In its October edition, SouthAsia has once again allocated its pages to issues of Animal Rights, with fine articles from two reputable Pakistani writers: Nilofer Ahmed and Anees Jillani. I recall that, for last year’s October issue, also devoted to Animal Rights, many authors of international stature were invited to contribute their articles, which they very graciously did. Contributions from high profile names like Maneka Gandhi, Ingrid Newkirk, Tom Regan, and Peter Singer indeed raised public awareness, and laid the foundation for future work.
Progressive ideas such as environmentalism or feminism - or Animal Rights - when first introduced, often benefit from the support of well-known, high-status proponents from abroad; they bring the aura, flavor and prestige of their foreign roots, as well as the impact of their writing style. However, it is not until new ideas are internalized by the culture and become part of the normal life of average citizens that a true movement can grow. While the early stages of a movement benefit from contributions by foreign writers, it is the participation in dialogues, talks, and writings by native commentators that gives the ideologies and movements its life-force and acceptance by society.
In the current issue, an article on the Importance of Animals in Islam by Nilofer Ahmed, a regular columnist in Pakistan’s most prestigious news paper, DAWN, cites extensively from scripture to clearly demonstrate that Islam places great emphasis on the well-being of animals. Considering Islamic culture as part of the fabric of the whole region, including the Middle East [and even India], an article such as this is bound to affect how people across the region view animals, helping to place the issue of animal welfare on the same footing as other issues of social justice, such as child labor or early marriage.
On a secular note, an article on animal ethics and social justice by Anees Jilanee (a prominent lawyer at the Pakistani Supreme Court) strikes a chord by articulating, very convincingly in my opinion, the point that prejudice against animals is not different from racism or sexism, which society considers to be wrong.
Hence, in this issue two reputable Pakistani authors have addressed the cause of Animal Rights from two different perspectives: religion that guides the lives of a vast section of the society and secular values through which Pakistan is a participant in the community of nations seeking to eradicate social evils at all levels.