Foreign Policy Blogs

Chasing Pavements

Picture lifted from Express Tribune

Picture lifted from Express Tribune

A week ago, in various necks of the Muslim world, protests broke out to show the disapproval with the video that was made showing Prophet Muhammad as an adulterer, child molester and murderer. I’m sure there was more to the movie, but I, like many others, have not seen it. As much as I have heard about the film annoys me, but that is my opinion, just as what is shown in the film is the opinion of those who made it. But this review of the movie is what has hundreds of thousands up in arms about its content. Content that they have not seen but only heard of as well. Basically, hearsay.

Based on this hearsay, today in Pakistan the government had to announce a national holiday in celebration of “our love for the Prophet.” This declaration came in light of the fact that most political and religious parties had already declared a day of protest. Friday is a holy day for Muslims — where mass congregations gather for the afternoon prayer. Here most clerics get their fifteen minutes of fame. It is these fifteen minutes that reverberated into an entire week of violence and bloodshed across the country. Protesters  wreaked havoc, cellphone coverage was shut down for security reasons and the army kept on high alert for the entire day. Burning tires is apparently for children now. And yes, children were taken to these protests — eight to twelve year-olds, wearing bandannas, screaming, probably haven’t a clue of what was going on. But they were there, and that is what they will remember of their childhood.

They say that the plight of the country, the living conditions, unemployment, energy crisis, inflation and general corruption have all agitated such protests. However, the fact remains that this uncertainty, matched by clerics declaring that the only salvation lies in defending the name of Islam (inadvertently, the name of the Prophet of Islam), has only escalated frustration and misdirected rage towards the only thing you have control over. The only thing one can vent such frustration on, is that which is physically within reach. For the rioters, this turned out to be small corner shops that were broken into and destroyed (after the goods were stolen); the police, who were trying to maintain the peace were brutally beat up; media personnel covering the “protests” were injured. Ambulances, cinemas and fire brigades, were destroyed. Things and places that had nothing to do with the movie which no one has seen, seemed to bear the brunt of all this violence.

News reports vary as to the number of casualties. At least a dozen have died and a couple of hundred have been injured. No matter how ignorant the protesters or how unrelated and unnecessary the deaths, the point remains that these families will never be the same. Such irresponsible hatred, shown in a film is not protected under the Constitution of the United States and does not represent America, just as these violent acts of frustration do not represent Islam.

I do not believe it is up to governments to fix this problem. It is our responsibility, as citizens, to ensure what we say and what we do does not offend others. Karen Armstrong said it best in “Socratic Questions”:

“How do we apply the Golden Rule, which requires us to look into our own hearts, discover what gives us pain, and then refuse, under any circumstance whatsoever to inflict this pain on anybody else… Confucius said: “Use your own feelings as a guide to your treatment of others. What do you feel when you see your own sacred traditions, your heroes, your national symbols, your flags, embassies and their personnel attacked and insulted? … Try to put yourself in the position of the ‘other side’ – as the compassionate ethos demands – and ask yourself ‘How much do I really know about their history of pain, achievement, oppression, disappointment, fear, idealism, and aspiration – all of which, on both sides, have contributed to this violence?”

Lets refuse to let such incidents take place again. Lets refuse to let more people die or suffer because of someone’s insensitive actions. As Jesus said, do to others as you would have them do to you.



Sahar Said

Sahar, who grew up in Lahore, Pakistan, has obtained her Master of Laws degree from The George Washington University Law School, and worked with a non-profit in New York. She currently writes from Germany.

Sahar can be followed on Twitter @sahar_said.

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