A tale of two cities

Mayor Bloomberg showed great courage in speaking out in favour of what has come to be called the “Ground Zero Mosque.” Politicians in Karachi require far greater courage.

Nadir Hassan August 10, 2010

Courage can take different forms. In New York City, where a majority of residents opposed the construction of an Islamic centre, including a mosque, close to Ground Zero, Mayor Michael Bloomberg showed great political courage in speaking out forcefully in favour of what has misleadingly come to be called the “Ground Zero Mosque.” Politicians in Karachi require far greater courage. Here, taking a brave stand means facing the wrath of those who vote, not at the polling booth, but with their finger on the trigger.

Still, there is a lesson the rulers of this city can take from Mayor Bloomberg. As Bloomberg, who is both Jewish and Republican, and so, according to the stereotype, should be anti-Muslim, gave a heartfelt speech on freedom of religion, in Karachi one political party attempted to scapegoat the other for violence in the city. Bloomberg drew on Jewish history, and how adherents were prevented from building a synagogue in New York City in the seventeenth century. He then analogised that to the situation Muslims in the US would face today if their right to build a mosque is denied.

Meanwhile, the MQM Rabta Committee’s Deputy Convener Anees Qaimkhani was calling for an operation against ‘Talibanisaton’ in the city. We all know that in MQM parlance ‘Taliban’ equals ‘Pakhtun’. The call for an operation was made all the worse given MQM’s experiences with police operations, faked encounters and all, back in the 1990s.

Bloomberg said, “We would betray our values and play into our enemies’ hands if we were to treat Muslims differently than anyone else. In fact, to cave to popular sentiment would be to hand a victory to the terrorists, and we should not stand for that.” A police operation in Karachi conducted the way the MQM wants it to would treat Pakhtuns as a target and in doing so hand a victory to that tiny minority of Pakhtuns who are actually behind the killing of MQM workers.

The MQM would have done well to study Bloomberg’s speech. As part of a once-oppressed minority, he drew upon his people’s struggles to empathise with those being discriminated against today. Instead, the oppressed have now become the oppressors.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 10th, 2010.

Nadir Hassan An Islamabad based journalist who tweets at @Nadir_Hassan.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.


Zahid | 12 years ago | Reply "in Karachi one political party attempted to scapegoat the other for violence in the city"... One thing needs clarification for all those who think that only MQM is responsible in Karachi including Nadir Hassan. WHY NOT HANDOVER CITY POLICING TO MQM REPRESENTATIVE OR MUSTAFA KAMAL. All the blame goes to MQM. What about Lyari Gangs, What about extremist org, what about terrorist, What about non local police who are actively involved in crimes, What about Pathan traditions of revenge, who are responsible for guarding the city entry points, where does the arms comes. You are pushing MQM to the walls once again. Why it is being said FC would be another option for helping rangers in Karachi. BOTTOMLINE IS THAT No political party has accepted MQM and comes to them for their own agenda. What are the rights given to MQM. The MQM's graph was on rise when they were a part of Local government and delivered positive things. It is the situation of killing two bird with one stone so that both MQM and ANP eliminated and third party rules. Always blaming MQM will bring no result but more strong reaction form their supporters. MQM is still oppressed and not oppressors.
Aziz Akhmad | 12 years ago | Reply @maliha: I think we are both right. My point was, NYC consists of 5 buroughs or districts: Manhattan, Brooklyn, Bronx, Queens and Staten Island, each with its own local government. The mosque is proposed to be built in lower Manhattan, where the Community Board has unanimously approved the proposal and Mayor Bloomberg, a popular and effective mayor of NYC, has supported it. Yes Bloomberg was Republican, and before that he was a Democrat, and now he is registered as Independent. He is a popular mayor and is liked both by Republicans and Democrats. Yes, there is opposition to the building of the mosque. (Pakistan alone does not have monopoly over the right-wingers.) It's going to be an interesting issue, though, and might end up in the Supreme Court. Let's wait and see. Incidentally, Canadian Muslim Congress (or is it Muslim Canadian Congress?) has opposed the project.
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