Skip to main content

VIEW: GOING DUTCH (2008)

Published in THE POST May 18, 2008

What does Cadbury have to do with 12 sketches and a 17 minute film? Nothing, really. Cadbury is neither Dutch nor Danish. But by now most Pakistanis - if not all - have probably received a text message stating otherwise. And thus begins a boycott campaign of all things Dutch or Danish. The self righteous lot, in their overzealousness, would acquiesce willingly. Yet, few who have received an email or sms that proclaimed the success of this boycott and lobbied for its continuity - or witnessed the demonstrations meant to convey outrage against both Denmark and the Netherlands for their alleged laxity in safeguarding certain religions’ sanctity - will stop to reflect on the virtues of pushing a hostile policy intended to coerce but neglecting to convince. Fewer still will bother to dig deeper and corroborate details of such episodes.

The cartoon controversy returned in 2008 – helped on by the aptly titled film ‘Fitna’- similarly denounced for its unflattering portrayal of Islam. The din of condemnation that followed drowned out a little known fact - that the immoral dispensation of personalized death squads for real and/or perceived insults provoked a re-run of the cartoon episode.

According to Al-Jazeera, Danish newspapers reprinted 12 images found distressing by Muslims in 2005 - as a mark of protest after uncovering an alleged murder plot against the cartoonist. “Regardless of whether Jyllands-Posten at the time used freedom of speech unwisely and with damaging consequences, the paper deserves unconditional solidarity when it is threatened with terror" claimed an editorial in Politiken and newspapers that refused to run these images 2 years ago, showed no qualms about doing so now. And just as the West made the resultant violence its cover story - so too has the East chosen to harp on the purely incendiary nature of the dispute.

The fact that Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende renounced the anti-Islam film at the Hague conference, stating that “it serves no purpose other than to offend”, rejected its interpretation of something that “equates Islam with violence” and the condemnation by Netherlands' Central Jewish Board who viewed it as "counterproductive" and "generalizing" has been conveniently left out whenever this topic is broached.

But if the cartoonist and filmmaker wittingly offended the Muslim faith, revered icons of Christianity have also been provocatively depicted. ‘An important piece of contemporary culture’ is how BBC perceived the contents of, ‘Jerry Springer- An Opera’, rightly seen by Prayer group ‘Christian Voice’ as a clear example of blasphemy. The producers came under fire for airing the highly sacrilegious show –that would be legal fire by the way and the Christian group lost the case. Recently, Col. Gaddafi - the Libyan leader- ruffled many feathers by questioning the authenticity of the Bible while addressing a Good Friday gathering in Uganda. No Christian group has put a price on his head yet.

Although EU refuses to develop any new laws against blasphemy, a recent resolution passed by the Pakistani Senate expects UN to step in and “take all necessary legal, political and administrative steps” to protect the sanctity of all religions. No doubt, a re-examination of the highly cherished ideals that govern free speech has become necessary, but repressing subversive tendencies harboured under the pretext of religious duty and let loose under the banner of Islam is a prerequisite. While 1 billion faithful may concede that their grievance is legitimate, radical verdicts are anything but. Some may even wonder why well known militant groups have a hard time making it on the mullahs top 20 hit list which obscure cartoonists from Denmark, obscure writers from U.K, and equally obscure filmmakers from Netherlands occupy so effortlessly. One can ask how such coercive tactics are any different from the ones adopted by terrorists. Soon Senator Dr. Babar Awan’s pro-Islamic film will join documentaries by two Iranian film makers, in an attempt to salvage the image tarnished as much by the deeds of those victimized as by architects of this scandal.

When Gandhi urged Indians to boycott all British goods, courts, institutions, elections, believing that the sheer scale of this movement would force the British to grant India self rule, M.A Jinnah observed that “… the weapon will not destroy the British empire… it is neither logical nor is it politically sound or wise, nor practically capable of being put in execution.” Replace Danish with British and the logic of his argument still hold true.

Public interest may wane in this boycott that has left many retailers in the Middle East with excess stock and consumers with no clear picture of its true impact. When that happens, the wrath would probably then be channelled at images of US Marines in an Iraqi mosque and the assignment of former U.S. Commander Guantanamo Bay - Jay Hood as the new US defence representative in Pakistan. Even before the General’s arrival, sms’s attributing every deplorable act in the infamous prison solely to him had been circulated; the visit of West Point Cadets who were on a hearts and mind mission in the Islamic Centre of Jersey City, and attended prayer services, was quickly buried by emails with graphic depiction of transgressions in war torn Iraq. Bridging the divide between East and West is hard enough without self-serving interests laying mines along the way.

Images Courtesy of: http://www.about-australia-shop.com/images/static-cadbury002.jpg

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

BOOK REVIEW: How It Happened

Published in Daily Times / Sat 9 Feb 2013

Reviewed by: Afrah Jamal
Author: Shazaf Fatima Haider

Thanks to Liberty Books for the (temp) review copy

Gwendolen: I am engaged to Mr. Worthing, mamma.

Lady Bracknell: Pardon me, you are not engaged to anyone. When you do become engaged to someone, I, or your father, should his health permit him, will inform you of the fact. An engagement should come on a young girl as a surprise, pleasant or unpleasant, as the case may be. It is hardly a matter that she could be allowed to arrange for herself . . .”
-
The Importance of being Earnest (Oscar Wilde)


Characters chasing ‘happily ever after’s’ are often pulled aside by enterprising elders who try to flag all but the most traditional road to the altar. A fiendishly funny narrative pounces on the retreating figure of Cupid and explores his cultural relevance in the sport they call match-making.

