Quite often, we appeal against the wrongful image of Pakistan portrayed in international media. It has now become clear, without a doubt, that the image the world holds of Pakistan is in fact the right one — we are ruthless brutes and barbarians, and our actions show it all. Following the release of the anti-Islam film on the internet, Muslims throughout the world have acted in a rash and outright vile way under the guise of protests – bringing damage to their own selves and their own country’s infrastructures in the midst of the chaos.
I am not going to be apologetic today and would readily proclaim that today, I am ashamed to be called a Pakistani. I am saddened and disgusted by all the Pakistanis that acted in rash misjudgement – although, I knew this was going to happen. A few days before the protests on Friday, I wrote a blog entry which correctly described what would happen in the face of these protests. And, the likelihood of these protests ending up into violent chaos was inevitable.
In an effort to understand what went wrong, I try to analyse the nature of these protests and what brought in elements of negligence, ignorance and rash violence in their wake.
A week had passed since the film’s release and the people were already discontent with the sitting government’s unwillingness to bring the world’s attention towards the hurt this film caused to all Muslims around the globe. Although, none of the Muslims I talked to (and I talked to a lot of them, from different countries) actually saw the film at all. The hate they had towards this film wasn’t their own personal disliking of the film because they hadn’t seen it. This resentment was promoted rather through speeches of various religious and political leaders and Islamic fanatics (who may or may not have seen the film themselves); these speeches were designed to instil hate amongst Muslims everywhere against the film.
Since the sitting Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) government of President Asif Ali Zardari didn’t do much in trying to calm the nerves of the people of the land, other political parties leapt to the stage to take charge of such an opportunity – they were all trying to cash in on the prospects of amassing support in the lead-up to the next general election by tuning themselves to the Muslim’s moral dilemmas.
Every political party, be it the Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N) or the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) issued a decree to call Friday, 21 September 2012, the day when people would “peacefully” express their love for the Muslim prophet — they called it the “Love for the Prophet Day”.
Protests around the Muslim World
In the wake of the many violent protests that had already unfolded in parts of the Muslim world, the “Love for the Prophet Day” appeared to be a noble prospect at first and was designed to be portray a more peaceful image of Pakistan. After all, Saudi Arabia had already said no to protests. Does that really mean that Saudi Arabia is less sentimental about the personality of their beloved prophet? How can a country that is considered to be the beacon of Islam be so unmoved by the film’s content that denigrated their prophet? Don’t they love their prophet? Aren’t they sentimental about Islam?
Protests in Egypt and Libya had already turned violent and ended in casualties and fatalities. Pakistan followed in the footsteps of Egypt and Libya and blocked all access to the online video-sharing website YouTube. This move not only blocked the malicious content on the website but also blocked millions of other videos that had informative Islamic content as well. Saudi Arabia, however, only blocked the various links where the video was present and not the entire website.
After opening a new Islamic art wing at the Louvre in Paris, Prince Alwaleed bin Talal said, “this despicable and disgusting 12-minute movie is really unacceptable, but having said that we shouldn’t honor (it) with such demonstrations and give it so much attention.” In comparison, Pakistani politicians and anchorpersons only called for protests and retaliation, fanning the flames even further.
Now, here’s an exercise. Watch the video below carefully and write down every word that reminds you of the various actions of the protesters a day later. Look out for words like fire, looting and violence, etc. Listening to these words only strengthened the resolve of people to do so the next day. This is the extent of subliminal (or hidden) hate-mongering that is so evident on Pakistani television screens.
A day before the Friday protests, it seemed that every anchorperson and politician on Pakistani television only tried affiliating him- or herself to the noble cause of portraying a peaceful image of Pakistan amidst the protests. However, their television appearances were merely limited to their utterances of the honorary suffixes of “peace be upon him (PBUH)” and “sallalahu aleyhi wasallam (SAW)” following the name of their beloved prophet – almost like a ritual, everyone just did that inevitably to show how good a Muslim they were.
Apart from these people one-upping the other in proclaiming their respect for their faith, no one truly justified the need for a peaceful protest – they used words like war, retaliation, fire, looting and violence, which only helped in wiring Pakistani minds to do malice a day later.
The Lemming Effect
Even though every political party called for the protests to go under way, with the blessings of the federal government, on the day of the protests this political leadership was itself largely missing from the grounds. Even if they were present for a while, they soon made their ways to their homes, leaving hundreds of thousands of protesters on their own.
Where one went, dozens followed; where a dozen walked to, hundreds made their way in their pursuit. Without guidance, these crowds of indecisive lemmingsjust dispersed into every direction almost automatically being influenced by people within them. Malicious elements crept up from amongst these crowds and cigarette lighters and matchboxes came out.
