By Hina Hafeezullah Ishaq
Friday, September 28, 2012
Surely, is burning down a church with effigies of Hazrat Isa (Jesus Christ) and Hazrat Maryam not a horrendous form of blasphemy?
Congratulations to all my fellow Pakistanis who profess a higher level of ‘Imaan’ (faith) and ‘jazba’ (motivation) than the ordinary Muslim and were brave enough to display it on our streets by plundering, loot, arson and violence. Was it propaganda, or did they forget their Zohar, Asr, maghrib prayers? Such exemplary display of ‘Ishq-e-Rasul’, which even made the Azaan fade into oblivion, all in the name of Allah and Rasul (PBUH)!
‘Rasul Allah’ (Prophet Mohammed, PBUH) is the last of Allah’s messengers in a long line of about 124,000, one of the 25 mentioned by name in the Holy Quran. We as Muslims have the Tawheed or Oneness of Allah as our first pillar of faith, along with the acknowledgement of Hazrat Mohammed (PUBH) as His messenger, the Kalima of purity Tayyab: “(There is) none worthy of worship except Allah. Mohammad is the Messenger of Allah.” No Muslim can deny this and the mention of Hazrat Mohammed (PBUH) in the same sentence as we submit to Allah reflects the exalted status he holds as an integral part of our faith.
As Muslims took to the streets across the world, the Pakistani government was pressurised into announcing a public holiday for the nation to celebrate their love, nay, ‘Ishq’ for Rasul Allah (PBUH). And boy! Did we do justice to that Ishq! Our Rasul (PBUH) was a man of piety, humility; he was known as ‘Sadiq’ and ‘Ameen’; he washed and patched his own clothes, did his own chores; never had a full belly and when he passed away he left behind meagre belongings. Hazrat Mohammed (PBUH) was the bearer of a message from Allah, which obligated all Muslims to have faith in the previous prophets and holy books, our declaration of faith: “I believe in Allah, His Angels, His (revealed) Books, His Prophets, the Day of Judgment and (I believe that) good or bad destiny is from Allah and (I believe that) there will be resurrection after death.” So, how is it that we managed to torch a church, a place of worship for Allah and his Messenger, Jesus Christ? “Say: We believe in Allah, and in what has been revealed to us and what was revealed to Abraham, Ismail, Isaac, Jacob, and the Tribes, and in (the Books) given to Moses, Jesus, and the Prophets, from their Lord; We make no distinction between one and another among them, and to Allah do we bow our will (in Islam)” (Surah Al-Imran, Ayat 84). Equal respect of all the prophets of Allah, with ‘no distinction’, is mandatory and obligatory on all Muslims, being a pivotal and inseparable part of the tenets of Islam, so how come, 22 years later, we have still failed to implement the suggestion of the Federal Shariat Court to make the blasphemy law extend to all prophets and religions? Surely, is burning down a church with effigies of Hazrat Essa (Jesus Christ) and Hazrat Maryam not a horrendous form of blasphemy? Muslims are consumed with intense rage, and rightly so by a sleazy and offensive depiction of Hazrat Mohammed (PBUH) in a stupid piece made by some thugs, yet those very Muslims have no qualms about burning down Allah’s place of worship themselves? Why this distinction? Where are the protests now? How can we burn a church? We expect people who are not citizens of our country, nor subject to our laws, neither they share our religion or faith, to respect our sensibilities and follow our rules and principles, yet we demonstrate ourselves to be above and beyond everything. Maybe, ‘time-out’ for a little introspection here?
There is news that the governments — federal and provincial — are registering cases against persons responsible for the carnage on our streets. They plan to use the visual footage available to identify and arrest the offenders. Last year, London went ballistic over the killing of Mark Duggan, with riots erupting and spreading across England. What started as a protest metamorphosed into arson and indiscriminate looting and plunder, costing around 300 million pounds sterling in damage to the taxpayer. Offenders were brought to book as Prime Minister Cameron announced there was absolutely no room for complacency; the courts worked throughout the nights and harsher sentences were handed out. It was reported that 75 percent of the rioters had a previous criminal record. Now, over a year later, it is reported that half of those incarcerated are free, while thousands managed to evade justice. Official figures show that nearly half of those held last year have been re-arrested for fresh offences, including rape, threats to kill and robbery, committed in the past year. Let us wait and see what happens in Pakistan.
What we saw in Pakistan last week was hardly unprecedented. Yes the Pakistani people are, undoubtedly, also capable of peaceful protests but when emotions run high, when volatile speeches are made and people in peaceful assemblies incited to violence, when no one takes responsibility for controlling their charges and when opportunists and career criminals and vandals infiltrate the ordinary law-abiding citizens, things happen: bad things. Our Prophet (PBUH) never preached ravaging public or private property or plundering or stealing or robbing or setting fire or ever condoned any such act. While watching a talk show, I heard a Maulana, allegedly of the ‘Diesel fame’, reply to an anchor’s question as to his whereabouts during the protests as he had allegedly prompted people to participate yet failed to lead, with, “Leave this issue” (iss baat ko chor dein). But why? Why should not we know why protestors were left unmanaged until they turned into a violent mob? Why should not all the ‘leaders’ be held accountable?
And as if his part in the sad and drawn-out demise of our railway system, entitling it to euthanasia, was not enough, our federal minister for railways has generously announced a $ 100,000 ‘Bilour Bounty’ for the jerk who made the offensive film. Pardon me for asking, but is the law only for the common man? Has inciting people and asking the Taliban and al Qaeda to kill the blasted filmmaker not violated any provision of the constitution and the law in our country? Is this man worthy of representing a nation? Is it possible that the terrorist attacks in the province and the country have the acquiescence if not outright patronage of such people who might be sympathetic to their cause?
In professing our ishq for our Prophet (PBUH), we have to develop tolerance and mutual respect towards others, promote inter-faith harmony and peace. Most of the rioters in Pakistan had not even seen the film they were protesting against, which we understand to be obscene, filthy and disgusting to the core. In resorting to violence, we furthered the cause of the maker and not of our religion. There are laws in place in the US and the west for protection of religious practices and sentiments but sadly, are not applied fairly, like in Pakistan; unbridled power of speech and expression is unheard of in most countries, including our own, with laws protecting the rights of others. The Secretary General of the UN condemned the blasphemous film as have leaders of other nations; the riots have left 20 dead, hundreds injured and billions of rupees lost in damage to the infrastructure.
But among the criminals and thugs who plundered and looted, set fire and used weapons is the average Pakistani who condemns what happened, is tolerant and not incited to violence, who denounces the film and the cartoons, but peacefully, who hears the Azaan not only through the loudspeakers but from within his heart: epitome of Ishq-e-Rasul.
Hina Hafeezullah Ishaq is an advocate of the High Court