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: 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…

BOOK REVIEW: Thinner Than Skin

Published inDaily Times (Pakistan) / 23 Feb 2013
Author: Uzma Aslam Khan
Reviewed by: Afrah Jamal



Uzma Aslam Khan is the author of critically acclaimed, award winning books like Trespassing and Geometry of God. Her new novel, 'Thinner than Skin' goes off the beaten track for inspiration. A realm built upon incomprehensible layers of intrigue, violence, fairytales and legends provides the stage. People foraging for a lifeline become the props. And the inevitable soundtrack of radicalism now coursing through every fibre sets Pakistan’s modern heart to an ancient beat.

It is these paradoxes that bring its US-based protagonist, Nadir, along with a German-Pakistani girl, Farhana, on a trek from northern California to the Kaghan Valley. Wesley — the American in the background — is drawn to the mating glacier ritual, which is an actual thing. And their trusty ally/guide Irfan charts the course to their path of self-discovery past majestic mountains and ice encrusted lakes.

Their quest …

INTERVIEW: What makes a Fighter Ace? (2006)

Written many moons ago when i was an Asst. Ed with Social Pages.

Published in Defence Journal September 2006

Republished in PROBENEWS(2006)


Legend has it that a Sabre took off from Sargodha airfield to intercept Hunters on a fateful September morning & landed back with an Ace.

120 Seconds: Squadron Leader Alam in a Sabre is on Air Combat Patrol accompanied by his wingman. Upon observing IAF Hunters exiting after an unsuccessful air strike over Sargodha, Alam sets off in hot pursuit of the enemy formation. He pursues a fleeing Hunter and eventually shoots it down with a missile shot.


He spots the other members of the Hunter formations flying very low and as he approaches the trailing member he is spotted and the entire formation breaks (violent turn) in the same direction - a fatal error as in less than two minute Alam has taken out four of them, (as confirmed by more than one independent eye witness) 1 bringing his tally for the mission to five…… And an Ace is born - a legendry ins…

BOOK REVIEW: Fatal Faultlines: Pakistan, Islam and the West

Published by Daily Times / 5 May 2012

When characters in a modernised version of Sherlock Holmes make a passing reference to Karachi — they only have Daniel Pearl in mind. When the ISI agents are featured on TV shows — it is because they can stand in for the US’s favourite Cold War foes.

Such imagery goes well with the popular narrative doing the global rounds. A widening gulf between Islam and the West, the oscillating nature of the Pak-US relationship, and the alarming levels of toxicity within, is a source of concern and confusion. Now, it is the subject of a book. At the launch of Fatal Faultlines: Pakistan, Islam and the West, veteran columnist Irfan Husain briefly touched upon these incongruities. In the book, he delves deeper into a cheerless terrain where reason has been cast adrift and paranoia is king.

Fatal Faultlines: Pakistan, Islam and the West meticulously sifts through centuries of suspicion and decades of scorched earth left behind by Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan t…

KARACHI DIARIES: 6th LADIESFUND® Women's Awards 2014

First Published in Economic Affairs (Apr 2014) P-36


They conquered Everest in their spare time & crafted empires; their names were featured in Forbes ‘30 under 30’. Somewhere along the way they had reset the bar. Their contributions had not gone un-noticed.





The people who had made the list included trailblazers, trendsetters, risk-takers & crusaders, seen at the 6th LADIESFUND® Annual Women’s Awards. An event to salute an unlikely band of heroes who left a legacy of courage & compassion also acknowledged exceptional women on the rise.


LADIESFUND® launched by Dawood Global Foundation (2007) & headed by Tara Uzra Dawood, celebrates these achievements by adding powerhouse women and their noble causes to their wall of fame. It also makes its core mission - Educate 1000 Girls, the lynchpin & encourages the entrepreneur within our ranks. The talented Alycia Dias, who performed the anthem & walked away with a musical scholarship, would be joined by other hopefuls, …

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…

BOOK REVIEW: Frontline Pakistan: The Struggle With Militant Islam (2007)

Author: Zahid Hussain

PUBLISHED IN THE POST JUNE 14, 2007

Reviewed by: Afrah Jamal

Frontline Pakistan: the struggle with militant Islam goes for the jugular with an insiders look at a deformed culture borne of a dated ideology, fueled by vested interest and driven by intolerance; and a nation’s complicity.

Not surprisingly, the legitimacy granted jihadists by ISI-CIA ran out soon, as did the sympathy for their jihadist actions formally perceived as heroic. Once used to counter the threat of communism, the rapid shift in their objectives that placed Pakistan’s national interest on a collision course with its security rendered them an anachronism.

This led to a parting of ways with the ISI; consequently, the deadliness of operations and depth of penetration in society seen in the context of 9/11 forever breached the line between liberators and terrorists.

Veteran journalist Zahid Hussain, Pakistani correspondent for the "Times of London", "The Wall Street Journal", …