Out came also the US flags and the anticipated looks on the participants. We’re out to show how great our prophet is, and what do we come up with – an American flag with a picture of Barrack Obama and Hillary Clinton’s faces on bodies of dogs. It isn’t enough to show Pakistanis are bad at protests, we are also quite bad at Photoshop – but who in Pakistan could ever resist this hate-filled imagery. We love to hate little puppies and throw shoes at and burn them too.
Revolt and Fire
Fire is perhaps one of the few elements that are so effective in amassing a powerful and emotional affiliation and attitude towards a cause. Candle-lit flames paint the aura sad, while raging fire makes the air violent, ushering an uncontrollable urge to destroy and devastate things. Just by allowing for flags, placards and effigies to be burnt on protest grounds, we allow for violent to take root.
This is exactly what happened when people started lighting up flags. And when there were no flags or effigies to be burnt further, people turned to the next best thing they could find – their anger turned away from the anti-Islamic film and blasphemous cartoons to resentment against the sitting government and their offices of the law. Disoriented and ignored, these people moved against the guardian police-officers that were stationed to protect them.
People who had come out to express love for their prophet moved to express anger and angst against fellow human beings and fellow Muslims. It turns out then that Muslims in Pakistan believe that by harming other human beings – other fellow Muslim police officers and their properties – they can bring down anti-Islamic attitudes in other parts of the world. Bravo! Isn’t that exactly what they were fighting against?
We Love Prophets of Other Judeo-Christian Religions
The primary agenda for the protesting Muslims that day was to show their love not only for their prophet, but to also express their respects for the prophets of the Judeo-Christian religions. “We love Isa (Jesus) as much as our prophet,” many a Muslim proclaimed on the day. But with the flames already morphing into an uncontrollable blitz, violence soon found itself on the crossroads of inter-faith harmony.
I cannot imagine anyone consciously deciding to throw a Molotov cocktail at a Church building, but I do know that following that first arsonist, many others follow suit. St Saviour’s Church in Sukkur was engulfed in flames within minutes and burnt out in a few more minutes to follow. It’s blackened walls covered in soot lay testament to the indecisive and almost nonsensical nature of Muslim rationalism that plagues Pakistani minds – we are Muslims demonstrating against un-Islamic things, so anything that is non-Muslim goes. Churches eventually become fair game.
Muslims know that no Christian would ever have the guts to burn down a mosque in Pakistan, so burning down churches is plain old fun for them. This perhaps comes down to an official agenda not being drafted prior to the protests. Islamic leaders and politicians were too quick to call for protests, they never officially defined what the protest was about and why and how the people should protest.
The Real Protest
So, what was the protest about? It was a protest to show “love” for the prophet. But people thought it was a protest about three things:
- An anti-Islamic film: No wonder, it justified the burning down of a cinema in Peshawar. Neither would there be cinemas, nor would there be such blasphemous mediums as films. Oh, the film was released on the Internet, you say. Now, how do we burn down the Internet?
- The lobbies that work against and support the film in a financial capacity: Finance, you say. Let’s burn down banks and loot the ATMs. Without the rupee, these films would never be financed. By looting Pakistani banks, the protesters genuinely thought they could put a cap on financial assistance for such malicious products. Oh, it was financed in US dollars, you say. Well, where’s the next best thing that yells out USA. Look, a KFC!
- And, anything and anyone that is not Islamic: Churches, cinemas and everything goes. PS: We love Christians and we secretly download pictures of Veena Malik from the Internet.
It is so hypocritical of the Muslims to proclaim on one hand that they love their fellow Christians citizens, and lighting up churches on the other. In fact, Christians were the first minority that voiced their resentment for the anti-Islam film, even before many of the religious leaders started slinging mud at it.
Anyone who had ever been to a cinema to watch a film, or had been to a KFC to eat a perfectly halal burger would never have thought of burning down these institutions. Analysts presume that such acts of arson could only have been encouraged amongst the few that have either never been to a cinema or had never tasted a burger. By destroying a KFC, people didn’t destroy the multinational corporation but perhaps only managed to destroy the livelihood of the poor Pakistani that bought the franchise for that particular location.
This hypocrisy and intolerance is enough to prove the point I made earlier – it is very easy to destroy, devastate, disintegrate and conquer Pakistan. Just release any form of blasphemous content and the Muslims in Pakistan would destroy themselves, this will leave behind a devastated state. And, once the state is disintegrated from within, it becomes really easy to conquer the lemmings that are thus left chanting slogans, burning banks and churches, looting ATMs and killing innocent fellow citizens.