Skip to main content

VIEW: Dissonance of Muslims

First Published in Daily Times / 22 Sep 2012

By Afrah Jamal

Nothing works. Major cities have been sealed and an angry mob rules the streets. Scenes from Pakistan on September 21, 2012 have a distinctly dystopian flavour. TV cameras cut to newsrooms happily discussing the need for peaceful protests as sweet sounding hymns play in the background and then cut back to the mob going berserk.

Someone picked the wrong soundtrack for the occasion.

Pakistan, badly battered by terrorism and in an economic bind, doubled as a set for some war zone on the eve of the ‘Love Your Prophet Day’. The sight of rampaging protestors including representatives from banned outfits closing on Islamabad’s Red Zone on Thursday evening was surreal. The army was summoned to safeguard the diplomatic enclave. The military was placed on high alert. And as the nation braced for yet another day of officially sanctioned protests, the mobile networks were shut down. No one really knows why.

A BBC anchor watching the scene compared the present mayhem to past protests that he thought had been peaceful. Pakistan’s initial reaction to provocative material posted on the Internet, capable of sending the rest of the Middle East into paroxysms, did seem tame in contrast. Some wondered if the low-key response was because the nation’s attention had wavered because of a devastating industrial fire in Karachi. Come weekend, that oversight had been corrected. Armed with the standard issue brand of outrage found in abundance in this restive part of the world, crazy-eyed protestors fashioned a violent response to the anti-film narrative, mob-style. The commercial hub of Pakistan was partially paralysed.

A religious scholar was seen downplaying the violence, citing the still standing structure of the US Embassy as proof. The reaction at the state level has been decidedly odd. They threaten to revoke Google Inc. employees’ visas, declare ‘Love Thy Prophet Day’, which really means another day of protest after a week of protest, and confer a seal of approval on marching protestors. And they ban 'YouTube, ensuring that 180 million Pakistanis who had no intention of seeing the wicked film would not be able to see the wicked film or anything else for that matter. Clicking on the link will redirect users to Google.

Afghanistan reportedly had gone a step further and blocked access to the host website ‘indefinitely’, along with Google, Gmail, and Blogger. YouTube refuses to take it down. But it has revoked access in Indonesia and India and removed the trailer from circulation in Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Libya. Scenes of arson and vandalism witnessed on the days leading up to the 'Love Thy Prophet Day' confirm that keeping the content off the air means little to the raging billions.

Since September 11, 2012, a female suicide bomber has targeted foreigners in Afghanistan. The US ambassador to Libya is dead. Scores have been injured in violent demonstrations across the Middle East and life in parts of Pakistan has come to a standstill. Because of all this, Bacile/Nakoula’s (or as some media folk like to say Mr. Malaoon) skewed vision has gone viral. We have done funny things in the name of God. Cadbury, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Flickr — all have been targeted at one time or the other. One source says the government is already eyeing software capable of blocking up to 50 million websites.

The sight of politicians harping on ‘a greater conspiracy’ followed by a never-ending parade of mullahs spewing poetry while urging calm and at the same time condoning the protests sent mixed signals. After the first two days of non-stop violent protests, a freshly repentant charlatan was observed waving a battered old Jewish conspiracy theory. The filmmaker’s Egyptian Coptic connection does not impress him. The cast’s outrage at being duped by the said Coptic does not interest him. What does interest him is the film’s release on the Jewish New Year; he should have thanked the Egyptian media for his thoughtful selection of the dates since the trailer has been on the Internet since July 1, 2012. The delightful monologue went unchallenged. More simpletons arrived.

One mullah happily objected to those pictures on facebook (it’s YouTube, but never mind). Another shrieked against those awful images on facebook (once again, YouTube). Another one, instead of responding to the questions, started congratulating the anchor on his good fortune that his parents named him ‘Muhammad’. Yet another naively suggests that the mob should be allowed to go up to the consulate and register their protest. After Libya, there is no chance of that happening.

This mob was out for revenge, not justice. The US has sunk $ 70,000 to distance itself from the film by running adverts. The US Embassy is constantly broadcasting pacifying messages on twitter. Pakistanis used the remains of the Internet to urge calm, but the protestors were not online. The same message broadcast via local mosques might have been more effective.

A local channel appeared awed by the “zabardast” (splendid) protest before reporting that they burned down a cinema in Quetta. The next day media personnel came in the line of fire; three cinemas and a police checkpoint in Peshawar were torched; the Chamber of Commerce was next and a plaza was attacked. Hours later, three more cinemas*, a couple of banks and popular eateries were reportedly set ablaze in Karachi. A disappointed anchorwoman asked where religious/political rallies were after witnessing anarchy all morning. On air, raging protestors were simply described as people ‘recording’ their “ehtejaj” (protest) in cities and alleyways instead of being condemned.

Now the French are braced for a backlash after a French magazine decided to publish derogatory images of the Prophet (PBUH). The BBC called the anti-establishment magazine that skewers politicians, the Catholic Church and the Pope on a regular basis, “crude, cruel, and intentionally provocative”. Their latest attack was apparently prompted by the frenzied reaction of the Muslim world. Danes will get it. A murder plot against the man behind the cartoon controversy prompted the paper to rerun the offensive images. In 2008, a text message regarding inflammatory material triggered a boycott of all things Danish and some not so Danish. Pakistanis are convinced that the Danish boycott somehow crippled the Danish economy. A scan of the Internet shows poorly worded appeals to re-apply those boycott tactics to anything sporting a ‘Made in America’ label. Karachi has already suffered an estimated Rs 12.5 billion loss of revenue and ‘production losses in main industrial areas’*. Roads have been painted over with flags of offending nations so that protestors can walk/drive/cycle all over them. Shockwaves from 17-minute clips, 12 sketches, or 14-minute trailers have the power to drive Pakistan to the edge.

"They keep tearing us down, we will keep cleaning up and rebuilding... they may have the power to knock us down, we will always have the choice to get back up again... Choose the right side, the side that builds, not the one that only knows how to destroy - Salma J."

The End

*Update: The number of cinemas torched in Karachi has hit 5. Nishat, Capri, Prince, Bambino, Gulistan. Here is a Beautiful Ode to the past by Talat Aslam

A Church in Mardan was set ablaze the same day. Property ransacked & some poor Christians were attacked. They are reportedly in critical condition.

Overheard on Twitter: 'Economic damage from yesterday's FREAKSHOW is estimated between PKR 76 bn to 100 bn.'

Shops in Sheraton Hotel & 3 KFC's (Karachi) also came under fire.

Last Night a Project Clean up for Peace was launched on Facebook where citizens have a chance to do their bit in cleaning up the city.


Images Courtesy of: http://www.colourbox.com/preview/1995536-121335-abstract-3d-illustration-of-red-heart-breaking-wall-strong-love-concept.jpg

http://www.techpavan.com/wp-content/uploads/site-blocked.gif

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", …