It all started with Salman Rushdie and one of his most controversial books known popularly by the name of “The Satanic Verses” in the late 1988. Most of the Muslims were outraged at the sacrilegious title, whereas the book was immediately banned in various Muslim dominated countries across the globe. Religious decrees were issued to kill the author and although Rushdie remains unharmed to this date, the same cannot be said about 162 democrats and dissidents who were assassinated in Europe, thousands of atheist and Marxist prisoners who were murdered during serving their term in prison, the green movement protesters and their lawyers who were imprisoned for life for representing them. The year 1989 was marked with violent attacks in Iran, United Kingdom, United States, India and other countries. Bookshops and libraries were bombed and torched down to retaliate against the sale of the much controversial book. American Cultural Centre was attacked by unruly mob in Pakistan, although, the US played no role in authoring or promoting the book.
Over the decades, Rushdie has secured his position as the enemy of Islam who allegedly desecrated the integral and founding members of the religions. Since the book was banned and the content was flagged as blasphemous, very few people actually got the chance to read what the book contained. So in short it can be said that the religious decrees and ensuing violence was perpetrated on hearsay and rumors. If the book was allowed to be circulated; perhaps the damage and loss of lives could have been minimised.
Sixteen years later, in the September of 2005, a Danish newspaper published 12 cartoons that require no introductions. With the emergence of the Internet and strong social media, the word spread literally like wild fire. The campaign to hurt the culprits ranged from petitions to kill the cartoonists to boycott all Israeli, Danish and US products sold across the world. The violent attacks claimed over 100 lives throughout the world, whereas the social media was bombarded with images of infant soldiers carrying guns and desecrating the Star of David and the US flag. I fail to understand what Israel or the US had to with the Jyllands-Posten cartoons controversy but I believe that it is convenient to lay the blame on them — our so called mortal enemies — than look for a plausible solution and act rationally.
Pakistan, as was expected, witnessed unprecedented violent protests which claimed at least five lives amongst which none were even remotely associated with the printing or publication of the aforementioned caricatures.
Six years down the same road, in 2012 a convict indicted for bank fraud known as Abenob Nakoula Bassely produced a movie which mocked Islam and its principles. As predicted, furious Muslims outraged at the blasphemous content retaliated in all Muslims countries. Embassies and Nato bases were attacked by angry protestors demanding justice for the disrespect. The magnitude and intensity of violence was highest in the Arab World, especially in Libya where an American ambassador and three other Americans were killed in a rocket attack on US consulate located in Benghazi. However, Pakistan also witnessed a fair share of violent attacks and protests in retaliation of the movie, killing at least one person. Unfortunately, the violence has only just begun and has already engulfed more than half of the world.
How are the people who are killing and attacking innocent bystanders any different from the people who are behind the controversial video? To me they are the offshoot of the same tree as they both negate the ideology of coexistence and respect for human lives. Do not mistake my intentions. I am chagrined at the outrageous video and consider it a cowardly act to entice violence, however, I must say that I am equally disappointed at radical elements living in different countries playing on human emotions and watching how people react to their bait. Their “hard work” paid off when we retaliated and killed our own people. Isn’t it evident that by vandalising public property and creating a state of anarchy we are harming no one but ourselves?
Have we ever actually thought about who are behind these violent attacks because as far as I know, most of us do not protest and act destructively when antagonised? It’s difficult to categorise the significance of lives lost, however, being a Pakistani it is most saddening to hear that the protest staged outside the US embassy in Karachi killed a man and injured many.
I fervently hoped and prayed that the violence would stop but the strike on Friday shattered my hopes when violence took at least 23 precious lives. What sort of a catharsis is this? Or is it that we enjoy destruction and killing our fellow countrymen just because?
What is even more distressing is the irony to know that the government of Pakistan seems efficient and completely capable to block YouTube, however, is unable to control the violence and radical elements openly encouraging and promoting violence.
All Muslim countries, including Pakistan, where such demonstrations have been ruling the order of the day since the release of “Innocence of Muslims” have been badly affected by the violence. Roads are stranded, it is difficult to get from destination A to destination B without thinking thrice, and most importantly people feel threatened to step outside their offices and homes. Yet the production team and donors of the movie are living peacefully wherever they are and are least concerned about the people who are dying all across the world because of their acts.
With more than half of the population living below poverty line and still embroiled in a struggle to make ends meet by working at places where they lose their lives after searching for fire exits in vain, shouldn’t our energies be focused on more constructive ways to mark our disgust? Why can’t we resort to saner ways to show our anger?
Emotions everywhere across the globe are at an all-time high; however, we must all realise that this movie was produced with an intention to stir trouble. The donors and sponsors wanted us to react exactly the way we did. It is almost impossible to control action when the most sacred personality of any religion is desecrated, however, it is best to stay patient and by staying patient I do not mean that we should not retaliate but our protest should mark solidarity and peace rather than aggression and destruction.
From “The Satanic Verses” to “Innocence of Muslims” and all that happened in between the situation has not changed. The fascist elements in our society instigate violence and in the process innocent and valuable lives are lost. The cycle of violent protests needs to be stopped. We must all understand that we have become a laughing stock for the entire world because when provoked we harm no one but us. It is time to kill the extremist inside us. It is time to preach to the fundamentalist propagating hate.
The writer is a Reporter at Dawn.com