Did we fail as a nation last Friday?
Brig (retd) Farooq Hameed Khan


What started off as a perfect ‘Day of Love’ ended up in a shocking ‘Day of mindless destruction. Should the government and country’s political/religious leadership be held responsible for all the mayhem and chaos witnessed last Friday?

Pakistan appeared leaderless and rudderless with mainstream leadership apparently enjoying the national holiday in the safe comforts of their palaces/estates.Had top party leaders led the rallies just as was done by PML-N leadership to control anti-loadshedding protests in Punjab few months ago, Friday’s large scale violence could have been contained to great extent. Only Tehreek Insaf Chief Imran Khan showed courage to address a rally in Islamabad.

Where were those public representatives who entertained viewers with their daily loud shouting bouts on television talk shows? Not one senior PPP/coalition leader was visible anywhere to help maintain sanity. In short, the major cities were left at the mercy of charged rioters and arsonists who burnt and looted banks, cinemas and shops at will.

The government has few questions to answer. If violent demonstrations held a day prior to observing ‘Day of Love for the Prophet (PBUH)’ were any measure of national sentiments and violent trends, why was any anti-violence strategy not coordinated with top political/religious leadership? Why was provincial law enforcing agencies helpless in preventing large-scale destruction of public/private property?

While the Foreign Office is usually quick to summon US ambassador to present its traditional anti-drones demarches, why was formal protest to US Charge d’ Affaires delayed till the day of nation wide protests? Was it not appropriate to postpone Foreign Minister’s Hina Khar’s official visit to Washington as a mark of our protest.

In a $70,000 advertisement run on some Pakistani television channels, President Obama declared the United States a nation that respects all faiths. This ad also included footage of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pleading that the US government had absolutely nothing to do with this film titled ‘Innocence of Muslims.’

Was the advertisement an implicit apology from top US leadership? While these remarks were meant to appease angry Muslims specially in Pakistan, they in no way absolved the US administration of its responsibility to remove blasphemous video from YouTube, ban the sacrilegious film and take action against the perpetrators of this despicable act.

If President Obama could apologize to Afghans over Quran’s desecration by US troops in Afghanistan early this year, he could have saved the Americans from utter humiliation by open heartedly apologizing to the Muslim world on video issue. On Salalah massacre, too, he determinedly did not apologize. With Obama’s re-election bid only few weeks away, perhaps he would hate to be known as America’s most apologetic president.

Is it time for American nation to revisit the First Amendment of US Constitution that protects citizens’ right to freedom of expression? The west including the US should seriously debate whether freedom of expression gives a license to ridicule and disseminate hatred against other faiths/religions. It makes a mockery of such a right when used maliciously by insane hate mongers like Pastor Terry Jones. When they attack the dignity of our Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), they call it “Freedom of Expression.”

Why is this freedom of expression not referred to when it comes to denying or commenting on the holocaust? Are Muslims being deliberately provoked into retaliation to justify military intervention in targeted Islamic countries?

As Muslim rage intensifies, more fuel has been added to the fire through anti-Islamic advertisements that are planned to appear soon in New York’s subway stations. San Francisco’s municipal buses ran similar ads, sponsored by American Freedom Defence Initiative, a hate group, sparking controversy about hate speech and fears they could incite violence against American Muslims.

The latest edition of satirical French weekly ‘Charlie Hebdo’ contains blasphemous cartoons depicting Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). Anticipating strong backlash from French Muslim community, the French government banned public protests.

Is Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) performing a potent role as the collective voice of the Muslim world? Has this 57-member group of Islamic nations that represents 1.5 billion Muslims in all continents, combated defamation of Islam and encouraged dialogue among civilizations and religions?

While the Permanent Representatives of the OIC Member States to the United Nations condemned the release of the video as ‘yet another abhorrent example of incitement to hatred and discrimination against Muslims’ as well as ‘Charlie Hebdo’’s, blasphemous cartoons, the Muslim world expects the OIC to act beyond cosmetic statements.

This is the OIC’s real test. Why is OIC hesitant to convene an emergent summit of Muslim heads of states to chalk out unified strategy for a permanent solution to the growing anti-Islam conspiracies in the west?

The OIC should constitute a lead group of parliamentarians/lawyers /intellectuals from frontline Muslim countries including Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey and Iran to coordinate the framing of international legislation under UN auspices that bans hate crimes in any form which denigrate and defame religions/faiths, and declare blasphemy a global crime.

If certain countries continue to allow their citizens to show disrespect towards Islam and Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), then the Islamic world may be justified as last resort to impose oil embargos/boycott foreign goods that would hurt particular western economies.

Did we fail as a nation last Friday? Massive peaceful and organized protests would have sent strongest message to the west and upheld the spirit of day. Most worrying is the anarchic mindset being repeatedly displayed by common Pakistanis that calls for serious introspection by the state/society.

The US may be thankful that their consulates were saved from wrath of angry mobs but only after over two dozen Pakistani lives were lost with property worth billions of rupees going up in smoke.

The west must differentiate between freedom of expression and offensive provocation. They must not forget that these irresponsible acts may have serious implications for international peace and security.