‘Taz’, a new channel on the Pakistani Geo TV network, is dedicated to twenty-four-hour news. There is a rapid-fire news bulletin every fifteen minutes: hence the name, Taz, or fast. But even after an endless stream of stories about sectarian violence, terrorist atrocities, suicide bombings, ‘target killings’, ‘load shedding’, political corruption and the defeats of the Pakistani cricket team with mundane regularity, there is still ample time left in the schedule. So the slots between the news bulletins are filled with what they call tazaabi tottas – acidic bits, short satirical skits. In one particular sketch, a man, sitting on a bridge, is about to commit suicide by jumping into the river. He is spotted by a passer-by who runs towards him shouting ‘Stop! Stop!’ The two men then engage in the following dialogue:

‘Why are you committing suicide?’
‘Let me die! No one loves me.’
‘God loves you. Do you believe in God?’
‘Yes.’
‘Are you a Muslim, or…’
‘Allah be Praised! I am a Muslim.’
‘I too am a Muslim. Are you a Shia or a Sunni?’
‘Sunni.’
‘I too am a Sunni. What is your school of law?’
‘Hanafi.’
‘Me too! Do you belong to the Deobandi or Bralevi sect?’
‘Deobandi.’
‘Me too! Are you a Tanzihi (pure) Deobandi or a Takfiri (extremist) Deobandi?’
‘Tanzihi.’
‘Me too! Tanzihi of Azmati branch or Farhati branch?’
‘Tanzihi Farhati branch.’
‘Me too!’ Tanzihi Farhati educated at University of Amjair or Tanzihi Farhati educated at Noor University of Mawad?’
‘Tanzihi Farhati educated at Noor University of Mawad.’
‘Infidel, kaffir! You deserve to die!’

The man who came to help then pushes the suicidal man over the bridge.

The humorous sketch gives us deep insight into the state of the Muslim ummah – the transnational Muslim community. It is simply not good enough to be a Muslim. You have to be labelled Sunni or Shia, and from there on progressively put in smaller boxes right down to which particular institution of learning you subscribe to. And those who deviate one iota, follow a different school of thought, or a different historic tradition, or a different fatwa issuing seminary, are, by definition, kaffirs – infidels who deserve to die.

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