Sunday, May 23, 2010

VIEW: The protests, the ban and the faithful! -Junaid Zuberi

 We have left no stone unturned to prove that we are indeed a community that 
believes in violence and that does not have an iota of tolerance and forgiveness

The Lahore High Court (LHC) ordered a temporary ban on Facebook and the 
Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) went several steps ahead by first 
announcing complete blockage of the popular networking site for an indefinite 
period followed by a ban on YouTube. 

The nation is swimming in the ocean of ignorance characterised by unchecked 
emotions. In our quest to prove our righteousness and moral superiority, we are 
prepared to go to any length. And we have shown this many times. If a western 
country publishes objectionable material, zealots here burn their own 
buildings, vehicles and property. Perhaps the decision to ban the website 
altogether was taken to pre-empt a replay of these horrific examples from the 
past. The PTA had already blocked the link to the group accused of holding the 
highly objectionable contest on Facebook. But the petitioner lawyers brimming 
with hate in the name of religion were not ready to settle for anything less 
than a complete ban. And while the matter was sub judice, the religio-political 
parties and their militant student wings had started raising their voice and 
instigating fear of violence in case immediate action acceptable to them was 
not taken.

We have become slaves of this wave of intolerance that is increasing by each 
passing day. We are deeply entangled in this web that has overpowered our sense 
of reasoning and rationality. What do we achieve out of these bans and protests 
and whom do we actually serve? Certainly not the perpetrators and the targets 
of our anger and anguish. 

We ascribe our violent reaction and protest to the love of the Holy Prophet 
(PBUH) but do our actions really display love and affection? I assume the 
righteous and the pious who take on streets have all read the various accounts 
of the Prophet's (PBUH) life. The exalted man they claim to love set a very 
different example of dealing with criticism. Reading various accounts of 
Seerat, one comes across incidents where the Prophet (PBUH) was criticised, 
threatened and jeered at. One even finds an incident where a woman would throw 
garbage at him as a mark of extreme hate. However, the reaction of the Prophet 
(PBUH) to such mockery was that of forgiveness. If he wanted to convey that a 
prophet cannot be criticised and questioned, he would have taken the critics 
head on and asked his companions to silence all the opponents. However, he 
wanted to convey to the people that he believes in tolerance and forgiveness 
and his message is the message of love and humanity. If I am wrong, the staunch 
believers and self-proclaimed custodians of faith may correct me please. If 
indeed the example we have is of violence, intolerance, vindictiveness, malice 
and retribution, then I will take back my words.

The Muslim community today has a very negative image the world over. If we do 
not look within and continue to point fingers at others, we would never be able 
to change our image. The world looks at us suspiciously. And we never fail to 
disappoint them. Do we realise how much damage we ourselves are causing to our 
community? We have left no stone unturned to prove that we are indeed a 
community that believes in violence and that does not have an iota of tolerance 
and forgiveness. Our own conduct defies all that we claim.

I am not building an argument to justify anti-Islam acts. I only want the angry 
protestors and critics, many of whom can be found online on various blogs and 
forums, to analyse the reasons behind the West's antipathy towards us with an 
open mind and instead of pushing the gap further, use their energies, talent 
and examples from history to narrow it. We have totally forgotten the message 
of love that many revered Sufis spread on our soil. They were epitomes of love 
who drew people towards our religion while we are epitomes of hate repelling 
people away from our religion.

In the complex and shrinking world that we live in today, ban on means of 
information and technology will neither function nor be appreciated. People 
will always find alternate routes to information. There are millions of 
websites promoting hate and anti-religion material targeting all faiths. 
Likewise, porn and other similar type of undesirable stuff is spread all over 
the cyberspace. Does that mean we ban the internet altogether? What about 
e-mail then? People may start sending undesirable and 'immoral' e-mails, so let 
us ban that also. What if the people switch to cell phones and text messaging? 
Put a ban on that too. Is there an end to it?

If we simply ignore these sites and exercise self-control, we would save 
ourselves from a lot of unnecessary trouble and backlash. The believers who 
take the Prophet's (PBUH) name should go back to take lessons from his life. 
While he was most forgiving, we are most vindictive and bigoted. Our chequered 
history carries many such examples of hate crimes and violence where the 
followers of majority faith have targeted minority faith communities. When the 
zealots killed many Christians and targeted their sacred sites in Gojra last 
year, the western world dominated by the Christian faith did not take to the 
streets demanding a ban on Pakistan, Pakistani products and so on. They 
registered protests with dignity, using the available diplomatic channels. If 
everyone resorts to violence, the world will become an even more stifling place 
to live in. And that would be a much bigger disservice to our children. But is 
anyone listening?

The writer is an active supporter and promoter of arts and culture and 
advocates the rights of women and minorities. He can be reached at

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