Home Lightbox Unlikely Icon

Unlikely Icon

by Benazir Shah
11 comments

Jibran Nasir

Jibran Nasir is crusading on our behalf.

Mohammad Jibran Nasir, a 27-year-old serial do-gooder from Karachi, has become the inadvertent leader of Pakistan’s post-Peshawar anti-extremist discourse.

Hours after the Dec. 16 attack, Nasir joined a 200-strong vigil for the Peshawar slain in Islamabad. The numbers weren’t exactly bad, but the venue caused him some concern. “Why do people in Islamabad have to hold vigils at such places where no one can see you and no one can hear you?” he tells Newsweek. So he decided to take his protest to Lal Masjid, a “mosque” linked up with both Al Qaeda and the Islamic State and whose cleric, Maulana Abdul Aziz, brazenly defended the Peshawar attack on TV.

That day, it was just Nasir and three others standing there in the cold, demanding Lal Masjid change course and Aziz apologize. The audacious act caused a stir on social media. The next evening, Nasir had scores by his side, with police keeping an uneasy calm between the unarmed protesters and Lal Masjid’s menacing, stick-wielding supporters. The second day of the protest also failed to get any coverage from Pakistan’s easily frightened media organizations, but Nasir’s crusade would soon become hard to ignore.

Late on Dec. 17, police filed charges against Nasir and others for “disturbing the peace.” The next day, five protesters were arrested. The ensuing outrage became news, and the protest the perfect venue for politicians to make cameos of solidarity. The media coverage helped spread the anti-Lal Masjid protests to other cities. The Muttahida Qaumi Movement party took Nasir’s campaign even further. Its chief, Altaf Hussain, demanded Lal Masjid be razed.

On Dec. 19, Aziz used his Friday sermon to threaten suicide-bombings if any harm came to him. Two days later, with public sentiment having turned so sharply against him and Lal Masjid, Aziz was forced to apologize for his heartless Peshawar comments. Nasir rejected the expedient apology and continued with the protests.

Three days later, Nasir received a warning from Ihsanullah Ihsan, spokesman of the Taliban splinter Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, to back off. He didn’t. “We are standing firm,” he tweeted. The same day, police relented and filed charges against Aziz under the antiterrorism laws. On Dec. 26, a court ordered Aziz’s arrest. Aziz has vowed to resist any attempts to take him into custody.

The job isn’t done yet. “Taliban sympathizers aren’t just in the Army. They are among us—in the media, in society,” he says. “Let’s call them all out at least.” Nasir, who once hosted his own talk show on Dawn News, is appalled by Pakistani news organizations in particular. “The media is no longer in the business of reporting news; they are only in the business of making money. How is a 400-people protest outside Lal Masjid not news?”

Earlier this year, Nasir quit his job as a lawyer and joined the extremism-countering Khudi Pakistan as chief of its Sindh operations. Previously, he launched Pehla Qadam to help flood-ravaged people, and also cofounded Pakistan for All, a forum against state and religious fascism. Using Rs. 150,000 from his savings, he ran as an independent from Karachi in last year’s elections. He polled only 253 votes for his National Assembly bid and 433 votes for his Sindh Assembly seat, losing to candidates from the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf. Nasir has no plans, so far, to join any political party.

He intends to remain focused on his #ReclaimYourMosques campaign, determined not to allow Peshawar to become another missed opportunity to redeem Pakistan’s soul. “Lal Masjid shouldn’t be a house of horrors. It is meant to be a mosque, the house of God,” he says, adding that he wants the federally administered mosque and others like it to function as peaceful places of worship. “What are we afraid of?” he asks.

Through his brave protests, Nasir has shown Pakistan that the time for fear is done.

From our Jan. 10, 2015, issue.

Related Articles

11 comments

Syed Foaad Hassan December 30, 2014 - 1:50 am

Hats off to Jibran Nasir, He is a ray of hope for all Pakistanis who want a peacful society where everyone is equal and there is no such thing as “extremism and terrorism”

Reply
Fizza December 30, 2014 - 8:48 am

God bless you!!!!!

Reply
Allah's slave December 30, 2014 - 9:24 am

keep going brother and stay strong… if you speak up against a wrong doing, Allah SWT will help you… you dont need any one then… Trust HIM and move on!!!

Reply
farhan December 30, 2014 - 2:30 pm

This nation is beyond redemption. If I were Jibran I would seek asylum in a Western country and live a comfortable safe life. Hes a trained lawyer who can probably easily study a JD on scholarship in the US. Such an inspirational person would get numerous offer s

Reply
shaista December 30, 2014 - 4:35 pm

Brave son of Pakistan.

Reply
kashif December 30, 2014 - 5:18 pm

where was this fu..ing .. bastard when peoples were murdered in karachi on daily basis. whr wr he when drone kills 80 children in agency. he is bloody bastard he just came against masjid not M.abdul aziz… He Just Want to demolish Masjid. not M.abdul aziz.

Reply
Ali December 30, 2014 - 7:36 pm

Let me confess, it is unbelievable strength that this young (or gentle…) man has shown. My all Dua for him.

Reply
Zeba December 30, 2014 - 7:44 pm

Wish you wind under your wings. If anything overseas Pakistanis can do please let us know.

Reply
Yasir Maqsood December 30, 2014 - 8:36 pm

bravo Jibran brother….

Reply
Pegasus December 30, 2014 - 9:37 pm

Hats off to you Jibran. A very brave and bold soul indeed. We appreciate, support and pray for your success. May Pakistan be truly a free country where all sections live in peace, harmony and show tolerance to others. This will indeed be a true Islamic state. Well we don’t have to name our country Islamic to act Islamic. Acting will serve the purpose.

Reply
34D December 31, 2014 - 3:56 pm

27 years of age and such commitment to giving back to the society. Hands down for this yoing lad. He did it for himself, for his own fatherland and he made us realize that we too, have to take ownership of ourselves, our actions, our country and give back to our people because that too is our responsibility, which was long forgotton. Allah knows the best of our intentions but no denying that this man, with his story and struggle did touch our lives.

Bravo Mr.Jibran!

Reply

Leave a Reply to Ali Cancel Reply