifarious attractions to lower middle class adolescent audience without embarrassing himself/herself? What people are generally failing to notice in this video is the task that the professor is faced with. He tries his best to interpret Houris, milk and honey as symbols about which only God knows best but his students still laugh. They probably also laugh at his awkward interpretation but he gravely reminds them of death. What else could he do? An Urdu teacher cannot teach such things like a cleric. He doesn’t have that authority but our syllabus setter have turned all subjects into Islamiyat. Even science books begin with holy verses and their scientific interpretation. How can a literature teacher who is used to teaching Ghalib, Iqbal Mir and Faiz take things only literally? Urdu literature is full of skeptical thoughts of poets and writers, it is replete with non-literal interpretations of holy texts. Where would you go? What would you do if you have to teach Ghalib’s “Hum ko maloom hay jannat ki haqeeqat lekin, dil kay khush rakhnay ko Ghalib yeh khayal acha hay“. Oftentimes the teachers of literature have to become devil’s advocates. They have to show their students the intricate working of a poet/artist’s mind as well as make the historical social context of the discourse familiar and clearer.

There is a point in the video where the professor rhetorically says only a stupid God would offer such banal and commonplace worldly attractions to people. But God surely meant something far more mysterious by these references to women, milk and honey in paradise. He also explains that such things are very common in this world and only the ignorant would do good merely because of their greed for such things. Now, Mr. Orya has turned this rhetorical question into a simple case of an assertion of divine stupidity. We know how simple minded people turn everything on its head, but Mr. Orya is a retired civil servant and considers himself a great intellectual who knows literally everything and has an opinion on everything. One cannot accept such simple mindedness from him. How is he unable to distinguish between a rhetorical question and a statement of fact? Only a treacherous love for creating disorder and mayhem in society seems to be the cause of such an allegation.

Every great teachers develops a style during his career and only his students or close friends know about that style. The use of words like nonsense, my foot, stupid and ullu ka patha may sound politically incorrect in today’s holier than thou culture and miliue but we all know how these words are employed by classic models of teachers as emphatic words and phrases to create humour and to facilitate learning. Sometimes the teachers pick words from the slang used by teenagers to initiate them into unfamiliar concepts by starting with familiar words. And as for using words and phrases such as “matha tekna” instead of sajda and muslay instead of Muslim, one needs to know the context of a teacher’s pet phrases. A teacher teaching Urdu, a common legacy of India-Pakistan, cannot teach classics without familiarizing his students as to how other religions and communities saw and talked about Muslims of subcontinent. And through such words the professor is only trying to distance his students away from the familiar and known and taking them into the realm of imagination where they can see themselves through the eyes of others. This kind of teaching is rare now. Only a few teachers are capable of such feats. But seen out of their context they would draw the ire of a majority.

The purpose of teaching is not to merely reinforce the already existing biases and prejudices tenaciously held by the youth but to open up minds. But very few people are likely to agree with such an assertion. But even if one doesn’t agree with cultivating independence of thought in the minds of students one cannot agree with the assertion that parents send their kids to places of learning merely to get their own clones in thoughts and action. Contemporary parents want their kids to succeed in worldly lives while at the same time remaining faithful to old forms of thinking and only rarely this societal status quo is broken. What Mr. Orya’s hysterics would do is to create an atmosphere of fear among teaching community. If this situation is any indication of future, no teacher would ever be able to teach anything except parroting official lines and interpretations. If a teacher merely has to repeat what the cleric says then there is no need for a teacher. Teaching profession is under serious threat from all the ubiquitous cameras and instruments of surveillance.

We all know, no Pakistani school and college is delivering atheists or even liberals as Mr. Orya alleges. The whole country is enthused by a strain of religiosity unprecedented even in its own history. Our educational institutions are penetrated by supporters of various religious parties and sects. Even most of our teachers try to hide their incompetence in the garb of piety and religiosity. One can hear stories of even science teachers teaching finer points of theology in their classrooms. If one starts to look for look for teachers with thinking ability one would hardly come up with a few individuals. In such an environment creating a hysteria against free thinking people is nothing but the work of a fanatic and extremist. Mr. Orya is a glaring example of what is wrong with Pakistan. Mr. Orya is in the habit of creating an equivalence between liberal/secular extremists and religious extremists of Pakistan. We must ask him a simple question: how many people have been killed by liberal Pakistani extremists till now in comparison with their religious counterparts? It is very clear that the job of Mr. Orya is further push Pakistani society into the flames of a fanatic’s hell masked as a conventionalist/traditionalist’s paradise.

The Nation Blog