By Waheeduddin Ahmed PhD
A gutter quality amateurish video “Innocence of Muslims” made by some dedicated anti-Islam goons had gone un-noticed by almost all Americans and almost every human being on earth. The makers of the video would have been rotting with boredom in their Californian holes, if true to traditions; some among us had not resurrected their piece of excretion and brought it into the lime light. Inevitably, Muslims all over the world took to the streets and went on a rampage. An American ambassador died in Libya; movie theatres were burned in Karachi and every politician in Pakistan registered his name among the Ashiqane Rasool (lovers of the prophet) not to fall behind others in reaping benefits in the upcoming electoral jamboree.
Blasphemies and the conditioned reactions are now a part of our calendar. In 1988, an Indian Liberalist: Salman Rushdie living in England wrote a fiction entitled: “Satanic Verses”. This was supposed to be a surrealistic albeit derogatory caricature of Prophet Mohammad PBUH. His previous novel “Midnight’s Children” had received some acclaim by the critics. Satanic Verses would have gone unnoticed by more than 99% of the populace and even by those who were well into elite English literature except that the following thing had happened: He sent a copy of the book to Syed Shahabuddin, a member of parliament in India for review. Shahabuddin found it offensive to Muslims and got Rajiv Gandhi, the Indian Prime Minister to ban the book in India. News travelled late to Pakistan and when they did people demonstrated and Benazir Bhutto’s police opened fire on them. The international media carried the news. Imam Khomeini saw that on TV. and inquired about it. When given the details, he extemporaneously issued the fatwa of Rushdie’s execution. Overnight, Rushdie became a world figure and his book a cause célèbre. Needless to say that Khomeini’s fatwa eventually brought Rushdie wealth and knighthood. It also unmasked Tony Blair and Queen Elizabeth II and exposed their inherent prejudice and bigotry.
Authors and publishers of books have to spend enormous amounts of money on their publicity. Most of the books turn out to be commercial disasters unless they are written by celebrities such as Clintons and Obamas or they have sensational and scandalous contents --- who buys Shakespeare and Milton these days? However, books which may arouse protest by groups of people create their own free publicity and are wildly successful. Muslims are a group of people which never fails to oblige
Let me now take you back to a period in pre-partition India. In the 1920s diverse political and religious movements were emerging, both among the Hindu majority and the Muslim minority. India is often presented to be a bastion of religious tolerance. This is true in so far as each group is on its own side of the impregnable cultural divide. Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs and Christians still live mostly in separate neighbourhoods, interacting only out of necessity in work and market places. They are in the main ignorant about each other’s religions and beliefs. For instance, when the Azaan goes up from the ubiquitous Masjid minarets, Allahu Akbar is understood by many Hindus to be a reference to the Sixteenth century Mughal emperor Jalaluddin Akbar. The Muslim mind, on the other hand, is baffled by the multifaceted presentation and symbols of the Hindu religion. Regardless of this general lack of ethos, the religious sensibilities of each other do not escape notice by the miscreants and religious bigots and are often exploited to satisfy their hatred.
Instances of Muslim reaction to insults and incitements abound but some are worth mentioning. Arya Samaj, a reformist movement of Hindus was seeking to convert back Muslims, who the Samaj said were previously Hindus. This, they called it a process of Shuddhi, meaning purification. One of their most prominent leaders was Swami Shaddhanand. On December 23, 1926 a Muslim: Abdul Rasheed shot him to death and was hailed by the Muslim community as a martyr, after he was tried and executed.
A Hindu by the name Rajpal wrote a book: “Rangeela Rasool” meaning playboy prophet. An ashiqe rasool named Ilm-u-Din coolly stabbed him to death after asking his name and ascertaining his identity. The date was April 6, 1929.
Another Hindu writer Nathuram Sharma had written an inflammatory pamphlet on the “History of Islam” and was convicted by a British/Indian court of propagating “Hate Speech”, under the Indian Penal Code. While he was waiting for his appeals hearing, he was stabbed to death by Abdul Qayyum in the courtroom in front of the judge and the lawyers.
Jaswant Singh, from whose book “Jinnah” the above three incidents are extracted, states with ample justification that whereas the Hindu communalists were organized in highly disciplined Sanghatans (movements) and Samaj (societies), Muslims had no such finesse. Their protests were disorganized, emotional, reactionary and haphazard (I am paraphrasing here). This summation still holds good for the global Muslim community today.
The Muslim rage that we see today on the streets is the bursting of the dam that is inevitably destructive. The energy stored in the cumulative anger could be of enormous benefit if harnessed and controlled. For this to happen we need better planning, better leaders and better organizations than we have today.
It is hard for non-Muslims to understand the love and the kind of reverence that Muslims have for their prophet. They are prepared to die for him without a second thought. This phenomenon is unique and unparalleled in the religious cultures of the world. However, a few among our enemies have found out this soft spot and are constantly at work to hit at it to draw out the ever so predictable response. They know that each such response causes a self-inflected wound, debilitating us and rejuvenating them. I am not saying that we should let the attacks on Islam pass without any action on our part but the action should be targeted and assigned to institutions dedicated to the task. For example, what happens if somebody denies the Holocaust? Does Brooklyn go on a rampage, burning shops and tearing down the nearby Chase-Manhattan (Jewish) bank? No! The Jewish institutions go to work and using all the weapons in their arsenal, bring misery on the Holocaust denier, while maintaining normality in the community and preventing distraction from vitally important functions.
In these days of internet, Google and the Youtube, every imbecile guy can become an author or a moviemaker. There is no censure and the public has no protection against incitement. This is the era not of Salman Rushdie, Van Gogh, Ayan Hirsi Ali and Tasnima Nasreen but the likes of Sam Bacille and Terry Jones. The Muslim sensitivities are subject to violation every minute of the day, especially when the enemy has found out what upsets us most so that he can always keep us agitated and away from any kind of normalcy. We are asking the governments, which are secretly rejoicing at our misery to censure such efforts, which is a waste of time.
So, what shall we do? For starters, we can do everything possible to deny these guys publicity. Bring in laws in the Muslim countries to restrict the media from printing and broadcasting news about anti-Islam inflammatory material. Develop software to block or make viruliferous any such uploads. Educating the public is a lengthy process, especially when we have miseducators but we can lean upon the imams and “the scholars” to forego their vituperation in favour of other topics. To prevent the politicians, from exploiting such events for electoral gains is another matter. Until such time as the electorate deals them a fatal blow, we have to pray and hope for deliverance.