MOHAMMED HANIF: A Boy and His Internet

Mohammed Hanif in the New York Times:

ScreenHunter_2151 Aug. 16 19.56Karachi, Pakistan — Last month I witnessed an 11-year-old boy’s first interaction with the internet. My nephew knew what the internet was, but he had never had the opportunity to use it. (Internet access in Pakistan is still quite low.) What did he want to look for, I asked. Bermuda Triangle, he said. Why exactly was he interested in the Bermuda Triangle? Because dajjal, our version of the anti-Christ, lives there now. Not much has changed, I thought: As a teenager I devoured stories about clever djinns, heartless monsters and harsh terrains.

Next, he wanted to look for scenes of the torture that angels inflict on dead sinners. Surely, such a thing doesn’t exist on the internet? It does. Getting worried that the boy’s parents might accuse me of corrupting him, I tried to take away the laptop. Just one more, he said, and after haggling over what he meant by one more — one more search, no matter how many hits? Or just one more page? — settled on a blood-curdling video set to a war anthem in which Pakistani soldiers are seen shooting at the Taliban and rescuing kidnapped children.

How did my nephew know about dajjal’s residence and those goings-on in the grave? Because he had heard about them from school friends. And by the end of his first tour of the internet, he had seen with his own eyes what he had only heard as rumor. Dajjal did reside in the Bermuda Triangle: We saw more than one image of that.

Growing up with myths and legends is an essential part of coming of age anywhere, but there comes a time when you expect to outgrow them and confront real monsters, like who you are and your role in making the world what it is. Initially you believe in a terrifying god. Then you think she isn’t terrifying all the time and realize you have to find your own way in life.

More here.