By Faiza Mirza
After marking “Yaum-i-Ishq-i-Rasool” by killing more than a dozen people, as expected, Pakistanis have officially celebrated the day with complete zeal and fervor. Much has been said and written about the day, however, how many people who participated in the violent attacks actually introspected their mistakes cannot be ascertained. Regardless of the situation, it can be concluded that one of Pakistan’s federal ministers, Ghulam Ahmed Bilour, responsible for looking after the much dilapidated railway ministry, paid no heed to the condemnable acts and neither did he denounce the violence — a fact that became evident when he announced the bounty of $ 100,000 for anyone who would venture out and kill the man behind “innocence of Muslims”. Mr Bilour went one step forward and also invited militants from various banned outfits such as al Qaeda and Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan to form an allegiance and hunt down the most talked about blasphemer in the Muslim world these days.
Despite the Awami National Party and the Prime Minister himself disowning his notorious announcement, Mr Bilour did not waive from his stance nor apologise for raking unnecessary speculation throughout the globe. In fact, he substantiated his demanour by proclaiming that “this remains the only way to deter people from insulting Islam.” His noble deed did not go unnoticed, and was much appreciated by the militants he sought help from who reciprocated his sentiments by granting him amnesty and removing his name from their hit list.
Mr Minister gathered quite a fan following as he invited bounty hunters. Another businessman, seconded his stance and quadrupled the head money by offering $ 400,000 to anyone who undertakes the task of murdering the culprit.
Considering the bold claim and amount declared by Mr Minister, I do so wonder if the attractive sum will be paid to daring assassins from his own pocket or the Pakistani taxpayers’? If indeed he plans to use his personal funds, shouldn’t he instead donate the excess he owns to increase the efficiency of the railway ministry? Or else feed countless hungry and homeless people in Pakistan instead of making such profane announcements?
Nobody can presume what exactly prompted Bilour’s response, however, in the wake of “Innocence if Muslims” or the anti-Islam movie debacle, another influential leader from Iran who is also a representative of the Iranian supreme leader — after analysing the series of unrelated event — deduced that the movie could have been avoided if Salman Rushdie had been assassinated for writing the “evil book”, hence upping the bounty on him to about $ 3.3million.
At first, it was the evil west which was blamed for all that went wrong in the Muslim world. Then entered the foreign intelligence agencies sponsored and trained by our old foes — the great US and Israel. And now the saviours of the Muslim world have introduced another variable into the all too complicated equation. So from now onwards, the onus of every unfortunate event that supposedly harms the Muslim empire will lie on the shoulders of Uncle Sam, Israel and Salman Rushdie. Ironic as it may sound, most Muslims really do blame at least two of the variables mentioned above for the catastrophes affecting Muslim countries.
By rationally analysing the situation, it can be fairly concluded that influential leaders, all across the globe, have taken undue advantage of the fact that they could easily reach out to the masses and contaminate their thought-process. One of many such leaders is Lord Nazir Ahmed of Britain’s Labour Party. Lord Ahmed, in retaliation to the bounty set by the US on Hafiz Saeed, undertook similar measures and announced a head money of £ 10 million for assassinating President Barrack Obama and his predecessor George W Bush. Although Lord Ahmed denied the allegations, he was suspended from the party for making this announcement and became a cause of political, as well as social upheaval.
Over the years the trend of putting a price tag on blasphemers, who have displeased a certain faction of the society, has become a norm in Muslim countries and which, unfortunately, has also gained acceptability in the society. I remember when Asia Bibi was accused of blasphemy in 2010, an imam of a mosque located in Peshawar urged the Taliban to murder her in cold blood and offered them Rs 500,000. To top this off, one of the most read Urdu newspapers in Pakistan ran an editorial hailing the bounty and warning people who might offend the “custodians of Islam” by following Salman Taseer and demanding for changes in the controversial blasphemy law.
It is most unfortunate that the so-called educated majority of the Muslim world is utterly incapable of grasping the situation. What these people fail to realise is that they play with naïve minds and instigate violence by enticing people to take the law in their hands. Whether we talk about the ministers, religious clerics, the lord or the newspaper in question, each individual and organisation in its own capacity possessed the power to heavily influence the masses. And each one instead aimed for the contrary and fed the target audience with more hatred.
The question is that what sort of civilization have we become or in fact, are we even worth being called a civilization? Is this how progressive societies operate? And most importantly by building allegiances with different militant organisations, what sort of a message are we conveying to people across the world? How can we expect our youth to think humanely when all we have done is to corrupt their minds by filling them with false notions of honour?
It is difficult to assess the exact reaction of the targeted audience triggered by any such messages but I am pretty sure it must have been enough to motivate a chunk of Muslim people to attempt murder; but isn’t killing an exact contradiction of what our religion stands for? Instead of instigating violence, the rulers should not intervene in the judicial process otherwise we are bound to stay entrapped in this vicious circle of brutality.
Faiza Mirza is a Reporter at Dawn.com