The saga of the Bandian clan comes with a perpetually scandalized, formidable old lady fiercely protective…

Analysis: Survival in the Age of Information Warfare

Published in Global Village Space / Nov 2017?

Pakistani troops recently rescued a US - Canadian family that had been captured in Afghanistan in 2012 and held hostage for 5 years. International media headlines however were not all laudatory; they editorialized, and dabbled in innuendos undermining a successful mission and the men who risked their lives to bring the captives home. This is not the first time the West glossed over an ally’s achievements. And it will not be the last, since negative spin is invaluable for propping up pre-prepared narratives, advancing agendas; shaping perceptions, reinforcing stereotypes, driving ratings and controlling the message.

Because dictatorships do not have monopoly over information warfare – everyone has a dog in the race and the fake news juggernaut appears unstoppable in the age of social media and instant messaging. And while traditional methods remain relevant in the game of deception, the advent of social media has only expanded their reac…

Analysis: Pakistan’s Contributions for the Uplift of Afghan People

Published in Global Village Space / Nov 2017?

Pakistan and Afghanistan have history. And it is not all good. They have a shared border – though its legality has been contested. They also managed to forge a united front against the Soviets and achieved the impossible. It is a rare moment of solidarity and teamwork.

The final round of the Cold War fought in the badlands of Afghanistan altered the timeline since then and as the Afghan state veered off course – the impact was felt on neighboring nations. It led to an influx of Afghan refugees in Pakistan, the emergence of Taliban, the fracturing of the Afghan socio-political structure and opened a breach in the global security.

All this is in the past.

Pakistan and Afghanistan may have been brothers in arms with shared borders and traditions and historical ties, but despite their time spent in the trenches, Pakistan’s economic value as a trade portal for a landlocked region or its place as host to millions of refugees and the biggest s…

BOOK REVIEW: DIARIES OF FIELD MARSHAL MOHAMMAD AYUB KHAN 1966-1972

Reviewed by: Afrah Jamal
PUBLISHED IN THE POST AUG 29, 2007

Books allow people to have their say. Diaries express what they actually meant. Therefore, every prominent personality must stray from the path of political correctness and leave behind a diary. One way to regain an insight into the defining moments of our history post ‘65 War would be through the diaries of Pakistan’s first military ruler and first C-in-C, Field Marshal M. Ayub Khan, who also authored the book, ‘Friends. Not Masters’. The personal lives of public figures are always intriguing; while their contemporaries indict/acquit them on consequences of their actions, diaries give individuals a rare shot at swaying the upcoming generation of juries. Recorded during the uneasy calm before an inevitable storm brewing on the Eastern horizon and Indian front, the entries, spanning 7 years from September 1966 - October 1972, are replete with shrewdness and candor of a narrator who observed the events initially as a key player…

VIEW: WOMEN in the PAF: AN ENSEMBLE CAST

PUBLISHED in HILAL (Pakistan Armed Forces Magazine) Feb 2010

By Afrah Jamal

Progressive - Conservative - Contemporary - Professional; separately these terms could apply to any service; together they were reserved for just one - the PAF.

Pakistan Air Force has kept in touch with its roots through its glorious traditions and kept up with the changing times with innovative thinking. Oftentimes, traditions that made it stand apart have also stood in the way of, well - progress. Consequently, the service nimbly skipped past the one proposed change that was going to have a profound effect on the lives of countless young girls and would forever alter the way society perceived their womenfolk.

Before 1994, Lady Officers were a rare sight in the PAF. So rare in fact, that when male cadets donned wigs to represent the female species in annual variety shows, nobody wondered why. By 2010, women have become an indispensable part of the service. While, PAF was no stranger to a woman in uniform, a f…

Analysis: Afghanistan – An Actual Safe Haven – Part I

Published Global Affairs / Dec 2017?

The longest war is going according to plan; but whose plan exactly?
Not Washington - bogged down in a never-ending nightmare. Or Kabul - besieged and battered, barely holding its head above water. Not Pakistan, a frontline state suffering blowback and living under the weight of America’s expectations - and uncalled for accusations. The dramatic shifts in the geostrategic dynamics are not reflected in Washington’s stance towards Islamabad nor are they inclined towards the multiplayer great game unfolding in the backdrop with Russians, Iranians, Taliban, Indians, Chinese, ISIS and its Coalition forces.

Mission Rebuild Afghanistan

In the backdrop are nations used as pawns to keep Cold War allies or emergent threats in check. On the side are non-state actors wielded as weapons to thwart ambitions and counter bigger threats like ISIS. And at the centre is a strategy that offers a patchwork quilt of something old, something new, something borrowed to s…

BOOK REVIEW: Pakistan: Beyond The ‘Crisis State’ / Author: Maleeha Lodhi

Thanks to Liberty Books for the review copy

Published in Daily Times / Saturday, June 18, 2011

Reviewed by Afrah Jamal

Published under the title: 17 Reasons to Hope

“History will be what we make it. If we go on as we are, history will have its revenge and retribution”— from the movie, ‘Good Night, & Good Luck’

A region known for most “terrorist sightings”, a place feared for harbouring medieval mindsets next to progressive thinkers and a nation shunned for having an affinity for nuclear toys. By turns a cautionary tale, an indispensable ally and an international pariah, Pakistan does not fit into any mould — for long. But its name crops up whenever things go awry.

Pakistan: Beyond the ‘Crisis State’ is a compilation of articles put together by Maleeha Lodhi that countermands the grim prognosis. When Ms Lodhi, who has served as Pakistan’s ambassador to the US and UK, acknowledges that “resilience has been part of Pakistan’s story from its inception, obscured by the single issue lens…