By Kamran Shafi
September 27, 2012
When Youm-e-Ishq-e-Rasool was first announced for last Friday and some friends, particularly my editor, asked on Twitter if it was a good idea, I thought it was. For the reason that the holiday would keep many people at home and away from the streets for fear of the violence that could very well erupt after the sure-to-be-given fiery sermons in the mosques.
My reasoning was that those of a violent deportment or of a religious bent of mind would be prevented from leaving their homes by their mothers and sisters, wives and fathers for the reason that they would get into trouble on what would surely be a volatile day.
In addition, the holiday would keep cars and buses and taxis and other vehicular traffic off the roads: more targets to burn and destroy given the mood of our mobs that we know so well, especially in matters spiritual. In the event, I am conflicted because of the near-unanimous feeling that the act of giving a day off was actually responsible for the mayhem that we saw: by, as everyone and Charlie’s aunt is saying, giving it an official stamp of approval.
But let’s look at this another way: whilst it is the easiest thing in the world to shovel all of the blame on to the holiday announced by the federal government, we must remember that the prime minister — whether you consider the man a puppet; even a stooge — said loudly and often during his speech to commemorate the day that the protest must be peaceful to impress upon the world that Pakistani Muslims were not mindless, angry robots, but a people with warm hearts and no rancour for anyone. And that they were merely protesting the hurt they felt.
Whilst it is the easiest thing in the world to shovel all of the blame onto the federal and provincial governments for the mayhem and the looting, has anyone stopped to ask if the imams whose sermons the faithful had heard just before launching themselves on to the streets of their own country to hurt and loot their own people, had counselled restraint? I fear not, for knowing our Maulvi Hazraat rather well, I can bet their sermons were loaded with incendiary language meant to enrage people.
Let me here and now state for the record that as far as I am concerned, whenever blasphemous cartoons or films or writings are published I ignore them completely as the work of demented minds who would deliberately denigrate someone else’s faith. In fact, when the play ‘Corpus Christi’ depicting Jesus Christ and his disciples as homosexuals was staged in New York, I, a Muslim, was upset. Not that I am a homophobe, but only because it upset some believing Christians.
A whole lot of them were very angry and upset too: some going to court to have the play banned, only to have their pleas turned down in very short order, in the name of freedom of expression, which too grated on my good sense of respect for all religions that I was taught as a very young boy growing up in my grandmother’s loving home.
But the point is that not one car was torched in New York, or in London, or in Rome; not one shop looted; not one bank or ATM vandalised. No one even threw a rock at anyone. Going back to what happened in Pakistan, did any of the leaders of the processions say to the participants to remain calm and orderly, if for nothing else, then for the sake of our Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) himself, who was a large-hearted and big man; who, when one day the woman who threw garbage on him as he passed her house did not appear on her balcony, stopped and asked if she was well. Did even one of Their Holinesses give this message to their flock?
I fear not. And what was the result? Pakistan once more showed its increasingly ugly and contorted face to the rest of the world. By actions such as the shameless burning of a church in Mardan, a church belonging to people who, too, believe in the God we believe in, our Christian brothers and sisters, who, too, were protesting the blasphemous film. Not only that, the frenzied mob even looted Christian homes near the church. Whilst incredibly disgraceful these acts were, there were others that should put us to deep, deep shame.
An article in this newspaper spoke of a horrific experience of a first-time pregnant young lady and her terrified husband on their way to her regular check-up with her gynaecologist because she also has a blood pressure problem. A mob of about a hundred hooligans began to hit their car with fists and sticks as they were crossing the Murree Road, Rawalpindi. Was this the way to protest an act of blasphemy: by endangering the lives of a mother and unborn child? Is this our respect for women? Bloody beasts!
How heart-rending it was to see people breaking little single-shutter shops in Peshawar, surely belonging to very small, poor shopkeepers, and looting them. How distressing it was to see an old and emaciated-looking police sub-inspector shot in the side of his chest in Karachi. Bloody beasts! But as every dark cloud has a silver lining, how very heartening it was to see his comrades bravely rushing to his aid whilst firing back at their attackers. I hope they will duly be awarded for their courage and sense of duty.
I have to end by reminding my readers that most of the hooligans and thugs despoiling our streets that day were not out for any altruistic, high reason if you went by the images that were being beamed on to our TV screens: they were out to have a little fun; loot a little; set fire to other people’s property; generally have a shindig.
Give up jihad gentlemen; otherwise, you will sink this blessed country. Give up jihad immediately if not sooner lest it sweeps you and your fancy DHAs too, with it.
Kamran Shafi is a columnist, a former major of the Pakistan Army and served as press secretary to Benazir Bhutto