Chaos and capitulation

Published: September 22, 2012
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Two masked men drive past burning police vehicles in Karachi on Friday. PHOTO:  REUTERS

Two masked men drive past burning police vehicles in Karachi on Friday. PHOTO: REUTERS

What was supposed to be a day for Pakistanis to show their love, respect and reverence of the Holy Prophet (pbuh), instead turned out to be a day of murder, arson, looting and much mayhem. The government may have thought that by declaring September 21 “Youm-e-Ishq-e-Rasool”, it may have grabbed the initiative from the religious and conservative elements and that the protests and outrage may perhaps have channelled into one single day. However, the events of the past two days, in particular Friday, suggest that this was a grave miscalculation. The decision seems to have only galvanised and emboldened those elements in society who believe that by burning public and private property, destroying cars and injuring and killing innocent passers-by, they are somehow expressing their love for the Holy Prophet (pbuh). To many of those who we saw burning public and private property on our television screens on Friday, the government’s holiday announcement translated into a licence to do as they saw fit, and in most cases, this was to damage and destroy whatever they could find at arm’s reach.

One fails to understand, for instance, how the burning of two cinemas and the Peshawar Chamber of Commerce building was linked in any way to protesting against a vile blasphemous film. Likewise, pelting cars owned by Pakistanis, or destroying shops, offices and homes owned by our fellow countrymen and women. Or, for that matter, burning tyres and blocking roads. Of course, the rage and anger is expected of any Muslim, in the face of such blasphemous material, but that rage needs to be expressed in a manner so that we don’t end up burning and destroying our own property and people.

What has been troubling so far also is that a lot of the violence seems to have been carried out by young men and teenaged boys, usually of school or college-going age. In some instances, it has been reported that they were brought to the protests by their teachers, who egged them on to chant “Death to America”. Surely, there could be an alternative way to teach our students the very important and much-needed lesson that blasphemous material will not be tolerated. They need to be told, indeed, those protesting on Friday needed to be told, that the Holy Prophet (pbuh) was an exemplar of tolerance and patience Himself and that their violent actions were only damaging and tainting the name of Islam in the eyes of, not only the rest of the world, but also other Pakistanis — the majority of whom were equally outraged but did not approve of the wanton resort to violence and mob rule.

Furthermore, by declaring a day of protest, the government seemed to have caved in to the extremists and ceded to them the initiative of expressing the nation’s outrage. No wonder, then, that we saw banned outfits leading some of the protest rallies which then turned violent. Having made the decision, the government, it seems, also had little idea of what was to follow, though our experience with past protests should have told us that violence usually follows. This failure to anticipate and plan was evident from the timid way in which the protests were handled, and the government’s response bordered close to capitulation if not outright appeasement. For instance, most of those arrested after the violence of September 20 in Islamabad’s Red Zone were released a few hours later after a ‘deal’ between the maulanas leading them and the local Islamabad administration. In any other civilised country, the arrested protesters would have been booked and prosecuted for vandalism and arson. Without realising it, most Pakistanis think that Islamabad is ‘safe’, but history shows that it has always been dominated by illegally constructed mosques and madrassas acting as havens of terrorists since General Ziaul Haq got Lal Masjid to act as the watering hole of extremists.

The future, pardon the cliché, is not very bright because we have a state that is simply not willing to stand up to reason and logic and doesn’t want to or, perhaps, can’t, stand up to the extremists and take away the initiative from them on issues that matter most to all Pakistanis.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 22nd, 2012.

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Reader Comments (12)

  • Ejaaz
    Sep 22, 2012 - 4:42AM

    Pakistani Muslims by their actions on this special holiday have shown how they express their love for the Rasul. If by burning, shooting and killing is how they express their love for the Rasul, what can the rest of the world expect from us?

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  • litmus
    Sep 22, 2012 - 4:42AM

    im not surprised at all by the lunacy. its quite expected. you have a system which is now inciting violence in the name of religion and leaders trying to gain popularity by showing that they understand and sympathize with them. this is exactly the kind of thing one would expect from a youth bulge that has poor education and bad job prospects. remember when some said a few years ago that we need to create jobs and focus on education? we were told that Pakistan had more urgent issues to deal with, like defense from war with India and making the Islamic bomb. well look how well that turned out. the sad part is that we still haven’t agreed that a focus on education, economy and law and order are the real priorities of Pakistan. instead we are more focused on protecting the Prophet and blaming the rest of the world for our issues. you guys have had your carnage…for gods sake can we please restore access to youtube now?

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  • Cautious
    Sep 22, 2012 - 4:49AM

    What amazes me is that both the Pakistani govt and this Editor know that the American govt has no ability to censor the film, know the American govt has condemned the film and yet still imply that if the America govt cared about Muslims it would ban the film. You both share responsibility for this debacle. Despite the deaths and carnage the World is still waiting for the first Muslim leader to stand up and tell their followers that the US govt should not be blamed. Shame on you.

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  • gp65
    Sep 22, 2012 - 5:40AM

    “Surely, there could be an alternative way to teach our students the very important and much-needed lesson that blasphemous material will not be tolerated. “

    So you will not tolerate the uploading of a video in US where it is legal to do so. Well what arou going to do about it?

    IF Christians tolerate videos by atheists mocking Christianity
    If Hindus tolerate videos by Muslims where they break idols of our Gods
    If Ahmadis tolerate their prophet being decried as a matter of state policy in Islamic republic of Pakistan
    If Buddhists tolerated the destruction of Bamiyan Buddha not by an individual but by an Islamic Government

    What’s so special about Muslims that they alone cannot accept that not everyone shares their reverence for their prophet just as they feel no reverence for Hindu Gods. What US should and does protect is the freedom of worship for Muslims based in America.

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  • HA
    Sep 22, 2012 - 12:11PM

    The tear gas used by the police has proved to be ineffective against emotially charged and angry mobs. The government should consider using Nitrous oxide, commonly known as laughing gas, It is used in surgery and dentistry for its anesthetic and analgesic effects. It is known as “laughing gas” due to the euphoric effects of inhaling it, a property that has led to its recreational use. This will turn the protestors into friendly cheerful crowd wanting to have fun rather then destroy property.

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  • Tony Singh
    Sep 22, 2012 - 12:23PM

    A great way of expressing love!

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  • Zalim Singh
    Sep 22, 2012 - 2:27PM

    sad state of affairs

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  • Sep 22, 2012 - 3:52PM

    A very cadid analysis.Will the political leadership give it a serious thought to avoid such mayhem in future.

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  • Faisal
    Sep 22, 2012 - 7:59PM

    @HA: Wouldnt it be cheaper if the government told the law enforcing agents to merely start tickling the protesters?

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  • Ghulam
    Sep 22, 2012 - 9:24PM

    Pakistan is finished I have lost all hope.

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  • YP Toronto
    Sep 22, 2012 - 10:07PM

    Main causes: unemployment and illiteracy.

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  • YP Toronto
    Sep 22, 2012 - 10:13PM

    Illiteracy and unemployment.

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