Sunday, September 16, 2012

Violence is not the Answer to the Childish Attempt Against the Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)

By Arshi Saleem Hashmi, SAVE’s Chapter Leader in Pakistan

Arshi Saleem Hashmi
The childish attempt by a film maker to humiliate the sanctity of an Abrahamic religion should be condemned. Like many attempts in the past where some people in their own capacity tried to ridicule Islam and particularly the last prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was reflection of their own narrow thinking. This film does not amount to what majority of the people belonging to different faiths in the west think; this particular film is a brain child of an ignorant who tried to capitalize the anti-Muslim feelings.  It is important to understand that just like the obscurantists who do not respect other religions are not the representative of the Muslim all over the world, these people, who have been trying to ridicule the foundation of Muslim faith, are not the representative of the tolerant tradition of the western societies. One of the basic tenets of our religion Islam is to respect all the religions especially Abrahamic religions. It is not widely known in the west that a Muslim is supposed to respect and believe in all the prophets and the books that were sent from the God.  Majority of the Muslim believe in tolerance and understanding. Having said that, any insult to the prophet Muhammad would not be accepted by any Muslim, the extremists might have reacted violently which is wrong, but it did hurt even those who do not considered themselves as strictly practicing Muslims. It is more about faith being targeted then about extremist narrative of present day Islamists. 

Protesters in Tahrir Square carry a poster of Osama Bin Laden, (c) Reuters
In Pakistan, religio-political parties protested against the film, Jamat-e-Islami, Jamaatu Dawa and other groups protested in different cities in Pakistan. The government of Pakistan denounced this and issued a statement against the film. The local provincial assemblies also discussed and issued statements condemning the film. Compared to Libya and other Arab countries, protests here were nonviolent mostly though they did try to reach to US Embassy in Islamabad but due to tight security they were controlled.  The instant reaction in the Arab world was due to the obvious reasons that when it comes to Islamist jihadists, action against them is justified but when attempts to humiliate the most sacred personality of Islam; it is categorized as freedom of expression. 

In Pakistan, the film has generated interesting debates and TV channels are showing many programs where the discourse is whether the hate speech in Muslim countries target or ridicule the sacred personalities of other faiths or they focus more on the policies and politics of the western countries who happened to be belonging to Christian faith.  So the dichotomy here is Muslim antagonism is due to the policies of the West particularly the US while the views that have expressed in film is focused on the most sacred Personality in Islam. A positive sign in Pakistan mainstream media is to initiate debate on this issue and majority of the people though emotionally hurt, are listening to these discussions. Any violent expression would still be a minority act just like the making of the film is a minority expression in the US.  The gist of the debate is that western freedom of expression is not universal and should not be considered as a universal definition. The point is also being raised that despite all the hate speech and violent expressions against western policies, no attempts has ever been done to make a film on ridiculing Jesus Christ (PBUH) or Moses (PBUH, the West should also consider the way freedom of expression is defined in Muslim traditions.

Majority of Pakistanis believe in respect for all the Prophets in Abrahamic religions and they do not support violence but just like anti-Islam  minority views in the US and the West, minority views in the Muslim world will continue to react violently as they would interpret it as an attempt approved by the US in order to provoke extremism. The life of our holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is the great example where in his lifetime he ignored harshest critics who tried to humiliate him, ridiculed his message and tried to hurt him physically. We should learn from our beloved prophet, we can raise voice against this act, we can protest with the US officially. Violence is not what Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) taught us. 

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